Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Haiku Moment: land, hop, walk

land, pause, freeze, and look

what’s a bird to do? can’t move

winter’s sticky tape

hop, hop, hop-three jumps

and you are there, discover

snowy hidden treats

different bird tracks;

walk, waltz, snoop: toes in, toes out

winter hides the food


land, hop, walk

by Angie Quantrell

photos by Angie Quantrell

Winter in the Yakima Valley


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Author Interview and Happy Book Birthday: Celebrate! A Happy Book of Firsts by Janet Lawler

Celebrate! A Happy Book of Firsts

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Brittany Baugus

Feiwel & Friends, 2022

Friends, I am so excited to welcome Janet to my blog to help her celebrate a new book birthday! Let’s jump right in to hear more from Janet.

Welcome, Janet! I am so happy to have you back on my blog. Today you are visiting with great news about the book release of your newest picture book, Celebrate! A Happy Book of Firsts (Feiwel & Friends, October 25, 2022). Congratulations! What inspired this story?

Sometimes I have a very specific recollection about what inspired a story, but I don’t for this one. I do remember having a simple idea that it would be fun to write about animals doing something for the first time and imagining how they might celebrate those accomplishments. I thought it could be a unique approach to the celebration of human “firsts.” Once the idea grabbed me, I took off writing about a bunch of different animals. I eventually narrowed my random ponderings to animals that are in a rural setting.

That sounds like a wonderful way to begin and complete a picture book story! Write it all out (brainstorming, one of my favorite things to do), then narrow down the focus…

The illustrations are just right. What was your process of working with illustrator Brittany Baugus? Did you suggest any art notes or have any input about illustrations?

As is the case with most traditionally published picture books, I did not work directly with the illustrator. I had early e-mail and Zoom dialogues with my editor at Feiwel & Friends, Anna Roberto, to discuss approaches to the book’s illustration. She wanted to include illustrations of a child in juxtaposition with the animals and, possibly, have me add text about the human firsts. I felt that adding text would make the rhyming story too long and create issues over what firsts to write about. We ultimately decided on adding the child accomplishments in the art only, expanding the story visually.

Once we’d settled on a vision, Anna shared a couple of illustrator samples, and I fell in love with the warmth and whimsy of Brittany Baugus’s work.

I was shown early sketches. Brittany had created a substory with a young child that complemented my text. I encouraged a bit more clarity in the child’s stages of growth and diversity in the family illustrations. My comments, along with feedback from the editorial and art folks at Feiwel & Friends, were addressed in the final art that delightfully depicts a 0–3 child experiencing little milestones, spaced among illustrations of adorable animal firsts.

Wow, the process really worked well for you and Brittany!

How long did it take from your initial idea to publication of this celebratory picture book?

I don’t have an exact date for when I began to work on the manuscript. Early versions predate a revision dated in 2011, so it is likely that I began writing this in 2010. So, a dozen years from idea to publication. Wow!

Amazing! But time (and patience) made this book perfect!

Do you have any special plans to celebrate the book birthday of Celebrate! A Happy Book of Firsts?

I am very happy that this book releases on a Tuesday! My critique group meets on Tuesdays, and we have a tradition of opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate a book sale or publication. Since this book was sold during the pandemic, when we could not raise glasses together in person, I am planning to pop that cork (and one on a nonalcoholic option) with my dear colleagues on October 25th.

I also have planned several indie bookstore story times and a celebratory launch preschool party at my public library. Events can be found on my website.

How exciting! That is a wonderful tradition! Sip a glass for me!

As always, I like to ask authors and illustrators to share a tip for picture book writers who are seeking to get their books published. What is one of your favorite revision tips??

Always, always read your work out loud! And ask someone else to read it out loud while you listen with your eyes closed. Do your words sing? Does a reader stumble? This will highlight problem areas, even issues with pacing and plot. After all, picture books are meant to be read out loud, so this will help you make your text the best it can be for its intended audience.

Excellent advice!

What else are you working on right now?

I am revising a rhyming primer for the youngest bird watchers. It is so important to spend time outside with little ones and foster their curiosity about the natural world. And I love birds!

