Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Star In The Christmas Play

Boy!  What with the Halloweensie Contest and Thanksgiving, it’s been awhile since we had a Perfect Picture Book Friday!  And I guess this will be the last one before the holidays, since the Holiday Contest will be running by this time next week!

So what better to share today than a new holiday book?  This is a sweet one I think you and your kids will enjoy!

Star In Xmas Play

Title: The Star In The Christmas Play

Written By: Lynne Marie

Illustrated By: Lorna Hussey

Beaming Books,  October 2018, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: being yourself, holidays (Christmas), finding your place

Opening: “‘I wish I were any animal but a giraffe,’ said Raffi.  Instead of running toward savanna school like usual, he dragged his hooves.

Brief Synopsis: Raffi desperately wants a part in the school Christmas play, but he’s too big to be Baby Jesus, too tall to be Joseph, too heavy to be an angel.  It seems there’s no place for him at all.  But his mother’s loving words to him give him an idea and in the end he finds there’s a perfect place for everyone.

Links To Resources: 30 Easy Ornaments To Make With Kids; 30 Homemade Ornaments For Kids; 10 Star Crafts For Kids

Why I Like This Book: This is a sweet story that many kids will relate to.  We’ve all had moments where we don’t feel comfortable in our own skin, where we wish we were different so we’d have an easier time fitting in.  Raffi the giraffe struggles with being too big, too tall, too heavy to take part in the school Christmas play.  But he’s in a very nurturing environment among both adults and children who try to understand and help.   In the end he comes up with his own solution which is just right and he finds a way to accept himself as the others have accepted him all along.  A lovely message for any time of year, but especially nice at Christmas.

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!!! 🙂

(Oh, and I’ll give you a heads up now that I have a special extra post, last-minute scheduled for Monday for a couple of writer/illustrator friends, so please plan to stop by!)


Perfect Picture Book Friday – Little Blue Truck’s Halloween

Happy Friday, Folks!

Tomorrow is the opening of the 8th Annual Halloweensie Contest! (If you haven’t written your entry yet, click on that link to read the guidelines and get right to it – there’s still time! 🙂 And the prizes are worth it!!! )

I totally can’t wait (…except I haven’t written my sample yet so I’m a little worried about that…!) but I’m SOOOO looking forward to reading all of the stories you’ve written which I am sure, based on past experience, will be absolutely fabulous!

Since we all have last-minute writing to get to, I will jump right into today’s Perfect Picture Book, which is technically a board book – a lift-the-flap, actually! – but is so cute I couldn’t resist.  Plus, I really wanted something Halloween for today, since it’s the last PPBF before that spooky night! 🙂

Little Blue

Title: Little Blue Truck’s Halloween

Written By: Alice Schertle

Illustrated By: Jill McElmurry

HMH Books For Young Readers, July 2016, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 2-5

Themes/Topics: Holidays (Halloween), costumes

Opening: “Little Blue Truck
and his good friend Toad
are going to a party
just down the road.

says Little Blue.
“It’s Halloween!”
You come, too!

Brief Synopsis: It’s Halloween! Little Blue Truck is picking up his animal friends for a costume party. Lift the flaps to find out who’s dressed up in each costume! Will Blue wear a costume too?

Links To Resources: make your own lift-the-flap: draw an animal, then, on another piece of paper, draw the same animal disguised in a costume.  Paste the costume picture over the animal picture, fastening only the top so you can lift it.  See if your friends can guess who it is, then let them lift the flap to see if they’re right!

Why I Like This Book: As you probably all know, I am a fan of Little Blue Truck 🙂 So I was of course thrilled to discover his Halloween adventure!  This is a sturdy board book with lift-the-flaps.  On each page, Alice Schertle’s trademark catchy rhyme is a joy to read aloud, and one of Little Blue’s animal friends is dressed in costume…and you can lift the flat to discover who it is that’s dressed up.  Does it get more fun than that?  Why yes!  Because it’s just possible that Little Blue has a costume too!  But you’ll have to read the book to find out 🙂  Beautiful fall colors and a whole cast of woodland trick-or-treaters are featured in the illustrations.  All around, a delight!

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 9.47.01 PM

text copyright Alice Schertle 2016, illustration copyright Jill McElmurry 2016

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!

Now!  Last minute finishing touches on your Halloweensies and I will see you all tomorrow for the festivities!!! 🙂


Perfect Picture Book Friday – Look At Me! Wild Animal Show-Offs

Yay!  Here we are at Perfect Picture Book Friday!

This week, that means that tomorrow is the annual New York State Sheep and Wool Festival!

