Perfect Picture Book Friday – Before Morning

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Oh my goodness do I have a beauty for you today!

I read a lot of picture books.

Many of them are excellent.

But every now and again I read one that is just so perfect, so magically written and illustrated, that it takes my breath away and makes me whisper to myself, “Man!  I wish I’d written that!”

Today’s selection is one of those 😊

My Perfect Picture Book today is all about that most coveted of childhood days – the peaceful, happy, special perfection of snow days 😊

Title: Before Morning

Written By: Joyce Sidman

Illustrated By: Beth Krommes

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 4 2016, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: seasons (winter), snow, snow days, invocations, language fun (rhyme, word choice)

Opening: “In the deep woolen dark, as we slumber unknowing, let the sky fill with flurry and flight.” (These few words actually cover 5 spreads, some of which are wordless.)

text copyright Joyce Sidman 2016, illustration copyright Beth Krommes 2016, HMH

Brief Synopsis: Although there is much going on in the busy, busy world, a small child wishes for just one day to be a delightfully snow-covered pause.

text copyright Joyce Sidman 2016, illustration copyright Beth Krommes 2016, HMH

Links To Resources: the final page of the book explains invocations and invites young readers to come up with their own; make paper snowflakes; snow recipes; make your own snow!

text copyright Joyce Sidman 2016, illustration copyright Beth Krommes 2016, HMH

Why I Like This Book: Oh my goodness!  What’s not to love?  This book is beautiful in every way!  The rhyming text is written by Joyce Sidman (you know what a huge fan I am of Red Sings From Treetops!) and it is gorgeous and poetic and spare.  How can you not love a book that begins “In the deep woolen dark”?! 😊  The entire book is 66 words, so expertly chosen and crafted together that as a writer I can only feel awe.  And the art is scratchboard and watercolor, exquisitely done, showing the little girl’s hopes that while she sleeps the world will turn white, allowing for a hushed, snow-covered morning that keeps her family home for a leisurely breakfast, some extra time together, the chance to go sledding and make snow angels, and come home to dry wet mittens.  It is everything we all love about snow days, and every child’s prayer for one to come to their house!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 😊

Would You Read It Wednesday #405 – The Paper Route (MG)

Hello, my friends!

Welcome to another exciting installment of Would You Read It Wednesday!

Let’s begin with a Fun Fact that might spark a story idea for you. . . so that you can have a turn on Would You Read It with a pitch for your brand new story sometime soon!

Did you know that porcupines can float? It’s true! North American porcupines are good swimmers and their hollow quills help them float. Also, just so you know in case you ever run into one, porcupines will stamp their feet and grunt a warning before they charge. You should probably mention that to your dog so they know when it’s time to beat a hasty retreat! 😊 I think it’s important that porcupines get some stories written about them that do not involve their prickliness. I think there’s an opportunity here for a superhero porcupine story, a quill-raising rescue involving AquaPorc. . . 😊

While we think about porcupine stories, let’s have Something Chocolate. It is scientifically proven the world over (okay, well, anecdotally-proven at Casa Hill) that chocolate promotes creativity, so let’s have some Cosmic Brownies!

Cosmic Brownies

Yum! Don’t you feel the explosion of creativity already, just from looking at that luscious, delightfully festive chocolate treat?! I knew you would! 😊

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Jessica who says, “I usually write picture books, but I’ve recently delved into middle-grade territory as well. I’m looking for feedback on whether this pitch piques interest before I get too far into it. Thanks!”

Find her on the web at:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessHinrichs
Blog: https://jessicahinrichs.com/

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: The Paper Route

Age/Genre: MG Magical Realism (ages 10-14)

The Pitch: Grace takes over the neighborhood paper route, only to discover that the papers magically reveal her neighbors’ secrets and wishes. When Grace learns that she is able to grant these wishes, she desperately needs the advice of her trusted friend, Miss Maisy. But, Miss Maisy died two years ago. How could she possibly help? As Grace comes to grips with reality, will she be able to grant one last wish—her own—before it’s too late?

So what do you think? Would you read it? YES, MAYBE, or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest. If you answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Jessica improve her pitch. Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome. (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful. I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks! For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It, or on Would You Read It in the dropdown under For Writers in the menu bar above. There are openings in February, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on my editor Erin Molta!

Jessica is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch! I am looking forward to Cosmic Brownies and The Adventures of AquaPorc 😊😊😊

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The One Day House

Hurray! Perfect Picture Book Friday is here again!

I love seeing what everyone has to share each week – so many fantastic books out there for kids to enjoy and for writers to learn from!

I found a wonderful book this week that I hope everyone will find inspiring!

Title: The One Day House

Written By: Julia Durango

Illustrated By: Bianca Diaz

Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2017, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: kindness, community, helping others

text copyright Julia Durango 2017, illustration copyright Bianca Diaz 2017, Charlesbridge Publishing

Opening: “‘One day,’ said Wilson, ‘I will paint your house orange and yellow like the sun.’
Gigi smiled. ‘I will like that. But today, you are all the sunshine I need,’ she said.”

Brief Synopsis: Gigi’s house needs fixing up, and Wilson wants to help make it cozy, safe, and beautiful – a nice place for his beloved grandmother to live. But he can’t do it alone.

text copyright Julia Durango 2017, illustration copyright Bianca Diaz 2017, Charlesbridge Publishing

Links To Resources: the back of the book has an Author’s Note about ways to help in your community including Labor of Love, Habitat For Humanity, and United Way, encouraging children who want to do something to reach out and find things that they can do, from smiling or saying hello to helping repair someone’s home; Little Ways Kids Can Make A Big Difference In Their Community; 10 Fun Community Giving Ideas (includes both “kitchen table” suggestions and “out in the community”)

text copyright Julia Durango 2017, illustration copyright Bianca Diaz 2017, Charlesbridge Publishing

Why I Like This Book: This story is lovely on so many levels. Wilson has a loving and generous heart and wants so much to make his Gigi’s home a better place for her to live, from painting it a cheerful color, to keeping her safe and warm, to making sure she can have a friend, and beauty, and music. He doesn’t let the fact that he is one young boy get in the way of his plans. A poster for “Build Up Neighbors” catches his eye and he gets him thinking. Gigi, meanwhile, is ever appreciative of Wilson’s ideas, but always grateful for what she has, never expressing any kind of dissatisfaction. I like that idea, she always says, but always follows it with, you are all the sunshine, or company, or warmth I need. Wilson shares his ideas with other members of the community – the ice cream man, passing neighbors, the librarian etc. – and they are all encouraging and supportive. No one tells him it’s too much for a boy to do. The art is warm and engaging, and includes such things as Wilson’s calculations for boards and nails needed, a diagram for how he thinks he can clean out the chimney, and what he’ll need to tune the piano. And of course he gets a stack of books from the library to aid his research. When Wilson is finally able to follow through with his plans, all the people from earlier in the book are present. This is a real feel-good story that showcases all the best things about people and community, and that models the concept that even little kids can do a lot to help out. A treasure for home, classroom, or library, and an empowering story kids will enjoy!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific blog links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Would You Read It Wednesday #404 – There Was A Small Python Who Swallowed A Flea (PB)

Hi there, everyone!

I learned something new yesterday that I know you’re all going to wish you’d known sooner (please prepare yourselves):

It is illegal to stand within 90 meters of the Queen without socks on!

Am I the only one who didn’t know this?

I mean, how many times have I stood 89.5 meters from the Queen in bare feet? Or in my sandals with NO SOCKS?

It is a miracle I have never wound up in the royal dungeon!

As soon as I heard about this I knew I had to warn you. I hope I’m not too late to save you all from incarceration.

I’m really wondering, though, who exactly this is a problem for. Is the Palace overrun with barefoot people (or shod but sockless people) romping about in the presence of the Queen?

Do the guards at Buckingham Palace entertain themselves by daring each other not to wear socks and see if anyone notices? 😊

Maybe the Queen walks along their ranks each day and uses her walking stick to lift the hem of their pants and see if they’re wearing socks with their shoes of if those sneaky guys tried to break the law by putting their shoes onto bare feet!

But mostly I wonder who thought this was something that mattered enough to be a law? I can just imagine a bunch of gray-wigged heavy-jowled folks sitting around saying, “By George! We’ve just got to do something about all these sockless people cavorting willy-nilly in the Queen’s presence! It isn’t to be borne!”

