author spotlight, Guest Blog, Picture Books

FIVE FUN FACTS about HERE WE COME with Author Janna Matthies (And a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I’m delighted to have children’s author and music teacher Janna Matthies here to share five fun facts about her newest book HERE WE COME!, published by Beach Lane Books and illustrated by Christine Davinier. Here’s the official teaser from the publisher’s website:

Join a cast of friends, human and animal alike, as they embark on a musical read-aloud adventure in this upbeat, joyful picture book.

A boy sets off with his flute and his stuffed bear and a rum-pum-pum. As they make their way through the town and the woods, they ask, “Wanna come?” Soon, kids and creatures join in the fun one by one, playing instruments, singing, and dancing to the catchy tune. 

But will a storm bring their fun-filled musical parade to an end?

I was delighted to receive a review copy of this book which has universal appeal for anyone who has ever tapped a beat with their feet or sung in the shower or out in the beautiful outdoors. It certainly brought back beautiful memories from my own childhood as well as my children’s of making music in creative and impromptu ways by clapping, stomping, tapping, humming, and singing at the top of our lungs. For all these reasons, I think it would make a wonderful addition to a home or school or town library. And now, enjoy Janna’s five fun facts. And remember to enter the giveaway at the end of the post.

HERE WE COME! Five Fun Facts

by Janna Matthies

#1: HERE WE COME! is a moonlit, musical adventure. But when I wrote the story, I envisioned it taking place during the day with only human children. The illustrator, Christine Davenier, took the story to the next level by setting the scene after bedtime and bringing in both kids and animals. Don’t you love the jolly bear with the violin, and the pair of clapping hedgehogs? Like any excellent picture book, the telling of this story was shared 50/50 between author and illustrator. I couldn’t be more thrilled by the nighttime blues and violets, and the whimsical charm of all the characters as they gather for a joyous march!

#2: I’d fit right into this musical parade. I have always been drawn to music-making, starting piano lessons at the age of four, violin at eight, singing in high school, and picking up guitar as an adult. In fact, when I’m not writing books for kids, I teach music to PreK and kindergartners at an elementary school. So every week you can find me singing, dancing and playing guitar and percussion instruments of all kinds with kids. Speaking of guitar, that’s what I had in mind when I wrote the line “a pick and a strum”. But if you look closely at the strumming dog in this story, his instrument is small has four tuning pegs (instead of six like a guitar)—it’s a ukulele!

#3: One of the most fun things about writing this book was finding just the right words that rhyme with “come”. The story began with a line that popped into my head: “Here we come with a rum-pum-pum…wanna come?”. I immediately knew I wanted to continue the tale by adding more musical sounds, and that each new phrase needed to end in a rhyme with “come”. So I brainstormed a long list and was able to use most of them. At the very end, I almost used the phrase “Anyone for a plum?” but decided “Some yum for the tum?” was more open-ended and fun. Can you think of any other words rhyming with “come” that I didn’t use?

#4: Something else I love about Christine Davenier’s illustrations is the path the characters follow from village, through forest and into the countryside. Christine is from France, and you might notice a European flair to her scenes. At the same time, this setting takes me back to my own childhood in suburban Ohio. A wooded creek ran through my neighborhood, and my best friend Elizabeth and I often tromped through while singing and imagining stories and poems. Do you have a favorite outdoor place? What stories can you imagine taking place there?

#5: While this book features instruments like a whistle/recorder, ukulele, violin/fiddle, and drum, the story is about making music any way you like! Music can be made with the voice, on real or homemade instruments (think beads in a plastic bottle, or rubber bands across a box), or simply with sounds that occur in daily life or nature—like dripping rain, stomping feet, the honking of car horns. Rhythm and melody are everywhere, and everyone is invited! WANNA COME? How do you like to make music?

BIO: Janna Matthies is a picture book author and early-elementary music teacher in Indianapolis. Her books include HERE WE COME! (Beach Lane Books/S&S); GOD’S ALWAYS LOVING YOU (WorthyKids); TWO IS ENOUGH (Running Press Kids), THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN (Albert Whitman) and others. When she’s not read, writing or making music, Janna enjoys gardening, walking her dog, and spending time with her husband and three mostly-grown kids. 

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a copy of HERE WE COME!  (Beach Lane, 2022) follow this blog and comment below with your favorite fact from today’s post. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Janna, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Thursday, 3/31/22 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced the next day! 

