Interview Alert: Jennifer Raudenbush (+ a Giveaway!)

Please welcome children’s author and poet Jennifer Raudenbush to Frog on a Blog. Jennifer and I first crossed paths during a critique session on the online writing platform Inked Voices. I’m thrilled to have her with us today to talk about her beautiful debut picture book In the Palm of My Hand, which just released in March by Running Press Kids. Jennifer and I are both nature lovers, and clearly the natural world was a huge inspiration for her when she wrote the text of this expressive book. Let’s hear more from Jennifer about the book and what inspires her creativity. Be sure to read to the end to find out how you can win a signed copy of In the Palm of My Hand!

Congratulations on your lovely and poetic debut picture book In the Palm of My Hand! Please tell us a little bit about it and why this story was important for you to tell.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Lauri!

In the Palm of My Hand, released by Running Press Kids, is about a child who takes a nature walk and discovers tiny things—like an acorn or a wildflower—hold big possibilities, big potential, just like he does. Ultimately, it delves into the big picture ideas of connection and self-esteem.

I hope it encourages little (and big) people to go outside and explore their corners of the world. To stop and notice. To savor. The book is a bit meditative and invites taking a rest from all the doing to just “be” for a while. When my son was younger, he was rambunctious, to say the least. Time in nature always calmed and focused him.

My goal with In the Palm of My Hand, a lyrical love letter to the natural world, is for readers to fall in love with both the beauty of words and the beauty of nature.

How did you feel when you held your new picture book for the very first time? Did Isabella Conti’s beautiful artwork blow you away?

It was a thrill to hold my debut for the first time! I call it “the heart of my heart,” and it reminded me of what it feels like for a new mom to have her child, her heart, walking around outside her body.

I’d gotten to see Isabella’s sketches along the way, but it did not prepare me for seeing the entire, amazing colorized version.  Especially in her landscapes, she captures nature’s wonder and awe. I love the way the text and pictures pair together to tell a stronger story and create depth of feeling.

Isabella also had a professionally produced video made showing how she painted the illustrations. Your readers can watch her 2 ½ minute video HERE (scroll down the page).

As a picture book and middle grade novel writer as well as a poet, what most inspires your creativity?

This is an easy one to answer! Nature. My husband, teenage son, and I are surrounded by eastern Pennsylvania woods, and I walk my Westie pup Mazy every day. But whenever we travel, all of nature inspires me.

Another big source of creativity for me is reading. I try to begin every morning by reading poetry. Later in the day, I’ll read both fiction (mostly middle grade) and writing craft books. I tend to binge picture books after a trip to the library or while browsing in a bookstore.

How does your experience as a Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist influence your picture book writing?

You’ve really done your homework, Lauri! While a Speech-Language Pathologist, I specialized in pediatrics because I loved children.  I definitely bring that love of children into my picture book writing. Also, I’ve always been smitten by words and language, which I both studied and used every day in that profession.

Why do you feel picture books are important?

For so many reasons! First, reading picture books forges a bond between parent, relative, teacher, or librarian and the child or children. This bond is special, meaningful, and deep. Reading together helps children learn vocabulary, story, and the sounds of words. It helps teach them to read, as they follow the words on the page. It develops in them a love of literacy. Finally, picture books, like all books, encourage compassion and understanding of other human beings through inhabiting other perspectives and understanding other viewpoints.

Please share some of your favorite picture book authors.

In the picture book space, my favorites include Beth Ferry, Carter Higgins, Joyce Sidman, Dianne White, and Pat Zietlow Miller. I tend to gravitate toward lyrical, poetic texts, because that’s my strength, but I also really enjoy humorous picture books.

What’s next for Jen Raudenbush? What projects are you working on right now?

I’m continuing to work on picture books, but I spend the bulk of my time writing middle grade novels. I’m currently revising my fourth (my third is on submission with editors). What I’m really excited about is taking my first verse novel class with Laura Shovan in May. I’ll be able to meld poetry with middle grade novels, and I can’t wait to tackle this new challenge!

Where can fans connect with you online?

Thanks for asking! I love connecting with people. The easiest way to reach me is through my Linktree HERE, where I have a fun newsletter your readers can sign up for. I’ll also list my links separately:

Website: , Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.


Jennifer is generously giving away a signed copy of In the Palm of My Hand to one lucky person who comments on this post! Just leave a comment by May 31st for your chance to win. I’ll choose a winner at random and connect them with Jennifer. This Giveaway is open to US residents only. Good luck!

Jennifer Raudenbush feels most alive when she’s creating stories, especially picture books, poetry, and middle grade novels. Jen lives with her husband and teenage son in eastern Pennsylvania, where its natural beauty provides endless inspiration. She has been published in Cricket children’s magazine, the 10.10 Poetry Anthology and Two Truths and a Fib Poetry Anthology. She is represented by Natascha Morris at The Tobias Literary Agency. IN THE PALM OF MY HAND, illustrated by Isabella Conti, Running Press Kids (Hachette), is Jen’s first published picture book.

Happy Book Birthday to MATTISON MOUSE COUNTS by Raven Howell!

Title: Mattison Mouse Counts

Author: Raven Howell

Illustrator: Keeshan Defay

Publisher: AM Ink Publishing

Release Date: May 10, 2023

Format: Hardcover

Summary: Wearing his favorite hat, Mattison Mouse is happy to venture outside on a beautiful day. But soon the little mouse hears mysterious footsteps. Mattison and his animal friends help young children count from one to ten as, joyfully, the day’s counting adventures lead to a surprise birthday party.

Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.

Interview Alert: Sarah Kurpiel

It is my extreme pleasure to welcome multi-published author/illustrator Sarah Kurpiel to Frog on a Blog. You may be familiar with Sarah’s other books, including her debut Lone Wolf, which received a starred review from School Library Journal and was a Summer 2020 Kids’ Indie Next Pick.

Today, we get to celebrate the birthday of her brand-new book Snake’s Big Mistake! Sarah has a knack for creating adorable animal characters and kid-relatable stories with lots of heart. She’s shared a lot in this interview, and I know you’re all going to love learning more about her, her new book, and her art process. You may even be inspired!

Congratulations on your new picture book Snake’s Big Mistake! What inspired the story?

Thanks so much for welcoming me on Frog on a Blog to talk about my latest picture book, Snake’s Big Mistake! The story is about a young snake determined to make the best, most spectacular, positively greatest clay pot in art class. But when disaster befalls his clay creation, he makes a terrible decision that just might ruin his friendship with Turtle forever. The story was loosely inspired by true events—sort of. Way back when I was in kindergarten, my class made little clay pots (nothing like the grand sculptures created by the kids in Snake’s class!). I don’t remember much about my kindergarten days, but I distinctly remember this project—how excited I was to sculpt and paint my clay pot, how impatient I felt waiting for it to be fired in the kiln so I could take it home and show my parents, and how disappointed and embarrassed I felt when I saw my finished clay pot sitting alongside all the much better ones. At the end of the day, we each went up to the table at the front of the classroom to find the clay pot marked with our initials on the bottom. I remember thinking: “Mine is so bad. Maybe I should take someone else’s instead.” Now, in the end, I did not. But what if I had? That’s how the story got its start. This small event in my life—making a little clay pot—was the source of so many big emotions for me as a kid—both good and bad. No wonder this project has stayed with me when most of my memories of kindergarten have not. The ups and downs of the experience felt like something plenty of kids could relate to, so I ran with the idea, and the result was Snake’s Big Mistake.

