An Interview With Author Artie Bennett On:The True Story of Zippy Chippy:The Little Horse That Couldn’t.

Today it is my pleasure to feature picture book author ARTIE BENNETT with his newest book that just happens to be a true tale of endurance, courage, and determination,The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn’t. Here’s Artie:

Thank you, Darlene, for this magnificent opportunity to share The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn’t with your many readers.

It was the sweetest of serendipity that brought me to Zippy Chippy. As I was reading a newspaper article about the remarkable racehorse, I paused momentarily, setting down the paper. A lightbulb went off. “Wow! Wouldn’t this make an enthralling children’s book?!” I thought.

All of the elements of a great story were there. There was Zippy’s quirky but winning personality. There was drama in Zippy’s last-second reprieve from the slaughterhouse when Felix Monserrate, a horse trainer from Puerto Rico, swapped his old pickup truck for the hapless, unwanted horse. There was the horse’s inseparable friendship with Felix’s small daughter, Marisa. There was determination, resilience, and hope. And there was, ultimately, redemption, as the “losingest” horse in history, descended from the greatest racehorses ever to lay hoof to track, becomes a legend, too, and his popularity soars.

The more I learned about Zippy Chippy, the more certain I was that his story would both touch and delight youngsters, just as it did me. And the fact that Zippy Chippy is still alive today, at 29-plus years old, very long in the tooth for a horse, lends even more relevance and resonance. He’s not some distant historical figure. You can go and feed him a carrot today!

 Zippy Chippy ran one hundred races and lost every single one, but he never gave up. I fell in love with this horse. He’s full of mischief and mayhem, and something of an oddball. There was also our shared appetite for ice cream, though he may not be a three-scooper like me. His name alone, preposterous as it is, only adds to the mystique.

I read as much as I could find about Zippy Chippy. And I began to familiarize myself with the sport of horseracing. I had a rudimentary awareness, but there was so much to learn. There was terminology that was unfamiliar to me. But I always love learning new words and expressions. And the fact that the horse was still alive meant that I would be able to interview him—and get the story straight from the horse’s mouth!

Zippy is lovingly cared for at Old Friends at Cabin Creek Farm, a retirement home for aging racehorses in upstate New York, where he has become the reigning celebrity. They host an annual Zippy Day every summer, and people come from far and wide to celebrate the stalwart steed. I visited the horse in his paddock a few years ago and was given a wonderful tour by the kindhearted people who operate the facility. I had a ton of questions, and they helped me fill in the gaps in my understanding.

Zippy Chippy was the embodiment of determination and stick-to-itiveness. He raced until he was fifteen years old, giving it his all, whereas many racehorses hang up their halters by the age of four. There was a time, earlier in Zippy’s racing career, when Felix tried to retire him, but Zippy wouldn’t hear of it. He became despondent and refused to eat. Though defeat never disheartened Zippy, retirement did. Felix had to bring him back to the track for his own well-being. Because the horse’s pedigree included such fabled racehorses as Man o’ War, Bold Ruler, War Admiral, Buckpasser, and Northern Dancer, racing was in his marrow. He just wasn’t terribly good at it.

Lessons for children abound in this timely tale. Zippy teaches us that winning isn’t the only thing that matters. The important thing is to try, to give it your best shot. That’s how we develop character. It’s found in the effort. Youngsters will relate to Zippy’s story. And they’ll be inspired by the trajectory of his life. We all have our strengths. Some of us are great at sports. Some of us aren’t. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We mustn’t be afraid of failure.

Take Zippy. He loved being a racehorse and he loved to compete, despite his palpable lack of success. Once, in an effort to boost Zippy Chippy’s confidence with a surefire win, Felix matched him up against a minor-league ballplayer in the forty-yard sprint. The scoreboard proclaimed “Man Against Beast.” But poor Zippy was dealt yet another setback, falling to the fleet-footed outfielder.

Yet later in his career, a strange thing happened. Huge crowds came to cheer on Zippy, and he developed legions of admirers, even as his losses continued to mount. He would race as the favorite because so many people bet on him to win, although he had never, ever finished first. He was even featured in People magazine, though they did pose him alongside a tortoise. Ouch!

Another important lesson for youngsters is acceptance. We aren’t all blessed with the same gifts—and that’s okay, too. We need to accept our limitations, just as we recognize our strengths. As Felix says, “Not everyone can be a winner.”