[Note: Thank you to the publisher for an advance copy at the book which 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, devotional, Extension Activity, faith

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about FRUIT FULL with Christie Thomas

Today I am delighted to have Christian children’s author Christie Thomas as my guest. She’s here today to share five fun facts about her newest release with Kregel Publications, FRUIT FULL: 100 Family Experiences For Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit. This is just the kind of resource I would have LOVED when my kids were little and it’s a wonderful resource for anyone in Christian family ministry. Here’s an excerpt from the official description:

“Christie Thomas is skilled at taking complex ideas and making them accessible to kids . . . and adults learn a lot along the way too. Each of her devotions is designed to help parents connect their children with the Holy Spirit through a Scripture passage, thought-provoking questions, ways to apply each verse, and a prayer. And for each fruit, parents can use the optional hands-on activities when there’s extra time.”

Sounds great, right? And now for FIVE FUN FACTS about the book from the author herself.

Five Fun Facts about FRUIT FULL with Christie Thomas

Fun Fact #1: Fruit Full led me full circle to a lovely editor I had connected with in 2016. She really liked another project of mine, but we fell off each other’s radars. Four years later, she had moved to another publisher and the proposal for Fruit Full came across her desk. She recognized my name and now here we are in 2022 with a book!

Fun Fact #2: With my previous devotional book, I read every one of the devotions with each 3 of my boys because it was a new way of writing for me and I wanted to make sure I wrote on their level. With Fruit Full, I had less time to write and more devotions to write, so each of my boys heard about 40% of the book. It’s fun to read it with them now, because it’s fresh for all of them! 

Fun Fact #3: There’s one story in the book where I explained how my apple tree didn’t even flower for several years, and I later discovered it was because I had given it the wrong fertilizer. I didn’t say it in the book, but the wrong fertilizer…was urine! I had been asking my potty-training boys to pee near the tree when in the backyard for years because I thought it would be good for the tree. Turns out, urine has a lot of nitrogen, which is perfect for leaf growth but too much can stunt flowering and fruiting. Oops! 

Fun Fact #4: I originally wanted to add a hands-on family activity to each devotion, but we realized it would make it feel too overwhelming for families. Instead, we put a list of simple activities at the beginning of each section for families to pick and choose from when they had time. 

Fun Fact #5: There’s a smaller devotional book tucked inside Fruit Full. At the end of each fruit-themed section (Love, Joy, Peace, etc) there are three devotions specifically on the Easter part of Jesus’ life. These could be tied together for a shorter, 27-day reading plan specifically connected with Easter.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Christie. I know your book will be a blessing to many. And I have one closing question for our readers. Which fact was your favorite? (I’m partial to #3 and I also love how Christie’s kids are involved in her devotional writing process.)

Christie’s books are available wherever books are sold.

Connect with Christie on her other platforms:

Website: https://littleshootsdeeproots.com

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/littleshootsdeeproots/?hl=en 

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/cthomaswriter/ 

BIO: Christie Thomas is a homeschool mom of 3 and former Children’s Ministries Director. She is the author five books for Christian kids, including Quinn’s Promise Rock  and The Mother and Son Prayer Journal. Her newbook, the Christ-centered devotional, Fruit Full: 100 Family Experiences for Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit, waswritten over many late nights beside a cold cup of blueberry tea. She lives in Western Canada and spends her time homeschooling, digging in the garden (when it’s not under 2 feet of snow) and equipping Christian families to disciple their kids.

board books, Easter

Time for the BUNNY FINDS EASTER Bunny Hop: Stop FIVE (How Bunny Hopped into a Book)

HAPPY MONDAY! In celebration of BUNNY FINDS EASTER’s release, Zonderkidz has created several colorful memes which capture the essence of the story. Over the course of the next few weeks, you’ll see them pop up here and there. Here’s the first. Isn’t it darling?

I also wanted to let you know that today, I’m over at children’s author Nancy I. Sanders blog sharing FIVE FUN FACTS about the book. I love writing these kinds of posts because they remind me of all the back story that goes into creating a book – even one as seemingly simple as a board book. Which fact intrigues you the most? I hope you will pop over for a quick read and let me know. Here’s the link: https://nancyisanders.wordpress.com/2022/02/21/how-bunny-hopped-into-a-board-book-five-fun-facts-about-bunny-finds-easter-by-laura-sassi

author spotlight, Picture Books

FIVE FUN FACTS about YOU’RE THE HUGS TO MY KISSES with Barbara Herndon (And a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I’m delighted to have former Zonderkidz acquisitions editor Barbara Herndon as my guest. I got to know Barbara professionally ten years ago. She acquired my debut picture book, Goodnight, Ark plus three more after that. What a treat, then, to learn that she now has a picture book releasing with Zonderkidz. Full of fun rhymes that celebrate the joy of loving others and embracing the special connections that caring for others brings, You’re the Hugs to my Kisses is a perfect pick for Valentine’s Day or any time of year. Barbara’s bouncy rhyme is fun to read and Diane Ewan’s illustrations stand out for their colorful and wonderfully diverse cast of children and loved ones of all ages enjoying each others’ company in various delightful ways. Take a moment to enjoy the book trailer, then get ready to smile as Barbara shares five fun facts about the book. (And don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end for a chance to win a SIGNED copy of this delightful new book.)