I love this festival, and highly recommend it to anyone who does any type of craft with yarn – so much gorgeous yarn to choose from! plus classes and exhibitions on how to  knit, crochet, weave, shear sheep, spin, etc, and tons of beautiful gifts – or to anyone who really likes hanging around with sheep, alpacas, and llamas and enjoys indulging in fall fair food 🙂

I will be signing copies of my books courtesy of Merritt Bookstore in Building B all day Saturday and Sunday.  If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hi!  My good friend and fellow author, Iza Trapani, will be there too with all of her wonderful books!

Anyway, on to Perfect Picture Books!

Quite by accident, I chose nature-oriented nonfiction books for older picture book readers two weeks in a row!  This is a beautiful one that I think you’ll really like!

look at me

Title: Look At Me! Wild Animal Show-Offs

Written & Illustrated By: Jim Arnosky

Sterling Children’s Books, September 4, 2018, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 6-10

Themes/Topics: animals, nonfiction

Opening: From the introduction written by the author: “Whenever I view a distant bird up close through my camera’s telephoto lens or hold a glistening trout in my hands as I release it back into the water, I am awestruck by their beauty.  Why are wild animals so stunningly beautiful?

From the first section: Fanned Tails: “Behold the glorious peacock! When fully displayed, a peacock’s spectacular tail is four feet wide and two feet high. That’s eight square feet of tail! Combined with the bird’s loud, raucous call, a displaying peacock gets plenty of attention.

Brief Synopsis: From the publisher’s summary: “Meet the show-offs! With their wacky eyebrows, beautiful patterns, and bright feathers and scales, many animals seem to be saying: “Look at ME!” That behavior certainly won’t protect them from predators, so why do they do it?  Jim Arnosky explores a multitude of creatures from across the globe to reveal the reasons behind their attention-grabbing behavior.”

Links To Resources: the book itself is an incredible resource.  Full of interesting facts, and amazingly detailed illustrations. An author’s note at the back gives a glimpse into the author’s experience and process of writing the book.  A useful bibliography of further resources is also included.  Draw a bird, animal, or reptile and decorate with your own feathers, textures, sequins, etc.  Make it as realistic as possible or invent your own creature and make it as fanciful as you like!

Why I Like This Book: I love learning about animals and nature, and this book is terrific for that.  The information presented is interesting and accessible, but actually, I truly love this book for the art!  The illustrations are exquisite!  Most of the pages fold out so that the illustrations are the size of 4 pages.  The colors and attention to detail are incredible.  This is an excellent choice for the animal and/or nonfiction-loving young reader and would make a great addition to classroom, library, or home bookshelves!


Look at the detail!


And here’s one of the fold out spreads that is 4 pages wide

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!!! 🙂


Perfect Picture Book Friday – Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story PLUS The Love Is Kind Giveaway Winner!!!

Woo hoo!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

And you know what that means . . .

The weekend is (for all intents and purposes) HERE!!!

Autumn weekends are the best, aren’t they?

Apple picking…cider donuts…fall foliage…cider donuts…pumpkin picking…cider donuts… hiking…cider donuts…I’m sure you get the point…cider donuts 🙂 )

Today, I’m sharing a book about nature – well, really about a person who truly loved and appreciated it – even though not specifically about autumn.  (And not at all about cider donuts – although I’m sure the book would be even more enjoyable with a plate of them to munch on 🙂 ) Have a look!

Gwen Frostic

Title: Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Written By: Lindsey McDivitt

Illustrated By: Eileen Ryan Ewen

Sleeping Bear Press, July 2018, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: nature/environment, overcoming disabilities, girl power, artists

Opening: “Gwen followed her brothers and sisters everywhere, like a small fawn follows its herd.  They roamed the woods and fields near Croswell – their tiny town tucked into the thumb of Michigan.  Gwen played and picked wildflowers.  But her hands were weakened from an illness as a baby.  Her speech was slurred, one small foot dragged, and she fell down often.  
     She bumped her shins.
          She bruised her knees.
               She banged her elbows.
“Gwen doesn’t need your help, Helen,” Mama called from the porch.  Mama knew Gwen could do whatever she put her mind to.

Brief Synopsis: A picture book biography of lesser-known environmental pioneer, artist, and businesswoman, Gwen Frostic, who rose above the challenges caused by a debilitating childhood illness to create nature-based artwork, help build WWII bombers, create her own printmaking business, and encourage people to appreciate, protect and cherish nature.

