Memorial Day Activities

Since Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer, that usually means more time outdoors and lots of outdoor eating. If you’re going to a picnic this weekend, here are a few simple games, activities and food ideas to help win the day.                      patriotic-dove

MAKE PATRIOTIC NECKLACES using red, white, and blue straws cut into one inch sections. String them onto a piece of yarn and everyone looks ready for a parade or backyard barbeque.

Try frozen STRAWBERRY POPS to cool off after a fun day in the sun. Wash and remove the stems from a quart of strawberries. Toss them in a blender and add a splash of orange or grape juice.  Puree until smooth. Pour into small paper cups. Place a popsicle stick in each one and freeze until firm. Peel away the paper and they’re ready to eat.

At the next family reunion, have the kids dress up in red, white, and blue and have a backyard parade. You can decorate wagons and bikes, and play some peppy marching band music to add to the festivities. Adults can join in and everyone can “perform” by doing whatever they’re good at: acrobatics, card tricks, puppet show, singing, dancing, telling corny jokes.  Getting everyone – young and old – involved adds to the fun.

While you are celebrating, remember those brave and selfless men and women in uniform who gave their lives  to keep our country free.

Happy Memorial Day.


Book Give-away Winners…

Earlier this month I featured two great books of authors offering signed copies. Here are the winners:

A copy of the YA book WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY by Erica George, goes to Danielle Hammelef.

FINAL Cover WCSS 092020 - Copy

A copy of the PB, SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE by Cathy Ballou Mealy, goes toAAAA111 PICKLEAshley Congdon. Please contact me so I can put you in touch with the authors.

THANKS to all who commented on these wonderful books. The best way to show appreciation is to leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Unknown authors have a better chance of being recognized when readers share books they love.

Financial Literacy For Kids.

Learning to manage money and stay within a budget are life skills that even many adults struggle with. And with most school curriculum stretched to include college prep and technological literacy, simple financial literacy often gets pushed aside.

Yet, we want our children to be able to live within their means and use money wisely. How do we teach this life-skill to our children? is a great place to start.


Here is the Mission of Jumpstart: Mission

Jump$tart is a coalition of diverse financial education stakeholders. These organizations work together to educate and prepare our nation’s youth for life-long financial success.


Why not check out this free resource and get your child started on a life-long journey of financial literacy and security?

Got Frogs? How Far Can They Jump?

Today begins the annual Frog Jumping Festival in Angel Camp, CA. (May 13-16, 2021)

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

Sponsored image

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.

How far can your frog jump? 

Cathy Ballou Mealy Presents: SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE…a new PB of an unlikely friendship + plus a give-away.

Today It is my pleasure to feature author CATHY BALLOU MEALY with her new PB SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE.

How did you decide to have such an unlikely pairing of a squirrel and sloth as friends?

An article about animal ambassadors in the Wall Street Journal entitled Sloths Hot, Armadillos Not: Zoos Seek Affection for Overlooked Species got me interested in learning more about sloths. When I discovered that sloths spend 95% of their lives in the treetop canopy, I knew my character should have an active tree-dweller as a buddy. Since opposites attract, I chose a zippy, chippy squirrel to set the stage for a funny friendship adventure.

What inspired the story and the whimsical approach you took to tell it?

Thank you for appreciating the whimsy! I think there is always a need for lighthearted, humorous picture books, especially as read alouds. I was seeking a story line for sloth and squirrel when I saw a billboard for “Brooklyn Pickle Packers.” I loved the crisp, funny alliteration. Coincidentally, I had just read Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks in which he praised both the ‘k’ sound and the word pickle for innate humor.

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

Laughter and a love of silly books! And possibly the idea that whether you are packing pickles, selling popsicles, or riding a bike, everything is more fun with a friend.

What are you working on now?

Sloth and Squirrel will be going on more adventures in a new as-yet-untitled tale. And my agent is submitting another humorous food-centric story about a raccoon struggling to make tasty s’mores in the moonlight.

Anything else we should know?

Kelly Colliers’s brilliant illustrations add so much humor, expression and personality to the characters and story line! I especially adore her interpretation of grouchy Mr. Peacock, the pickle plant manager. From his bushy, black eyebrows to his button-down vest and shiny name tag, he is the perfect unforgiving bird boss!

Readers are welcome to connect with me online! Tell me if you have seen a sloth in real life, or if you have ever joined a friend on an adventure gone awry. Kids Can Press has graciously agreed to send a copy of Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle to one lucky reader in Canada or the USA if you leave a comment on this post! One winner’s name will be drawn at random and contacted.

Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle Written by Cathy Ballou Mealey Illustrated by Kelly Collier Kids Can Press Fiction, ages 3-7  

Cathy Ballou Mealey lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a sloth to appear. Her favorite pickle is a crunchy bread-and-butter chip and her favorite popsicle is red raspberry.

Her new book, SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE, is a rollicking read-aloud that celebrates teamwork and ingenuity between two loveable but unlikely friends who get jobs packing slippery pickles so they can buy a bicycle.




Children’s Book Week Book Review: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM by Holly Goldberg Sloan

After reading COUNTING BY 7’S  a few years ago, I was excited to read this latest middle grade book from author Holly Goldberg Sloan. It was an absolute gem! Here is my review of this book, just in time for Children’s Book Week!