Five Fun Facts

YOU’RE THE HUGS TO MY KISSES

By Barbara Herndon

Fun Fact #1: It all began with a donut.

From the time I was a child, my mother loved donuts. It was a wonderful treat that my dad would present to her for special occasions like Mother’s Day and her birthday. A delicious dozen that always included her favorite, jelly sticks. Many years later my mom still loves her donuts, and when I brought her some and she said to me, “You’re the jelly to my donut”, a book idea was born. I began to think of other popular pairings and similar phrases (“You’re the milk to my cookies” “You’re the ketchup to my French fries”) that I thought might be fun to compile in a children’s book. “You’re the jelly to my donut” is still my favorite phrase (for obvious reasons) and the one that begins the book. ☺

Fun Fact #2: This children’s book is not just for children.

When I first wrote the manuscript, You’re the Hugs to My Kisses, I was thinking this book would be filled with a diverse group of children. But the more I worked on the text, the more I began to imagine the pages filled with people of all ages, representing all sorts of relationships. We ended up including a variety of children (friends and siblings), parents, grandparents, pets, as well as an older couple dancing under the stars and a younger couple sharing a cupcake in the park. We all have people in our lives that mean the world to us, and I wanted to create a book where everyone young and old could find themselves reflected in the pages. 

Fun Fact #3: I not only wrote the manuscript, I helped choose the illustrator.

In children’s picture book publishing it’s very unusual for the author to have a say in the look and style of the final product. Usually, the manuscript is acquired by an editor and that person casts their vision, researches artists, and makes their final decision based on input from the creative department as well as the sales and marketing teams. Because I previously worked as an acquisitions editor at Zonderkidz (and choosing artists was a large part of my job), they welcomed my input and direction. I fell in love with Diane Ewan’s style right away and felt she would be perfect to capture the joy, whimsy, and heart of this book. And I will be forever grateful that the Zkidz team agreed.

Fun Fact #4: I’ve read this book aloud more times than I can count.

Because picture books are meant to be a shared experience and read aloud with a child, it’s very important for me to hear how the book sounds as I’m writing the manuscript. As I worked on the text, I would continually read it out loud from start to finish to make sure the phrases flowed and nothing made me stumble in the reading. It’s not an exaggeration to say I probably read this material out loud hundreds of times before anyone ever saw the manuscript.

Fun Fact #5: Once you start thinking of these phrases, you can’t stop.

Once I started brainstorming the book thinking of the phrases (You’re the X to my Y) I couldn’t stop! I have a very long list of these pairings that didn’t make the cut. Fortunately, I’m channeling this obsession into a holiday sequel that I hope to share with my publisher very soon. ☺

Thank you, Barbara! I think Fact #2 is my favorite! I wonderful which fact my readers will pick. I wish you the best and look forward to reading more of your books.

BIO: Barbara began writing for children on the award-winning animated series Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys. After writing and producing children’s television and film projects for Nickelodeon, Paramount, Disney, PBS, Cartoon Network, National Geographic Kids, and American Greetings, Barbara turned her focus to children’s publishing. A lifelong fan of picture books, Barbara worked as an acquisitions editor for HarperCollins Publishing, acquiring and developing a long list of successful projects including Amazon editor’s pick I Love You, Funny Bunny and the New York Times bestselling Fiona the Hippo.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a SIGNED copy of  YOU’RE THE HUGS TO MY KISSES (Zonderkidz, 2022) simply post a comment below letting me know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Barbara, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Friday, 2/4/22 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced the next day! 

[Note: Thank you to Zonderkidz for sending me an advanced copy of this book which 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, Guest Blog, Picture Books

FIVE FUN FACTS about GRAMA’S HUG with Picture Book Author-Illustrator Amy Nielander

Did you know that Sunday, September 12th was Grandparents’ Day? It’s a holiday I was unfamiliar with before my picture book LOVE IS KIND came out, but one which I quickly came to embrace, not only because LOVE IS KIND celebrates the special bond between Little Owl and his grammy, but also because I dedicated that book to my own grandmothers.

