More Book Winners For February

Thanks to so many wonderful authors, February has been a month of amazing book giveaways on this blog. Today I have two more to announce.

Kizzi Roberts is the winner of a copy of the board book BUNNY FINDS EASTER  by Laura Sassi.

bunny easter

The winner of a copy of ABSURD WORDS by Tara Lazar is Mia Geiger.

absurd coverCongratulations to the winners and thanks to all who left comments about these awesome books. Please email me your addresses so I can send them to the authors and you can get your books.

BIRDIE’S BILLIONS by Edith Cohn: A New MG and a Chance to Win a Copy

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am a huge fan of middle grade books. Not only because I write them, also because there are so many well-written ones out in the world. Having an opportunity to share my favorites with other book lovers brings me joy.

Today I am excited to share a new book by an author who is new to me. I “met” Edith Cohn when she became a fellow blogger on the group site I post on once a month: Smack Dab in the Middle. She graciously shared her book BIRDIE’S BILLIONS with me, and I am sharing it with you.

BirdiesBillions_cvr_13

Here’s my review:

Birdie and her mama are having a hard time making ends meet since Birdie’s dad is in jail and mama lost her cleaning job because of something Birdie did. Birdie thought things would be different when they moved to the “good” neighborhood in a new town with rich people. But she still feels like an outsider with her thrift shop clothes and worn-out sneakers. If mama doesn’t find another job soon, will they be evicted and out on the street?

            Everything changes one day when Birdie and her cousin skateboard to an abandoned estate set for demolition. Following a stray cat into the house, and into a hole in a wall, Birdie reaches into the hole and pulls out cash. Lots and lots of 100.00 bills. Now her and mama’s troubles will be over. Or, have they just begun? How will Birdie find her way out of the money mess and regain the trust of her family and friends?

            Young readers will enjoy this fast-paced “caper” as one lie after another gets Birdie into a heap of trouble. The positive messages of telling the truth no matter how difficult, and admitting your mistakes are good lessons. As is standing up for what’s important. Highly recommended.

Here’s Edith:

  1. What gave you the idea for the story of a found fortune and how Birdie’s life begins to change because of it?

Years ago a family member of mine actually found a sizable sum of money hidden in the wall of her apartment. She split it with her housekeeper who had helped with the discovery. As soon as I heard this real life story, I began to imagine a fictional one in which a kid finds the money and has to deal with the moral dilemma around keeping it.

  1. Tell readers three things we should know about Birdie.

First off, Birdie has an amazing heart. Despite all her mistakes, she always means well.

Second, Birdie is impulsive. She’s the kind of kid who leaps before she looks.

And last, Birdie is keenly aware of the unfairness in the world, and she is not happy about it.

3. What message do you want young readers to take away from the story?

This is a hard question, because I think every reader might come away with something different. And as authors, I think we always hope that each reader gets the thing they need from the story. So, if I say what the ‘message’ is I think it makes it seem like there is only one right message. When in reality, I think there might be many. Sorry this is a very philosophical answer.

No need to apologize Edith. I think you’re right!

  1. What’s next for your writing? Anything else you’d like to add?

I just turned in a draft of a new middle grade book to my publisher. It’s called The Science of Sisters, and it’s about two sisters who live in a town that was hit by a meteorite that changes everything.

I have a signed copy of Edith’s book along with some swag that I will happily send to one random winner who leaves a comment or answers the question: Have you ever found money or something valuable and if so, what did you do with it?

swag
Edith Cohn is the author of middle grade mysteries: BIRDIE’S BILLIONS (Bloomsbury) and SPIRIT’S KEY (FSG/Macmillan). A former 7th grade English teacher, she loves writing for kids. She was born and raised in North Carolina and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and young daughter.

Edith_Cohn-9621 copy

Edith Cohn, Middle Grade Author of

Birdie’s Billions (Bloomsbury) A Junior Library Guild Selection, PW starred review
The Science of Sisters (Bloomsbury) Coming Spring 2023

Spirit’s Key (FSG/ Macmillan)

Learn more about Edith: http://edithcohn.com

Truth, Honesty and Cherries in the Snow: by Marilyn Ostermiller

Presidents’ Day will be celebrated Monday, February 21. Originally created as a national holiday in the 1880s to commemorate the birthday of America’s first president, George Washington, the celebration was expanded later to include Abraham Lincoln, because he was also born in February.

However, in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which moved a few federal holidays to Mondays, to create more of the popular three-day weekends. Now Presidents Day is the third Monday in February. Other holidays covered by the bill were Memorial Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day.

