Three Cheers For Tuscaloosa Academy! My First Classroom Visit in 2023.

I always look forward to a new year because that usually means a chance to connect with students and teachers through author visits. Last week I had the pleasure of a virtual visit to GINGER STEWART’S 7th and 8th grade classes at TUSCALOOSA ACADEMY,  in Tuscaloosa AL.

alabama school visit

The classes were in the middle of reading  WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY and had some wonderful questions to ask about the book.

They were eager to share their enthusiasm about the story, and their favorite characters. Mrs. Stewart had them read sections each day and then they talked about it and shared their thoughts.

They also did character studies regarding the traits and behaviors of each character.


It was so gratifying to see the students enthusiasm for the story. It was also music to my ears when Mrs. Stewart said the class liked the book better than their previous read aloud CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN.

Thank you students for an enjoyable visit and for the book love! I hope I can visit your wonderful classroom again some time. And a BIG thanks to Mrs. Stewart for choosing to share WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY with her students.



January Book Giveaway Winners…

There were two lovely picture books featured for giveaway this month. It is with great enthusiasm that I announce the winners:

thatcher cover

ANGIE QUANTRELL wins a copy of MR. THATCHER’S HOUSE  by Kristin Wauson

poem inside you cover

WENDY GREENLEY wins a signed copy of A POEM GROWS INSIDE YOU by Katey Howes (illustrated by Heather Brockman Lee)

Please email me you addresses so I can get the books out to you!

Many thanks to all who commented on these beautiful books. Stay tuned for more giveaways in the month of February in celebration of World Read Aloud Day (2-1-2023) and Read Across America.

I Resolve to…Cut Back on…

…PLASTICS! Stories about the plastics floating in our oceans and waterways and the dangers this poses to marine life seem to fill headlines. One statistic stated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than marine life.  That’s a pretty sobering statistic.

Many communities banned plastic straws and some even eliminated plastic bags as an option when shopping for groceries. At the start of a new year, when our minds are focused on “resolutions” and starting fresh, I am resolving to work on cutting back on the use of plastics in my life.

I already use cloth bags for groceries. I have stopped asking for straws at restaurants. I try to recycle as much plastic as I can. I also try to store food in containers that can be reused. I have a stainless steel bottle that I take to the gym and refill. I also use a pitcher with a filter in it for drinking water, so I don’t buy those plastic bottles. (FYI: bottled water costs more per gallon than gasoline when you buy it in those portable bottles. Think of how much money you’d save each year if you went to a filter system.)

I know there is more…much more that I can do.  If healthy oceans and marine life are important to you and your families, maybe you’d like to know what YOU can do to cut back on plastic use.  

One company is making a difference. 4ocean cleans up ocean plastic from oceans around the world, collecting and recycling it into bracelets that support and help pay for the continued clean up effort. You can help by buying  a bracelet. Each bracelet purchased pays for the clean-up of one pound of ocean trash.  Visit:


Visit:   for 100 IDEAS and WAYS to get rid of plastic in your life.

May 2023 be a healthy year for all of us!

Author Katey Howes Presents: A POEM GROWS INSIDE YOU + A GIVE-AWAY

Just before the holidays I had the pleasure of receiving a signed copy of a new picture book by award-winning author KATEY HOWES. This book is so lovely I wanted to share it with all of you.

poem inside you cover

Here’s my review for this gem:

A POEM GROWS INSIDE YOU by Katey Howes Illustrated by Heather Brockman Lee

A beautiful story of how the seed of imagination – once nurtured and given expression – grows into a poem, using the metaphor of a seedling sprouting, being watered with imagination, and growing as we take a chance sharing our poem with the world. Joyful and animated illustrations accompany the tender and thoughtful rhyme. A treat for the eyes and ears. A wonderful introduction to all the magic of poetic expression.

I was so intrigued by the idea of a seed growing into a poem, I asked Katey about it.

Where did A POEM GROWS INSIDE YOU come from?

Several years ago, author/poet Laura Shovan shared a story. I think it was on Twitter, maybe Facebook.  I wish I could hunt down the details – but you’ll have to bear with my flawed memory instead. As I recall, she posted that a student had come to her a year after having had class with her, to share a poem with her. He had held onto the idea generated in class for a long time, but hadn’t felt ready to write it down. It had lain dormant in his heart until he had what he needed to bring it to life. And when he finally did, he brought it back to Laura to share it with her.

This little window into that student’s experience touched my heart deeply. I had absolutely felt the same way about ideas many times, especially for poems. I know well that often a person needs to be in the right space emotionally, physically, and even spiritually to tackle some topics in their writing. We aren’t always equipped to process the emotions and experiences life gives us- but when we are, poetry can be such a beautiful and healing way to do it.

