Picturebook (E)Critique Too! Who We Are, And What We Do!

By Lesley Moss

Picturebook Critique Too! (PB Too!) was the second peer-led picture book e-critique group for SCBWI_BI. Over three years from its inception it is still running, with many of the original members plus some lovely later additions. Candy Gourlay set it up, and passed the moderating baton to me, now ably assisted by Liz Miller. 

We have authors and author-illustrators of all backgrounds and all stages in the group, which makes for an interesting mix. We are quite a relaxed group, and take time out when we need to. And this seems to work for us. It must – as we’re still here, and still critiquing!

I asked the members about their work, their experience of PB Too! and how it has helped them develop their work.

First up: Joint Moderator Liz Miller! 

I write picture books but have been known to pen the occasional early reader, and I was excited to be Highly Commended for ‘The Pirate Who Liked Pink’ at this year’s Winchester Conference. I joined PB Too! in January 2011 and my time on the e-critique waiting list has been well rewarded. 

I've been lucky to have met quite a few PB Too! members in person at SCBWI events, including the recent Picture Book Retreat. You don’t need to have met to work together well as a group but it's been great to have had these opportunities and who knows, it may help to strengthen the group dynamic. I love the 'Oh yes...', 'Why didn't I spot that?', 'That's a good idea!' moments that come from my ever honest but always constructive and supportive fellow PB Too’ers. 

But it's not just about the critique - I really enjoy the sharing of event information, the cheering of success and the hands that reach out from the emails when someone's had a setback. It's what being a member of SCBWI is all about for me. 

Let's hear from our Author-Illustrators: 

Illustration ©Jamie Stevenson
Jamie Stevenson

I'm a fine artist, a scribbling, doodling crafty person who loves children's books, especially picture books! My illustrations are mainly in pastel or acrylic, and like my writing, tend to be humourous and quirky. 

Wanting to improve my writing/illustrating but with no other PB members around, I looked for an online critique group, becoming part of PB Too! when it was first formed. It is great to be in contact with such a brilliantly sunny collection of talented people, now friends, helping and cheering each other on, having feedback and advice. This lovely little group has made a big difference to me! 

Illustration ©Rikin Parekh
Rikin Parekh, author-illustrator

I worked as a storyboard artist/creature designer on feature films but being a children's picture book author-illustrator is what I was put on this earth to do! I've illustrated four picture books for MX Publishing and am looking for an agent/publisher for my own picture books. I’m now a Year One Teaching Assistant with the nuttiest of kids too! 

I joined PB Critique Too! in March 2012 and since then I have had the pleasure of being critiqued by the nicest, most honest and creative writers. As a group we all want success for each other and I've experienced many gold nuggets of advice, feedback, constructive criticism and a constant force of positivity. Due to this, my writing has improved by leaps and bounds. I feel more confident as an author-illustrator and am so glad to have joined this wonderful group! 

Illustration ©Holly Gatrell
Holly Gatrell, author-illustrator

I joined the critique group after meeting Lesley Moss at an Exeter Sketchcrawl in July 2012. This was the start of my SCWBI journey. I am about to complete my Masters Degree in Illustration. Joining the group was great for me as my MA was distance learning and I was the only person studying children’s books. It has enabled me to understand so much more of the art of writing for children. The group members are really supportive and it’s inspiring to be able to exchange thoughts with such talent, and with published authors and illustrators. It’s great to learn from people who know what they are talking about! 

Illustration © Kate Pankhurst
Kate Pankhurst

I illustrate picture books and young fiction. I recently had my first books as an author-illustrator published (Mariella Mystery Investigates). I love doodling, my favourite subject is anything funny or icky and I'm particularly fond of monsters, dogs and detectives. 

I work from home and being part of PB Too! makes my job seem less solitary. I'm always really inspired by how much work is created by the group – it definitely spurs me on to get that picture book idea I've been mulling over finished off! Having peers to help polish an idea up before sending it in the 'real world' is incredibly useful too.

And now, from our authors: 

Alfie’s Great Escape, by Kate Irwin 
and Clare Elsom, Egmont
Kate Irwin, author of 'Alfie's Great Escape', Blue Bananas, Egmont

The PB Too! group is invaluable to me. I write my stuff, bounce it off my nearest and dearest, then it goes to PB Too! before sending it in for a professional critique. Then, if all goes well, to submission. The PB Too! people are honest, positive, and a pleasure and honour to be involved with. I can't imagine writing life without them now. 