Ultimately, I want children to learn that losers can still be winners. Zippy teaches us to never give up on our dreams, even when their fulfillment may be elusive. It’s an equally important lesson for writers.

 Though I had never written a picture-book biography before (I am the author of five superfun rhyming picture books, including the classic kids’ book The Butt Book, and two overstuffed joke and riddle books), I felt a powerful tug to share Zippy’s story with young readers. It would be a horse of a different color for me, but I plowed ahead.

 When I was a boy, my father would take me, on occasion, to Aqueduct Racetrack, in nearby Queens, New York. It was an opportunity for us to bond and I enjoyed our time together. And I especially enjoyed seeing the horses. They were so large and so fast, quite breathtaking. I watched in awe as they would thunder by. These boyhood experiences must surely have planted the seeds of The True Story of Zippy Chippy.

I dedicated the book “to valiant underdogs and underhorses everywhere—and to my dad, who played the ponies.”

I would be woefully (whoa-fully?) remiss if I didn’t mention that the book is beautifully illustrated by Dave Szalay, who captures the soul of a steed. His endearing artwork adds immeasurable value to the story. And that ain’t hay!

There is a wealth of materials and activities in the CURRICULUM GUIDE for the book. It is available at:

Artie Bennett is an executive copy editor by day and a writer by night. He is the author of an inspiring picture-book biography of a hapless, though beloved, horse: The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn’t. When Artie stumbled upon the story of Zippy Chippy, he found himself champing at the bit to introduce young readers to this remarkable tale of whoa! He is also the author of a quintet of hilarious rhyming picture books: The Butt Book, his first “mature” work and winner of the Reuben Award; Poopendous!, his “number two” picture book; Peter Panda Melts Down!, an adorable departure from derrières and doo; the explosively funny Belches, Burps, and Farts—Oh My!; and What’s Afoot! Your Complete, Offbeat Guide to Feet, which is guaranteed to knock your socks off. And if that’s not enough, he’s the author of two riotous joke and riddle books: The Universe’s Greatest Dinosaur Jokes and Pre-Hysteric Puns and The Universe’s Greatest School Jokes and Rip-Roaring Riddles.
     He and his wife live deep in the bowels of Brooklyn, New York, where he spends his time moving his car to satisfy the rigorous demands of alternate-side-of-the-street parking and shaking his fist at his neighbors. The Show Me Librarian says: “Bennett’s use of rhyme is excellent; his stanzas flow and exude joviality in a manner that few writers since Dr. Seuss have truly mastered. Simply put, these books are a joy.” The Huffington Post says: “It appears there is no topic Mr. Bennett can’t make funny and educational.” Visit . . . before someone else does!


Book Giveaway: WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Even though this post appeared back in the spring, I am happy to give away another copy of the book if anyone would like to leave a comment and share something kind witnessed during an episode of bullying.

Writing and Illustrating

Darlene Beck Jacobson has a new middle grade book, WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY published by Creston Books. Darlene has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is 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 Darlene, especially at this stressful time, when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know…

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The Story of Simone Biles: A Biography Book for New Readers by Rachelle Burk + A Chance to Win a Signed Copy.

Today I am pleased and excited to feature a new book by Author Rachelle Burk on Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles. Here’s Rachelle:

The Story of Simone Biles: A Biography Book for New Readers by Rachelle Burk (illustrated by Steffi Waltham) is an illustrated chapter book about “The Greatest Gymnast of All Time.” Simone has won more world medals than any other gymnast in history. She went from a life of poverty and foster care to one of Olympic stardom. How did she do it? Her inspiring story demonstrates that through motivation, hard work, and believing in oneself, we can achieve more than we ever dreamed possible.

When Rockridge Press, an imprint of Callisto Media, contacted me early this year to ask if I might be interested in writing Simone’s story as part of their growing children’s biography series, I jumped (and twirled and flipped) at the chance. I was particularly excited about this project because the gymnast left me agape with her performance at the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro. It was a joy learning about her extraordinary life during the research process. Simone is a perfect role model for young people in ways that extend far beyond her gymnastics star status. 

