EASTER EGG DAY: Five Fun Traditions that Inspired the Book with Author Tara Knudson (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I am delighted to welcome children’s book author Tara Knudson in celebration of her darling new Easter board book EASTER EGG DAY (Zonderkidz, 2020). Told in light verse, it’s a celebration of a beloved Easter tradition – decorating Easter eggs. Tara’s charming text opens with:

“Easter eggs,

Family fun!

White eggs dyed

One by one. ”

Tara then takes the reader through a family’s egg decorating celebration. Illustrated by Pauline Stewart, each spread is full of color and warmth and the most adorable little rabbit family. The back cover has instructions for decorating your own eggs – a fun and concrete way to extend the story.

And now, I have a special treat for you as the author herself shares five fun Easter memories that inspired her to write the book. Take it away, Tara!

About the Author

Tara Knudson is a former teacher who has been writing poetry and stories since she was a young girl growing up in Chicago. Her published work can be found in children’s magazines, greeting cards, calendars, and a poetry anthology for teens. She is the author of Christmas Cookie Day and Easter Egg Day, as well as the forth coming Fun Fall Day and Valentine’s Day Treats, all published by Zonderkidz.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of EASTER EGG DAY (Zonderkidz, February 2020) simply post a comment below letting me know that you’d like to enter. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 3/26/20 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced that Friday! 

[Note: Thank you to the author for this complimentary book that I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY with Darlene Beck Jacobson

Today I am delighted to kickoff Darlene Beck Jacobson’s blog tour celebrating her charming new middle grade novel in verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY. Releasing with Creston Books on April 7th, 2020, it tells the story of Jack, who is worried about his father, who missing in action in Vietnam. His family, new best friend, and a bully unexpectedly all help Jack find the courage to do the right thing, not the easy thing. I was given an advance copy for review and was immediately engaged by Darlene’s voice in verse. It’s a great story and one that would be a nice addition to any library, class room, or middle-grader’s book collection. Now, in celebration of good writing and good stories, I’d like to introduce the author herself as she shares FIVE FUN FACTS about the book. Take it away, Darlene!

FIVE FUN FACTS ABOUT WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog Laura. I’m really excited to be here to share my new middle grade book WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY  (Creston 2020). Today I’m going to share FIVE FUN FACTS about the story.

FACT #1: In the original title FISH, WISH, AND OTHER FOUR LETTER WORDS, every poem had a four-letter word for a title. This didn’t happen by chance. The main character – JACK – spoke to me one morning in May of 2018 as I was waking up. He introduced himself and was insistent that I listen to what he had to say. He shouted four letter words like FEAR, HOPE, WISH, GONE, etc and I pulled out a notepad and began to write them down. He gave me that tile, and the premise that he missed his DAD who was MIA.  I wrote down four pages of notes based on this early morning “wake up call”, and filled another page with four letter words. These words became the chapters – poems –  of the story written in verse.

FACT #2: I was around the same age as Jack and Jill in 1964, and all the things they had fun doing – kite flying, scavenger hunts, reading comic books, riding bikes, going to the beach and drive-in movies – are the things my sister and I enjoyed as kids.

FACT 3#: The space program was a new and exciting thing in the 1960’s. Jack remembers watching in school as astronaut John Glenn orbited the moon in a rocket called Friendship Seven. Our entire fifth grade class did the same thing. We crammed into the Kindergarten room – the largest room in the school before the all purpose room was built – and stared up at a small black and white television, counting down to “Blast Off!” and cheering when he reached orbit around the moon.

FACT #4: In order to stop himself from making a terrible wish, Jack needed a “cautionary tale” about what happens when wishes go terribly wrong. “THE MONKEY’S PAW”, a horror story by W.W Jacobs is that tale. To learn more check here.

FACT #5: “The Song That Doesn’t End” – featured in the poem titled SING (pages 198-199) was a popular song from a kiddie show called THE SHARI LEWIS SHOW, featuring a puppet named LAMBCHOP singing the song. We loved singing it as kids because it drove our parents crazy.  Some things never change. You can check it out on this You Tube link:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Darlene Beck Jacobson is a former teacher and speech therapist who has loved writing since she was a girl.  She is also a lover of history and can often be found mining dusty closets and drawers in search of skeletons from her past. She enjoys adding these bits of her ancestry to stories such as her award-winning middle grade historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE (Creston 2014) and WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston 2020). 

Darlene lives and writes her stories in New Jersey with her family and a house full of dust bunnies. She’s caught many fish, but has never asked one to grant her a wish. She’s a firm believer in wishes coming true, so she tries to be careful what she wishes for.

Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts, articles on nature, book reviews, and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators.

Find her on the web at www.darlenebeckjacobson.com or on Twitter at @DBeckJacobson

Preorder her book now at Barnes and Noble or Amazon or your favorite indie bookseller.