And is this law all about respect for the Queen, or is this her way of making a public service announcement to encourage people to protect themselves against athlete’s foot?

These are the kinds of questions that occupy the minds of writers as we wonder, what if? The seeds of stories yet to come! I can see it now. A picture book called A Royal Case Of Athlete’s Foot 😊

Wow!

When one is wrestling with these kinds of weighty questions, it is absolutely necessary to have Something Chocolate on hand, don’t you agree?

Since we’ve been talking about feet, how about some Bear Paw Cookies for our Something Chocolate? They’re so cute! And they might send our writerly minds down a whole ‘nother path. . . what if a bear was in the presence of the Queen without socks on? In bare/bear feet?! 🤣

Bear Paw Cookies

When you’ve finished enjoying your delicious Bear Paw cookies and pondering sockless feet, we can get down to business – pitches!

Today’s pitch comes to us from Kizzi. Kizzi once ran away with the circus and worked with elephants and tigers. Now she writes as much as she can, finds lots of inspiration from her family, and goes on adventures a little closer to home.

Find her on the web at:
Her Blog: www.threeshowsaturday.com
Instagram: @Kizmonster

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: There Was A Small Python Who Swallowed A Flea

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)

The Pitch: There was a small python who swallowed a flea because it was small, but pythons need MORE after all. So small python swallows more and more things and grows and grows. As he grows, so does his appetite, and soon he’s swallowing everything in sight. After small python has swallowed, slithered, and slurped, a huge buuuurrrrppppp might just solve all his problems.

So what do you think? Would you read it? YES, MAYBE, or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest. If you answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Kizzi improve her pitch. Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome. (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful. I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks! For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It, or on Would You Read It in the dropdown under For Writers in the menu bar above. There are openings in February, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Kizzi is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch! I am looking forward to visiting the Queen! 😊

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Sweety

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday!

For my first choice of 2022, I have a wonderful book to share about being yourself and celebrating your own uniqueness. I think it’s a great story for kids, and also one we, as writers, can take to heart as we begin a brand new year of writing. After all, it’s who we are that gives our writing the uniqueness that will set it apart and help us tell stories in ways they’ve never been told before.

Title: Sweety

Written & Illustrated By: Andrea Zuill

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade, March 2019

Suitable For Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: being yourself/individuality, self-acceptance and appreciation

text and illustration copyright Andrea Zuill 2019, Schwartz&Wade

Opening: “Sweety was awkward.
Even for a naked mole rat.”

Brief Synopsis: Sweety is awkward, even for a naked mole rat. She has a hard time fitting in, and her classmates don’t always get her. But surely there must be someone out there who shares her love of fungus and interpretive dance! With a little help from her cool Aunt Ruth– Sweety begins to understand that being Sweety is actually pretty awesome and learns to embrace the things that make her who she is.

text and illustration copyright Andrea Zuill 2019, Schwartz&Wade

Links To Resources: 6 Great Ways To Help Kids Celebrate Individuality; All About Me Preschool Activities Theme; discuss what are some ways you are like others? what are some ways you are different? what do you think makes you special? are there some things about you that make you worry others will think you’re weird? do you think other people feel like that too?

text and illustration copyright Andrea Zuill 2019, Schwartz&Wade

Why I Like This Book: Sweety is such an endearing character! “A little square peg” as her grandma tells her. A bit of an oddball. But interesting, original, unusual and fun. This story of learning to appreciate the unique qualities that make you who you are and to not just accept yourself but celebrate yourself is one that so many kids can benefit from. Who among us hasn’t felt like an oddball from time to time? And isn’t it nice to know you’re not the only one! With charming art, humor and heart, this book is one young readers are sure to love.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific blog links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Now. Take a moment to think about what makes YOU amazing and special and then go forth and start writing something new and different to kick off this brand new year!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Would You Read It Wednesday # 403 – Dragon Is Out Of Here (PB)

Darlings!

Happy 2022!

And welcome back to my little corner of the blogosphere and Would You Read It!

I hope you all had wonderful holidays full of love and family and celebration and other good things!

I think it’s important to bring it to your attention that today is National Whipped Cream Day. I believe we can all agree that everything is better with whipped cream on it since people put it on everything from fruit to hot chocolate to pancakes and waffles. And I feel in my bones that there is a picture book in the idea of putting whipped cream on things that don’t normally get chosen for the honor. Elephants? Circus tents? Teachers? Pets? Jumbo jets? Sand castles? The moon? A giant striped hot air balloon? Seems like the sky’s the limit! Or maybe how you might make whipped cream if you didn’t have any cream. . . or a traditional way to whip it. . .😊 A little something to get you thinking and maybe help you out on your idea for the day if you’re doing Tara Lazar’s Storystorm this month!

A little Something Chocolate would most certainly fuel our creativity. How about some Peanut Butter Chocolate Half Moons?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Half Moons

Delicious and nutritious! Looks like breakfast to me! 😊

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Patti who says, “I’m a part-time teacher, looking to make it big and see my name in lights! Just kidding, looking to insert a little humour into a book in a child’s hands 😊”

Find her on the web at:
Twitter: Ransonpatti
Instagram: ransonpatti

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Dragon Is Out Of Here

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)

The Pitch: Dragon is out of here, leaving his ‘same old’ book and flying off to find a better spot in one of the other books on his shelf. But the grass isn’t any greener with the Big Bad Wolf, the Old Woman in the Shoe, or Sleeping Beauty. After a close call with Old MacDonald, Dragon rediscovers his own story where he can fly, breathe fire, and be his true self.

So what do you think? Would you read it? YES, MAYBE, or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest. If you answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Patti improve her pitch. Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome. (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful. I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks! For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It, or on Would You Read It in the dropdown under For Writers in the menu bar above. There are openings in February, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on my editor Erin Molta!

Patti is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch! I am looking forward to what ideas I will think up for Storystorm – always such a great way to start the year!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 😊

The 2021 Holiday Contest WINNERS!!!

Well, hi there!

I don’t even have to ask what’s brought you to this neck of the woods today!

Because it’s obvious.

Clearly, you have stopped by because you can’t go another SECOND without knowing what your Snowman Name is!

Have no fear. I am here for you. All you have to do is follow the directions below!

Take it from Star McSnowflake (that would be me ☃️): there’s nothing like a Snowman Name to put you in the holiday mood!

Also, if you want to go the route of last year’s “What Holiday Picture Book Are You” theme, once you’ve discovered your Snowman Name, you can use it as the main character of your next picture book! As in
The minute Star McSnowflake slid into the bubble bath she knew it had been a bad idea to accept Snickerdoodle’s dare.

So there you go! The gift that keeps on giving. A Snowman Name AND a character for your next book!

Please feel free to share your Snowman Name in the comments so we all know what to call you 😊

Happy Holidays from Star McSnowflake and her sidekick snow dogs, Candy and Dreidel McSlushy! See you in 2022!

OH!

Except I forgot one little thing. . .

You’d probably like to know who won the

The 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

As always, I was thrilled to see so many wonderful stories!  Really!  It is amazing and inspiring, not to mention VERY entertaining!  There is just so much talent out there amongst you all!

I want to reiterate how difficult it was too choose!  There were so many amazing entries.  Really.  I could find at least something terrific about every single one.  The sheer volume of entries meant that many good ones had to be cut.  So if your entry wasn’t a finalist, please don’t feel bad.  There was a huge amount of competition.  Judging, no matter how hard we try to be objective, is always subjective at a certain point – we all have our own preferences for what makes a great story.  And within the parameters of the contest, sometimes we have to put aside a great story because it did less of a good job meeting the contest criteria. The fact that you didn’t make the final cut DOES NOT mean you didn’t write a great story.  Everyone who plonked their butt in a chair and worked hard to write a story for this contest is a winner!  You showed up.  You did your best work.  You practiced your craft.  You wrote to specifications and a deadline.  You bravely shared your writing with the world.  And you have a brand new story that is now yours to revise, expand, and polish if you like and maybe submit at some point to a magazine or as a PB manuscript.  A lot of people have successfully done that at this point – we have quite a few books in the world that were born in Halloweensie, Holiday, or Valentiny Contests, plus a chapter book series that came out of the Fractured Fairy Tale Contest one spring!  And not necessarily from people who were finalists – it’s about the idea and what you do with it. So bravo to everyone who entered!