The characters in Snake’s Big Mistake are adorable! Tell us a little bit about your art process when creating the illustrations for the book.

Thank you! I love drawing cute animal characters. A few years ago, for no reason at all (which is the best reason to draw, in my opinion), I drew a “portrait” of a very serious snake sitting in a chair with perfect posture. It made me laugh. I knew right then that I wanted to draw more snakes in the future. So, I included an argyle sweater-sporting snake in my picture book Elephant’s Big Solo, which was published last year. When it came time to make a follow-up book, who better to take the lead this time around than Snake? I had a blast doodling him. I already knew what he looked like, so I focused on experimenting with creative ways a snake might express emotions through body language. Then, I thumbnailed the story, which is my favorite part of the picture book making process. I draw digitally in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet, so it’s easy to make adjustments and move things around as I change my mind. From there, I worked with my agents and editor to finalize the story. For the final art, I mostly used digital dry media brushes, and I applied overlays I created to give the characters added texture. While I needed to stay stylistically consistent with Elephant’s Big Solo, I also knew this book called for a brighter, bolder color palette to match Snake’s bright, bold personality. I’m pleased with the way the colors pop on the page.

As both an author and an illustrator, which comes easier to you, writing or illustrating, and which usually comes first when you get an idea for a story, the words or the art?

Illustrating comes much easier for me—not because I’m particularly confident in my drawing skills (I’m not), but rather because I enjoy it so much. If I wasn’t drawing for publication, I’d be drawing anyway. I tend to think about picture books wholistically from the start—including the cover, endpapers, title page, and so on. If I can’t envision the whole thing, then that’s usually a good sign I’m not ready to make the book. Writing the words, on the other hand, is a slow process for me. So, when I have a story idea, I usually start with a loose outline and maybe a few key lines, doodle the characters and thumbnail the story (which leads to new ideas), and then work out the precise words. My process isn’t always so straightforward as that, but it’s generally what happens.

Since you’re a librarian, you obviously love books. What are some of your favorite picture books? Or who are some of your favorite picture book authors or illustrators?

Oh, this is a tough question. There are too many to name! A few of my favorite picture books are Birdsong by Julie Flett, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead, Small in the City by Sydney Smith, and Truman by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins. A few of my favorite picture book creators are Julie Flett, Rebecca Green, Lucy Ruth Cummins, Christian Robinson, Sydney Smith, Ebony Glenn, and Kate Berube.

Why do you feel picture books are important?

The books we love as kids have a way of staying with us all our lives. That’s a powerful thing. Picture books can help kids see themselves in the world, learn about people different from themselves, face complicated emotions, grow their imaginations, learn something fascinating, descend into a fit of giggles—or, in many cases, some combination of these things. I think no matter what age we are when we read them, picture books can have a lasting impact on us. When I come across a picture book with that just-right combination of words and pictures needed to express something authentic, it reminds me all over again why I love picture books so very much.

You’re not shy about sharing that you have a disability and use a power wheelchair. In what ways do you hope to inspire other authors and artists who may be struggling with disabilities too?

Every disabled person experiences disability differently, so I can only ever speak from my own lived experience. In my case, I’ve always loved to draw, but for most of my life, I considered it just a hobby because my disability significantly limits my arm strength and range of motion. But about seven years ago, I realized something important that changed everything for me: my limitations are my style (or, at least a big part of it). I can’t use most traditional media, so I work digitally; I can’t naturally draw a straight line, so I embrace the wobbly line; I don’t have the stamina to do study after study or draw all day, so I lean into simplicity and only spend my energy drawing things I truly want to draw. Once I reframed my mindset on my style, that’s when things started happening for me. I wish I knew earlier in my life that you don’t need to go to art school or use certain media or draw certain subjects or follow certain rules or wait for permission from anyone in order to make art and share it with the world. As long as it’s authentically you who is making the work, there’s no right or wrong way to make art.

Where can fans connect with you online?

You can find me on Instagram (@sarah.kurpiel) and Twitter (@SarahKurpiel) or visit my website at

Sarah Kurpiel is a librarian by day and self-taught picture book author/illustrator by night and weekend. Her stories are inspired by animals, nature, and everyday life. Sarah’s debut picture book, Lone Wolf (Greenwillow Books, 2020), received a starred review from the School Library Journal and was a Summer 2020 Kids’ Indie Next Pick. Her latest book, Snake’s Big Mistake (Greenwillow Books, 2023), was a May/June 2023 Kids’ Indie Next Pick and a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. A few of Sarah’s favorite things include libraries, elephants, the ocean, drawing, flannel shirts, iced coffee, miniature books, summer, new pens, sci-fi stories, and the color green.

Writing a Single Story Using a Variety of Poetry Styles by Kathleen Long Bostrom

It is my pleasure to welcome multi-published, award-winning children’s book author and poet extraordinaire Kathleen Long Bostrom back to Frog on a Blog. I featured Kathleen in the summer of 2020 when her board book Will You Be Friends with Me? came out. She spoke about the connection between writer and illustrator and trusting the publisher and illustrator to help bring your story to life. To read that post, please click HERE.

Today, Kathleen’s here to share her latest picture book Since the Baby Came: A Sibling’s Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems and talk a bit about her process of writing a book in different poetic forms. This book officially released this week from WaterBrook and features adorable, playful, and detailed illustrations by Janet Samuel. It’s perfect for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and baby showers or simply to help a child navigate welcoming a new sibling into the family. It’s also a great choice for children and adults to learn about different poetry styles, including the very tricky Villanelle, of which Kathleen gives an example below. Let’s hear from Kathleen!

Dr. Seuss taught me how to read. Not literally, of course (I read once that he didn’t particularly like children!) but through his marvelous books. The Cat in the Hat was my favorite. Through these playful, rhyming stories I not only learned to read but also fell in love with poetry.

When I began to write books for children, I felt drawn to writing in rhyme. I kept hearing that editors did not want to look at manuscripts in rhyme. Why not, I wondered? Don’t most children love rhyming picture books? As I began attending writer’s conferences, I learned the reason. Time and again, editors declared, “We get so many poorly rhymed manuscripts, we don’t even want to see them anymore.”

If I was going to write in rhyme, I had to do it well. No forced rhymes, no using stanzas that rhyme by twisting a sentence into something a person would never say. I worked hard at it, yet it never felt like work. I loved it! When I began to get books accepted for publication, many of them were written in rhyme.

After twenty-five years of publishing books, I am still learning, still loving the process of writing in poetry.  

Around the time I retired from serving as a pastor and turned to writing full-time, my best friend and I attended a children’s writing conference. She was then working as an editor in educational publishing. During lunch, I asked, “What are the areas in early education where more good books are needed?” Without hesitation, she replied, “Poetry.”

“Aha!” I thought. “I can do that!”

