Teachers: Need MG Historical Fiction? I’ve Got The Book.

Welcome to the first in a series of BOOKS TEACHERS CAN USE IN THE CLASSROOM.  Over the next several weeks I hope to feature a variety of children’s authors whose books can be used to enhance the curriculum in the classroom.  By providing teacher resources such as curriculum guides, activity sheets and vocabulary lists, teachers will have an easy way to bring more books into the classroom for enhancing the curriculum or getting kids interested in independent reading.

The first book featured is an MG historical fiction selection that happens to be my own book,WHEELS OF CHANGE (WOC) – Creston Books 2014.   Many teachers in classes I’ve visited have said they are doing historical fiction units as part of their reading/writing curriculum. If that’s you , or a teacher you know, WOC MAY BE JUST WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.  If you know a classroom teacher in 3rd through 6th grade, share this post with them.  The book is a good Read Aloud for 3rd and 4th grades, and can be used for silent reading and discussion with older students.

Here’s a brief description:

Racial intolerance, social change, sweeping progress. It is a turbulent time growing up in 1908. For twelve year old EMILY SOPER, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic. Emily is more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer, than trying to conform to the proper expectations of females. Many prominent people own Papa’s carriages. He receives an order to make one for President Theodore Roosevelt. Papa’s livelihood becomes threatened by racist neighbors, and horsepower of a different sort.  Emily is determined to save Papa’s business even if she has to go all the way to the President.

The book has a downloadable CURRICULUM GUIDE for the second wave of the Industrial Revolution, CORE CONTENT study questions, VOCABULARY LISTS, as well as other supplemental materials for use in the classroom.   The book also lends itself to discussion of segregation after the Civil War, Women’s Suffrage and the roles of males and females in early 1900’s:  http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com/teachers.htm

I am offering a FREE SKYPE  VISIT to teachers who use the book in their classrooms and post a review of it on Amazon to share with other teachers/librarians.  I will also give away one  signed copy.  To enter the drawing for this give-away, leave a comment regarding how you would use the book in your classroom.

WHEELS OF CHANGE is a National Council of Social Studies Notable Trade Book and won Honorable Mention from the Grateful American Book Prize in 2015.

Stay tuned to this blog for more teacher-friendly selections in the weeks to come.


15 Years and Counting: Another Great Book Festival in Collingswood, NJ.

On Saturday, October 7, 2017, I attended my 4th Collingswood Book Festival as an author and this one was finally held outdoors thanks to the beautiful, sun-filled day.  And, as one of the featured authors at this year’s event, I was privileged and thrilled to talk about WHEELS OF CHANGE with many 4th and 5th graders from the local schools, as well as to reconnect with fellow authors and friends.

Here are a few  photo highlights:

During the Wheels of Change “Book Talk”

Meeting with some enthusiastic students after the book talk.

With fellow children’s book author Patricia Lugo.

Finally meeting Liza Royce Agency sibling and my favorite YA sci-fi author: Joshua David Bellin

YA panel on writing fantasy.

Kid Lit Author’s Club author David Teague

 IF you missed this year’s event, mark your calendar for next year.  For a lover of books, it’s one of the best festivals around.



Picture Book Author Colleen Kosinski and her husband keeping cool.

Hanging out with my daughter and “gal Friday” before the festival started.


Northshire Bookstore Celebrates Kids.

On a recent trip to Manchester Vermont, I stopped into the local Indie bookstore.  Boy am I glad I did!  NORTHSHIRE BOOKSTORE is located in what once was an inn – with three stories of goodies.  In addition to what I expected to find – BOOKS – there is so much more in this wonderful store.  Plenty of gift items, toys, games, clothing, and a cafe that serves local and homemade sandwiches, soups and baked goods. (I highly recommend the cream of asparagus soup). 

The store is over 10,000 square feet with one entire floor devoted to children.  It is a world dedicated to and celebrating all things kids.  So many books thoughtfully displayed to show off as many authors as possible.  They’re in alphabetical order, overlapping, but with enough peeking out to find your favorite title.

It made me curious as to why more bookstores don’t display their picture books like this.  At least an unknown author has a chance of “showing off” a title to the world.



