Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Star Bright Books: PINWHEEL DAYS and FRIENDS AT NIGHT by Ellen Tarlow and Gretal Parker

Pinwheel Days and Friends at Night

written by Ellen Tarlow

illustrated by Gretal Parker

Star Bright Books, 2021

Sending many thanks to Vivian Kirkfield and her blog and website, Vivian Kirkfield – Writer for Children, and R. Skyler Lambert, Editor and Marketing Manager at Star Bright Books, for sending me a copy of both of these adorable picture books! They have been quite successful with my learning-to-read grands.

Comments from the Peanut Gallery:

Gage (just completed first grade): Can I keep these? Can I take these in the car? (They lived in the car for weeks so he could read them on the way to and from school.)

Autumn (just completed kindergarten): Read this to me. What’s a pinwheel? It’s that flower! (giggle) They’re hiding!

Why I Love These Books:

~adorable stories, 2 per book

~just right for beginning readers

~large text which makes it easier to read

~engaging illustrations and text

~spot-on situations to capture the attention of readers

~cute animals characters!

~sturdy construction

Thank you, Vivian and Skyler! Two thumbs up from this household!


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Central Washington Hike: Umptanum Creek Falls

What a beautiful hike!

Whether spelled “Umptanum” or “Umtanum,” it was gorgeous! Here is the view from the bottom of Umptanum Creek Falls. The clamber down was pretty slicky-slidey in dirt, but worth the effort. The crawl back up was even more tenuous! I noticed someone had tied a rope between two points on the south climb back up around. We didn’t use it, but look for it if you choose that way to get back to the top of the falls (the way back to the car park).

Proof of the “Umptanum” spelling. No potties here, friends, so plan ahead.

Evidence of a previous fire lines both sides of the trail. I found the stark black a beautiful counterpoint to the spring greens and gray bark.

Umptanum Creek is such a pretty, quiet little stream!

From the bottom of the falls. We had a wet, drizzly day (perfect to my way of thinking), so it was pretty chilly sitting at the bottom while we enjoyed the view.

This is the view from the top of the falls. The wildflowers were out in abundance! Gorgeous!

Pretty scenery along the way. We didn’t encounter very many people on the way to the falls, but the crowd was picking up on our way back.

Just starting to bloom!

Also…DUH dum…this looks like stinging nettles. There were huge sections of this plant lining parts of the trail. Just a heads up. I double-checked my photo with online sources and they look the same to me. We hiked with poles, so it was easy to push back plants as we walked through.

Honey? I want this in my back yard!

The hardest parts of this trails were: 1. getting there (pretty, but long drive from Yakima on a dirt road); 2. getting back up the steep hillsides from the bottom of the falls; and 3. no potties.

You can read more about this hike at Washington Trails Association.


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Haiku Moment: puzzle time

cat must bathe upon

table top work-in-progress

pieces here and there

puzzle time by Angie Quantrell

feline model and puzzle assistant: Monet


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Haiku Moment: distraction

mom feathers afluff

dad’s piercing cry, distracting

leads astray, away

distraction by Angie Quantrell

photos by Angie Quantrell, a pasture somewhere in the Yakima Valley

This scene took place yesterday after 2 killdeer parents escorted their 3 remaining offspring (they usually lay 4 eggs at a time) right to the RV. I heard loud piercing cries, looked out the side window and there they were, tiny stick-legged babies. Perfectly placed for capture by our magnificent hunter cat, Monet. EEK. Good thing for them, Monet was inside napping. Also, good thing for them, I went racing out to try and shoo them away.

Which was not as easy as one would expect! What with the babies racing in opposite directions (from me and each other) and the parents doing the same, attempting to distract me from the babies. 30 minutes. It took that long to figure out how to get them all close to the horse pasture next to us and hopefully far enough from monster cat to survive.

But along the way, such cuteness and fierce protection from the parents! One parent actually took a dive at me, though my best intentions were to save them. The giant person was threatening.

#lifeinthepasture

It’s a bit blurry (they move fast), but can you spot 3 babies?