But what would make a story told in poetry unique? I researched the books currently on the market and looked for the gaps.

Then it hit me: write a single story in verse, but not limited to the rhyming couplets that I and most other authors used. Could I write a single story using a variety of styles of poetry? I read books that described different poetic forms. Was I surprised! I knew about haiku, limericks, sonnets. But Villanelle? Cinquain? Triolet? Fascinating!

I had to tell a story with all the necessary components: beginning, middle, end, including an arc with conflict and resolution. I wanted to write a story that would be pertinent to the lives of young children. I wanted to tell a story that would engage young readers, and in the playfulness of poetry, whether they were old enough to learn the specifics of the forms or not.

I pondered many potential topics but landed on the story of a young child learning about the imminent arrival of a new baby who must then face the reality of this huge change. I wanted to explore all the possible emotions—excitement, confusion, frustration, and ultimately joy—thus affirming that all emotions are part of the journey, to be welcomed and honored.

Once I carved out an idea for the full story, I needed to figure out which poem forms to use for each component. This took months! Each of the sixteen poems had to work within the story arc, but also to be a complete and independently executed poem.

Take the Villanelle: nineteen lines of poetry comprised of five tercets (three-line stanza) and one quatrain (four-line stanza). The first and third lines of the first stanza repeat alternately in the following stanzas. And the two lines of the refrain also form the final couplet (two lines) in the ending quatrain!

Here’s how it looks in my poem, “When Will This Baby Go Away?”

When will this baby go away?

He’s all mixed up with day and night.

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.


He cannot even talk or play.

Those dirty diapers are a fright!

When will this baby go away?


He sleeps and eats and cries all day.

Such bad behavior isn’t right.

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.


Please send him back. I’ll even pay!

I took his hand—he took a bite!

When will this baby go away?


Oh, why do babies act this way?

That belly button! What a sight!

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.


Will he become more fun someday?

I can’t imagine that he might.

When will this baby go away?

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.

This one poem took months. I worked on the book for two years. What fun I had! On my writing days, I could hardly wait to get up and get started. The hours flew by. Hours and hours and hours, rewrite after rewrite.

I could go on and on about all the forms, but I’d end up writing a book about writing a book! Instead, read the book first, and simply enjoy the story (and the fabulous illustrations by Janet Samuel). Then read the descriptions of the poem forms at the back. Which ones catch your fancy?

Try writing your own. Start with a limerick, or haiku (senryu), or a simple, rhyming couplet. Have fun with it! Let the words dance and sing on the page.

Maybe even try your hand at a Villanelle? You can do it!

I’d love to read your poetry. Thank you for reading mine.

Kathleen Long Bostrom is an award-winning author of over fifty books for children. Her books are published in over twenty languages. She is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who now writes full time. As a middle child, Kathy was both the new baby and the older sister who later became a mother of three herself. She knows whereof she rhymes!

For more information, please visit

Happy Book Birthday to SINCE THE BABY CAME by Kathleen Long Bostrom!

Title: Since the Baby Came: A Sibling’s Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems

Author: Kathleen Long Bostrom

Illustrator: Janet Samuel

Publisher: Waterbrook & Multnomah Kids

Release Date: May 2, 2023

Format: Hardcover

Summary: Since the Baby Came offers a unique take on a timeless topic. The heartfelt and humorous drama unfolds completely in verse, addressing the full range of emotions a young child experiences when a new baby joins the family—from surprise and confusion to feelings of neglect and jealousy to wholehearted tenderness and affection. The book also introduces young children to the playfulness and fun of various forms of poetry, from senryu to villanelle.

For more information and parent/teacher resources, click HERE!

Also, please come back and visit this Friday when Kathleen will stop by to talk about her process of writing a book in different poetic forms. Don’t miss it!

Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.

The Joy and Healing of Creative Collaboration by Laura Shovan

Please welcome author, educator, and poet Laura Shovan to Frog on a Blog! Laura is perhaps best known for her award-winning middle grade novels, including A Place at the Table, written with Saadia Faruqi. But today we celebrate the publication day of her new children’s book Welcome to Monsterville, which is perfect for Poetry Month and features 16 poems she wrote to accompany artist Michael Rothenberg’s whimsical monster illustrations. Welcome to Monsterville is a “celebration of friendship, emotional intelligence, and creative play as a form of healing.” Laura and Michael’s collaboration began during the pandemic as just a sharing back and forth between friends before it morphed into this special book that can help kids cope with all sorts of feelings. Let’s hear more from Laura.

A monster bought the house next door…

Imagine that this is the first sentence of a poem, or a story. What happens next? This was the question I asked myself a few years ago, when my dear friend Michael sent me this picture:


A poet and artist, Michael Rothenberg had been working with an art therapist since the death of his son. Most of his illustrations were abstract, so I was surprised when this creature appeared in our message thread. With its fishy red lips, slick purple hair, and tail of flames (or bacon, depending on your perspective), this being seemed to emerge straight out of Michael’s imagination.

Inspired by the playfulness of Michael’s artwork, I started writing. I didn’t think too hard, but followed my friend’s lead, incorporating details from the drawing into my poem.

A monster bought the house next door.
When it moved in, I wasn’t sure
just how this creature, tall and wide,
would squeeze its blobby form inside.

Its lips went first, then purple hair,
then six pink feet climbed up the stair.
It wore a jumpsuit, denim blue.
I called out, “That looks great on you!”

Within minutes, I had a draft. I wasn’t concerned about polishing. This was a casual gift from one friend to another. I made a recording of the poem and sent it off to Michael, hoping it would bring a smile to his face.

“This is fun,” he wrote back. “I am already curious what monster might reveal itself tomorrow.” What revealed itself was this:


Once again, I began with a sort of story-starter.

Monsters don’t have birthdays.
I think that is unfair!

I trusted my gut. As with the first poem, the narrator here is a child faced with a problem. “What do I do when…” a monster moves into my neighborhood, or I find out my monster friend doesn’t celebrate birthdays? The solution here seemed obvious. The kid-narrator plans a surprise party for Monster, of course!

The end of my first draft for this poem reads:

Surprise! The guests all shouted,
but Monster wasn’t scared.
He laughed and hugged each friend
and said, “I never knew you cared.”

This was how our two-year-long collaboration began. Michael would lead off with a monster illustration. Sometimes he’d send me the initial pencil sketches and we’d discuss details or color options. In response, I’d send a poem. Michael thought of the poems as a form of translation. I became an interpreter, putting words to the creatures living in his imagination. He shared feedback on phrasing and musicality—we revised several of the poems together.

Our resulting project is Welcome to Monsterville, a book of sixteen illustrated poems for young readers. Michael approached the monsters with such creative abandon that I was encouraged to take similar risks in my writing. Partnering on this project helped us both stretch, learn, and grow as artists. Whether you’re working with an illustrator, another author, or a musician, that is the joy of creative collaboration.

Michael Rothenberg and Laura Shovan in January 2020. Michael passed away in November 2022.