Now each year, I look forward to Grandparents’ Day as a special opportunity to foster intergenerational appreciation and am always on the lookout for new books that celebrate this special bond. With that in mind, I was delighted to discover GRAMA’S HUG, a delightful new picture book, written and illustrated by Amy Nielander and published in 2020 by Page Street Books.

Here’s the official blurb:

May and Grama are a team. They do everything together, from inventing creative projects to going birdwatching to preparing for the annual space fair. And they never, ever say goodbye without a hug. May’s love of science takes her far as her inventions win year after year, helped by Grama’s support, effort, and love. She travels to space camp and eventually beyond, earning her spot as the first kid astronaut to journey into space. As May prepares for her mission to explore the cosmos, she seems ready to go without looking back, making Grama worried that she will leave without a hug. This picture book explores the importance of treasuring even the smallest moments with people you love with heartwarming illustrations, expressive characters, and delightful touches of whimsy.

And now I have an extra special treat for you. Amy Nielander is my guest today sharing FIVE fun facts about this enchanting book. Thank you, Amy, and take it away!

FIVE FUN FACTS about GRAMA’S HUG with Amy Nielander

FUN FACT #1: Grama’s Hug started off as a wordless story.

My first picture book, The Ladybug Race, is a wordless book so it felt natural for me to approach Grama’s Hug the same way. It wasn’t until I attended the Rutgers University One-on-One Conference when my mentor suggested that I add text. The story reflects a passage of time and providing more text would help a young reader understand that movement. Words continued to build as I worked with the publisher, Page Street Kids. After several revisions, May’s (and Grama’s!) voice emerged and my first picture book with text was born!   

FUN FACT #2: The book was inspired by a sentence I heard shouted out one day: “I am not leaving without a hug!” 

The idea for Grama’s Hug landed in 2013 when I was walking my daughter to school one morning. As we approached the entrance, the bell rang and kids ran in. I heard a parent yell out “I am not leaving without a hug!”. I couldn’t get that sentence out of my head and immediately wondered “Would you really just stay here if you didn’t get that hug?” The first draft took shape and I titled it I am Not Leaving Without a Hug!. It was a terrible story though and I quickly changed course after an unfortunate SCBWI round table critique. In the process of revising, a childhood memory was triggered and I began writing a more personal story. The next version was filled with every emotion that memory rattled…love, loss, sadness and joy. 

FUN FACT #3: The space shuttle in the book was inspired by a 1990s concept design called the Venture Star.

As a former product designer, one of my favorite stages in the design process was the concept phase. Imagining what the next version of a product could be always excited me! Even though concept designs have the potential to improve lives, they are often written off early because they cost too much or the technology isn’t quite there yet.  Since Grama’s Hug is a story about a 10-year-old girl going to space, it takes place in a fantastical world. I used my creative license to design a place where previous concepts in history – did not fail. This accelerated the timeline of technology. The Venture Star was built in the 1990s by Lockheed Martin. It was a re-usable spaceplane meant to replace the Space Shuttle. The design didn’t rely on rocket boosters and would reduce materials along with providing other benefits. But after a test vehicle failed, the program was canceled in 2001. As a way to express my gratitude for every designer, engineer and scientist that contributed to that project, I gave the Venture Star a welcoming world to live in (forever!) with Grama’s Hug

FUN FACT #4: May’s elementary school is named after my elementary school.

I tried to infuse the story with personal details to make it extra special for me (in hopes that readers would feel that love in the illustrations). May’s elementary school is called Winchester, which is the school I attended as a child.

FUN FACT #5: Grama’s robe resembles my late grandma’s robe. 

My dad immigrated to the U.S. before I was born and we didn’t really know my grandparents (they lived in Europe). My grandpa visited once when I was too young to remember but my grandmother visited a handful of times. She did not speak English nor did we, grandkids, speak her language. This resulted in an amplified awareness of her reactions in order to interpret dialogue. I’m not sure if it was this heightened sensitivity to all things physical, but I remember a robe she made during one of her visits and wore often. When it came time to design Grama’s outfits for the book, I knew my late grandma’s robe would be a part of her collection. It was my way of honoring a hardworking woman whose heart probably ached often, with family living so far away.

