Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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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: 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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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: A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale

Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

Illustrated by Kristina Swarner

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020

Hello, friends! Just look at what I call “Girl in a Tree.” Her (current) favorite thing to do is climb trees. She was more than happy to shimmy up and strike a “missing-teeth” pose with Karen Rostoker-Gruber’s traditional retelling of a Yiddish folktale, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale. Thank you, Miss Autumn.

And thanks to Karen for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and Kathy Temean for hosting Karen and her picture book. You can read more about Karen on Kathy’s blog, Writing and Illustrating.

Now, as a person who lives full-time in an RV with her husband and quite hunting-crazy cat Monet, I know something about being crowded. When all the grands are over (7), there is nary a place to sit. We have to double-up AND use the floor. Inside the RV, we have also had: 2 cats, 1 dog, a fledgling goldfinch, spiders, earwigs (YUCK), flies, wasps, adults, grandchildren, 2 bunnies…I think that might be it. Thankfully, this crowd was not all at the same time. Oh, and the occasional Monet-attempted catch-and-release mouse.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale. Told both in rhyming and lyrical text, the mix was perfectly combined for a satisfying read. Not too much of either, but just right. For a fun retelling of a traditional story, you need to read about Farmer Earl and his crowded farmhouse.

What I Like About This Book:

-humor abounds, though I imagine Farmer Earl would not feel the same way

-the hugely huge family (this phrase cracks me up)

-a fun, re-imagining of a classic tale

-the animals and chaos

-perfect little rhyming couplets that young readers will pick up in no time

-the combination of both lyrical and rhyming text

-adorable and engaging illustrations filled with plenty of details to amuse readers

Amazon Blurb:

Farmer Earl has had enough―his home is too crowded! So, he visits the wise woman in town for help. She tells him to bring all his ducks in the house. And then all his horses. And all his goats too! How will there be more room with all these animals? This updated folktale uses humor to explore what it takes to gain a new perspective.

Find Karen:

Amazon

Instagram

Twitter


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Happy Book Birthday to HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?! Interview with Author-Illustrator Beverly Love Warren

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a very important blog post featuring a special book birthday for Have You Seen Mouse? by author-illustrator Beverly Love Warren! Beverly is one of my critique partners, and I am pleased as punch (can punch be pleased?) to feature her Happy Book Birthday for her new picture book! Be sure to download and print Beverly’s free coloring page!

Let’s get right to it.

Welcome, Beverly! Tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you, for the interview, Angie.

I live with my husband in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by forested mountains, valleys with rivers, and lots of wildlife. This setting, my faith, my family, and aspects of my childhood have been the main sources of inspiration for what I write and illustrate. When I was young, I wanted to be a fashion illustrator and therefore I chose to attend The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City where I got a degree in illustration and design.

Shortly thereafter I married, and we settled in the Seattle area where I taught art at a private school that my children attended. During that time, a mother of one of my students invited me to an SCBWI* meeting. Later I became a member myself, and through SCBWI I got my first job illustrating children’s educational literature. Due to the many books I had read to my children and the material I was reading for illustration purposes, a desire to also write for children began to grow.

Then in 2016 my husband and I took a trip to New Zealand where we visited the Weta Workshop in Wellington. This is where the props for the Lord of the Rings movies were made. That trip cemented my desire. After returning home I began my first writing course, Susanna Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic.

*SCBWI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Beverly, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a critique partner with you! It was so much fun to be a part of the process and to see your book come to life! And New Zealand is on my bucket list!

Happy Book Birthday! What was your inspiration for HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?

My husband and I like to take road trips when time permits. In October 2019 we were traveling through northern Idaho when I gazed into the forest at a fallen tree. In my imagination I saw a bear sitting on the tree weeping. I wondered why and concluded that he lost his best friend and couldn’t find him. I happened to have my notebook with me and I immediately wrote the draft. The bear became the protagonist, but I needed to know who his friend would be. I thought back to my childhood and remembered all the mice I had as pets and decided that a little mouse would make a perfect best friend.

That’s a fun way to begin a story! I’ve jotted down ideas for several stories doing the same thing, sitting in the passenger seat while my husband drives us around on road trips.