Laura Shovan is a novelist, educator, and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. Her work appears in journals and anthologies for children and adults. Laura’s award-winning middle grade novels include The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, Takedown, and the Sydney Taylor Notable A Place at the Table, written with Saadia Faruqi. An honors graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (BFA, Dramatic Writing) and Montclair State University (Master of Arts, Teaching), Laura is a longtime Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Education, conducting school poetry residencies. She teaches for Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. To learn more about her life and work, visit:

Follow Laura Shovan on social media:

Facebook: @laura.shovan.poet | Instagram: @laurashovan

Celebrating Earth Day with “Tina the First Tooth Fairy” by Bruce F. Scharschmidt, MD

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Please welcome physician, scientist, and children’s book author Dr. Bruce F. Scharschmidt to Frog on a Blog. Bruce’s new picture book Tina the First Tooth Fairy officially launches today. This colorful, rhyming story subtly introduces the concept of environmental sustainability, which you’re never too young to begin learning about. Bruce’s daughter’s curiosity was piqued by a science experiment when she was young, which led her to a scientific career. Now, Bruce enjoys sharing his books (and science, too) with his grandchildren. I asked Bruce to stop by and speak a bit about his book as well as his thoughts on sustainability and how we can celebrate Earth Day with kids.

Let’s hear from Bruce.

I am a strong believer that our collective future depends on instilling in our children a sense of curiosity and an interest in discovery and innovation. Science centers on asking questions and seeking answers. It should be taught not like a collection of facts to be memorized, but in a way that responds to our natural sense of wonder.

While President of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, I helped initiate a summer scholarship program for high school science teachers which afforded them hands-on scientific training so they could incorporate actual experiments into their classroom curriculum in a way that made science fun and exciting. High school, however, is often too late. California’s K-12 Science standards suggest that science education should begin in Kindergarten, but meaningful exposure often doesn’t come until later.

Our impressions of the world are formed early. We all enjoy hearing stories, particularly young children. Even preverbal children have reasonably sophisticated reasoning skills. Having grandchildren of our own was the impetus I needed to expand my writing audience from physicians to children and turn my bedtime stories into children’s books. While first and foremost meant to be fun, my books are intended to stimulate curiosity and prompt questions and dialogue.

My newest book, Tina the First Tooth Fairy, is centered on the theme of sustainability and is scheduled to launch on Earth Day, April 22, 2023. Building on the universal childhood experience of losing baby teeth and children’s natural curiosity (Why does the tooth fairy want our teeth? Where do the teeth go?), it introduces kids to repurposing and recycling, two of the Five R’s (Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Repurpose-Recycle) that collectively constitute sustainability.

I hope this story will inspire you to celebrate Earth Day with your children and grandchildren. When they ask questions, try creating experiments to prove your hypothesis right (or wrong!). Show them the sky and the stars and let them feel the wind in their hair. Share stories about your outdoor experiences growing up and talk about ways to preserve the Earth’s beauty. And please read to them. Your children are our future.

For More Information About Earth Day, Please Visit:

Bruce F. Scharschmidt, MD crafts children’s books written in verse that make kids smile–and think. His stories build on his background as a physician-scientist with academic, business and non-profit experience. For Bruce, science is not just a collection of facts and statistics, but more fundamentally a sense of curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around us. In his academic career, he was Professor of Medicine and Chief of Gastroenterology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where he helped start the UCSF liver transplant program. He has authored over 200 scientific papers and book chapters and served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Clinical Investigation and President of the American Society for Clinical Investigation. He also served on the National Board of Directors of the American Liver Foundation and has participated in the development of multiple vaccines and therapeutics which are approved in the US and elsewhere. For more information about his life and work, visit:

Interview Alert: Nadia Ali (+ a Giveaway!)

It is my pleasure to welcome freelance writer and children’s book author Nadia Ali to Frog on a Blog. Her brand-new picture book Humphrey the Egg-Splorer officially released today! Just look at that fabulous cover by illustrator Valentí Gubianas! Nadia has several published books, including the recently-released four-book series Animal Societies, which feature animal families, homes, communication, and jobs.

I invited Nadia to share a little about the inspiration for Humphrey the Egg-Splorer and a bit about herself too. Read to the end for information on how you can win a copy of Humphrey the Egg-Splorer fromYeehoo Press. Let’s get to know Nadia!

Congratulations on your upcoming picture book Humphrey the Egg-splorer! Please tell us what inspired you to write it and a little bit about it.

Nadia: Thank you, Lauri. The inspiration came from Dan Santat’s After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Up Again), which got me thinking about Humpty in today’s world. I imagined Humpty to be a grandpa and his grandson Humphrey wanting to become a great egg-splorer like his grandpa. But with one big difference – he doesn’t want to have a great fall and so, discovers how to become stronger.

Valentí Gubianas’s illustrations in Humphrey the Egg-splorer are so colorful and cheery! What did you think when you saw the completed book for the first time?

Nadia: The completed book took my breath away! Valentí chose orange, red, and yellow, which made the illustrations vibrant and warm. Yeehoo Press utilized this by creating numerous double-paged spreads, creating a stunning visual impact.

You are a freelance writer who not only writes children’s books, but also books, magazine articles, and online content for adults. How did you begin your career as a writer and which do you like best, writing for kids or adults?

Nadia: I began writing as a greeting card writer in the days when that market was booming and have numerous cards to my name. From there, I branched out to writing for adults and found a niche in the travel and pet industry. I enjoy writing for both adults and kids as it challenges me in different ways. For adults, I learn about a topic in a structured informative way that transforms into an article. And, when writing for kids, they learn about a topic in an entertaining, fun way that evolves into a picture book story.

Why do you think picture books are important?

Nadia: Picture books encourage children’s literary, language, and vocabulary skills but also because they help with tough topics never discussed before, such as diversity, belonging, and anxiety.

Who are your favorite authors or illustrators?

Nadia: There are many that I admire. The legendary Beatrix Potter is a definite favorite, both an author and illustrator having created the much-loved character of Peter Rabbit. Hena Khan (author), Vashti Harrison (both), Raissa Figueroa (illustrator,) Hatem Aly (illustrator) and, of course, illustrator extraordinaire Valenti Gubianas for the wonderful job he did of bringing Humphrey to life!

Where can fans connect with you or find out more about your books online?






Do you have any words of advice for aspiring picture book writers?

Nadia: Publishing a picture book by a traditional publisher takes time…lots of time! From the moment you get a yes to your submission to signing a contract, writing revisions, and holding the completed book in your hands – the whole process could span two years! So my words of advice is patiently persevere and be in no rush.


Nadia and Yeehoo Press are generously giving away a copy of Humphrey the Egg-Splorer to one lucky person who comments on this blog post! Just leave a comment by April 22nd. I will choose a winner at random and connect them with Nadia. The giveaway is open to US residents only. Good luck!

Nadia Ali was born in London, UK, and currently resides in the Caribbean where she lives with her husband and has two married daughters. She enjoys writing features and articles which are published online and in magazines. As a children’s author, she writes fiction and nonfiction picture books. When she is not writing, she can be found in the kitchen whipping up a super sweet dessert.

More about Humphrey the Egg-splorer from Yeehoo Press:

A rollicking story that expands the famous tale of a fragile egg to a new story about bravery, creativity, and forging your own path.


