Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


Author Interview: FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE written by Candace Spizzirri, illustrated by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne (Gnome Road Publishing)

Finley: A Moose on the Caboose

Story by Candace Spizzirri

Art by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne

Gnome Road Publishing (April, 2023)

Thanks for joining us today for this special author interview. With that, we’ll jump right in.

I’m pleased to introduce Candace Spizzirri, author of Finley: A Moose on the Caboose, which just celebrated its book birthday in April. I first met Candace (author) through my critique partner, Beverly Love Warren (illustrator), when they had a had a book come out, Fishing with Grandpa and Skye (Spork, 2022).

Welcome, Candace! Let’s get to it and learn more about your newest book, Finley: A Moose on the Caboose. Congratulations!

Thanks so much, Angie, for having me on your blog again! I’m delighted to be here.

It’s always fun when an author makes a return visit to my blog!

Tell us how you came up with your idea for Finley.

The idea for FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE came to me while visiting the gorgeous town of Talkeetna, Alaska. The scenery was spectacular in every direction! During my stay, an enormous moose appeared in the town center, wandered about a bit, then disappeared into the woods next to the railroad tracks. I was delighted to see this big-eyed moose up close (but not too close as they are extremely dangerous) as I’d never seen one before. Later that day, I came across a little shop called Once in a Blue Moose and it sparked an idea for a picture book about a friendly moose who longs to ride the rails.

This is the perfect “where did your story come from” story! I love adventures!

How long did it take you from idea to publication? What happened during the process?

I came up with the idea for FINLEY in June of 2019 and wrote my first draft shortly thereafter. After I write a new story, I like to put it away for a while as was the case with FINLEY. Then, I did a bit of revising and sent it off to my critique partners. (I am a member of several groups and don’t know what I would do without them!) After each person had weighed in, I carefully considered their comments/suggestions while staying true to the vision for my story. FINLEY did require a lot of tightening and cutting of darlings.

After FINLEY was “ready”, I participated in the Twitter Pitch Party in March 2021 and got a like from Sandra Sutter at Gnome Road Publishing. Most of the heavy lifting/editing was done during the “revise and resubmit” process with Sandra and I signed my contract in April 2021. After FINLEY was acquired, Sandra and I tightened the text a bit more and worked on line edits until we both were happy with the story. Then, Chantelle and Burgen worked their magic with the illustrations!

So, from idea to publication was just under three years.

Wow, amazing! It’s so interesting to read about the process from idea to book.

I see that Chantelle and Burgen Thorne illustrated your picture book. The illustrations are fabulous! Did you have any input for the illustrations?

I agree!  I couldn’t be more thrilled with Chantelle and Burgen’s illustrations for FINLEY! I saw character sketches and thumbnails of the spreads along the way. I loved it at every step of the way. I must admit that when I saw the final art, I cried tears of joy. It was everything I had hoped for and so much more.

Sandra Sutter, at Gnome Road Publishing, already had Chantelle and Burgen in mind when she acquired FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE. And my input was YAY! How lucky am I?!!

All I can say is wow!

Did anything unexpected happen during your writing of Finley?

While I was still working on some final edits for FINLEY (revising, revising, always revising) I decided to participate in the Twitter Pitch Party I mentioned above. 

At that time, Sandra Sutter and the acquisitions team for Gnome Road were considering another one of my stories for publication. After Sandra liked the pitch for FINLEY. I sent in my manuscript, it joined my other story in acquisitions, and came back with a revise and resubmit. The team felt that the ending wasn’t strong enough. Oh no! But I was thankful for the R&R and worked at it until I was happy with the new ending. 

I resubmitted, waited, and wondered about both stories. I was thrilled when Sandra contacted me saying the acquisitions team had fallen in love with Finley Moose. She added, “Finley has stolen our hearts, and he won’t let go.” What an unexpected delight!

That’s the best kind of feedback!

How did you celebrate the April release of Finley: A Moose on the Caboose?

I celebrated FINLEY’S book birthday on April 18th with a festive family dinner. I also had a book launch on April 22nd at my local Barnes & Noble with a story time, kids’ craft, (handprint moose with wobbly eyes) and special homemade FINLEY cookies. (Thanks to my bff, Susan, and daughters, Lauren, and Katharine!) Yum! It turned into a party!

So much fun!

What advice would you give to new picture book writers and illustrators?

Never give up! 

Take classes, attend conferences, find critique partners, join writing groups, and connect with the kidlit community. What an amazing, supportive group they are! 

Try to relax and enjoy the process. Publishing is a slow go. There will be ups and downs along the way. Patience and persistence are the names of the game. I have trouble with the patience part. Persistence comes much more naturally. 

You’ve got this!

All true. Thank you for the advice AND encouragement!

What surprises are you working on now?

I always have lots of stories I’m revising and new ideas rumbling around my brain. Right now, I’m excited about several manuscripts I’ve worked on for the past couple of years. I also have something in the works that I can’t talk about just yet but will share as soon as I’m able.

Congratulations on the “something in the works!”

Twitter @CCSpizzirri1

Instagram @CCSpizzirri

Facebook @CandaceSpizzirri

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you check out Candace’s books! Enjoy!


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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By Andria Rosenbaum

Illustrated by Deirdre Gill

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017


I won a beautiful autographed copy of TRAINS DON’T SLEEP from After our family success last November with my birthday trip to The Polar Express train ride (it was my birthday, after all – I love books and Christmas!), I knew this train book was sure to please my train-loving grands! I was right.

TRAINS DON’T SLEEP tells the tale of many different working trains. Trains don’t rest, but chug and pull to carry people, goods, and animals. The story begins while families sleep and trains wake the day with their bustling work. As the day goes on, the trains continue their work in all sorts of environments like big cities, plains, mountains, and forests. Tucked into bed, families go back to sleep while the trains keep racing towards the next brand new day. This picture book makes a great bedtime read-together.

What I loved about this rhyming story is the train vocabulary! Readers will enjoy the rhythm of the words and hear language specific to trains. Fluid gorgeous illustrations perfectly compliment the tale of trains. A picture glossary identifies different trains and train-related fixtures.

If you know a train lover, share TRAINS DON’T SLEEP and see how quickly it becomes a favorite.



Here are some fun train activities you can do with your family.

*Visit a train museum.

*Play with train toys and cover the floor with tracks and make-believe adventures.

*Stand in a line. Show each person how to hold a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of him or her. Use the other arm, hand, and feet to shuffle and move like a train. Make sure to chug-chug-choo-choo!

*Dig out the markers, crayons, and paper. Draw train tracks, engines, and rail cars. Add your favorite scenery.

*Flatten play dough and use toy trains to make train tracks across the dough.

*Take a ride on a train!