AUTHOR BIO:

Amy Nielander loves making joyful and creative picture books for children. Her first wordless book, The Ladybug Race, exhibited at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair as a Silent Book Contest finalist. Her second picture book, Grama’s Hug, received a starred review from Booklist and was included on Grand Rapids Magazine’s “Summer Fav” book list. Her third book, My Name Is Not Ed Tug! will release in 2022 by West Margin Press. Kids can create new characters with Amy every month on her CREATE A CHARACTER blog. You can also find Amy on Twitter (@nielanderamy) and Instagram (@amynielander).

author spotlight, STEM

Five Fun Facts about WOOF! THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS with Author Annette Whipple

Today I’m delighted to have children’s author and animal lover Annette Whipple here to share five fun facts about her newest book WOOF! THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS published by Reycraft Books. Here’s the official teaser from the publisher’s website:

How do dogs communicate? Why do dogs sniff butts? Are dogs just tame wolves? These and other questions are answered by the author, along with some extra information provided by the dogs themselves in this second book in THE TRUTH ABOUT series.

As a former teacher and parent, I give this book hearty “woof” for interest and appeal. Annette has done her research well and managed to pack the book full of fascinating facts about dogs.The accompanying photographs are engaging and the layout is appealing to both kids and grown ups. And now Annette has agreed to be my guest today sharing fun tidbits about the book. Enjoy!

Fun Fact #1

Woof! The Truth About Dogs is the second book in The Truth About animal series. The first book, Whooo Knew, featured owls. Dogs were a natural choice for the second book. With so many photographs included in the books, I knew pooches would make readers smile. I knew I’d learn a lot while researching and writing—and I did! Did you know some puppies are born with green fur? I didn’t! (The color changes over time.) 

Fun Fact #2

Dogs talk with barks and growls, but they also communicate with their bodies! Watch their tails, ears, and even lips for more canine communication.  

Fun Fact #3

Puppies are born with closed eyes because they only have the chance to develop for two months within their mothers. After a couple of weeks their eyes open and their hearing develops. That’s when they get more active, too!

Fun Fact #4

Dogs sniff butts to learn more about other pooches. With one big whiff they can even tell the mood of their new canine companion. (Of course, they learn a lot about you when they smell you, too!) 

Fun Fact # 5

I don’t have a pet dog now, but my first dog was named Dog. He was a wonderful Lab/golden retriever mix. I have many fond memories with him, including dancing together to my dad’s 45s (before CDs were available). 

Thanks so much for letting me share about Woof! The Truth About Dogs with these five fun facts. The book includes even more facts and science about our furry friends. A big bonus: The hardcovers of this series include posters that kids love. Laura, maybe I can return to share more facts for my upcoming books in the series featuring spiders, frogs, and cats because FACTS ARE FUN! As you might imagine, my recent research fascinates me.

About the Author:

Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder while exciting readers about science and history. She’s the author of ten fact-filled children’s books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press) and The Truth About series (Reycraft Books) including Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls and Scurry! The Truth About Spiders. Get to know Annette and explore her resources for writers at www.AnnetteWhipple.com

[Note: Thank you to the author for the opportunity to preview the book with a digital ARC 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, middle grade

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts with Amanda Cleary Eastep about her debut TREE STREET KIDS SERIES

Today I’m delighted to have long-time editor and debut middle grade author Amanda Cleary Eastep here to share five fun facts about the first two books in her debut TREE STREE KIDS series, illustrated by Aedan Peterson, edited by Marianne Hering, and published by Moody Publishers. Here’s the official description per the publisher’s website:

The Tree Street Kids live on Cherry, Oak, Maple, and Pine, but their 1990s suburban neighborhood is more than just quiet, tree-lined streets. Jack, Ellison, Roger, and Ruthie face challenges and find adventures in every creek and cul-de-sac—as well as God’s great love in one small neighborhood.

And here’s the book trailer:

Now enjoy as she shares five fun facts about the first two books in the series. My favorite? Fact #4. I just love how Amanda, inspired by her daughter, wanted to include fun facts throughout the story and how the books’ designers figured out a creative way to do that. What great team work!

Take it away, Amanda!

Five Fun Facts about Jack vs. the Tornado and The Hunt for Fang (Tree Street Kids series)

by Amanda Cleary Eastep

1. The idea for Jack vs. the Tornado (book 1) was inspired by my childhood experience with two tornados.

The main event, although not the most frightening, happened when I was about 12. My family of four lived on five acres in the middle of an endless expanse of cornfields. Tornadoes are common in the Midwest, and we were used to the blaring warnings that would burst onto the TV screen in the middle of a favorite show. Thankfully, we had a basement to hunker down in. One night, the storms were especially bad, and a twister touched down–right on top of our barn. The small chicken coop only yards away was untouched, as was our house.