Eggs are fragile and bought specifically to be cracked. . . but what if they don’t want to be cracked and have their own ambitions and goals for life like becoming a great egg-splorer? Humphrey has long known the cautionary tale of his grandfather, Humpty Dumpty. Being an egg means he can easily slip and crack at any time . . . but what does that mean for his dreams of becoming an egg-splorer and going on grand adventures? But Humphrey is determined, and he’ll do whatever it takes to become a brave adventurer―even if that means putting himself through the fieriest trials to get there. Inspired by the beloved nursery rhyme, author Nadia Ali and artist Valentí Gubianas deliver a rollicking story that expands the famous tale of a fragile egg to a new story about bravery, creativity, and forging your own path.

Tackling Tough Topics with Humor and STEAM by Kari Gonzalez (+ a Giveaway!)

Please welcome children’s book author Kari Gonzalez to Frog on a Blog! Picture books that encourage a love for books and reading are some of my favorites, and Kari’s debut How to Hatch a Reader, which launches this summer from Gnome Road Publishing with adorable illustrations by Rachel Suzanne, does exactly that. Full of clever puns, How to Hatch a Reader follows a little girl as she shows you, the reader, how to teach your chickens to read. Including the “learning to read” aspect is what takes this fun book to the next level.

Kari likes to combine humor and STEAM concepts in her stories, especially when tackling tough topics. I asked her to stop by and talk a little bit about her process and how we can pair those two seemingly very different elements in our own writing too. Be sure to read to the end for a fabulous giveaway offer from Kari, your chance to win either a picture book manuscript critique or a 30-minute AMA (ask me anything) session!

I can’t help but laugh when I mention I am a writer to a new acquaintance and they say, “Oh, writing picture books sounds so easy!”


Writing picture books geared toward the harshest of critics, ones that won’t hesitate to walk away from a book in a heartbeat if it doesn’t suit them, is tough work! As an author, we have an economy of words and have to make each count to tell our stories in such a small word count.

When I started watching my kids pick their favorite books, they were always humor driven. And my favorite? Humor and STEAM to further connections and spark some great conversations.

After getting backyard chickens, an idea sparked. I knew immediately I wanted to write about the funny concept of teaching chickens to read. It was hilarious to picture, and I knew it would be a funny read-aloud. And when I sat down, How To Hatch A Reader poured out of me.

I wrote my story in one draft and mailed it off to my editor.


This story went through many revisions. The first version focused on the story. I knew I wanted to add STEAM language arts concepts, so that was my next pass at revision. The concepts came easily because I was in the thick of teaching my own emerging readers at home. So, I built in concepts like practicing letter sounds, pointing out sight words, and helping chickens practice their chicken scratch. 

Then, my very favorite part…the humor! When I tackle a funny picture book idea I love to research idioms and puns. In fact, I started with a pun on the very first page!

I played off chicken-related idioms, like shake your tailfeathers and the early bird gets the worm. I also had a blast with subverting expectations at key page turns. And, as a nod to the parents, I even included some subtle and not-so-subtle jokes, like when I referenced dancing dinosaurs. Chickens are one of the closest living relatives to the T-rex!

These created such fun opportunities for illustrator, Rachel Suzanne, to bring her own brand of humor to our project. Each bit of humor played a role in driving the story forward while also pairing a fun read-a-loud story with STEAM concepts.

Writing a picture book isn’t as easy as some think. But tackling a tough topic like learning to read with humor and STEAM concepts made my book a standout submission when it hit my publisher’s desk. So dive deep into revisions. Try tackling tough topics with humor and STEAM and watch the magic unfold!


Kari is generously giving away, to one lucky person who comments on this blog post, a winner’s choice of either a non-rhyming picture book manuscript critique or a 30-minute AMA (ask me anything) session via Zoom. Just leave a comment by April 15th. I’ll choose a winner at random and connect them with Kari. Good luck!

Kari loves writing funny and sometimes lyrical children’s books. Her first draft writing process is fast and furious to get stories out of her head, which of course makes room for more! Six chickens, three fish, and one cat are kind enough to share their home with Kari, her husband, and their two little girls. HOW TO HATCH A READER, Kari’s debut picture book, releases in 2023, and an unannounced book in 2024. She is represented by Stacey Kondla at The Rights Factory.

Connect with Kari:



Happy Book Birthday to JUST A WORM by Marie Boyd!

Title: Just A Worm

Author: Marie Boyd

Illustrator: Marie Boyd

Publisher: Greenwillow (a HarperCollins imprint)

Release Date: March 14, 2023

Format: Hardcover

Summary: After being called “just a worm” by two children, Worm embarks on a journey around the garden to prove them wrong. Debut author-illustrator Marie Boyd seamlessly incorporates concepts of nature, natural selection, habitats, and interdependence in this picture book beautifully illustrated with a cut-paper technique called quilling.

Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.

Building a Diverse Library: Practical Tips for Families and Educators by Shetal Shah

Please welcome children’s book author Shetal Shah to Frog on a Blog. Her debut Shakti Girls: Poems of Inspiring Indian Women launched just this week and is perfect for Women’s History Month! Through 13 poetic, biographical stories and colorful portraits (by artist Kavita Rajput), the book introduces kids to real Indian women who’ve accomplished incredible things in the fields of science, politics, sports, math, and activism and exemplify Shakti, a Hindi word meaning feminine energy and strength, power, and a force to be reckoned with. Shetal is a former educator currently pursuing her mission to positively impact and inspire girls from all backgrounds with her writing and to bring diversity to bookshelves. I asked her to stop by and talk about the importance of showing diversity in children’s literature and diversifying curriculum to bring visibility to all students. Let’s hear from Shetal!

The year was 1999. I was a senior in high school experiencing a heavy dose of seniorities and found myself at the local Barnes & Noble more often than planned. On one of my weekly trips, I walked into the store and a beautiful henna-inspired cover with a name that felt familiar caught my attention. The author, Jhumpa Lahiri, I knew right away was of Indian descent. Could it be that a South Asian author made it to the New York Times Bestseller list? This was new to me. I immediately grabbed the book, Interpreter of Maladies, and ran home to dig in. After a few days of indulging her words, I felt a sense of comfort, peace, and home that I had never felt from reading especially the novels assigned at school. It wasn’t long before I returned to the bookstore and actively sought out the works of other South Asian authors, including Arundhati Roy, Chitra Banerjee Divakurni, and Salman Rushdie. While there were few at the time, I knew getting my hands on as many as possible would recreate the feeling of being seen and understood as much as my heart needed.

I know my experience is not unique. Scholar Rudine Sims Bishop, who famously coined the phrase “mirrors and windows”, explained that “literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation…” When children see themselves in book pages, they feel seen and valued. They feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, no longer an outlier or exception to the full American story. As a window, diverse books expose children to different cultures and contexts helping them expand their capacity to appreciate and understand differences. “Research has shown that children notice race as early as six months, begin to internalize bias between the ages of two and five, and can become set in their beliefs by age 12.” If children are not exposed to the diversity of the world starting at a young age, then they will not be prepared to navigate and reap the benefits of this diverse world when they are adults. What better way to start than with books?

