Two Books…Two Winners. Here They Are.

I am thrilled to announce the winners of this month’s author give-a ways. Two lucky people will receive autographed copies of the books featured this month.

dalai lamaThe winner of the graphic novel, WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER? by Teresa Robeson is:  Ellis Nelson

And Jennifer Merrifield wins a copy of the MG book THE GRAY by Chris Baron.

The Gray cover photo

Congratulations and thanks to all who left wonderful comments about these amazing books. Please email me you address so I can let the authors know where to send the books.


Interview With Award-winning Author Chris Baron About His New MG Novel THE GRAY + A Chance to Win a Signed Copy

Today it is my pleasure to feature one of the most remarkable books I’ve read so far this year. THE GRAY by Chris Baron. Stay tuned for my interview with Chris.

The Gray cover photo

Here’s my review for the book:

An authentic and relatable story that addresses what it’s like to have anxiety and a hyper-sensitive nature. The thirteen-year-old protagonist, Sasha, works hard to cope with his anxiety and the bullying he faces at school. We get a firsthand account of all that Sasha goes through to manage his anxiety. Baron handles all the mental health aspects of the story in a thoughtful and compassionate way, assuring readers that they are not alone in their struggles. By sharing our feelings – even the dark ones – we can find help and connection with others. Friendship has the power to heal. Talking about our struggles, instead of hiding them, forges a deeper understanding of what many of us face each day. An important message and valuable addition to books with mental health themes. Highly Recommended.

Now for the interview:

What led you to write a story with mental health themes like we find in THE GRAY? 

I didn’t start out thinking that I was writing a book about “mental health.” I mainly imagined it as an  adventure/coming of age story, but as I wrote, it quickly became clear that I would be going deep into these themes. In the Author’s note at the end of The Gray, I talk about my own experiences with anxiety. That’s a start, but also, I’ve noticed that many of my students are experiencing, and thankfully having the courage to share, mental health difficulties. According to the American Psychological Association, “20.5% of youth worldwide now struggle with anxiety symptoms.” Too often-kids who experience anxiety of any kind are not diagnosed or even helped. Kids don’t always know what to do.  From pandemic stress, reliance on technology and information overload, to everyday family struggles, lots of kids and their families are facing stressors they never have before. We need help from family, friends, and many times professionals to help us make it through these challenges. I know this is true from my own struggles, and I think I wanted to offer this to readers as well.

This book is a departure from your novels in verse. Was it easier or more difficult to write Sasha’s story in prose? How did you decide on this format?

It was much more difficult to write in prose.  As I’ve mentioned other times–poetry feels like a native language to me. I see stories in images, and that’s perfect for writing poetry. I drafted most of The Gray in verse (excellent advice from my editor) but The Gray felt different in the process of drafting–more details–more exploration of setting, plot, character, and themes. It seemed to journey on its own down the winding path of prosaic narration.  It was clear to me that this book is meant to be written in prose.  But some of the best prose is lyrical, and it utilizes the joys of poetic conversion and strategies. I hope that’s true for The Gray.

What kind of research was required to write from such a compassionate and authentic POV?

Like most writers, I did endless research.  Even though much of the story and setting is based on my own experiences, I researched everything from mental health issues to horseback riding, to species of trees and animals in the setting of the story.  I even had a mental health professional consultant work with me on the book–she even diagnosed Sasha.  It’s just a huge part of my writing process. I also looked through thousands of pictures from my time living on the horse farm.

What would you hope readers take away from THE GRAY?

I hope that readers will meet Sasha, and through his story, not only feel seen and heard, but know that it is okay to need help.  I want students to discover the many practical ways they can face anxiety themselves, and to feel supported so they know they are not alone!

I hope readers enjoy a story full of suspense, adventure, supernatural mysteries, unexpected friendships, and quiet family strength.

I hope readers will find connection (or learn more) about Jewish Heritage and spirituality, multi-generational  families, and finding the quiet, lighted paths on the journey to be their most authentic selves.

Finally, I hope readers will believe that “even the smallest drop of water can change the largest stone.”  Slow change over time makes anything possible.

Anything else you want us to know?

