Two Winners For Copies of Nancy Churnin’s New PB’S.


Last month I featured the two most recent PB released by author NANCY CHURNIN. Today I am thrilled to announce the winners of signed copies of those books.


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Jane Healy is the winner of a copy of FOR SPACIOUS SKIES.

thumbnail 5Congratulations! to Danielle and Jane and thanks to all who commented. Please send me your address so I can let Nancy know where to send the books.


Time to Toast Treasured Friends by Marilyn Ostermiller

National Best Friends Day, June 8, celebrates the bonds that connect us to the most important people in our lives. Established by Congress in 1935, it waned in popularity through the years. Now, social media has driven renewed interest.

The hashtag, #nationalbestfriendsday allows social media users to track how many Instagram, Facebook and Twitter users are celebrating along with them.

Children’s author Dr. Seuss, who knew a lot about friendship, described it this way: “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

Playwright Tennessee Williams offered this definition: “Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.”

Friendships start early in life. By the time many children are three or four, they know who their friends are and can name them. They might look for their friends when they arrive at preschool or playgroup and play only with them. This is also the age when they begin to have playdates with friends.

Most four-year-old children know the difference between ‘my friend’ and other children they know.

Some kids make friends easily. They are energized by playing together.

Others are slower to warm up and need time to watch what happens before joining in with a group.

Playing with others helps kids build friendship skills, such as sharing, taking turns, working together, listening to others, and managing differences of opinion.


friends photo

Among books that encourage friendships:

Teach Your Dragon to Make Friends, by Steve Herman. This picture book for ages four to seven incorporates examples of how to make friends in an imaginary setting. 

Who’s New at Lou’s Zoo? offers a whimsical take on kindness and acceptance. Author JoAnn M. Dickinson wrote it for ages five through eight.



Dog Man: Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea. This is the newest release of this popular series for eight- to ten year-olds by Dav Pilkey, who also wrote the “Captain Underpants” series.    

Interestingly, as a kid, the author was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder. He was so disruptive in class that the teacher made him sit outside the classroom. However, he loved to draw and make up stories. While he sat in isolation Pilkey began to conjure and create the stories that eventually became the popular Dog Man and Captain Underpants series.

So, go out and celebrate with your BFF today!



Written by Marilyn Ostermiller, a professional journalist who writes children’s stories.

HUMMINGBIRD by Natalie Lloyd: An MG Book Review

I recently had the pleasure of reading a remarkable MG from Best-selling author Natalie Lloyd.  hummingbird cover

Here’s the blurb for this extraordinary story:

A Schneider Family Book Award Honor Book

From the bestselling author of A Snicker of Magic comes a heartfelt story about a girl who — armed with her trusty, snazzy wheelchair — refuses to let her brittle bone disease stand in the way of adventure

Twelve-year-old home schooled Olive is tired of being seen as “fragile” just because she has osteogenesis imperfecta (otherwise known as brittle bone disease) so she’s thrilled when she finally convinces her parents to let her attend Macklemore Elementary. Olive can’t wait to go to a traditional school and make the friends she’s always longed for, until a disastrous first day dashes her hopes of ever fitting in.

Then Olive hears whispers about a magical, wish-granting hummingbird that supposedly lives near Macklemore. It’ll be the solution to all her problems! If she can find the bird and prove herself worthy, the creature will make her most desperate, secret wish come true.

When it becomes clear that she can’t solve the mystery on her own, Olive teams up with some unlikely allies who help her learn the truth about the bird. And on the way, she just might learn that our fragile places lead us to the most wonderful magic of all…

Here is my review:

This is a wonderful middle grade tale of hope, courage, adventure, and discovery. The lyrical language and fresh metaphors sing from the pages as Olive sets out to live her dreams and forge new friendships along the way. Soaring, taking flight, singing, and other “bird” metaphors give a poetic and ethereal quality to the prose, making us cheer for Olive’s efforts and discoveries about herself and the world around her. I love her intelligence and indomitable spirit. I also love the quirky names and personalities of supporting players: Jupiter, Hatch, Uncle Dash, Kester. One of my favorite quotes: “My dad, Jupiter, is his own planet, his own universe, and we all orbit around his weird and wonderful light.”  A story with humor, heart., and a bit of magic.