TEACHERS: Learn more about the book and download the curriculum guide at the Creston Books website. Here’s the link: https://www.crestonbooks.co/wishesdares

And don’t miss the NEXT stop on her blog tour on Thursday, March 12, 2020 at https://joshuadavidbellin.blogspot.com/p/my-blog.html

GOD’S BLESSINGS OF FALL: An Interview with Picture Book Author JEAN MATTHEW HALL plus a GIVEAWAY!

Today I am delighted to welcome debut picture book author Jean Matthew Hall as my guest with an interview as we celebrate the release of her picture book GOD’S BLESSINGS OF FALL, published by Little Lamb Books and beautifully illustrated by Olya Badulina. The book is part of the four part Bountiful Blessings series. And this interview is part of a larger blog tour. To check out the full tour list, visit Jean’s blog at https://jeanmatthewhall.com/gods-blessings-of-fall/.

Thank you for joining us today, Jean. Let’s get started with my questions in autumn orange to match the beautiful fall palette of your book’s charming cover.

Have you always been a writer? Tell us a little bit about your writerly journey.

As a child I enjoyed drawing and designing more than writing. As an adult I found myself writing many articles and handbooks for my job. It became fun. Then, when I started writing stories it really became fun!

I started writing for publication around 2007. I’ve been studying and having some success since then. God’s Blessings of Fall is my first picture book to be published. This manuscript was one of the first I worked on. I wrote the first draft in 2009.

Writing for publication is a S-L-O-W process. There is much to learn.

You are so right about the slowness of the process, but good things are worth waiting for and working towards patiently. Thanks for for that reminder, Jean!

What inspired you to write God’s Blessings of Fall?

I am enamored with God’s created world. I enjoy observing the changes in the seasons. So, following the adage “write what you know”, watching my four-year old grandson running around the yard chasing leaves on a crisp autumn day was the spark for this story.

I’m so glad you were intentional and recognized his joyful play as the spark to a story.

Can you tell us about the illustrator? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?

Olya Badulina lives in Russia with her husband and two children. She used her favorite medium for God’s Blessings of Fall –watercolors. She has illustrated books for authors around the world.

My favorite spread is the first one in the book. The animals are adorable throughout the book, but the barn, the golden fields and falling leaves just shout fall to me.

It was surreal holding the book and seeing the animals and scenes that had been living in my head for years. I felt both proud and humble at the same time. It was a feeling of real accomplishment to see my vision and the illustrator’s vision come together to make a lovely book.

In my experience that feeling never gets old!

What advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids?

Live your faith in front of your kids. Let them witness your faith living and at work in your day-to-day life. It shouts authenticity to them. And THAT is what attracts your children to live that kind of faith-filled life. Be careful that your words line up with your actions and attitiudes.

Beautiful advice! Yes!

Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline? Where can readers find your books?

God’s Blessings of Fall is the first in the four-book Bountiful Blessings series. Books featuring the other seasons will come over the next 18 months. I also have several holiday stories trying to find homes with interested publishers. Praying that will happen soon!

Thanks, Laura, for helping me share the good news about God’s Blessings of Fall.

Thank YOU, Jean, for sharing your story here and along with your wonderful wisdom for laying good faith foundations for our little ones. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. I look forward to seeing your other books on shelves everywhere!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jean Matthew Hall has spent most of her life singing songs, reading books, playing games, cutting, coloring and gluing with children of all ages. And, she loves it! Creating encouraging board books and picture books is her idea of fun, but her favorite times are spent with her eight grandchildren. 

Jean’s picture book God’s Blessings of Fall debuted in September 2019. It is the first in her Bountiful Blessings series about the four seasons.

You can contact Jean or learn more about her here:

Website/Blog www.jeanmatthewhall.com

Facebook Jean Matthew Hall Author

Twitter Jean_Hall

Pinterest JeanMatthew_Hall

Now for the GIVEAWAY! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of GOD’S BLESSINGS OF FALL (Little Lamb Books, September 2019) simply post a comment below letting me know that you’d like to enter. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 10/31/19 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced that Friday! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. The winner is announced here. Thank you to all who entered.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? and WHERE DOES A COWGIRL GO POTTY? with Dawn Prochovnic

Today I am delighted to be hosting children’s author Dawn Babb Prochovnic as we celebrate the release of her darling companion picture books WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? and WHERE DOES A COWGIRL GO POTTY? both illustrated by Jacob Souva and both published by West Margin Press. Congratulations! Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE, not just FUN, but truly INSPIRING FACTS about the books from the author herself.

FIVE Fun Facts About Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? & Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?

By Dawn Prochovnic

FUN FACT #1 Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? was inspired by the antics of my son, then a toddler, now a senior in high school. 

There was a day when my son was being particularly silly, running through the house with a diaper on his bottom, a bandana on his head, and a pirate’s patch over one eye. He looked at me with an ornery twinkle in his uncovered eye, and asked in his best, pirate-y gruff toddler voice, “Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?”  I knew immediately that was the title for a book, and I started drafting a manuscript soon after. It took many years and many revisions to get this story just right, but what I continue to love about it is that each time I read it, I am instantly transported back to that memorable moment shared with my son, when he first posed that silly question to me. 

