Author Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo Presents a New MG: EACH OF US A UNIVERSE + A Chance to Win a Signed Copy.

Today it is my absolute pleasure to share a book I recently read by middle-grade author Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo titled EACH OF US A UNIVERSE. I asked Jeanne what inspired her to write this lovely story. Her answers follow as well as my review and a chance to win a signed copy. Here’s Jeanne:

Universe_FINAL (4)

  1. I love the title of your book: EACH OF US A UNIVERSE. How did you arrive at that title?

I did a great deal of research for this book especially in the field of astrophysics, cosmology, and meteoritics (study of meteorites). Neil deGrasse Tyson’s books and documentaries were incredibly helpful. Watching COSMOS, I came across Tyson’s quote: “There are as many atoms in a single molecule of your DNA as there are stars in the typical galaxy. We are, each of us, a little universe.” I found this so inspirational. It seemed to encompass Cal’s and Rosine’s journeys. It was also a concept that Rosine had begun to understand, and one Cal was just learning. It felt like the perfect title for the book.

  1. There is a lot of detail about the sport of mountain climbing. What kind of research did you have to do for the story? Where did your inspiration come from?

Tons of research! And it was so fun! Rock climbing is an inherently dangerous sport, but can be done safely with the right tools and instruction. I began by joining my local climbing gym and took several lessons. Universally, the climbing community is incredibly welcoming! My entire family also travelled to Mount Mansfield in Vermont where we had a lesson on outdoor mountain climbing at Smugglers’ Notch. It was really hard, but so rewarding!

  1. The mountain looms large in the story as a physical presence and as a metaphor for the struggles and fears of the main character. How did this come about?

I hike almost every day on our local (very small) mountain, Soapstone Mountain. Although mountain hikes can be challenging physically as well as mentally, there is something incredibly spiritual—even magical—about the experience. With all the struggles and challenges Cal and Rosine were facing, I wanted them to experience that magic. I knew the mountain was where they would find it.

  1. What are 3 things readers should know about the main character Calliope Scott and 3 things about Rosine Kanambe?

Cal has lived in the small, rural town of Bleakerville, CT her entire life.

She and her father are struggling with her mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.

She is so much stronger than she knows.

Rosine is from Democratic Republic of the Congo but lived as a refugee in Burundi for — years before being resettled in the United States.

She is struggling with her sister’s sadness and desire to keep moving.

Rosine already knows how strong she is.

  1. What scene was the easiest to write? The hardest?

I loved writing the climbing scenes, especially the one where Cal thinks back to the time she scaled Ragged Mountain with her father. Ragged Mountain is a real place in Southington, CT that I have hiked with family and friends. It is a truly special mountain, and you can’t help but feel a combined sense of peace and joy when climbing it.

The scene in which Cal visits her father in prison was challenging in that it was so emotional for me. As a former public defender, I made hundreds of professional visits to clients in prisons. I’d wait in the waiting room, and then enter the facility alongside family members who were visiting loved ones. From the moment I’d enter the prison, I would feel the weight of those friends and family. Their nervousness was palpable. But I also witnessed happiness in those visits—the simple joy that comes from human connection. I wanted to bring that emotion to the scene, while letting kids who’ve had experience with prison visits know they aren’t alone. I also want them to understand that, like Cal, they are a great deal stronger than they realize.

Here is Darlene’s review for this amazing story of courage.

“Calliope Scott runs. She is always on the move, trying to escape from all the things troubling her in the small town of Bleakerville. Mountain climbing is her passion, something she did with her dad…before he went to prison. Before her mom got cancer. When a new girl moves into town, a girl whose love of the mountain is as strong as Cal’s, they set out to conquer Mt. Meterorite and the magic they both hope will save their families.

Will Cal and Rosine climb all the way to the summit? Will they find the magic said to reside there from local legends? Young readers will keep turning pages to find out in this heartfelt and honest story of a girl’s love of the mountain that looms large literally and figuratively in her life.

Themes of believing in yourself, the power of friendship, and how love can help you through life’s difficult and scary moments resonate throughout. Magic happens when you believe.”