Although there are quite a few other children’s books about Simone Biles, this is the only chapter book biography for new readers (K-2). It is perfect for classroom use because it includes extras such as timelines and a family tree, thought questions that make Simone’s experiences relatable to the reader, “myth and fact” callouts, a fun who, what, when, where, why, how quiz to test aid in reading comprehension, and a glossary with definitions of new vocabulary words which are highlighted throughout the book.

The writing timeline was short, with a publication target date just 5 weeks after the 2020 Tokyo summer games. I finished most of the book by the end of March, but I would be writing the final chapter after the Olympics in August. The last chapter was to highlight Simone Biles’s anticipated winning performance and even more medals.

Who could have imagined that a global pandemic would cancel the Tokyo summer games! Simone made the difficult decision to put off her retirement and train for another year, now setting her sights on 2021. My publisher consequently had a big decision to make: Do we postpone the book release for another year? The ultimate decision was to write the final chapter to reflect the reality of the 2020 pandemic for Simone and the other athletes. The book was released on schedule September 29th. Fingers crossed that the rescheduled games will happen next summer!

It appears that Simone and her story have already inspired some young readers as shown in these photos taken by Rachelle:

The book is available at

Rachelle is giving one lucky reader a chance to win a signed copy of this awesome book. Leave a comment on this post to be entered in the random drawing. Share the post on FB, Twitter or other social media and get a second chance to win. The winner will be announced at a later date on this blog.

RACHELLE BURK writes fiction and nonfiction for children ages 3 to 13, including picture books Don’t Turn the Page!The Best Four Questions, and the award-winning biography Painting in the Dark: Esref Armagan, Blind Artist, and middle grade science-adventure novel The Walking Fish (National Science Teachers Association award). Her next book, Twenty Fearless Feminists: A Children’s Book Celebrating Bold Women (for ages 3-5) will be released in early 2021. Find out more about her books and school visits at  

How To Make Birch Tree: An Easy Art Project For All Ages by Guy Oliveri

It is my pleasure to day to feature illustrator Guy Oliveri who will share an awesome, simple , and creative art project that requires only materials you already have at home. A perfect project for home-schooling and virtual schooling. Here’s Guy:

If parents find themselves homeschooling these days, it is important not to forget art. Here is a fall art project that I created for my students.

In this project, I tried to show that a student could use tools that may be found around the home. This not only focused on creativity but also taught a bit of critical thinking- i.e. how do you think we can make a birch tree? It is also a project that has no age boundaries.

What you’ll need:      1.png

  1. A unique background- newspaper, old book pages, music sheets (We found this old music book at a yard sale).
  2. Paint or markers to make a background
  3. Correction ribbon
  4. Correction pen
  5. A pencil
  6. A push pin or a scoring too.

2.Create your background with watercolor paint or markers. Then let dry. You can also design a background digitally then print it on your paper.


3.Using the correction ribbon, make long strokes from the bottom to the top. You can double up on the strokes to create thicker trees.


4.With the pushpin or scoring tool, (be careful) score the ribbon to create texture. I had my students make “smiles” from side to side.


5. Next, we shaded the some of the trees to separate some of the ones that over lapped one another (this added some depth).


6. Moving on… Now using the correction pen, create the smaller branches beginning at the bottom and working upward as well. Note: If the correction pen leaks out at first, simply make the base of the branch thicker and drag the excess upward. You may want to try a practice run on a separate piece of paper to determine how your pen is functioning.


7.Finally, a nice matte completes the project!


8.Some examples of some other students work:    9.png


Guy photo.png

Guy T. Olivieri is a freelance illustrator, writer, and retired crime scene investigator. A recognized crime scene and fingerprint expert, Guy, has assisted dozens of mystery writers. He enjoys being a guest teacher of forensics and forensic entomology(the study of how insects help solve crimes) to elementary, middle school, and high school students. His whimsical and straightforward approach to police science has made him a sought out favorite with kids of all ages. He also teaches art, always encouraging kids to maintain that creative gift!

Book Review: WAY PAST WORRIED by Hallee Adelman

Today it is my pleasure to feature my review for the second book in the WayPastBooks series written by Hallee Adelman. Hallee’s first book WAY PAST MAD came out in 2019 and her latest just debuted. WAY PAST WORRIED is the perfect addition to this series for young children on handling emotions. Here’s my review:

Brock is invited to a costume party, but his brother and super-hero sidekick isn’t going with him. Brock is worried. About a lot of things. Will the kids laugh at his costume that’s a bit too small? Will the party be terrible without his brother Bax? What if nobody wants to play with him?Will the kids make fun of him? Brock gets so worried he hides behind a tree, watching the party from afar. He meets a girl hiding in a tree who is new in town and worried too. Talking to each other about their worries helps them feel better and gives them courage.