As an author, I love to connect with readers, and I am happy to visit any book clubs, classes, or anything we dream up.  Please feel free to reach out at

I am happy to do a giveaway!  And if it’s alright with you–here is the preorder link for signed copies.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post. Darlene will choose one name at random and announce the winner later this month. US only, please.

Baron Headshot

Chris Baron is the award winning author of Novels for young (and young at heart) readers including All Of Me an NCTE Notable Book, The Magical Imperfect a Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable Book/ a SLJ Best Book of 2021 & the forthcoming novels, The Gray (23) Forest Heart (24) from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, and The Secret of the Dragon Gems, a Middle Grade novel co-authored with Rajani LaRocca from Little Bee Books (23) and editor of ON ALL OTHER NIGHTS: A MIDDLE GRADE PASSOVER ANTHOLOGY, from Abrams (24), He is a Professor of English at San Diego City College and the director of the Writing Center. He grew up in New York City, but he completed his MFA in Poetry in 1998 at SDSU. HE lives in San Diego with his family. 




Author Teresa Robeson Presents: WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER: The 14th Dalai Lama + a chance to win a copy

Today it is my great pleasure to feature the latest book from award-winning author TERESA ROBESON. WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER: The 14th Dalai Lama is a slight departure from Teresa’s previous picture books since it is a graphic novel that tells the story of Tibet’s exiled leader the 14th Dalai Lama.

Here is my review for the book:

This graphic novel tells the important historical account of the leader of TIBET, THE 14TH Dalai Lama, who was forced into exile in 1959 by the People’s Liberation Army of China. Tibet’s “Precious Protector’s” harrowing escape is easy to read and understand thanks to the graphic format and the periodic history and cultural lessons sprinkled throughout the story. The book provides a summary of Tibet’s ongoing fight for freedom and autonomy. A perfect addition to a multicultural library.

dalai lama Here is my interview with Teresa and her exciting new book.

How did you come to write this story about the exiled Dalai Lama?

My agent at the time spotted a call on Twitter from an editor with Penguin Workshop’s Who HQ series for authors to write graphic format biographies. She asked if I’d be interested in trying out for it, and of course I said yes! Penguin gave us a short list of people to write a proposal for, and I chose Bruce Lee. When they accepted that proposal, they asked if I wanted to write about anyone else on a longer list that they showed me. From that, I chose the Dalai Lama. I could have chosen more, but there were no scientists on that list and I’m not interested in sports figures or the other historical figures they offered.

What were the challenges of writing the “precious protectors” story as a graphic novel? How do you like this format?

The main challenge of writing this book is learning a whole new writing form. I’ve never written graphic novel scripts, or any script, before and had to learn the convention as well as thinking in panels. Luckily, I’ve been reading comics and graphic novels from the time I started reading (because comics are hugely popular in Asia) and also already tend to visualize everything I write like a movie running in my head, so it wasn’t a huge stretch to picture the story that way.

I don’t read comics as often as I used to but I do enjoy the format a lot because I’m somewhat of a visual person.

Tell us a bit about the research involved in this story.

The research wasn’t any different from writing my other nonfiction and biographical prose books. I always start with looking at all the kids’ books on the topic and use the back matter in those to branch out to adult books and journal articles. The key is to go to reliable sources and try to get as close to primary sources as possible.

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

I want readers to see His Holiness’s humanity, humility, and humor. Beneath his assigned role as the political and spiritual leader of Tibet, he is just like the rest of us, with human frailties and foibles. His is not an easy position to be born into but he’s accepted it with grace and uses his celebrity status to spread the idea and ideals of compassion.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Unlike regular prose, the compressed graphic format of this Who HQ series necessitates inventing some dialogue, scenes, and, occasionally, characters to keep the story moving smoothly. As a nonfiction author, I’d personally call it historical fiction but these books are categorized as nonfiction. I tried to stay true to the actual events/scenes, characters, and even dialogue, though paraphrased, in this book on the Dalai Lama. In the upcoming one on Bruce Lee, which covers a wider span of time, a lot more dialogue and even settings have had to be invented. It makes purists uncomfortable (as it does me), but in the end, if a child gets the gist and spirit of someone’s life without demonizing or idolizing the person, then I think these books will have done a good job.

As a writer of historical fiction myself, I respect that distinction Teresa. Would you do more graphic format books in the future?