FUN FACT #2 Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? emerged out of a writing exercise.

My pirate manuscript was a crowd-pleaser at open mics at writing conferences, and it received several close looks from different editors and publishers, but it had yet to sell. Eventually, I decided to completely reimagine the story with another main character. In 2015, I was invited to contribute a story to a beautiful picture book anthology called Oregon Reads Aloud. The primary submission guideline was that every story in the book needed to relate to Oregon in some fashion. I took a close look at my work-in-progress file, and after some encouragement from one of my critique partners, I decided to “Oregon-ize” a “first-day-of-school” story that had gotten a few editorial nibbles, but that also hadn’t sold. I LOVED the experience of revising within a structured framework. Ideas for clever revisions that fit within the Oregon theme and within my overall plot structure and rhyme pattern came relatively easily. Happily, the story was accepted for inclusion in the anthology, and I had a refreshed publication credit under my belt and a renewed sense of confidence in my writing ability.   


A couple of years later, as a writing exercise, I challenged myself to experiment with westernizing my pirate story. Unfortunately, my attempts fell flat. I eventually came to realize that I was essentially inserting a random cowboy into my pirate’s story. I needed to do some deeper work on character development. Then I had a new idea: What about a cowgirl

I found myself immediately transported back to a time when my college-aged daughter was in grade school, and her wardrobe included a bright pink pair of cowgirl boots. I paged through old photos and found the one I was looking for: A photo of my daughter dressed-up for her western-themed grade school carnival. I finally had the kernel of a new character in my mind’s eye. This character was unique and separate from the pirate character that I couldn’t let go of, and she had her own story to tell. Yee-Haw!

FUN FACT #3 I went from having no contract offers on the table for my “potty books” to having two simultaneous contract offers on the table–one for the pirate story and the other for the cowgirl story. 

Once I finished my cowgirl story, I identified a list of publishers that would be a good fit and started the process of submitting this new story. I had not submitted my pirate story in quite some time, and unbeknownst to me, it was going through the acquisition channels at a New York publishing house. Seemingly suddenly, I had publishing offers from two different publishers on the table, each primarily interested in one of the two books. Soon, both publishers indicated they would like to acquire both books and publish them as companion pieces, so I needed to decide which of the two publishing houses I wanted to work with and begin negotiating a contract. I reached out to a handful of agents on my agent prospect list to see if anyone would help me navigate this opportunity. I only heard back from one, and she graciously declined. I then reached out to a handful of authors, booksellers, and librarians in my personal and professional networks to seek input and advice. Once I decided that West Margin Press (then called Graphic Arts Books) was the best fit for my vision for the books, I turned to the Authors Guild to help me identify the contract terms that were most important to me. 

Although I certainly would have welcomed representation during this process, I learned so much along the way, and I don’t regret how it all turned out. I’m very comfortable with the decisions I made, and I couldn’t be happier with the experience of working with West Margin Press. That said, I continue to have deep admiration for the publisher I didn’t get to work with–and I continue to hold hope that we will land on another project that is a good fit. 

FUN FACT #4 I used a HEAP of sticky notes to help me organize my thoughts and ideas during the editorial process for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? 

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a big fan of sticky notes. I use sticky notes to help me prioritize competing to-do’s and organize larger projects, and I’ve taught many others to do the same in the workshops I teach. I have them plastered near my front door to remind me to bring a particular something with me when I leave the house. I have them in my car to remind me of errands I need to run. I leave them on the kitchen table to let my kids know where I’ve gone and when I’ll be back, and I have them in wild disarray all over my desk with scribbles of story ideas, to-do’s, and phone numbers. Every so often (truthfully, not often enough), I consolidate the notes scattered on my desk to one or two notes, and start anew. 

I heavily leaned on sticky notes during the revision process for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? to help me organize my thoughts and the characters’ dialogue. After the editing process was completed for Cowgirl, I wrote out the text of the story on sticky notes. The story is told in dialogue bubbles, so I used different colors to indicate main character, supporting character, etc. I then did the same for the (yet to be edited) Pirate story, leaving blank sticky notes for dialogue that had not yet been written or that needed to be revised to align with the structure and tone of the Cowgirl story. I find that sticky notes makes it easier to revise/move text, and it creates a visual point of reference to assess the pacing of the story. 

FUN FACT #5 Helping create songs for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and Where Does A Cowgirl Go Potty? may just be the most fun I’ve had yet! 

Last year, as a gift to my husband for our 30th wedding anniversary, I wrote the lyrics for a song and worked with a singer/songwriter who wrote the music and recorded the song  (You can listen to the song and read a blog post that tells the story behind the song here. The process reminded me how much I love being a part of “music.” Whenever I see live music, mostly in small, local venues, not only do I enjoy the experience of listening, but I find myself wishing I were on the stage performing with the artists. I’ve long joked with friends that I’d like to be part of a “girl band” (whatever that means), saying I play a mean tambourine and could sing back-up (I played the drums in middle school and can still keep a pretty decent beat… and I regularly lead songs in my parent/child “sing and sign” classes). 