This book is a perfect introduction for young readers on how to deal with worry. The positive message of talking about feelings and that it is okay to feel worried is a good one for young people of all ages. Knowing that when we share big feelings with others they become more manageable, will help kids work through their own big feelings.

The Disappearing Butterfly…How You Can Help!

This post originally ran three years ago, but I find it so important I am running it again.  I will continue to run it as long as these beautiful creatures continue to decline. Pass it on.

While many insects make a lot of people say “yuck”…butterflies are in a category of their own.  There is no ick factor to these beautiful and amazing creatures.  One of the most recognized – and perhaps most popular – butterflies in North America is the MONARCH. Sadly, this beautiful insect is disappearing at an alarming rate.  In the 1990’s up to 1 BILLION monarchs migrated from the Northern US and Canada each fall to the OYAMEL FIR forests of Mexico.  Another million wintered in forested groves along the California coast.      monarch Now, scientists estimate that only 56.5 MILLION remain.  This represents a decline of nearly 80%.  Help keep monarch butterflies in our world. 90% of the milkweed they depend on is gone from roadsides and fields. Most of the decline is blamed on changing use of land; but we homeowners can change that.  You can use your property to create “monarch way stations” by planting MILKWEED and other nectar filled plants.  These plots allow monarchs to successfully produce generations and sustain them for their annual migrations. Milkweeds are the ONLY plants on which monarchs deposit their eggs and on which their larvae feed. 

monarch caterpillar

Without milkweed, there would be no monarchs.     To learn more about monarchs and way stations visit:

Milkweed is easy to grow from seed.  And, here is a link for free milkweed plants.  They require little care and will spread easily once they take hold.  They can take over a garden, so be careful where you plant them. Go to:          

Milkweed from my garden.

Milkweed from my garden.

  Not only will you bring beauty to your own habitat, but you will be helping an endangered species. Here’s a link to a wonderful post to start a discussion about Monarchs from Terry Jennings.:

2020 UPDATE:Things didn’t go as well as expected this year due to the invasive and parasitic fly that bored into the chrysalis, killing the caterpillar before it could change into a monarch. After planting more than 40 milkweeds in our garden beds, only 5 butterflies hatched successfully. We will keep on planting milkweed and hope for a better outcome next year.


International Day of the Girl Child Focuses on Potential Successes by Marilyn Ostermiller

Of the 7.8 billion people who populate this world, 1.1 billion are girls. That’s equivalent to the population of the United States and every country in Europe.

Those girls have the potential to grow up to change the world.

The International Day of the Girl Child, celebrated annually on October 11, was established by the United Nations eight years ago to call attention to girl’s rights and the unique challenges they face around the world.

Three factors that will boost their chances for success:

  • Getting a secondary education
  • Eating nutritious foods
  • Learning about family planning

Helping girls overcome those challenges could change the world. According to the Malala Fund, if all girls attended school for 12 years, low and middle income countries could add $92 billion to their economies annually. Malala Fund is an international, non-profit organization that fights for girls’ education. It was co-founded by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, and her father, Ziauddin.

The difficulties surrounding the mission to fight for the rights of girls around the world has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Among the international organizations seeking help through donations and volunteer efforts to provide opportunities for girls to be educated and healthy are:


  • Plan International, an independent development and humanitarian organization that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.
  • UNICEF, sponsored by the United Nations, org

There are ways to participate in locally as well. Often, schools and after school organizations are open to volunteers willing to mentor a girl or to participate in school activities focused on women leaders. advances equity in education by giving teachers and schools access to the resources they need.

Several recently published children’s books about women leaders can inspire girls. Among them:

STEADFAST: Frances Perkins, Champion of WorkersRights, by Author/illustrator Jennifer J. Merz. When Frances witnessed New York City’s terrifying Triangle Factory fire in 1911, her desire to assist the American worker transformed into a lifelong mission.