I would like to! But I think I want to try both writing and illustrating instead of just writing. And, I want to do non-biographical nonfiction (specifically science) as well as fiction in the graphic format.

Thanks so much for this interview, Darlene!

It’s been a pleasure Teresa!

Signature banner


Teresa Robeson (pronouns: she/her)

Author (agent: Tracy Marchini, Bookends Literary)

Teresa has agreed to give away a signed copy of her book to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment below and one name will be drawn at random from all those entered. The winner will be announced later this month. USA only please.

Two PB Biography Winners…

Today it gives me great pleasure to announce the April book giveaway winners. Both books featured this month happen to be STEM books about the universe. And, two lucky people will be getting signed copies of them.

The first one THE FIRE OF STARS by Kirsten Larson goes to…


LISA BILLA.  Congratulations, Lisa. I know you will enjoy this amazing story of the woman who discovered what stars are made of.

The second book written by LAURIE WALLMARK is HER EYES ON THE STARS is about Maria Mitchell, the first Female Astronomer from the US.

maria mitchell cover

The lucky winner of this book is…AZIZA EVANS. Aziza, you will really enjoy learning about the life of Maia and all her amazing accomplishments in the field of astronomy.

Congratulations to both of you and many thanks to the authors for sharing their books.

What Rhymes with S’mores? By Cathy Ballou Mealey

Author Cathy Ballou Mealey is back with a new picture book.

MAKE MORE S’MORES, is a rhyming story that celebrates the sweet, gooey campfire treat while exploring themes of generosity, patience and sharing between forest friends in a fun and welcoming way. Illustrated by Ariel Landy, MAKE MORE S’MORES released March 15, 2023 from Sleeping Bear Books. Here’s Cathy to tell us a bit about this book with a delicious title.


Thank you for inviting me back for a guest post upon the release of MAKE MORE S’MORES, a new picture book illustrated by Ariel Landy and written by me.

S’mores are a definite pivot away from the puckery pickles featured in my previous post, but the process of writing and revising a rhyming story wasn’t all sugary sweet!

My first draft of this book was numbers-based: ONE marshmallow plus TWO graham crackers plus THREE chocolate rectangles equals one perfectly proportioned, traditional s’more.

I counted, calculated and composed a story filled with hungry forest friends sharing a campfire and sweet snacks. But the story arc became buried under mountains of exponentially-increasing marshmallows.

Cutting, revising, and tightening helped me feel the rhythm of some key words: Roasted, toasted. Sweet treat. Gooey, chewy. Share, bear. Suddenly I was writing a story in rhyme!  I researched simpler synonyms while still keeping the storyline light, charming and upbeat.

ROSCOE smores post

Talented illustrator Ariel Landy brought the hungry bears, busy raccoon and sly squirrels to life in our story. She’s created an enchanting, flower filled forest where furry friends cozy up and enjoy s’more after s’more on a beautiful dusky purple evening. Perfection!

So what rhymes with s’mores? Snores of course! The ending was the easiest part of the book to write!

I hope readers will come away with laughter and appreciation for being or knowing a generous, gracious host who welcomes others warmly. They will probably also come away with a craving for s’mores!

 Thanks Cathy! Your story certainly puts me in the mood for s’mores.

Here’s my review for this delightful book:

MAKE MORE S’MORES is a “sweet” story of generosity, kindness, and the pleasure we get from sharing what we love with others. Good feelings worth celebrating!

Cathy Mealey headshot

Cathy Ballou Mealey is a scone lover and author of WHEN A TREE GROWS, SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE, and MAKE MORE S’MORES. She has planted acorns, pickled cucumbers, and toasted marshmallows but spends most of her time writing picture books north of Boston where she lives with her family.


To find out more, or get in touch with Cathy:




Hug a Tree…And Celebrate Earth Day.

We take trees for granted, so having a day that reminds us of their wonder and life-giving presence should be celebrated. Tomorrow – April 22, 2023 is EARTH DAY.  Here are some fun facts about trees:

The tallest species of trees in the world include the Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, Coast Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce and Australian Mountain Ash.

The Giant Sequoia is not only tall, it is also wide. Because of its amazing size, some believe that the Giant Sequoia is the largest living organism in the world!


