Third Grade Mermaid the Narwhals Book Release Event!!!

by Peter Raymundo

     For the second year in a row, the West Osceola Branch Library was filled with Third Grade Mermaid fans lining up to be the first to get an autographed copy.  Benefitting from last year's experience, this event was slightly better organized, and more fun than ever!!!

"How many of you know what a narwhal is?" I asked, and amazingly every hand went up.  These kids knew all about the so-called "unicorns of the sea," from where they live, what they eat, to the fact the their "horn" is actually a tooth.

"How many of you know what a narwhal is?" I asked, and amazingly every hand went up.  These kids knew all about the so-called "unicorns of the sea," from where they live, what they eat, to the fact the their "horn" is actually a tooth.

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     One of the BEST parts of coming to an actual Book Release, at least MY Book Releases, is the giveaways!  Several people walked away with original artwork, some of which was drawn right onto Starbucks gift cards!!!

Original charcoal drawing of Cora and a narwhal.

Original charcoal drawing of Cora and a narwhal.


Fan Mail

by Peter Raymundo

     As I've often said, one of the greatest joys I get from making books is the opportunity to inspire children to be creative.  And one of the best ways I get to see this first hand is with the Fan Mail I receive.  The letters almost always have drawings on them, so I've decided to feature them on my social media (when I have time) in what I call Fin Mail of the Day.  This beautiful drawing Cora and her friends is from Mary, in Florida.

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Preparing for the Book Release

by Peter Raymundo

     One of the many lessons I have learned over my brief career as an Author is how critical it is to make solid relationships with quality people.  One of the MOST valuable relationships I've made is with Lisa Jones, the Children's Librarian at our local library.  Lisa has been a tireless supporter of my books well before was Third Grade Mermaid even released.  Here we are making some initial plans for this month's Book Release Event of "Third Grade Mermaid and the Narwhals."  Last year's event brought in a record number of people to the library (nearing 300 people in two hours), so this year we plan on being more prepared then ever.

January, 2018.

A busy start to the year!

by Peter Raymundo

     This was easily the busiest January I have ever had.  I visited 10 schools in just one month, all while preparing for the release of my next book, Third Grade Mermaid and the Narwhals.  In many ways though, visiting schools and being able to speak to and inspire hundreds and hundreds of students in a day is the best part of my career.

At Cypress Elementary in Orlando, Florida.

At Cypress Elementary in Orlando, Florida.

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     When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to meet Caldecott Honor winner, Cynthia Rylant.  I won a calendar contest for her coming to our town's library, so when I met Miss Rylant she not only signed her books, but the calendar with my drawing on the cover as well. 

      Our meeting was brief, but extremely meaningful. When I asked her if she thought I was good enough to become an artist one day, she held up the calendar with my drawing on the cover and said, "Peter, not only could you be, you SHOULD BE."  I took those words to heart and used them as fuel to push me past seemingly endless years of struggle.  Of course, I am by no means a Cynthia Rylant, but if I can give even a single child the kind of hope and motivation that Cynthia Rylant gave me, I would consider my career a success.

BOOK 2: Third Grade Mermaid and the Unicorns of the Sea

by Peter Raymundo

Coming January 31, 2018!

HERE IT IS!!!! The Cover of Third Grade Mermaid and the Unicorns of the Sea!

In this much anticipated sequel, Cora has come a long way since her days of struggling with spelling! When she writes a short story about a constantly nervous narwhal, Cora’s teacher, Mr. Spouter, nominates her to represent the school in the upcoming Ocean Writes Contest. The big prize is getting her face on the cover of Splashy Magazine, but now Cora has to write a new story about “the greatest thing she has ever done,” and as far as Cora is concerned, she hasn’t done ANYTHING great!

The next day, Cora is at lunch with her friends Jimmy the Jellyfish and Larry the Sea Cucumber trying to think of what to write about when Cora’s annoyingly glamorous rival, Vivian Shimmermore, swims by to talk about herself. In a surprising twist, it comes out that Vivian thinks Narwhals are make believe creatures. After a short debate, Vivian says it would be “great” to see Cora try to prove that these so-called horned whales are real. As Vivian Shimmermore swims off laughing, she has no idea that she’s just given Cora her answer.  
But now Cora has to find a creature she has never seen in real life before. What follows is an epic journey where Cora and her ocean friends go in search of the mysterious “Unicorns of the Sea.”