I held onto the idea of a seed of a poem, planted in the heart, for quite awhile. Checked on it. Dreamed about what it would grow into. Supplied myself with the tools I needed to  nurture it into life. Found its rhythm. And then I began to write.

What do you hope readers will take from A POEM GROWS INSIDE YOU?

I hope readers will recognize that ideas aren’t always ready to grow right away – that they can lie dormant inside us until conditions are right – and then bloom in beautiful and unexpected ways!

If that isn’t inspirational, I don’t know what is!

I am giving away a signed copy of A POEM GROWS INSIDE YOU to one lucky person drawn at random from those who leave a comment on this post.

katey howes

Katey Howes is a haphazard gardener, a darn good rhymer, and a fun mother. She’s also the award-winning author of RISSY NO KISSIES, BE A MAKER, and a growing assortment of other books. You can find Katey under a big tree on a small mountain in Eastern Pennsylvania with a bowl of popcorn, a notebook full of ideas, and a rescue pup named Samwise. Or find her on Twitter @kateywrites, on IG @kidlitlove, and at

Homemade Soup Warms Family Ties by Marilyn Ostermiller

Winter is soup season Especially if the family’s been out sledding or skiing, a tureen of hot soup for supper brings everyone together.

Soup is readily available as takeout, canned, dehydrated or frozen. But to enjoy its full benefit, consider making it at home. As it simmers on the stove, the flavors meld and the tempting aroma carries throughout the home.

Soup making lends itself to getting everyone involved. If the kids in the family are interested, a new cookbook that includes lots of basic skill-building — and recipes for two popular soups — is Cooking with Kids: Fun, Easy, Approachable Recipes to Help Teach Kids How to Cook. Brianne Grajkowski wrote it. Fox Chapel Publishing introduced it in October.

cooking with kids

Not only does soup taste good, the nutrients in soup can help ward off cold and flu. Studies show that chicken soup in particular can help prevent the common cold, especially if it’s loaded with fresh garlic, onions, celery and carrots.

Tomato, chicken noodle, potato, clam chowder are especially popular soups across the United States. Gumbo is the official Louisiana state cuisine. It’s a strongly-flavored stock that includes meat or shellfish, celery, bell peppers and onions. It’s thickened with either okra or crushed sassafras leaves.

Gumbo can be tricky to prepare, but celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse makes it seem achievable through several of his step-by-step videos available online.


Photo credit: Courtesy of Amadoscientist

Soup is enjoyed around the world. Trying recipes from different cultures is another way to expand a child’s horizon.

Minestrone is Italy’s most famous soup. It’s made with vegetables and pasta or rice usually in tomato broth. It is an easy soup to make with kids and you can find a recipe at the end of this post.

heart smart minestrone

Pho is a popular soup from Vietnam. Rice noodles, herbs, and meat float in a broth.

Tom yum from Thailand pairs hot and sour flavors and shrimp.

Ramen is a noodle soup made with wheat noodles served in a broth seasoned with soy sauce and miso. Typical toppings include sliced pork and scallions. Although ramen originated in Japan, it has also gained popularity throughout Asia and beyond.    ramen

Unlike most soups, gazpacho, which originated in Spain, is served cold. Ingredients include tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and green peppers.

Another perspective on making soup is the timeless tale, “Stone Soup.” A recent revision, written by Marcia Brown, retells the  tale of clever soldiers, who outwit greedy townspeople with the creation of a special soup. This cherished classic is for children from 3- to 10-years old.  stone soup


Sauté in 2 tsp. olive oil;
3/4 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic

3 cups water
2 cups zucchini, sliced
3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
I 19-ounce can cannellini beans
1 14-ounce can petite tomatoes
1/4 tsp, oregano
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. salt
2 beef bouillon cubes

Bring to a boil.
Cover for 25 minutes.

1/4 cup elbow pasta
Cook for 10 minutes.
Serve and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.


Marilyn Ostermiller is a longtime journalist who also writes stories for children.

Book Review: THE DREAMS OF SINGERS AND SLUGGERS by Antoinette Truglio Martin

sluggers cover

After reading the first book in this Becoming America’s Stories series – THE HEARTS OF ARTISTS AND BAKERS, I knew I was going to enjoy this second book in the middle grade series. The book picks up where the first one left off, following the ups and downs of life in the Lower East side tenements in 1911 NY City. Told through the eyes of nine-year-old Lily, we get a firsthand look at the lives of the hard-working Taglia family. Lily, like all children and even some of their parents, have dreams. Being in poverty means everyone old enough works and helps out the family in any way they can. But still, they think about one day being able to realize those dreams. Lily wants to use her strong, beautiful voice to sing in the Henry Street Settlement Children’s Choir.

