Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Meet the Author: Zach Christensen #authorinterview

Meet the Author!

Scromlette the Omelet Chef

Written by Zach Christensen

Illustrated by Chiara Civati

Mascot Books, 2020

Hello, book friends! Today I’d like to introduce you to the author of Scromlette the Omelet Chef, Zach Christensen. I was sent a copy of Scomlette the Omelet Chef by Mascot Books. You can learn more about Mascot Books here: https://mascotbooks.com/ .

I featured Scromlette the Omelet Chef back in December with three other newly released picture books. Today, let’s take a closer look at a book about food – one of my favorite subjects. On a side note, during a critique group meeting, one of my critique partners mentioned that many of my books have a theme about food, or some type of food connection. Lo and behold, now that she said that, I’ve noticed MOST of my books have some sort of link to food. You can imagine a book about omelets would catch my eye. Er. Stomach? On to Zach’s book.

My Short Blurb:

This book has a great message. Scrom goes from being a bullied child to an adult who shares his love of making omelets with those on the streets. I enjoyed reading how Scrom survived the bullies of his childhood by hanging on to what he loved: making omelettes. The closure of what the bullies did and seeing them later in life as adults-in-need helps Scrom understand why they did what they did, and offers him a chance to help even more. The colorful illustrations help tell the story. Scromlette the Omelet Chef makes me hungry for an omelet!

Meet the Author

Welcome, Zach! Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi Angie, and to any readers out there, thank you for listening in. I’m from Nebraska, I’ve worked in social services for six years, and I have always loved a good story. I have a master of arts in theology, so I had suspected for years that my first book would be something quite dense in the realm of philosophy or religious history. Instead, I came to find that a true test of your creativity and material is to distill ideas into simple and accessible stories for children. There is something magnificently compelling about a story that inspires you, give you hope, helps you reframe your state of mind, and reorient how you interact with the world around you. I have always enjoyed helping people find stories that illuminate their lives in new ways.

Zach, I just read what you said in a craft book about writing for children: A writer has to know and research much information about a subject in order to distill it down to create simple, engaging stories for children. I love how we both are thinking about this.

What was your inspiration for SCROMLETTE THE OMELET CHEF?

My primary inspiration was having seen such a resilience and fortitude in my peers and contemporaries around me for my entire life. Growing up, there is a great deal of bullying that children are susceptible to experience. Childhood is already a turbulent time, and it is when we are our most vulnerable that we are most susceptible to endure the worst trauma. Naturally, the book has strong anti-bullying themes. My aim is to tell children that there is something on the other side of the disorienting journey of growing up, and you’ll be able to see it more clearly if you can find something that you love.

With that, I wanted to likewise encourage children to find things that they love giving their time and energy to, while also finding ways to serve people around you. If you can find things that overlap in these two domains, then you have found something that is life-giving for yourself and the world.

What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book? 

Believe it or not, I actually wrote the entire story in a parking lot while I was waiting for an AWOLNation concert to start. It was as if the story already had existed and I had it in my imagination for years, but the rhymes and stanzas just came to me in that two-hour window of time. The writing of the story really was a materialization of ideas that I had felt children (and really people all of walks of life) needed to hear for some time. I think that is actually central to the craft of writing a story – it is taking what you have encountered in your life, the good and bad, and synthesizing them together in a way that people can look at what you’ve created, and they feel a sense of shared experience with you. When people hear a story and think “me too,” I believe this what is empowering and compelling for people.

All this to say, if you have some life experience that left a lasting impression on you, whether it was characterized by pain, joy, a convergence of the two, or something else, I’d submit to you that you could transform that into a story, and there are people out there who need to hear it.

That’s pretty amazing – two hours! In a car. While waiting for something else. Writers out there? Keep those notebooks handy. Zach, I love this.

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how did you celebrate the book birthday (book release day) of SCROMLETTE THE OMELET CHEF?

Unfortunately, I was not able to have a conventional release party due to the pandemic, but I have been networking with a number of different teachers and educators to help circulate Scromlette to the general public and to get it into classrooms. Likewise, many people among whom I have promoted Scromlette were able to get their copies before Christmas.

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I have more stories in the works and some manuscripts are completed and ready for submission! So keep an eye out for new books of mine!