You shouldn’t miss this one.

It’s National Flip Flop Day!

The popular style of foot ware we know as “flip flops” have been worn by people of many cultures throughout the world, originating as early as the Ancient Egyptians in 4,000 BCE. The oldest known pair is on display at the British Museum from 1,500 BC. They were worn in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus.

In the US, the modern flip flop became popular after WWII as soldiers brought them back from Japan where the traditional Zori is worn.

While popular around the world, it is only in America where they get the name flip flops. This is an onomatopoeia word, thanks to the sound these rubber-soled sandals make when they flap against your feet as you walk.


We sure do love these shoes! In 2015, American’s spent $2.6 billion on Flip Flops.

Here’s another fun fact taken from the National Calendar site:

In 2007, Tropical Smoothie Cafe created National Flip Flop Day to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Every year on this date, customers who come into participating Cafes across the nation wearing flip-flops receive a free Jetty Punch Smoothie. Purchasing  a $1 paper flip flop from Tropical Smoothie, will help send ill children and their families to Camp Sunshine.

So why not celebrate this iconic piece of summer footwear. Today, the Wednesday after Memorial Day is NATIONAL FLIP FLOP DAY. For some nifty ideas on how to celebrate our favorite footwear visit:

NATIONAL FLIP FLOP DAY | Wednesday After Memorial Day

Two Books…Two Winners. Here They Are.

I am thrilled to announce the winners of this month’s author give-a ways. Two lucky people will receive autographed copies of the books featured this month.

dalai lamaThe winner of the graphic novel, WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER? by Teresa Robeson is:  Ellis Nelson

And Jennifer Merrifield wins a copy of the MG book THE GRAY by Chris Baron.

The Gray cover photo

Congratulations and thanks to all who left wonderful comments about these amazing books. Please email me you address so I can let the authors know where to send the books.

Got Frogs? How Far Can They Jump? Celebrate National Frog Jumping Day.

 Tomorrow is a day that celebrates the talent of one of the most common amphibians…the frog.  The annual Frog Jumping Contest is May 18-21-2023 in Calaveras County, California.

This annual event brings people…and their frogs…from all over the country to compete for the title of Best Frog Jumper. Here’s a video that explains the festival:

It all started with a short story from Mark Twain. Now the Calaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee brings in thousands of people each year to Angel Camp, CA to see which frog can jump the furthest. Want to know the current record? Keep reading…   For an historical account of how it all began with Mark Twain’s short story titled: The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County. In a country weary from the horrific years of Civil War, Twain’s story published in the November 18, 1865 issue of the Saturday Press (CA), provided much appreciated relief. It was quickly reprinted in newspapers across the country, turning an unknown author into an overnight sensation.

Sponsored image  A robotic version of the frog jumping contest held at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT

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So, how far did the winning frog jump in 2019? 13 year-old Logan Busch won with his frog jumping 18′ 6″. His twin sister Madison got second place with her frog jumping 18′ 3 1/4″

Here’s the video:

In 2021, the winner was Rosie the Ribbiter who jumped a whopping 21 feet 5 3/4 inches.

How far can your frog jump?  Frogtown

Interview With Award-winning Author Chris Baron About His New MG Novel THE GRAY + A Chance to Win a Signed Copy

Today it is my pleasure to feature one of the most remarkable books I’ve read so far this year. THE GRAY by Chris Baron. Stay tuned for my interview with Chris.

