Tuesday Debut – Presenting Cynthia Argentine!

It’s Tuesday, so you know what that means!

Time for a brand new Tuesday Debut!

It’s so much fun to meet new authors, isn’t it? And see the wonderful books they’ve created? And hear about how they got from writing and hoping to PUBLISHED! 😊

I also love the opportunity to learn about the creative process involved for all different kinds of books. We’ve have authors, and illustrators, and author/illustrators, fiction and nonfiction, religious, dyslexia-friendly, self-published. . . and today, we’ve got a debut book that is “illustrated” with photographs! Something new for us to educate ourselves about!

So without further ado, I’m delighted to present today’s Tuesday Debut-ess, Cynthia Argentine, and her gorgeous book, NIGHT BECOMES DAY: CHANGES IN NATURE!

Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature
written by Cynthia Argentine
no illustrator (illustrated with photographs)
Millbrook Press, a division of Lerner Publishing Group
ages 4-9

Whether sudden or gradual, change is a constant in our world. NIGHT BECOMES DAY shows the beauty and power of nature through transformations happening all around us. Pairing lyrical text with vivid photos, the book takes readers from beaches and woods to caves, canyons, glaciers, and more.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Cynthia! We are thrilled to have you here today, and so excited to learn about your journey to publication! Where did the idea for this book come from?

CYNTHIA: Thanks so much for having me, Susanna!

Three specific things came together to inspire this book:

  1. spring outside my window
  2. a class called Nonfiction Archaeology, and
  3. broccoli. (I’ll explain!)

It was March of 2017, and I was taking an online class called Nonfiction Archaeology led by Kristen Fulton. One assignment was to come up with an idea for a science-based, nonfiction picture book. Noticing the spring transformations happening right outside my window, I started listing them. I thought about how familiar some changes were and how surprising others could be. The first time I grew broccoli, for example, I discovered—lo and behold!—it could turn into a bouquet of yellow blossoms. I realized children might be interested in learning about all sorts of transformations as well.

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

CYNTHIA: Digging up the answer to this question was enlightening! I went back through old computer files, and my first document related to this project was dated March 20, 2017 and titled “Nature Changing Cycling Surprising Picture Book Compass.” I was clearly just brainstorming at that point! But in that document, I worked out my central nugget and theme. Key phrases included “nature is constantly changing” and “this view of nature brings awe, wonder, beauty, and interconnectedness to our world.” Those statements guided my writing from initial idea to publication.

As for the actual timing…. I looked back at my file history and discovered this:

  • I spent ten hours, spread over three evenings, writing my first draft, which is strikingly similar to the published text.
  • Before starting that first draft, I spent five days pre-writing. This included jotting down ideas. Tapping into childhood memories. Categorizing changes by scientific discipline. Playing with pairs of opposites. Reading other nonfiction mentor texts. Developing a satisfying beginning, middle, and end. Organizing an outline. And mocking up a 32-page dummy.

SUSANNA: Wow! Not only are you way more organized than I am in your pre-writing, you know how many days and hours you spent! What amazing record-keeping! Did you go through many revisions?

CYNTHIA: Yes! I revised the initial manuscript off and on for about a year, putting it away for days or weeks at a time. During that period, I also did a lot of research to support and expand the scientific aspects of the book. Some of that research became part of the back matter.

My wonderful critique partners played a part in the revision process, too. We read each other’s work individually and then meet to discuss it. This helps me identify both the strong and weak points in a manuscript.

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

CYNTHIA: When I faced a deadline! 😉 There is nothing like a deadline for motivation. The deadline for this submission came in the form of a blog post written by Carol Hinz at Millbrook Press (a division of Lerner Publishing). I knew that Lerner published the kinds of books I was interested in writing, so I had already subscribed to their blog. In March of 2018, the blog post advertised a call for nonfiction manuscripts for grades K-3 that could be illustrated with photographs. (Learn more about that here.) I had read and admired several books published by Millbrook and edited by Hinz, so I was excited to have an opportunity to submit to them.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

CYNTHIA: On April 30, 2018, I emailed Lerner my manuscript. I don’t have an agent, so I recognized this as an important opportunity. I had developed a list of other houses that accepted nonfiction from un-agented authors, but I never submitted this manuscript elsewhere.