I am a bird watcher (though much older than “the youngest” bird watchers)! As my husband and I travel, I constantly refer to a bird identification book I keep in the passenger door pocket. A well-loved and falling apart copy. I can’t wait to read your bird primer!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

During the darkest days of the pandemic, I worked on an inspirational text for kids. It raised my spirits and kept me hopeful. I am super excited that Farrar, Straus and Giroux will publish There’s No Place Like Hope next fall. It is illustrated by Tamisha Anthony.

Yay for you! That sounds like something we can all read (and need to read). Congratulations!

Janet, thank you so much for visiting with us and sharing about your new book, Celebrate! A Happy Book of Firsts! Thank you for the advice. 😊 Best wishes with all of your books!

Book buddies, be sure to check out Celebrate! A Happy Book of Firsts. Find a copy at your local indie or favorite bookstore and ask for your library to order a copy. Don’t forget to show some author love by leaving a review on Goodreads and/or Amazon. Thank you!


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Happy Book Birthday to Hanukkah Nights by Amalia Hoffman (Author-Illustrator Interview)

Hanukkah Nights

Written and illustrated by Amalia Hoffman

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2022

Ages 1-4

It’s so lovely when authors I’ve interviewed or featured on my blog swing back by when they have a book birthday for a new book. Congratulations, Amalia, on the October 1 release of your beautiful, very colorful Hanukkah Nights! Thank you for stopping by today.

Welcome, Amalia! Let’s get to it and learn more about your newest book.

What special traditions do you enjoy with your family during Hanukkah?

We always throw a huge party with tons of food and two homemade kinds of latkes: with and without onions. Each guest brings their own menorah and we light all of them. It’s a beautiful sight. We decorate the table with chocolate coins and sing many Hanukkah songs. After the 3-5 drinks, we dance to Klezmer music.

That sounds beautiful! The lights, food, singing, and dancing, what lovely traditions.

I love how readers will learn new ways to paint when they read Hanukkah Nights. How did you get your start as an artist and illustrator?

I always knew that I wanted to be an artist. I used to make fancy greeting cards for my family members on birthdays and anniversaries. And later I sold handmade greeting cards to a shop in Jerusalem where I lived.

My parents encouraged my passion for art and craft.

My mom used to stir shredded newspaper with flour over the stove to make Papier Mache and I made puppets for our family theater. My parents enrolled me in after-school painting classes and when I was a teenager, I spent the summer in an artist village in the Galilee where I experimented with mosaic, ceramic, and stained glass.

After high school I attended the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem. Basically it was a very traditional academic school. I didn’t love it but I learned how to draw from a model, proportions and perspective. When I came to America, I earned my BFA Cum Laude from Pratt Institute and MFA from NYU.

I joined SCBWI so I could meet other illustrators and enrolled in many workshops. Then I got enough courage to work on my stories, accompanied with my own illustrations. I created a story, entitled Purim Goodies and eventually sold it to Gefen Publishing, an Israeli publisher that publishes mainly in English.

As I gained more confidence, I went on to illustrate many other books.

I love how your family supported you as you grew and explored your dream of being an artist.

How did you celebrate the October 1st, 2022 release of your new book?

Actually I participated in a huge book fair that took place on the same day, https://ryebookfestival.com/meet-the-authors  So I rolled in Hanukkah Nights in a baby carriage. As usual, on every book launch, I got roses from my man & toasted with Champagne.

A baby carriage and a book fair! That is awesome! And what a sweetie to give you roses and toast you with champagne! Well done.

What is one tip you could give to new picture book writers and illustrators?

Don’t try to force yourself to work in a particular style that you think is popular. Trends change frequently and you’re better off perfecting your own techniques and styles.

Excellent advice. Thank you.

You have several wonderful books out in the world. What surprises are you working on now?

I have a new picture book coming up in 2024, but at this time I can’t provide details yet, only to say that I’m very excited about it.

I’m also working on a new board book and new picture book.

That’s wonderful, Amalia! We look forward to hearing more details as your new projects come to fruition.

Congratulations, Amalia! Thank you for sharing with us. All the best wishes for you, Hanukkah Nights, and your creative work.

Contact Amalia Hoffman.

Book buddies, be sure to check out Hanukkah Nights. Find a copy at your local indie or favorite bookstore and ask for your library to order a copy. Don’t forget to show some author love by leaving a review on Goodreads and/or Amazon. Thank you!


