Linda Ashman

children's book author, mom, wife, writing instructor, animal lover, gardener, vegetarian . . .


"Ashman's concept is both sophisticated and delightful, with reading and animal-identifying lessons tucked in. Sorra's digital illustrations have bold distinct colors and crisp outlines. Offbeat and appealing." Kirkus

"Sad-eyed Albert[o], the cafe owner, is ready for business in a white shirt and natty bow tie, but he's obsessed with keeping his cafe free from unusual creatures, and he changes his sign accordingly: "No one with fur allowed," he scrawls hurriedly after a girl appears with a large kangaroo. What Albert doesn't see is the party unfolding by the fountain in the square, as his rejected customers congregate there instead. Elegant storytelling fun comes with the extra satisfaction that derives from having to use visual clues to figure out what's happened." Publishers Weekly

"When a succession of potential customers arrives at Alberto’s City Lights Restaurant with increasingly outrageous animals, a hastily established “NO DOGS ALLOWED” policy quickly progresses all the way to a policy of “NO ONE WITH FUR, FEATHERS, SHELLS, SCALES, OR TRUNKS ALLOWED.” With the text consisting only of brief utterances from the humans—mostly the spiffy, bow-tied restaurateur—and the words on the signs, it is the digitally created illustrations that tell the story. Angular, collage-style art in warmly toned colors, often with numerous framed panels to a page, makes it easy to decipher the action without the help of dialogue. When the exclusionary policies don’t work out, the restaurant rearranges the letters in its name to spell out the new name, All Critters Bistro—with “EVERYONE ALLOWED.” Children will enjoy identifying the menagerie of animals (and humans for that matter) that appear at the restaurant. Susan Meddaugh’s Martha Calling (1994) and Barbara Odanaka’s A Crazy Day at the Critter Café (2009) offer interesting comparisons." Booklist

No Dogs Allowed!

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Illustrations ©2011, by Kristin Sorra. Sterling Publishing.

I've talked to lots of writers who are curious about how you write a nearly-wordless picture book. If you're interested, feel free to download a close-to-final version of the manuscript below:

Author's Note

Years ago, after spotting a "No Dogs Allowed" sign at a baseball field, I wondered if cats were permitted. After all, the sign only mentioned dogs. And since it didn't specifically exclude other animals, did that mean kangaroos, for example, were okay? Aardvarks? Anteaters? How about elephants?

As I contemplated an increasingly wacky array of creatures, it occurred to me this might make a good picture book. I liked the visual possibilities of showing so many animals, and I also liked that the story might convey a deeper message about exclusion and acceptance. As I thought about it more, I remembered seeing dogs sitting at restaurant tables on a trip to Paris years ago, and turned the ball fields into Alberto's City Lights Restaurant (a name that very handily provided all the letters for "All Critters Bistro" at the end).

Then came the tricky part. I knew I wanted to tell the story mostly through pictures rather than words, but given my lack of artistic skill, I knew I couldn't use my OWN pictures. So I had to describe what I envisioned on each page. Not easy! And once illustrator Kristin Sorra began working on it, the story evolved a bit more. Unlike most picture books, where you have little or no contact with the illustrator, this process was far more collaborative. There was a lot of back and forth between editor Meredith Mundy, the art director, Kristin, and me. We even had a conference call at one point -- a real rarity. It was a real learning process, and made me even more aware of how small decisions -- and there are many -- can have a huge impact on the end result.

Illustrations ©2011, by Kristin Sorra. Sterling Publishing.


Brand New
"A go-to source of calm and comfort." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
In Print
"Altogether delightful." Starred review, KIRKUS
"Excellent advice in a sweet and easy-to-swallow package." KIRKUS
"A memorable first skate by an irresistible imp." Starred review, KIRKUS
"Ashman's concept is both sophisticated and delightful." KIRKUS
"Beautifully crafted and satisfying." Starred Review, BOOKLIST
"Kids will love the colorful paintings while parents will appreciate that it's chock full of facts about the Centennial State." VAIL DAILY
A "lovely reverie on the joys of being alive and being loved." Starred Review, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"As pithy and clever as Ogden Nash at his best." Starred Review, KIRKUS
"A splendid bedtime fantasy." KIRKUS
Other Titles
"Ashman's poetic portraits are packed with lots of tasty assonance and alliteration." Starred Review, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"Quirky, sarcastic, and rather educational, too." BOOKLIST
"A 10 on the "aw"-inspiring scale." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"A family outing gone hilariously awry." BOOKLIST
"A rip-roaring, exciting excursion." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
An "enchanting ride." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"The clever, rhyming text bounces along with perfect cadence." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"A riotous adventure." HORN BOOK MAGAZINE
"Vibrant, playful text . . . excellent for storytimes." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"A hilarious look at the world through the sharp eyes and nose of a dog." SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
"This one's a keeper." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"Youngsters will find nothing but comfort in these pages." KIRKUS
"Ashman captures the non-stop action in rollicking rhyme." KIRKUS
A "captivating collaboration." Starred Review, KIRKUS
"A lighthearted look at bad behavior." KIRKUS
Wagmore is "a charming, gentle hero." KIRKUS REVIEWS