Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Masha Munching: New Book Author-Illustrator Amalia Hoffman Interview! Plus #Giveaway!

And the winner is . . . Debra Daugherty! Congratulations, Debra. I will be in touch soon! Thanks everyone, for stopping by to check out Amalia’s new book!

Get ready to read Masha Munching on March 1, 2022!

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a very important blog post featuring a special book by author-illustrator Amalia Hoffman, Masha Munching!

Be sure to read to the bottom to learn how you can get your name in the hat to win a free copy of Masha Munching, compliments of Yeehoo Press (US only). Thank you, Yeehoo Press and Helen Wu, for this opportunity!

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

Congratulations, Amalia, on your newest picture book Masha Munching! Living next door to goats, I couldn’t wait to see what Masha munched. What was your inspiration for Masha Munching?

Growing up in Israel, my family spent our summers in a small village where farmers raised cows, chickens and goats. We used to laugh as the goats tried to nibble on our cloths. I have another book, The Klezmer Bunch, with a goat character, also named Masha, so that means that I have a soft spot for goats. One day, I just came up with this alliteration; Masha Munching and that kind of sat in my brain for a while, till I came up with the idea of a goat that longs for great food.

I love hearing how picture books get their beginning. I’m sure growing up around goats gave you plenty of ideas.

I love that you create all of your own art and illustrations. They are amazing! What is the process you used to create Masha Munching? Do you write the story first or begin with the illustrations?

As an author/illustrator, I usually start by scribbling images and words in my sketchbook. As the story evolves, the scribbles become more and more defined. For Masha Munching, I used paper cuts. The animals and many elements are hand painted and hand cut. I cover the board surface with Liquitex modeling paste and add textures by scraping the surface while it’s wet. When dry, I paint the background on the board. Then I glue all the cut-up elements on the board. When satisfied, I photograph the image. Sometimes, I add more textures, details and color in Photoshop.

Fascinating! So many details and steps. Masha Munching has wonderful backgrounds and colors.

Where do you do your creative work?

In my small studio that was once my son’s bedroom. I like working at home, close to the fridge and coffee pot.

Me too! I work in a she shed I named Huckleberry Hutch.

What special plans do you have to celebrate the March 1, 2022, release of your new book?

I plan to present the book in several libraries and bookstores. I’m in the process of creating a puppet that looks like Masha. I designed it in such a way that the mouth will open and close, so Masha can eat all sorts of stuff like old socks, empty containers, and newspapers. I think the kids will get a kick out of that. I plan to create a video to demonstrate how I created my illustrations. Also, I plan to have a contest on social media for kids to come up with funny things Masha could eat.

What a blast! I think young readers (and their parents and teachers) will enjoy meeting Masha!

You’ve had several picture books published through Yeehoo Press. How did you get started with Yeehoo Press and how do you submit new picture ideas to them?

I found out about Yeehoo Press from a message they posted on Facebook. Then, my agent sent them my book dummy for my story, My Monsterpiece. Yeehoo accepts non-solicited submissions so authors and illustrators can send their submissions directly.

Great advice! Thank you.

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

Be tough and ready to take rejections. Join author and illustrators groups. Stay true to yourself. Don’t write what you think will sell. If you’re an illustrator, don’t try to mimic someone else’s style.

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

I’m working on another picture book, illustrated in the style of Masha Munching and also a nonfiction story.

Yay! I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Thank you, Amalia, for sharing Masha Munching with us! Congratulations and best wishes as you continue to create amazing picture books for young readers.

Ready to find out how to get your name in the hat to win a copy of Masha Munching (US only)? A winner will be randomly chosen in one week on Thursday, January 14.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win. Example: bookwinner (at) yahoo (dot) com

2. Follow this blog and tell me how you follow. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

Amazon Blurb:

Award-winning author-illustrator Amalia Hoffman delivers a hilarious tale about a goat with an insatiable appetite and her journey to finding the best meal ever! Perfect for farm animal-loving readers.