But as you well know by now, with large entry numbers, all of high quality, come hard choices.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you on Tuesday for your vote.

There were, however, a few entries that barely missed being finalists, and many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another, or that the judges couldn’t reach a consensus on.

So my assistant judges and I would like to award recognition, a lovely badge, and a small prize to the following authors for the following merits:

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole: (entries we truly wrestled with not including in the finalists!)

Mia GeigerMew Year’s Contest
Deborah FosterErnie And The Science Fair
Lauri MeyersWitch’s Gingerbread House
Royal BaysingerUpon A Winter Solstice
Katie BrandyberryThe Tastiest Treat Christmas Contest
Vashti VerbowskiChristmas Carrots
Marty B.Katie’s Snow Creation

2. For Meaningful Message:

Ingrid BoydstonChristmas Isn’t
Cassie SilvaThe Most Beautiful Snowflake Of All
Marty FindleyWhat Christmas Means To Me
Karen J MooreLily And The Winter Festival
Amanda SherlockThe Contest

3. For Great Use of Language:

Allison StickSolstice Skaters

4. For Nice Use Of Cultural Elements:

Lynn Grace WongParol: This Little Star Of Mine
Carmen Castillo GilbertAndres’ Blue Ribbon
Shariffa Keshavjee2021 Monkey Merry Xmas
Judy Abelove ShemtobThe Winning Recipe

5. For Humor:

Becky GoodmanO Christmas Tree Oh Christmas Tree
Kelsey E. GrossThe Cookie Contest Caper

6. For Well Written Siblings:

Dina SilverbergAsher’s Chanukiah
Sarah Demarest GuthrieThe Clean-Out-The-Clutter Contest

7. For Great Use of Format:

Tiffany HansonReindeer Games (sportscaster format)

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com subject line Prize Winner to collect your award badge and prize, which is ten dollars (and possibly a picture book too, please ask when you contact me) for category 1 – Honorable Mention in the Competition as a Whole – and five dollars for all the other categories, in a format that can be emailed for you to put toward something you’d like at a large online store (and I’m being cryptic because if I’m not I get a ton of problematic spam mail, but hopefully you can figure it out.  The store starts with the letter A 😊 )

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The announcement of the WINNERS OF THE 2021 HOLIDAY CONTEST as voted on by you, our esteemed readers!!!

rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat

DDDRRRUUUMMM RRROOOLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!

In First Place

Winner of the whole shebang…

who gets first choice of all the prizes…

Daniella Kaufman-Schloss
for

A Christmas Pickle Story!!!

Congratulations, Daniella, on a fun, kid-friendly, loving story that was clearly very popular with a LOT of readers!!!

In Second Place

Lisa Varchol Perron
for
Tree Of The Year

Congratulations, Lisa, on a sweet, touching story that truly celebrates the spirit of the holidays!  You get to pick your prize after Daniella.

In Third Place

Amy Leskowski
for
So You Think You Can Prance

Congratulations, Amy, on a delightful entry that made us want to get up and dance!  You get to pick your prize after Daniella and Lisa.

In Fourth Place

Paul Kurtz
for
Cinder-latke

Congratulations, Paul, on you entertaining twist on Cinderella. You had us at the title, and left us longing for latkes! You get to pick your prize after Daniella, Lisa, and Amy!

In Fifth Place

Emily Durant
for
A Miscalculation
       

Congratulations, Emily, on a very well written instruction guide to building snow forts. . .along with the caution to make sure they’re within range of each other 😊 You get to pick your prize after Daniella, Lisa, Amy, and Paul!

In Sixth Place

Jesse Anna Bornemann
for
Christmas. . .By A Nose

So much fun, Jesse! We loved all the “nose” alternatives! You get to pick your prize after Daniella, Lisa, Amy, Paul, and Emily!

In Seventh Place

Jennifer Lowe
for
The Perfect Star

Congratulations, Jennifer!  We loved the idea of a star catching contest, and how nicely you showed the nature of sibling relationships! I’m sure you get the idea of how the prize picking goes by now 😊

In Eighth Place

Judy Sobanski
for
A Creature Was Stirring

Such a lovely, sweet story, Judy, in such perfect rhyme!  You get to pick after Jennifer 😊

In Ninth Place

Marta Cutler
for
Bear’s Christmas Cookie

Congratulations, Marta, on your entertaining entry. We loved how the other contestants worked so carefully on their cookies, and how Bear just piled everything on his and then asked with such sincere hope if he had won 😊 You get to pick after Judy 😊

In Tenth Place

Lindsey Hobson
for
Tree Number Nine

Congratulations, Marta, on a sweet entry that tugged at our heartstrings when we realized why it was so important to Sofie to win the contest! You get to pick your prize after Marta!

In Eleventh Place

Nicole Loos Miller
for
Simply The Best

Congratulations, Nicole, on your creation of a likable, relatable character who was consistently happy for her friends’ success even though she herself didn’t win.  You get to pick after Chelsea!

In Twelfth Place

Kelly Clasen
for
Phoebe’s Snowperson

Congratulations. Kelly, on a wonderfully original way to make a snowman – how creative Phoebe was to make one out of books! You get to pick after Nicole!

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  (The sooner the better!)  And for your convenience, the whole prize list is included at the bottom of this post.

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause and a shower of holiday confetti!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this contest SO MUCH FUN, whether by writing an entry, reading people’s stories, leaving comments for the authors, and/or voting in the finals, or by donating a prize.  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

As I… hmm… maybe didn’t mention…? but seem to do every year so you’re probably not surprised, I’m taking a little blogging break so I can spend time with my family. So I will see you all in a couple weeks – most probably the first week of January 😊

Before we part company, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday filled with love, laughter, joy, and family, and a happy, healthy and successful new year!  It is a pleasure and a privilege to get to spend time with you all, and I’m happy and grateful to know each and every one of you!

Looking forward to all the things we’ll do in 2022!

Happy Holidays, and all best wishes for a wonderful New Year!!!

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 4.46.14 PM

The Prizes!: Oh! Such wonderful prizes! All I can say is, how lucky are we to be part of such a talented and generous community that offers such amazing prizes!

Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, considering their books and services for birthday, holiday or other gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, recommending them for school and library visits, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming or Non-rhyming, Fiction or Nonfiction) with written feedback AND a 30-minute Zoom Chat with children’s author Vivian Kirkfield, author of PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, 2019), SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2019), FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN (Pomegranate, 2019), MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, 2020), FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Clarion Books, 2021), and SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING (MoneyPenny Press Ltd, 2010)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming or Non-rhyming, Fiction or Nonfiction) with a recording of first read-through by children’s author and poet Sarah Meade, contributor to HOP TO IT: POEMS TO GET YOU MOVING (Pomelo Books, 2020!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique/Zoom Chat (Non-rhyming) from children’s author Janie Reinart, author of WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN (Blue Whale Press, 2021)!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming) PLUS Zoom Chat from developmental editor Lou Piccolo! Lou studied English Literature, creative writing and teaching at university in South Africa. After working as an EFL teacher in France for twenty years, she studied proofreading and editing before becoming a developmental editor of children’s and young adult’s literature for independent authors. She is a graduate of Renee LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab – Punching Up Prose With Poetry course and Making Picture Book Magic, the in-house writer for Editions Entrefilet’s language-learning magazine ‘Go English Kids’ for children of 8-12 in France, and a traditionally published author of MG and YA fiction with Burlington Books.

Developmental Editor, Lou Piccolo

⭐️ Connecting With School Librarians! Fabulous Opportunity for published or soon to be published authors! Winner’s Choice of either a Zoom or phone chat about how to connect with school librarians and get their ear or an Ask Me Anything Zoom or phone chat about K-8th grade author visits from a librarian’s POV from Kathy Halsey. Kathy Halsey is Storyteller Academy’s Community Manager and Ambassador. She enjoys writing picture books, humor, and nonfiction. Kathy’s active in SCBWI and blogs with other kid lit writers on the GROG. She serves on the Choose to Read Ohio Advisory Council and speaks at educational and literary conferences. Kathy’s a former K-12 school librarian and children’s bookseller. She writes monthly author studies for the Reading for Research Month along with Keila Dawson.