Zulick Ferruolo Headshot

Jeanne has agreed to give-away a signed copy of EACH OF US A UNIVERSE. Leave a comment if you would like to be considered. One name will be drawn at random from all who enter. If you share this post on social media, I will give you a second chance to enter.

Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo is the author of Each of Us a Universe, A Galaxy of Sea Stars and Ruby in the Sky, which earned two starred reviews and which Booklist called “quietly magical.” She is also a volunteer with IRIS-Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services in New Haven, Connecticut. She lives in Ellington, Connecticut, with her family.

Contact information



Twitter:  @jzulferr







Indie Bound:









Historical fiction lovers will appreciate the research Antoinette went through for her books. Fascinating.

Writing and Illustrating

Today you have the opportunity to win a copy of Antoinette Truglio Marting middle Grdae book THE DREAMS OF SINGERS AND SLUGGERS, cover illustrated by Penny Weber and published by Red Penguin Books. Antoinette has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

Just 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 how you shared the good news. If you follow my blog and have it delivered daily, let me know in the comments so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping AT and Penny.


The Dreams of Singers and Sluggers is the second book in the Becoming…

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Author/Illustrator Mike Ciccotello Presents: Draw With Mr. Mike

Are you an author who writes picture books and would love to know how to illustrate them? Do you have or know children who love to doodle and draw? Do you want to stretch your creative muscles and learn something new? Then I’ve got a great YouTube series for you: DRAW WITH MR. MIKE starring PB Author/Illustrator Mike Ciccotello. Here’s Mike to tell you about his series in his own words:

Thanks for the invite to talk about my drawing program, Draw with Mr. Mike!

When my twins were three, I observed how they started to create art. I had an idea of showing them how to use basic lines and shapes to create complex objects. We worked on a few drawings, and I was delighted to see them follow along. They were excited to see what they were able to create. So I decided to include this in my school visits, and it was a hit. The kids enjoyed the opportunity to create art together.

Creating art between three to seven is fun for children, but it can also be problematic if they lack confidence in their abilities. Breaking down these drawings into their simplest forms makes them easier to understand. And then, step-by-step, as we fit the shapes together to build a finished piece of art, we are also building the child’s confidence.

After developing this idea, I knew I wanted to reach more children, but I didn’t know how to take my lessons and make them available to the public. Then, an old colleague from my days at CNN approached me with an idea. Her company, Identity Digital, could help me figure it all out, and that’s when the Draw with Mr. Mike show became a reality.

We started recording episodes and posting them to Vimeo, YouTube, and on my website.

Each episode demonstrates the same principle of using basic lines and shapes to create a complex character, object, or scene. Now I’m focusing on creating more episodes to reach a wider audience, improving my production every week, and doing my best to make fun and educational drawing lessons for kids.

Here is the blurb from my website:

Do you know a child who loves to draw? Or maybe a child who needs a confidence boost when it comes to making art? If so, then DRAW WITH MR. MIKE may be a great fit. In these short, easy-to-understand videos, young artists will learn how to take basic shapes and lines, and turn them into a rocket ship, a castle, a butterfly, and other kid-friendly images. The lessons are geared toward 3-7 years old—but, of course, they are open for artists of any age to join in.

So grab some favorite drawing materials, and join me in this exciting art journey. Let’s see how these shapes and lines fit together!

mike photo


Mike is the author/illustrator of BEACH TOYS vs SCHOOL SUPPLIES, Beach Toys vs. School Supplies and TWINS.

Follow him on Twitter @ciccotello

Author Amanda Rowe Presents: IF THERE NEVER WAS A YOU + a Give-away.

Today it is my pleasure to feature a charming board book by author Amanda Rowe. Amanda and I met last month at the New Jersey Association of School Librarians Conference (NJASL) in Atlantic City. As we sat next to each other and shared our books, I knew I wanted to feature her on a blog post. Her book: IF THERE NEVER WAS A YOU (illustrated by Olga Skomorokhova) is a delightful celebration of a Mother’s love for her child.

Amanda graciously gave me a signed copy that I will give to one of you who leave a comment at the end of this post. If you share the post on social media, let me know so I can give you a second chance to win.