The Gray cover photo

Here’s my review for the book:

An authentic and relatable story that addresses what it’s like to have anxiety and a hyper-sensitive nature. The thirteen-year-old protagonist, Sasha, works hard to cope with his anxiety and the bullying he faces at school. We get a firsthand account of all that Sasha goes through to manage his anxiety. Baron handles all the mental health aspects of the story in a thoughtful and compassionate way, assuring readers that they are not alone in their struggles. By sharing our feelings – even the dark ones – we can find help and connection with others. Friendship has the power to heal. Talking about our struggles, instead of hiding them, forges a deeper understanding of what many of us face each day. An important message and valuable addition to books with mental health themes. Highly Recommended.

Now for the interview:

What led you to write a story with mental health themes like we find in THE GRAY? 

I didn’t start out thinking that I was writing a book about “mental health.” I mainly imagined it as an  adventure/coming of age story, but as I wrote, it quickly became clear that I would be going deep into these themes. In the Author’s note at the end of The Gray, I talk about my own experiences with anxiety. That’s a start, but also, I’ve noticed that many of my students are experiencing, and thankfully having the courage to share, mental health difficulties. According to the American Psychological Association, “20.5% of youth worldwide now struggle with anxiety symptoms.” Too often-kids who experience anxiety of any kind are not diagnosed or even helped. Kids don’t always know what to do.  From pandemic stress, reliance on technology and information overload, to everyday family struggles, lots of kids and their families are facing stressors they never have before. We need help from family, friends, and many times professionals to help us make it through these challenges. I know this is true from my own struggles, and I think I wanted to offer this to readers as well.

This book is a departure from your novels in verse. Was it easier or more difficult to write Sasha’s story in prose? How did you decide on this format?

It was much more difficult to write in prose.  As I’ve mentioned other times–poetry feels like a native language to me. I see stories in images, and that’s perfect for writing poetry. I drafted most of The Gray in verse (excellent advice from my editor) but The Gray felt different in the process of drafting–more details–more exploration of setting, plot, character, and themes. It seemed to journey on its own down the winding path of prosaic narration.  It was clear to me that this book is meant to be written in prose.  But some of the best prose is lyrical, and it utilizes the joys of poetic conversion and strategies. I hope that’s true for The Gray.

What kind of research was required to write from such a compassionate and authentic POV?

Like most writers, I did endless research.  Even though much of the story and setting is based on my own experiences, I researched everything from mental health issues to horseback riding, to species of trees and animals in the setting of the story.  I even had a mental health professional consultant work with me on the book–she even diagnosed Sasha.  It’s just a huge part of my writing process. I also looked through thousands of pictures from my time living on the horse farm.

What would you hope readers take away from THE GRAY?

I hope that readers will meet Sasha, and through his story, not only feel seen and heard, but know that it is okay to need help.  I want students to discover the many practical ways they can face anxiety themselves, and to feel supported so they know they are not alone!

I hope readers enjoy a story full of suspense, adventure, supernatural mysteries, unexpected friendships, and quiet family strength.

I hope readers will find connection (or learn more) about Jewish Heritage and spirituality, multi-generational  families, and finding the quiet, lighted paths on the journey to be their most authentic selves.

Finally, I hope readers will believe that “even the smallest drop of water can change the largest stone.”  Slow change over time makes anything possible.

Anything else you want us to know?

As an author, I love to connect with readers, and I am happy to visit any book clubs, classes, or anything we dream up.  Please feel free to reach out at

I am happy to do a giveaway!  And if it’s alright with you–here is the preorder link for signed copies.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post. Darlene will choose one name at random and announce the winner later this month. US only, please.

Baron Headshot

Chris Baron is the award winning author of Novels for young (and young at heart) readers including All Of Me an NCTE Notable Book, The Magical Imperfect a Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable Book/ a SLJ Best Book of 2021 & the forthcoming novels, The Gray (23) Forest Heart (24) from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, and The Secret of the Dragon Gems, a Middle Grade novel co-authored with Rajani LaRocca from Little Bee Books (23) and editor of ON ALL OTHER NIGHTS: A MIDDLE GRADE PASSOVER ANTHOLOGY, from Abrams (24), He is a Professor of English at San Diego City College and the director of the Writing Center. He grew up in New York City, but he completed his MFA in Poetry in 1998 at SDSU. HE lives in San Diego with his family. 