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Book Review: Wake Up, Freight Train! by Danna Smith and Jon Andersen

Wake Up, Freight Train!

written by Danna Smith

illustrated by Jon Andersen

Little Simon, 2022

Choo-choo! Hop aboard this hard-working nighttime freight train!

Written by Danna Smith and illustrated by Jon Andersen, this sturdy board book will delight train lovers of all ages. 🙂

Thank you, Danna Smith, Lynne Marie, and Rate Your Story March on with Mentor Texts! After participating each day, reading posts, commenting, and reading/studying mentor texts (picture books worth a closer read), everyone was eligible for prizes offered by blog guests. Fortunately for me, my name was pulled and I won a copy of Danna Smith’s adorable board book Wake Up, Freight Train!

Thank you to everyone for a fantastic month of reading, studying, and learning!

Why I Love This Book:

~ adorable!

~ fun, rhyming text

~ trains, an ever popular subject matter for young readers

~ word play and train-specific words

~ answers to “What does a freight train do at night?”

~ bright colors, animals and wildlife, shaped board book

~ plenty of onomatopoeia so readers can join in the fun!

From Goodreads:

Hop aboard this train-shaped board book that introduces each car of a freight train during a nighttime adventure!

Blow the train whistle, shovel more coal.
Here we go, freight train! Get ready to roll!
Toot-toot goes the horn, Blink-blink go the lights,
Clang-clang goes the bell, all through the night.

Featuring all the cars of a freight train, this board book is perfect for young readers who love trains! And since freight trains ride at night, there are adorable sleepy animals throughout for little ones to find.

Toot-toot! Happy adventures on the freight train!


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Book Review: Braver Than Brave by Janet Sumner Johnson and Eunji Jung

Braver Than Brave

written by Janet Sumner Johnson

illustrated by Eunji Jung

Capstone Editions, 2022

Be brave!

That’s what I keep calling this delightful picture book about a young girl who must find her own kind of courage to ride the BIG one like her older brother and friends.

Thank you to Janet Sumner Johnson and KidLit411 for sending me a copy of Braver Than Brave!

There are so many reasons I enjoy this book. The message is wonderful for young children. The setting is fun, the characters are just right, and the problem-being brave enough to do something scary-is perfect for ages 3-5 who face an amusement park full of new experiences (in life and at actual amusement parks). And let’s not overlook the fact that Wanda is adorable!

Congratulations, Janet and Eunji!

Why I LOVE this book:

~adorable Wanda

~the amusement park setting is fun and facing BIG rides is a common fear and experience of most children

~great message

~colorful, action-filled illustrations

~surprise ending!

~back matter that shares more about being brave

~a chicken exit (own it!)

Back Cover Blurb:

Go forth and be brave!


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Book Review: Not Yet, Yeti! by Bethany V. Freitas and Maddie Frost

Not Yet, Yeti!

Written by Bethany V. Freitas

Illustrated by Maddie Frost

Clarion Books, HarperCollins Publishers LLC; 2022

Thank you, Jena Benton and Maddie Frost, for sending me this lovely copy of Not Yet, Yeti! I love Yeti, all the bright colors, and the theme of starting school. Yeti and his first day of school speak to my former-preschool and kindergarten teacher’s heart!

Be sure to visit Jena’s blog to read the original post, Simply 7 with Maddie Frost & GIVEAWAY: NOT YET, YETI! You can find Jena and Maddie on Twitter.

Why I Love This Book:

~the fun story

~the going-to-school-for-the-first-time theme

~learning new things

~the encouragement to try again, because you might not get it right the first time, and that just means “not yet, Yeti”

~big, colorful illustrations

~Yeti! I mean, just look at him!

~the friends Yeti makes (too adorable)

I would definitely read this book the first day of school! Congratulations, Bethany and Maddie! Thanks for introducing me to Yeti, Jena!

Look at the little cubbies and friends!

Amazon Blurb:

Yeti learns about the importance of patience and perseverance as he uses growth mindset on his first day of kindergarten.

It’s Yeti’s first day of school and there are so many new things to try! Maybe he can’t do everything he wants to do perfectly just yet, but his supportive teacher and helpful classmates are there to remind him that he can always try again.