Masha LOVES food. She chews and chomps, slops and slurps, and gobbles and gnaws through breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the farm. But Masha grows tired of eating the same meals every day. She decides to venture outside the farm in search of something new.

When Masha discovers The Bistro Magnifique, where waiters serve fancy meals in bow ties, Masha thinks it’s her lucky day! But at a proper restaurant, can Masha satisfy her desire for wonderful food while staying true to herself?

With colorful, intricate paper-cut art to amuse readers on every page, this timeless tale follows a young goat discovering that the best meal is the one shared with good friends.

Author Bio:

Amalia Hoffman is an award-winning author and illustrator of many children’s books, including My Monsterpiece, which was a 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Award gold medal winner; All Colors, a 2019 School Library Journal Best Board Book; and Dreidel Day, a PJ Library selection. She is also the author of The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero, illustrated by Chiara Fedele, which was a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Amalia frequently tells her stories in schools, libraries, and bookstores with puppets and props. She lives in Larchmont, New York.

Books by Amalia:

Masha Munching, Yeehoo Press, Chinese & English versions, March 2022

My Hands Make the World, PJ Publishing, May 2022

My Monsterpiece, Yeehoo Press, Simplified Chinese and English editions March, 2021

Astro Pea, Schiffer Kids, 2019

All Colors, Schiffer Kids, 2019

The Brave Cyclist, Capstone Editions, 2019

Dreidel Day, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2018


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January = Storystorm!

For picture book writers, January equals Storystorm!

Storystorm, an adventure in brainstorming new picture book ideas, is Tara Lazar’s kicking-off-the-new-year-of-writing-picture-books project. I can’t even remember how many years I’ve been doing Storystorm, but it is worth every second. And I have the dog-tagged notebooks to prove it.

Thanks, Tara, for planning this creativity-inspiring month of posts for building a bank of picture book ideas. Let’s go, 2022!


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Pantser or Plotter?

I’ve always been a pantser. That’s a writer who creates stories by the seat of her pants, just jumping off the cliff and writing whatever happens next. This is a very exciting way to write. You never know what is going to happen next. Because. Well. You haven’t planned anything.

In November and December, I suddenly found myself desiring to plot new stories. I wanted to try being a plotter, a writer who makes a plan before writing. This of course helps with story arc, characters, setting, and all of that stuff. Well, it’s not like I said, “I want to be a plotter,” but one day I noticed my Debbie Ridpath Ohi picture book thumbnails template and thought it would be fun to try.

And wow! Two picture books written by actual plotting. For these two stories, the plotting plan worked perfectly. (Heh-heh, I love alliteration.)

I’m sure I will continue to be mostly a pantser because I love running with a story idea that begins with a title (which happens quite often) or a phrase or a character. But on occasion, I might just dig out that template and put on my plotting pants.

Who’s with me?

Thank you, Debbie Ridpath Ohi! You can find her picture book templates (and tons of other great info) on her website: debbieohi.com

Writing Tip: Always add kitties to help you write. Works for plotters OR pantsers. (Or snugglers.)


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Book Review: Pie for Breakfast, A Baking Book for Children by Cynthia Cliff

Pie for Breakfast, A Baking Book for Children

by Cynthia Cliff

Prestel Publishing, 2021

Thank you, Cynthia Cliff, for sending me a copy of this gorgeous cookbook for children! I read about Pie for Breakfast on Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating, a blog about books and the publishing world. Thank you, Kathy, for featuring Cynthia and allowing me to win a copy. What a delicious feast for my eyes and my tummy!

Complete with colorful, detailed, delightful illustrations (all done by Cynthia-check out her website), Pie for Breakfast is filled with recipes from around world. Each recipe has directions appropriate for ages 5-9 and suggestions on when to ask for help from an adult. Safety tips are included.

I love how Cynthia wrote this cookbook as a picture book story. Hazel is the main character who loves to bake and likes to raise money for special projects. As Hazel discusses the school’s fair, she has the idea of organizing a bake sale at the fair to raise money for the school library. Since Hazel loves books as much as she loves baking, the project is a perfect fit. Hazel invites her friends to bake something special for the bake sale. Pie for Breakfast is filled with the recipes and bakers who contribute to the bake sale.