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Author Interview: OCEANS OF LOVE by Janet Lawler

OCEANS OF LOVE

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2022

I love spending time at the beach! But a deep sea diver I am not, so I’m very happy to have Janet Lawler here today to talk about her new picture book, OCEANS OF LOVE! This new picture book is perfect for visiting underwater habitats without needing a wet suit and oxygen tank.

Welcome, Janet! You visited my blog back when Kindergarten Hat came out, which was soon to be followed by Good Night, Little Engine. Tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to since then.

Wow! Time flies! Both those books released during the pandemic year 2020, a time that we all would like to put behind us. But I kept busy throughout since that is my way to handle challenging periods. And during the darkest months of the pandemic, I wrote There’s No Place Like Hope, an inspirational text to help kids get through tough spells. Optimism and hope help anyone facing uncertainty and upheaval, don’t you think?  That book, illustrated by Tamisha Anthony, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux next year.

Ooh, There’s No Place Like Hope sounds perfect! What a wonderful way to spend that closed-up time!

Congratulations on your new picture book OCEANS OF LOVE (Viking Books for Young Readers, February 1, 2022)! It is beautiful! What inspired this story?

Thanks, Angie. I am fascinated by the ocean, and that interest met up with my desire to write another story in my favorite genre—the “love poem.” My first published book, If Kisses Were Colors (Dial, 2003) compares a mother’s love to the vastness and beauty of the natural world. After that, I wrote a few more about how moms and dads show love to their little ones. But I ran out of humans! So I started musing about different animals. OCEANS OF LOVE takes a dive under the waves in an imaginary journey that ponders how sea dwellers might show maternal love.

Lol. You ran out of humans . . . I love the way you moved on to ocean animals.

What writing journey did you follow as you wrote OCEANS OF LOVE? How long did it take from idea to publication?

The journey started over 15 years ago, in 2006. I had already written A Mama Bug’s Love, taking an imaginary love tour with a bunch of bugs. Little Simon acquired and published that story in a pop-up book format. I hoped to have another book to follow and so began working on the text that became OCEANS OF LOVE. But the publisher discontinued that pop-up series and passed on the manuscript.

Over ensuing years, OCEANS OF LOVE spent a lot of time in a drawer as I worked on other stories and projects. I am not sure what caused me to revise and share it with my agent three years ago. After only a few submissions, my editor fell in love with it and acquired it in early 2020.

I’m so glad you decided to revise and share it with your agent!

The text is perfectly enriched by Holly Clifton-Brown’s illustrations. How much input did you have as your book went to Holly to be illustrated?

I was given a chance to comment on illustrators the publisher was considering, and I said yes to Holly! I made small comments on sketches along the way. But for the most part, Holly took her own creative path to where my words inspired her imagination. Her luminous illustrations add depth and detail to my text, in addition to a lovely added story layer.

I totally agree! Holly added lovely layers to your story.

Did you do anything special for the book birthday of OCEANS OF LOVE?

I did my first in-person event in over two years, in conjunction with the wonderful children’s department of my town’s public library. I wore my special fish earrings and my seaweed scarf. I shared the book and its background, and kids joined in a fun fishing activity before going home with fish stickers and a “Love Fish” coloring/craft activity (folks can download that for free off the OCEANS OF LOVE  page on my website).

Fun! Thanks for the link!

What tip(s) could you offer to picture book writers who are seeking to get their books published?

I tell beginning picture book writers to focus on the craft of writing, so that the story is the best it can be before trying to find a publisher or agent. Early on in my career, I sometimes rushed to send out what I thought was the “perfect manuscript,” and the next time I looked at it (sometimes, the following morning!), I saw ways to make it better. I also tell new writers to research markets to make thoughtful submissions. There is so much information available now online about what different publishers and editors want for their lists. Target submitting greatly increases one’s chances of finding a home for a story.

Thank you! Excellent advice.

