Thursday, January 23, 2014

SVS 4: HOT TUB SANTA, Picture Book

Genre: 4 – 8 years old PB
Word Count: 395

My Main Character is most uncomfortable with: 
There’s no place like snow for Santa…a change of address would turn this rosy-cheeked, hot chocolate drinking, sled driving, jolly fellow into a thin, suntanned, salad eating not-so-jolly dude --- and none of us want that.

Dear Agent,
When Mrs. Claus gives Santa a hot tub as an early Christmas present, Santa is excited. Thankfully, he has a few feisty penguins to give him a boost inside.
But after having a jolly ole time in the tub, Santa discovers that getting out is going to be much trickier. And with no time left, it’s up to Santa’s friends at the North Pole to get creative – or it will be too late to deliver the presents in time for Christmas

 First 250 Words:
(Chilly and Willy are penguins)
(Jingles is a reindeer)
(Paws is a polar bear)

“Merry Christmas, Santa!” Mrs. Claus cheered. “Now, you can have a jolly ole time as you warm up for ‘The Big Night.’

“Great mistletoes! It’s a hot tub! Ho-ho-ho!”

Santa climbed onto the ladder.



“I’m going to need a little help getting in,” Santa chuckled.

“We’ll give you a boost, Santa,” Chilly said.

Chilly and Willy gave Santa a


   and a ho-ho-ho!

 “Come on in everyone!”

Paws brought a snorkel…

   …Jingles brought a ball.

      …And Chilly and Willy had a water fight.

Santa and the others played…

   …and splashed

      …and had a jolly ole time.


Mrs. Claus announced it was time for Santa to get ready for ‘The Big Night’.

Santa pushed, he pulled…

   …Santa twisted sideways.

      …Santa kicked his feet.

         …But Santa couldn’t climb out!

 “Santa, we’ll get you out.” Chilly and Willy gave Santa a


    …and a ho-ho-ho
…BUT Santa barely budged.

 “Let me try!” Jingles scooched his antlers under Santa and gave Santa a


   …and flip
…BUT Santa just jiggled.
 “Oh, no!” Mrs. Claus cried. “It’s getting late! We’re running out of time!”

 “I’ll get him out, Mrs. Claus.” Paws gave Santa a

…great big bear hug

      …and a lift

…BUT Santa still couldn’t climb out.

 “Oh, holly berries, why can’t I get out? I have presents to deliver!” Santa said.

“Because you’ve been sneaking cookies!” Mrs. Claus said.

“Ho-Ho-Ho!” Santa chuckled.


  1. Hi, author of HOT TUB SANTA! Mentor Sarah Marsh here, and oh my goodness, your title alone is just precious!!

    My only suggestion for your query is that maybe, after the line "getting out is going to be much trickier," or somewhere close to there, you could add one example of how Santa tries and fails to get out of that tub! You don't need it, certainly, but it's the only thing I can think to add to this otherwise adorable setup.

    In your first 250, I love that you open right when Santa gets his big gift! And I truly enjoyed the creative ways in which everyone is trying to get the poor fellow out of that hot tub! My one suggestion--and this is just one opinion, of course--is that maybe, in the text, you should provide some clues as to what sorts of animals Chilly and Willy and Paws are. You already clue us in about Jingles by mentioning his antlers, but I wonder if, in lines like: "Paws brought a snorkel," you could clue us in that he's a polar bear by saying something along the lines of, "Paws brought a snorkel in his big, clawed hand." (Except prettier and more awesome, of course). I know there will be illustrations to show what each animal is, but I still think having little clues in the text (like Jingles and his antlers) would enhance the story as well.

    Wishing you the best of luck with this!!

  2. Hi Mentor Sarah! Thank you so so much for the terrific suggestions! Yes, I can most definitely add some clues to Paws and Chilly and Willy. I also believe this will enchance the story. And I will also add an example to the query.

    Thank you again SO much! I am super excited to be a part of sunvssnow and I am super, super excited that you like my PB!

  3. Hello, I'm TEAM SNOW mentor Vicki Lemp Weavil.

    Adorable idea -- I can see this being a big hit, especially for the holiday season.

    I think your query works. Maybe tweak the last line? "... or it will be too late to deliver the presents in time for Christmas" could be something like "... or Christmas Eve will find Santa soaking instead of driving his sleigh?" I don't know -- I'm sure you can do better than that, but I just feel that the last line could have more zip.