SUSANNA: How long after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

CYNTHIA: In August, four months after my submission, I got an email from Carol Hinz saying it was “a strong manuscript” and she’d like some more time to consider it. Four months after that, in December, Carol said yes—she wanted to take it to acquisitions! YAY! That was a wonderful Christmas present.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

CYNTHIA: Less than a month later, on January 11, 2019, Carol emailed to say that Lerner wanted to acquire it! Happy New Year!

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

CYNTHIA: Less than two months. Lerner and I both signed shortly after that. The contracts department at Lerner was helpful and friendly.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

CYNTHIA: I strongly believe in celebrating milestones, but I honestly don’t remember whether I did anything special to commemorate signing. I do remember the night I got the “yes” from acquisitions. I ran downstairs, told everyone in my family, and had extra ice cream for dessert!

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

CYNTHIA: I was working on a middle-grade, work-for-hire book around this same time, and I will say that my payment for that book and the advance on this book were in the same ballpark. Lerner isn’t a big-five house, and I was a first-time author with them, so the advance wasn’t large. Nonetheless, there were benefits. I felt it was a great place for this manuscript, and I was excited to work with Carol Hinz based on the excellence of the other K-3 photo nonfiction Millbrook Press had recently produced. I was able to negotiate for an escalation clause on royalties and for additional author copies (25).

SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

CYNTHIA: The book was slated for publication two years out (2021), so we didn’t begin the editorial process right away. In February of 2020, a member of the editorial staff contacted me and recommended a few minor line edits. Then that editor left, and the pandemic spread, and we learned that Lerner was pushing back publication from Spring to Fall 2021.

The editorial process resumed in earnest in December of 2020. Carol Hinz completely understood my vision for the book, and it was great to work with her on it. She had ideas for strengthening the manuscript and particularly encouraged me to carefully consider the opposite pairs. (The book is structured around opposite types of change.) We also exchanged many emails about details in the back matter, making sure the science was as clear and accurate as possible. Her editorial work definitely improved the book.

SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

CYNTHIA: One of the interesting things about this project is that it is illustrated with photographs. I did not envision it that way when I wrote it—I pictured drawings and paintings. But when Lerner’s open call requested books that could be photo-illustrated, I realized mine had that potential. In the end, it worked out beautifully! The vibrancy of the photos invites readers to take a closer look.

interior spread – text copyright Cynthia Argentine 2021 Millbrook Press

Lerner’s art department handled the photo selection and permissions. Mary Ross at Lerner did the design. In most cases, the initial photos they selected were exactly what I was describing. The beaches, caves, glaciers, and mountains were stunning! In a couple cases, the initial photo choices had to be adjusted. For example, I wanted a photo to show an additional stage in the transformation from flower to fruit. They added one to accomplish that. In another case, they could not find a photo to exactly match what I had described in the text, so I revised the text to match the photo they suggested. It was definitely a collaborative process, and I’m grateful for that.

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

CYNTHIA: One has come in so far! Kirkus praised the book, saying it

  • “leads readers to notice and seek out the many changes that are taking place in their world,”
  • “simultaneously folds in a lesson in opposites,” and
  • “will hold readers’ interest.”

Lerner put an advance digital copy on NetGalley.com as well. It received great reviews from teachers, parents, and librarians there. It’s so rewarding to see the book connect with and inspire readers. Thank you, advance reviewers!

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

CYNTHIA: My author copies should be arriving any day! It will have been two years and eight months.

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

CYNTHIA: In addition to submitting the book to major review journals and putting it on NetGalley.com, Lerner mailed hard copies to several media outlets. They helped me make a promo video of the book and posted it online here. They are actively promoting the book on social media and their website as well. And they sent me a packet a few months ago with information about what I could do.

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

CYNTHIA: There has been so much to learn in this area! I have lined up several local in-person events, including a book-birthday bash with my local library and our nature center. My town is featuring Night Becomes Day in its StoryWalk installation during the month of October. And I’m doing a virtual book launch with SK Wenger through The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas on October 9. (It’s free! Come join us!)