Links To Resources: the book itself is a resource, including back matter with additional biographical information on Gwen Frostic and a print-making art/nature activity; make your own leaf rubbings

Why I Like This Book: Most picture books are for kids up to age 8.  I love when the occasional one comes along that is intended for slightly older kids because, let’s face it – they love picture books too!  Educational and/or biographical information is so much more palatable in picture book format! :). This book is beautifully written, placing the emphasis on Gwen’s intelligence and determination to succeed in art, environmental protection and business, in spite of dire warnings in her youth that she’d never be able to write (never mind draw or carve) because her hands weren’t strong enough to hold a pencil and the fact that her physical disabilities made getting around difficult.  The repeated phrase that Gwen knew she could do whatever she set her mind to is inspirational and motivational for young readers.  I also love that Gwen was ahead of her time, doing things that women didn’t typically do.  Very empowering for young readers.  All around a very interesting book about a person I hadn’t heard of before!

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!!! 🙂

Oh, and if you missed the Halloweensie Contest announcement and want to work on your story this weekend, click HERE for the guidelines!!!

OH!  And I almost forgot to announce the winner of last week’s giveaway!  Laura Sassi and her generous publisher, Zonderkidz, offered a copy of LOVE IS KIND to one lucky commenter.  And the winner is . . .


Becky Scharnhorst!!!

So, Becky, give me a holler and I’ll put you and Laura in touch with each other so you can get your book!!!

Many thanks, Laura and Zonderkidz!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Love Is Kind with a GIVEAWAY!

Today is a special day!

Not only is it Perfect Picture Book Friday, it’s the day author Laura Sassi is stopping at my little blog on her blog tour!  (Thanks so much for joining us, Laura, and including us in the launch of this wonderful book!)

As a result, we have a great book to share as well as FANTASTIC activities from the author herself!

Let’s get right to it, shall we? 🙂


Title: Love Is Kind

WrittenBy: Laura Sassi

Illustrated By: Lison Chaperon

Zonderkidz, August 2018, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: love, kindness, doing the right thing

Opening: “Little Owl jingled the coins in his pocket.  It was Grammy’s birthday.  And, finally, he had enough money to buy her something special – a heart-shaped box of chocolates.
He took out the coins – so shiny and new – and ready to spend.  But then. . .

Brief Synopsis: Little Owl has planned a special gift for Grammy’s birthday, but one thing after another goes wrong.  He perseveres, doing the right thing even when it is difficult, and ends up giving Grammy an unplanned but even more wonderful gift.

Links To Resources: Today we have wonderful, special resources straight from the author!  Take it away, Laura! 🙂

(With apologies from me that the text is so crunched together – I  could not get this to format properly no matter what I did!)

Little Owl’s Tea Party: FIVE TIPS for Pairing Picture Books with a Tasty Treat
by Laura Sassi
Today I’m delighted to share with you a sweet baking activity created by French illustrator Lison Chaperon, with a little collaboration from the author (me!) to adapt the recipe to US measurements. Click HERE to download a high quality at scale version for better printing. I hope you enjoy it!
thumbnail_Little Owl Tea Party 1
thumbnail_Little Owl Tea Party 2
In addition to being absolutely delicious, this LOVE IS KIND-inspired baking activity has gotten me thinking about how wonderful it is when we pair picture books with a tasty book-themed treat. In doing so, not only are we giving our kids the opportunity to learn some baking/cooking skills, we are helping them to connect to the story in a new and fun way.  As we nibble and chat about the book, we’re also instilling in them a framework to talk about the stories we read and an opportunity to think about how picture books relate to our lives and the world. Finally, we’re fostering good critical thinking skills as we converse with our little ones about what treat would be best paired with a particular picture book.
With all these benefits in mind, here are FIVE tips for PAIRING PICTURE BOOKS with TASTY TREATS.

1. Pick any picture book.  (Better yet, let your child pick the book.)

2. Pre-read the story so you can gather your ingredients. Once you’ve selected your picture book, take a few minutes a day or two ahead of time so that you can anticipate what types of treats you and your child might want to create to pair with the story.  This way you can be sure to have the ingredients in stock for a seamless and tasty brainstorming to baking to eating experience. 
3. As you read with your child, ponder the treat-making possibilities. It’s most beneficial (and engaging) to your budding critical thinkers if you include them in the process of deciding what book-themed treat to create, though it’s perfectly acceptable, in my opinion, to gently lead them towards the ingredients you have on hand (see step two). As you are pondering, the treat might be obvious. For example, in my third book DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, Fernando the mouse loves gumdrops, popcorn, and cheese on try toast, so those would be obvious picks. 
4. Sometimes you will have to be creative!  Some picture books, however, won’t have such obvious choices. My recommendation, in these instances, is to pick a character or a defining element of the story and create a treat inspired by that.  For example, on her blog, Easy Elegant Entertaining™, trained chef and cookbook author (and mom to an adorable young budding reader), Addie Gundry, uses the concept of tails in GOODNIGHT, ARK to create an adorable book-themed treat. 
You can also create character-based cookies for almost any book, as my daughter did for Tara Lazar’s THE MONSTORE and my GOODNIGHT, ARK.