    The first 250 words work for me -- I can just imagine how great this will be with the illustrations. I do love all the action words and the rhythm that works like free-form poetry. I do agree, however, that some indication of what animals the various named characters are would be helpful. Even with illustrations, I think it's good to have something to identify the speaker (because the illustration could easily include ALL of the characters).

    Good luck -- look forward to reading this again after you tweak it.

  4. Ho, ho, ho Hot Tub author. I'm TEAM SNOW mentor Matt Sinclair of Elephant's Bookshelf Press. As a father of children in the target age group who love picture books, I have to say I think this could be a real winner. I love the title, and with the right illustrator you could create a hit.

    I'll admit, I'm a little put off by the penguins, since they're endemic to Antarctica, not the Arctic, but a simple resolution could be worked in (perhaps they're visiting their friend Paws the polar bear; it's a kids' story after all.)

    In the query, I'd prefer to see and hear more. I want to see how thrilled Santa is to receive his gift. And in the first 250, I think a little more lead in is in order to let the readers know that Santa's getting a gift before his trip. Perhaps he's been stressed with the final preparations so Mrs. Claus decides to let him enjoy her gift early. But I seem to be in the minority here on that.

  5. Charming and adorable concept, right down to the title. Who wouldn't pick up a book called "Hot Tub Santa"? In the query, I think adding a few of the details about how Santa gets stuck in the tub might be good (always show strong and specific conflict in your query...even in a picture book!).

    In the first 250, I agree that adding in what the animals are, in text not just illustrations, is beneficial. That's one of those "learning moments" that parents like to see in picture books.

    Young children respond to repeated phrases in short picture books. Consult your favorite picture books and you'll see the repetition of a phrase at the end of each scene, for example. It's a formula that works with young minds. Consider using this device at the end of each scene as the characters struggle to extract Santa from the hot tub. Perhaps it's something Santa says, or a phrase they all use, or something in the narration rather than the dialogue.

    With bright, fun illustrations, this could be an adorable Christmas book. Good luck!

  6. Wow, what great picture book text and a lovely query. I think the other mentors have covered some of my thoughts so I'll just leave you with a thumbs up. It sounds like a fun book!

    Team Snow

  7. Team Snow mentor Kat here!

    I love the title, but will admit when I first read it I thought your story was going to be a little more...*ahem*...grown-up. So, apologies for that ;)

    Query: This looks great to me. Maybe mention that Santa needs a hand getting into the tub to explain why the penguins are boosting him in?

    First 250: I really liked the excerpt. It has great rhythm and voice, and there's really nothing I can suggest that the others haven't covered. Great stuff!

    Good luck!

  8. Mentor of Team Snow, Copernicus Nerd here! It's all subjective in this grand 'ol writing world of ours, but I hope whatever I have to say helps out at least a little!

    Oh, man. This is priceless. The title is a real killer. Sign me up for a hot tub too!

    I'm not too familiar with the PB process (which is weird, because I should probably start researching it since I'm going to be working on some soon), but the query seems to work. Perhaps you just need to add a bit more excitement into it to pull that agent in and make the pages come to life. It's tough to do without visuals. I'm not sure how much you need with PB queries, but heck I got the gist of it pretty quickly. Hot Tub + Santa = AWESOME, ha!

    Your rhythm through the pages seems great, and all that I'm left thinking is now is what is this going to look like!? I can just picture Santa's face as he struggles to get out!

    I do agree with one statement made above that all the PB's I have seen tend to have repetition. You may want to incorporate a singular phrase that Santa says or a reaction from the other characters in the story as he struggles to get in and out of the tub. Was even thinking that each animal has their own method of getting him out that directly tie into the animals strengths. Just a thought!

    Regardless, great work, this sounds like a heck of a lot of fun! Can't wait to see the illustrations!