Release Date: Jan. 31, 2018.

Reading Aloud at Manasquan Elementary

by Peter Raymundo

     One of my favorite things to do in the whole world is read parts of Third Grade Mermaid aloud to the schools I visit.  Sometimes it's to modest-sized groups of 30-40 students, but it's often as big as 400 or more.  Either way, I love to show these children the kind of excitement and passion that can go into reading a book aloud.  It's more of a high-energy performance than just "reading," and it's worth it.  After my presentations, I've seen countless kids (of all ages) literally reading out loud with the same vigor and joy I just showed them.  And in many ways, that's the point of it all.  

The Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip - Part 1

by Peter Raymundo

     For the second year now, Scholastic has decked out a couple of RV's and hit the road to promote summer reading.  The kickoff was held at The Vero Beach Book Center in Vero Beach, Florida.  This is a truly magnificent store.  I love this place.  It's 2 stories of storytelling bliss. And some of the best parts are the walls.  Yes, the WALLS!  When they have visiting authors or illustrators come, they get them to draw on a blank spot, and there are fewer and fewer of those left.  So, being a visiting illustrator, I had the incredible honor of adding Cora Mermaid to their illustrious walls.

How to Draw a Mermaid

by Peter Raymundo

     In this episode of Cora's Fascinating Fish Facts, I show how I go about drawing Cora the Mermaid.  Using lightly drawn, simple shapes to start, I gradually bring the character to life.  

     This tutorial demonstrates the gradual process of constructing a drawing from scratch that many professional artists use.  As simple as it sounds, the way I get over the fear of a stark white page is simply to start.  The trick though, is drawing so lightly that I'm not committed to any one line.  Using just the most basic of SHAPES, I'm able to make sure the proportions are correct before I add any details.     

Now an Official AR Book!

by Peter Raymundo

     SO EXCITING!!!  Third Grade Mermaid is now being used as an Accelerated Reader Book nationwide!  In the school district my son attends, Accelerated Reader may be the single most important reading program they have.  It not only greatly increases the amount a student reads, but accurately tests how well they are understanding what they've read in a fun, simple way.  This also helps parents and teachers to select appropriate books for students and children to read next.

     Click either image below to find Third Grade Mermaid on the site.


by Peter Raymundo

     So it's now mid-February.  I have taken on many, many new tasks over the last month and a half, and they all primarily have to do with "marketing" Third Grade Mermaid.  I have taken to the Facebook Fan Page a lot more than to this blog for updating things simply because Facebook is just unparalleled for connecting with other people.  

     That said, if you want to follow me much more closely, I recommend "Following" the Third Grade Mermaid Fan Page at  That's basically the hub of all things Third Grade Mermaid.  But for now, let's get up to speed on what I've been doing, because there may be something to learn from it.

In the Barnes&Noble near the Florida Mall.

     For one, Third Grade Mermaid is finally out in stores.  It was released on January 31, 2017.  We went to the Barnes&Noble near the Florida Mall to see it on the shelves, and were pleasantly surprised by the manager wanting me to sign the books while there.  This also put several copies in a better position.  Needless to say, I have gone to all of the B&N's around town signing the books to help get them better visibility.

     Another HUGE happening was the Book Release Event held at the West Osceola Library in Celebration, Florida.  I was hoping to have at least 50 people there, but it was successful way beyond what I could have thought.  The line was nearly 200 people long at times, and despite moving as quickly as I could, many people waited over an hour to see me.  That was such an overwhelming feeling, it's hard to describe.  If I had to use just one word though, it would be "thankful."  Thankful that I could bring so much joy to so many kids.  Thankful that the event turned out so well for Lisa, the incredible children's librarian who set the whole thing up.  And thankful that people actually like my work. 