Rich in period details, this story brings the early 1900’s to life and reminds readers that with hard work, dedication, and the support of family and friends, dreams can come true for anyone. A great book for classroom discussions on child labor, immigration, family values, and life in the tenements of NYC, with some baseball thrown in!

You can order this book from Amazon here:


HAPPY 2023!  As we begin a new calendar year, I always like to start off by reviewing all the notable books I read and reviewed the previous year. While I read 70 books in 2022, the ones below are mostly from authors in the kidlit community who don’t often get the recognition for their books like the well-known authors do.

So, one of my resolutions is to post reviews for books I’ve enjoyed throughout the year. As a fellow author, I can tell you how much it means to have a reader take a few moments to say something they enjoyed about a book. IT MAKES AN AUTHORS DAY!!

So, I am spreading the word about these great books I had the pleasure of reading in 2022.

  1. EACH OF US A UNIVERSE (MG) by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo
  2. IF THERE NEVER WAS A YOU (BB) by Amanda Rowe
  3. ABSURD WORDS (MG) by Tara Lazar
  4. PRUITT & SOO (PB) by Nancy Viau
  5. BUNNY FINDS EASTER (BB) by Laura Sassi
  6. BIRDIE’S BILLIONS (MG) by Edith Cohn
  7. MASHA MUNCHING (BB) by Amalia Hoffman
  8. MORE THAN (Adult) by Diane Barnes
  9. MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD (MG) by Rochelle Melander
  10. AFRICAN TOWN (YA) by Irene Latham & Charles Waters
  11. RIBBIT: THE TRUTH ABOUT FROGS (PB) by Annette Whipple
  12. SHADOW GRAVE (MG) by Marina Cohen
  13. THE WOMAN WHO SPLIT THE ATOM (MG) by Marrissa Moss


  1. LET’S PLAY AN INSTRUMENT (PB) by Rachelle Burk
  2. I WILL PROTECT YOU (MG) by Av Mozes Kor & Danica Davidson
  3. CABBY POTTS: DUCHESS OF DIRT (MG) by Kathleen Wilford
  4. DUET (MG) by Elise Broach
  5. CLARICE THE BRAVE (MG) by Lisa McMann
  6. WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD (MG) by Rachelle Burk
  7. HANUKKAH NIGHTS (PB) by Amalia Hoffman
  8. OUT OF A JAR (PB) by Deborah Macero
  9. THE GIFT OF STORY (ADULT) by John Schu
  10. ODDER (MG) by Katherine Applegate
  12. ALONE (MG) by Megan Freeman
  13. SHIPSHAPE (MG) by E. E. Dowd
  14. MEOW: THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS (PB) by Annette Whipple
  15. THE LAST SHADOW WARRIOR (MG) by Sam Subity
  16. GOOD DIFFERENT (MG) by Meg Eden Kuyatt
  17. SKYSCRAPING (YA) by Cordelia Jensen
  18. MR. THATCHER’S HOUSE (PB) by Kristin Wauson
  19. A POEM GROWS INSIDE YOU (PB) by Katey Howes
  20. THE DREAMS OF SINGERS AND SLUGGERS (MG) by Antoinette Truglio Martin

I hope your reading adventures are good ones for 2023! And, if you have a book you’d like to recommend, please let me know. HAPPY READING AND REVIEWING!

MR. THATCHER’S HOUSE: a new PB by Kristin Wauson + a giveaway

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope this finds everyone healthy, safe, and looking forward to a new year with hope and anticipation of better things to come.

One good thing that recently came to me is a great new picture book by Kristin Wauson titled MR. THATCHER’S HOUSE (Sleeping Bear Press 2022)

thatcher cover

A delightful cover for an equally delightful story. Here’s my review:

Mr. Thatcher – a rabbit – works hard to build a perfect house. He saws, hammers nails, adding rooms until the house gets bigger. And bigger. But Mr. Thatcher can’t stop building until the house is perfect. It isn’t until neighbors come knocking on his door, looking for a place to live, that Thatcher finally realizes what it takes to make the perfect home. An endearing lesson in kindness, loving one’s neighbors, and what really makes a house a home. Young readers will enjoy meeting favorite characters from popular stories gathered together in this lively and charming debut.

I am giving away a copy of this gem to one winner chosen at random. Just leave a comment at the end of the post if you are interested. Let me know if you are sharing the post on social media and I will give you a second chance to win. The winner will be announced on this blog later this month.