Trees produce oxygen and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They purify the air we breathe. If it weren’t for trees, we wouldn’t be alive!

For more tree facts visit:

For fun, printable worksheets about trees visit:

There are lots of picture books that honor trees.  Here’s one I especially enjoy.

THE LITTLE TREE by Muon Van (Creston Books 2015)

The Little Tree


Have you ever wondered why trees are important? Why do we need to protect them?

tree of wonder

Tree Full of Wonder by Anna Smithers, is a vibrant, rhyming, educational and unique picture book showing the unbreakable bond between people and trees. For children ages 3-8. Kids will fall in love with nature and will become Protectors of the Trees.
Mindful stories for kids create a brighter and calmer future, one child at a time.

Now, go outside and hug a tree!    tree hugHAPPY EARTH DAY!

A New STEM Picture Book From Author Laurie Wallmark + A Chance to Win a Copy

maria mitchell cover

Today I am happy to feature the latest STEM biography from author LAURIE WALLMARK.

HER EYES ON THE STARS: Maria Mitchell, Astronomer

(Illustrated by Liz Wong)

Here is the blurb for the book:

Maria Mitchell’s curiosity about the night sky led her to spend hours studying the stars. She discovered a comet as a young woman, winning an award from the King of Denmark for being the first person to discover a new comet using a telescope.

Now famous as “the lady astronomer,” Maria went on to become a professional astronomer, an unheard of achievement for a woman in the 19th century. She was the first woman to get any kind of government job when she was hired by the United States Naval Observatory. Then as the first woman astronomy professor in the world, Maria used her position at Vassar College to teach young women to set their sights on the sky, training new generations of female astronomers. Her story inspires all of us to reach for the stars.

MY review:

This new picture book from STEM author Laurie Wallmark is an inspiring story where science meets feminism and the sky’s the limit.

Bound and determined to map the stars in the night sky, Maria went up to her rooftop observation spot in all kinds of weather. Her careful and precise observations led her to be the first American to discover a comet. There are many other firsts for the female astronomer, including teaching an entire generation of women at Vassar College to be astronomers. Themes of perseverance, dedication, and belief in yourself are great discussion topics beyond the STEM focus.

A thoughtful and beautifully illustrated story that deserves a place in any STEM collection.

Laurie has agreed to give away a signed copy of this book to one lucky reader of this post. To enter, please leave a comment and share the post on your social media. I will draw one name at random from those entered and announce the winner on this blog later this month.

Laurie Wallmark-300dpi4x6Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark writes picture book biographies of women in STEM as well as fiction. Her books have earned five starred trade reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Crystal Kite Award, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’ Choice Gold Medal. Her titles include ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE, GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE, BREAKER, SPY HUNTER, RIVKA’S PRESENTS, THE QUEEN OF CHESS, and DINO PAJAMA PARTY. Laurie has an MFA in Writing from VCFA and is a former software engineer and computer science professor. You can find Laurie online at and @lauriewallmark.


In celebration of Poetry Month, I’d like to share a poem from my novel in verse: WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston 2020)

Jack, the 11 year old narrator, is camping in the back yard with his 5 year old sister Katie and a friend Jill. After Katie and Jill fall asleep, Jack thinks about lots of things that have been on his mind since his Dad has been MIA in Vietnam. This poems comes when he looks out into the dark night.

When I was Katy’s age, I used to be
afraid of the dark.
Shadows on the wall from cars passing by,
flashing headlights
sounds of the night
made me bury my face under the covers.

I imagined all the scary things I couldn’t see,
waiting to get me
if I wasn’t watchful. One night,
I woke up crying after a nightmare,
screaming for the monsters to go away.

Mom and Dad rushed into the room. Dad pulled
me onto his lap, rocking me
until I stopped crying.

He asked me where
the scary places were. As I pointed out each one,
he pointed a flashlight beam on it.
This is what it looks like
in the light, he said. No matter how many times
we turn off the light, it doesn’t change. He
handed the light to me and
told me to shine it wherever I thought
the scary things were.

I moved the beam in all
the corners
under the bed
inside the closet
behind the door
flicking it on and off until I was satisfied.