This past January, as I was making goals for the coming year, I realized that I was making this “joke” more and more often, and that I really wasn’t joking–I DID want to be part of something musical.

So …. I started reaching out to my personal and professional networks, (and in some cases perfect strangers), and eventually was introduced to two different singer/songwriter/performers. They each have completely different work styles and musical styles, but what they have in common is that they are both wonderful musicians and sincerely good people, that I now call friends. I collaborated with these musicians to create a companion children’s song for each book. In one case I wrote all the lyrics, in the other I co-wrote the lyrics. In both cases, the musicians wrote the music and performed and recorded the songs, which are works of art in their own right. I couldn’t be any more proud about how the songs turned out. 

The music for the Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? song was written and performed by AnnieBirdd Music, LLC, with Annie Lynn, Walt Wilczewski, and Chris Arms, and starring Red Beard The Pirate, a.k.a. Alexander Wilczewski. 

You can listen to our song by viewing the animated book trailer that illustrator Jacob Souva created for our book:

The song for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? was written and performed by Singer/Songwriter/Performing Musician, Marshall Mitchell.

You can listen to our song by viewing the Cowgirl book trailer here: https://youtu.be/VCC90qkNk7I

The song-writing process was SO. MUCH. FUN! … I can’t wait to do it again!

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Laura! I really enjoyed thinking about and writing about Five Fun Facts related to my new books. 

About the Author: Dawn Babb Prochovnic is the author of Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes Series, including one title that was selected as an Oregon Book Awards finalist, and she is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud. Dawn is a vocal advocate for school and public libraries and was honored as a 2015 Oregon Library Supporter of the Year by the Oregon Library Association. She is a frequent presenter at schools, libraries and educational conferences, and the founder of SmallTalk Learning, which provides American Sign Language and early literacy education. Dawn loves to travel and has visited thousands of potties across the Pacific Northwest and around the world. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, two kids, two cats, and a feisty dog. Learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.dawnprochovnic.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DawnProchovnic

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DawnProchovnicAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dawnprochovnic

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts About TWO New Books with BROCK EASTMAN

I always enjoy meeting authors through social media and was delighted to connect recently with Brock Eastman who has written not just picture books/board books but also middle grade. He’s here today to share FIVE FUN facts about his two newest releases for littlest readers, Mommy’s Favorite Smell & Daddy’s Favorite Sound both published by Harvest House. The publisher sent me a review copy of Mommy’s Favorite Smell so I could have a full sense for his books. I’ve never read a book that focuses so exclusively on smell! FUN! I hope you enjoy the post. Happy sniffing!

FIVE Fun Facts About Mommy’s Favorite Smell & Daddy’s Favorite Sound

By Brock Eastman

FUN FACT #1: My kids inspire me.

My daughter asked me, “Is this your favorite sound?” as she moved a slinky back and forth in her little hands.
“No that’s not my favorite sound,” I said.
“What’s your favorite sound?” she asked.
“Kinley, I love you,” I said.
“Daddy, I love you too,” she repeated.
I smiled and said, “That is my favorite sound!”


And that is how Little Lion came to be. After ten years and many drafts, Daddy’s Favorite Sound found a home with Harvest House. And soon there were two books, one for Daddy and one for Mommy. 

FUN FACT #2: My wife inspires me too.

All the credit for the second book’s idea, Mommy’s Favorite Smell, goes to my wife. We were driving back from a date talking about what Mommy’s Favorite could be and she shared one her favorite moments as a mom with me, and that was it. We are excited to share what Mommy’s Favorite Smell is to us, and we think you’ll probably agree. But to find out, you’ll have to read the book aloud to your kids or grandkids or classroom.

FUN FACT #3: Reading wasn’t my thing, and neither was writing.

I despised reading when I was younger, it wasn’t until I was in college that I started to enjoy reading. And with a degree in marketing, writing never occurred to me as something I might do. But God opened some doors and next thing I knew I had a 5-book contract for a middle grade series called The Quest for Truth, in fact the final book (Hope) released in July. From there I’ve continued to create new stories.

FUN FACT #4: Illustrator David Miles is amazing.

I met David Miles the illustrator for Daddy’s Favorite Sound and Mommy’s Favorite Smell through a story I wrote for Clubhouse magazine. I wrote a story called Waste Deep, which was connected loosely to The Quest for Truth galaxy. Clubhouse magazine selected David to illustrate the story, and soon he brought my story to life in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

FUN FACT #5: Readers…Parents…Imagination

I hope parents will read my stories to their soon-to-be-readers while snuggling up together with their kids, And I hope that as kids hear these stories, their imaginations will be sparked and they’ll want to read more and more. 

 Brock Eastman has a degree in Marketing and works for Compassion International. Previously he was a producer and podcast host for Adventures in Odyssey. He is the author of The Quest for Truth series, Daddy’s Favorite Sound, Mommy’s Favorite Smell, Bedtime on Noah’s Ark, Sages of Darkness series, and Imagination Station series; Showdown with the Shepherd. He writes articles for Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. Magazines. He loves reading stories to his four kids each night.