What was your journey for this book?

In February 2019 I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. Her challenge was to write a new picture book draft each month for 12 months. HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE? was November’s draft. I went through the revision process both in the 12×12 forum and with my critique groups. (Thank you, Angie!)

In January 2020 I took Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy Illustration course. At the end of this 6-week course, the completed art of each student would be viewed by selected editors and agents. I had hoped and prayed there would be interest in my illustrations, but I needed to leave the class during the fifth week because my mother became ill. Mira entered my art in the viewing anyway and about a month later Callie Metler, publisher of Clear Fork/Spork, contacted me. She was interested in having me illustrate a picture book. After reading the manuscript she sent, I signed the contract. While working with Callie on that book, she said she liked the palette I used in Mira’s class. I told her there was a story that went with the art and asked if she would like to read it. Graciously, she agreed. Later she said the story was precious and then we signed the contract for HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?.

How exciting! 12×12 is a wonderful resource and community for picture book writers and it’s fun to run into you when we are at webinars or online for something.

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?

My husband may take me out to dinner, but he may surprise me instead.

Oh, I hope he surprises you! Surprises are fun!

I love the heart in HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

As an example, and as I mentioned above–I remembered my mice, but I also had many hamsters. Once one of them got lose in the house. I looked everywhere, but I could not find him and concluded that he got outside. I remembered my sorrow and drew upon that for Humphry’s [the bear] feelings in MOUSE, and his search for his friend.

That’s the perfect way to build emotion into a story! I remember sitting at the dining room table with my family one day when I was in grade school. Suddenly my mom screamed. And we all jumped up to help her chase down the cat, who had our Teddy bear hamster in her mouth! Childhood memories are great ways to get picture book ideas.

As an author-illustrator, how do you both write and illustrate a picture book story?

I am primarily an illustrator, but when I begin a story I start with the text, not the illustrations. I see the main character in my mind, and I know the general premise or theme of what I want the story to be about. With pen in hand, I watch the main character in my mind move through the events toward the goal. Along the way I ask myself the “who, what, when, where, why, how, and what if” questions. This gets my rough draft on paper. Then the revisions happen with the help of my critique partners.

When the story is close to being completed, I will draw up a few character sketches and a simple dummy to see if everything is working. Once I am satisfied, I will illustrate one or two samples of full color art with watercolor and color pencils This is all done with the anticipation that I will be submitting them somewhere.

I am in awe of you as an illustrator! I draw excellent stick figures. At least my kindergarten students never complained!

Download and print this free coloring page from Beverly!

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a middle grade novel about a boy who is fearful of growing family responsibility and goes searching for his father who has broken a promise and seems to have disappeared. I also have four picture book manuscripts I have finished or that are close to being finished along with some thumbnails and one or two pieces of final art.

Best wishes on all of your new projects!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

Feedback is so important to story development. Others can see holes in a story that the author may be blind to or knows are there but cannot figure out how to fix. Feedback for illustrations is also helpful. Sometimes a page would be better illustrated with a distinct perspective, or the colors are not working, or a character needs more expression in the face or body movement. In other words, critique partners are necessary to help make stories as strong as possible before submission. Also, both authors and illustrators run into many rejections. A strong desire, perseverance and encouragement are important to overcome the rejections. Lastly, do not compare your journey as a writer or artist with others unless the comparison can make you stronger. If comparison tends to defeat you, then ignore it. We are all unique and our paths will be different. And if the story of your path to publication is strewn with obstacles and setbacks it may be the exact story that someone else needs to hear.

Thanks so much for the encouragement. Excellent tips!

Beverly, thanks so much for stopping by on your busy book birthday! Congratulations and best wishes with Have You Seen Mouse?! I can’t wait to get my own copy to read and enjoy!

Readers, remember the best way to support picture book writers and illustrators is to share the good news, purchase their books, and leave reviews. Thank you!

Find Beverly at her website.

Amazon

Amazon Blurb: When Humphry, a bear, discovers his best friend has moved away, he searches the forest to find him, only to return home alone. It is then that he discovers how much his friend loves him. Have You Seen Mouse? shows the young reader the devotion and perseverance of a true friendshi


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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