Happy Memorial Day

Writing and Illustrating

Memorial-Day-Bannermichellememorial_dayMichelle Henninger: Michelle is a children’s illustrator living, drawing, and enjoying life in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She prefers a traditional approach of pen/ink, and watercolor: with a touch of digital thrown in for good measure. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Click here to view.

May no soldier go unloved

May no soldier walk alone

May no soldier be forgotten

May no soldier by left behind

when they return home!

Remember our soldiers, while enjoying the day!

Talk tomorrow,


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Some Ways to Thank Veterans on Memorial Day and Beyond.

As we remember those who fought and still fight to protect our freedoms and our country this Memorial Day, there are other ways we can honor our servicemen and women as well.  Here are a few:

1. Send a care package: for $15.00, you can send one care package from Operation Gratitude. This organization has sent more than 1 million packages  to military personnel worldwide.  http://www.operationgratitude.com

2. Donate a flight: You can donate your frequent flyer miles to wounded service men and women who need them to fly to medical centers for treatment, or to allow family visits.  Contact the Fisher House Foundation’s Hero Miles Program at: http://www.fisherhouse.org

3. Counseling: Mental Health Professionals can donate their services to returning veterans and their families.  http://www.givenahour.org

4. Be a Story Guardian: Volunteer to tape or video record interviews with veterans from WWII up to the present day through the Library of Congress sponsored Veteran’s History Project.  http://www.loc.gov/vets

5. Fight Cancer: You can help fund breast cancer screenings and treatment for women in the military who are 40% more likely to get cancer than civilian women the same age.  Visit: http://www.vetsfightingbreastcancer.com

6. Thank a Vet: Write letters to men and women in the armed forces who don’t often get mail through Operation Write Home.  http://www.operationwritehome.org

Many heroes have paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure our freedom in this wonderful country.  While you  enjoy a picnic or a day at the beach, take a few minutes to reflect on the COST OF FREEDOM.  Share in the NATIONAL MOMENT OF SILENCE at 3PM today.  



Edible Science: Fun Experiments You Can Eat!

As another school year winds down, you and your kids don’t have to stop learning. Mastering STEM (Science, technology, engineering, math) skills are more important than ever for our children to be able to compete in the global community called EARTH.

But learning at home doesn’t have to be text-book dry or boring.  You can make it fun and DELICIOUS, by combining science with food preparation.  Check out this BuzzFeed site that features 17 food based experiments that explore different scientific ideas or principles.  Get ready to make such things as:

  • Edible playdoh.
  • Edible glass.
  • Fake snot
  • a lemon-powered battery.
  • DNA helix
  • The amazing properties of Chocolate.
  • Make your own yogurt or butter.
  • Turn grapes into raisins.

And many more fun ideas.

Visit: https://www.buzzfeed.com/morganshanahan/food-science-experiments-that-will-blow-your-kids-minds?utm_term=.ctzelgGyAv#.cs3yR0vDNg

Your kids will be having so much fun making and tasting their way through the experiments, they’ll forget they’re learning. 

Jane Goodrich Talks About Photography and Her New Book Series For Kids!

Photographer JANE GOODRICH has teamed up with children’s book author BOB ROCZKA for a series of picture books featuring kids “being kids” in various urban settings.  The debut book features THE BIG APPLE.  Here’s Jane to explain how it all began.  She also offers some practical tips on how to best photograph your own kids.

New York is My Playground: by Jane Goodrich    emily 1

The book has been a personal project of mine for many years now. From photographing children in their environment be it NYC or their home or a park, I often found my favorite images are when the kids are just being kids and exploring, finding little things fascinating be it sticks, leaves, flowers or walking on cracks in the pavement.

I teamed up with Bob Raczka, to bring the images to life in a fun way for kids. Bob is a veteran children’s book author and has written over 20 books for children.

It’s a fun photo book that features vibrant and exciting kid-centric portraits in a fresh, moving homage to all who use New York City as their playground. When shooting in NYC, I found that the urban backdrop of NYC makes for a great juxtaposition for the little ones lost in the wonder. Kids can find wonder in life anywhere – they don’t need a playground to have fun, the whole city is their playground.

I loved the whole process of the book coming together! From finding new and interesting places to shoot in NYC, to casting and meeting the kids for the books – so many fun personalities – we tried to incorporate their own interests into their images (Spiderman was obsessed with Spiderman so we had him bring his costume or the little one who is ‘driving on the sidewalk’ loved toy cars, the cover shot girl loved to dance so we used her for the ballerina graffiti shot). It was very freeing from a creative standpoint as we were able to capture children truly being themselves.        NYIMP_15

Here are some overall quick tips to photographing your kids at play:

Time of day – if outdoors, try to photograph them during the sun’s lowest time (early morning or later in the day).