Whether it’s small steps or broad strokes, any action toward building a more inclusive curriculum and school or home library will make a positive difference in a child’s life. Families, schools, and educators either in a diverse or homogenous community can use any of the following ideas to get started:

  1. Develop an annual ritual of evaluating books in your curriculum and library. What percentage of books reflect characters from diverse backgrounds? How many were written by people of color? From here, create a SMART goal to strive for to grow your diverse library.
  2. Assess the books in your (or your child’s) curriculum, including summer reading lists. What percentage of characters and themes reflect diverse cultures and identities? Are students and families from diverse backgrounds and identities reflected in these books? Identify the gaps and find the titles to fill those gaps. For schools and educators, set a numerical goal or standard to ensure that future book lists are representative of diverse backgrounds. Families can reach out to their teachers and suggest or donate titles to add to the class library.
  3. Do your children love story time? Rotate diverse themes and characters when reading to them. Set some rules or routines to ensure you include a number of diverse selections every day.
  4. Not sure where to find diverse books? You can use tools like Diverse Book Finder, Social Justice Books, and even social media to help you discover diverse titles.
  5. Shop for books at your local BIPOC-owned bookstore. Consider partnering with them to host your next school book fair or birthday party!

Setting measurable goals and developing intentional strategies and tactics to reach those goals is an effective strategy for building more diversity and inclusion in a school’s curriculum and school or home library. By focusing on these concrete goals, you are ensuring there is measurable progress being made to close any gaps and help your children feel validation and belonging while offering a window into another world. As I moved on from high school, I sought out educational settings as both student, teacher, and mother where inclusion was starting to become normalized. As a result, I started to see myself as a valuable member of society who has something unique to contribute. I can only imagine what impact this would have made on me had I grown up with access to more diverse books. Better late than never, I say.

SHETAL SHAH grew up to the sounds of Bollywood and the delicious smells of her mother’s Indian cooking in the suburbs of New York City. As a second-generation Indian-American, Shetal hoped to one day see more stories of girls like her fill the shelves of local bookstores.

A former educator, Shetal taught world history in all-girls schools where she was reminded how curriculum and literature inclusive of women from diverse backgrounds can have a positive impact on girls’ self-esteem, identity development and belonging. Shetal also developed and led numerous educator workshops, presenting at national conferences covering topics on pedagogy and diversity and inclusion.

Shetal currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and her two young boys while pursuing her writing and mission to bring diversity to bookshelves with stories that inspire. “Shakti Girls” is her inspiring debut.

Follow Shetal on social media:

Facebook | Twitter: @ShetalWrites 

Instagram: @Shetal.Shah.Writes and @Shakti_Girls

Happy Book Birthday to WHATEVER COMES TOMORROW by Rebecca Gardyn Levington!

Title: Whatever Comes Tomorrow

Author: Rebecca Gardyn Levington

Illustrator: Mariona Cabassa

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Release Date: March 7, 2023

Format: Hardcover, softcover

Summary: We might not know what the future holds, but the lyrical rhyming text in this beautiful book reassures readers that they have the resilience and strength to face whatever comes their way. Whimsical illustrations make for a captivating read-aloud or bedtime story. Inspired by the author’s own experience with anxiety, this book offers gentle wisdom applicable to both children and adults. End matter includes a discussion guide and activity ideas for managing worries.

Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.

Interview Alert: Howard Pearlstein

It’s my pleasure to welcome multi-published children’s author and advertising creative director Howard Pearlstein to Frog On A Blog. Howard has four picture books coming out this year, so this is the perfect time to learn more about him and his books. Howard enjoys collaborating with his daughter Amanda Pearlstein, and two of his upcoming books, Tribeca and The Liebrary, are coauthored with her. Let’s chat a bit with Howard.

How did you begin you picture book writing career?

My picture book career began in 2018. I was an advertising creative director at the time, and still am, but I was listening to a podcast on my way home from work, and the guest said something along the lines of, “We spend our best years giving our creativity away to other people.” I can’t remember the podcast or who the person was that said that, but it struck a chord with me. Advertising is literally just that – giving your creativity away to other people. I looked back at my career and was proud of the work I had done, but I had nothing personal to show for it. I started thinking about what I could do for myself and realized that ads are like little stories, where the words and pictures have to work together to communicate a message. I figured if I could do these little stories, I could write little stories for children.

When I got home, I told my wife I was going to write picture books. She, of course, supported me, but I actually had no idea how to do it. So I Googled, “How to write a picture book.” That’s how my career began.

Why do you like to write stories for children?

I have precious memories of reading to my daughters when they were young. The thought that parents might be reading my stories to their children – and creating these memories – is pretty cool. If the stories teach children something along the way, entertain them, or make them feel some sort of emotion, even better. From a practical standpoint, I like writing stories for children because I can complete them quickly.

Amanda Pearlstein, Howard’s daughter and picture book coauthor.

How does your experience as an advertising creative director influence the way you write picture books?

My advertising background has been the perfect experience for writing picture books. In many ways, the process is similar:

  • You have to come up with a concept on how you will communicate an idea.
  • You have to understand who your target audience is and what motivates them.
  • You need to know what goals you’re trying to achieve.
  • You then need to create words and visuals that go together to tell the story in the most creative way possible.
  • You also need to use the fewest words possible to get across your message.
  • You want the final product to be something that speaks to the audience on an emotional level since that’s what sells.

I mentioned before that I write quickly, and that has everything to do with my advertising background. We work under extremely tight deadlines, and when there’s a due date, that’s when the project has to be complete. That structure forces you to be creative quickly.

What do you love most about picture books?

I love that picture books have limitless opportunities to tell any story in any way imaginable. The stories can be reality-based or complete fantasy. They can be wordless or rhyme or be told from any perspective. The possibilities for what a picture book can be are truly endless.

Who are your favorite picture book authors and illustrators?

My favorite picture book author and illustrator is Dr. Seuss. His work, both in the stories and the visuals, were groundbreaking, which is why they remain so popular today. Plus, he made rhyming seem effortless – something that is definitely not effortless.

Congratulations on your four upcoming books! Please give us just a little taste of each one and tell us what inspired you to write them.

My oldest daughter Amanda, a lawyer with the department of justice, called me one day and said I should write a picture book about the three-legged cat she and her girlfriend had fostered and that was eventually adopted by a family with a three-legged dog. I told her it was a great idea, but I’d only write it if she wrote it with me. She agreed, and we wrote the story from Tribeca’s perspective about the thoughts and fears a foster cat could have.

I realized one day that the word “library” sounds the same if it’s spelled “liebrary.” This was around the time that the term “fake news” was in the news a lot, and people tended to believe whatever story aligned with their viewpoints – no matter how fantastical or unrealistic the stories might have been. I thought it would be interesting to tell a story about the consequences of believing everything you read without thinking critically about what is actually being said. I wrote a draft and thought it was okay, but knew it could be better. So I emailed it to Amanda and said, “Make this better.” Sure enough, she took my Corolla of a story and transformed it into a Lexus.

My youngest daughter Emily has always been very empathetic. One of the things that upset her the most, from a young age, was seeing old men eating by themselves. I have no idea why. But I took this idea of an old man eating alone and thought about how I could transform this sad premise into something else. While the story has sadness and deals with dying, it gives the reader an opportunity to look at loss from a different perspective.