Author Website: BrockEastman.com

Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/Brock-Eastman/e/B005FZUM4Y/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eastmanbrock/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/author_brockeastman/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bdeastman

Celebrating KARATE KID with… a Launch Party!

There’s an ADORABLE new picture book out just in time for the new school year called KARATE KID.  Written by Rosanne L. Kurstedt and illustrated by Mark Chambers, KARATE KID (Running Press Kids, 2019) is a kid-friendly introduction to the basics of karate starring a goat! Here’s the official blurb: “Follow Kid as he goes through the major stances and karate moves, teaching readers to channel focus and strength through each pose. Karate Kid‘s simple, measured, and meditative text is complemented by playful yet instructive illustrations by Mark Chambers to teach youngsters how to get involved in karate–and to have fun while doing so, too.” A great and accurate description… and I’m not the only one who agrees. Booklist recently praised the book this way: “Solid color backgrounds keep readers focused on the book’s entertaining but accurate content, and the smoothly written text incorporates the mental component of the sport. . . . [A] solid introduction to karate.”  

To celebrate its release, Hands of Life Martial Arts in Garwood, NJ hosted an amazing karate-themed launch event.  The two hour event included…

goat-themed crafts…

demos with Sensei Arthur and some of his students as well as an opportunity for guests to try their hands and breaking boards……

a reading…

lots of opportunity to chat with the author and pose at the photo booth…

and wait eagerly in line… to have our books signed!

I hope these pictures give you a sense of the charm and fun, not only of the event, but of the book itself.  I can’t wait to share my newly signed copy with all my teacher friends as well as our children’s librarian.  Happy reading, all!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR:

Rosanne L. Kurstedt, Ph.D. has been an educator for over 20 years –first as a classroom teacher in NYC and then as a staff developer. She lived in Hong Kong where she was part of the development and leadership team that opened Hong Kong Academy international School. After returning to the United States, she received her Doctorate from Fordham University in Language, Literacy, and Learning. She currently is an Adjunct Professor at Hunter College, writes for educational publishing companies, and is the Associate Director of READ East Harlem. 

As the Assistant Regional Advisor of the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, she helps other authors and illustrators navigate the children’s book industry and hone their craft. 

She’s also the founder of The Author Experience, a 501(c)3 organization committed to the transformative power of sharing stories. In collaboration with students, families and educators, TAE provides sustainable literacy-based experiences that build a culture of literacy–one that elevates connections and delivers lasting impact.

Mark Chambers is an author and illustrator of children’s picture books and young fiction. He studied Illustration at the University of London. In 2017, he was shortlisted for the AOI World Illustration Awards, and in 2013 for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. Since then Mark has illustrated a wealth of picture books and young fiction. In 2013, he won the Sheffield Children’s Picture Book Award and was also highly commended in the young fiction category. He also illustrated KARATE KID’s companion book, YOGA FROG.

THE WONDER THAT IS YOU: An Interview with Best-Selling Author Glenys Nellist PLUS a GIVEAWAY!

Today I’m delighted to have best-selling picture book author Glenys Nellist as my guest to chat about her new release THE WONDER THAT IS YOU, illustrated by Aurelie Blanz and published by Zonderkidz.  Here’s the captivating flap copy:  “Every parent dreams of celebrating the arrival of their new child. This heartwarming picture book captures the moment that dream comes true. Filled with tender emotion and joy, THE WONDER THAT IS YOU is the perfect way to tell your little one how much they are loved.”   This dreamy picture book will surely tug at the heartstrings of parents and parents-to-be.  Get a sneak peek with this delightful book trailer and then enjoy the interview with my questions in green to match the cover!

Thank you for joining us today, Glenys. Even though you are a return guest, I think my readers would love to hear again a little bit about yourself and your journey into the world of children’s book writing/illustrating.


Hi Laura! Thanks for having me! I’m originally from England, where I was a primary school teacher, and I’ve always loved writing. But It wasn’t until 2000, when I relocated to the United States with my husband, who is a pastor, that my publishing journey really began. I became a Children’s Ministry Director at our small church and part of my job was to buy curriculum. It was expensive, and so I decided to write my own. As I was writing Bible stories for the teachers to use, the idea came to me to try to write a children’s Storybook Bible. I actually gave up half way through, but my husband encouraged me to finish it. LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD was my first book, published five years ago. I’ve never looked back since.

What inspired you to write THE WONDER THAT IS YOU?


On the night my eldest son was born, thirty-five years ago, I fell asleep in my hospital bed in England with my baby son in the crib beside me. During the night I had THE most amazing dream. I was flying upwards in the dark and landed on a rooftop, where I swung my legs like a little girl, overflowing with happiness because my baby had been born. I clearly remember seeing the moon and the stars, and it was as if they were rejoicing along with me. THE WONDER THAT IS YOU captures the idea that perhaps all creation rejoices when a new baby is born, or joins the family. The strangest thing about this story is that when my husband came, three days later, to take us home, I glanced back at the hospital as we were leaving It was only then that I saw the flat roof above, and recognized all the windows I had flown past that night. I realized that THIS was the building I had been sitting on that night. As crazy as it seems, I know that it was no dream. It was real.

