About darlenebeckjacobson

I am a freelance writer and the author of WHEELS OF CHANGE (2014) and WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (2020). I've also worked in the field of education for over thirty years.

Got Frogs? How Far Can They Jump?

Today begins the annual Frog Jumping Festival in Angel Camp, CA. (May 13-16, 2021) https://www.fairsandfestivals.net/events/details/2021-calaveras-county-fair-and-jumping-frog-jubilee

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…

http://www.calaverasenterprise.com/fair_2019/article_bc10bf22-62db-11e9-bbcb-83a5a278bb1a.html   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


https://marktwainhouse.org/robotics  A robotic version of the frog jumping contest held at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT

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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.

Website: https://cathyballoumealey.wordpress.com/about/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatBallouMealey

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catballoumealey/

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…

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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: www.ericageorgewrites.com/preorder 

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.

Website: www.ericageorgewrites.com


Twitter: @theericageorge

Here are the Winners…

There have been several book give-a-ways this month and I am pleased to announce the winners to the following:

The winner of a signed copy of WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY + a Skype or Zoom visit is Danielle Hammelef.

The winner of a Barnes&Noble Gift Card is Jeanette Mendell

Beth Schneider will receive a copy of Marissa Moss’s book BOARDWALK BABIES.

And, A signed copy of RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE  by Rajani LaRocca goes to Melissa Tanaka.

Rissy No Kissies  A signed copy of Rissy No Kissies, by Katey Howes goes to Rachelle Burk.

Please email me with your addresses so I can get the books and gift cards out to al of you.

Thanks for all who entered. I hope you enjoy the books. If you do, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It is a great way to show the author support and to share good books with the world.

Happy Reading!

On Earth Day and Everyday…We Can All Do Our Part to Stop Climate Change.

Darlene Beck-Jacobson

A 2019 study from the Swiss Institute of Integrative Biology suggested that planting 1 trillion trees would dramatically reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and significantly help stop global climate change. Mar 10, 2020

treesA trillion trees sounds like an impossible goal. But every time you plant a tree in your yard, on school grounds, or in your neighborhood open spaces, you reduce greenhouse gas because they are natural carbon absorbers (a mature tree can absorb up to 48lbs of carbon a year).

Every time you plant a tree, you are part of the solution for reducing and stopping the effects of global warming. For more information about planting trees visit:



There are other things you can do to take care of Mother Earth as well:

We can continue to recycle properly and phase out our consumption of single-use plastics (recycling just 1 lb. of…

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Author Katey Howes Has a New PB on Consent and Bodily Autonomy. She’s Giving Away a Copy. Want One?

Award-winning PB author Katey Howes has a new book titled RISSY NO KISSIES that addresses the importance of consent and body autonomy with young readers. I’ve featured the book in a previous post, but today readers will have a chance to win a copy of this important book. It also happens to be a rhyming picture book in celebration of April being Poetry Month

Here’s my review for RISSY NO KISSIES:

When a love bird doesn’t like to get or give kisses, she wonders if something is wrong with her. How can she show those she loves that she cares?

With gentle assurances in words and illustrations, this story teaches young children and those they love, the importance of bodily autonomy and consent. It should be a part of every child’s library and is the perfect introduction for discussions about these important concepts.

If you ‘d like a chance to win a signed copy of this book, leave a comment and your name will be entered in the drawing. Share the post on social media (let me know where) and I’ll give you a second chance to win. One winner will be chosen at random from those entered and announced on this blog at a later date.

Author Rajani LaRocca Talks About Her Verse Novel RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE + A Chance to Win a Copy.

To celebrate Poetry in the Schools Month and National Poetry Month, I am featuring two give-aways for books written in verse. Today is a MG book RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE  by Rajani LaRocca. Next week I will feature a rhyming PB.

I recently did a Q&A with author Rajani LaRocca to talk about her wonderful MG novel-in-verse, RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE. Here’s Rajani:

Tell us three things we should know about the main character Reha.

  1. It’s 1983, and 13-year-old Reha feels torn between the worlds of her Indian immigrant parents and her friends at school. She adores her parents and wants to make them happy, but she also wants to fit in with her friends.
  1. Reha loves 80s pop music (especially Cyndi Lauper) and feels music connects those two worlds.
  1. She wants to be a doctor, but she faints at the sight of blood.

How did you know Reha’s story should be told in verse?

This story idea first came to me as a metaphor—the metaphor of blood, and all that it means in terms of heredity, community, and biology—and so it seemed right to tell in verse. But I’d never written a novel in verse before, so I did a lot of research and learning before I started writing.

In your Author’s Note you mention that the story has an autobiographical element. Would you care to share some of that with readers?

Like Reha, I was a teen in the 1980s and loved the music of that time. I was also an only child and an Indian immigrant, and the emotions Reha feels of being torn between worlds were very familiar to me. I also knew I wanted to be a doctor for a very early age, although luckily for me, I don’t faint at the sight of blood! My mom was injured in a car accident when I was a teen, and I shared Reha’s ambivalence about joining the world of medicine once I experienced what it was like to have a seriously ill family member.