  9. Hi! Snow mentor Kate Brauning here, of Month9Books. What a perfect concept! Your title is charming and spot-on for the tone of the story. I’m totally charmed. (In your “MC most uncomfortable” section, I’d hyphenate “salad-eating.”)
    You pack a punch and get out, which is excellent. I’d go just a bit deeper and let us know why he needs a boost into the tub (builds some tension for getting out) and I’d give more specifics on how getting out is going to be tricky. I’d state it outright and show us the struggle—this is the whole conflict, so we want to know it’s a real one. I love the ticking clock you give it—he has to get out soon or he’ll be late. I’d build that up even more with another line to show how big of a problem this is. PB queries are tough; brilliant job with this one! It’s very solid.
    In a picture book, every line has to give us a take-me-there image and the words have to crackle. Can we get an image of Santa’s eyes widening when he sees the hot tub? Can you get more specific with climbing up the ladder—something about big feet and small steps, perhaps? Anything to give us a visual.
    I LOVE “wobble” and “bobble.” Beautifully done. I can see it happening in my mind.
    I’d definitely a fan of giving some details about the animals to bring those visuals.
    “Had a water fight” seems vague enough I bet that you could bring us a super sharp, enchanting line about it.
    Excellent tension with Ms. Claus panicking about the time. This is a charming story, and I really wish we had the end here! :) I’d go for specific visuals and making sure your words hum with rhythm or the sound of the letters crackles to us. It’s part of why the read-aloud experience is such a great one! Gorgeous job here. This is utterly charming.

  10. Query: Definitely part of the appeal of the story is the group of Santa's animal friends so I would definitely include them in the letter. And I'd love to see something about how this is wildest Christmas party the North Pole has seen. Add in the whimsy that is so apparent in your manuscript.

    Okay, my kid would love this book. I love the language in the first 250. I want some language to clue us in to Mrs. Clause. In my mind, she's the practical one and Santa's a bit goofy. This isn't the first time Mrs. Clause has had to crack the whip. Is she tapping her foot? Frantically tapping her watch? Of course it's a bit trickier to know that the illustrations will clue us in to a lot of that. Best of luck with this!

  11. I love this title--it's super fun and I'd want something different like this to read to my 3 year old. I would suggest really trying to convey who Santa & Mrs. Claus are in this query. I am actually getting more of an idea that Mrs. Claus is the fun one. Which is why she got him the hot-tub. Santa is stressed out, anal, list making and schedule driven and Mrs. C is trying to get him to chill out with some friends before "The Big Night." I think you should play that up.

    I also think you should give one more idea of what types of "creative" ways they will use to try to get him out. (i know we get to see one in the first 250). I'm already curious about that and can imagine reading it and my daughter laughing at the illustrations to-be.

    I hope you find a home for this book! : )

  12. Hi! Team Snow Mentor here.


    I know nothing about pitching picture books, so take my advice with a grain of salt. The only thing I wanted from this query was a little bit more....oomph. Don't fear being a little more descriptive. You've got everything there, so I think it's just a matter of decorating the tree so to speak. Painting a slightly more vivid picture.


    This is cute and funny, and I can see parents having a lot of fun reading this with their kids. At first I was like "Santa . . . in a hot tub?" with a skeptical side-eye, but I think your idea will appeal to kids on one level and parents on another. Since kids like having their harried parents read the same book over and over, that's a good thing. Again, I know little about picture books, but I think this is cute and I can picture it well.

  13. Hi!

    Mentor here!

    There's little for me to say on this one. PBs are completely outside my realm of knowledge. It reads cute and easy, but I wonder would kids buy into a picture book about Santa getting stuck in a hot-tub? Do kids even know what hot-tubs are? I don't mean that to be pedantic, but that was my first thought.

    Either way, this is a cute story and I wish you well!


  14. TeamSun mentor Sharon here.

    I love all of this. It is so precious and fun. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. I’m not a PB expert.

  15. Just a reminder to take the feedback that works for you when revising for the agent round. It’s a lot to take in, but you’re the expert on your story and know best. If you have any questions about the next round you may ask here or on twitter.

    Thought you’d like to know why you were picked. I don't know much about the market for picture books, but I do read tons of them for my work. Humorous Christmas books are always popular! Hot Tub Santa! Does one have to say more?

  16. Hello, fellow Team Snow member!

    I adore this premise and the rhythm of your words. I easily pictured all the action as I read. Good job!

    On your query and in your 250, as others suggested, maybe pump up the reason stressed, tired Santa gets the hot tub from Mrs. Claus, so we can feel the "ahhh" along with him as he gets in the water.

    How about instead of:
    “Oh, holly berries, why can’t I get out? I have presents to deliver!” Santa said.

    -a slight change to-

    “Oh, holly berries, I have presents to deliver! I must get out!” Santa said.


    “Because you’ve been sneaking cookies!” Mrs. Claus said.


    "You've been sneaking cookies!" Mrs. Claus tsked.