The store also had a separate room for kids looking to interact with books and games.  Rocking chairs, bean bag chairs, and stuffed animals graced the floor.  Books, games and activities were displayed on shelves and tables begging kids to TOUCH and PLAY.

Who wouldn’t want to hang out in a room like this?  It looks like a playroom in your best friend’s house.

I would have happily spent DAYS in NORTHSHIRE BOOKSTORE.  Does anyone know of other amazing bookstores like this?  I’d love to add them to my list of “must-see” places on my next vacation.

Anyone who loves books should plan on a stop to this great store.


Patricia Keeler Presents Her PB: Lizzie and Lou Seal + Win a Signed Copy.

Today’s post comes from Author/Illustrator Patricia Keeler who just released her debut picture book LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL.  I had the pleasure of reading this delightful book.  Here is my review:

“LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL by Author/Illustrator Patricia Keeler is a delightful PB about a busy girl named Lizzie who loves her flip flops and her inflatable companion Lou Seal. Lizzie also loves exploring the beach and sets out with Lou Seal for a day of sand, surf and fun. Until…Lizzie loses her flip flops and something strange happens to Lou Seal. Can Lizzie fix things so they can both go back to the beach?
A perfect beach book for ages 3-6. Makes you want to put on your flip flops and head to the surf with a “swimmy friend” of your own”.

How did LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL come about?

In the original story, Lizzie walked barefoot on the hot sand at the beach. “Ooch, ouch, ouch!” Lizzie spotted some older kids wearing flip-flops. She had that Aha moment. “I need flip-flops!”

Lizzie tried out her new flip-flops

on the living room rug                                 shroop shroop shroop

            on the kitchen tiles                                      slap smack slap smack

            on the wooden stairs                                   clap clap clap clap

            even in the bathtub                                     splish splash splosh splush

 I love onomatopoeia, just like Lizzie loved all her flip-flop sounds.  Kids, young kids especially, love to hear the sounds things make read aloud.

In an earlier version, an older Lizzie wanted to wear her flip-flops to school . . . to ride her bike . . . to the ballet performance. At every turn, she was told, “not in those you don’t.” “Urghh!” flip stomp flip stomp flip stomp  “So where can I wear them?” Fortunately for Lizzie it rained the next day, and she rushed to the enticing mud puddles outside.

At last,” she said, “my flip-flops are just right for here.”


Until . . .   SHHLUK!

          “Oh, no! I’m stuck.”

She pulled on her foot. SHLOOP!  It pulled free. But, uh oh, the flip-flop stayed in the mud. Lizzie reached down to get it. “Yuck!”

I worked on this version the second half of 2013. I made sketches and work-shopped the story with my writer and illustrator groups. I shared it with agents and editors at the Fall NJSCBWI conference. I received wonderful encouragement and constructive criticism.

Back to the drawing board, this time with a working title FLIP FLOP STOMP. Then came more rewrites, more sounds, more sketches, more work shopping with my groups. And again I received good comments for my FLIP FLOP STOMP dummy at the spring 2014 NJSCBWI conference.

Home again, I revised my manuscript. I started the story at the beach, in a small retro trailer. I scrapped Lizzie’s parents and gave her a pal, a blow-up seal, named Lou Seal. I began to illustrate the dummy. As I sketched, Lizzie got younger and Lou Seal got bigger. A lot bigger!

So what was Lou Seal doing while Lizzie was fussing with her flip-flops? Going along with Lizzie, of course, as she made her way out of the trailer and out to the beach. It occurred to me that Lou Seal could be having his own difficulties. Ones Lizzie doesn’t see, but the reader does! Even the youngest readers/viewers like catching onto the story before the main character does.

With this new dummy, I pursued Liza Fleissig from Liza Royce Agency for my agent, and Julie Matysik from Sky Pony Press for my editor—and won both! By Spring 2015, I had a two-book contract with Sky Pony Press—and a May 2016 deadline to complete LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL. “YAY!”               

What was your path to illustrating Lizzie and Lou Seal?

Here are some sketches from the early FLIP FLOP STOMP dummy.



My favorite part of my color work on LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL was my discovery and experimentation of the encaustic wax process. I used it to show Lou Seal as plastic, and for the ocean waves. Here’s a You Tube video of me creating the waves in LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL.


