The Reviews Are In: How Many Book Reviews Did I Post in 2021?

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and looks forward to a new year with new hopes, fresh possibilities, and maybe a book contract? If the contract seems a bit too far away, there is still hope that whatever books we have out in the world will find new audiences.

With that in mind, I am sharing my third New Year Book Review Post letting you know the books I wrote reviews for on Amazon and Goodreads in 2021. The best way to spread the word about great books and unknown authors is to WRITE A REVIEWIt only takes a few minutes to write a couple sentences telling the reading world what you like about a book. As a children’s book author, I can tell you how much it means to see some kind words about a book and sharing it on your solcial media.

Here are the books I enjoyed and posted reviews for in 2021:

  1. A HORN IS BORN (PB) by Bill Borders
  2. CODE BREAKER, SPY CATCHER (PB) by Laurie Wallmark
  3. WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY (YA) by Erica George
  4. FROM HERE TO THERE (PB) by Vivian Kirkfield
  5. RISSY NO KISSIES (PB) by Katey Howes
  6. LITTLE EWE (PB) by Laura Sassi
  7. DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT (PB) by Robin Newman
  8. STEPSISTER (YA) by Jennifer Donnelly
  9. STARFISH (MG) by Lisa Fipps
  10. BOARDWALK BABIES (PB) by Marissa Moss
  11. WE BELIEVE IN YOU (PB) by Beth Ferry
  12. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM (MG) Holly Goldberg Sloan
  13. SLOTH AND SQUIRREL IN A PICKLE (PB) by Cathy Ballou Mealy
  14. STOMP, WIGGLE, CLAP, and TAP (PB) by Rachelle Burk
  15. ORANGE FOR THE SUNSETS (MG) by Tina Athaide
  16. WISHES (PB)  by Moun Thai Van
  17. ISABEL AND HER COLORS GO TO SCHOOL (PB) by Alexandra Alessandro
  18. WALKING WITH MISS MILLIE (MG) Tamara Bundy
  19. PIXIE PUSHES ON (MG) by Tamara Bundy
  20. WOOF: THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS (PB) by Annette Whipple
  21. BEACH TOYS vs SCHOOL SUPPLIES (PB) by Mike Ciccotello
  22. DINO PAJAMA PARTY (PB) by Laurie Wallmark
  23. SCURRY: THE TRUTH ABOUT SPIDERS (PB) by Annette Whipple
  24. A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNDERPANTS (PB) by Christine Van Zandt
  25. LILLIAN LOVECRAFT AND THE HARMLESS HORRORS (MG) by David Neilsen
  26. A QUEEN TO THE RESCUE (PB) by Nancy Churnin
  27. DEAR MR. DICKENS (PB) by Nancy Churnin
  28. SWEET BLISS/GOOD CATCH (an adult series about Harper Landing) by Jennifer Bardsley
  29. 101 PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES (MG) by Theresa Julian
  30. A HOME AGAIN (PB) by Colleen Kosinski

Were there some books you enjoyed in 2021? I’ll bet there will be some more amazing stories in 2022. Why not make a resolution to post reviews for some of your favorites. I guarantee you will make an author’s day!

Happy Reading!

Easy Holiday Paper Crafts For Kids.

I am in love with the RED TED website! If you haven’t discovered this gem, head on over. There are so many great crafts for kids and adults and many come with step-by-step videos to show you how to make each project. Using any kind of materials imaginable, you and your kids can create so many wonderful gifts to decorate your home or give to family and friends for the holidays.

If you plan of giving some books as gifts this Christmas, why not add a homemade bookmark?  You and the kids can make them following the tutorials on the site.  It’s a simple way for kids to give a gift to classmates,  or as a Scout or Sunday School Project. Here is the link to some of the awesome BOOKMARK PAPER CRAFTS  with a holiday theme:

https://www.redtedart.com/christmas-paper-crafts-for-kids/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=top_crafts_for_the_week&utm_term=2019-11-15

*Christmas Paper Crafts for Kids*. Everyone has paper, right? Combine paper with basic stationery items such as scissors, pens and glue and you have a fantastic list of fabulous Christmas Crafts and Christmas DIYs for kids and grown ups. Love how versatile Paper Crafts. CUTE Christmas Paper Crafts. #PaperCrafts #PaperChristmasCrafts #Christmascrafts #ChristmasPaperCrafts #Christmas #Christmascraftsforkids #papercraftsforkids

For more ideas on Do-it-yourself projects, check out the book BE A MAKER, by Katey Howes.