Wow, what an amazing dream! I love the image of all creation rejoicing at the birth of each precious child.


The illustrations really add to the dreamy feeling of your lovely lyrical text. Tell us a little bit about the artist.  Do you have a favorite spread? What makes it your favorite?


French illustrator Aurelie Blanz is wonderful! I just couldn’t believe how she had taken my words and brought them to life in such breathtaking images. Honestly, every spread is amazing, but if I had to pick just one, it would have to be the one that accompanies these words: It felt as if my love took flight And soared into the air, And joined creation’s welcome song As you were lying there. In this spread, a girl is flying high with the butterflies.. that’s ME!

Since the wonder and awe of being new parents is one of the beautiful themes of the book, I wondered if you had any advice for brand new parents who might be feeling exhausted/overwhelmed – albeit overjoyed.


Well, as one who had four children under the age of five, I remember well the feeling of exhaustion that can overwhelm moms as they juggle daily tasks. But I would say, in spite of the challenges and daily grind, try to enjoy your time with your little ones as much as you can. It truly does fly by! Read a lot. Laugh a lot. Spend time doing things together and make memories, because no one can take your memories away. 

Wonderful advice! Hard to do sometimes, in the midst of the exhausted moment, but so worth it.

Finally, this has been a very busy year book-wise for you. Tell us a little bit about your new books. Are there any upcoming projects in the works? 

 
With six titles published this year, 2019 has been my busiest year to date! Later this year I have two board books coming out in my Good News series, published by Discovery House. GOOD NEWS! GOD MADE ME! and GOOD NEWS! IT’S CHRISTMAS! will hit the shelves October 2nd. Then, in 2020, along with the board book version of THE WONDER THAT IS YOU, I have two picture books coming with Beaming Books that I’m really excited about. LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE will release in February, followed by LITTLE MOLE’S LITTLE GIFT in the fall. I sometimes can’t believe how all this happened… but it did, and I am so very grateful.

It’s been a prolific journey! I can’t wait to read each and every of your upcoming titles and wish you continued success. Thank you for stopping by today.

GLENYS NELLIST: Glenys Nellist was born and raised in a little village in northern England. The author of multiple children’s books, including the bestselling ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas and the popular series Love Letters from God and Snuggle Time, her writing reflects a deep passion for helping children discover joy in the world. Glenys lives in Michigan with her husband, David.

Find out more about Glenys and her books here:

Author Website

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Zonderkidz!) 

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of THE WONDER THAT IS YOU written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Aurelie Blanz, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. street address (no P.O. Boxes) and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Tuesday 9/10/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!  THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. The winner is announced here.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about NO BEARS ALLOWED with Author Lydia Lukidis

Today I am delighted to be hosting children’s author Lydia Lukidis as we celebrate the release of her darling new picture book NO BEARS ALLOWED illustrated by Tara J. Hannon and published by Blue Whale Press. Congratulations, Lydia! Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE FUN FACTS about the books from the author herself. Take it away, Lydia! 

Five Fun Facts about NO BEARS ALLOWED

By Lydia Lukidis

FACT #1: This book took….years to become a reality.

This is likely no surprise for all the authors out there! We all know the industry, and even the writing process, can operate at a snail’s pace. Let’s break it down: 

The concept of the book first came to me in 2015. 

But I had to flesh out my ideas for another year before I even attempted to write the story.

In 2016, I felt ready and wrote the first draft.

I continued to workshop and edit drafts for another year.

Then I got some critiques from my critique partners, and I was back to the drawing table.

In 2017, the ms was out with (then) first agent. Things didn’t work out.

Then my second agent looked at it, but passed because she deemed it “too quiet.”

So, I decided to be brave and submit it to publishers myself. 

In 2018, Blue Whale Press acquired it!

The take-away: always believe in yourself even when others don’t.

FACT #2: I confess: Rabbit and I are similar!

I deeply empathize with Rabbit. He’s afraid, he’s anxious, and worries about pretty much everything. But I find these qualities to be endearing because we all have our weaknesses. What I love about Rabbit is that he learns to face his fears and develops a new point of view.

I do admit: Rabbit and I may have a few things in common. I do tend to over-worry and over-think, and I’ve been held back by fear at certain moments in my life. Through the years, I have learned to be bold, and really challenge myself. 

I don’t like heights! Hey, let’s go ziplining!

I’m afraid of the ocean! Let’s go paddle boarding!

And so on.

There’s nothing like facing your fears head on and pushing through your limits; it will change the very fabric of your soul.

FACT #3: A picture book is more than just words.