Writer, librarian, bookseller, blogger Kathy Halsey

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyme or Prose, fiction only) from children’s author Shelley Kinder! Shelley is the author of NOT SO SCARY JERRY (Spork 2017), THE MASTERPIECE (Spork 2018) and GOD AND ME AND THE SEA (Kregel Children’s Books, May 17, 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (written) PLUS 15 minute Zoom Chat (no nonfiction) from Cindy Williams Schrauben author of THIS COULD BE YOU (Cardinal Rule Press, April 1, 2022)!

⭐️ Zoom Visit to a classroom or to kids at home by children’s author Ellen Leventhal! Ellen is the author of DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS (Spork, 2017), LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Spork, 2018), HAYFEST: A HOLIDAY QUEST (ABCs Press, 2010), and A FLOOD OF KINDNESS (WorthyKids, 2021)

Author, Ellen Leventhal

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Heather Gale, author of HO’ONANI: HULA WARRIOR (Tundra Books, 2019) which was one of the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids 2019, one of the Ontario Library Association’s 2019 Top Ten Titles, Featured on the 2020 Rainbow Book List, Featured on the 2020 Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, and received a Booklist Starred Review!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Maria Marshall! Maria is a children’s author, blogger, and poet passionate about making nature fun for children. She’s a judge for the Cybils Awards and the #50PreciousWords competition. Four of her poems are published in The Best Of Today’s Little Ditty anthologies. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. The Picture Book Buzz  Website  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Maria Marshall

⭐️ A Reversible Handmade Christmas Stocking or Other Winter or Holiday-Themed Gift Bag from Karen Gebbia PLUS a Personalized Signed Copy of CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY by Nancy Derey Riley to fill it!

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of either QUEEN OF PHYSICS:How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Sterling Children’s Books 2019) or TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING (Albert Whitman 2020) (Winner’s Choice!) by Teresa Robeson

PLUS!!!

a Personalized Signed Copy of either LISTEN (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books 2021) or TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE (Harry N. Abrams 2020) (Winner’s Choice!) by Gabi Snyder

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⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE: Queen Charlotte’s Gift to England (Albert Whitman 2018) by Nancy Churnin PLUS a Digital Copy of THE STAR IN THE CHRISTMAS PLAY (Beaming Books 2018) by Lynne Marie

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of MY SCHOOL STINKS! (Philomel July 2021) by Becky Scharnhorst PLUS a Kindle or Audiobook Copy of either FUNNY JIMMY (AuthorHouse 2011) or THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF RIDDLES (Avid Readers Publishing Group 2011) (Winner’s Choice!) by Vanessa Rose Lee

⭐️ Winner’s Choice of 2 of the following 4 picture books, kindly donated by Dee Knabb!

The 2021 Holiday Contest Finalists Are HERE! Vote For Your Favorite!!!

Darlings!

This is no time for play!
This is no time for fun!
This is no time for games!
There is voting to be done! (just go with it and pretend voting is only one syllable 😊)
or
There are prizes to be won! (no, that doesn’t work either, although it’s true!)

Maybe we should go with:

Every writer
in Bookville
liked contests a lot. . .
But the judges
who judged all the entries
did NOT!
(although to be fair, we love the contests and we love reading the entries, we just hate having to cut them to get down to 12!)

The point is, we have done our valiant best to come up with 12 finalists (and let me tell you, it was a Herculean task!) and the time has come for you to read the entries that made the finals, choose your favorite, and vote for it!

Normally, I’d waste a little time with tomfoolery, but it’s been a desperate few days (and nights) of entry judging, which means not always paying as close attention to the puppy as I should, which means there is carpet steam-cleaning to be done. (Maybe I should have found a way to finish up my little stanza with that!)

So let’s just get right to it!

I know these entries are a little longer than the Halloweensie ones, so I truly thank you for taking the time to read through them and vote for your favorite. You won’t be sorry. They are all fabulous and I know you’ll enjoy them!

I will say THANK YOU to everyone who wrote an entry, took time to read other people’s entries and leave supportive comments, shared the contest with friends and family so that all our talented writers could get more readers, is taking the time now to read and vote, and who generally helped to make the contest so much fun, but I’m going to skip reiterating the judging criteria (you can check for it HERE) and save all my usual difficulty-of-choosing stuff for the winners post on Friday so you can get right to the entries!

Please read through the following 12 entries and vote for your favorite in the poll below by Thursday December 16 at 7PM Eastern so I can announce the winners on Friday! As always, I encourage you to share today’s link everywhere you want so that as many people as possible can read these stories and vote, but please do not attempt to influence the voting in any way. It is supposed to be based on merit, not on who can get the most people to come vote for their entry because they’re your friends and relations or they owe you for that time you babysat their kids 😊 If you’re a finalist, please don’t broadcast that on social media – just ask people to come read all the entries and vote for their favorite.

So here we go! Your 12 Finalists for

The 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

1 – Tree of the Year

Deep in the forest,
where giant pines grow,
an eager young sapling
stood covered in snow.

She gleamed in the moonlight.
“I’m shiny and frozen.
Tonight is the contest.
I hope I’ll be chosen!”

The first day of winter,
to spread Christmas cheer,
the humans would vote
on the Tree of the Year.

“Sapling,” said Ancient,
“most victors are tall,
so don’t get your hopes up.
Remember, you’re small.”

Sapling’s thin branches
drooped low at the thought:
Big trees are winners.
Small ones are not.

The ground started thumping
with footsteps and drumming.
“Listen,” said Ancient.
“The humans are coming!”

Down from the village
perched high on a hill,
they marched with their music
and sang of goodwill.

Sapling stood taller.
“It won’t hurt to try.”
She lifted her branches.
“I’ll reach for the sky!”

A girl with a garland
of berries appeared.
She said, “This one’s lovely.”
The villagers cheered.

“Me?” Sapling gasped.
“Is it ME they will choose?”
“I’m frail,” Ancient shivered.
“I’m sure that I’ll lose.”

And Sapling remembered,
though Ancient was tall,
he’d never been voted
the best tree of all.

So Sapling leaned gently
and whispered an oath.
“I’ll root for you, friend.
I’ll hope for us both.”

“Those trees are embracing!”
the little girl said.
“Let’s decorate TWO trees
this Christmas instead.”

The town danced around them.
The verdict was clear.
Sapling and Ancient:
The Trees of the Year!

2 – Phoebe’s Snowperson

Outside the city library, a flier flits in the wind. “Snowperson Contest!” it announces, catching Phoebe’s eye. She reads:

Kids, let’s spread a little cheer
and deck the library halls
with handmade “snow”-people
who won’t melt like snowballs!

The prize? Free popsicles at the pool this summer.

“Yes, please!” Phoebe exclaims.

Phoebe hurries toward home, her imagination firing with every step. What can she use to build a snowman? Perhaps she should create a snowgirl? How much glitter does she have? Is there any white paint in the garage?

“Hi, Mom! Bye, Mom!” Phoebe yells and dashes to her room. It might be December, but she can practically taste the watermelon-cherry-coconut flavors of summertime.

But when Phoebe starts to gather materials, she feels doubtful. She looks at the pillows scattered about and wonders how she’ll make a snowperson that stands up—and stands out.

Phoebe starts to hum an old song about a snowman who came to life. “He had a magical hat!” she recalls and races to her closet.

Then she remembers a story about snowmen’s nighttime adventures and another about a silly snowman in a hot tub. She smiles.

“The snowmen are in my books. What if my books are my snowman?”

Phoebe lays a chapter book flat with the pages facing out. She stacks on a fat collection of fairy tales and then some tattered picture books. Before long, a snowman built out of stories stares back at her.

“Perfection,” Phoebe whispers.

3 – A CHRISTMAS PICKLE STORY

Sentimental ornaments
trim our tree high to low,
but Christmas Eve tradition calls
for one to steal the show.

Dad dons a scruffy Santa hat
and gathers us around.
“I’ve picked the pickle’s hiding spot!
It’s waiting to be found.”

“Dance! Prance! Blitz and dash!
All may search until
the finder claims the first gift and
the title of ‘Big Dill’.”