I’m also part of two co-marking groups—21forthebooks and STEAMTeam2021—both of which have been so valuable. I highly recommend having partners to help you climb the learning curve! I made bookmarks and stickers using Canva and Vistaprint online. I partnered with Deb Gonzales to build Pinterest pins and a teacher’s guide related to my book. And I’m appearing on several blogs in October in addition to this one. I also have prepared presentations with ties to my book. In August, I gave a webinar called “Science—An Open Door to Creativity” for the Montessori Family Alliance. In November, I’m presenting a webinar called “Nonfiction: A Vast, Vibrant Genre from Board Books to Middle Grade.” It’s hosted by Indiana SCBWI and you can learn more here!

example of Pinterest pin created by Deb Gonzales

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

CYNTHIA: I started writing for children in 2007 with a course through the Institute for Children’s Literature. I discovered I loved writing nonfiction articles and began regularly contributing to children’s magazines such as Odyssey: Adventures in Science and ChemMatters. Then, in 2016, I found a subject that deserved more than an article. This woman needed to be the focus of a picture book biography. At that point, I shifted my energy into learning how to write picture books, which are very different from magazine articles. So, if I count back to that point in 2016, it took three years. If I count back to that first course in 2007, it took twelve years.

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

CYNTHIA: For most of us, writing is a calling. It’s something we do despite the fact that some stories may never sell and our books may not yield significant financial gain. We do it because we have felt something in this world that moved us, and we want to share that experience and emotion with someone else. We see that writing forges connections—connections between us and our subjects, between us and our critique partners, between us and our readers.

Writing for children is an art form. Like all art, it has the capacity to be beautiful, resonant, and unique. Good books for children develop through the accumulated insights of years. Invest the time, and recognize that creating books is a worthy calling.

Author Cynthia Argentine

Pinterest @CynthiaArgentine
Twitter @CindyArgentine
Instagram @argentine_writer

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Cynthia! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience, and wish you all the very best with this and future titles!

Readers, if you have questions for Cynthia, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Cynthia’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)


We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Mess That We Made

Welcome to the Day-After-Earth-Day edition of Perfect Picture Book Friday!

To celebrate Earth Day, I have an absolutely wonderful book to share – one I think you’ll all enjoy and appreciate! (It is one of those wish-I’d-written-this! books 😊)

Title: The Mess That We Made

Written By: Michelle Lord

Illustrated By: Julia Blattman

Publisher: Flashlight Press, January 2020, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 5-7

Themes/Topics: environmental issues – importance of awareness and change

Opening: “THIS is the mess that we made.

These are the fish that swim in the mess that we made.

This is the seal
that eats the fish
that swim in the mess that we made.”

text copyright Michelle Lord 2020, illustration copyright Julia Blattman 2020, Flashlight Press

Brief Synopsis: [From the publisher] “The Mess That We Made explores the environmental impact of trash and plastic on the ocean and marine life, and it inspires kids to do their part to combat pollution.”

Links To Resources: The Mess That We Made Word Search; book back matter Includes facts about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, ocean pollution, and Calls to Action for kids and grown‑ups to share.

Why I Like This Book: In the cumulative tale tradition of This Is The House That Jack Built, this rhythmic, sometimes rhyming story shows kids in an age-appropriate way how human behavior is affecting the ocean ecosystem. The vibrant art shows what is happening to the ocean water and the creatures who live there without being so explicit that it would be upsetting. As the story progresses, the illustrations show more and more garbage in the water, building to a full page spread with the very simple text: “Look at the mess that we made.”

text copyright Michelle Lord 2020, illustration copyright Julia Blattman 2020, Flashlight Press

This spread invites readers to pause and really look at and think about what we, as humans, are doing to the world. But the story does not end on that distressing note. Instead, it turns a corner and begins to show all the things we can do to make things better, until it ends on a positive note:

text copyright Michelle Lord 2020, illustration copyright Julia Blattman 2020, Flashlight Press

The book has an important message, handled deftly, so that young readers understand the necessity of change and feel empowered to make it. The back matter includes additional interesting and educational material. A wonderful choice for every library!

In case you’d like to see more, here is the book trailer:

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! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Listening To The Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars PLUS Author Q&A, Special Activities, AND A Giveaway!

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Today I have a special treat for you!

I’m going to share the book first, so you can see what we’re talking about, and then I have a little Q&A with the author that I think writers, teachers, parents, and all readers will find very interesting as well as some activities that she prepared especially for us to do with our children and students! So please see below in the “Links to Resources” section for all that bonus material! (It includes a recipe for Disappearing Crunch Cookies and I know you won’t want to miss that! 😊)

As if all that weren’t enough, the publisher, Albert Whitman, is offering a copy! So if you leave a comment on this post between now and Thursday April 8, you will be eligible for the random drawing that could make you a winner!