It is also a huge joy to see other people's work developing and taking shape, and improving massively over time. And the debate over what we think works or not is fascinating and informative. Quite possibly the best thing about my SCWBI membership. 

Karen Owen

I’ve had one picture book published, I Could Be, You Could Be. I love being a member of PB Too! because it’s the first place I turn to when I’ve written a new text. Supportive and constructive comments from writers and illustrators make a big difference, especially as I’ve had to learn to think more about the pictures as well as words. 

Lois Johnson

I’m a picture book writer and I also write children's novels, mainly middle grade books for 9-12. I have an MA in Creative Writing: Writing for Children. I think it's great being a member of PB Too! as it's a bonus getting an insight and comments from illustrators as well as other pb writers. I feel the group is very supportive and the generosity of people who spend time giving detailed, helpful comments is wonderful. Very often we are too close to our own writing to be objective but by being a member of such a great group, we can post our work confidently knowing any comments offered are with the sole intention of helping us improve. 

Sheryl Webster:

I've been a member of the group for three years. I find the group invaluable in helping me to shape and enhance my story ideas into more polished texts. Often the obvious errors are staring you in the face, but it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see it. The group offers honest and constructive advice and the support we all give each other is just fabulous. I feel we are at a stage now where we 'know' each others styles and how each person works. I feel really privileged to be working with a group I trust, whose opinions and advice help so much. 

I have had 18 titles published to date, some of which are picture books such as What Small Rabbit Heard (OUP)  Wee William (OUP) Noodle's Knitting (LTP) Tinysaurus (Anderson Press) and some reading scheme titles, including The Bug Club series for Pearson. I also enjoy writing early fiction for older age groups. 


I wasn’t sure about the wisdom of online critique, but PB Too! converted me. I saw the way critiques could turn a script around, and how analysing someone else’s work could help in learning about editing. We’re also lucky to have a lovely guest contributor, Anne Rooney, who drops by occasionally with informed advice and information! 

I think this dedicated group epitomises SCBWI values, and I thought its members deserved a shout – out!


If you are a member of the SCBWI and are looking to join a critique group either online or in your local area, take a look at the critique information page on the SCBWI British Isles website. 


Lesley Moss joined SCBWI in 2003 and over several years has volunteered for SCBWI as SW Joint Network Organiser, e-critique group moderator for Picturebook Too! and the Poetry e-critique group, which became www.thefuneverse.com (run by Maureen Lynas). She writes 8-12 fiction, picture books and funny verse. She originally studied art and design and spent some years in community arts, including a spell as a mime animateur, working creatively with children of all ages, and much more. But her first love is writing.


  1. What a great piece, thanks Lesley. It's lovely to see everyone's 'biog' so succinctly put with images too. I'd love to see this on our PB Too! blog as a quick aid memoir too. Currently I am busy printing and sticking my flaps into Tommy's Pesky Pixies - the book! Not long before the end now :-)

  2. Hi Holly, I love Tommy's Pesky Pixies - good luck with it!

  3. Lesley, it's been great to get reacquainted with our members' journeys so thanks for this article. One of the most valuable things about my SCBWI membership has been the critique opportunities, both in PB Too and my face-to-face group in Central North. My writing has definitely improved with all the great feedback!

  4. Hi Lesley,
    This is a great piece (thank you!), and really sums up the support and trust that we all, as members, have for each other. My writing has come on leaps and bounds because of the helpful and constructive advice that we all offer each other, and learning to critique others work obviously enables us to look at our own work with a more critical eye too. The group has a lovely friendly atmosphere about it, and the group members understand that we all have 'busy lives' away from writing too, so we fit in with each other well. I hope it inspires others to see the benefits of being in a group such as this.
    I couldn't do it without all you guys! :)
    Sheryl x

  5. Hi Liz and Sheryl - the feature is a great team effort, so thanks are due to all!

  6. Thank you so much Lesley for putting this together - what a lovely group!
    This is such a good recommendation for joining an online critique group.
    Congratulations on all your successes!

  7. It's great to have this platform for SCBWI-ites to share news of their activities and groups, Jan, with the help of the lovely W&P volunteer editors!

  8. Lovely write up Lesley! It's so very cool to be part of this group! Without it I'd be lost!

  9. the 'critique' link at the bottom takes you to a german SCBWI site:/

    1. That was the old site as this is an article from last year. I've updated the link to point to the new SCBWI-BI website.


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