Below: George Washington at the Delaware River 1776

George Washington at the Delaware River, 1776 George Washington on horseback looking back at troops crossing the Delaware River on the evening previous to the Battle of Trenton, December 25th, 1776. George Washington stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

The general who led the Continental Army to victory against the British was born in Virginia Feb. 22, 1732. Unanimously elected president twice, Washington declined to run for a third term, and moved back to his country estate in Virginia.

One of Washington’s first biographers was an itinerant minister and bookseller, Mason Locke Weems. In his book, “The Life of Washington,” published in 1800, Weems set out to show that Washington’s great rise to leadership and the presidency were due to his great virtues. The life of George Washington: Mason Locke Weems ...

The fifth edition of that instant best seller, was expanded to tell the tale of how six-year-old George took his brand new hatchet and chopped down his father’s favorite cherry tree. According to the myth, when George’s father confronted him, he said, “I cannot tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet.” Upon hearing his confession, George’s father embraced him and rejoiced in his son’s honesty.

Another myth spread that Washington’s false teeth were made of wood. He wore dentures, but they were made of teeth from other humans, animals and wood, according to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

Among the children’s books about Washington:

DK Biography: George Washington: A Photographic Story of a Life, written by Lenny Hort, is geared toward teens with photos and graphics that enhance the biographical details of Washington’s life.

The Story of George Washington: A Biography Book for New Readers, by Lisa Trusiani is for six to eight-year-olds. The book describes who Washington was as a child and how he came to be a soldier and statesman.

The Story of George Washington: A Biography Book for New Readers (The Story Of: A Biography Series for New Readers)

More About Cherries:
If you want a sweet way to commemorate Washington’s Birthday, ‘Cherries in the Snow’ is a quick and easy dessert.IMG_0471

Recipe:
–  Cut an angel food cake into bite-sized pieces and put them in a large, glass bowl.
– Fold in a big tub of Cool Whip.
– Pour on a regular size can of cherry pie filling.                          

  • Stir to distribute the pie filling throughout.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.

thumbnail_img_1886Marilyn Ostermiller is a longtime journalist who also writes stories for children and loves to try new recipes.

Cover Reveal: Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt by Kathleen Wilford

Today it is my pleasure to be among the first to see the fabulous cover reveal for a debut MG historical. Those who follow me know my love of historical fiction, so I was  excited when debut author KATHLEEN WILFORD contacted me about a blog post cover reveal.

So…without further ado, here is the gorgeous cover of CABBY POTTS, DUCHESS OF DIRT  and a short interview with Kathleen about her book.

Cabby Potts cover (no wrap)

Describe your book in 10 words or less.

Thanks so much, Darlene! How about this:

A sod house, a grand manor. A mystery, a match-making scheme. (That’s 11 . . .)

Tell us about your debut historical MG novel, Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt. When is it coming out?

Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt will be released September 1, 2022 with Little Press/Blue Bronco Books.

The book is set in Kansas in 1875, the year after the grasshoppers devastated the state. My main character, Cabby Potts, is inspired by some of my own favorite literary heroines, Laura Ingalls and the pioneer women in the novels of Willa Cather. Like them, Cabby is “outdoor kind of girl,” more interested in farming than fashion. Cabby’s struggling homestead is her first real home, and she’s desperate not to lose it, even if that means accepting a housemaiding job at stuffy, high-class Ashford manor. She’s also a bit naïve and has what her mother calls an intemperate tongue, qualities that get her in trouble after she hatches an improbable matchmaking scheme between her romantic older sister and the young lord of Ashford Manor. When her rash plot backfires, Cabby must use her voice to stand up for herself, a Native American friend, and her entire community.

How did you get the idea for this story?

I ran across a book called Prairie Fever, by Peter Pagnamenta, and I was intrigued to learn about the British aristocracy’s fascination with the American West. Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is based on the true story of Victoria, Kansas, an enclave of British aristocrats in the 1870’s. Victoria was designed as a “community of culture and refinement” where “the arts and graces of life” could be imported straight from London. I couldn’t imagine a bigger culture clash than between the English nobility and the hardscrabble American homesteaders who might have worked for them.

At the same time, I didn’t want to portray Americans as somehow free from the race and class prejudices of the wealthy English. One of the things Cabby wakes up to as she befriends a Kiowa boy is the pigheadedness, as she puts it, of her own community, beloved as it is.

The cover for this book is beautiful. Tell us about it.

 Thanks, I love it! The cover was created by Katie Kear of the Bright Agency. I think she captured Cabby’s character: curious, determined, a bit headstrong, and not very girly! That’s Ashford Manor at the bottom, a grand English manor plunked down on the windswept plains of Kansas. You’ll also notice a brooch and a mysterious document on the cover—there’s a mystery in this book that readers will enjoy helping Cabby puzzle out.