Title: Listening To The Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars

Written By: Jodie Parachini

Illustrated By: Alexandra Badiu

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, April 1, 2021, Nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: biography, astrophysics, astronomy, girl power

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Opening: “Does the galaxy have a sound?

Is it loud and full of thunderous booms?
Soft murmurings, whooshing whispers?
Blips and bloops, like laughter and hiccups?


When Jocelyn Bell was young,
she never dreamed that she would spend
her life listening to the stars.

But sometimes, if you open your mind,
you can hear the universe.”

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Brief Synopsis: A biography of astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who helped build a radio telescope that contributed to her discovery of pulsars, which some scientists consider to be the greatest astronomical discovery of the twentieth century.

Links To Resources: the back of the book includes a glossary and an author’s note; and I have a special treat for you – some activities from author Jodie Parachini!

Welcome, Jodie! Thank you for joining us!

What drew you to this subject?

The first question people ask when I tell them I wrote a book about Jocelyn Bell Burnell, is

“who’s that?”

When I explain that she’s an astrophysicist who discovered an astronomical marvel called pulsars, they ask,

“Why haven’t I heard of her?”

Exactly. Then when I mention that she wasn’t awarded a Nobel Prize for it (it went to her male colleagues), they stare in wonder and say,

“Haven’t I heard this story before?”

Yes, sadly. Women such as Rosalind Franklin (who worked on the structure of DNA with Watson and Crick), Chien-Shiung Wu (who worked on the Manhattan Project), and Lise Meitner (who helped discover nuclear fission), were rarely acknowledged for the incredible contributions they made to science. But one of the reasons I love writing picture books is to get these stories out there. Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s story, like those of so many women who work in the STEM fields, should be read, discussed, treasured, and celebrated.

Which do you prefer writing, fiction or nonfiction?

Great question! But I can’t answer it—it’s like choosing which child is my favorite.

I’m drawn to telling stories and I tend to pounce on whatever idea strikes me at the moment. Which means I usually have a few picture book ideas in progress at once. Sometimes I can’t get a rhyme out of my head and other times I hear a story on the news and think I MUST research it further. I let my haphazard brain lead the way!

The nonfiction appeals to my inquisitive and curious nature, the fiction to my creative side. I’m sure there’s a right brain/left brain comment that could be made about this! Hmmm, Righty wants to go to the Library while Lefty wants to pick daisies… I sense a new picture book idea percolating!

I have four more nonfiction and three fiction books coming out in the next two years, so luckily I don’t have to choose between Righty and Lefty!

Do you have any advice for other writers on getting published?

I do not have a traditional publishing story. Like many writers, I spent years getting rejections (I still do). I’ve never had an agent (ahem, see what I mean about rejections?) but I’ve been persistent about following up every opportunity possible when it comes to my manuscripts. Sometimes that means:

1. Pursuing every lead with editors or publishers you meet (for example, I met an art director at a conference. He didn’t think the first story I pitched was right for his publishing house, but I followed up with another in an email, and that one will be published in 2022. I could have just licked my wounds and retreated after the first rejection but sometimes perseverance is key.)

2. Believe in your work, but be flexible enough to alter it. Editors often know the market better than writers. Sometimes it takes (what feels like) hundreds of rewrites to get to the final product. Why start out with a fixed, single-minded vision when collaboration (with awesome editors and amazing illustrators!) is so much fun!?

3. Most writers jump into querying agents/publishers too quickly. The dream of being published is powerful, but I have found that taking classes or joining writing groups and listening to the advice of teachers and peers when it comes to how to improve my work is invaluable. Learn to tell the difference between a first draft and a polished draft by getting the manuscript in front of readers. Their opinions or critiques can open up a whole world of ideas, and, eventually, make you a better writer.

Thanks for listening, kidlit folks, and I wish all of you success of your own writing journeys!

And now for the activities!!!

I have two artsy-fartsy (my mom’s term) crafts for today—the first is a spinning star…perfect to represent the pulsars that Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered (pulsars are neutron stars that spin and send off radiation, but luckily these ones are just made out of paper). I have to admit, origami and I have never gotten along. I’m more of a modernist, throw-paint-at-the-canvas type of artist so I find folding paper in a structured, precise way quite difficult. That’s why I added the second paper star video, which is much easier and although it’s supposedly a Christmas star, I see no reason why it can’t be made for Easter too! Just grab some pastel paper, scissors, and glue!