    In regard to the repetition, I wonder if you could do a slight variation of Santa's "ho ho ho" for the other characters. Off the top of my head…“no no no,” “go go go,” “low low low,” toe toe toe,” “whoa whoa whoa.” I can see them tugging, saying "go go go!" and Mrs. Claus, seeing it's not working, saying "no no no!" I can see them grabbing Santa's "toe toe toe" and him shouting "whoa whoa whoa!" Just a thought. You've made this fun to play around with, and that says something!

    Best of luck to you!

  17. Hello, Katie, author of #9 here!
    I love this concept, I can picture what it will look like and know my daughter would love it! I especially liked the "jiggled" line.
    My only advice is that I think there might be a funnier reply to the "“Because you’ve been sneaking cookies!” line--- "Ho ho ho" doesn't really address what she said. This is a stupid example, but something like "Dough dough dough.." ? :)

    I can't wait to see this book with the pictures!


  18. Hey there. Team Sun mentor popping over to say hi. I know nothing about pitching picture books, but I have kids and love to read them, and this sounds like loads of fun. I would like to see more of the PB voice in the query, though. Also thumbs up to those suggesting the repetition. Title is adorable. Good luck!

  19. Hi, fellow Team Snow member here. Following are my suggestions, for what they are worth.

    My only suggestion is that some of the lines I stumbled over when I read it out loud —which is how I usually end up reading them :)

    "“Now, you can have a jolly ole time as you warm up for ‘The Big Night.’" (also missing a closing ")

    “Because you’ve been sneaking cookies!” Mrs. Claus said.

    Good luck in the agent round!

  20. I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to each and every one of you for your wonderful feedback and your suggestions are fantastic! I am so looking forward to digging into my revision.

    I also want to say THANK YOU to Michelle for picking my PB to be a part of TEAMSNOW!!! I knew going in to this contest that PB's were a long shot. In Michelle and Amy's words "It will need to knock our socks off" SO I am thinking that your feet must be cold about now:) Just kidding...but thank you sincerely for this wonderful opportunity! And for the new confidence that you have given to me in my own writing.

  21. Fellow Snow teammate here!

    This sounds absolutely adorable. Does your MS have pictures as well? I'm not familiar with PBs at all. Are the illustrations added/combined later?

    All the best with this!

  22. Hi Martha, Thanks! No illustrations just the text with PB's. Publishers choose the illustrations once they acquire the PB. That is unless the author is also the illustrator...I am not:)

  23. Hi Sharon! This is just the cutest idea. I love the concept and your words. I'm always in awe of PB authors, as I have no idea how you do so much with so few words. :) Best of luck to you in the agent round, and I look forward to buying this for my little boys and my nieces and nephews.

  24. Hi Sharon! This is just the cutest idea. I love the concept and your words. I'm always in awe of PB authors, as I have no idea how you do so much with so few words. :) Best of luck to you in the agent round, and I look forward to buying this for my little boys and my nieces and nephews.

  25. Cute idea! I can see this on shelves at Christmas time! Good luck!

  26. Fellow member of Team Snow, here. I don't know much about picture books, so I don't feel too qualified to offer a substantial critique. I just wanted to drop by and wish you luck in the agent round because this book is adorable!

  27. You had me at Hot Tub and Santa. Your query made me smile from ear-to-ear!

    Best of luck to you!

    #TeamSun Leader Amy

  28. Critique Faerie dropping in.
    I will admit that Pictures Books are not my expertise, but having read enough of them the last half decade or so, I will try give a little feedback.
    I felt the query could be beefed up a little. It's succinct and hits all the right points, BUT it's nothing we couldn't figure out. Meaning, we know Santa's in trouble and he has to deliver those presents. The stakes are a given. I think we need a little bit about what makes this different. What's going to make an agent or editor sit up and take notice.
    The 250 words. I like the use of familiar Christmas lingo (for lack of a better word). It fits nicely. I also agree with another comment. I think that there could be a little more oomph especially toward the end of the passage.
    I think it's a cute premise. Good Luck!

  29. Team Snow member here,

    I just love, love this! It's so adorable and cool, and my kids would love it. I don't have any critiques really, I think everyone else covered that ground really well. I do love how you put such great stakes in a picture book. Best of luck and I just love it so much...I bet the illustrations really pull it all together.

  30. Thanks to everyone who has commented, left suggestions, and feedback. I am truly grateful to each and every one of you.