My review: “Told in a gentle, soothing rhyme, with delightful and whimsical illustrations, IF THERE NEVER WAS A YOU shows the loving and special moments between a parent and child. A perfect bedtime read for the littlest children to treasure and request over and over again”

Here’s my interview with Amanda:

Book cover

  1. What was your inspiration for writing IF THERE NEVER WAS A YOU?

My children are the inspiration for everything good that I do. They were growing up so fast, and I was thinking about how much I missed their younger years, and I wanted to find a way to tell them what they meant to me, and how much they had enriched my life.

  1. The gentle rhyme is soothing and perfect for this tale for the youngest children. Was this intentional, and how did it come about?

If There Never Was a You began as a poem that I wrote for my children. I didn’t write it with the intention of it becoming a children’s book; I never expected anyone but my children to read it. But the more I reread it the more I thought that other parents might relate to it, and might like to share it with their own children. So I submitted it to a few children’s book publishers. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but I heard back from Familius almost immediately. I am so grateful to God and to Familius for this book. Becoming a children’s book author has been a wonderful adventure. I love books, and I love children, so this is the perfect job for me, and I never knew that until after it happened.

  1. Did you have any input into the playful and endearing illustrations?

I didn’t. I did not see the illustrations until the book was finished and I got a case of copies in the mail. The illustrator, Olga Skomorokhova, is immensely talented and I am so thankful that Familius chose her to illustrate this book. Reading my words on the page with Olga’s illustrations was one of the best moments of my life. Her pictures are more beautiful than I ever imagined they could be. Olga and I are in contact now and she is just as lovely as her pictures. I am so grateful to have been partnered with her on this book and I hope that we will collaborate again in the future.

  1. What’s next for you?

I have a new children’s book called There Goes My Heart forthcoming with Familius in 2024. In the meantime, I am working on some other manuscripts that I hope to get published. I took a break from in person events during the pandemic but I’m starting to reemerge from my house and it has been wonderful to travel and meet authors and readers again. I hope to do much more of that in the future.

If you’d like to know more about Amanda, check out her website here:

and her Instagram here:

7 croppedAmanda Rowe is a children’s book author, an academic administrator, an amateur chef, a travel enthusiast, a blogger, and a book hoarder. If There Never Was a You is her first children’s book. Her next children’s book, There Goes My Heart, is forthcoming with Familius in 2024. Visit her:


Amber Brown Award

Calling all classrooms…would you like an author visit to your school? Nominate your school and you may win a free one.

Writing and Illustrating

Amber Brown Grant

Do you know a school who could benefit from receiving a all-expense paid visit from a well-respected children’s author or illustrator, along with $250 stipend to make it memorable and $250 worth of books by author/illustrator?

Well, now if the time to be a hero and talk to that school principle to see if they would be interested in this grant. You do not have to be an SCBWI member, but the principle will need to write a statement of support to apply. The deadline is April 15th

The Amber Brown Grant commemorates author and beloved school speaker, Paula Danziger.  One school is awarded each year with an author or illustrator visit and new books to continue Paula’s love of connecting children with creative influences.

  • Any school can apply. You do not need to be a member to nominate a school.
  • Applications must be filled out…

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Traveling To Asian Art Museums: Merely a Click Away by Marilyn Ostermiller

(Third in a three-part series on how to accompany the children in your life on virtual visits to a variety of museums.)

Art is the universal language.

Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” speak to us through time and space.

Likewise, “The Great Wave” created by Katsushika Hokusai of Japan has cast its spell over generations of art lovers throughout the world. This is one of a series of 36 he painted of views of Mount Fuji.   Mount Fuji Photo from Wikipedia.

You don’t have to travel to expose your children to the wonders of the art world. A few Asian Museums offer virtual visits that include special features for children. Among them:

National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan

The National Palace Museum’s virtual experiences for children feature video adventures in English that feature artwork from its collections.

Its permanent collection of Chinese artifacts and artworks includes almost 700,000 pieces, including some that date back 8,000 years. Its Children’s Gallery online offers online activities such a game of “I Spy” that will help youngsters to explore an original painting, “Malay Fisherman at Changi Beach” by Chua Mia Tee.