What comes first for you, illustrations or story? 

In the case of LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL, the character came first. I’ve always loved feisty, “I want to do it my way!” little girls.  This key aspect of the feminine personality has often gotten little play in picture books. Visually, I had in mind several solid, tough, little girls I knew.               

The illustrations, the sounds, and the story came up together. Sometimes, I’d write something, and then in drawing that scene, I’d see that I could cut or change my words significantly. Sometimes, after tossing and turning in my sleep, I’d awake with a totally new scene in mind. I’d sketch it up, and then all I’d need to complement the art would be one bold, dramatic sound. “Whoa!”

My general rule-of-thumb, once I’ve sketched up the story for the first time, is to reduce my text as much as possible. Young listeners delight in figuring out what’s happening in the story as much from the illustrations as from the words being read to them.

What does your favorite pair of flip-flops look like?

 Of course, I had to give Lizzie the bigger polka dots that she so loves!

What other projects are you working on?

 I’m currently finishing up a second book for Sky Pony Press. It’s entitled SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK. I can’t begin to express how much I love this book and the joy I’ve had in creating it. SCOOP should be out in Spring 2018. The inside scoop on this story is that besides the retro ice cream truck, the other main character is a spunky little girl. She may well be younger and more demonstrative than Lizzie!

Patricia is thrilled to set a book and necklace aside for one lucky winner.  To enter the give-away, comment below for one entry.  Tweet and/or share on FB for a second entry and reblog this post for a third entry.  The winner will be announced on this blog on WEDNESDAY, 5-17-17.

Facebook – PatriciaKeelerBooks
Instagram – @patriciakeeler
Twitter       – @patriciakeelerbooks


Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Someone once said that we must never forget the lessons and events of our past or we are doomed to repeat them.  Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. I’ve recently read some powerful and disturbing books about this horrific time in human history.  Share these stories with your children and discuss the tough things that are represented in them.  We must NEVER forget what happens when the warped ideals and beliefs of ONE PERSON go unchecked, unquestioned, and become the law of the lawless land.

NIGHT by Elie Wiesel

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein



Tell the world.

New Titles From Creston Books.

katecvrA biography of a little-known but ground-breaking figure who became the first Detective for the Pinkerton Agency.

Written by award-winning author MARISSA MOSS, with illustrations by award-winning illustrator APRIL CHU.

Perfect for readers aged 5 and up.



The long awaited sequel to the fun-filled CASE OF THE MISSING CARROT CAKE finds Mouse Detectives Willcox and Griswold on another case involving a stolen egg.

The easy mystery with plenty of clues and lively illustrations is perfect for readers aged 6-9.         poachedeggcvr

THE CASE OF THE POACHED EGG – by Author Robin Newman and Illustrator Deborah Zemke  will have young detectives clamoring for more.





RUMORS by Denys Cazet, is full of high humor, great fun, and zany antics that are perfect for reluctant readers aged 8-12.

When forth grader Russel makes a deal with the principal to get back her Wrestling trophy, he is sure his name will be removed from the “bad Behavior” list.  He has a plan.  What could possibly go wrong?

To learn more about these great new titles, visit CRESTON BOOKS: http://www.crestonbooks.co/books



The Gift of Books…Keeps on Giving.

As you go about your holiday shopping, keep in mind that books are a wonderful gift for anyone on your list.  Many of my blog posts have featured authors and the wonderful books they write.  From picture books, through middle grade and young adult, you can find something for every taste and interest.  Not sure what kind of books to buy?

You can browse online to find some of the most popular books as well as Award-Winning titles.  Look on the CHILDREN’S BOOK COUNCIL site for past and present titles.  Books there are listed by grade and subject areas.   http://www.cbcbooks.org

Brightly – a Random House Site – has a wealth of books to recommend for the holidays and beyond.


Here are a few other links to great books for all ages:  http://www.kidlitauthorclub.com

 The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) provides titles of it’s members who are authors and illustrators for children.    https://www.scbwi.org/readinglist/ 

You can also ask your child’s teacher what kind of books she might welcome in the classroom.  It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Here is a great list of CHRISTMAS BOOKS from the CHILDREN’S BOOK REVIEW.

20 of the Best Kids Christmas Books