Debut Review Challenge with Mike Armstrong

I’m so pleased to welcome Mike Armstrong to the blog today. His debut picture book, BEST DAY EVER, is sure to inspire some imaginative fun!

After beginning his career as a marketing professional, Michael Armstrong changed course and joined the nonprofit world. He served as the Executive Director of The ALS Association, The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, and other nonprofit organizations.

When his daughter was born, Mike left his job to become a stay-at-home dad. Soon after, he began writing children’s books (and rekindled his love affair with Play-Doh). Today he is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and is represented by Curtis Brown, Ltd. His first book, Best Day Ever, will be released by Sterling Publishing in May 2020, and he has several additional titles on the market. Mike also rehabs old houses, has an unhealthy obsession with sports trading cards, and ignores the fact that his 80-pound dog desperately needs a bath. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
It’s the last day of summer vacation and William—a little boy who loves order and schedules—has just one thing left to accomplish: have the most fun ever. He’s even created a fun-o-meter to help him achieve his goals. But nothing he does seems special enough. Even worse, William’s fanciful next-door neighbor, Anna, keeps interrupting his plans with increasingly outlandish suggestions—like trampoline bouncing to the moon to find dinosaur bones or riding talking seahorses to an underwater castle. Can these two seemingly different kids find a way to have the best day together . . . and maybe become friends, too? This charming picture book about a child who always follow the rules is a must-read for kids and parents in need of a funny, gentle reminder to get creative and let their imaginations run wild.
(Sterling, 2020)


Number of years writing: 6

Number of years from contract to published book: 3

Date your book was released: 5-1-20 pushed to 6-1-20 due to Covid-19

Number of pages: 24

Number of launch events: 22 – All postponed due to Covid-19

Number of days per week that writing takes a backseat to marketing & publicity: Too many.

Number of critique partners: 8

Number of books you hope to publish over the next ten years: one great one.

Number of times you’ve pinched yourself that you really have a book out: 0. Not yet anyway.


Why do you write for children?

I wanted to write books for my daughter, and to include her in the process. When I was young, I always wanted to be a writer but I never had the self-confidence or support to really believe it was something I could do. So for me, it was a way of both 1) doing something I wanted, and 2) showing her that something many people – including me at one time – think is beyond their reach is possible with effort. And this past Easter, as a gift she gave me two fully formed, hand-illustrated graphic novels that she wrote herself. I was blown away. So in my mind, I’ve already succeeded. 

Who is your greatest inspiration?

My daughter, without question. Every day she makes me laugh and opens my eyes to something new. Friends who follow me on Facebook  – where I share her musings – say I should write a book filled with all her quips. I probably will, but I think it will just be for her. Maybe a gift for when she graduates from college. 


Think about all the stories you’ve written that have hit a dead end or are hidden away in a drawer somewhere. For each of the items below, lift an element from a different story to create a weird, unexpected mash-up. Who knows? It may even inspire a new manuscript!

Character: Toad

Setting: Swamp

Theme: Changing the world begins with simple acts of kindness

Problem: MC has eaten all the Christmas cookies, so there are none left to leave out for Santa

Pitch: (Ugh. I’m terrible at pitches with fully-formed ideas, so this is going to be REALLY bad). Toad loved Christmas. So much so, that he went to every party in the swamp and ate every single cookie. And now is Christmas Eve, and no one has any cookies to leave out for Santa. Can Toad save the day, or will his impulses get the best of him and ruin Christmas? (I warned you.)

I love the combo of Christmas, a swamp, and simple acts of kindness. Sounds like a delicious new take on a holiday story!


Leave an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online site. Every time you write five reviews for debut Kidlit creators between May 1 – June 30, 2020, you can fill out this ENTRY FORM for a chance to win prizes. Mike has generously donated a signed book. Thank you, Mike!

For a chance to win a Picture Book Manuscript Critique or Sample Debut Marketing Plan from Mike Armstrong, enter this Rafflecopter giveaway! Ends June 11, 2020.

You can find the complete rules for the Debut Review Challenge and a downloadable record sheet to keep track of your reviews HERE.

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