Zach, that’s great news! I look forward to hearing more about future books. Thank you for visiting my blog today, Zach. And thank you for writing such an encouraging picture book.

You can find Zach at:

Instagram: @psaltingtheearth

Twitter: @EarthlyPsalt

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScromletteTheOmeletChef


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Outstanding in the Rain: Book Title Poem

Outstanding in the Rain: A Book Title Poem (on the day before the library closed [again] for COVID-19)

Dear Zoo

What If?

Five Minutes

Outstanding in the Rain

Wet

Still Stuck

Very Hairy Bear

Outside Over There

There’s Nothing to Do!

I Love You JUST the Way YOU Are

Look!

Nobody’s Duck

In the Night Kitchen

Where Are You?

I Went Walking

Why?

That Is NOT a Good Idea!

You Are Home

Honey

For fun, on the very last day of the library being open for limited in-person visits (again), I decided to use my 30 minutes to write a book title poem. I was limited only by time, hearing the clock tick away in my head, but I quickly scanned and grabbed titles. Poor library workers. To avoid leaving a mess, I checked out the entire stack!

Go ahead. Try it. What book title poem can you write? I’d love to read it!


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Haiku From Two #Haikufromtwo by Amanda Davis

On Day 29 of Storystorm (https://taralazar.com/2021/01/29/storystorm-2021-day-29/), Amanda Davis shares a fun way to get your creative juices flowing. In the post “Amanda Davis Keeps Creative Juices Flowing with Haiku from Two,” she tells how she started a process of using two books she is currently reading, choosing one word from each, and then creating a haiku from those two words. The resulting haiku sometimes leads to new writing projects.

How fun! I love writing haiku, though I usually pair it with one of my photos. I was immediately on board with trying this creative idea. Thanks, Amanda (https://www.instagram.com/amandadavis_art/)!

First word: solitude

Book: The Powerful Purpose of Introverts, Why the World Needs YOU to BE YOU by Holley Gerth (Revell, 2020)

Second word: moonlight

Book: Lemonade Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka (Roaring Book Press, 2011)

What a fun creative writing exercise! Let me know if you decide to try this one. I’d love to read your haiku!


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Book Review: Sometimes I Am Afraid by Robin McCall and Joye Smith

Sometimes I Am Afraid

Written by Robin McCall and Joye Smith

Illustrated by Bill and Robin McCall

Woman’s Missionary Union, 2014

I was delighted to receive a copy of Sometimes I Am Afraid. Thank you, Joye Smith, Robin McCall, and Woman’s Missionary Union!

If ever there was a perfect time for reading Sometimes I Am Afraid, our current times are it! Though preschoolers may not be aware of the world situation or the political stresses of the world and nation, they can certainly feel the anxiety and fears of the adults and older family members around them. Preschoolers do know about the pandemic and they know life has changed, activities are limited, and if they go out, masks are required. Sometimes I Am Afraid is just what we need to share with the preschoolers in our lives. Truth be told, I also need to read it to myself, since adults are not exempt from fear.

Using examples of universal childhood fears, this story is told in an easy to read manner accompanied by colorful, soothing illustrations. A child encounters something scary (dog, doctor, storm), and then remembers how to deal with the fear-inducing incident, both with a suggestion of how to think about the scary event and how to recall what the Bible says and how God will care for us in scary times. Each situation is reinforced with an appropriate Bible thought. The overall feel of Sometimes I Am Afraid is one of encouragement, combined with gentle reminders to pray and trust God to be right beside us no matter what is happening.

If your child struggles with fearful situations, this lovely picture book is just what the doctor ordered!

Read more about Sometimes I Am Afraid at https://www.wmustore.com/sometimes-i-am-afraid.


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Book Review: One Little Child by Joye Smith

One Little Child

Written by Joye Smith

Illustrated by Gayle West

Woman’s Missionary Union, SBC; 2019

I was delighted to receive a copy of One Little Child. Thank you, Joye Smith and Woman’s Missionary Union!