Happy crafting!

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.

Katey Howes Talks About Bodily Autonomy and Consent in Her New PD: Rissy No Kissies.

Today it is my pleasure to host award-winning picture book author KATEY HOWES who will talk about her new book RISSY NO KISSIES. The book explores the topics of bodily autonomy and consent, very important concepts to instill in young children. Here is my review of this important book:

“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.”

And now, here’s Katey!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Darlene. I’m delighted to share a little bit about the process of writing my consent-themed picture book, Rissy No Kissies. (Illustrated by Jess Engle)

Rissy Cover

How and why did you decide to write on this topic?  

One of my three kids is exceptionally cuddly. The other two are much less comfortable with physical expressions of affection. I’ll admit that, early on, this was sometimes difficult for me to accept and respect. Even knowing how important it is for children to have control of their own bodies, there were times I really just wanted to give them a squeeze!

But as they grew, I grew, too – in my understanding of sensory processing differences, in my joy at seeing the unique ways they shared love, and in my conviction that there were not enough resources – for kids OR parents – that explained how common our family’s experience was. I grew more convinced that families needed books highlighting how natural it is to have differing preferences regarding touch and affection, resources that teach the importance of bodily autonomy and consent.

I had been playing with the idea for several months when I visited Minneapolis while promoting another picture book, Be A Maker. Lerner Publishing is headquartered there, and their team was so kind to me, helping me contact local schools and bookstores and setting me up with a tour of their offices. During that trip, I had the chance to meet up with my Be A Maker editor, Shaina Olmanson, and to bounce some of my manuscript ideas off of her. Shaina also felt strongly that kids and caregivers could really use stories that shined a light on boundaries, autonomy and consent. Her interest motivated me to work even harder on this concept!

How did you arrive at a rhyming scheme to tell the story? 

It’s funny. Often, I try really hard not to rhyme, but can’t seem to get away from it. When I first started writing this story, I kept finding rhyming couplets in my work, even when I was aiming for prose. At first, I contained the rhyme to a refrain between prose sections. The original refrain was:

 Kisses are something

That Love Birds like best

But Rissy No Kissy

Is not like the rest

With reflection, I realized this refrain centered Rissy’s differences, not her strengths. I dropped it and worked to rewrite with a focus on Rissy’s powerful opinions and proud voice. My character notes show a few words I used to envision Rissy:

Determined

Tenacious

Persistent

Emphatic!!

That descriptor “emphatic” made its way into a new refrain:

“No kissies,” Rissy chirruped, with a most emphatic squeak.”

and soon set up a rhythm and rhyme scheme that I was able to use to structure the entire text. If you check my notebooks from the time, you’ll find extensive lists of words that rhyme with “chirp,” “tweet,” and “squeak.”

Did you know from the start it would be lovebirds?

I almost always write human characters, so this book was a departure for me. It was, however, a calculated departure.

I knew going in that, for kids who have been made to feel left out or rejected when their preferences don’t fit in with other’s expectations, the interactions in this book could be really painful. Seeing a character too much like themselves being called rude, mean or sick because they don’t like hugs and kisses might make the book too emotionally taxing – and I wanted it to be a book that instead balanced the honesty of those hard moments with warmth and light and comfort.

The rhyming text helps strike that balance, as do the soothing palette and adorable characters illustrator Jess Engle created. By making Rissy an animal, we let readers put a little distance between her experience and their own.  By making her a lovebird specifically, we play on the idea that your whole species might be defined by a certain way of sharing love – but that you don’t have to be.

Please add anything else you want readers to know

There have been a number of picture books about autonomy and consent released recently, and I am so thrilled to see this. No one book speaks to every reader, or gets all aspects of this nuanced concept across. I’d love for teachers and parents to check out other suggestions including: 

In addition to reading books on the topic, it’s important for caregivers to grow their knowledge base and practice the skills needed to set, communicate, and respect boundaries. I highly recommend following @comprehensiveconsent on Instagram for daily parenting advice from a fabulous and frankly funny consent educator.