Grammy prods each shimmery bough.
Mom browses round and through.
Baby pulls off ornaments
(to get a better view).

I snug myself beneath a branch
to peer up from the bottom.
A glint of green. A clumpy curve.
Yes! I think. I got ’em.

I pluck the pickle from its place,
eager to claim my prize,
then notice Dad off to the side
with sparkle in his eyes.

His festive fuss for all of us
makes everybody grin.
It doesn’t seem to bother him
that he will never win.

I put the pickle back, but shift
it where no one will see.
Then grumble, “Oh by golly, there’s
no pickle on this tree!”

“Ho ho, oh? Check near the stump–”
That’s when Dad’s eyes meet mine.
I toss a wink and, in a blink,
Dad’s rummaging through pine.

He tugs back on a tree skirt bump
revealing what I’d done.
The pickle found, I quickly cheer,
“Gosh, Dad, looks like you’ve won!”

He wraps us all up in a hug
and whispers in my ear,
“You can have the first gift because
I’ve got mine right here.”

4 – SIMPLY THE BEST

Christmas was Maise’s favorite time of year.
Awe-inspiring. Wonderful. Magical.
Simply the best.
Maise wanted to be awe-inspiring, wonderful and magical, too.

Maise entered the Gingerbread House Decorating Contest.
Her house had icing and gumdrops!
Sprinkles and sparkles!
It even had an entire reindeer family reunion!
“It’s very…. creative,” said the judges.
But, Catalina won with a classic design.
“Awe-inspiring,” Maise told her.

Maise entered the Holiday Baking Contest.
Peppermint sticks!
Mocha melts!
Orange and ginger shortbread!
“Quite the variety,” observed the judges.
But Lester won with his Yule Log cake.
“Wonderful,” said Maise, licking her lips.

Maise entered the Ice Skating Contest.
Wearing a very sparkly leotard,
she skated forward!
And backward!
She even did a twirl!
But Jozef had a routine that was…well…
“Magical,” admired Maise.

Maise smiled.
She hadn’t won any ribbons but it had still been a delightful day.

“We have one last ribbon to award,” announced the judges.
“The award for the Most Holiday Spirit goes to…
Maise!”
“Awesome,” said Catalina.
“Wonderful,” said Lester.
“Magical,” smiled Jozef.
And to Maise, it was simply the best.

5 – SO YOU THINK YOU CAN PRANCE

“Places, Rudolph. Jump in line.”
(That’s me! Contestant #9.)

“Welcome back to North Pole Live:
‘So You Think You Can Prance,’ season five.
I’m your host, the famous Prancer.
Please welcome back our champion dancer!
He’s shimmied chimneys—Seoul to Atlanta:
the man, the myth, the legend—SANTA!”

Santa’s back? Last season’s best!
His reindeer too? I should’ve guessed.
Dasher coasts. Dancer whirls.
(Prancer hosts.) Vixen twirls.
Comet? She was born a star.
Cupid is on point, so far.
Donner brings the beat, the boom.
Blitzen’s jig ignites the room.
Maybe I’ll sit out this year.
With four left hooves, I’m bottom tier.

Eight contestants soar. I sink.
They float. I flail. They curve. I kink.
They sway. I swoop. They strut. I stop.
They spring. I sprawl. They dip. I drop.
Showing off, they’re busting moves,
I spin and—
SPLAT.
I’ve busted hooves!

“Oh, DEAR!” I hear.
Yes, I’m aware—
my spill was broadcast on the air.
The crimson of my well-known nose
extends until my body glows.
Someone whispers, “not a dancer.”
Reindeer snicker—even Prancer!
“Can klutzy caribous compete?”
My antlers shrink. My legs retreat.

Halfway out the door, I hear,
“Rudolph! I need YOU this year!
Ho-ho-ho! That grit! That glow!
Prancer, change my choreo’:
Substitute those samba mixes.
No more formal foxtrot fixes.
Rudi’s riffs will spark my set—
a glow-in-the-dark-breakdance duet!”

*North Pole Live rewrote its jingle
to feature Ru’ and Kris-Kross-Kringle,
the prime-time prancing pair sensation,
who tours one eve—to every nation.

6 – Cinder-Latke

Cinder-Latke puts down her scrub brush and reads a letter on the kitchen table.

—EVERYONE INVITED TO ROYAL PALACE HANUKKAH PARTY—

—Prince Nudnik Will Wed Latke-Making Contest Winner—

Cinder-Latke sighs. “I wish I could go like Pishka and Kishka, my stepsisters—”

Pink lightning FLASHES—

A puff of smoke morphs into Fairy-Godmother Yenta. “—and you will!”

Yenta waves her wand—

Cinder-Latke rides in a gold carriage wearing a sparkling diamond-studded gown.

“The spell ends at midnight.” Yenta grins. “Have fun!”

At the palace, all the princess-wannabes cook potato-pancakes like crazy.

Finally, Prince Nudnik tastes Cinder-Latke’s latke. “It’s perfection—I love you!”

The tower clock chimes midnight—Cinder-Latke flees.

Next morning, Prince Nudnik searches every house in the kingdom.

“Ugh!” He spits out Pishka’s latke and gags on Kishka’s. “One’s heavier than lead and the other tastes like moldy sweat-socks.”

An irresistible aroma tickles Prince Nudnik’s nose, luring him into the kitchen.

Cinder-Latke flips her latke onto a dish. “I knew you’d come.”

Prince Nudnik, drooling, bites into the latke. “Heavenly—” He sinks to one knee and whips out a ring with a gleaming latke-sized diamond. “Please, be my Latke-Princess!”

Cinder-Latke’s eyelashes flutter. “Sure, why not?”

Cinder-Latke and Prince Nudnik wed on the eighth night of Hanukkah and dance the hora around the menorah.

After the honeymoon, they open a restaurant—

—PRINCESS CINDER-LATKE’S LATKE PALACE—

—and dine on latkes happily ever after!

(Pishka and Kishka become fabulously wealthy businesswomen selling their latkes as cannonballs and bug-repellent.)

7 – Christmas…by a Nose

Newspapers trumpeted!
Radios blared!
Cable news cried in alarm!
BIG CARROT SHORTAGE REPORTED TODAY:
CHAOS ERUPTS ON CLAUS FARM

And, indeed, Claus was troubled.
Perplexed, some might say.
To friends, he appeared worried sick.
(This was Sam Claus, who harvested just up the way
from his jollier brother, Old Nick.)

Christmas was coming,
And, with it, Claus knew,
The first of the season’s big snows.
But if carrots were lacking,
Joy would fade quick…
For no snowman could count on a nose!

Assistance was needed—
“A contest!” Claus thought.
No sense in lazing about.
“A trophy” he called. “To the barnyard friend here
Who can find the best substitute snout!”

“An apple!” said Horse.
(Goat and Donkey agreed.)
“It’s festive and rosy to boot.”
“But it’s round,” Claus reminded,
“And, also, it’s red. A not-at-all carrot-like fruit.”

“Maybe corn?” piped up Chicken.
“Oh, yes!” Pig enthused.
“I’ve got a few corncobs right here.”
“Not bad,” Claus conceded.
“A veggie, it’s true. But we need a good nose, not an ear.”

“’Wait, wait!” squeaked a voice. “Down here, take a look!
May I share my idea with you, please?
You need something pointy and orange-ish, and so…
Why not try wedges of cheese?”

“Yes, CHEESE!” Claus applauded. “A trophy for Mouse!
Or perhaps a large crumb would be better.
And while we’re addressing the subject of snacks:
…do we know if the reindeer like cheddar?”

8 – TREE NUMBER NINE

Sofie could barely contain her excitement. Today was Noel Knob’s first ever Christmas Tree Decorating Contest!

She had been gathering decorations for weeks —

Berries from the holly bush next door.

Strings of garland strung with white, fluffy popcorn.

Bows made from leftover ribbon.

She packed everything in her backpack and headed to the town square. 

There, evergreen trees lined the lawn. The smell of fir, spruce, and pine tickled her nose.

At the sign-in table, Sofie was assigned tree number 9.

She got right to work — a bow here, berries there, garland wrapped around and around, and a big pinecone right on top!

Proudly, she stood beside her tree. But soon her shoulders sagged.