Amanda’s childhood farm after the tornado. The barn was destroyed!

2. Henrietta, Jack Finch’s pet chicken, wasn’t in the original draft of Jack vs. the Tornado.

After I submitted my “final” draft to my editor, Marianne Hering, she said, “This book needs an animal. Kids love animals.” And she was right (that’s why authors need editors!). My dad had a favorite chicken that loved to sit on his lap and be petted. So Henrietta was born! Er, hatched. After I tossed her into the mix (not the Shake ‘n Bake kind), her presence in the first chapter raised the stakes. Jack’s care for her helped develop his character and deepens the readers’ empathy for him.

Amanda as a girl with her dog. Notice the chickens in the background.

3. The Hunt for Fang (book 2) has LOTS of animals.

By book 1, Jack is settling into his new neighborhood in the suburbs. As he’s making friends, he’s also making some “enemies.” Not only does he have to deal with the neighborhood bully, Jack has to protect his new puppy and his friend’s cat from the local wildlife, an animal living in the nearby forest preserve that Jack has named Fang. The main theme of this book is stewardship of God’s creation, so there’s a fun mix of everything from frogs to dogs.

4. Both Jack vs. the Tornado and The Hunt for Fang have Fun Facts too!

I love to research, and my daughter, who has an MA in environmental biology, is always spewing interesting facts. Jack’s little sister Midge does the same thing! Ellison likes quoting Bible verses and literature, and Roger is always ready with historical background. Sooo…throughout the books I’ve included Midge’s Phenomenal Facts, Ellison’s Bookmarks, and Roger’s Riveting Histories. I didn’t want these fun facts to end up as footnotes though. Moody’s designers came up with a cool idea: each fact looks as if it’s handwritten on a notecard and “taped” onto the page.

5. Books 3 and 4 will be here in Summer 2022!

Jack vs. the Tornado and The Hunt for Fang both released on April 6, 2021. The next two books will come out together as well. Book 3 is tentatively titled Lions to the Rescue! and book 4 is a mystery (literally and literally).

AMANDA CLEARY EASTEP is not related to Beverly Cleary but wishes she were. She is, however, a children’s author, and the Tree Street Kids is her debut series (Moody Publishers, 2021 and 2022). Her children’s writing has been published in LadybugThe Friend, Sunday school curriculum, and at Story Warren. She’s contributed to Christianity Today, Think Christian, and many other print and online publications. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she leads writing workshops at her local teen center. 

Amanda is also the senior developmental editor at Moody Publishers in Chicago, working closely with nonfiction authors to help shape Christian books in the areas of Christian living, church and ministry, and personal and spiritual growth. 

You can find her on the web at:

Website: treestreetkids.com or amandaclearyeastep.com

Twitter: AmandaICleary

Facebook: /amandaclearyeastepauthor

Instagram: book_leaves

author spotlight, Picture Books

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts with Nancy I. Sanders about THE VERY OLDEST PEAR TREE

Today I’m delighted to have best-selling picture book author Nancy I. Sanders here to share five fun facts about her latest picture book release, THE VERY OLDEST PEAR TREE. Illustrated by Yasmin Imamura and published by Albert Whitman and Company, it’s just the kind of historical picture book I would have read to my students back when I was a fourth grade teacher.  Here’s the official description per the publisher’s website:

In the 1630s in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a Puritan settler planted a pear tree—the first pear tree in America. More than a century later, the tree still bore fruit, impressing a famous poet and one of the first US presidents. The pear tree survived hurricanes, fire, and vandalism, and today, more than 350 years after it was first planted, it’s alive and strong, and clones of it grow all around the US. This is the amazing true story of the Endicott Pear tree, and how it grew up with our nation.

Now grab a pear (for it’s the season!) as she shares five fun facts about the this amazing tree and the interesting discoveries she made.  My favorite?  Fact #3. I just love how Nancy’s inquisitive mind, not only led her to write the book, but it also led to the planting of Endicott trees in two national parks where the history of the tree had been lost! Thank you, Nancy for sharing this story with the world!

Five Fun Facts about The Very Oldest Pear Tree.

Written by Nancy I. Sanders.

Art by Yasmin Imamura.

Fun Fact #1

The nonfiction picture book, The Very Oldest Pear Tree, first started out as a picture book about apple trees! I had read somewhere that the Pilgrims planted apple trees, so I thought that would make a terrific picture book. But when I started researching this topic, I discovered all the apple trees died that the Pilgrims planted. However, an article showed up in my Google search about a pear tree the Puritans planted—that is STILL ALIVE nearly 400 years later! I was hooked and wanted to tell its story.