You can also check out this printable lesson plan created by my cousin-in-law (that’s a thing, right?) and curriculum expert Leah Robinson. It includes a lovebird craft and role play cards (sample below) perfect for 4-8 year olds learning about consent.

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You’ll find even more activities on my website – including this kid-friendly recipe for Sunflower Love Cookies: perfect to pair with Rissy No Kissies.

thumbnail_Screen Shot 2021-02-07 at 2.12.27 PM

Katey Howes HeadshotKatey Howes is an award-winning picture book author and literacy advocate. Her picture books Be A Maker and Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe are popular in maker spaces and STEM education, and her debut book, Grandmother Thorn, was named an Anna Dewdney Read Together Honor Book. A former physical therapist, Katey lives in Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband, three daughters, and a pup named Samwise Gamgee. She loves reading, weaving, cooking, camping and travel. In addition to writing for children and raising kids who love books, Katey contributes to parenting, literacy, and STEAM education websites.

“You can order a signed copy of Rissy No Kissies from my local indie, Newtown Bookshop. Just follow this link: https://www.newtownbookshop.com/katey-howes-author-page

I’m also happy to snail mail a signed bookplate to you with proof of purchase. Email howes_kathryn@yahoo.com with mailing address and personalization request. Or tag @kateywrites on Twitter with a photo of your copy or receipt for your pre-order. I will follow and DM for your mailing address. “

PB Author Katey Howes Presents: BE A MAKER, a New Picture Book.

I’m so pleased to be back here on Darlene’s blog to talk a bit about my new book, BE A MAKER, and to share a fun craft that pairs well with the book.

BE A MAKER is a picture book about all the things a child can make in a day – like a tower, a mess, a friend, and a difference.  It’s published by Carolrhoda, an imprint of Lerner books, and is illustrated by Elizabet Vuković.

Right now, the Maker movement and Makerspaces get a lot of buzz. And that’s a great thing – I love that we are encouraging kids and adults to tinker, explore and build. But sometimes, I think people get the (mistaken) idea that being a “maker” means you have to be good at coding, or robotics, or welding a gigantic fire-breathing mechanical dragon from spare parts. Now, that’s some awesome making, for sure, but I want kids to understand that there are countless ways to create and that it’s not size or complexity  – or even electricity – that makes your creation valuable. What matters is that you feel proud of what you made. BE A MAKER was born of that idea.

BE A MAKER is told in 2nd person and contains 2 questions that I hope will lead the readers – young and old – to reflection and discussion. It opens with:

Ask yourself this question in the morning when you wake: In a world of possibilities, today, what will you make?

and later closes with: Ask yourself this question as the sun begins to fade:

In a day of making choices, are you proud of what you made?

Be A Maker by Katey Howes, copyright 2019

In between, readers follow the main character as she makes music, plans, a snack, a friend, and a pledge to make her neighborhood a better place.

Before I read the book to a class of kids, I ask “How many of you think of yourselves as makers?” Results vary, but it is never unanimous.

After reading BE A MAKER to a class, I ask the same question.

And every hand goes up.

When I then ask them what they are proud of making, the answers come fast and furious.  I make cake! Legos! Songs! Stories! I make people smile! I make my mom laugh! I make boats. I make pompoms.

 There’s no hesitation and no judgement. Each thing made is valued – not weighed or compared. The kids feel proud of themselves and eager to try making new things.

With this in mind, I created a simple craft that can be adapted for an individual or a whole classroom. I call it the Maker Mobile.

thumbnail

You’ll need:

-A dowel, stick, embroidery hoop, clothes hanger or other item to use as the base.

-string -card stock -scissors -glue

  1. Cut card stock into matching shapes. For this example, I made 2×2 squares and then cut each on the diagonal to make triangles.
  2. Have kids think of something they like to make. Count the number of letters in that word. They will need twice that number of cardstock shapes.
  3. Write each letter of the word on 2 matching shapes.
  4. Line up one set of shapes spelling out the word, vertically (spelled top to bottom.) Like this:

 

F

R

I

E

N

D

S

 

  1. Flip the shapes over. Glue the string to the backs of those shapes.
  2. Glue the other copy of the word on top of the string, facing up.
  3. When the glue is dry, hang the string from your dowel or other base.
  4. Repeat with other words on different lengths of string until you like the look and balance of your mobile.
  5. Glue or tape a long strip of cardstock with the words “MAKERS MAKE…” to your dowel.
  6. Tie string to the ends of your dowel and hang!