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

It’s been almost a year since Sila’s mother traveled halfway around the world to Turkey, hoping to secure the immigration paperwork that would allow her to return to her family in the United States.

The long separation is almost impossible for Sila to withstand. But things change when Sila accompanies her father (who is a mechanic) outside their Oregon town to fix a truck. There, behind an enormous stone wall, she meets a grandfatherly man who only months before won the state lottery. Their new alliance leads to the rescue of a circus elephant named Veda, and then to a friendship with an unusual boy named Mateo, proving that comfort and hope come in the most unlikely of places.

A moving story of family separation and the importance of the connection between animals and humans, this novel has the enormous heart and uplifting humor that readers have come to expect from the beloved author of Counting by 7s.

Here’s my review:

Sloan has written a story of hope and patience, teaching us that when we reach out to others with love and kindness, we get back so much more than we ever expected. Animals have a great deal to teach us about the important things in life. This book  is a pure joy to read and hard to put down. It will stay with you for days afterwards. I can picture it on the big screen like THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. A five-star winner.

Book Giveaway: What the World Could Make by Holly McGhee

An opportunity to win a beautiful new picture book from Holly McGhee

Writing and Illustrating

Talented agent and author Holly McGhee has a new picture book WHAT THE WORLD COULD MAKE, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre and published by Roaring Brook Press. Today is it’s birthday, so it’s out in the world for everyone to read. Holly is giving away a copy to one lucky winner.

If you would like to win a copy, please leave a comment, reblog, tweet, or talk about What the World Could Make on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.


From writer Holly M. McGhee and illustrator Pascal Lemaitre, the bestselling creative team behind Come with Me and Listen, comes a story of hope, abundance, and the…

View original post 1,098 more words

Author Erica George Presents: WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY + A Chance To Win A Copy

It is with great pleasure and excitement that I am featuring author Erica George with her debut YA nove, WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY. I had the honor of reading an arc of this amazing story and I am sharing my review here:

A sweet and thoughtful YA story where past and present converge, and poetry bridges the gap.

Narrated by two teenage girls – Leta from 1862, and Michaela from present day – who use their passion for poetry to discover greater truths around them.

Set on the shore of Cape Cod, this is a story that celebrates love. Love of family, love of the sea, love of poetry and the emotional connection it creates, the love one person has for another. A teen romance that is so much more, this book is highly recommended to anyone who has a passion for a time, feels connection to a place or era of history. The author takes us on a journey we will not soon forget.

Erica was kind enough to answer some questions about how this story came to be.

How did the story come about? What was your inspiration?

Believe it or not, this story technically began back when I was in eighth grade. Every year, my family and I would go and see a production of A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, and on the ride home that night, I was thinking about change—who was capable of change, and who wasn’t, and why. That’s when the character of Benjamin Churchill appeared. When I got home, I climbed into bed and took out my journal, and began outlining who I thought he would be. He’s stayed with me for over twenty years. The rest of the story came about only a few years ago, and I couldn’t get the idea of two timelines converging out of my head. I love thinking about how the past can hold us back and push us forward all at the same time.

What was it like writing from two POV’s in two different time periods? How did you handle each story line while you wrote?

I’ve always loved writing both historical and contemporary characters. With Mack living in the present day and Leta living in the 1860s, the time periods helped influenced their voice, certainly, especially when I was writing their poetry. I allowed Mack to write more modern sounding poetry, while Leta’s was heavily influenced by Emily Dickinson’s work. But truthfully, the two girls had so much in common despite the almost 200 years between them, and that’s what drove the story.

The poetry adds a layer of richness and depth to this unique love story. Did you decide on using poetry from the beginning?

Honestly, I knew I wanted to write about poetry, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to write my own! I don’t at all consider myself a poet, and writing the poems was daunting to say the least. I had help from my advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts, the talented and generous Liz Garton Scanlon. The poetry was eye-opening in exploring the characters. It helped me dive into their inner lives, and their wounds, their insecurities, and their triumphs.

The setting almost feels like a character in the book. What factors determined your setting for this story?

I’m so glad to hear this! Cape Cod is my heart. It’s the place where I feel most at home. I’ve spent all of my summers there since childhood, and my family has a house there, as well. And it’s the perfect place for 19th century poetry and whaling to meet! It’s a place that really lends itself to art—the ocean and the cliffs are so dramatic and timeless. Not to mention it has such a rich history of whaling, and now, for conservation and stewardship.

Erika will give away a signed copy of this amazing book to one lucky reader drawn at random from those who leave a comment below. It’s a wonderful opportunity to own a very special book by a gifted writer.

Here’s the pre-order link as well: 

Erica George is a writer of young adult fiction. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey with degrees in both English and education, and is currently an MFA student at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She resides in scenic northern New Jersey, but spends her summers soaking up the salty sea air on Cape Cod.

Many themes in Erica’s writing rotate around environmental activism and helping young people find their voice. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring river towns, whale watching, or engrossed in quality British drama with her dog at her side. Erica is also a member of the Class of 2K21 Debut Group.



Twitter: @theericageorge