My wife and I went out to breakfast one day, and it seemed like every parent was on his or her phone rather than paying attention to their children. When the kids started getting antsy, the parents gave them their phones to occupy them. I thought this was incredibly sad to see families barely interacting with each other. I remembered a story from when I was little about a boy who pushed vegetables onto his fork with his thumb, even though his parents told him not to. He kept doing it and one day vegetables started growing from his thumb. At first it was cool, but then the vegetables grew out of control. I thought a similar premise could work for a boy who’s addicted to his device and then realizes the consequences. I wanted this story to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of choosing devices over people.

Where can fans connect with you or find your books online?

IG: howard.pearlstein

Twitter: @HowPearlstein

Howard Pearlstein is a picture book author and advertising creative director who has worked on some of the world’s most popular brands, including Toyota, Verizon, and Mitsubishi. A California native, Howard now lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife Debi. Howard has three daughters, Amanda, Jacquie, and Emily, who live across the country, and one dog, Maeby, who still lives at home.

Happy Book Birthday to THE WAY WE SAY HELLO by Andrea Denish!

Title: The Way We Say Hello

Author: Andrea Denish

Illustrator: BlueBean

Publisher: Starry Forest Books

Release Date: February 7, 2023

Format: Hardcover

Summary: From author Andrea Denish and illustrator BlueBean comes a touching story about new siblings, greetings, languages, and love.

A young child searches for the best way to greet the newest member of their family as they ask, “A special day. A special place. How will you greet a special face?” With rhyming text, heartwarming art, and nonfiction backmatter, The Way We Say Hello takes you as far as Tibet and as near as your front yard as you learn greeting after greeting.

Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.

Make Learning Fun with BUSY FEET by Marcia Berneger (+ a Giveaway!)

Please welcome multi-published children’s book author Marcia Berneger to Frog on a Blog. Marcia and I were in a critique group together once upon a time. I’m thrilled that she has a new picture book coming out this month, and I get to share it with you all right here!

As a retired elementary school teacher and now a grandmother, Marcia’s no stranger to the seemingly unending supply of energy that kids have, and her book Busy Feet captures the essence of that energy so perfectly through the activities of children’s (and a few animals’) feet, following them from home to playground to beach and back home again.

Along with Marcia’s rollicking rhyme and bold illustrations by Susanna Chapman that kids are sure to love, Busy Feet incorporates a surprise element–opposites–giving this super-fun story an extra layer of “teaching without teaching.” Marcia stopped by to share more about this engaging book.

People always ask, “Wow! Where’d you come up with that idea?” I’d love to answer that Busy Feet leapt into my head when we first found out my daughter-in-law was pregnant. Or even when Ori was born. However, truth be told, the text for Busy Feet predates Ori’s birth by five years. The very first Busy Feet manuscript was penned in July 2015. The original text for this book is almost identical to the final copy. One or two simple word substitutions and one additional verse are the only changes. But, what a difference the illustrations make. Susanna Chapman splashed bright, vivid colors onto every page. My favorite page? The very last one. The kids, and the dog, are settling down for the night and the boy is pulling the chain to shut the light—with his foot! Inspired!

So where did the idea for Busy Feet come from? I taught at the elementary level for thirty-four years. My last twenty were first and second grade. I also taught in a preschool. But, again, if I’m being truthful, I retired from public school in 2013, and didn’t start teaching the preschoolers until 2020. I did read a lot of picture books to my students throughout the years. That reading, and teaching basic concepts to young children, influenced all of my writing, helping me understand what children love about books and how best to write them.

Many of my picture book ideas are generated during what is now called Storystorm. This is Tara Lazar’s challenge to writers to think up 30 different picture book ideas during the month of January. I participated back in 2014 when it was held in November and was called Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoldMo). The idea for Busy Feet came from that list. It was a title in a list of 34 random story ideas. When I reviewed the list and saw the title, a verse just popped into my head.

Feet wake up

Time to play.

Happy feet,

Out all day.

You’ll probably notice this is a simple rhyming verse. No learning here whatsoever. But, being the teacher that I am (or was), I couldn’t let it go at that. Could I make up verses that rhymed perfectly, that had, say…antonyms?

And there you have it—a learning book without a boring lesson. I made a long list of opposites that could be included in the book. Then I checked my rhyming dictionary to make a list of words that rhymed and would go with my opposites. (There are a tremendous number of words that rhyme! It was a very long list.) THEN, I listed all the adjectives that could describe feet and yet another list of different activities kids’ feet might do. Once I’d done all this research and list-making, putting together the verses was actually pretty easy. The final product: a simple rhyming book of fun kid activities that happens to incorporate opposites. Teaching, without teaching!

And the best part… Ori just turned two, the perfect age for Busy Feet. I was so excited when I first read it to him! It’s designed to be interactive, so his feet swung up and down, his toes wiggled, we ran fast, then slow… so much fun!!

Busy Feet scurries into the world on February 14, 2023. Here’s a new verse to herald in its book birthday:

Busy feet

want to play.

Just in time

For Valentine’s Day!


Marcia is generously giving away a signed copy of Busy Feet to one lucky person who comments on this blog post. Leave a comment by February 13th. I’ll choose a winner at random and connect them with Marcia. Winner must have a US mailing address. Good luck!

Marcia Berneger is an educator, speaker, and writer. She’s the author of three children’s books: a time travel chapter book, A Dreidel in Time: A New Twist on an Old Tale (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2019), and two picture books, Buster: The Little Garbage Truck (Sleeping Bear Press, 2015) and Busy Feet (Starry Forest Books, 2023).

A retired elementary school teacher of over 30 years, Marcia has developed many strategies for working with children of all ages and is passionate about writing stories that help children navigate their world. She’s available to share her expertise through live or virtual presentations.

In addition, as a Jewish author, Marcia is dedicated to highlighting the importance of diversity in publishing and children seeing themselves in the pages of the books they read. She often speaks about this topic and others for kidlit publications and organizations such as the Children’s Book Academy, the California School Library Association, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and

Marcia lives in San Diego, California, with her husband. You can learn more about Marcia and her books at or by following her on Twitter @marciaberneger or Facebook at #marciaberneger.

Congratulations to ALA’s 2023 Youth Media Award Winners! Here Are the Caldecott Winner and Honor Books!

The 2023 Caldecott Medal Winner

Four Caldecott Honor Books

To see the list of all the 2023 Youth Media Award winners or to watch the recorded webcast of the awards ceremony, click HERE. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Polka Dots and Book Design: How a Clever Board Book Was Conceptualized, Featuring Artist Morissa Rubin (+ a Giveaway)

Please welcome graphic designer and author/illustrator Morissa Rubin to Frog on a Blog. I absolutely love her clever new board book Dot, Dot, Polka Dot, which features colorful and fun patterns from around the world. Her eye-catching style is so unique, and the illustrations in this book are super engaging and are sure to delight your little ones as they explore 12 different patterns, from the familiar diamond shapes of argyle to the fish-like triangles of Uroko. I wanted to learn how Dot, Dot, Polka Dot was created, so I invited Morissa to give us a close-up look at her process when she designed the book. Let’s take a look!