STEADFAST: Frances Perkins, Champion of Workers' Rights

Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics, by Laurie Wallmark and Yevgenia Nayberg. The story of Sophie’s journey to become the first woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics.

Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics

She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game,by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Bolger, features 13 women athletes who overcame obstacles and inspired.

She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game



Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World, by Vashti Harrison. The true stories of 35 women creators, ranging from writers to inventors, artists to scientists.

Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World (Vashti Harrison)

 International Day of the Girl Child

Celebrated October 11 Sponsored by UNICEF

How to participate:

  • Become a mentor
  • Donate school supplies
  • Educate girls about past and present women leaders through schools and other public forums.

 Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who now writes about children’s issues, family activities and food.  

‘Tis the Season For: Pumpkin Picking Tips.

  • One of the most abundant and popular items seen everywhere this time of year is the PUMPKIN.  It comes in lots of sizes and shapes and is used to flavor everything from desserts, to coffee, and even soup.  Here are some FUN FACTS about this seasonal favorite as well as tips on how to choose a good pumpkin:
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.

  • Pumpkins are really squash… members of the squash family.

  • A pumpkin is a fruit. Most people think of it as a vegetable.

  • Pumpkins are 90% water. 

  • The largest pumpkin ever grown is 2,323.7 pounds.   You can see it here:

For more fun PUMPKIN facts visit:

How to Select Perfect Pumpkins:

Select pumpkins that are completely orange. A partially green pumpkin might not ripen any further.  Be sure it is not too heavy to carry safely.  You might want to bring along a wagon to carry your pumpkin(s).

Use medium pumpkins for carving into a Jack O Lantern. Small pumpkins are better for cooking and baking.   

A ripe pumpkin has a hard shell that does not dent easily when pressing on it with a thumbnail.  Examine the entire pumpkin carefully for soft spots. If you find even one soft spot, try another pumpkin.

If you don’t plan on cutting your pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern, it will last well into Thanksgiving and beyond.   


Today it is a pleasure to introduce a new non-fiction picture book by Annette Whipple about owls. At the end there will be instructions for making a simple owl craft just in time for fall decorations.

Whooo Knew? The Truth about Owls by Annette Whipple is a picture book in question-and-answer format. It answers kids’ most important questions about owls. Each page spread focuses on one question and answer. Do owls puke? Do owls sleep all day? How do owls hunt? In addition to the main text and lots of stunning photographs, each page spread includes an illustrated owl whooo shares a bit more about owl life—often with a bit of sass.


This is the first book in The Truth About series. Books featuring dogs and spiders will be out in the spring.

  Reycraft Books is the publisher.

  The actual hardcover book includes a poster featuring owl superpowers! It measures 31.5 x 18.5.

  It releases on September 30, but pre-orders are really important, so don’t feel you have to wait until then to share.

A book trailer is at

You can learn more about Annette and her books at:

    Facebook Annette Whipple Books  Twitter @AnnetteWhipple

Here’s my review of this unique book:”WHOOO KNEW? THE TRUTH ABOUT OWLS, by Annette Whipple is an informative and entertaining guide to the world of owls. Written in a Q & A format, facts about owls and their habits are thoughtfully described in simple but illuminating detail. Wonderful photos of various owls enhance the content, making this a perfect addition to a classroom science curriculum. A five star winner.”

And now for the owl craft:

To make this you will need

  • a clean brown paper bag, brown construction paper, or brown card stock
  • yellow and orange scraps of card stock or construction paper.
  • black Sharpie marker
  • glue
  • scissors

An 8×11″ piece of paper was used to make this owl.  Fold the paper into a square bringing one edge against the other so the edges are even forming a triangle as shown in this diagram below.

Cut away the extra paper that isn’t part of the triangle.




Open the triangle and fold a smaller triangle to make a nose as shown in the  diagram below. Cut away the top portion of the wing sections as shown.

Cut out TWO yellow circles using the bottle cap from a milk carton or the rim of a small glass. Glue them in the spots as shown.

Using a BLACK marker, draw the pupils of the eyes, and makes lines on the wings and tail feathers as shown.

Cut a small triangle from ORANGE or YELLOW paper and glue it to the front of the triangle that makes up the nose.

Use the scissors to cut along the black lines on the wings and tail feathers. Your owl is complete!

WHOO KNEW making owls could be so much fun?