Tiger Cookies for Goodnight Ark

5. Have fun!  (Need I say more?) 


Thank you, Laura!  What a fun activity!

Why I Like This Book: The story is sweet with a beautiful message about what love really is (from 1.Corinthians.13). While the story unfolds, the lovely words from the Bible verse appear in dreamy lettering in the background – on the breeze, in a rainbow, etc.  Not at all heavy-handed, but beautifully woven into the story.  Little Owl’s behavior and reactions are realistic and believable – frustration, disappointment, envy, sadness – but he doesn’t give in to his negative emotions, choosing instead to be a good person.  He shows up at Grammy’s empty-handed and unhappy, only to find that by being himself he has given her the best gift of all.  The art is warm and appealing, and Little Owl is adorable 🙂

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

Here’s the book trailer in case you’d like a further glimpse of the book!

Laura Sassi with Sunflowers

Children’s Author Laura Sassi

Laura Sassi
Children’s book author and poet
GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)
GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, October ’15)
LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, Fall  ’18)

The publisher has generously offered a giveaway of one copy of LOVE IS KIND to one of our readers. To qualify, you must be a U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box) and at least 18 years old to enter.  If you wish to be considered, please leave a comment below indicating your interest by Monday October 8 at 9PM Eastern and we will randomly select a lucky winner!

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!!! 🙂

(And don’t forget to enter the giveaway if you’re interested!)

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Garden Party: A Counting Adventure Book

Hurray!  It’s Friday!

Every Perfect Picture Book Friday is fun because I get to share a book I really like with all of you and see what books you’re all loving this week.

But PPBF is especially fun when I get to share a book I love that happens to have been written by a friend!  (A friend who, coincidentally, I got to have coffee and blueberry muffins and a lovely chat with yesterday morning 🙂 )

As this book involves a garden, you could work it into any seasonal discussion or classroom unit (spring planting, summer growing, winter dormant) but since it’s harvest time, why not read it and share it right now? 🙂

Garden Party

Title: Garden Party: A Counting Adventure Book

Written By: Tania Guarino

Illustrated By: Emma Allen

Spork (Clear Fork Publishing), September 2018, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-6

Themes/Topics: concept (counting), animals, language fun (rhyme), nature/gardens

Opening: “One (1) bunny in a burrow on Farmer Dale’s trail,
wakes with a shake and a wiggle of her tail.
She starts with a hop by an old tin pail,
wiggle, hop, wiggle…down Farmer Dale’s trail.”

Brief Synopsis: One after another, the woodland friends join the group heading down Farmer Dale’s trail, following the bunny who may be the only one with a plan 🙂

Links To Resources: author’s website coloring pages and activities; 10 different animals are mentioned in the story. What other animals can you think of who could join the garden party?  Draw one (or more!), and describe how they would move or sound (e.g. “swishy swoosh swoosh”); which of the animals mentioned in the book do you think Farmer Dale would be most unhappy about having in his garden? Why?  Which ones might he be glad to have? Why? Easy Recipe for Carrot Cake

Why I Like This Book:  There are so many things to love about this book!  Where to start?  At the beginning, I guess :). The bunny who sets the whole adventure in motion clearly has a plan (the illustration shows the stockpile of carrots she has already gathered in her burrow.). She heads off toward the garden for more and is joined by 2 skunks, 3 fawns, 4 foxes, etc on her counting adventure.  Midway through the story, the rollicking rhythm of the adventure is beautifully paused by the arrival of the 5 snails, who bring the whole crew to a screeching halt.  But before you know it they’re all on their way again, the snails hitching a ride on the faster animals 🙂 I won’t give away the ending – you’ll have to read the book!  The rhyming story is nicely written and fun to read aloud.  Kids will enjoy the different sounds and movements used to describe the animals’ way of going (e.g. “wiggle, hop, wiggle” and “swishy, swoosh, swoosh”) and being able to chime in on the anticipated repetition of “down Farmer Dale’s trail!”.  The art is bright, colorful, and lively, and young readers will have a great time searching the illustrations to find all the snails!


text copyright Tania Guarino 2018, illustration copyright Emma Allen 2018

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!!! 🙂


Perfect Picture Book Friday – Noah Webster And His Words

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday and – can you believe it? – the official last day of summer 2018!