Written by Joye Smith, preschool consultant and Preschool Resource Team Leader for Woman’s Missionary Union, this lovely picture book shares ways even the smallest child can help others around the world. Gayle West filled the pages with wonderful full-spread illustrations featuring preschoolers, families, and people in need of some of the most basic necessities. I love the combination of text and illustrations that share the stories and inspire readers to get involved in helping others.

Clothing, housing, food, access to medical care, clean drinking water, and protection from weather are just a few of the needs and situations preschoolers read about in One Little Child. While the subject matter is heavy and serious, the delicate handling of such tough issues provides hope and strategies for young readers to care, pray, and help in their own way. This book is well-written using words and emotions perfect for the preschool audience and their families.

Blurb from the Back Cover:

Through images of children from around the world, One Little Child encourages preschoolers’ care for others and teaches that they have a place in helping others as part of God’s plan.

Read more about One Little Child at https://www.wmustore.com/one-little-child.


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My Monsterpiece by Amalia Hoffman, Book Birthday and Interview

My Monsterpiece

Written and Illustrated by Amalia Hoffman

Yeehoo Press (March 2, 2021)

Amazon Blurb:

Ever tried to make the meanest, wildest, scariest monster? What if even a green tongue, pointy horns, creepy sharp teeth, and claws won’t frighten anyone away?

Join the frustrated artist on a hilariously hair-raising adventure where the scary and not scary mingle and lead to the discovery that overcoming fear and prejudice can bring about a wonderful FRIENDSHIP.

I’m pleased to introduce Amalia Hoffman, author and illustrator of the upcoming book My Monsterpiece (Yeehoo Press, 2021). I met Amalia when I won a copy of her book All Colors from Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating blog. https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/book-giveaway-all-colors-by-amalia-hoffman/

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

What was your inspiration for My Monsterpiece?

My inspiration for My Monsterpiece was the many years I worked with young children. I noticed that kids love to experiment with art. They explore many media and like to paint on paper plates, scraps of paper, and even grocery bags. This inspired me to create the illustrations for the book using kid-friendly art techniques and supplies.

I was inspired to create a book that will be funny and entertaining but will have a non-preachy message that when we free ourselves from bias and stereotyping, our word is more colorful and we can befriend each other even if we don’t look or behave in the same way.

-I loved that your inspiration came from the children!

What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you created My Monsterpiece?

My Monsterpiece involved a monstrous journey of over 2 years, from the time I started exploring the idea and “playing with it” in my mind to the time it actually sold to Yeehoo Press. I spent months just making a whole menagerie of monsters. I worked with crayons, color pencils, chalk, poster paints, and finger paints. It was important to me that the monsters will be fresh and not over-done.

I had the story idea lined up but I went through dozens of revisions with agent Anna Olswanger. I shared my drafts with my critique group as well and kept tweaking the story.

After the book sold to Yeehoo Press, I had many conversations with my brilliant editor, Brian Saliba. We brainstormed over the phone and via email. Then, I went through a couple of rounds of revisions. When we felt that the story was tight and solid, I created a dummy—based on the new text, which was quite different from the original text. Since Yeehoo Press publishes simultaneously in English and Simplified Chinese, my dummy had to fit within the format and dimensions for both versions.

Once we were happy with the black and white sketches and pagination, I worked with the art director, Molly Shen, and the graphic designer, Xuyang Liu, on the final interior pages. Once these were completed, I came up with concept designs for the endpapers, final cover, and jacket design. We decided to make the jacket slightly different than the cover underneath, which is something that I really love about the book design. Also, the front endpapers are different than the endpapers on the end of the book. I believe that the endpapers are just as important as the interior pages in a picture book and I was delighted that the Yeehoo’s creative team agreed with me. We also spent many hours deciding what fonts to use and the colors of the lettering.

-It’s incredibly captivating to see how much work goes into a book when you are both author and illustrator. And the number of revisions. Wow!

What plans do you have to celebrate the release of My Monsterpiece?

I usually like to celebrate my book releases with author’s presentations. I already created a monster headpiece that I tend to wear when I present the story. It looks like a tiara with a monster head on it. I am planning very exciting Zoom and in-person presentations. My publisher, Yeehoo Press is putting together a book trailer.

I also plan to offer book giveaways and the publisher will have many freebies for costumers and for large orders.