Around her, trees twinkled with tiny lights, dazzled with store-bought decorations, and on top of each tree was a shining star.

She glanced at the ceramic teapot on the prize table and felt her hopes evaporating like steam.

Zipping up her bag, Sofie headed home. 

Behind her, the judges were ready to announce the winners. 

“Third place goes to… Tree 21, for most decorations!”

Everyone clapped. Sofie kept walking.

“Second place goes to… Tree 7 for most sparkly!”

Everyone cheered. Sofie kept walking.

“And first place goes to… Tree 9 for most creative!”

Everyone celebrated. Stunned, Sofie hurried to the stage.

“Which prize would you like?”

“The teapot, please.”

When she got home, Sofie carefully wrapped the teapot in red and green paper. 

Then, she filled out the gift tag —

To Mom
From Sofie
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

9 – A CREATURE WAS STIRRING

Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house,
Every creature was stirring,
including, Wee Mouse.
Stirring and blending, creating sweet treats
for a contest to see which ones Santa will eat.
“Don’t even bother,” said Pup. “He’ll choose mine.”
“I don’t think so,” purred Kit. “Because mine are divine.”
But Wee Mouse said nothing. Her movements were nimble
as she tossed her ingredients into a thimble.
She had flour in her whiskers, some dough on her nose,
and a drop of molasses had dripped on two toes.
She placed all her cookies in a minuscule sack,
climbed up to the table then…UH OH! Fell back!
The cookies all crumbled except for one bite.
“I’ve barely a taste for Santa tonight!”
Wee Mouse dried her tears, climbed back up to the platter,
feeling her one little morsel must matter.
“It’s totally tiny,” said Pup. “Not ornate.
Santa will think it’s a crumb on the plate.
Mine have fun sprinkles on top of red icing.”
Kit purred, “That brown dot? Well, it’s just not enticing.”
Wee Mouse ignored them and went straight to bed,
exhausted yet hopeful for what lay ahead.
Christmas morning she woke to a gift and a note.
She opened it up to see what Santa wrote:
“Dear Wee Mouse, My thanks for your cookie so sweet.
It was far and away my favorite treat.
And the thing that I think set it so far above
all the rest was your secret ingredient—LOVE!”

10 – BEAR’S CHRISTMAS COOKIE

Of all the holiday traditions, Bear’s favourite was the cookie decorating contest. Hedgehog always won. This year Bear was determined to beat him. He’d been planning his cookie for months.

The animals lined up with their cookies displayed. The crows approached. They were notoriously picky judges. They started with Rabbit.

Rabbit had decorated his cookie with a garden of sugar spun carrots and roses.

Badger had created a glittering forest of silver and gold gumdrops and candy cane stars.

Hedgehog had outdone himself. On his cookie, he’d crafted a miniature ice-rink with tiny skaters, each holding cups of hot cocoa. You could even see the marshmallows.

Bear was last. The Crows approached his cookie. Their black eyes widened. Towering above them was layer upon layer of icing, chocolate, candy cane, marshmallows, toffee, sprinkles, sugar plums, and whipped cream. At the top, they could just make out a Christmas angel spinning in the wind.

“Did I win?” asked Bear.

Suddenly the cookie began to wobble. It leaned one way. It leaned the other.

“Look out!” cried the judges.

SPAAAALOOSH!!!!

Every inch of fur, feathers, and forest was drenched in icing, chocolate, whipped cream, and candy. The angel landed on someone’s head. Badger licked sprinkles off his coat. Rabbit brushed marshmallows from his nose into his mouth. Hedgehog wiped icing out of his eyes. He licked his paws with gusto.

“Actually,” he said, “I think we all won!” And that day they all enjoyed the most glorious candy feast, thanks to Bear.

11 – A Miscalculation

*Attention all children!
Come out in the snow
And bring all your shovels and gear
Join in the sport,
And build your best fort
For the holiday contest this year!*

We dig and we pat
We scoop and we splat
To build the best fortress of all
No torrent of snow,
No, nothing they throw
Will knock down our unyielding wall!

Two towering turrets
Three tactical windows
Four bunkers built into the floor
Snowballs piled high,
Stacked up to the sky
There must be two hundred or more!

We hold up a finger
So that we can tell
Which direction the cold wind is blowing
We take up our stance,
They don’t stand a chance
Let’s get this tournament going!

Whoosh, whoosh, THUD, THUD
Oh no, wait a minute!
We should have seen this from the start
The snowballs we chuck
Don’t have any luck—
Our snow forts are too far apart!

12 – THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS STAR

Last year? Measly fifth. Year before? Pitiful fifteenth.
But THIS year? I’ll capture the winning star for the Interstellar Christmas Tree Contest!
For 11 months, I’ve studied, analyzed, and scrutinized all things stars.
Nothing will stop me. Nothing will slow me down.
NOTH—
“Dagan,” says Mom, “this year, your sister joins.”
“But MO-OM!” I yelp.
“My two star-chasers—or nothing,” Mom says.
Rest of the week, I lecture Daphne on the fine art of star-catching.
For Daphne, my lessons are a fine time to nap.
I demonstrate proper blaze-proof glove attire.
Daphne proves gloves go on ears, too.
We practice swooping and swirling our star nets.
Daphne tangles her net into one big knot.
Sigh.
On Christmas Eve, we load gloves and nets into our Lunar Rocket 3000 and take off.
“Sit still and be quiet,” I say. Daphne’s head droops.
Just past the moon, I spy the perfect star! It glitters and flickers and zooms around our rocket.
But it’s too fast.
Can’t. Quite. Catch. It.
“Dagie!” says Daphne. She shuts her eyes. I do the same. The star thinks we’re napping! It slows down.
Daphne hangs gloves on her ears. The twirling star stops and giggles.
We tie our two nets with a knot. Together, we extend the oversize net and scoop up the twinkling light.
On Christmas morning, we place our winning star atop the Interstellar Christmas Tree.
“Next year,” I say to Daphne, “let’s enter the Christmas Ginger-Planet Contest! Together.”
Daphne’s face beams.
“Merry Christmas, Dagie!”

WOW!

Now YOU get to enjoy the agony of decision as you try to choose which of those amazing entries to vote for!

Please vote for the entry you feel deserves to win in the poll below by 7PM EST Thursday December 16th.

Tune in Friday December 17th to see THE WINNERS!!! – same bat time, same bat station 😊

Thank you all so much for taking the time to write (if you did), read, and vote!  These contests simply wouldn’t be what they are without all of you!

I truly cannot wait to see who you choose as the winner!  Good luck!!! 😊

Ho! Ho! Ho! The 11th Annual Holiday Contest Is HERE!!!

⭐️Deck the Halls! ⭐️ Light the menorah! ⭐️ Fill the Kikombe cha Umoja! ⭐️

It’s time for . . .

The 11th Annual Holiday Writing Contest

~ for children’s writers ~

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about a Holiday Contest!

Your contest can be anything you want! Baking, wrapping, decorating (tree or home), raising money or collecting gifts for those in need, ice skating, sledding, caroling, fancy dress, snowman or fort building. . . sky’s the limit! But it must be about a holiday contest!

Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s or whatever you celebrate during the Holiday Season, but is not to exceed 250 words (I know! So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest 😊 )  (It can be as short as you like (the judges will be grateful 😊 , you are welcome and encouraged to write shorter, but no more than 250!  Title not included in word count.)  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The more creative the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)

Post:  Your entry should be posted between right now this very second and Thursday December 9th at 11:59 PM EST, and must be posted below in the comment section of this post. All entries should include a title, byline (people always ask what this is – it means who the entry was written by, so, by Suzy Q. Writer or whoever 😊) and word count. You are welcome to also post your entries on your own blogs and include your blog address with your entry here if you’d like to encourage people to come visit your blog, but your entry must be posted in the comment section of this post or it will not be counted because we won’t see it. This post will remain up for your reading pleasure until I post the finalists.  There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It, or Perfect Picture Book) for the duration of the contest so everyone will have plenty of time to visit and enjoy.  If you have trouble commenting, you can email your entry to me and I will post it for you. Please copy and paste your entry with word count and byline into the body of the email NO ATTACHMENTS please.