I love the crisp air, the jeweled colors, and the cider donuts of autumn, but I feel like summer went by in a blink!

I hope all your falls get off to a lovely start this weekend with some family apple picking, or an outdoor music festival…or maybe a trip to Princeton Children’s Book Festival – that’s where I’m headed! 🙂

For today’s Perfect Picture Book I decided to go the educational route… but it’s also tons of fun!  Have a look!

Noah Webster

Title: Noah Webster And His Words

Written By: Jeri Chase Ferris

Illustrated By: Vincent X. Kirsch

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books For Young Readers, 2012, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages:  3-7

Themes/Topics: American history, vocabulary/language, dictionaries, biography, nonfiction

Opening: “Noah Webster always knew he was right, and he never got tired of saying so (even if, sometimes, he wasn’t).  He was, he said, “full of CON-FI-DENCE” [noun: belief that one is right] from the very beginning.

Brief Synopsis: This book tells the story of Noah Webster’s life and how he wrote the first American dictionary in an effort both to educate and to help unite the new United States.

Links To Resources: The book itself is a resource as it teaches the life of Noah Webster and the period of American history is was part of. There is a useful timeline in the back matter as well as a section entitled “More About Noah Webster” and a helpful bibliography.  For a fun classroom game, play Dictionary (where one student chooses a word from the dictionary and writes down the correct definition and everyone else writes down a made up definition.  All definitions are read aloud and the class votes for which is the real one…and you see if the real one wins or one of the made up ones!)

Why I Like This Book: Not only is this book interesting – full of information about Noah Wester and his creation of the first American dictionary – it’s fun!  There is a surprising amount of humor, both in the text and in the illustrations.  I also love the clever way some of the vocabulary words in the text are woven in like dictionary entries!  The book brings Noah Webster to life in a way that illuminates his personality.  It’s a perfect example of how to write nonfiction so that young readers enjoy the learning experience.

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!!! 🙂

Hope to see anyone who is in the neighborhood at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival tomorrow! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Allie All Along

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday again, folks, and isn’t that nice?

Not only does it mean the weekend is basically here, it also gives us a great list of new picture books to enjoy during it!

So get ready to make a list for the library! 🙂

My choice for today is all about something a lot of kids (and adults) find hard – how to manage feeling angry.

Allie All Along

Title: Allie All Along

Written & Illustrated By: Sarah Lynne Reul

Sterling Children’s Books, August 2018, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: emotions (anger), understanding, siblings

Opening: “SNAP! Allie’s crayon broke.  I blinked.  She was suddenly furious, fuming, frustrated, and so, so, sooo ANGRY!”

Brief Synopsis: When Allie’s crayon breaks, she gets really, really, really angry!  Her brother knows Allie is still in there somewhere, but it’s hard to see her under all that anger.  There has to be a way to make things right again.

Links To Resources: Anger Management Games And Activities For Kids (scroll down to that section); Helping Kids Learn About Facial Expressions and Feelings ; talk about what makes you angry and what are some constructive ways to cope with that anger.

Why I Like This Book: We all know that feeling when something happens – maybe even something that doesn’t seem like a big deal to anyone else – that sends us over the edge of fury.  Emotion that large is hard for anyone to manage, especially a young person who hasn’t had a lot of practice.  I love that this book shows the situation that causes the anger (a broken crayon), the immensity of the anger and how the individual feeling it can get lost within it, and a caring person (in this case Allie’s brother) who understands her anger and helps by offering a variety of constructive ways to deal with it until Allie emerges, once again herself.  It’s simply and beautifully done, and will remind your little ones that they are not alone in feeling angry sometimes.

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!!! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – No Frogs In School

Welcome back to Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

After a summer of not reviewing, I have so many books I want to share that it’s hard to choose just one!  But I opted for one that had a connection to school since a lot of us are pretty focused on that this week!  I hope you like it, too! 🙂

No Frogs In School

Title: No Frogs In School

Written By: A. LaFaye

Illustrated By: Eglantine Ceulemans

Sterling Children’s Books, August 2018, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: pets, following rules, school

Opening: “Bartholomew Botts loved pets.  Hoppy pets, hairy pets, and scaly pets.He loved them all so much that he couldn’t go to school without one.”

Brief Synopsis:  Bartholomew Botts loves his pets so much that he wants to bring one to school.  But his teacher, Mr. Patanoose, has a whole lot of rules about what’s allowed in school!  Is there a way to follow the rules and still have a pet in school?