Another activity starts with a montage of a typical breakfast that introduces them to a different, but similar, cuisine, and a riddle to solve.

A gallery tour, told by kid-friendly narrator, weaves traditional stories, in English, based on art masterpieces in the museum’s collection, beginning with King Midas and his golden touch.

 Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

In the United States, the Asian Art Museum based in San Francisco offers children’s virtual visits tied to grade level.

A video tale about celebrating the new year in tells the story of Jizo, a deity whose statues are popular in Japan along the roadside. 1x, 2x

Caption: One of many hands-on activities on the site available for kids of all age groups.

Here’s a link to the Coloring Pages Offered by the museum:

Another way to explore the Asian Art Museum is through the book, Adventures in Asian Art: An Afternoon at the Museum,” by author Sue DiCicco. Appropriate for ages 4 to 9, this 48-page picture book travels from exhibit to exhibit inviting kids to picture themselves in a variety of Asiant countries as they ride a rhino, become a samurai or climb Mt. Fuji. It is available through at

Adventures in Asian Art: An Afternoon at the Museum by [Sue DiCicco]



Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who also writes stories for children.




The Reviews Are In: How Many Book Reviews Did I Post in 2021?

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and looks forward to a new year with new hopes, fresh possibilities, and maybe a book contract? If the contract seems a bit too far away, there is still hope that whatever books we have out in the world will find new audiences.

With that in mind, I am sharing my third New Year Book Review Post letting you know the books I wrote reviews for on Amazon and Goodreads in 2021. The best way to spread the word about great books and unknown authors is to WRITE A REVIEWIt only takes a few minutes to write a couple sentences telling the reading world what you like about a book. As a children’s book author, I can tell you how much it means to see some kind words about a book and sharing it on your solcial media.

Here are the books I enjoyed and posted reviews for in 2021:

  1. A HORN IS BORN (PB) by Bill Borders
  2. CODE BREAKER, SPY CATCHER (PB) by Laurie Wallmark
  4. FROM HERE TO THERE (PB) by Vivian Kirkfield
  5. RISSY NO KISSIES (PB) by Katey Howes
  6. LITTLE EWE (PB) by Laura Sassi
  7. DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT (PB) by Robin Newman
  8. STEPSISTER (YA) by Jennifer Donnelly
  9. STARFISH (MG) by Lisa Fipps
  10. BOARDWALK BABIES (PB) by Marissa Moss
  11. WE BELIEVE IN YOU (PB) by Beth Ferry
  12. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM (MG) Holly Goldberg Sloan
  13. SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE (PB) by Cathy Ballou Mealy
  14. STOMP, WIGGLE, CLAP, and TAP (PB) by Rachelle Burk
  15. ORANGE FOR THE SUNSETS (MG) by Tina Athaide
  16. WISHES (PB)  by Moun Thai Van
  17. ISABEL AND HER COLORS GO TO SCHOOL (PB) by Alexandra Alessandro
  19. PIXIE PUSHES ON (MG) by Tamara Bundy
  20. WOOF: THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS (PB) by Annette Whipple
  21. BEACH TOYS vs SCHOOL SUPPLIES (PB) by Mike Ciccotello
  22. DINO PAJAMA PARTY (PB) by Laurie Wallmark
  23. SCURRY: THE TRUTH ABOUT SPIDERS (PB) by Annette Whipple
  24. A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNDERPANTS (PB) by Christine Van Zandt
  26. A QUEEN TO THE RESCUE (PB) by Nancy Churnin
  27. DEAR MR. DICKENS (PB) by Nancy Churnin
  28. SWEET BLISS/GOOD CATCH (an adult series about Harper Landing) by Jennifer Bardsley
  29. 101 PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES (MG) by Theresa Julian
  30. A HOME AGAIN (PB) by Colleen Kosinski

Were there some books you enjoyed in 2021? I’ll bet there will be some more amazing stories in 2022. Why not make a resolution to post reviews for some of your favorites. I guarantee you will make an author’s day!

Happy Reading!