-Great news! Hope all goes well!

I see your publisher is Yeehoo Press. What can you tell us about Yeehoo Press?

Yeehoo Press is an independent publisher who publishes in English and Simplified Chinese. Headquartered in LA, it’s part of Shanghai Yihe Industrial Co., Ltd, founded on August 2007. The company publishes over 200 titles per year with annual output value of $15 million. 

-That’s pretty amazing!

Surprise us. What else would you like to share?

Apparently, I was a very temperamental child. When I got angry with my mom and dad, I used to punish them by tearing the greeting cards I created for their birthdays and anniversaries.  Years later, when I visited my parents who lived in Jerusalem, I found an envelope with all the bits of torn art that my father saved. When I created My Monsterpiece, I showed the kid’s frustration by creating one spread that feature the kid’s torn monsters.

I remember that when I was about 8, I entered a contest, sponsored by a children’s magazine, to draw a scary witch. Apparently, just like the kid in my book, mine didn’t scare anyone and I didn’t win.

-Fascinating fun facts!

Thank you so much, Amalia, for sharing with us. Best wishes and congratulations on the upcoming release of My Monsterpiece!

To learn more about Amalia, her art, and her books, you can visit her at:

http://www.amaliahoffman.com/

https://amaliahoffman.wordpress.com/


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Book Reviews: So You Want a Pet Dragon? by Tania Pourat, Be a Big Hero by Jennifer Bacon, Scromlette the Omelet Chef by Zach Christensen, Finding Feelings by Jennifer Gafford #BookBirthday

I am sharing four books in this post. Please scroll down to read more about the book that catches your eye!

So You Want to a Pet Dragon?

By Tania Pourat

Illustrated by Tristan Tait

Mascot Books, December 2020

Be a Big Hero

By Jennifer Bacon

Illustrated by Lara Calleja

Mascot Books, December 2020

Scromlette the Omelet Chef

By Zach Christensen

Illustrated by Chiara Civati

Mascot Books, December 2020

Finding Feelings

By Jennifer Gafford

Illustrated by Terri Kelleher

Mascot Books, December 2020

So, you want a pet dragon? Of course I do! I loved this adorable and funny picture about about how to care for your dragon (or else). Easy reading, wonderful illustrations, and plenty of enjoyment to go around. I’m pretty sure I now know enough to care for my own dragon. So You Want a Pet Dragon? is a great read!

Amazon Blurb:

Taking care of a pet is no easy task, and a dragon is no exception. Luckily, this book has all the tips and tricks you’ll need to take care of your very own feisty, fiery friend. Simply follow this advice, and see for yourself how rewarding owning a pet dragon can be!

I appreciate the message of this book, something I taught to my children and now my grands. Care for the world around us. Be a Big Hero focuses on how garbage negatively impacts our oceans and rivers. But it also goes on to suggest very concrete ways to help solve the problems of trash in our bodies of water. Told in rhyme, this story shows how wildlife struggles with trash and offers some solutions for readers to take action in caring for the natural world. Great environmental message!

Amazon Blurb:

With a message that is as educational as it is heartfelt, Be a Big Hero takes the readers on a journey that follows plastic and litter as they make their way into our oceans. Detailing the human actions that allow for trash to pollute the seas, this lyrical tale gently teaches children about the harmful effects of littering and the overuse of plastic on the environment. With uplifting words and encouragement, this book explores the ways in which we can all be heroes- and how we can help take steps to be better global citizens.

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What a great message! Scrom goes from a bullied child to an adult who shares his love of making omelets with those on the streets. I enjoyed reading how Scrom survived the bullies of his childhood by hanging on to what he loved: making omelettes. The closure of what the bullies did and seeing them later in life as adults in need helps Scrom understand why they did what they did, and offers him a chance to help even more. The colorful illustrations help tell the story. Scromlette the Omelet Chef makes me hungry for an omelet!