Links To Resources: make your own jumping frog (easy video tutorial); Frog Activities And Fun Ideas For Kids (crafts, games, recipes, etc.)

Why I Like This Book: Bartholomew is endearing, and his love for his pets is so genuine and relatable!  Who among us hasn’t wanted to bring a pet to school at least once?  I love that Bartholomew doesn’t limit his choice of pet to cute and furry.  Yes, he has a hamster, but he also has a frog and a salamander and a snake…among others :)… and he loves and appreciates them all.  I love how earnestly he tries to respect his teacher’s rules while still trying to find a way for his pets to accompany him.  And I love the clever solution he engineers at the end 🙂  The illustrations are lively and fun, and kids will have a great time finding all the animals on every page.

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!  (And I apologize in advance – something has changed about the google form and spreadsheet and it looks wrong… I will try to figure out how to fix it before next week!)

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

The Tuesday Debut Debut – Presenting Christy Mihaly!

Hey, Hey, Hay!  Welcome to Tuesday Debuts!

In this new series, we’re going to get all the juicy details from first-time picture book authors about how they went from pre-published to published.  I hope it will be interesting, informative, and inspirational for all of us – published and yet-to-be-published alike.  It’s always fun to hear the story behind the story, and there is always so much we can learn from each other!  I hope you’ll get a sense of the hands-on publishing process and that the information shared here might help you in your own journey by giving you tips or even giving you inspiration from another author’s process to spark new work of your own!

So!  Without further ado…

Introducing Christy’s first picture book:

Hey, Hey, Hay! (A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them)
By Christy Mihaly, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
Holiday House, August 14, 2018
Informational picture book
4-8 years

HEY, HEY, HAY! Cover
In this joyful rhyming story, a farm girl brings the reader along as she and her mother make hay. She introduces each of the machines they use to cut, dry, and bale the grass, as they “store summer in a bale.”

And now, introducing Christy!


Chirsty Mihaly, debut picture book author, canoeing (which may or may not have anything to do with either haying or writing but is still beautiful and fun 🙂 )


SLH: Welcome, Christy!  Thank you so much for joining us today, and for being the guinea pig for this new series – so brave of you!  There will be extra chocolate in your Christmas stocking 🙂  Let’s start from the beginning.  Where did the idea for this book come from?

CM: The idea for this book showed up right under my nose, in the summer of 2014. I was working on a couple of picture book biographies (which are still unpublished) when my family moved to a new home surrounded by hayfields. The process of turning grass into hay was beautiful and fascinating. The scent of new-mown grass filled the air and the rhythm of the machines (mower, tedder, baler, hay!) got into my head. Then these lines started running around in my mind: “Listen and I’ll tell the tale of storing summer in a bale.”


Haying in action! The inspiration for this book!

SLH: How long did it take you to write this book?

CM: I wrote the first draft—which was basically a poem—over several weeks of on-and-off writing. It was short, sweet, and rhyming. But it wasn’t very good. Revising and polishing (with some sitting and stewing) took about seven months more.

SLH: Did you go through many revisions?

CM: Yes. I began with a poem called “Haying Time.” At first it didn’t occur to me that this could constitute a book. Then, when I realized that haymaking had picture book potential, I put on my nonfiction-writer hat. I could not find another book for kids about how hay is made. I researched all about hay and hayfields and haying technology and the history of hay. I wrote a manuscript with layered text and all kinds of sidebars (Monet painted famous pictures of haystacks! In the old days, people used scythes!) and footnotes. Eventually my critique partners convinced me to simplify (thank goodness) back down to a straightforward rhyming story.

I made many changes in the words of the text. How’s this for a sample stanza of the original poem: “The baler forms it into bales/While I keep watch, in case it fails.”


There’s one revision I’m particularly happy that I made: in the original version, the child narrator helped Dad with the haying; I changed it to helping Mom. Because many farmers are women.


interior spread showing Farmer Mom 🙂


SLH: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

CM: I had been submitting other manuscripts, so I should have known, but I was so excited to send this one out that I made the mistake of submitting it too soon. And it was rejected.

After that, I took a break from it. Then I signed up for an online writing course and brought the HAY manuscript to the class for a critique. My classmates and instructor confirmed that it had potential, and they suggested ways to make it snappier. After about 5 months of revisions, I knew it was really ready to submit.

SLH: When and how did you submit?

CM: I give credit to my writing buddies for what finally happened with HAY. At the urging of several critique partners, I applied to the Falling Leaves writing conference, which was new to me. For the editor’s one-on-one critique, I submitted a different nonfiction manuscript, which I’d been working on forever. I was accepted to the conference, and my assigned editor loved that manuscript (though it’s unpublished still). She didn’t like HAY at all—she doesn’t do rhyming books.