What I loved about this book:

~the recipes, yummy!

~the colorful illustrations filled with enchanting details

~the bake sale that ties together all of the recipes and friends

~a bake sale for books! Sounds perfect to me.

~metric measurements are included

~the overall adorableness of the book

Amazon Blurb:

A beautifully illustrated baking book for children featuring recipes for delicious treats along with a powerful message about family, diversity, and helping others.

When Hazel and her father bake together, her mother says they make the whole house smell like a fancy bakery. And when they bake in the morning, they get to eat their goods as a special treat–even if it’s for breakfast. One day Hazel decides to organize a morning bake sale for her school and encourages her friends to contribute to the effort. The results take readers all over the world, from strawberry mochi and pumpkin empanadas to Indian-spiced shortbread and Egyptian basbousa cake. Best of all, each of these treats including with muffins, carrot cake, scones, and vegan and gluten-free items–comes with its own easy-to-follow recipe. Cynthia Cliff’s charming illustrations combine the simplicity of folk art with a sophisticated flair. Her down-to-earth baking accommodate all sorts of substitutions and skill levels. The perfect book for satisfying baking, Pie for Breakfast introduces children to new flavors and treats, opening their palates and their eyes to the delicious ways that baking can bring us together.

Thank you, Cynthia. Congratulations and happy baking!


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Book Review: The Chickens Are Coming! by Barbara Samuels

The Chickens Are Coming!

Written and illustrated by Barbara Samuels

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2019

I was sitting in my she shed the other day and heard a nearby rooster crowing. Very nearby. Just a note: we do not have chickens OR roosters.

Though our neighbors do. So we often have feathered guests running around the pasture. But I’ve never heard the crowing this close.

I carefully tip-toed to the window and looked out. Sure enough, there was a handsome fellow and his girls right outside the door! They happily pecked and picked, enjoying free range exploration and snacking.

Sorry about the Eiffel Tower right in the middle of the photo…I didn’t see it until later.

They make me laugh, those chickens. Seeing them made me remember a picture book I had just read to my grandson, The Chickens Are Coming!.

This is such a fun picture book. A brother and sister who live in a large city see a sign about chickens needing a new home. Pretty soon they are the owners of a delightful group of hens, each with a name and personality. The story continues as the siblings hope for eggs, but no eggs are found.

Why I Like This Book:

~ the chickens have personalities

~ the story line is fun: discover chickens need a home, adopt the chickens, learn about chickens, try to help the chickens get ready to lay eggs, try to find eggs, try to find chickens

~ plenty of detailed and engaging illustrations – my first grader was captivated by all of the things he could see on the pages

~ chickens in the city!

~ chicken dance

~ free range eggs (a personal favorite of mine)

Feeling like a good chicken story or adopting a hen or three? The Chickens Are Coming! will give you plenty of good reading and/or help you learn what you need to do when your chickens arrive.


4 Comments

Book Review: Milo’s Moonlight Mission by Kathleen M. Blasi and Petronela Dostalova

Milo’s Moonlight Mission

Written by Kathleen M. Blasi

Illustrated by Petronela Dostalova

Yeehoo Press, 2021

Thank you, Yeehoo Press, Kathleen M. Blasi, Petronela Dostalova, and Kathy Temean for sending me a copy of this fun, adorable picture book! I won a copy from Kathy’s blog, Writing and Illustrating. Two of my grands are really into outer space right now, so this book is perfect! My youngest grand just came home from her first day of kinder, and the coloring page? It was all about outer space.

Book Jacket Flap: “Outer space is there for exploring, and Captain Milo is ready for takeoff! If only he didn’t have to wait for his Second-in-Command . . .”

From the front cover, to the jacket flap, the inside pages, the illustrations, and the lovely story, there is nothing I don’t love about Milo and his urgent desire to head to outer space! I love that this story is based on an actual scientific event – the Leonid Meteor Storm – that occurs every November.