Celebrate National Bird Day

Did you know there are more than 2,000 species of birds in North America? Our beautiful feathered friends bring delight and wonder to nature in so many ways. Their songs, the variety of color and behaviors make them fun to watch.


You can encourage birds to visit your yard by providing bird feeders, brush piles for nesting and by planting native bushes and flowers. Sometimes, you only need to hang a wreath on your door and look what happens.

bird edit

To learn more about how to celebrate birds visit The National Audubon Society or your local library where there are numerous books on backyard birding. Here is just one example.

slow birdingCelebrate the winged wonder of birds!

Where is your favorite bird-watching spot?

Author Teresa Robeson Presents: WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER: The 14th Dalai Lama + a chance to win a copy

Today it is my great pleasure to feature the latest book from award-winning author TERESA ROBESON. WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER: The 14th Dalai Lama is a slight departure from Teresa’s previous picture books since it is a graphic novel that tells the story of Tibet’s exiled leader the 14th Dalai Lama.

Here is my review for the book:

This graphic novel tells the important historical account of the leader of TIBET, THE 14TH Dalai Lama, who was forced into exile in 1959 by the People’s Liberation Army of China. Tibet’s “Precious Protector’s” harrowing escape is easy to read and understand thanks to the graphic format and the periodic history and cultural lessons sprinkled throughout the story. The book provides a summary of Tibet’s ongoing fight for freedom and autonomy. A perfect addition to a multicultural library.

dalai lama Here is my interview with Teresa and her exciting new book.

How did you come to write this story about the exiled Dalai Lama?

My agent at the time spotted a call on Twitter from an editor with Penguin Workshop’s Who HQ series for authors to write graphic format biographies. She asked if I’d be interested in trying out for it, and of course I said yes! Penguin gave us a short list of people to write a proposal for, and I chose Bruce Lee. When they accepted that proposal, they asked if I wanted to write about anyone else on a longer list that they showed me. From that, I chose the Dalai Lama. I could have chosen more, but there were no scientists on that list and I’m not interested in sports figures or the other historical figures they offered.

What were the challenges of writing the “precious protectors” story as a graphic novel? How do you like this format?

The main challenge of writing this book is learning a whole new writing form. I’ve never written graphic novel scripts, or any script, before and had to learn the convention as well as thinking in panels. Luckily, I’ve been reading comics and graphic novels from the time I started reading (because comics are hugely popular in Asia) and also already tend to visualize everything I write like a movie running in my head, so it wasn’t a huge stretch to picture the story that way.

I don’t read comics as often as I used to but I do enjoy the format a lot because I’m somewhat of a visual person.

Tell us a bit about the research involved in this story.

The research wasn’t any different from writing my other nonfiction and biographical prose books. I always start with looking at all the kids’ books on the topic and use the back matter in those to branch out to adult books and journal articles. The key is to go to reliable sources and try to get as close to primary sources as possible.

What message do you want readers to take away from the story?

I want readers to see His Holiness’s humanity, humility, and humor. Beneath his assigned role as the political and spiritual leader of Tibet, he is just like the rest of us, with human frailties and foibles. His is not an easy position to be born into but he’s accepted it with grace and uses his celebrity status to spread the idea and ideals of compassion.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Unlike regular prose, the compressed graphic format of this Who HQ series necessitates inventing some dialogue, scenes, and, occasionally, characters to keep the story moving smoothly. As a nonfiction author, I’d personally call it historical fiction but these books are categorized as nonfiction. I tried to stay true to the actual events/scenes, characters, and even dialogue, though paraphrased, in this book on the Dalai Lama. In the upcoming one on Bruce Lee, which covers a wider span of time, a lot more dialogue and even settings have had to be invented. It makes purists uncomfortable (as it does me), but in the end, if a child gets the gist and spirit of someone’s life without demonizing or idolizing the person, then I think these books will have done a good job.