The Judging: My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 12 finalists.  In the interest of finishing up the contest in a timely fashion so everyone can go about their holidays, we will do our best to post the finalists here by Tuesday December 14th for you to vote on for a winner.  (But it almost always seems to end up taking us longer. . . so it might be a day or two later.) The vote will be closed on Thursday December 16th at 5 PM EST.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to twelfth place (or wherever we place to), and the winners will be announced on Friday December 17th. (These dates are subject to adjustment if it takes the judges longer than we anticipate to get the judging completed.)

Judging criteria will be as follows:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Holiday Contest! – the rules state a Holiday Contest story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about a contest that in some way relates to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  The story must center on the contest  – the contest must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important. Please proofread!
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
  • 6. PLEASE FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! Large numbers of entries make it easy to cut entries that haven’t been entered as we asked.

The Prizes!: Oh! Such wonderful prizes! All I can say is, how lucky are we to be part of such a talented and generous community that offers such amazing prizes!

Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, considering their books and services for birthday, holiday or other gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, recommending them for school and library visits, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming or Non-rhyming, Fiction or Nonfiction) with written feedback AND a 30-minute Zoom Chat with children’s author Vivian Kirkfield, author of PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, 2019), SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2019), FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN (Pomegranate, 2019), MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, 2020), FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Clarion Books, 2021), and SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING (MoneyPenny Press Ltd, 2010)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming or Non-rhyming, Fiction or Nonfiction) with a recording of first read-through by children’s author and poet Sarah Meade, contributor to HOP TO IT: POEMS TO GET YOU MOVING (Pomelo Books, 2020!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique/Zoom Chat (Non-rhyming) from children’s author Janie Reinart, author of WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN (Blue Whale Press, 2021)!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyming) PLUS Zoom Chat from developmental editor Lou Piccolo! Lou studied English Literature, creative writing and teaching at university in South Africa. After working as an EFL teacher in France for twenty years, she studied proofreading and editing before becoming a developmental editor of children’s and young adult’s literature for independent authors. She is a graduate of Renee LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab – Punching Up Prose With Poetry course and Making Picture Book Magic, the in-house writer for Editions Entrefilet’s language-learning magazine ‘Go English Kids’ for children of 8-12 in France, and a traditionally published author of MG and YA fiction with Burlington Books.

Developmental Editor, Lou Piccolo

⭐️ Connecting With School Librarians! Fabulous Opportunity for published or soon to be published authors! Winner’s Choice of either a Zoom or phone chat about how to connect with school librarians and get their ear or an Ask Me Anything Zoom or phone chat about K-8th grade author visits from a librarian’s POV from Kathy Halsey. Kathy Halsey is Storyteller Academy’s Community Manager and Ambassador. She enjoys writing picture books, humor, and nonfiction. Kathy’s active in SCBWI and blogs with other kid lit writers on the GROG. She serves on the Choose to Read Ohio Advisory Council and speaks at educational and literary conferences. Kathy’s a former K-12 school librarian and children’s bookseller. She writes monthly author studies for the Reading for Research Month along with Keila Dawson.

Writer, librarian, bookseller, blogger Kathy Halsey

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (Rhyme or Prose, fiction only) from children’s author Shelley Kinder! Shelley is the author of NOT SO SCARY JERRY (Spork 2017), THE MASTERPIECE (Spork 2018) and GOD AND ME AND THE SEA (Kregel Children’s Books, May 17, 2022)

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique (written) PLUS 15 minute Zoom Chat (no nonfiction) from Cindy Williams Schrauben author of THIS COULD BE YOU (Cardinal Rule Press, April 1, 2022)!

⭐️ Zoom Visit to a classroom or to kids at home by children’s author Ellen Leventhal! Ellen is the author of DON’T EAT THE BLUEBONNETS (Spork, 2017), LOLA CAN’T LEAP (Spork, 2018), HAYFEST: A HOLIDAY QUEST (ABCs Press, 2010), and A FLOOD OF KINDNESS (WorthyKids, 2021)

Author, Ellen Leventhal

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Heather Gale, author of HO’ONANI: HULA WARRIOR (Tundra Books, 2019) which was one of the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids 2019, one of the Ontario Library Association’s 2019 Top Ten Titles, Featured on the 2020 Rainbow Book List, Featured on the 2020 Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, and received a Booklist Starred Review!

⭐️ Picture Book Manuscript Critique from Maria Marshall! Maria is a children’s author, blogger, and poet passionate about making nature fun for children. She’s a judge for the Cybils Awards and the #50PreciousWords competition. Four of her poems are published in The Best Of Today’s Little Ditty anthologies. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. The Picture Book Buzz  Website  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Maria Marshall

⭐️ A Reversible Handmade Christmas Stocking or Other Winter or Holiday-Themed Gift Bag from Karen Gebbia PLUS a Personalized Signed Copy of CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY by Nancy Derey Riley to fill it!

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of either QUEEN OF PHYSICS:How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Sterling Children’s Books 2019) or TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING (Albert Whitman 2020) (Winner’s Choice!) by Teresa Robeson

PLUS!!!

a Personalized Signed Copy of either LISTEN (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books 2021) or TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE (Harry N. Abrams 2020) (Winner’s Choice!) by Gabi Snyder

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⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE: Queen Charlotte’s Gift to England (Albert Whitman 2018) by Nancy Churnin PLUS a Digital Copy of THE STAR IN THE CHRISTMAS PLAY (Beaming Books 2018) by Lynne Marie

⭐️ Personalized Signed Copy of MY SCHOOL STINKS! (Philomel July 2021) by Becky Scharnhorst PLUS a Kindle or Audiobook Copy of either FUNNY JIMMY (AuthorHouse 2011) or THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF RIDDLES (Avid Readers Publishing Group 2011) (Winner’s Choice!) by Vanessa Rose Lee

⭐️ Winner’s Choice of 2 of the following 4 picture books, kindly donated by Dee Knabb!

With so many great prizes up for grabs I hope there will be a lot of entries – the more the merrier!  And you’ve still got a couple days to write, so you can squeeze in under the wire if you haven’t written yet.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  And your reading friends – parents, teachers, etc.  The more people who read and enjoy your stories, the better!!!

Contest Entrants, remember you MUST post your entry in the comment section below and include title, byline, and word count.

Eager Readers – just go along the list of links below, click on them (they’ll take you directly to whichever story you click on), and enjoy the stories!

So let the Holiday Contest begin!

Happy Writing and Happy Holidays! 😊 ☃️ ✡️ ⭐️ ❄️ 🎄🕯🕎

I can’t wait to read your entries!!!

THE ENTRIES!