Variations:

For large groups, consider making a bigger mobile with a hula hoop as the base and one string from each student.

  • Challenge kids to think of two words with an equal number of letters to put on opposite sides of the string.
  • For less cutting and gluing, purchase adhesive-backed foam shapes to use in place of cardstock.
  • For more variety, encourage kids to make their strings from any materials available in your maker space/craft area.

 

Katey Howes Headshot

Katey Howes is thrilled to be making books for children. She also makes bad jokes, great apple crisp, and messy mistakes. Katey lives in Upper Makefield, Pennsylvania (really!) with her husband and three adventurous daughters makers. Katey is the author of picture books Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe and Grandmother Thorn. In addition to her own blog about raising readers, Katey contributes to websites including All the Wonders, The Nerdy Bookclub, STEAM Powered Family and Imagination Soup. Katey is a member of SCBWI and is very active in the kidlit community. Find her online at kateyhowes.com, on Twitter @kateywrites, and on Instagram @kidlitlove.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Give-away: GRANDMOTHER THORN by Katey Howes

Here is the second book in my series of give-aways.  The delightful and beautifully illustrated picture book GRANDMOTHER THORN by Katey Howes.

To be in the running for a copy, leave a comment on this post. I will enter your name in the random drawing.  I hope you will consider writing a review of the book on Amazon.com or Goodreads.com.  It is one of the best ways to spread the word about good books. Winner will be announced here on Wednesday, 4-4-2018. 

Here’s my review:

“Told in folktale fashion, GRANDMOTHER THORN is an exquisitely hand-crafted, artistic story destined to become a classic. A tale of stubbornness, persistence, and learning to accept that even a careful and determined gardener is no match for Mother Nature. When we open our heart to surprise – and throw away the notion of perfection – the reward can be life-changing. Pretty powerful message for a delightful children’s book.”

 

 

 

Katey Howes Launches Her PB GRANDMOTHER THORN.

PLANNING A LAUNCH PARTY FOR GRANDMOTHER THORN

It’s such a treat to be a return guest here on the blog! The first time I contributed a post here, I was a fresh new blogger sharing ideas about raising kids who love to read  – and just starting out on my path to publication. After connecting with Darlene on the internet, we got to know each other better at the 2014 NJ SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. Fast forward 3 ½ years, and here I am again, this time privileged to be chatting about my first picture book. It’s been a joy sharing the journey from aspiring author to published author with such an energetic, encouraging and talented friend. Thanks for having me, Darlene!

My debut book is GRANDMOTHER THORN, illustrated by the incredibly talented Rebecca Hahn and published by independent publisher Ripple Grove Press. When it released in August, I knew I wanted to host a launch party that not only celebrated the book, but also thanked the many people who helped me achieve this milestone.  Here, I share a bit about my party, and hope that it helps others plan their own wonderful events!

LOCATION. Many authors have their launch party in a local book store, in their home, or in a venue that reflects something about their book. I chose the Crosswicks Community Library, located in a beautiful renovated firehouse dating from the 1800’s. (This library has such a cool history – you can read more about it here.) This library had been my reading home since 2007 – and the place where my children grew to love books. We spent many hours there together, in all seasons, reading out loud to one another, doing puzzles, and discovering stacks of new favorites. I wanted to celebrate this magical place along with my book. The library was also a great choice because it was conveniently located to the neighborhood where my kids went to school and where my Girl Scout troop met. I knew my Brownies wouldn’t miss this party for the world – but their parents would thank me for making it convenient.  The library did not charge me for the event, and they made it easy for me to sell copies of the book. They also helped promote the event through their Facebook page. All great things to consider in planning a launch party! (It’s also walking distance to a good playground and an excellent pizza place. How could you go wrong with that?) 

INVITATIONS

I went digital in getting the word out about my launch party. I used Canva.com to create images with the event information sized right to share on my website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I created a Facebook event in less than 10 minutes and added the Library as a co-host so we could both easily invite our Facebook followers. All of this was absolutely free.

ACTIVITIES    Of course, the main event at any launch party is the author reading his or her book – but what happens next? With a picture book launch, you definitely need something fun for kids to do while the grown ups hug and laugh and say “congratulations.”