Amazon Blurb:

Scromlette the Omelet Chef is a story that encourages children to pursue things that are life-giving for themselves- while also providing services for others. In this lyrical tale, Scromlette learns how to succeed in a way that benefits himself and the world around him. Exploring themes of anti-bullying and forgiveness, Scromlette the Omelet Chef encourages readers to make peace with their enemies, and allow themselves to heal.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the richness of this book about feelings. Instead of just being told how someone feels, as a reader, I heard what was going on and then had to search and find the person experiencing those feelings. I loved the seek and find aspect of this picture book. An answer key is included at the end, complete with an illustration of each person experiencing the feelings. The detailed illustrations provided me with plenty of opportunities to look for specific emotions and actions. Oh, the conversations that could be had when reading this book! Finding Feelings is a great read and a very good resource for parents, teachers, therapists, and care givers.

Amazon Blurb:

Have you ever been nervous to walk into your classroom? Have you ever felt frustrated with the long lines at the grocery store? Do you feel brave when you make a new friend? What makes you feel peaceful? In Finding Feelings, you will look for kids experiencing the same feelings you have in your life. How many feelings can you find? In this unique search-and-find book, children read body language and use situational clues to locate both good and difficult feelings in the characters. Finding Feelings builds emotional vocabulary, gently exposes children to uncomfortable emotions, and encourages compassion towards others. It is a little book for big hearts!

Books can be found at www.mascotbooks.com and www.amazon.com.


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Book Reviews: The Butterfly Tree by Kelly Harrison Spining; The Adventures of Chips & Salsa by Cynthia Petillo; Lunk by Connor Anvar

I am sharing three books in this post. Please scroll down to read more about each books.

The Butterfly Tree

Written by Kelly Harrison Spining

Illustrated by Abby Rocha

Mascot Books: December 8, 2020

The Adventures of Chips & Salsa

Written by Cynthia Petillo

Illustrated by Ana Sebastian

Mascot Books: December 8, 2020

Lunk

Written by Connor Anvar

Illustrated by Tristan Tait

Mascot Books: December 1, 2020

The Butterfly Tree by Kelly Harrison Spining

Who wouldn’t love a butterfly tree? This tale of three evokes memories of a folk tale. Three trees, three personalities and gifts, and three opportunities to welcome a tired butterfly. But only one has the gift of hospitality. I enjoyed this lovely tale of looking beyond appearances and importance to see what is truly in someone’s heart.

Amazon Blurb:

Three trees sat upon a grassy hill, two tall and strong, one small and frail. As the gentle breezes of spring blew one day, a beautiful butterfly floated by looking for a new home. What happened next would create a lifelong friendship between two unlikely creations of nature. Inspired by the writers experience of seeing the beauty of a tree covered in butterflies, The Butterfly Tree conveys a timeless message of love and acceptance.

The Adventures of Chips & Salsa by Cynthia Petillo

Chips loved his neighborhood and watching out the window. When neighbors moved in, Chips met a new friend named Salsa. Play time at the local dog park offered Chips and Salsa plenty of opportunity to play with friends, and unfortunately, have run-ins with dog bullies. I enjoyed reading about this story about a hero in a tiny package and changed hearts.

Amazon Blurb:

Meet Chips, a happy-go-lucky, friendly beagle, and his pals as they welcome Salsa, a tiny, shy Chihuahua who is new to the neighborhood. The dogs become fast friends and, before they know it, find themselves on a playful adventure in the park. And though Salsa may be tiny, he proves that true loyalty, friendship, and love come in all sizes. Join Chips and Salsa as they take readers on a fun-filled and exciting journey full of new adventures!

Lunk by Connor Anvar

Oh, Lunk! A plain chicken wants to be a fancy lunkalicious chicken. But things do not go as planned for the fancy version of himself. I laughed as I read this fairy tale tale (including a fairy chicken godfather). This fun tale was written by six-year-old Connor Anvar.

Amazon Blurb:

Lunk is an ordinary chicken who desires to become something greater. As his wish comes true, he wonders if his new life will bring him the happiness he was expecting.

Books can be found at www.mascotbooks.com or on www. amazon.com.


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Book Review: “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses by Beth Anderson

“Smelly Kelly” and His Super Senses, How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City Subway

Written by Beth Anderson

Illustrated by Jenn Harney

Calkins Creek, An Imprint of Boyds Mills & Kane; 2020

Thank you, Beth Anderson and Tina Cho, for sending me this delightfully smelly picture book! I first read about “Smelly Kelly” and His Super Senses when I read a post by Tina Cho on the Group Blog. You can read the post here: https://groggorg.blogspot.com/search?q=smelly+kelly

We all want to be special in some way, right? James Kelly had a super sense-his nose! Besides his great sniffing skills, Kelly was an inventor and investigator. Using his skills, “Smelly” Kelly kept the New York City subway safe for years.

I enjoyed reading this well-written and colorful picture book. I shared it with two of my grands, and my grandson in particular was captivated by the information and illustrations. His little scientific mind was hard at work, trying to figure out what was going on. He often figured it out before I even read the entire page!

Congratulations, Beth Anderson and Jenn Harney, for a book well done!

Why I Loved This Book:

~ fascinating story about a historical person

~ reading about someone with an unusual super power

~ wonderful illustrations that set the tone just perfectly

~ lots of interesting tidbits and events from the life of James Kelly

~ very informative backmatter, which includes a photo of the real James Kelly

~ great read

~ lots of STEM concepts and problem solving included

Amazon Blurb:

James “Smelly” Kelly used his super-senses and intelligence to make sure that the New York City subway in the 1930s ran safely throughout his lifetime and beyond.

James Kelly smelled EVERYTHING: rats in the shed; circus elephants a mile away; tomorrow’s rain. His sense of smell was EXTRAORDINARY. But what good was a powerful nose? How could his super-sniffer make him special? In the New York City subway, James found his calling–and earned the nickname “Smelly” Kelly. Armed with his super-sniffer and the tools he invented, he tracked down leaks from the dangerous to the disgusting, from the comical to the bizarre. Then, he sprang into action to prevent cave-ins and explosions in the tunnels beneath the city. Smelly Kelly not only hunted leaks but also saved lives–and he discovered the truly extraordinary power inside him. Beth Anderson’s fast-paced text and Jenn Harney’s comical illustrations bring to life this everyday superhero.


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Book Review: Way Past Worried by Hallee Adelman

Way Past Worried

Written by Hallee Adelman

Illustrated by Sandra de la Prada

Albert Whitman & Co., 2020

I first heard about Way Past Worried when I read a post by Kathy Temean on her Writing and Illustrating blog. (By the way, this is a great place to read about new books, agents, editors, publishers, and so on.) Here is the link to Kathy’s original post about Way Past Worried: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/book-giveaway-way-past-worried-by-hallee-adelman/

Thank you so much, Kathy for featuring this great book! Thank you, Hallee, for the swag bag of fun gifts and a copy of Way Past Worried! It’s already a hit with the two young readers next door (my grands).

Brock is beyond worried about going to his friend Juan’s superhero party. He has so many questions and concerns about who will play with him (or not play with him), what if his costume is not good enough, who will he visit, and what if someone laughs at him. Brock’s worries build and build, making him feel way past worried.

This well-written book gives simple strategies for dealing with worry as the young characters attend a party. If you have a child (or even an middle grade or early teen) who deals with social anxiety, reading this book will help readers talk their way through possible strategies.

What I Loved About This Book:

~ So cute! The characters, setting, story, all of it.

~ Excellent premise! Who has not struggled with anxiety at one time or another? I imagine there will be many more instances of social anxiety once COVID is contained (or managed) and people of all ages are allowed to return to in-person social activities.

~ Great story! As I said before, I think this is well written and it’s very easy to read aloud. My granddaughter was enthralled from beginning to end. That’s her, wearing the mask sent by Hallee and holding my copy of Way Past Worried (which will probably end up at her house).

~ Perfect illustrations! Child-friendly and fun. I enjoyed looking at the illustrations as we read the story together.

Read more about Hallee Adelman at: https://halleeadelman.com/

See more of Sandra de la Prada’s illustrations at: https://www.sandradelaprada.com/

Amazon Blurb:

Brock is worried. Way past worried, with his heart thumping and his mind racing. Today is his friend Juan’s superhero party and he’s going all by himself. What if nobody plays with him? What if everyone laughs at him? Brock doesn’t feel like a superhero, but… what if he can save the day and find a way past worried all by himself? This engaging story speaks to kids’ emerging emotional intelligence skills and helps them learn to manage worry.