Friday, August 4, 2023

Counting to Bananas by Carrie Tillotson and Estrela Lourenco


Need a picture book that will have you grinning ear to ear? Did you enjoy Z is for Moose written by by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky?

Then you want to read Counting to Bananas written by Carrie Tillotson and illustrated by Estrela Lourenco (Flamingo Books, 2022)! Stuffed with fruit and rhyme, this book’s twist ending (no spoiler!) reminds us all why it isn’t always the best idea to be the center of attention.

Two thumbs up for this fun read aloud and counting book.

Thursday, May 18, 2023


 My family observes Memorial Day each year by hanging our flag. My heart is full thinking of the people who risk their lives to ensure the safety of our nation and its people. But--

I never thought about the origin of Memorial Day. My picture book book recommendation is for all of you who are like me. I missed a ton of books published during the pandemic when I was lying low.


Author: Leah Henderson

Illustrator: Floyd Cooper

Publisher: Abrams books for Young Readers, 2021

The book opens with a  spread that includes a quote from Frederick Douglass, from his 1871 Decoration Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery and two paragraphs of historical context about the Civil War and Memorial Day. 

The story that drew me in begins on the next page.

"Nine days in a row.

Papa up early and gone again.

I still can't go with him, though. He said, "Eli, school's where you need to be--reading and counting." But I am counting. Right here. Day nine."

This work of historical fiction, imagining what it might have been like to experience the first Memorial Day, took my breath away. The inhumanity and humanity of man displayed in equal measures and unflinching honesty. I was spurred to learn about the historical place referenced, and what I learned stunned me again. I hope everyone enjoys learning this history as much as I did.


  • Brainstorm how you might remember those who lost their lives in service of our country. Some cemeteries use volunteers to place flags on veterans graves.
  • Brainstorm how you might help those currently in service of our country. Have an adult check for legitimate organizations on websites like Military Pen Pals
  • Research how other countries honor their veterans (we lived in the UK and were touched by the importance of Veterans Day there)
  • Research the origin story for another holiday
  • Read other patriotic picture books (Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus (Author), Kadir Nelson (Illustrator) and The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara E Walsh, Layne Johnson (illus) are two to start you off.) Do you have a favorite?

I enjoy hearing if you enjoyed this book recommendation. My review is part of Perfect Picture Book Friday created and hosted by author Susanna Leonard Hill. The opinion in the review is wholly my own.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Updated News for Lola Shapes the Sky

 Every now and then I stumble on news I SHOULD have seen. 

Thanks to Ishta Mercurio for sharing  and writing a delightful review of Paolo Domeniconi's beautiful cover of my debut  picture book --two years ago!! 

And thanks to the publisher for negotiating international rights with China! 

Deadly Quiet City by Murong Xuecun - Review

I found the stories in this book (each chapter tells a different person's story) compelling and thought-provoking. Without access to the people involved or videotapes on the ground, it's never possible to know how much of a nonfiction book is really nonfiction, but this feels authentic and is backed up with information from the editor in a note at the end of the book. I had to pause at points to regain emotional footing to continue reading.

 The author, Murong Xuecun (pen name of Hao Qun) fled into exile from China after completing the book. 

The chaos, struggles and frame of mind of the people in China during the pandemic is an emotional journey that everyone should read. Our governments and citizens have very different points of view--or sometimes similar points of view but extremely different outcomes. Everyone should read this.

I received an advance copy with no requirement for a review. The review contains my personal opinion.

#bookreview #bookrecommendation #authorlife

Friday, February 24, 2023

The Portfolio Life: Future Proof your Career and Craft a Life Worthy of You

February Book Review:

I was fortunate to read an advance copy of The Portfolio Life: Future-Proof your Career and Craft a Life Worthy of You by serial entrepreneur and Harvard lecturer Christina Wallace (Grand Central Publishing, Hachette) that releases April 18, 2023. 

The book encompasses common sense encouragement to shed the fear of self-promotion as well as broadening our circles of influence and looking more critically at our hobbies and talents for sources of employment. I share the author's view about what would/should be optimum work-life balance and the joy that arises from pursuing passions with time for rest and relationships. As someone who has transitioned between different careers, the author's view of modern careers as non-linear paths felt authentic. At different points, it struck me that not everyone will have the "safety nets" or networks in place to implement the author's glass-always-half-full suggestions in order to utilize elements of flexibility into their jobs and job searches. Those elements don't arise organically in difficult situations and the advice in this book could be frustrating to some who are already stretched to their max in terms of time and efforts. The author notes this in passing, but I wonder if the struggles are more prevalent than she acknowledges.