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     Ok, so the other super important thing I have been doing is a series of School Visits.  At the moment I am not charging (or making) any money for the visits, but they are helping to promote Third Grade Mermaid in a critical way.  So far I have had 4 schools in a row sell out of 100 copies in a single day.  And I think this took everyone a little by surprise.  Even the Scholastic warehouse in Lake Mary, Florida sold completely out of Third Grade Mermaid and had to get more just to fulfill the order at another school.  

     At the moment I handle all of the communication myself, and with the massive influx of requests of late, it has become a pretty tall order just to organize my days.  In fact, I have never in my life used any kind of "Daily Planner" or anything like that, but I now have so many appearance requests over the next few months that I simply had to get one.  It's worth it though.  Besides spreading the word about Third Grade Mermaid, just meeting so many kids who utterly adore that book is nothing less than life-affirming.

Me at Flora Ridge Elementary during their Scholastic book fair.

A First Look!

by Peter Raymundo

     So here it is!  An actual Hardcover copy of the final book!  I've actually had it for a few weeks now, but have been so swamped with work that I haven't been keeping up with the blog (as you may see by the entry dates).

     I really could not be any happier with how the book turned out.  Of course, the story itself represents several years of thought and effort and sacrifice and all that.  But I'm actually just referring to the quality of the printing itself.  The color turned out better than I hoped.  And the glitter font used for the word "Mermaid," which is only crudely represented by this photograph, is simply stunning to see in real life.   So appealing.  I owe an incredible debt to my Editor and Designer at Scholastic Press for overseeing both the design and overall look of the cover.  I simply could not have done it without them.  

Orlando Family Expo

by Peter Raymundo

     At this stage of the game it's good to get out to conventions and the like to help spread the word about your work.  This isn't a natural thing for me either.  I'm really in my element when I'm basically alone writing or drawing, but going to great events like the annual Orlando Family Expo, or speaking at Libraries, or schools is too important to neglect.

     One thing that most people (including myself) are usually very interested in, is seeing an artist actually draw their characters right then and there.  Even if the end result is a foregone conclusion, just seeing how they go about it is always fascinating.  And so, I did a fair amount of that (on a poster-sized scale) over this last weekend.


by Peter Raymundo

     My favorite kinds of stories have the ability to either transport me to a new place or get me to see an existing place in a new way.  One way to do that is to weave new and seemingly obscure information into the story structure itself.  This might sound obvious, but the first step to doing that is finding out that information yourself.  And many times this involves research.

  For my Third Grade Mermaid books, I not only watched a ton of documentary footage on the ocean and read numerous books, but also went to several great Aquariums.  The Florida Aquarium is in Tampa Florida, and I would recommend anyone who is even remotely interested in the ocean (or the Earth for that matter) to visit this place.  It's simply amazing. 

     One character that made it into the first mermaid book was the Giant Grouper.  This picture is not of the biggest grouper they had, but even seeing this one was impressive.  I had no idea groupers got this big.  And their faces were just adorable!

     Another creature that really made an impact on me was a Sea Cucumber that you could touch.  Regretfully, I didn't get a picture of him when I was there, but I couldn't stop thinking of how strange and interesting that thing was, and it ended up as one the best characters in my book.

     Doing a great amount of research about the time, place, and subject matter you are writing about can bring about invaluable ideas that you would have never just imagined on your own.  Plus, if you love the subject matter you are writing about (which you should!), then doing the research is enjoyable in itself.  The point is, do your research.  You don't know what you don't know.

Library talks

by Peter Raymundo

     This may be self-explanatory, but the importance of libraries to an author is simply beyond calculation.  In my opinion,  it is essential to give back to them whenever possible.

At the St. Cloud Library in Osceola County, Florida.

     Last week I gave a series of talks on Writing and Illustrating books in several libraries in Osceola County, Florida.  Besides bringing inspiration to the next generation, one huge benefit to this is being able to read my work to a great test audience.  

Me drawing Cora with a crayon.

     It wasn't until I was in 7th grade that I met a professional children's book author.  The downtown library where I grew up (in Warren, Ohio) actually had acclaimed author Cynthia Rylant come as part of a calendar contest, which I happened to win, and the brief experience made a major impact on my life.