Origami Spinning Star https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq9_tNCGnSA

Here’s the easier “Easter” Star https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NqFYzHDQyg

Double plus, I have to leave you with an amazing recipe for Disappearing Crunch Bars. (So named because as soon as you make them, they disappear completely. Trust me.)

Only 4 Ingredients:

Saltines (a column or two)
Butter (2 sticks)
Light Brown Sugar (1 cup)
Chocolate chips (12 oz semi-sweet, milk/dark/white, whatever you like)


Preheat the over to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking pan with foil. Place 1 layer of saltines on the foil. Boil the butter and sugar for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, then pour the caramelly mixture directly over the saltines and use a baking brush to cover the saltines in the caramel. Place in oven for 7 minutes, then remove and immediately pour the chocolate chips over the pan. Spread the chocolate with a brush as it melts, to coat. Cool in the fridge or preferably freezer. Peel from the foil and break into bite size (or larger J ) bits and keep in the freezer. YUM.


text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Why I Like This Book: I love learning about interesting people I previously knew nothing about! Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been a groundbreaker in astrophysics as well as a voice for gender equality in science. When I read about how what should have been her Nobel Prize (at least partly if not completely!) went to two male colleagues I was incensed on her behalf! Jocelyn’s dedication to her research is amazing. She worked her way through 3 miles of paper printout from the radio telescope to discover patterns that would lead her to neutron stars and pulsars. At age 77 she is still contributing to the field of astrophysics and leading the way for girls and women to achieve their scientific goals. She has truly been a pioneer. An inspirational read for all young readers!

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! Go out and look at the stars! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Planting The Wild Garden

My friend Nancie has the most beautiful garden!  Nine neat beds constructed of railroad ties, filled with a dark, rich mixture of soil and compost.  Tidy rows of sturdy plants, green and healthy-looking against the dark earth.  Lettuces and beans, peas and tomatoes, squash and eggplant, not a weed in sight.  And the whole kit and kaboodle surrounded by a fence to keep the deer out.  It’s a sight to behold and I totally covet it.  It makes me long for a garden!


As you all know, I am the Black Thumb of Poughquag.  Little plants tremble at my approach, and their lives are at risk whenever I’m in charge!  Not intentionally, of course!  It’s just an inborn curse or something.

My daughter is pretty good with plants, but she no longer lives at home and is thus unable to provide the kind of supervision I need to be allowed around plants (i.e. constant! 🙂 )

So we have come up with a solution.  (Hopefully! 🙂 )

Small scale gardening.

Four tiny planters with one plant each on the back deck where the deer (hopefully) can’t reach them and where (hopefully) they will catch my eye often enough that I’ll remember to water them in between her visits.

Have you noticed how many times the word “hopefully” has appeared already?  I’m afraid this does not bode well for my gardening experiment…!

But for better or worse, I have a tomato plant, green beans, mint, and by this weekend I’ll (hopefully – oops, there I go again) have a pea plant.

Think good thoughts and send positive energy to my tiny garden which will undoubtedly need all the help it can get! 🙂

And for today’s Perfect Picture Book, wild gardening that works in spite of black thumbs!

Wild Garden

Title: Planting The Wild Garden

Written By: Kathryn O. Galbraith

Illustrated By: Wendy Anderson Halperin

PeachtreePublishers, 2011, Nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: nonfiction, nature, seeds, how things grow

Opening: “The farmer and her boy plant their garden.  They drop seeds – tiny, fat, round, and oval – into the earth.  From these seeds, pumpkins and peas, carrots and cabbages will grow.  In the wild meadow garden, many seeds are planted too, but not by farmers’ hands.

Brief Synopsis: From the publisher: “A farmer and her son plant vegetables in their garden, and the wind carries a few seeds away. Birds and animals may carry some along with them on their travels. Sometimes the rain washes them away to a new and unexpected location. And sometimes something more extraordinary occurs, as in when the pods of the Scotch Broom plant open explosively in the summer heat, scattering seed everywhere like popcorn. Year-round, we all play a role in the dispersal of seeds throughout our landscape, planting the wild garden together.”