  1. It Takes A Forest – Lucretia Schafroth
  2. The Kelpie Challenge – Bonnie Kelso
  3. The Cookies Of Holiday Hollow – Royal Baysinger
  4. Elf Off The Shelf – Anne Lipton
  5. The Trolls: A Winter Tale – Royal Baysinger
  6. Upon A Winter Solstice – Royal Baysinger
  7. So You Think You Can Prance – Amy Leskowski
  8. The Festive Flying Race – Nicola Beach
  9. Grumble’s Silent Night – Katrina Swenson
  10. Birdie’s Song – Beth Stillborn
  11. The Holiday Homework – Sue Lancaster
  12. How Tiny Won A Seat On Santa’s Sleigh – Elizabeth Westra
  13. The Claus’ Candy Cane Contest – Susan Schipper
  14. He Knows If You’ve Been Bad Or Good – Colleen Murphy
  15. Olive, The Other Reindeer – Lindsay Moretti
  16. Go Green For Christmas – Margaret Zotkiewicz
  17. Tree Number Nine – Lindsey Hobson
  18. Christmas Boots – P.J. Purtee
  19. Ellarose’s Sweater – Marta Cutler
  20. A Fourth Grader’s Poster Problem – Jennifer Vose
  21. A Buggie Tradition – Kay Inglis
  22. Kendy And The Solstice Solo Show – Sarah Meade
  23. Elsie And The Christmas Comedy Contest – Sarah Meade
  24. The Better Elf On The Shelf – Molly Ippolito
  25. Ernie And The Science Fair – Deborah Foster
  26. Mr. Tweedy’s Christmas Trees – Colleen Fogarty
  27. Best Wrapped Surprise – Sara Dean
  28. Christmas Eve Ride Along Contest – Dawn Young
  29. The Christmas Tree Contest – Dorothy K. Kohrherr
  30. Alfredo Learns The Secret Of Greatness – Joan Leotta
  31. The Pretty Ugly Sweater – Pamela Swanson
  32. Tree Of The Year – Lisa Varchol Perron
  33. Jamie’s Holiday Surprise – Diana Sussman
  34. Katie’s Snow Creation – Marty B.
  35. The Tasty Treat Christmas Contest – Katie Brandyberry
  36. Santa’s Secret Contest – Linda Staszak
  37. Phoebe’s Snowperson – Kelly Clasen
  38. The Star – Reed Hilton-Eddy
  39. THAT’S Not A Christmas Cookie! – Vanessa Konoval
  40. Candy Pies – Sharon McCarthy
  41. Solstice Skaters – Allison Strick
  42. The Best Gift Ever – Pen Avey
  43. The Most Christmassy House – Jen MacGregor
  44. Candy Caribou – Steena Hernandez
  45. A Christmas Pickle Story – Daniella Kaufman-Schloss
  46. Shining Star – Sarah Hawklyn
  47. Grumpy Snow Pants – Stephanie Maksymiw
  48. The Best Reading Contest Of Winter, 1959 – Beth Schmelzer
  49. Playground Games – Colleen Dougherty
  50. Simply The Best – Nicole Loos Miller
  51. Bear’s Christmas Cookie – Marta Cutler
  52. Happy Everything! – Laura Barens
  53. Dancing With The Elves – Jill Lambert
  54. A Creature Was Stirring – Judy Sobanski
  55. The Monster On Christmas Eve – Elizabeth Meyer zu Heringdorf
  56. What Christmas Means To Me – Marty Findley
  57. A Miscalculation – Emily Durant
  58. Lily And The Winter Festival – Karen J Moore
  59. 2021 Monkey Merry Xmas – Shariffa Keshavjee
  60. The Ginger Friend House – Kelly Swemba
  61. Gingerbread House Extravaganza – Elaine D’Alessandro
  62. Parol: This Little Star Of Mine – Lynn Grace Wong
  63. Christmas Song – YauMei Chiang
  64. Reindeer Games – Tiffany Hanson
  65. The Cookie Contest Caper – Kelsey E. Gross
  66. The Clean-Out-The-Clutter Contest – Sarah Demarest Guthrie
  67. The Contest – Amanda Sherlock
  68. Asher’s Chanukiah – Dina Silverberg
  69. Best Hanukkah Ever! – Paul Kurtz
  70. Cinder-Latke – Paul Kurtz
  71. Bunny Claus – Donna Kurtz
  72. Jangle Shells – Donna Kurtz
  73. Spin – Cheryl Simon
  74. Fantastical Fairytown Christmas Snowflake Contest – Ellen Crosby
  75. The Winning Recipe – Judy Abelove Shemtob
  76. The Greatest Display Of All – Barbara Kimmel
  77. Sparky’s Wish – Ingrid Boydston
  78. The Night After Christmas – Abby N. Wooldridge
  79. The Claus’s Hawaiian Vacation – C. S. Boyll
  80. Gifts For Grandma – Cindy Sommer
  81. Keep Christmas Coming – Jeannette Suhr
  82. The Most Special Ornament – Timothy Hicks
  83. Santa’s Workshop Winners – Polly Owen
  84. Elfie Selfie Contest – Stephanie Henson
  85. The Great Holiday Bake Off – Jamie Donahoe
  86. Laughing All The Way – Sarah Hetu
  87. The Perfect Christmas Star – Jennifer Lowe
  88. A Sack Full Of Presents – Patricia Nozell
  89. Fairy Tale Houses – Jim Chaize
  90. Christmas…By A Nose – Jesse Anna Bornemann
  91. Reindeer Sing…Are You Listening? – Katie Schwartz
  92. Christmas Carrots – Vashti Verbowski
  93. Being Santa Lucia – Cindy Greene
  94. Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin – Who Will Win? – Stephanie Wildman
  95. ANDRÉS BLUE RIBBON – Carmen Castillo Gilbert
  96. The Chubby Bunny Champion – Alicia Meyers
  97. Up And Away! – Kristy Roser Nuttall
  98. Christmas Isn’t – Ingrid Boydston
  99. The Christmas Pirate – Julianna Kurtz
  100. Maryam’s Happy Persian Christmas – Shadi Kafi
  101. The Most Beautiful Snowflake Of All – Cassie Silva
  102. Fire And Ice – Jyn Hall
  103. The Santa Spectacle – Mary Cathering Amadu
  104. A Jarring Contest – Bru Benson
  105. Everything – Sandhya Acharya
  106. Similarity Despite Diversity – Eva Felder
  107. O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree – Becky Goodman
  108. Solstice Wars! – Phoebe Browning
  109. Gingerbread Surprise – JC Kelly
  110. Squirrels Christmas – Charlotte Boyer
  111. The Holiday Contest – Denise Seidman
  112. The Witch’s Gingerbread House – Lauri Meyers
  113. Elf Rivalry – Michelle S. Kennedy
  114. Dream Big, Little Pip! – Sally Yorke-Viney
  115. An Extraordinary Elf – Becky Kimbrough
  116. Jasmine Jingletoes And The Christmas Stocking Contest – Brenda Covert
  117. Let There Be (MORE!) Lights – Judy Carey Nevin
  118. Laughing All The Way – Samantha Gassman

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Latke, The Lucky Dog

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday!

It’s going to be the last PPBF for 2021, as the Holiday Contest (guidelines on that link if you’re interested in entering – lots of fantastic prizes!) opens next week and is going to keep us busy for the usable rest of December! Anyone who isn’t running a Holiday Contest and continues to post Perfect Picture Books for the next couple weeks is welcome to add their titles to today’s form or to the one I post in the first week of January! 😊

I love the book I’m sharing today for many reasons, not least of which is that I happen to have a newly adopted shelter puppy who is learning how to behave (although his challenge will be the Christmas tree, not the dreidel, menorah, and latkes 😊!)

Title: Latke, The Lucky Dog

Written By: Ellen Fischer

Illustrated By: Tiphanie Beeke

Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing, August 2014, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 2-8

Themes/Topics: Holidays (Hanukkah), animal rescue, pets, family

text copyright Ellen Fischer 2014, illustration copyright Tiphanie Beeke 2014, Kar-Ben Publishing

Opening: “I am one lucky dog. Imagine a mutt like me, picked as a Hanukkah present. It happened one day in December when a family walked into the shelter. A mom, a dad, and two kids – Zoe and Zach.”

Brief Synopsis: (from Horn Book Magazine starred review) “On the first night of Hanukkah, a family adopts a little golden-brown dog and names it Latke. As the family celebrates the Festival of Lights, Latke joins in, thinking, ‘I am one lucky dog!’ But he has a lot to learn about how to behave.”

text copyright Ellen Fischer 2014, illustration copyright Tiphanie Beeke 2014, Kar-Ben Publishing

Links To Resources: a page at the end of the story details the history and customs of Hanukkah; 8 Great Hanukkah Activities for Preschool; 35+ Hanukkah Activities For Kids

text copyright Ellen Fischer 2014, illustration copyright Tiphanie Beeke 2014, Kar-Ben Publishing

Why I Like This Book: This book gives a nice glimpse of a loving family and the traditions of Hanukkah from the point of view of a newly adopted shelter dog. Latke, the dog, has a lot to learn about how to behave. He helps himself to the sufganiyot (Hebrew for donuts), unwraps the gifts on the floor, chews the dreidel, knocks the applesauce off the table, chews the menorah candles, and slobbers all over the gelt (gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins), but luckily his new family is very understanding and they give him a Hanukkah gift of his own – a chew toy 😊 The story is warm, and the art a perfect accompaniment sensitively showing the dog as he tries to learn to do what is right. I love that not only does the reader get a sense of what Hanukkah is like, but is also shown that although a new animal family member might not behave perfectly at first, it is important to give everyone time to adjust and learn. A lovely story for all young readers/listeners!

text copyright Ellen Fischer 2014, illustration copyright Tiphanie Beeke 2014, Kar-Ben Publishing
text copyright Ellen Fischer 2014, illustration copyright Tiphanie Beeke 2014, Kar-Ben Publishing

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific blog links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