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I am a Walrus Detective! The Walrus from Space project (co-led by the World Wildlife Foundation-UK and the British Antarctic Survey) is assisted by lay volunteers who analyze satellite images of the Arctic taken from space to see if there are any walrus visible. Anyone can do this, in spare time and with a little training! I am fascinated by this arctic mammal, which is why I wrote WALRUS SONG (Candlewick, 2021). I hope you and your readers will check out the Walrus from Space project. The information gathered and analyzed will help experts better understand the impact of climate changes on walrus habitats.

That sounds fascinating! I was once using Google Earth, just popping around way up north of Alaska and Canada and spotted a beached whale on a tiny little spit of land! It was amazing!

Thank you so much for visiting, Janet! Congratulations on OCEANS OF LOVE and best wishes on your future projects!


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Book Review: In the Garden with Flori by Sonja Danowski

In the Garden with Flori

Written and illustrated by Sonja Danowski

Translated from German by Marshall Yarbrough

NorthSouth Books Inc., 2022

Friends, we are talking gorgeous. I was initially drawn to this oversized picture book just by seeing some of the illustrations. The illustrations, plus the garden theme, put this book right on my want-to-read list. I love gardens.

After receiving In the Garden with Flori from NorthSouth Books, I was indeed enchanted with both the richly detailed illustrations and the gardening, trouble-filled story. Thank you, NorthSouth Books!

Why I like this book:

~ Gorgeous, detailed, full-page illustrations

~ Flori, the adorable sidekick, who as dogs do, causes a certain amount of trouble

~ Child-centered story

~ Friendship

~ Love the garden! Both the wild outdoor garden and the protected inside garden

~ The endpapers – check out the detail!

~ The nature theme

Congratulations, Sonja, for creating this beautiful picture book!

Amazon Blurb:

Batchelder Honor recipient Sonja Danowski has created a new story reminding us that love, patience, and a sense of humor help any garden to flower.

What a fuss! Linn’s grandfather broke his leg. Fortunately, his granddaughter Linn offers to take care of his spectacular garden. After all, Linn has helped out in the garden many times and knows a lot about plants. With Linn’s dog, Flori, and her good friend, Emi, by her side what could go wrong? But when mischievous Flori causes a mess, Linn has to learn to deal with a difficult situation. Taking responsibility for the first time is a big step. Together with Linn, we experience pride in the trust placed in us as well as self-doubts along the way. Sonja Danowski’s lovingly detailed illustrations appear almost lifelike and unfold with incomparable magic.


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Will You Be My Girlfriend?

circa 1981

I said yes.

On this date, April 23, 1979, at my dad’s birthday party, this guy popped the girlfriend question. And the rest, they say, is his (and her) story. Our story. What an adventure it’s been! 43 years ago.

The attempted photo recreation…

circa now

The journey continues, my honey and me, best friends.


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Happy Book Birthday to FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE! Written by Candace Spizzirri, Art by Beverly Love Warren #bookbirthday

Fishing with Grandpa and Skye

Written by Candace Spizzirri

Illustrated by Beverly Love Warren

Spork, April 19, 2022

Congratulations, Candace and Beverly! Welcome to the world, Fishing with Grandpa and Skye!

I’m so happy for my critique partner, Beverly Love Warren! She did the art for Candace’s new picture book, and through Beverly, I connected with Candace. Have a wonderful day celebrating the arrival of Fishing with Grandpa and Skye!

About the Book:

Days on the lake are a Skye and Grandpa thing. They load up their tackle box, hop aboard their skiff, and chug out to their favorite fishing spot. Today, the sun is shining, the fish are jumping, but will Skye hook a big one? 

FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE explores the rewards of patience and celebrates the love between generations.

Candace Spizzirri

Children’s Author

FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE, April 19, 2022
FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE, Spring 2023

Beverly Love Warren

Children’s Book Author and Illustrator

FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE, April 19, 2022

Have You Seen Mouse? (Spork, 2022)


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Sunday Inspiration

Photo by Angie Quantrell

Tieton River Nature Trail, Pacific Northwest