Sure, the story and characters are important. But they’re brought to life by the illustrator. I was fortunate to work with the talented illustrator Tara J. Hannon and she brought the book to the next level. Tara did beautiful illustrations and exceeded my expectations. But she did more than that. The editor (Alayne Christian) and I were careful to give her artistic space, and let her create. She came up with her own ideas that complimented the book quite nicely. But most importantly, she helped me re-assess who Rabbit was. I had initially seen him as an older creature, with spectacles. She helped me create a version of Rabbit more accessible to kids. A hilarious, younger version emerged, holding his binoculars tightly. I could not be more grateful.

FACT #4: This is the first fiction book I’ve published in a while.

These days, I’ve been very drawn to nonfiction. My last 3 picture books were all STEM books published by Kane Press (A REAL LIVE PET!, THE SPACE ROCK MYSTERY, THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST). Years ago, I studied science and it’s been fun to incorporate all that knowledge into my books for children. But it’s also nice to get back into the world of fiction and make-believe. NO BEARS ALLOWED helped me re-connect to that magic. This journey reminds me that I still love fiction, and will be forever writing it!

FACT #5: The world would be a brighter place if we listened to Rabbit and Bear!

Rabbit goes through a transformative process on his journey and learns some life changing lessons. He finally understands that he should not pre-judge anyone and make rash assumptions. He has a certain concept of bears, and then finds out how wrong his assumption is. The other takeaway is that we all have more in common than we think. Imagine how different the world would be if we all adopted this perspective! Friendship is magical. And you never know where it will pop up. Lastly, I love how Rabbit faces his fears head on, despite his trepidation. That’s great advice for us all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with a multi-disciplinary background that spans the fields of literature, science and theater. So far, she has over 40 books and eBooks published, as well as a dozen educational books. Her latest STEM books include The Broken Bees’ Nest and The Space Rock Mystery

Lydia is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy. She regularly gives writing workshops in elementary schools across Quebec through the Culture in the Schools Program. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence.  

Social Media links

Website: http://www.lydialukidis.com/

Blog: https://lydialukidis.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LydiaLukidis/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LydiaLukid


AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Writing on Assignment with Children’s Author Shari Barr (and a GIVEAWAY!)

There are many paths to publication. And today, I’m delighted to have children’s author Shari Barr as my guest, sharing her experience writing on assignment. I found her post so encouraging and I hope you will too. Thank you, Shari, for sharing your experience! (And thank you, also, the giveaway opportunity!) Take it away!

My First Big Break—Writing on Assignment

by Shari Barr

Breaking into traditional publishing isn’t always easy, but there are lesser-known ways to get your foot in the door. Many major publishers develop series in-house and then hire authors to write it. I landed my first fiction deal in a work-for-hire agreement.  

Not only was it great fun, I also learned tons about the publishing world and walked away with four books to my credit.

Several years ago I learned about Barbour Publishing’s new Camp Club Girls mystery series through a Christian newsletter I received. After contacting the editor and expressing interest in possibly writing for them, I was invited to submit a sample chapter and subsequently contracted, along with five other authors, to write the 24-book series.

Each writer was assigned one of the six main characters in the series. My books were all written from the viewpoint of McKenzie Phillips, a witty, thirteen-year-old from Montana. Each writer was given a brief synopsis of our assigned books, but we were able to make each one our own. Since I’m a farm girl and saw the need for more farm related stories in children’s literature, I created McKenzie’s character to fit the mold of a modern farm girl. Of course, a few plot elements were inspired by some of my most memorable childhood stunts, except I made her a lot more fun. 

The characters in the series meet while sharing a cabin at church camp. In book one the roomies use their individual skills to solve a mystery they’ve encountered at camp. In each of the following books, two girls meet at various locations around the country to solve a mystery. The remaining four girls help sleuth by using cell phones and computers. Oh, and I must give credit to Biscuit, the wonder dog, who uses his canine detective skills to provide clues.

My first three books of the Camp Club Girls series, McKenzie’s Montana Mystery, McKenzie’s Oregon Operation, and McKenzie’s Branson Brainteaser released in 2010 and 2011. McKenzie’s Montana Mystery was reprinted in Get a Clue! Camp Club Girls, a special 3 stories in one volume, and released in 2012. Camp Club Girls: McKenzie released April 1, 2019, a four-in-one volume containing all McKenzie titles, including my fourth book, McKenzie’s Iowa History Mystery.

I may not be a household name, but when fan mail comes in from little girls, it’s all worthwhile.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Shari Barr always dreamed of being a writer. She was raised on a farm spending many summer days hiding in her treehouse, reading her stack of library books. When her pile dwindled (usually the same day she checked them out,) she made her own adventures, unknowingly creating plot elements for future middle-grade novels. She has published numerous articles and devotions and wrote Sunday school and Vacation Bible School curriculum for David C. Cook. In addition to the Camp Club Girls series, she wrote Memory Maker Bible Crafts for 2nd and 3rd Grades, published by David C. Cook in 2008.

She and her husband live on a farm in in southwest Iowa not far from where she grew up. Since their son and daughter are grown, she spends her free time taking photographs of farm life and spoiling their stupendously handsome and intelligent mutt, Hank.