What I love about this book:

~ the enchanting story

~ the large, lovely, colorful, illustrations

~ the idea of Mom being Second-in-Command

~ The way Milo helps out so his dream becomes reality

~ the fun facts I learned about observing celestial events and the Leonid Meteor Storm (incidentally, and now I can’t remember who, but after I had read Milo’s Moonlight Mission, I was reading about a historical person, and his name was Leonid! I imagine his parents were interested in meteor storms just like Milo!)

~ the overall “package” of a captivating picture book, ready for repeated read-alouds

Milo’s Moonlight Mission is the perfect book for your budding astronomer or astronaut.

Amazon Blurb:

The most spectacular night skies are revealed when we plan for the ideal moment–with loved ones by our sides. This heartwarming tale is perfect for space fans and young budding astronauts!


When the weather forecast predicts a middle-of-the-night meteor storm, Captain Milo wants desperately to witness it. But will his Second-in-Command have enough time to accomplish this important mission with him?


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Book Review: Squish, Squash, Squished by Rebecca Kraft Rector and Dana Wulfekotte

Squish, Squash, Squished

Written by Rebecca Kraft Rector

Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021

As the oldest child in a family of 4 children and 2 parents, I can relate to being squished in the car. And squabbling and fighting about it, especially over who gets a window seat. (This was before the time of cell phones, electronic games, and movie viewing options many children have now. Back in the dark ages. We had a car. A station wagon car. With fold up bench seats in the way back, but that was usually full with the family dog and picnic lunch stuff.)

I digress.

I won a copy of Squish, Squash, Squished from Rebecca Kraft Rector through Kathy Temean’s blog, Writing and Illustrating. You can view the original post to learn more about Rebecca and Dana here. THANK YOU, Rebecca and Kathy!

Squish, Squash, Squished is such a delight to read! I loved the problem (squished in the back seat), the characters (adorable cuties with their no-nonsense mom who takes extreme-but fun-measures to stop the bickering), and the imaginative cast of characters who hop in for a ride. The words are just perfect with plenty of language and word-play, and the illustrations are the icing on the cake.

I suggest this book for anyone who has bickering children in the backseat, anyone who has children (or is a child), those who love fun word-play and stories, and creative minds who believe animals can do the things they do in this book.

Why I Love This Book:

~ told in the style of It Could Always Be Worse, the escalating drama is wonderful

~ I love the word-play and sing-song silliness

~ fun cast of characters, a mix of people and animals (love it)

~ adorable setting and the perfect illustrations to make this picture book of the magical sort

~ while not preaching about keeping it quiet in the backseat, readers will get the hint that it could always be worse . . .

Living in an RV, I sometimes drift into the theme of being squish, squash, squished, but I better hush-mush or my hubby might invite in some passers-by…


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Happy Book Birthday Interview with Farren Phillips, Author-Illustrator of WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING! Plus a Giveaway!

When I’m Not Looking

Written and illustrated by Farren Phillips

Yeehoo Press, 2021

Happy book birthday to When I’m Not Looking!

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a special blog post celebrating a book birthday for Farren Phillips and her new book When I’m Not Looking!

Be sure to read to the bottom to learn how you can get your name in the hat to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking, compliments of Yeehoo Press (US only). Thank you, Yeehoo Press and Helen Wu, for this opportunity!

On with the show.

Welcome, Farren! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a children’s author and illustrator from England, currently living in Scotland. I studied illustration and children’s media for five years at Cambridge School of Art and graduated with an MA in 2019. Since then, I’ve been establishing myself in the industry and passionately etching away at new projects. I mostly specialise in picture books, but I’ve worked on a few more comic-style books for older children, as well as some non-fiction kids’ books.
I’ve been obsessed with picture books since I was about seventeen. I’d always known I wanted to study art and do an art-centric job, and at the time I was working in a children’s library surrounded by children’s media. I quickly realised that the picture book is my favourite story telling format and since then I’ve never stopped collecting them, studying them, and making them!