Then Dad said,
remember in the dark what you learn in the light.
The dark doesn’t scare me anymore,
but sometimes,
times like this,
it makes me sad.


Author Kirsten Larson Presents: THE FIRE OF STARS, A New PB Biography + a Chance to Win a Copy.

Today it is my pleasure to feature the newest picture book by author KIRSTEN LARSON


Here is the publisher’s blurb:

Wrapped in a blanket of sparkling space, an unformed star waits for its bright future to begin. Deep inside, something glimmers and glows: a new light. Astronomer and astrophysicist Cecilia Payne was the first person to discover what burns at the heart of stars.

But she didn’t start out as the ground-breaking scientist she would eventually become. She started out as a girl burning with curiosity, chasing the thrilling lightning bolt of discovery, hoping one day to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

With lyrical, evocative text by Kirsten W. Larson and extraordinary illustrations by award-winning illustrator Katherine Roy, this moving biography powerfully parallels the kindling of Cecilia Payne’s own curiosity and her scientific career with the process of a star’s birth, from mere possibility in an expanse of space to an eventual breathtaking explosion of light.

Here is my review for this beautiful picture book:

THE FIRE OF STARS by Kirsten Larson (Illustrated by Katherine Roy): A biography of the life of Cecelia Payne, the woman who discovered what stars are made of.

Two stories – told and illustrated in parallel fashion – unfold on each page to tell the tale of the birth, growth, and brilliance of a star as well as the growth and brilliance of Cecelia’s curiosity, determination, and discovery. Back matter highlights Cecelia’s accomplishments and details star formation with words and illustrations.

A brilliant addition to STEM collections.


★ ”A luminous thematic pairing.”  —  Kirkus, starred review

★ “A stellar subject, breathtaking artwork, and unique layout set this biography for young readers apart from the rest.” — School Library Journal, starred review

★ “Marrying format, language, and subject, Larson conscientiously emphasizes Payne’s accomplishments. Taking place alongside inky interstellar sidebar views, accompanying pencil and ink illustrations by Roy glow…” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “Kirsten Larson deftly weaves together her compelling biography of an important woman who “stick[s] to her path” despite the odds. The decision to parallel Cecilia’s development with that of an emerging star is an inspired one, and Katherine Roy uses pencil, ink and digital color to create luminous illustrations that crackle with energy.” — Shelf Awareness, starred review


Bio: Kirsten W. Larson used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. Kirsten is the author of the picture books: WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek, 2020), A TRUE WONDER: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything, illustrated by Katy Wu (Clarion, 2021), THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle, February 2023), and THIS IS HOW YOU KNOW, illustrated by Cornelia Li (Little, Brown 2024). She also is the author of the middle grade, graphic nonfiction, THE LIGHT OF RESISTANCE, illustrated by Barbara McClintock, (Roaring Brook, 2023), along with 25 nonfiction books for the school and library market. Learn more at

If you’d like to have a chance to win a signed copy of THE FIRE OF STARS, leave a comment on this post. I will draw one name at random from those entered and announce the winner later this month. Good luck to all!

CELEBRATE POETRY MONTH: Book Review: GOOD DIFFERENT by Meg Eden Kuyatt + a chance to win a copy.

good different cover

GOOD DIFFERENT by Meg Eden Kuyatt

Full disclosure: I was given an ARC of this book to write a review.  I am so glad this verse novel came into my life.

Raw, heartfelt, honest, and true are just a few of the adjectives that describe this powerful story of the life of a teen with autism. This novel in verse highlights the inner life of Selah, the main character who shares her struggles to fit in and follow the rules. Readers will cheer as Selah discovers her true nature through poetry and learns how poems can heal and help others understand. Poems allow her to discover her own truths and how to express her fears to her friends and family. A highly recommended story inspired by the author’s own life.

good different blurb

good different blurb2

If you’d like a copy of this extraordinary book, you can enter the Rafflecoptor giveaway here:

For more about author MEG EDEN KUYATT:

Meg Eden Kuyatt

Twitter: @ConfusedNarwhal

Instagram: @meden_author

Facebook: Meg Eden Writes Poems



GOOD DIFFERENT comes out in April 2023 (in time for National Poetry Month and Autism Acceptance Month!). Preorder now from!