My friend Ariel Bernstein recently hosted the launch party for her debut, I HAVE A BALLOON, at words Bookstore in Maplewood. She had a balloon artist there twisting cool creations for the kids. It fit right in to the theme and kept even big kids happy.

Since I’m a crafty person, I wanted a fun art activity for kids to make and take. My daughters (ages 12, 10 and 8) manned the craft table and helped kids make these Shiori Ningyo, or Japanese bookmark dolls. I discovered this craft when the KidArtLit subscription box company included it in their August book box, and I have been using it at events ever since! 

You can check out their video tutorial here. Including this craft in the party was a great way for me to symbolically thank KidArtLit’s founders for sharing GRANDMOTHER THORN with their subscribers – and for all the love they’ve shown the book and me!

REFRESHMENTS

I originally planned to have berry tarts (to reflect the berries in the book) and dorayaki (which also plays a role in the story) at the launch party. I reconsidered after realizing refreshments would be served in the children’s room of the library. I did not want gooey, sticky, and stain-prone desserts on hand while kids were likely to pull library books off shelves. I decided to go with individually wrapped cookies, instead – and to avoid chocolate or sticky fillings. (Though if you’re curious about making dorayaki, check out this interview in Vivian Kirkfield’s Will Write for Cookies! Series.)

I was lucky to discover The Flour Pot bakery in Ambler, PA. They helped me select images from the book to be “screen printed” onto delicious frosted sugar cookies in edible colors. The cookies were striking, right down to the color-coordinated ribbons The Flour Pot staff tied around each cellophane bag.  

 

They also made a great thank you gift for the supportive family and friends who couldn’t make it to the event. This delicious gift box went out to my incredible agent, Essie White.

SWAG

Many authors and illustrators pass out fun items like pencils, stickers, and toys to help promote their books. For ideas, definitely check out promo pros Robin Newman and Lori Richmond.  I did design and order bookmarks for Grandmother Thorn from VistaPrint.com – and the publishing house later made more with a different design. I didn’t order additional “swag” for this book, as I couldn’t really find anything that thematically felt right to me.  Instead, I spent most of my “swag budget” on craft supplies and those gorgeous cookies!

The party itself was everything I had hoped – a time for joy and sharing and gratitude and friendship. And, of course, lots and lots of kids reading books.

 

Katey Howes

Children’s Author, Literacy Advocate

Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press, August 2017)

 

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe (Sterling, January 2018)

KateyHowes.com

All the Wonders

Picture the Books

You can buy a copy of Grandmother Thorn on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Grandmother-Thorn-Katey-Howes/dp/0991386698/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512848025&sr=1-1&keywords=grandmother+thorn

More Summer Fun and Games.

It only feels like summer is over.  There is still plenty of time for fun and games.  If your kids are bored or you just want them to enjoy some fun away from technology, check out these sites for some ideas:

  1.  For some old-fashioned jump rope rhymes try:

http://www.gameskidsplay.net/jump_rope_ryhmes/jump_miss_susie.htm

2.  For imaginative platy and telling stories with nature here’s a wonderful site hosted by my writer friend Katey Howes:  http://kateywrites.wordpress.com/2015…th-nature/

3.  For great summer crafts for kids of all ages:

http://www.spoonful.com/summer/summer-crafts

Here’s another site for dozens of ideas for summer or rainy days.  This site even has light sabers, salt dough dinosaurs, bubble art, weaving, and plastic flowers to name just a few.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/nataliebrown/impossibly-cool-crafts-that-will-blow-your-kids-minds?utm_term=.eodvM0BGa&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Parents%20622&utm_content=Parents%20622+CID_21d3394b54b860e27a06b21dbba3384c&utm_source=BuzzFeed%20Newsletters#.hqnXJNkVY

Other ideas:  Make ice pops by putting your favorite juice in paper cups with a popsicle or craft stick resting in each.  Freeze until firm.  Tear away the paper and enjoy.    Water balloon catch is perfect for a hot afternoon.  Bubbles provide endless hours of fun for even the youngest kids. Go on a NATURE WALK and look for things in unexpected places.  Even in your own back yard you can find nests of birds, rabbits, a butterfly chrysalis, caterpillars and the like.  Nurture the young scientists in your house and discover the wonders of the great outdoors.

What do you like to do for fun?!