I will admit to being somewhat (hugely) envious of your living and working in Scotland! And studying at Cambridge. I’m right there with you on collecting, studying, and making picture books. I just accidentally deleted a folder containing one of my nearly ready picture books. EEEK. But I was able to recover it. Whew.

Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING?
Thank you! I had a few inspirations with this book. I’ve always been really interested in philosophy and love to include philosophical and ethical ideas in children’s stories, because really all kids are born little philosophers and it just makes sense. I’d been reading about Schrödinger’s cat at the time, the famously known paradox of quantum superposition. The idea was that when inside a box with a deadly subatomic event which may or may not happen at any time, a hypothetical cat could be considered both alive and dead simultaneously. The idea just really interested me, and I started thinking about other paradoxical ideas, such as whether a tree falling in the forest would make a sound if no one were around to hear it. It was amusing to consider that when not seeing or hearing something, as humans we have no real proof that it exists, so in theory when you turn your back the world could fall away behind you and you’d have no idea. I loved the potential of this concept as a story, and with some thought and condensing of the larger idea, I came up with When I’m Not Looking; a story about a young philosopher who ponders the more wacky and irrational things of what could be going on behind her back. Originally the story was called Paraducks, but was changed in the early stages of editing.

Fascinating! I also love the original title. Perhaps that title will find itself on a book cover one day. Your premise is perfect for kids who love using their imaginations!

What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you wrote this book? As both author-illustrator, how did that impact your creative process?
Believe it or not, I actually wrote this book a few years back for a project in University. The story and original illustrations picked up some interest when I brought my Portfolio to the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, and as a result I started working with a few publishers on other works. I’d worked on two books with Yeehoo Press prior to When I’m Not Looking called The Orb and The Death Book, by this point in time I had assumed my old graduate project had been long forgotten by publishers, but out of the blue they brought it up and took a renewed interest. I took to re-working the text to make the story a more interactive affair, and re-did all of the illustrations from scratch, it really became a passion project for me, and I love how it turned out.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading When I’m Not Looking. There are so many details to enjoy. Well done!

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how will you celebrate the book birthday of WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING on May 18?
I’ve put together a fun little interactive story time video as well as a follow-along craft teaching children how to make their own dancing duck puppet. It’s a shame that Covid restrictions make it harder to put on physical events, but we do what we can with what we have! I hope once things become a little more normal again that I could perhaps attend an event in person to celebrate too. For now, I’ll probably treat myself to a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake in celebration while staying indoors and keeping safe.

Oh, fun! I hope I can catch the video. I have a grand who LOVES ducks. He might enjoy making a puppet. Tea and cake sound perfect!

I love the detailed illustrations! There is so much going on and so many surprises for readers to discover. What strategies do you use to get into the creative zone and create such fun illustrations?

With the illustrations, I’d previously always stuck to more simplistic and minimal styles when working on books just out of preference, but since the book had originally been produced for a university project, I wanted to push out of my comfort zone and try something very different with lots of detail and colour. I’ve always been fond of books which are good at telling a second story or explaining the characters’ motives using the backgrounds, so I spent a lot of time looking into realistic family homes and drawing from observation, refusing to wash over the bits people usually leave out of nice drawings, like clutter and spills. I really enjoyed putting together busy images of Leg’s family home, adding lots of silly details into their space to really show what their lives are like beyond the story. I feel it helps the book to not only be exciting for younger children who love the search-and-find aspects, but also to be interesting for older children and parents who can notice something new in the pages on every read through.

You certainly did a wonderful job. I know I will find something new on each read through! Love that it’s not all neat and tidy like you said, but real life messy.

What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a short series of history books for children called Second in the World, hopefully due to come out some time next year. It’s quite a huge change from the normal projects I work on, but it has been a lot of fun doing extensive research and creating fun and informative illustrations. I’m currently finishing up editing the first book and producing the roughs and text for the second.