Yeti’s journey to achieving his goals highlights the importance of nurturing a positive self-image and a growth mindset in early learners. With gentle humor, expressive illustrations, and a lovable protagonist, this simple and effective story is a perfect teaching aid for both parents and educators alike.


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Book Review: Reach for the Stars by Emily Calandrelli and Honee Jang

Reach for the Stars

Written by Emily Calandrelli

Illustrated by Honee Jang

Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2022

Thank you, Kathy Temean at Writing and Illustrating, author Emily Calandrelli, and illustrator Honee Jang for sharing this beautiful book, Reach for the Stars! Thank you for sending me a copy to read and share. Congratulations!

A heartwarming picture book, Reach for the Stars shares the wonder and amazement of the natural world and all that is in it. Calandrelli leads readers through the growing up and exploring years in the life of a young girl, all the while encouraging readers to be amazed and to dream the big dreams about life. Jang perfectly captured the beauty and imagination of the story. Reach for the Stars is a lovely book to read to inspire, inform, and enjoy.

Why I Love This Book:

~ beautiful illustrations, dreamy and imaginative

~ the wonder and awe about the natural world the author and illustrator share throughout the story

~ the fun of reading the story in rhyme

~ the natural world is amazing, and that appreciation and respect for learning about and exploring more is front and center in this book

~ science! STEM. Girls in science!

~ the encouragement to readers to dream big, explore, and follow your dreams

Amazon Blurb:

From Emmy-nominated science TV star and host of Netflix’s hit series Emily’s Wonder Lab Emily Calandrelli comes an inspirational message of love and positivity.

From the moment we are born, we reach out. We reach out for our loved ones, for new knowledge and experiences, and for our dreams!

Whether celebrating life’s joyous milestones, sharing words of encouragement, or observing the wonder of the world around us, this uplifting book will inspire readers of every age. A celebration of love and shared discovery, this book will encourage readers to reach for the stars!


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Book Review: Cayuga Island Kids, THE CASE OF THE MESSY MESSAGE AND THE MISSING FACTS by Judy Bradbury

The Case of the Messy Message and the Missing Facts, Cayuga Island Kids

by Judy Bradbury

illustrations by Gabriella Vagnoli

City of Light Publishing, 2022

Thanks to Kathy Temean and her Writing and Illustrating blog, I received a copy of this fun chapter book mystery! Thank you, Kathy, Judy Bradbury, and City of Lights Publishing!

I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter book. In part, I liked learning about a new area to me. Just check out this map at the front of the book! The writing was clean and understandable, characters engaging, the mystery lots of fun, illustrations just right, and current topics were spot on.

Why I Liked This Book:

~believable characters

~great premise

~mystery

~key words: misinformation, research, fact detectives, disinformation

~kindness rocks and Little Libraries

~fun setting, normal school adventures for elementary students (homework, projects)

~just right illustrations and back matter

This book is definitely a keeper.

Amazon Blurb:

It’s Fall now and the Cayuga Island Kids are busy with homework, projects, and after school activities. But there’s still plenty of time for mystery and adventure! In the third book in the Cayuga Island Kids chapter book series, Julian is exploring food science as he experiments with recipes on his quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Being a cookie sampler takes Mac’s mind off his troubles with fractions. Yoko is practicing gestures and facial expressions in anticipation of the school play tryouts. Maya is Ms. Choi’s helper in the after-school Make-and-Take-Club for younger crafters. Lacey is taking care of the little community library that Gram built—and searching for the next mystery to solve. When two of Ms. Choi’s glitter pens go missing, Maya turns to Lacey for help. The clues and evidence point to a suspect, but are they jumping to conclusions? When a classmate jumps to conclusions and shares false information about Julian’s cookies, the Cayuga Island Kids join forces to set the facts straight. When the kids research explorers for a school project, they uncover misinformation that blurs the truth, and makes the reasons for being a fact detective crystal clear. As the fall leaves turn color, the Cayuga Island Kids come to realize that sorting through clues and evidence—just like research—means making sure information is factual, and not just a fraction of the truth. Young readers will cheer for the Cayuga Island Kids as they embark on this latest adventure involving faulty assumptions, missing facts, flour bugs, and chocolate chip cookies.


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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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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?