I recognized some of the suggestions about tangible, actionable goals from other books, but the reminder is always good and being a visual person I appreciated the use of Venn diagrams and examples in charts, and wish more of that had been incorporated. I found it to be an uplifting and aspirational if not always realistic read.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

#Fallwritingfrenzy time - The Costume Contest Winners by Wendy Greenley


After twelve power outages this morning (it's only raining here??), I'm chancing a moment to post this.

Even if you don't win a prize, writing contests are a fun way to explore imaginative writing prompts!

If you've been suffering from writer's block, or just want to practice writing to a specific theme or word count--give a writing contest a try. In the #kidlit realm, there are several no-fee gems to try. The Kidlit411 blog has a good list of options.

Today's spooktacular contest is being hosted by the dynamic crew of Lydia Lukidis and Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez and Alyssa Reynoso-Morris. Using picture prompts, the challenge is to write a story, poem, mood piece--whatever strikes your fancy--as long as it's 200 words or less (including any art notes). 

Those of you who know me know that if there was a picture with a dog--I was probably going to pick it! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

The picture prompt I chose: Credit: Sarah Pflug for Burst

And--drum roll please--my slightly subversive picture book styled Halloween story:

The Costume Contest Winners - 197 words


Billy wanted to win the pet store prize.

His costume was perfect.             [vampire]


But no one would vote for him because his Mom worked in special effects.

“It’s not fair.” Billy sulked.


Everyone knew this—except Vance and Wendy. They were new to town.          

[real vampire and witch]


 “Need a tissue? Your fangs are bloody,” Vance whispered.

Billy waved his tube of goo.

“It’s fake?” Vance asked.


“Duh! That’s funny!” Billy poked Vance.

Vance growled.

“Calm down!” Wendy grabbed Vance’s arm.


“My mom could add sparkles.” Billy tapped Wendy’s hat.

“Don’t touch!” Wendy warned. Her cauldron moaned eerily.


“What’s in there?” Billy reached for Wendy’s pot.

“Don’t reach in!”


Too late.




“HEY!” Billy woofed.

“You were carrying a live potion?!” Vance shook his head.

“He wasn’t my first choice, but you wanted a pet.” Wendy shrugged. “Let’s go.”

“I wanted to pick my own puppy,” Vance’s voice quavered.


“Oooh! Cute doggie!” The other kids crowded around. 


Vance and his mini-me pet won best costume!

“You want two dogs, don’t you?” Wendy asked.

Vance smiled.


So Billy won the contest after all, and got a dog to play with.

“I love Halloween,” said Vance.

Woof! Billy agreed.

I hope you enjoyed reading! If you want to find more terrific entries, go to Lydia's blog or google #Fallwritingfrenzy! 

Friday, April 1, 2022

THE LIBRARY BUS by Bahram Rahman, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

 When I was young, the library was far away and my mom worked and didn't have time to drive me. But the bookmobile came to our neighborhood and I checked out as many books as I could carry! 

The books I read were knowledge, but also good friends. So this book recommendation speaks to my heart:

Title: The Library Bus 

Author: Bahram Rahman

Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard

Publisher: Pajama Press (2020)

Themes: Books, Girls, Refugees

What I liked about the book:

I have a personal connection to bookmobiles and the author's own connection deepened my appreciation for the book. The author grew up in Afghanistan--where the story is set--and wrote the story to tell children about the struggles of girls, like his sister, who were forbidden to go to school. While things improved in this region for a short period of time, now the restrictions have returned and the book is more relevant than ever.  Warm illustrations depict the happiness, and leave the struggle for later discussion. The Library Bus is a love letter to literacy for all.

A Teaching Guide for The Library Bus can be downloaded from the publisher's website.

If your area has a bookmobile--go see it! How does the selection compare to the library's?

Meet the author:

Author's interview about equality, literacy and collective memory.

Youtube video after author won 2021 Middle East Book award

The author has a new book released Nov 2021 : SKY BLUE BENCH which I haven't read yet.

This review is part of Perfect Picture Book Friday where author Susanna Leonard Hill curates a selection of recommended books for kids for parents, teachers, writers, librarians and gift-givers.