Fun Fact #2

Family members, descendants of Governor John Endecott who planted the tree in 1632, still help take care of the tree today (along with others). William T. Endicott is the current President of the John Endicott Family Association.

Fun Fact #3

Clones of the Endicott pear tree have been planted since writing this book. In my research, I discovered that twigs were cut from the original Endicott pear tree, gifted to John Adams, and planted by the former President himself on his farm in Quincy. I contacted the Adams National Historical Park to see if these pear trees were still alive. They weren’t, and the current staff at the park had never even heard of this story. They immediately looked up the research themselves, discovered that these pear trees had been actually planted, and said they wanted to plant clones of the pear tree today! Through contact with William T. Endicott and members of the Endicott family, arrangements were made with not just one, but two national parks, to plant about a dozen Endicott Pear Trees in the spring of 2020: The Adams National Historic Park, and the Minute Man National Historic Park.

Fun Fact #4

Growing up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, we had two pear trees. They were in the pasture for our horse and pony. I remember climbing up a tall ladder with a basket to pick pears each summer. At that time, I didn’t know there weren’t any pear trees in America until the day the Endicott pear tree was shipped over from England. Planted in 1632, the Endicott pear tree is the very oldest pear tree in America!

Fun Fact #5

The Endicott pear tree cannot bear fruit without a second pear tree near by. So when I started asking people where this second pear tree is—nobody knows! This is a mystery just waiting to be discovered!!!! It would be fun to go on a treasure hunt in the neighborhood one day to find it. 

Thanks, Laura, for featuring my newest book here on your blog! It was so much fun, and that’s a fact!

And it was my pleasure to have you here!

Nancy I. Sanders loves to go on treasure hunts to dig up interesting facts for kids to know. Lots of times she and her husband get to take trips to research everything they want to learn about the books she is writing. They traveled to Danvers, Massachusetts, to visit the Endicott Pear Tree while writing this book. When she wrote, Jane Austen for Kids, they flew to London and walked in Jane’s footsteps all over England in the places she lived or visited. Nancy is the bestselling and award-winning children’s author of over 100 books. Visit her website to find out more at www.nancyisanders.com.

author spotlight, Picture Books

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about WAITING TOGETHER with Danielle Dufayet

Today I’m delighted to invite picture book author Danielle Dufayet to my blog to give a behind-the-scenes perspective on her charming new picture book WAITING TOGETHER (Albert Whitman, September 1, 2020), written by Danielle and illustrated by Srimalie Bassani.

Here’s the official blurb from the publisher’s website: Waiting is not easy! And waiting can take a long time. Like waiting on the drip, drip, drip of rain to stop or the ding of the timer for cookies to be done baking. But there’s one thing that can make waiting go a little bit faster—a friend! A perfect read aloud, this book encourages readers to enjoy every kind of wait.

I had the opportunity to read an advance pdf of the book and I couldn’t agree more! Danielle’s newest book is charming and would make a great addition to your home or school library. And now, with out further fuss, here’s Danielle with her five fun facts. Which fact surprises/encourages you the most?

Five Fun Facts about 

WAITING TOGETHER

by Danielle Dufayet

Fun Fact #1: Waiting Together was the manuscript that landed me my dream agent, Karen Grencik, at Red Fox Literary. Another agent wanted to represent it before her, but her communication style was so inconsistent and unreliable! So glad Karen took me on!

Fun Fact #2: I had to put Waiting Together away for 4 years because two other, very well-known authors, were coming out with books about waiting. (Kevin Henkes and Antoinette Portis). One morning I woke up and said, “It’s time.”

Fun Fact #3: The idea for Waiting Together came to me in an instant after I read Deborah Underwood’s wonderful The Quiet Book. There are so many different kinds of quiet and there are so many different kinds of waits.

Fun Fact #4: I revised Waiting Together at least 30 times. I tried out a bunch of different arcs and plots until I decided to make it super simple with a morning to night arc and a heavy focus on onomatopoeia.

Fun Fact #5: I wanted the take-away to be: life is full of waiting and it’s not always easy, but always better with a friend! This was such a fun story to write!

And fun to read. Thanks, Danielle, for sharing your five fun facts! And readers, the book is available at bookstores everywhere! Enjoy!