Here is the artist’s website to see more of her amazing work. Her name is Katie Kear, and the website is:

 Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

 I would describe my speed along the road to publication as . . . glacial. My first novel manuscript, which I still hope to revise one day, suffered from rookie mistakes like not considering marketability! I gained from experience, and I think that Cabby is a stronger book. Still, after a few close calls with editors and agents, I stopped submitting for over a year. I was still in that stage where a rejection seemed like a verdict. You know, “lousy book.”  

I will be forever grateful to Michele McAvoy of The Little Press for seeing the potential of the book based on a #PitMad tweet in the summer of 2021. After acquiring Cabby, Michele and her team have guided me through an editing process that has made the story as polished and strong as possible.

What are some of your favorite classic MGs? How about recent ones?

 I grew up with immersive fantasies like the Narnia books and The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. Anything English seemed magical to me, but I also loved Beverly Cleary and The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. 

There are so many recent MG’s I admire, so I’ll just name some historical ones I think are amazing: Moon Over Manifest, The War that Saved my Life, Esperanza Rising, Front Desk, and anything by Linda Sue Park.

war

 What projects are you working on now?

I’m having a great time reading some super-recent MG’s like Cuba in my Pocket, A Place to Hang the Moon (more English magic) and Frankie and Bug. manifestAnd my fellow #22Debuts authors have some great things coming out!   

What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same as you’d give to aspiring authors?

 My biggest advice to my younger self would be to start writing earlier, ha ha!

For aspiring authors, my first piece of advice would be to join a critique group. For a thousand reasons.

Also, read, read, read! Study the market and read in your genre. When you come across a book you love, study its structure, themes, characters, etc.

And be willing to learn. Don’t fall in love with your first draft. When agents or editors are “critical” of your work, try to understand why. Writing for publication is a skill not learned overnight!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

 No surprise, I was a READER as a kid. In fact, my memories of childhood are often pegged to books. Snuggling with my mother as she read out loud: Heidi (I cried.) Summer camp rest time: Rascal. Favorite Christmas present: my now worn-out boxed set of the Narnia books. There was never any question what I’d study in college and grad school: English literature. I taught middle-school and high school English, and I now teach writing at Rutgers University.

Several years ago, I started pursuing what had always been a background dream: writing my own books. I’m grateful to a friend who encouraged me to get started, to SCBWI for opportunities to learn from industry insiders, and most of all to my dedicated, professional critique group who help me conquer my self-doubt. It’s been quite a journey, and we’ve been on it together.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?  Kathleen Wilford head and shoulders

I was born in a place that no longer exists: The Panama Canal Zone, Panama. (The Canal Zone was once a U.S. territory but was formally returned to Panama in 1999.) I also lived in Costa Rica and Colombia. I can speak some Spanish, but I’m rusty.

Where can people find you online?

People can find me on Twitter by following @kathwilford. I also have a website at kathleenwilford.com.  

Congratulations on your first book Kathleen. Can’t wait to see it out in the world!

Author Tara Lazar Has a Word For You…More Than 750 Words to Be Precise.

I recently had the pleasure to read an ARC copy of Children’s Book Author Tara Lazar’s newest book ABSURD WORDS:A Kids Fun and Hilarious Vocabulary Builder for Word Nerds (Sourcebooks explore) and I am hooked! Not only is it a  classroom resource for writing programs, it is also a fantastical humdinger of a volume for anyone who loves words.Since I fit that category, I got a copy for myself. And I asked Tara to tell us how she came to wrote this unique tome. Here she is in her vivacious and effervescent style:

absurd cover

  1. I know you’ve been a word nerd for a long time. How did your collection of unusual words come about?
You know those people who sing along to a song but mess up all the words? Yeah? That’s not me. I’ve always been tuned into words not only for their meanings, but for their sounds. 
I was reading several years ago and came across the word “archipelago”. I thought to myself–I LOVE that word! And I hadn’t heard it in so long! So I wrote it down. I wanted to remember that I loved it, and I didn’t want it to disappear again for years. 
Then, each time I came across another fabulous word, I wrote it down. Soon I had a large word menagerie and I placed it online…where I added to it even more! It became one of the most popular pages on my website. (https://taralazar.com/2014/06/09/list-of-200-fun-cool-and-interesting-words/)
  1. The user-friendly format of this book is great. What led you to arrange the words in such a unique way?
That was my editor Bunmi Ishola’s idea. And it was brilliant! I had put the words in simple alphabetical order, but we knew that wasn’t right. It wouldn’t invite people to read through it in such a common, predictable order. These were AMAZING words and they needed an equally AMAZING format! She came up with the category format and I was immediately sold!
(But then it took weeks and months to figure out the categories!)     internal image
  1. What was the research process like?
Weeks and weeks at the library, among the reference materials–dictionaries and etymology books. I enjoyed digging in, except for the uncomfortable chairs. I had to bring along my own cushion!
  1. Use your five favorite absurd words in one sentence?
“I found zaftig Aunt Barbara’s pulchritudinous baubles–eureka!–in a labyrinth of tchotchkes at her bungalow in the willowwacks.”
That’s eight!
  1. What do you want writers young and old to know about this book?
This is the book I always wished I had. I made it fun and engaging so you could pick it up and spend hours learning odd words and odder facts–and not even notice the hours ticking by. In fact, it was such a long process between writing and the final product that I picked it up and spent hours with it myself!
  1. Anything else you’d like to add?
I hit a brick wall at the word “nudnik,” which is a Yiddish word for a numbskull. I had an etymology dictionary say it came into English usage after the movie “Nudnik of the North.” Well, that sounded like a comedy spoof of “Nanook of the North,” which is a fun fact, so I searched those references. Nothing. I contacted the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis and they had no records of “Nudnik of the North”. I even contacted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences–the Oscar people!–and they couldn’t verify the movie, either. Eventually I just left “nudnik” out of the book, which still bothers me!!!
 
Lucky for all you word nerds out there, Tara has agreed to give away a signed copy of the book to one randomly chosen winner. Leave a comment sharing one of your favorite underused words to enter. Share this post and get a second chance to win.

taraflowerscircleStreet magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books where anything is possible!

Tara’s newest book is BLOOP, about an alien who comes to conquer earth but believe the dogs are in charge. (Well, aren’t they?)

7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY was honored with the 2018 Irma S. & James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature from Bank Street College of Education, chosen by thousands of children across the US. Her other titles include THE MONSTORE, I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK, LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, NORMAL NORMAN, WAY PAST BEDTIME, YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL, THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN, and THE UPPER CASE: TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY, the sequel to 7 ATE 9.

Tara’s signature writing style is full of puns, wordplay, and goofy fun that makes both kids and adults giggle non-stop.

Discover original stories, book reviews and giveaways at her award-winning blog “Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)” at TaraLazar.com.

Tara was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010. She speaks professionally about overcoming disability to achieve your goals and dreams. Tara teaches writing workshops for SCBWI, Highlights Foundation, and schools across America. She’s Co-Chair of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature 1-on-1 conference and a former picture book mentor for We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) and #PBChat, a social media writing community.

Tara lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and a skateboarding hamster named Ozzie.

Some Book Giveaway Winners…

I am featuring many authors who are giving away books this month. Here are the winners from two recent give-aways:

Tiffany  Brooks wins a signed copy of EACH OF US A UNIVERSE by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo.

Universe_FINAL (4)

Angie Quantrell will get a copy of MASHA MUNCHING by Amalia Hoffman.

Please email me with your addresses so I can notify the authors.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS AND MANY THANKS TO ALL WHO SHARED AND LEFT COMMENTS REGARDING THESE GREAT BOOKS.

Please remember, if you enjoy a book, the best way to show your love and support is to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. You will make an author’s day!

thumbnail_with book & puppet sitting

GUEST POST: Sparking Conversations with BUNNY FINDS EASTER (and a Book Walk Activity) by Laura Sassi

Bunny Finds Easter by Laura Sassi, Board Book | Barnes ...

Thank you, Darlene, for having me as your guest today. You asked me to share how I came to tell this story in such a simple way and wonderful (thank you!) way. Here’s the scoop:

As a young child I was confused about what we were celebrating at Easter. I loved getting dressed up and hunting for colorful eggs, but it wasn’t until I was a tween that I made the connection that Easter is when we celebrate Jesus’s resurrection.

Later, as a parent with young children, I tried to be intentional about connecting the wonderful traditions of Easter to the real meaning of the holiday. My favorite strategy was making simple, concrete connections. For example, while nibbling jelly beans with my little ones, we’d ponder how they were good, just like God, who in His goodness, sent us Jesus. Or, while oohing over ducklings at the park, we’d marvel at our new life in Christ.

Hoping others might appreciate a book like this, I set about writing BUNNY FINDS EASTER.  And after many, many rounds of revision, it was acquired by Zonderkidz. It’s my fourth book with them.

Here’s the link to the book trailer for this story:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ltaGEWoeyk

Now, in the hopes that BUNNY FINDS EASTER will be used as part of Easter celebrations this year, here are instructions for creating a Book Walk with BUNNY FINDS EASTER at your church or faith-based preschool. (And special thanks to my publisher for creating this beautiful pdf with the instructions.)