Mood – Try to photograph them when they are in their best mood (unless you are going for the grumpy play shots – you wanted natural right?)  A hint – well rested and well fed kids tend to be a little more cooperative.

Get on their level – photographing kids at their eye level makes a much more pleasing photograph and it also helps you get into their world and see what they see.

Guide exploration and play – if your little one decides they are bored and needs a hand in finding something interesting – help them – oooh look at the boats, can you count the boats, can you find me a leaf or a stick? I find kids tend to find their own wonder most of the time but sometimes they need a little nudge.

Don’t force it – don’t try to get them to make a fake smile or something they don’t want to do (like encouraging them to climb something if they are afraid – it’s not worth it!).

Tell a tale – what is your image trying to say? Is it an emotion, like happiness or joy? Or is it a record of an event – first day of school or a holiday? Rather than taking a simple portrait, include elements in your image that help to tell the story.

Practice makes perfect – keep your camera handy and test out at least a few of these tips every time you have a chance to take photos.

The more you practice, the more these tips will become second nature, soon you’ll barely have to think about them as you create amazing images of your kids, your family, and everything around you.

Find out more about Jane and her work at:  www.janegoodrich.com      jane goodrich bio pic 2016

NYIMP_CVR- low res


National Readathon Day: Visit Your Local Library For Some Great Books!

Tomorrow  –  5-21-16 – is NATIONAL READATHON DAY.  Why not celebrate with a trip to your local bookstore or library?  There are so many wonderful books for all ages and interest levels.  I’ve done many posts on this blog about wonderful picture books, middle grade and young adult picks.  If you need a place to start, check them out.

You might also want to check out the Notable Books for 2016.  Here’s the link.

So, unplug, grab some lemonade and cookies and R E A D a good book.


Beth Ferry Talks About Spring Weeding

It’s Spring.
Time for flowers and bunnies.
Time for gardening.
Time for my library’s book sale.
I wait in line, ready to dive into the piles, hoping to find some treasure.
I head directly to the picture book section.
I am bouncing with glee at my good fortune!
My pile is sincerely impressive.          DSC_0254

The titles are awesome.
Authors I know and love.
Artists I admire.
Books I’ve coveted, in pristine condition, published just last year.
I look at the publication dates again.
2014. 2014. 2014.
My joy turns to concern.
How is this possible?
These are not books donated by patrons from their home libraries.
These are beautifully bound library books.
Why is the library selling books that were published a little over a year ago?

I am no longer quite as jubilant.
As an author, alarm bells are ringing in my head.
How can the shelf life of a book be shorter than its journey to publication?
This is not a bookstore.
That I could understand.
The turnover at a bookstore is mind-boggling.
Every week new books appear face-out on the shelves and last week’s titles are squeezed, spine-out, among the hundreds of other new, but not quite-as-new, titles.
But a library is different, right?
A library is the place where books go to LIVE!
Where they can safely wait for just the right hands and eyes and hearts to find them.
How can a child discover these books if they are no longer on the shelf?

In dismay, I check online to see the availability of many of these books.
Ok, phew.
These titles are still available and plentiful. 12 copies of some, 11 of others.
Just not in my branch.
I email my librarian.
My awesome children’s librarian who gets back to me right away.
It seems that a weeding list is generated for the librarian of each branch based on calculated circulation statistics and last recorded date of checkout. Depending on the constraints of each particular library, books that haven’t circulated in two or four or five years may be weeded out. Sometimes they are purged simply because they are doubles.
It all makes sense.
Limited shelf space.
Oodles of new titles.
Availability in other branches.

I look around my library. It is beautiful, but not enormous.
With each new crop of books being published, weeding must be done.
It is just part of the process.
It is essential to a healthy, growing garden.
Even if that garden is my own local library.
So although the joy at my new pile of books is diminished a little, I am resolved to treat these books well, like the bounty that they are. I will respect them, love them and share them with my Kindergarten and first grade reading buddies. Although they are no longer blossoming in my library’s garden, they are definitely beautiful, bright, wonderful additions to mine.     Beth_Ferry_photo

Beth Ferry is the author of the New York Times Bestselling picture book Stick and Stone, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.. She is also the author of Land Shark  (Chronicle Books)

Pirate’s Perfect Pet will set sail in the Fall of 2016.