But! Another editor at Falling Leaves that year was Grace Maccarone, executive editor at Holiday House. I was impressed with her; she seemed calm and wise and funny. Based on what she said she was seeking (and that she liked rhyme), I thought HAY might be a good fit for her. However, (see #4 above), I needed to revise first.

I reviewed other Holiday House books and saw that many were related to farming and food. That seemed like a good sign. So about four months after meeting Grace, I emailed my revised manuscript, now called “Mower, Tedder, Baler—Hay!” to her. I mentioned that we’d met at Falling Leaves, I cited other farm-related books from Holiday House, and I crossed my fingers.

SLH: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 🙂 )

CM: So … I have learned that this part is unusual (though remember HAY had been through prior rejections and revisions). I emailed the manuscript to Grace on a Friday. The following Monday, she emailed back. She said she thought HAY was “adorable” and that she’d share it with her colleagues at their next editorial meeting! [We interrupt this program to say how awesome is THAT?!  We all dream of a response like that, and speaking for myself, I’ve never gotten a positive reply in 3 days!  WOW! 🙂 ]

Of course, I didn’t know when that was going to be, and I was too nervous to ask, so I just waited. And waited. And waited. Two weeks later, Grace emailed again with an offer to publish the book.

dog bale

Christy’s dog, wildly excited about the book sale, pointing out a round bale in the field

SLH: How did you celebrate signing your contract?  (If you care to share 🙂 )

CM: I believe it was a quiet celebration at home. I may have been in shock.

SLH: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

CM: I had no idea what to expect. I remember mostly the excitement of an offer. One thing that sticks in my mind is that it took much longer than I’d anticipated to receive the contract. The document didn’t arrive until several months after the offer (and negotiation), which I hadn’t realized was normal.

I didn’t have an agent, so I found a knowledgeable lawyer (referred by another writer I met at Falling Leaves) to help review the offer and contract—I think the cost was about $250 and it was well worth it. It was reassuring to have an experienced person evaluate the offer. She said the basics (advance, royalties, etc.) were good, and we just negotiated to improve little things like getting more author copies of the book.

Aside from SLH: for the curious, I usually get 10-20 author copies of my books, and 5% is a pretty standard royalty percentage for authors (may be different for illustrators or author/illustrators) on hard covers from traditional trade publishers although there is variation on both those things.

SLH: Tell us about the editorial process?

CM: I generally enjoy working with editors. With HAY, it was great. It was clear that Grace cared about the book as much as I did.

One editorial discussion we had was about switchel, the traditional haymakers’ drink. In the initial offer, Grace indicated that her colleagues had an issue with my use of the term switchel. They thought it was too obscure – kids wouldn’t know it. (Of course they wouldn’t! That was the point.) I argued that kids would enjoy learning this fun new word.

Eventually, in the final edits, switchel stayed. It helped that there’s a company in Brooklyn, NY, that makes and bottles switchel. We included “switchel” as a term in the book’s glossary of haymaking terms, and also added a recipe so families could make their own switchel. Win-win!

SLH: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

CM: About six months after we signed the contract, I went to the SCBWI conference in New York, and Grace invited me to meet her in her office on Madison Avenue. (Squeee!) She took me to lunch, where she told me she’d signed Joe Cepeda to illustrate HAY. I was excited because I knew his work – he is very well established, a great artist, and in fact had illustrated a friend’s picture book years before.

After that, there was more than a year of waiting for Joe to complete the art. When she received his illustrations, Grace worked on the layout of the book. She sent me a pdf of the first pass: scans of Joe’s paintings, with the text laid out page by page, and post-its and mark-ups with questions and notes. Woo! It was a thrill to see that. I loved the vision that Joe brought to the book. He took this little Vermont story and made it universal, painting a beautiful farm that could be in the Midwest or the west as easily as in the east. I’m especially thrilled that he portrayed my first-person narrator as a girl.


Grace’s office with HAY underway

With the layout, Grace sent a mark-up of my text, with suggested revisions. After that, we had several phone conversations to go over questions. We adjusted a few lines to make the words consistent with the illustrations. Because it’s a rhyming book, those small revisions can be tricky. I provided Grace with alternatives for substitute couplets that might work, and she selected her favorite.

Then, Grace and the designers adjusted the page breaks, the end papers, the design and location of the glossary and the recipe, the dedication – all those little things that are so important in the book’s look and feel. Grace sent me updated pdf’s showing these steps. We made sure the illustrations accurately portrayed the haying process. Finally it was out of my hands and I could (try to) relax in the knowledge that our book was going to be gorgeous.

SLH: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

CM: Yes! Grace (and the publicity folks at Holiday House, who are also lovely) forwarded me advance copies of the Kirkus and SLJ reviews. I was really nervous about reviews, and very relieved when the reviewers “got” my book and wrote about it positively. Whew.

SLH: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

CM: Two years and 10 months.

Aside from SLH: I’ve had picture books come together in as short as just over a year to as long as one that’s been in process for 6 years and isn’t out yet, but I think 2 – 2.5 years is pretty average… in so far as anything in this business is average 🙂


SLH: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

CM: Oh, now you are making me nervous.

SLH: That was a trick question for you because your book just came out today!  I just wanted to see if you were paying attention 🙂  Get back to us in 6-12 months 🙂

SLH: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

CM: As a committed introvert, I find all of this outside my comfort zone. But because this is my first trade book I resolved to learn what I needed to learn, and do what I needed to do, to promote it. I joined the “Epic Eighteen” gang, a group of debut picture book writers and illustrators whose first books are scheduled for 2018 release (many thanks to Hannah Holt and friends). This has been an incredibly helpful source of information-sharing and support through a shared Facebook page, a mutual blog, and some in-person meetings.

Leading up to the book’s release, I sent many emails to the very helpful publicity folks at Holiday House. They answered my clueless questions and explained how this stressful process works. They sent out hundreds of advance copies to reviewers, and submitted my book to book festivals, etc. They also explained that the writer is generally responsible for the rest of the promotional tasks.

I set up a pre-order campaign with my local indie bookstore, Bear Pond Books. Folks who place advance orders online from Bear Pond receive a discount and special gift, and once the book is out I sign the books, with a personalization if requested, and Bear Pond ships them out.

I also ordered postcards, bookmarks, and bookplates (to personalize books for people that buy their own elsewhere) using art from the book. (The author pays for these.) Preparing for readings at bookstores and libraries, I developed book-specific crafts and hay-related activities to engage the kids. To practice reading my book to kids, I read an advance copy to a local first grade class (and got some helpful feedback). And I read it to my 2-year-old grandson, who is too young for the book but who loved the tractor pictures and thereafter greeted me by saying “Nana! Book! Hey, Hey, Hay!!!”


Future hay-er, Christy’s grandson 🙂

I arranged with some fabulous kidlit bloggers to do interviews and posts for a blog around the release. And I scheduled a bunch of HAY events: a reading and hay activities at a farm, library story times, bookstore readings, an appearance at university book festival, another at an arts festival in a small town . . . and we’ll see how all that goes!


reading to first-graders

Things I didn’t do (because you can’t do everything): a book trailer, stickers, and tattoos. Oh, and a huge launch party. I decided a small celebration is more my speed.

SLH: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

CM: Short answer: almost four years.

More info: I started putting serious energy into writing for kids in the fall of 2011. I focused on magazine submissions, and was thrilled to see my first story published in an (unpaid) online magazine in 2012. As I learned more about the magazine market, I sent out queries and more submissions and started selling articles.

And it turned out that HAY was not my first published book, although it is my first trade book. In 2015 I began writing books for the educational market on a work-for-hire basis, and I’ve now published 7 in that market.

SLH: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

CM: I think of myself as a nonfiction writer, so it’s ironic that HAY, a book featuring a fictional narrator, is my first published picture book. It’s informational of course (back matter!), but fiction. I’m glad that when this unexpected idea came wafting over the hayfields to find me, even though was so unlike the historical stories I thought I was meant to tell, I ran with it.

SLH:  Christy, thank you so much for kicking off our new series so fabulously!  I know I speak for all of us when I wish you the very best with your book!  For those who would like to support Christy, please shop for her book at your favorite bookseller, make sure your local library has a copy (you can request they get one if they don’t already have it), read her book and post reviews on GoodReads and any online bookstore you frequent, or share a nice review on your blog or FB page, donate a copy to your child’s school library, consider as a gift to a young reader in your life, stand on a street corner and wave flyers, or anything else you can think of! 🙂

If you’d like to know more about Christy or be in touch with her online, you can find her here:

Website: closeup

Twitter: @CMwriter4kids

Instagram: @Christy Mihaly

Facebook author page:

Blogging at GROG:

Thanks again to Christy for participating, and to all of you for reading!  If you have any questions for Christy, please use the comment section below!

P.S. We started Tuesday Debuts today even though many of us (myself included) are technically on Summer Blogcation because today is the day of Christy’s book release.  The series will continue with regularity in September.  We’re just whetting your appetite 🙂