Links To Resources: the back of the book contains a bibliography of useful resources; make your own garden: plant seeds in a paper cup or a small pot on the windowsill – flowers or herbs grow quickly and well.  If you have space for more, plant some vegetables!  See what you can grow.  Explore outdoors and see what kind of seeds you find.  Dandelions with their delightful cottony fluff that you can make a wish on and blow?  Winged maple seeds that you can peel back and stick on your nose?  Acorns that you can collect in a bucket and build little houses out of?

Why I Like This Book: In simple language with beautiful illustrations, the author and illustrator team up to share verbal and visual information on how seeds in nature are spread about to propagate.  There are plenty of onomatopoetic and action words to make reading the text interesting, lively, and fun.  Detailed illustrations show close-ups of different kinds of seeds, nuts and pods along with many species of birds and animals who help spread them around.  There is something for everyone in this delightful and informative book.  A great choice for the budding gardener in your house or for a classroom or library.


Text Copyright Kathryn Galbraith 2011, Illustration Copyright Wendy Halperin 2011

I hope you like 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 picture book gems you’ve chosen this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Eat Like A Bear

So there I was, being uber-organized.  My post was written and scheduled not just on time, but AHEAD of time!  And what should happen?

No idea!

But somehow my entire post disappeared – down to the last comma! – so I had to rewrite the whole thing from scratch this morning after barn chores (which was when I realized wordpress had swallowed it whole and my post had never gone up!)  My sincere apologies for the tardiness of this post!

So let’s try again…

It’s May, and on Blueberry Hill, that means the bears are up!

Our bears are black bears – lumbering, relatively peaceful creatures who would just as soon not tangle with people or dogs, but who are more than happy to raid the trash cans in the garage or the bird feeder at every possible opportunity!

We have two regularly-visiting bears in our neck of the woods.  One is young, glossy-coated, and healthy-looking – we have watched him saunter across the yard and help himself to ripe apples from our tree in September.  The other one is an old curmudgeon, scarred and a little thin and scruffy-looking.  His life is much more challenging.  He suffered an injury at some point – caught in a trap? 😦 – and as a result is missing a forefoot.  He has learned to compensate and gets around all right, but I forgive him for raiding the trash cans if I’m foolish enough to leave the garage door open 🙂  Did you know he loves to lick the chocolate residue from inside the foil chocolate easter egg wrappers?  Clearly we are twins separated at birth 🙂

Since I have bears on the brain, today’s Perfect Picture Book is about bears – not black bears, but the threatened brown/grizzly bear that roams the wilds of Alaska and the Rockies and such.  I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Eat Like A Bear

Title: Eat Like A Bear

Written By: April Pulley Sayre

Illustrated By: Steve Jenkins

Henry Holt & Co, October 2013, Nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: nonfiction, animals (bears – brown/grizzly), nature

Opening: “Can you eat like a bear?
Awake in April.  Find food.
But where?

Drink like a bear — from a stream.
Leaping trout?  None about.
Bushes?  Bare.  No berries there.
It’s been four long months since fall,
when you were full.

Brief Synopsis: From the jacket: “Can you eat like a bear?  Be a grizzly bear, waking up in spring.  What is there to eat in April?  In May?  Sniff, listen, and look.  Paw, claw, and pull.  Catch fish, munch berries, and nibble seed-filled pine cones.  But be sure to fill up for the long winter ahead…”

Links To Resources: the back matter in the book is a resource in itself, filled with information on brown/grizzly bears, their habits, habitats, diet, threatened status, and current scientific studies.

Why I Like This Book: the text is interesting, simple and accessible, yet written in engaging language that is fun to read aloud, including little repeated patterns like “paw, claw, pull” that young listeners will learn to anticipate and join in on.  The information presented is age-appropriate and not overwhelming.  The art is a perfect complement for the text – very appealing, making the potentially-scary grizzly bear fairly warm and friendly-looking.  My knowledge of artistic technique is virtually non-existent, but Booklist described it thus: “Jenkins fixes the action in the Rocky Mountains with his trademark cut- and torn-paper collage. Using a variety of materials, including handmade Mexican bark paper for the bears, he achieves a remarkable variety of line and texture, as crisp leaves and flowers contrast with fuzzy fur” which I think gives a pretty good idea of what it looks like 🙂  This is a great title for the nonfiction lover in your life, or for a classroom or library!

I hope you like it as much as I do 🙂


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Text copyright April Pulley Sayre 2013, Illustration copyright Steve Jenkins 2013

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 you chose for this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