Connect with Danielle on her platforms:
website: https://www.danielledufayetbooks.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/danielledufayet
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/danielledufayet
Art Website:  https://www.danielledufayet.com
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/ddaniwriter/

BIO:

Danielle Dufayet, born in Yonkers, New York, now lives in sunny San Jose, California, where she writes children’s books and paints. She also teaches English and Public Speaking (Self-Empowerment) to grades K-12. Danielle read her first picture book (Little Raccoon and the Thing in the Pool) when she was 18 whereupon she was blown away by its simplicity, timelessness and transformative power. That’s when she knew it was her calling. Thirty five years and a Master’s Degree later, she finally made her dream come true and she’ll have TWO books out in 2019 – one about inner strength and the other about self-love/compassion. Her third book, Waiting Together, by Albert Whitman, is out September 1, 2020.

[Note: Thank you to the author for a sneak peek at the book which 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, Guest Blog, Picture Books

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS with Carrie Finison (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I’m delighted to have rhyming picture book author Carrie Finison here to share five fun facts about her debut picture book release, DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS. Illustrated by Brianne Farley and published by Putnam, it’s about a generous but increasingly put-upon bear who makes batch after batch of doughnuts for her woodland friends without saving any for herself.  Take a peek at the lovely reviews Carries’s book has received from Publishers Weekly and Youth Services Book Review, then grab a doughnut and enjoy as she shares five behind-the-scenes facts about the book’s creation.  My favorite?  Fact #1. It’s a good reminder that good writing takes time.  Happy reading, all!

Five Fun Facts about

DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS

by Carrie Finison

Fun Fact #1: Draft 89 is the one that was published.

I save a new file every day that I work on a story. That doesn’t mean every one of those drafts was significantly different – sometimes I may have only changed a line or two. But it does mean 89 separate days of work on the story – plus lots of thinking time in between. Since the book is written in rhyme, it can take a LOT of revision to change even a few words. That’s because when you revise, you have to find a way to say what you want to say in rhyme – and make sure you’re not repeating a rhyme from earlier in the story. So even a small change can involve alterations to many stanzas. It’s a fun challenge, but not easy!

Fun Fact #2: MANY doughnuts were harmed in the writing of this book.

My kids were quick to point out that every important publication milestone – acceptance, completion of the manuscript, the cover reveal, and now publication, be celebrated with doughnuts. In addition to all those doughnuts, I worked to develop a doughnut recipe that would be easy enough to make with kids (with adult stove supervision). I had hoped this would be in the back of the book but, alas, we ran out of pages! However, I’ve posted the recipe on my website and also wrote about developing the recipe on the Soaring ’20’s blog.

Fun Fact #3: All the animals in the book are hibernators – except one!

In some of the earlier versions of the story, the book ended with all the animal friends going to sleep for the winter together. I went down an Internet rabbit hole (or maybe a chipmunk den?) researching hibernators and learned a lot about the different ways animals cope with winter. The only animal in the story that does not hibernate in some way is Topsy, the opossum. Poor opossums have a hard time dealing with the cold and often get frostbitten on their bare feet and tails. I’m glad that Topsy found a warm spot in her friend LouAnn’s house!

Fun Fact #4: The characters didn’t always have names.

The animals in the book didn’t have names at first, they were just called “Bear” “Raccoon” and so on. When I decided to name the main character, LouAnn, I realized all the other characters would need names, too. It was a fun afternoon dreaming up those names! My favorite is “Mouffette” which is the French word for “skunk.” Isn’t that a pretty name?

Fun Fact #5: The cast-iron pan that LouAnn uses to cook doughnuts is verrry familiar.

When I saw Brianne Farley’s illustrations for LouAnn’s kitchen, I was thrilled to see the cast-iron pan that LouAnn cooks her doughnuts in. I have the exact same pan, which once belonged to my grandmother! So now, when I read the book, I’m reminded of my grandmother. I love that LouAnn is a bit old-fashioned at heart.

Author Bio:

Carrie Finison began her literary career at the age of seven with an idea, a box of markers, and her father’s typewriter. She has been writing off and on ever since, though she has (somewhat regretfully) traded in the typewriter for a laptop. Her debut picture book is DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS (July, 2020), and a second picture book, DON’T HUG DOUG, will follow in January, 2021. She also writes for children’s magazines including Babybug, Ladybug, High Five, and Highlights. When she’s not writing, Carrie enjoys reading mystery novels, trying new recipes, and curling up on the couch for family movie nights. She lives outside Boston with her husband, son, daughter, and two cats who permit her to write in their cozy attic office. Find her online at www.carriefinison.com or on Twitter @CarrieFinison.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a SIGNED copy of DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS (Putnam, July 2020) simply post a comment below letting me know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Carrie, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Thursday, 7/30/20 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced the next day! NOTE: This giveaway is now over. The winner is announced here.

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