Swashby and the Sea, will be released in 2017. Beth writes and lives by the beach in New Jersey with her family and two lazy land sharks. You can learn more at www.bethferry.com.

Janet Fox Talks About Her New MG Historical.

Children’s book author JANET FOX has always been one of my favorite authors.  Her YA historical novels are part of my collection and when I heard she was writing an MG, I knew I wanted to read it.  THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE did not disappoint.  Here is MY review of this wonderful novel:  CharmedChildrencover (1)

“This creepy, scary, spine-tingly middle grade novel takes place in Scotland in 1940.  Kat and her younger siblings Rob and Amelie, are sent by their parents to Rookskill Castle Boarding School in Scotland to escape Hitler’s blitz bombing of London at the start of WWII.  Rookskill is no ordinary boarding school.  And the Lady Eleanor who runs it, is no ordinary headmistress.  As soon as they enter its doors, Kat feels off balance and at odds with the place.  Teachers behave strangely.  Ghostly figures roam the grounds.  Children seem to disappear.  Secret passages, hidden doors, ghosts, strange noises and even stranger nightmares fill Kat’s days and nights.

Kat suspects the castle – and its occupants – are under some kind of spell.  But for what purpose?  Are there German spies about?  And, what does it all have to do with the mysterious chatelaine Lady Eleanor keeps fastened to her waist?  Is it good magic or a more sinister dark magic? 

     This is a splendid page turner for anyone who enjoys mystery, fantasy, or historical fiction.  Rich in details and grounded in time and place, it will keep you up at night and make you contemplate the very nature of good and evil.”

Now here is the interview:

How did you come to write for children?

I began writing for children when my son was little and it was clear he has dyslexia. I tried making stories for him that would help him learn – they were terrible! But it got me hooked on writing for children. I joined SCBWI, became friends with Kathi Appelt, who became a mentor to me, and then found my agent and Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I earned my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

You’ve had a successful career writing for YA with FORGIVEN, FAITHFUL, and SIRENS. What made you decide to write a book for the middle grade crowd?

I was actually trying to write new and different material, through my MFA program. I was trying to stretch and grow outside my comfort zone. When I had the idea for THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, I began writing and right away knew that the book had a middle grade voice and a middle grade sensibility. It reminded me of the books I read when I was that middle grade age. Plus Kat was a middle grade character. The novel couldn’t have been written any other way.

Where did the idea for THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE come about? 

I’d just finished drafting SIRENS, and lazily perusing the internet, when a friend of mine posted a picture of a piece of jewelry called a chatelaine. I’d heard of chatelaines, and seen a few (check out the chatelaine worn by Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey), but this one was weird. So weird that I pulled the image off the internet and put it on my desktop. So weird that I couldn’t stop staring at it. So weird that it made a story in my mind, and it wouldn’t leave me alone until I’d put that story down on paper.

You can see that chatelaine as a drawing in the opening pages of the novel. It served as a guide for the concept of this story.

 The Cover of the book is amazing!  Care to comment on it?

I love my cover art!! Greg Ruth is the artist. He perfectly captured several things about the story: the dark, foreboding, mysterious, huge castle; the rooks, my antagonist’s familiars; the moonlight and the wavery sun; the odd Lady; the four children who stand in the circle of light, not really sure they should enter. One of the themes of the novel is that “the power is within you” – to solve problems, to grow – and so the suggestion of crossing a threshold and how that holds both fear and hope is perfect and resonant.

blurb:  “Keep calm and carry on.”

  That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do: when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.

            But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse. What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and who Lady Eleanor really is—before it’s too late.

Tell us THREE things about the main character in the story.

Kat – Katherine Bateson – worships her father, who works for MI5 and is a spy abroad during World War 2. Kat has a knack for puzzle-solving and a facility for math and science, and is very practical-minded. And Kat must learn that the power of magic, and the power to rescue her friends and family, lies within her.

What’s next?      IMG_8226b

I’m working on a sequel, although nothing is sure yet that Viking will want one – but I have such a fun idea that I’m going to run with it. I’m also working on another middle grade fantasy. My agent is shopping a YA science fiction and a non-fiction picture book, and I’ve got a solid draft of a YA contemporary novel set in Montana. I’ve got lots on my desktop!

Deborah Zemke Talks about Illustration, Writing and Her New Book.

My first picture book, The Way It Happened, came out in 1988. Though long out of print, I still read/show it during school visits to demonstrate how we “read” pictures, and also because it’s fast, fun and a good read aloud. The curious thing is that the story progresses through a narrative line and through speech bubbles, which is also how I wrote/pictured my newest book, Bea Garcia: My Life in Pictures. That didn’t dawn on me until recently when I was reading My Life to second and third graders. It’s funny how much you discover about a book when you read it aloud even after you’ve spent a year creating it. So from my first book to my last, I’ve come full circle—though maybe it’s a widening circle as My Life is a 134-page chapter book with close to 200 illustrations.     mylifecover


I’m thrilled that My Life has been so well received and am simultaneously at work on the second (finish art) and third books (writing/sketching) in the series. The second book is based on the first story that I wrote, though completely and utterly revised. My agent suggested I develop that story into a series and that’s when Bea Garcia truly emerged—to expand beyond a single story line meant painting Bea with a fuller brush, as it’s her humor and imagination that drive the stories. As the Kirkus reviewer noted, There isn’t anything real or imaginary that the endearing Bea cannot draw; she straddles fantasy and real life…and even more gratifying to me… Readers will find inspiration to write, draw, explore, and imagine.

 As I tell kids, I love words and pictures and what happens when you put them together. I love letters, too, and have done a series of doodle books in which letters of the alphabet are turned into pictures. It still seems like magic to me that you can turn an A into an Alligator!      mylifewishAs author and/or illustrator, I’ve produced over 40 books, from poetry to humor to picture books to drawing books. I enjoy illustrating other writers’ stories. People sometimes ask if I wouldn’t rather just do my “own” books, not understanding that these are very much my own books!  Illustrating a book is not visually depicting the words, it’s visually telling the story. Imagining other people’s words and worlds takes me places I wouldn’t go on my own. I’m currently having lots of fun sketching out the second book in Robin Newman’s Wilcox and Griswold mystery series.  

You can visit Deborah at:   carrotcake_cover03



Zemke, Deborah ds

Zemke, Deborah





Three Cheers For Birches School: A Fantastic Welcome From Some Great Students.

This morning I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the fifth grade classes at the Birches Elementary School in Washington Township, Gloucester Co.  NJ for an Author Visit.  Their Social Studies teacher, Mary Byatt, had read WHEELS OF CHANGE and thought it was a great segway into her unit on the Civil War, reconstruction and the Industrial Revolution.  We had some great discussions about gender roles, civil rights, technology, and fun and games.

What an amazing group of students!  They were attentive, engaging, and really interested in what life was like in 1908.   Here are the photo highlights of  one of the best author visits so far.  THANK YOU MRS. BYATT AND THE FIFTH GRADERS AT BIRCHES!  YOU ROCK!

birches 4

birches 22015-05-05 22.00.512015-05-05 22.46.332015-05-05 23.26.232015-05-05 22.05.482015-05-05 23.21.38birches 5




2015-05-05 22.47.15

Naomi Gruer Arranges Flowers Just in Time For Mother’s Day!

Here is a great post on simple flower arranging for kids of all ages.  Why not try it out and make Mom’s Day!

DIY Silk Flower Arrangement: By Naomi Gruer

My mom loves peonies, so I made this silk flower arrangement for her. At my local crafts store not only is there an immense variety of flowers to choose from, birds, butterflies, seashells, and garden markers are just some of the other elements that may be incorporated to create a beautiful and personalized arrangement.

This turned out to be an easy and fun DIY project. Happy creating, hon!





–silk flowers


–hot glue gun and glue sticks (note: young children should be supervised when using this tool)

–Styrofoam blocks

–moss      IMG_9117

–marker, serrated knife, wire cutter, scissors


Figure out how many pieces of Styrofoam will fit into and fill vessel. Mark where to cut. Using the serrated knife, cut foam into correct number of pieces.       IMG_9109

  1. Prepare flowers, part 1. Using the wire cutter, trim stems so they will be long enough to sit inside the foam, and also stand above the rim of the vessel. Tip—hold flowers in a bunch, approximating the way they are to be arranged. This helps determine which stems are to be cut shorter and which longer.
  2. Prepare flowers, part 2. With scissors, cut off excess leaves, especially those that would sit inside foam. Too many leaves get in the way. Too few leaves may look bare. Tip–Save cut leaves to possibly glue to moss.
  3. Hot glue bottom of cut Styrofoam and secure inside vessel.


  1. Hot glue flowers stems, then stick stems into Styrofoam, carefully arranging flowers. Add extra glue to spot where foam and stems meet.
  2. Spread moss around top of Styrofoam. Lift up sections, then glue them down.
  3. Fill in bare spots of Styrofoam with more moss and cut leaves.

VOILA!  HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL!                naomi-13



Naomi Gruer