To view her photography, feel free to follow her Facebook page “Mama Barr’s Farm” at https://www.facebook.com/ShariHarnessBarrAuthor/

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!

Shari has kindly offered one copy of her newest book with Barbour, “Camp Club Girls: McKenzie” to one lucky winner. If you’d like a chance to win her book, let me know by leaving a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Wednesday, 7/17/19 at 12:01 am EST. The giveaway is now over.

Happy Book Birthday! GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME: An Interview with Author Amy Houts and a GIVEAWAY!

Join me in welcoming talented picture book author, Amy Houts, whose brand new picture book, GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME (Beaming Books), debuts TODAY! This charming faith-based story is a soothing read, and a great conversation starter with little ones about God’s protective care. With sparse text and clever rhymes, it’s a delight. I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School kids! And now for the interview with my questions in bold

1.Thanks so much for joining us today, Amy, and congratulations your newest faith-based picture book. Is it true that this is your 70th published book! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your prolific journey into the world of children’s book writing.

Thank you, Laura, for having me. Yes, it’s true that I have over authored over 70 children’s books. Most of them were written on assignment for educational publishers. They often ask for a series of books on a specific topic or featuring a specific character. For example, I wrote four books about pets (dog, cat, rabbit, and goldfish) for a South Korean publisher, Compass Publishing. I was asked to write five books featuring the cartoon character, Dora the Explorer. So, it adds up! Plus, I’ve been writing for many years beginning when I was at home with my baby girl, Emily. Now Emily is a busy mother of three young children.While I love writing on assignment, a book based on my own, original idea, such as God’s Protection Covers Me, means so much.  

2. GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME charmingly depicts God’s constant care over, not just children, but all creation. What inspired you to write GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME using animal homes as your concrete visual?

I was inspired to write this book because of the concern I feel as a mother and grandmother. I’m a worrier! But I longed to feel calmer. Looking to God for strength, knowing that He protects us, heart and soul and spirit, gave me comfort. Often, writing helps me work through my feelings. The comparison of an umbrella keeping the rain off and a roof overhead seemed to me to be the perfect symbol to explain to a child (and to myself) how God’s protection works. The text is soothing and reassuring. 

This excerpt is from God’s Protection Covers Me by Amy Houts, illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, published by Beaming Books, used by permission.

3. David Creighton-Pester’s illustrations are delightfully concrete and colorful to match your simple, yet comforting, text. Can you tell us a little bit about him? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations?  Do you have a favorite spread?

David Creighton-Pester is an illustrator and graphic designer from Hamilton, New Zealand, where he lives with his wife and two young children. His website https://wanderingbert.com/ states that his interest in art started early: “Inspired as a child by picture books, animation, and all things arty, David spent endless hours drawing crazy characters and coming up with silly stories.”

I’m overjoyed that my editor at Beaming Books paired my text with David’s artwork. The first time I saw the cover and interior spread, I couldn’t help smiling. David gave life to my words. His child-like style and vibrant colors welcome the reader in.  

My favorite spread shows mother and son under the umbrella—nearly home as rain pours down—while the dog and a mouse watch from their protective covering. The rhythm and rhyme of the text is how I began writing the book: “Like a roof protects a house or a crawl space for a mouse…”

4. Besides reading wonderful picture books such as this, what advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids? 

Start with something kids know or are familiar with (like an umbrella) and move to something unfamiliar or harder to explain (like God’s protection). Similies and comparisons help to illustrate a concept. Focus on a feeling, like peace, comfort, or safety, and how that relates to something physical like drinking hot cocoa, being wrapped in a blanket, or watching the rain out the window. 

5. Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?

I’m always working on picture book manuscripts in all stages of development from a few lines, to a first draft, to polishing, to submission. Upcoming in 2020, four books written on assignment for educational publisher, Rubicon/Pearson, will be released. You can also read and act out my Bible fingerplays in each 2019 issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine. My books are sold through amazon.comchristianbook.combarnesandnoble.com, and more. Visit my website http://amyhouts.com to find out more about my work. 

Thank you so much for stopping by and for writing this delightful book! (And readers, don’t forget to enter the giveaway below.)

Photo by Bob Delsol

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Houts is an award-winning author of over 70 children’s books, cookbooks, and board games that feature family themes of love and friendship, holiday celebrations, and early learning concepts. Her books include The Giant Book of Bible Fingerplays for Preschoolers(Group Publishing), which features 101 fingerplays, Bible stories, and Scripture verses. It’s a joy for Amy to share Bible truths and God’s love with young children through her writing. Amy and her husband, Steve, live in rural Northwest Missouri,an hour from Steve’s family farm. They are the parents of two grown daughters and three grandchildren.

Twitter: @AmyHouts Instagram: @AmyHouts

And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Amy!) 

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME written by Amy Houts and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Tuesday 5/28/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. TO SEE WHO WON PRESS HERE.

Facebook: Author Amy Houts