As a writer of historical fiction myself, I respect that distinction Teresa. Would you do more graphic format books in the future?

I would like to! But I think I want to try both writing and illustrating instead of just writing. And, I want to do non-biographical nonfiction (specifically science) as well as fiction in the graphic format.

Thanks so much for this interview, Darlene!

It’s been a pleasure Teresa!

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Teresa Robeson (pronouns: she/her)

Author (agent: Tracy Marchini, Bookends Literary)

Teresa has agreed to give away a signed copy of her book to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment below and one name will be drawn at random from all those entered. The winner will be announced later this month. USA only please.

Two PB Biography Winners…

Today it gives me great pleasure to announce the April book giveaway winners. Both books featured this month happen to be STEM books about the universe. And, two lucky people will be getting signed copies of them.

The first one THE FIRE OF STARS by Kirsten Larson goes to…


LISA BILLA.  Congratulations, Lisa. I know you will enjoy this amazing story of the woman who discovered what stars are made of.

The second book written by LAURIE WALLMARK is HER EYES ON THE STARS is about Maria Mitchell, the first Female Astronomer from the US.

maria mitchell cover

The lucky winner of this book is…AZIZA EVANS. Aziza, you will really enjoy learning about the life of Maia and all her amazing accomplishments in the field of astronomy.

Congratulations to both of you and many thanks to the authors for sharing their books.

What Rhymes with S’mores? By Cathy Ballou Mealey

Author Cathy Ballou Mealey is back with a new picture book.

MAKE MORE S’MORES, is a rhyming story that celebrates the sweet, gooey campfire treat while exploring themes of generosity, patience and sharing between forest friends in a fun and welcoming way. Illustrated by Ariel Landy, MAKE MORE S’MORES released March 15, 2023 from Sleeping Bear Books. Here’s Cathy to tell us a bit about this book with a delicious title.


Thank you for inviting me back for a guest post upon the release of MAKE MORE S’MORES, a new picture book illustrated by Ariel Landy and written by me.

S’mores are a definite pivot away from the puckery pickles featured in my previous post, but the process of writing and revising a rhyming story wasn’t all sugary sweet!

My first draft of this book was numbers-based: ONE marshmallow plus TWO graham crackers plus THREE chocolate rectangles equals one perfectly proportioned, traditional s’more.

I counted, calculated and composed a story filled with hungry forest friends sharing a campfire and sweet snacks. But the story arc became buried under mountains of exponentially-increasing marshmallows.

Cutting, revising, and tightening helped me feel the rhythm of some key words: Roasted, toasted. Sweet treat. Gooey, chewy. Share, bear. Suddenly I was writing a story in rhyme!  I researched simpler synonyms while still keeping the storyline light, charming and upbeat.

ROSCOE smores post

Talented illustrator Ariel Landy brought the hungry bears, busy raccoon and sly squirrels to life in our story. She’s created an enchanting, flower filled forest where furry friends cozy up and enjoy s’more after s’more on a beautiful dusky purple evening. Perfection!

So what rhymes with s’mores? Snores of course! The ending was the easiest part of the book to write!

I hope readers will come away with laughter and appreciation for being or knowing a generous, gracious host who welcomes others warmly. They will probably also come away with a craving for s’mores!

 Thanks Cathy! Your story certainly puts me in the mood for s’mores.

Here’s my review for this delightful book:

MAKE MORE S’MORES is a “sweet” story of generosity, kindness, and the pleasure we get from sharing what we love with others. Good feelings worth celebrating!

Cathy Mealey headshot

Cathy Ballou Mealey is a scone lover and author of WHEN A TREE GROWS, SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE, and MAKE MORE S’MORES. She has planted acorns, pickled cucumbers, and toasted marshmallows but spends most of her time writing picture books north of Boston where she lives with her family.


To find out more, or get in touch with Cathy: