Kathleen Burkinshaw on Authenticity in Historical Fiction.

Today it is my pleasure to help Kathleen Burkinshaw – the award-winning author of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSON – celebrate the book’s third anniversary. In this post she discusses the research involved in the sequel she is writing for the book. Here’s Kathleen:

I’ve always loved reading history books and researching a topic to find unexpected or lesser known facts on a subject, long before my first book published. I also tend to get so caught up in research, especially when I find out something that leads me down a totally different path than I could have imagined (I can’t be alone here 😊). So,  I have to be sure I’m not using it as a way to avoid actually writing my story and being creative.  

For example, I have been working on the sequel to The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) for a while now. Health issues have gotten in my way and then because I hadn’t written in a while, insecurity settled in. So, I spent a lot of time looking for, purchasing, and reading books on life in Tokyo during the American Occupation, since the sequel takes place a few years after the end of WWII. I wanted to involve headlines and propaganda posters as my chapter headings like I had in TLCB.  I was ecstatic when I found out I could subscribe to a resource that included the STARS and STRIPES newspaper edition that reported from the Pacific region.  

But I couldn’t help but feel that my research was missing something, just not sure what that ‘something’ could be. Since, I couldn’t quite figure that out, I began writing more scenes for the sequel.  As I did, some of my insecurity lifted and I realized the importance of balancing my research time with making time to write creatively.  It didn’t work well for me to have an all or nothing approach.

However, I kept getting stuck in some of my descriptions and the direction I wanted my story to take.  I have mentioned before that while writing TLCB, I found my sources in unexpected places. One in particular was my family’s visit to Hiroshima, honoring my mother at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims, a few months after she passed away. Being there in person, I  discovered the beauty that my Mom often spoke about growing up in Hiroshima before the bombing.  I used this discovery in re-writing my descriptions of Hiroshima for my final edits.

Well, this time, a resource found me believe it, or not!  It began with a speaking engagement for a local book club. After the event, a lovely woman introduced herself to me and told me of her recent visit to Japan. Coincidence, yes, but the incredible part is coming next! Interestingly enough, she had a friend (who lives in Maryland), Mr. Pittell, that served in the US Air Force and had been stationed at Miho Air Base (now Miho-Yonago Airport) in Japan during the later Occupation years(1953-54). He recently sent her copies of photos that he took during that time.  She asked if I might be interested in seeing them. My eyes immediately lit up and I said a resounding, YES!!

She received his permission to show the pictures to me, and we met at a local coffee shop. Not only were there pictures, but he also had written a few descriptive paragraphs about them. He loved photography and these photos were a treasure trove for me! I had the opportunity to see literal snapshots in time capturing the essence of everyday life in the town and neighboring towns to Miho Air Force Base (about a 3-hour drive north of Hiroshima).

Most pictures were in black and white, but he did have some pictures in color. I was thrilled to be able to see how young women dressed during this time and to imagine my mom dressing like that as well. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of her early teen years in Tokyo. I only have a few of her and my Dad when they first married and were on their honeymoon at Lake Yamanaka (she was in her mid-20s by then).

Mr. Pittell kindly let me keep his copies for a while to use as a guide for descriptions in my book.  This was the ‘something’ I was missing. I now had a better idea of what the towns, the soldiers, and the Japanese people looked like during the first years of the American Occupation.  These pictures also inspired another tangent to my story line for the sequel.  On top of that, I now have a wonderful new friend in the woman who shared these pictures with me.

You just never know where you will find your resources or where they might find you! I mean, what are the odds of meeting a woman who just received pictures from a soldier stationed in Japan during Occupation time?! 😊 I’m a firm believer that connections matter whether through emotions bared through your writing so that your voice or other voices can be heard; or in actually meeting someone and making that face to face good ol’ fashioned, in-person connection.

Once I finally complete my sequel, I hope that readers will feel the authenticity in and connect with my descriptions gifted to me by someone I didn’t even know!

Here is one of the incredible pictures that Mr. Pittell had taken:


August also happens to be TLCB’s 3rd Blooming Anniversary and to celebrate, I have a Rafflecopter giveaway going on now through August 31st. Two winners will be chosen at random and win what is shown in the picture below along with a complimentary 45-minute Skype visit for teachers, librarians, and home school students. Below is the link to my TLCB Rafflecopter Giveaway. Thank you and Good Luck!


3rd TLCB Blooming Annivprizestwittercanva (1)






Teresa Robeson Presents:QUEEN OF PHYSICS – her debut picture book + a giveaway.

Today it is my pleasure to feature children’s book author TERESA ROBESON with her debut picture book QUEEN OF PHYSICS about an unknown physicist who helped unlock the secrets of the atom. Here’s Teresa to tell you how it came about.

Thank you so much for inviting me to talk about my debut book, Darlene!


I think it’s pretty common knowledge that though I don’t have an advance degree in physics, it’s my passion-hobby. It started with astrophysics, but I’m now just as intrigued with quantum and particle physics.

I can’t remember where I first heard of or read about Wu Chien Shiung, the Chinese American physicist who is the subject of my biography, but I was immediately taken by her since she was of the same cultural heritage and had the same love of physics.

So I researched her a bit more and drafted a picture book manuscript. After honing it for a while, I submitted it to a few places but got no bites. Then I did something one should never do: whine on social media about it. LOL! Someone I met in the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge saw my tweet (I was kind of mortified since I always thought nobody read my tweet back then) and offered to critique it. She then confessed that she is training to be a literary agent and wanted to take me on as her first client.

Sadly, she was never able to sell the story and quit the agenting business after only a year.

A year and a half rolled by and I was rather depressed that my story had gone nowhere. But then Jane Yolen (!!!) picked my story to as the nonfiction winner in the We Need Diverse Books mentorship program. Jane is a masterful teacher who guides with deep knowledge but lets you make your own choices. I attended the NESCBWI conference in the spring of 2017 so I could meet her in person.

Through the conference, I submitted the mentored version of that story to a number of editors. Christina Pulles, who was then with Sterling, expressed an interest in my manuscript. With that interest, I approached a number of agents and ended up signing with Natascha Morris of Bookends Literary.

And, finally, about two years after Christina expressed her interest, my book will be born!

Things I want the world to know about Wu Chien Shiung:

1) Despite facing racism and sexism, Wu persevered.

2) Wu always gave every task she undertook all her attention and effort.

3) In her later career, Wu used her knowledge of nuclear physics to work on treatment for sickle cell disease.

TeresaRobeson photo

Teresa Robeson draws upon her Chinese heritage, Canadian-American sensibilities, as well as her background in science and love of nature when she writes. She has been published in children and adult magazines. QUEEN OF PHYSICS, a picture book biography, is her debut. Teresa’s hobbies include making art, making soap, knitting, baking, helping out around the homestead, and wowing the chickens with her bilingualism (they are not impressed). 



Teresa is offering to give away one of her lovely Women in STEM TOTE BAGS to a randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on this post.  The winner can choose either the white handled or blue handled bag. The winner will be announced in a future post on this blog. Good luck!tote bags 2 handle colors

TRUMAN by Jean Reidy: My New Go-To Book – A Review by Rosanne L. Kurstedt

I just came across this post and had to share. Can’t wait to get my own copy of TRUMAN.

Nerdy Book Club

I read picture books. I write picture books. And I share picture books with students of all ages.

I often go to Barnes and Noble or the library and pull handfuls of books off the shelves. After scouring the new releases, I settle in to read. As I open each book, my stomach twitters with excitement. Will this be my new working-with-teachers-and-students book? Will this be my new when-my-own writing is stalled mentor text? Or, will this be my new I-just-need-a-little-lift book?

Well, recently I stumbled upon the book TRUMAN by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, and it immediately became my all-of-those-things-mentioned-above book.

Set in one day, Truman’s Sarah leaves him alone as she goes off to the first day of school. After waiting and waiting and waiting, Truman (he’s a tortoise, by the way) decides it’s time to find his Sarah. And his journey begins.


View original post 618 more words

More MG Books For Summer Reading + A Give-away.

Here are two more great middle grade books that happen to take place during the summer which makes them perfect for summer reading.  I’ve included my reviews for each one.

I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

I LOVE YOU, MICHAEL COLLINS by Lauren Boratz Logsted

“A wonderfully detailed trip back to the days leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to land the first man on the moon. Brings back the magic and wonder of that monumental accomplishment. Told through the POV of 12 year old Mamie as she and her best friend Buster prepare for the big event. While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin get all the attention for stepping out onto the moon surface, Mamie thinks Michael Collins deserves the most recognition for bringing them back safely to earth. Perfect summertime read for celebrating the 50th anniversary of the event.”


“A feel-good modern fairy tale of a summer filled with adventure and discovery. This book will keep you smiling and eagerly turning pages until the very end. Fresh,
charming, delightful, and full of surprises. It is a story “made of awesome”.”
Beauty and Bernice
I will give away a copy of BEAUTY AND BERNICE to one lucky winner drawn randomly. Let me know what your favorite childhood summer memory is and your name will be entered. If you share this post on FB or Twitter, I’ll put your name in a second time.
Winner will be announced here on 9-2-2019.


Book Giveaway: YOU ARE YOUR STRONG by Danielle Dufayet

Enter a chance to win this wonderful book that helos empower kids to learn how to handle and navigate emotions and feelings.

Writing and Illustrating

Danielle Dufayet has written and Illustrated a picture book titled, YOU ARE YOUR STRONG. Published by Magination Press. Danielle has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Danielle!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Soothing and empowering, You…

View original post 956 more words

Amalia Hoffman Blasts off With a New Board Book.

Today it is my pleasure to feature Author/Illustrator AMALIA HOFFMAN and her new board book ASTRO PEA. I found the book to be charming and perfect for adventurous toddlers who enjoy exploring outside their own “pods”.

Here is my review of ASTRO PEA:  “Toddlers and young readers will delight at the fanciful adventure of Pete the Pea and what he discovers when he steps outside his pod. This simple board book, and the whimsical illustrations that accompany it, celebrate curiosity and imagination and reminds us that even after a grand adventure, it is good to come home to those we love.” 

thumbnailBlast off with Pete the pea on a cosmic adventure of daring and friendship. Follow Pete whose imagination turns a carrot into a spaceship, an artichoke into a satellite, plain veggies into planets, an ear of corn into a corn-trol shuttle and such more.

A short link to a video of Amalia performing the story:


Book Journey:

In 2017, I started experimenting with pastel pencils.  I loved the textures that I could achieve and the vibrant lush colors. After working for a while on a white background I wondered what the colors would look like on black. So I ordered a fine black art sand paper and fell in love with the way the colors looked on it 

I didn’t really have a project in mind. I was just having fun painting fruits and vegetables. I ended up making a pea pod. The drawing was on my art table and one day I got the idea of doing a story about peas.

I had envisioned a board book where the young child reads a clue and turns the page to see what happened. I think it was the black paper that sprouted the space idea. So then, why not make spaceship? 

I envisioned this little curious protagonist – a pea named Pete who is tired of living in an ordinary pea pod and his imagination takes him on a cosmic adventure. I created a dummy and sent it to my agent, Anna Olswanger.

We worked on the story for a while and I was delighted when Schiffer Publishing acquired it as well as another board book, executed in the same technique, coming up in Fall, 2019.


thumbnail.jpg 2

Amalia Hoffman is an author, illustrator and storyteller. Her board book, Dreidel Day (Lerner/Kar Ben Publishing, 2018) is a PJ Library book and received the PJ Library Author Incentive Award. She is the author/illustrator of two other board books, Astro Pea and All Colors (Schiffer Publishing, 2019.) Amalia is the author of The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero (Capstone Publishing, 2019, illustrated by Chiara Fedele.)

Amalia designed and illustrated an oversized book with pop-up elements for the production of Rose Bud at Israel’s children’s theater, The Train. Other books include The Klezmer Bunch and Purim Goodies (Gefen Publishing House, 2007 and 2009.) The Klezmer Bunch was featured in a play, Jewish Books Cooking by the celebrated choreographer and producer, Elizabeth Swados. She received the SCBWI 2005 award for illustration in the category of Fantasy. Her portfolio was selected as the winning portfolio in the 2014 21st Century Non Fiction Conference.

Amalia performs her stories in schools, libraries and bookstores dressed up in costumes with puppets and props.

 Visit Amalia at www.amaliahoffman.com


Book Giveaway: MOLDILOCKS by Lynn Marie

Writing and Illustrating

Lynne Marie has written a picture book titled, MOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE SCARES, published by Sterling. She has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner and a half hour FB Video Consultation with another. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Lynne Marie!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra…

View original post 1,304 more words

In Honor of National Sister’s Day…A Eulogy for My Sister.

Sunday August 4, is NATIONAL SISTERS DAY.  I lost my one and only sister Sandra this past March and wrote a tribute to her and the life we shared as siblings that I read at her funeral service. I am sharing it here to honor the bond we had and to remember her life.

Reflections of my Sister Sandra

I was just short of 2 years old when Sandra came along. Like any toddler who has to suddenly share the undivided attention of parents, I’m sure it wasn’t love at first sight. But I’m also sure it wasn’t long before this tiny, sweet-faced interloper won my heart. The bond and devotion we had for each other shook and wobbled occasionally, but never wavered. We were the Beck girls.

us 2

We were as opposite as siblings could be. I was the daydreamer, always walking around with rose-colored glasses, my head in the clouds, wondering what was around the next corner. Sandra kept her little feet planted firmly on the ground. She saw things the way they were, not the way she imagined. She was content to just be.


 I went to bed early, she was a night owl. This may not seem like a big deal, except for the fact that we shared a room. And a bed. I was a restless sleeper, tossing and flopping around, I’d wake up at the slightest noise. When Sandra finally decided to come to bed, she was out cold in minutes. She could sleep standing up in a corner, and usually slept through the alarm clock, often running late for school.

I can still vividly remember one late night when I awoke, well after midnight, to the sounds of “thump, clatter, one-sies, thump, clatter, two-sies.” I got out of bed to find Mom and Sandra having a midnight game of Jacks on the kitchen table. They both looked up at me, “Oh, did we wake you? Sorry.”  I waited until they finished ten-sies and went back to bed, dragging my sister with me.

lovey pic

 I was considered the quiet sister. Sandra had the gift of gab. Her favorite amusement park rides were the Whip and roller coaster. Mine were the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. She walked around barefoot while I kept my feet covered. Despite these differences, we did most everything together. And, I could usually talk her into some kind of adventure. As much as she looked up to me as her big sister, I admired her spunk and willingness to speak up when she saw an injustice.

We’ve had many road trips and overnight excursions over the years. Whether it was camping with the girl scouts, a trip to Keansburg or Cheesequake State Park in our home state of NJ with our kids, or a bus ride to New York, Sandra was game. When we were both empty-nesters, we took longer trips and spent more time together. We took a trip to Connecticut, a cruise up the Hudson River, and spent an evening at the Roseland Ballroom in NY where we got up close to Paul McCartney.

Living most of her life in NJ, Sandra had never been to Cape May. So one summer, I picked her up and we rode the old Route 9 all the way down the shore, stopping at roadside stands and anywhere that caught our fancy. I drove my Chevy Lumina at the time and when the odometer hit 111,111.1 she captured the moment with her camera. We were so excited, laughing at such a silly thing.

We grew up in a household that celebrated everything. Not just birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and holidays. We celebrated Tuesdays, snow days, Saturday morning cartoon days, back-to-school-shopping days, I survived a trip to the dentist days. Sandra carried that feeling of celebration with her throughout her life.


We both enjoyed entertaining Mom and Dad as we sang and danced to our 45 records. We loved to read and share books.  As we got older, Sandra especially enjoyed horror stories by Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and anything with vampires. We loved board games, especially word games like Scrabble, Boggle, and Perquacky. We spent countless hours playing game after game, Sandra winning 80% of them. She never boasted about it, and on those rare occasions when I actually won, she was as happy and excited as I was.


Here are some of the things my sister loved:

  • Rock ‘n Roll – except for Supertramp. What’s up with that? Her favorite Beatle was George, and her favorite Monkee was Davey Jones.
  • Although she disliked flying in airplanes, it didn’t stop her from traveling. She and her husband Ken traveled up and down the east coast and all over Arizona. She took tons of pictures of her adventures and collected magnets from every place she visited. She proudly displayed them on the refrigerator as a reminder of those trips.
  • Sandra loved living close to the Raritan Bay. She splashed in it, as did her daughter and granddaughter. When I asked her if she would miss it when she moved to AZ, she said no, AZ has the same kind of wide-open feeling without the water.
  • She loved watching western reruns of Gunsmoke and Bonanza, Judge Judy, the Food Network, and rarely missed an episode of Jeopardy.
  • The kitchen was Sandra’s arena for adventure. In it, she was brave and fearless, pouring through cookbooks and trying new recipes. She was so good at the Art of Cooking, she rarely produced a dud. She made Fried Flounder every time I visited because she knew it was my favorite.
  • She enjoyed a cold beer. Her favorite fruit was strawberries and her favorite food group was bacon. She loved everything greasy.
  • More than anything, Sandra loved her family. She loved being a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. She loved me, my husband and children. Just talking about her Kenny – as she called her husband –  her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter Gabby lit up her face with a warm glow. She never grew tired of singing their praises.
  • She loved her friends. Sandra’s back door was always open to anyone who needed a friend. She was a surrogate grandma to the neighbor’s kids and always made time for anyone who stopped by to visit.
  • One of the biggest joys in her life was babysitting her granddaughter Gabby. When you walked into the house while she was taking care of Gabby, it was like walking into a preschool classroom. There was so much fun going on. Cooking, crafting, dressing up, camping out, dancing, tumbling. Nothing was off limits if it brought joy to Gabby’s heart.     IMG_3109

When Sandra got the diagnosis of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, she didn’t complain or ask “why me?’ She continued to live her life. And thanks to the selfless, loving care from Ken, she woke up every day looking forward to what lie ahead. Even when the disease took so much away from her, and her mobility and communication became limited, Ken gave her something to look forward to every day. Casino trips and outings on birthdays and anniversaries, rock concerts at indoor and outdoor arenas, movies at the cinema on those comfy reclining seats, motorized wheelchair walks around the block, Saturday breakfasts out, empanadas on Wednesdays, pizzas on Fridays, hot fudge sundaes from Dairy Queen or Rita’s. They traveled to Las Vegas, San Francisco, and all over Arizona, her second favorite place on earth.

Through all her struggles with this monstrous disease, she kept her sense of humor. My favorite story was one Ken shared right after they moved to AZ. They had been out having Saturday breakfast, and Ken was helping Sandra back into the car. Because her body was so stiff and it was hard for her to bend her limbs, he sometimes had to wedge her into the seat. On this occasion, it didn’t go unnoticed. When he pulled into the driveway back home, a police car pulled up. The officer got out and told Ken he’d had a report of “elder abuse.” Ken explained Sandra’s condition and the officer apologized and left. Sandra’s reaction: “Who’s he calling elderly?”

me and sandraSandra never pretended to be someone she wasn’t. She was genuine and comfortable in her own skin. Once you got to know her, it was impossible not to love her.

Sandra found joy in every day. Whenever I called and asked her how she was feeling, she had one word to say: “Wonderful.”

 I think it’s fitting that her favorite Christmas movie was IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. For Sandra it was, and she lived it her way. No apologies and no regrets.

Rest in peace my dear little sister…and until we meet again, keep your light shining for me.   XO  sandra tombstone

Visit: http://www.CurePSP.org  to learn more about the Neuro-degenerative disease that took my sister in the prime of life.