Wow! That sounds interesting! You have your hands full!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?
I’ve got a number of other projects on the go that I’ll keep sneaking peaks of on social media. My favourite at the moment being a funny and feminist story about a very naughty monkey and a very irritated little girl who doesn’t take nonsense sitting down. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

That’s sounds fun! What a combination-a naughty monkey and an irritated girl (and very determined it sounds like)! I look forward to reading more! Or getting more sneak peaks…

Thanks again for letting me visit! Farren

Congratulations, Farren, and best wishes on When I’m Not Looking and all of your other projects!

Readers, you can purchase your own copy of When I’m Not Looking by clicking the following links:

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-im-not-looking-farren-phillips/1137974864?ean=9781953458070

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/when-i-m-not-looking/9781953458070

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-Not-Looking-Farren-Phillips/dp/1953458076/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=when+I%27m+not+looking&qid=1621302615&sr=8-3

Farren’s social links: 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/farrenphillipsillustration/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/FarrenPhillips

Website: https://www.farrenphillipsillustration.co.uk/

Here are 3 ways to get your name in the hat to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking (US only). A winner will be randomly chosen in this Friday, May 21.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

2. Follow this blog and tell me how you follow. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

3. Visit my Twitter page @AngieQuantrell for more chances to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking.


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Book Review: Nibbles, A Green Tale (RE: A Green Way to Get Rid of Dandelions)

Nibbles, A Green Tale

Written and illustrated by Charlotte Middleton

Marshall Cavendish Children, 2009

I have so many wonderful memories of the guinea pigs we loved during my years of teaching preschool. Our mama gave us hours of delight as we watched her lead her trail of babies around the room. Rustling plastic bags brought squeals demanding whichever “greens” we had brought. Both preschoolers and my family members loved snuggling and playing with these cuties.

Imagine my delight when I saw Nibbles, A Green Tale at the library! Nibbles is obviously a guinea pig, one who loves dandelions. With our current pasture-wide crop of dandelions, I couldn’t wait to read this picture book. If only I could borrow a city of dandelion-loving guinea pigs and let them camp out in the pasture for a week or two. That would take care of the clouds of white seeds.

Why I LOVE this book:

~ guinea pigs! Wheet, wheet!

~ guinea pigs who eat dandelions

~ guinea pigs wearing clothes!

~ a fun story of how one guinea pig rescued dandelions from becoming extinct

~ a green strategy to solve dandelion problems (though the sheer number of them needed to clear a pasture…)

~ adorable illustrations

~ wonderful story and characters

There is a sequel to this book, Nibbles: Another Green Tale. I can’t wait to track down a copy.


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National Poetry Month: Toasting Marshmallows, Camping Poems by Kristine O’Connell George

Toasting Marshmallows, Camping Poems

written by Kristine O’Connell George

illustrated by Kate Kiesler

Clarion Books, 2001

Happy April National Poetry Month! My interest in poetry (reading and writing) has increased over the past several years. Loving the outdoors and camping as much as I do, I was delighted to find Kristine O’Connell George’s poetry book about camping at my local library. Now I really want my own copy.

What I LOVE about this book:

  • the language is rich and perfect for camping and nature
  • I feel like I am camping as I read the poems
  • the poems are written from the viewpoint of a child and the experiences she had while on a family camping trip
  • the perfectly chosen words bring me right into the camping adventures and remind me of the fun I’ve had camping and spending time in the mountains
  • the illustrations are wonderful

When I was a young child, my family of six (plus assorted pets) often went exploring and camping in the Arizona wilderness. Back then, much of the state was untouched desert. Or at least it seemed so to me. We had a camper that Dad put on the back of the truck and off we went. My sister and I were the lucky ones, getting to sleep in the bed over the top of the cab. Mom and dad got the table bed. I’m guessing my older brother slept on the floor and the baby slept with Mom and Dad. So many fun adventures!

How about you? Are you a camping nut? Or like my cousin when asked if she likes to camp, “Why??? Why Patrick? Why would I do that???” Which means no. Hahahah. What was your favorite camping experience?