BunnyFindsEaster_BookWalk_2022_2

Happy Easter season!

Laura has agreed to do a giveaway of this delightful book to one winner age 18+ with a US street mailing address (Not a P.O. Box). Please leave a comment to be entered in the random drawing. If you share this post on social media, you will be entered twice.

thumbnail_Laura Sassi with SunflowersLaura Sassi

Children’s book author and poet

GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)

GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, October ’15)

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, Spring ’18)

LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, Fall  ’18)

EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO (Vida Zondervan, Fall ’19)

LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP (Beaming Books,  Spring ’21)

BUNNY FINDS EASTER (Zonderkidz, Spring ’22)

https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales

http://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/

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https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/

Amalia Hoffman Presents a New PB: MASHA MUNCHING + A Chance to Win a Copy

Today it is my delight and pleasure to host Author/Illustrator AMALIA HOFFMAN during the launch of her new PB MASHA MUNCHING.  This story, about a goat with an unusual appetite is a delight to read and a visual treat as well thanks to Amalia’s colorful and lively illustrations.

Amalia has agreed to give away a signed copy of her book to one lucky reader. If you’d like to be considered, please leave a comment at the end of the post. If you share this post on social media, let me know and I will give you a second chance to win.

Here’s Amalia to tell us more about how MASHA MUNCHING came about:

thumbnail_with book & puppet sitting

  1. What inspired the story?

One of the most vivid memories that I have from raising two boys is when we were asked to leave a restaurant after my son threw the food on the floor while sitting in the high chair. I thought that many parents would relate to that.

Growing up in Israel, we spent our summers in a small village where farmers raised cows, chickens and goats. We used to laugh as the goats tried to nibble on our cloths and shoes.  I have another book, The Klezmer Bunch, with a goat character, also named Masha so that means that I have a soft spot for goats.  One day, I just came up with this alliteration; Masha Munching and that kind of sat in my brain for a while till I came up with the idea of a goat that longs for great food.

I am always interested in writing stories that have a message but are not preachy. In Masha Munching, I had the opportunity to say that what is most important is that we share pleasures with good friends and the quality of the meal is less satisfying than the friends we share it with. Also, Masha thinks of her friends all the time during her trip and when she gets back, she uses what she learned to open a restaurant for the farm animals.

The scenes in the restaurant are really delightful. I love the thought you put into creating them.

thumbnail_PastedGraphic-1

2. Kids will be laughing at the silly food choices Masha makes in the restaurant. How did you arrive at this plot element?

In my first drafts, I only had 2 characters: Masha & the penguin waiter. I also had the idea that Masha will eat all the “wrong” things. Then, when I started working with Yeehoo Publishing editor, Brian Saliba, we brainstormed for a while about introducing other animals. I wanted Masha to go for funny foods but also foods that are connected to what she eats in the farm. I started thinking what Masha could find at the Bistro that can remind her of what she’s used to because that would make the story even sillier.  I picked the baguette basket because it’s made from material similar to the straw she chews and chomps with her friends, the pigs. Eating the tasty table could be mistaken by a goat to eating the wood she gobbles and gnaw with the other goats. Drinking bubbly water is a step fancier than slurping sploshy water with the ducks.

thumbnail_PastedGraphic-3

3. The illustrations look textured and three-dimensional. How were you able to achieve this effect?

I wanted to convey the feeling that things are in motion so I used paper cut technique. I cut and color the elements by hand. I cover the board surface with Liquitex modeling paste and add textures by scraping the surface while it’s wet with a comb or other tools. When dry, I paint and sponge the background on the board. Then I glue all the cut-up elements and arrange their movement and expressions by curving the legs or arms or opening the beak wide. When satisfied, I photograph the image. Sometimes, I add more textures, details, and color in Photoshop.

Thanks for sharing your technique and the origin of this story Amalia.

Here’s my review of this book:

“Masha the goat gets bored eating the same old farm food and sets out to expand her palate at a fancy restaurant. She never gets to the entrees, because the fancy table and decorations look yummy enough to eat. Young readers will delight at Masha’s silly food choices in this delightful and funny picture book. The lively, three-dimensional illustrations add another layer of fun as they seem to jump off the page in excitement and enthusiasm. A 5 star winner.”

Here’s a link to a teacher’s guide, coloring pages & fun facts about goats

http://www.yeehoopress.com/wp-content/uploads/Masha-Munching-Lesson-Plan.pdf

Here’s youtube section of Amalia presenting the book with puppet