Beyond the multi-cultural component, what other themes are important in the storyline?

Other themes include the nature of the parent-child, and especially the mother-daughter, relationship; how to deal with a loved one’s illness, and how to find hope, even when the worst happens; and the notion of belonging, and who decides that. RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE is a story about being caught between here and there, before and after, and finding a way to be whole.

What do you want young readers to take away from this important story?

I want young readers to know that although they may feel divided, that they can still become whole. I want them to know that their stories matter, and they should tell them, in whatever way seems best to them—in writing, or in the classroom, in a performance hall, or on a sports field. I want them to understand that those who love us understand us better than we might think. And finally, I want them to know that ultimately, we decide where we belong, and we find the people and communities who appreciate and love and support us.

Anything else you’d like to add or want us to know?

Music is a big part of this book. While writing, I listened pretty much nonstop to music from 1983-1984. I made a playlist that people can find on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5XAcxzLHYS4Y4gLAgHZeLK?si=1526a10349ea4671

and a music video playlist on YouTube: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLukL07PFxukPEStAGGRYKWGxCOabmlAl7

Reha thinks that song lyrics are poetry set to music, and I agree. One fun way for readers young and old to start trying to write their own poetry is to look at song lyrics and try writing their own.

Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area, where she practices medicine and writes award-winning novels and picture books, including Midsummer’s Mayhem (2019), Seven Golden Rings (2020), Red, White, and Whole (2021), Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers (2021), Much Ado About Baseball (2021), and more. She’s always been an omnivorous reader, and now she is an omnivorous writer of fiction and nonfiction, novels and picture books, prose and poetry. She finds inspiration in her family, her childhood, the natural world, math, science, and just about everywhere she looks. To connect with Rajani and learn more about her and her books visit her at www.RajaniLaRocca.com and on Twitter, Instagram, and Clubhouse @rajanilarocca.

Rajani has agreed to give away one signed copy of RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE to one lucky reader chosen at random from those who leave a comment on this post. Let me know if you share it on social media and I will give you a second chance to win.

BOARDWALK BABIES: a New PB by Marissa Moss + Giveaway.

Today it is my pleasure to feature a new non-fiction picture book from author Marissa Moss titled BOARDWALK BABIES ( Illustrated by April Chu Creston 2021). Here are the reviews for this fascinating story:


“A thought-provoking telling of an unusual historical episode.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“In the late 19th century, hospitals didn’t know how to care for premature babies and believed they were “doomed to die.” However, one young doctor believed he had the answer. Dr. Martin Couney of Germany asked Empress Augusta Victoria to allow him to care for babies from her hospital in his newly invented baby incubators. Empress Victoria approved his request. Couney created a traveling showcase of the world’s tiniest babies, first in exhibition halls and world fairs, then finally settling into a permanent spot on Coney Island in 1903. Babies received the best care from a dedicated and trained nursing staff, paid for by the entrance fees to see the exhibit. Babies of all races, religions, and backgrounds were accepted. Couney generated as much publicity as he could. He hired carnival barkers to advertise the exhibit and emphasized the small size of the babies by dressing them in oversized clothes and bows. The public loved watching the tiny tots grow and thrive, but it was the hospitals that Couney hoped to convince—he wanted incubators in every hospital. Over the years, Couney saved 6,500 babies, many of whom came back to thank him when they grew up. Moss turns a little-known historical subject into a poignant and readable picture book. In particular, the direct and clear approach to explaining the needs and the care of premature babies is handled well. The soft illustrations and the heartwarming approach make this story beautiful and relevant to all families. VERDICT A moving must-have for every nonfiction collection.”

  • Starred Review, School Library Journal

​”Moss (the Amelia’s Notebook series) surveys the use of premature infants as sideshow entertainment in this informative overview of pioneering pediatric history, which occurred on the Coney Island boardwalk from 1903 to 1943. To convince a highly skeptical medical establishment of incubators’ lifesaving value, neonatal technology advocate Martin Couney ran the Baby Incubator exhibit each summer. Staffed by medical professionals—including Couney’s wife and, later, daughter (born prematurely)—the exhibit saved 6,500 babies: “It didn’t matter what religion they were, the color of their skin, or how poor the parents were. Families weren’t charged anything… entrance fees paid for everything.” Chu’s (In a Village by the Sea) realistic illustrations in muted hues set a gentle tone.. . this narrative nonfiction account will prove absorbing. Ages 8–9. (Mar.)

— Publishers Weekly

I am giving away a copy of this fascinating book to one person drawn at random from those who leave a comment on this post. If you share the post, let me know, and I’ll give you a second chance to win.

Marissa Moss is the award-winning author and illustrator of more than 70 children’s books, including her own graphic novel series, Amelia’s Notebook. You can see more of her work at http://www.marissamoss.com.

April Chu has won awards for her gorgeous illustrations. She studied architecture and infuses that knowledge of detail and perspective into her art. Her work has been featured in the Society of Illustrator’s Original Art show.