Degman's counting and rhyming book earned the Vernon Hills, Ill., special education teacher, a $5,000 cash prize and a publishing contract from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Now edited by Simon & Schuster and featuring illustrations by Colin Jack, the picture book tells the story of a small boy who sneaks into a zoo ahead of zoo hours, and the animal antics he sees inside. The result is definitely "1 Zany Zoo" - and lots of fun for readers of all ages. Cheerios had the book specially printed in paperback in both English and Spanish for distribution inside cereal boxes; the hardcover version from Simon & Schuster will be in English.
"We couldn't be happier with how this book turned out," said Justin Chanda, VP Publisher of S&S Books for Young Readers. "Lori Degman's text was so charming that we knew from the very first read that we had something special. Colin Jack's hilarious illustrations took it to a whole new level."
"This was an amazing process," said Degman. "Even though I've seen the book every step of the way, I still got choked up when I saw the actual book. I got the call from Cheerios the day before Thanksgiving, and just over a year later - which I understand is very fast for publishing - it was real! And now, I'm going to be a published author! It's unbelievable, and I'm very grateful to the judges, to Cheerios and to Simon & Schuster." Cheerios boxes with Degman's book inside are expected to be on shelves starting in late March or early April.
"This is just as exciting for us as it is for Lori," said Jeff Hingher, marketing manager for Cheerios cereal. "It is very rewarding to know that Cheerios played an instrumental role in launching a great new book by a brand new author. At Cheerios, we believe that books and reading, just like a nutritious breakfast, should be an integral part of every child's daily routine. You never know which book will become a treasured favorite that helps spark a lifelong love of reading; it's fun to think that for some children out there, this could be the book. I know that '1 Zany Zoo' is already a favorite to read with my children - and we are thrilled that families around the country will be able to enjoy Lori's book."
Cheerios recently completed its third New Author Contest for up-and-coming new children's book authors and Laurie Isop, 39, of Renton, Wash., won with her story, "How do you hug a porcupine?" In addition to winning a $5,000 cash prize from Cheerios, Isop also received a book deal from Simon & Schuster. Isop's book is expected to be released in 2011, initially in paperback distributed inside Cheerios boxes, and later in hardcover sold in the market.
Cheerios also named two runners-up in the contest: Jessica Young, 39, of Nashville, Tenn., for her story "Juliet the Jellyfish," and Billie Fowler, 55, of Williamsburg, Va., for her story, "Samuel T. Slingshot." Both Young and Fowler will receive a cash prize of $1,000 from Cheerios. Over the past eight years, Cheerios has helped get books into kids' hands and encouraged parents and children to read together by giving away more than 40 million children's books free inside cereal boxes. Cheerios has also donated $3.2 million to the nonprofit First Book to get books to children from low-income families.
Cheerios started the contest as a way to encourage aspiring children's book authors, and continue to nurture a love of reading. Entries in the Cheerios contest were judged on appropriate story/content for children ages 3 - 8, emotional connection, writing quality, uniqueness, and read-aloud potential. Final judging was done by a panel of literary experts and representatives of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing and General Mills. The winner of the first Cheerios New Author Contest, Shellie Braeuner, a nanny from Nashville, Tenn., had her book, "The Great Dog Wash," featured inside Cheerios boxes and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2009.
Cheerios has relaunched the New Author Contest, which Fowler called "the cream of the crop" for children's books contests. "The Cheerios New Author Contest has it all," said Fowler. "It offers a large cash prize and a book deal for the grand prize winner!" The next contest is open for entries from March 15 through July 15, 2010. And, brand new for this year, Cheerios will be accepting entries written in English or Spanish. Judging criteria and complete contest details can be found online at spoonfulsofstoriescontest.com. The regular Spoonfuls of Stories website is spoonfulsofstories.com