Creating for Our Youngest Readers: Board, Novelty, and Concept Books

Online | Picture Books, Illustration
Join author/illustrators Merrill Rainey and Joe Cepeda to learn about patterns, language, and appeal of board books, novelty books, and concept books in today's publishing market.

March 18 @ 7:00 pm - March 20 @ 7:00 pm




A Two-Night Mini Online Course Board books, novelty books, and concept books bring the world to the youngest minds. ABCs, counting, shapes, sizes, opposites, and so much more, these important books weave together language and visuals to engage caregivers and children in the book, the world, and one another. Join author/illustrators Merrill Rainey and Joe Cepeda to learn about patterns, language, and appeal of board books, novelty books, and concept books in today’s publishing market. This program is a great fit if you’re looking for a short course of two, 75-minute sessions offering limited interaction with the community, but loads of information.

  • Monday, March 18, 2024 (7pm – 8:15pm Eastern)
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2024 (7pm – 8:15pm Eastern)
  • Webinar-style program with closed captioning available and limited interaction in the chat
  • Recordings available until April 30, 2024

Why This Workshop?

Books meant for our youngest readers have a sophisticated artistry of crafting a unique and satisfying story that can be explored through a variety of senses. Join author/illustrators Merrill Rainey and Joe Cepeda to explore the ins and outs and the ups and downs of crafting books for our very youngest readers. Each night of this short course will offer a presentation with a hands-on exercise. There will also be time for your questions, as you:

  • Define what board, concept, and novelty books are and why early reading experiences (and caregiver experiences) need them.
  • Uncover and analyze distinguished examples that illuminate the differences between picture books, level readers, and craft, board, novelty, gift, and concept books.
  • Discover strategies to make your idea truly stand out among other concept books.
  • Understand the interplay between illustrations/photos and words.
  • And so much more!

Feedback Expected

  • No feedback included in the course. There will be limited interaction in the chat feature of the webinar-style program.

It’s a Great Fit If…

  • You are an author or illustrator interested in board, novelty, and/or concept book forms. Both writers and artists will find the information from this course valuable.
  • You have ideas for books for a very young audience. This course will provide you with guidance on how to develop your ideas or manuscripts.
  • You’re a teacher or caregiver with experience in sharing concept, novelty, and/or board books with children. We’ll show you how you can use your experience to create meaningful books.
  • You’re looking for something short, sweet, and smart! This is not a full workshop. This “mini” provides short sessions meant to engage and build an understanding of books for very young audiences.

Tentative Agenda

At registration: You will receive a Zoom link to use each night of the course.

IF YOU CAN’T ATTEND LIVE: If you are unable to attend either session for any reason, you’ll have access to the recordings (with closed captioning) through April 30, 2024. Please note that if you register for the course after the start of the first session, you will not receive recordings immediately.  You’ll receive both recordings after the close of the last session, usually within 24 hours.

All Times are Eastern Time.  Click on the headings below to explore the agenda in more detail.

Part One: Monday, March 18, 2024 (7pm-8:15pm Eastern)
  • Novelty, Board, and Concept Books (What are they… and what are they not.) with Merrill Rainey
  • Reflection: Categorize your ideas (Are you crafting a picture book? Concept book? Or something else?) with Merrill Rainey
  • Starting with a strong idea and making it stand out on the shelf with Joe Cepeda
  • Try this! (A hands-on exercise) with Merrill Rainey
Part Two: Wednesday, March 20, 2024 (7pm-8:15pm Eastern)
  • Space, Words, and Images: The building blocks of books for the youngest audience with Joe Cepeda
  • Try this! (A hands-on exercise) with Joe Cepeda
  • Discussion: Revision, Pitches, & Publishers (What to know that is unique to concept, board, and novelty books) with Merrill & Joe
  • Q&A with Merrill & Joe

How It Impacts Kids

Concept, board, and novelty books are often the first books introduced to babies, toddlers, and little ones. This short course will help you build an understanding of how to move your idea into a unique concept for little learners.

Testimonials from Our Community

“Hard to put into words but the whole experience was magical.”

“It got me motivated to write again. I loved the fact that it was so interactive.”

“I knew I could not attend in person but I signed up because you offered the recording. Having that option was invaluable.”

“Keep the mini courses going for those of us that can’t attend at the Highlights Foundation Campus! It helps us stay in touch and keep our skills growing!!

Meet the Faculty


March 18 @ 7:00 pm - March 20 @ 7:00 pm




When you register for this course, you’ll receive information via email to confirm.

For mini courses (one or two nights only), you’ll receive webinar links immediately to use on the evening of the course.

For longer courses, you’ll receive an invitation to your virtual classroom as the workshop approaches.

Learn more about the technology that we use for our online workshops.

Our Mission in Action

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child
Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit
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The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.