Dot, Dot, Polka Dot is a concept board book that explores all the different types of fabric patterns found in the patchwork of a child’s quilt. Unlike narrative books that have a built-in storyline, concept books often rely on word and visual structure to carry the story forward.

Dot, Dot, Polka Dot literally came about as I aimlessly dabbed my brush on a page. As multiple dots appeared I mused to myself “dot, dot” and then “dot, dot, polka dot”. From there I thought about making other patterns with loosely painted brush strokes: stripes, plaid, calico, paisley and argyle. It was a then editor at POW! Kids Books, Jordan Nielson, who later encouraged me to explore additional patterns from around the world. Kente cloth, Molas, Batiks and Uroko triangles along with tie-dye were added in a later round of revisions.

The short phrase-like description of the first couple of patterns became the structure for the words throughout the book. The idea that these different patterns could come together to form a quilt only came after I had spent time making and looking at the different patterns. Once I had the quilt idea, I realized that as each pattern was introduced, it’s swatch could be displayed on the next spread, alongside the previously introduced pattern swatches. The repeated swatches helped connect the separate patterns and serve as an inventory of all of the patterns introduced. They help to introduce the moment when the swatches come together to make a quilt. I used a mix of gauche paint and digital tools to create the patterns, assemble pieces, and layer and mix the images.

Thanks for sharing, Morissa! I really like the clever way you were able to “join” all of the different patterns together from page to page, leading so beautifully to the incredible quilt, featuring every pattern, at the end. Folks, this book would make a great gift at holiday time or any time!


Morissa is generously offering a copy of her book Dot, Dot, Polka Dot to one lucky person! All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment on this post by December 10th. I’ll choose a winner at random and connect them with Morissa. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

Morissa Rubin is a graphic designer. Her work has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sacramento Advertising Club, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and Graphic Design USA. She received her BFA in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design and her MS from MIT’s Visible Language Workshop. She lives in Sacramento, California where she teaches typography and other design courses at UC Davis and Sacramento State University. You can follow her work on Instagram at @morissa.s.childrensbooks.

“Picture Books for Grieving Families” by Jayne Pillemer

Today is Children’s Grief Awareness Day, which is more than just a day, it’s a movement dedicated to helping support grieving children. (For more information and ways that you can help, click HERE.)

One way that we can all help grieving children is by reading comforting picture books with them, which brings me to today’s guest.

Please welcome Jayne Pillemer to Frog on a Blog! Jayne turned from editing children’s books to writing them! Her touching debut picture book Still Mine, featuring soft and lovely illustrations by Sheryl Murray, came out earlier this year from HarperCollins. Congratulations, Jayne! Still Mine introduces the topic of death in a gentle and sensitive way. Jayne’s stopped by to tell us more about her book and share her top recommended picture books for grieving families.

Let’s hear from Jayne.

Grief is incredibility difficult for anyone to navigate, young or old. Helping your child process death and work through grief may feel even more overwhelming. There can be a lot of questions that you may or may not feel you know the answer to. Sometimes, a loss just puts us at a loss for words, and we don’t know what to say or how to say it.

Books can give us adults the words, to help us open conversations with our children in a natural way.  For the child, books are an equally important resource. They give children the opportunity to see their circumstances and emotions reflected back to them and help them gain deeper understanding of what they may be feeling, thinking or seeing. For children experiencing grief for the first time, books can help them to realize that they are not alone. 

My picture book, STILL MINE, was created out of a need to tell my own young children about the death of my grandmother. I wanted to gently introduce the concept of death, and my way to do that was to juxtapose loss with something that gets to stay: Love. I knew the way I felt about my grandmother would never change, and that the special activities we did together would be memories I would not only hold in my heart forever, but would also be things I could share with my children. STILL MINE depicts several kinds of losses—a parent, a grandparent, and a friend—and carries hope for the peace that can come by embracing the permanence of love. These other picture books honor the journey of grief and support this same message that love never goes away:

One Wave at a Time by Holly Thompson, Pictures by Ashley Crowley

This beautiful story follows a boy in the wake of his father’s death and delves deeper into the emotions that come with grief: sadness, madness, fear, and hollowness. These tough feelings come in big waves, and Kai doesn’t always know which wave will tumble him. With the help of a support group, his family, and memories, Kai and his family learn together how to ride these waves as they roll in. A gentle author’s note and grief support resources round out the backmatter.

Ida, Always by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso

This gorgeously illustrated book introduces us to two adorable best friends: Ida and Gus, who live in a city zoo. Their days would not be complete without playing with one another, but one day, Ida gets sick, and the zookeeper tells Gus that Ida will die soon. Together, Ida and Gus go on a journey of preparing to be apart. “There were growling days and laughing days and days that mixed them up.” If sickness is something you are experiencing or loss is something you are preparing for, this moving story reminds us that you don’t have to see love to feel it. 

Saturdays are for Stella by Candy Wellins, illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan

Saturdays are the best days because George spends them with Grandma Stella. But when Grandma Stella suddenly dies, George doesn’t want there to be any more Saturdays. Ever. Just when George thinks he can’t take another Saturday, his sister Stella is born, and suddenly Saturdays with Stella have renewed meaning. This touching story is a beautiful way to remember that you have the power to give love, just as you once received it, and that can be healing in so many ways.

The Treasure Box by Dave Keane and Rahele Jomepour Bell

Grandpa and his granddaughter love to look for treasures. On their weekly walks, they discover all sorts of interesting things and store them in a secret box. When Grandpa gets sick, he can’t go on anymore walks, so his granddaughter brings the treasures to him. But when Grandpa dies, the girl is too sad to open the secret treasure box. It takes a long time for Grandma to come back over, but when she does, hugging and crying together help them both. So does looking for treasures that Grandpa would love. A poignant text and rich, textured illustrations make for a beautiful package and a tender story.

Molly’s Rosebush by Janice Cohn, illustrated by Gail Owens

This is an older title that can still be found at your local library or second-hand. Molly’s mother has a late-term miscarriage, and the whole family is grieving the baby that they wanted to come home. When I experienced pregnancy loss, this book was a favorite of my two older children, and inspired us to plant our own memory tree in our backyard, just like Molly’s family planted a rosebush in honor of their baby. While most books for young children deal with the death of a pet or a grandparent, this book addresses the loss of someone you are only looking forward to meeting, which is a different kind of love that is just as powerful as a love for someone you’ve already gotten to know. This book will hold a special place on our bookshelf forever, just as our tree does in our backyard.

A Kids Book About Death by Taryn Schuelke

A Kids Book About Grief by Brennan C. Wood, in partnership with Dougy Center

As a kid growing up, it felt like there were “child topics” and there were “adult topics,” and anything perceived to be an adult topic wasn’t usually discussed with kids. The A Kids Book About collection is changing that. My oldest son in particular has TONS of questions about everything and anything, especially about big words that he overhears. When I don’t know the right way to answer, I look for A Kids Book About. These books have been incredibly helpful in providing developmentally-appropriate (ages 5+) definitions and explanations on everything from Adoption to Boredom to Sexual Abuse. Reading these books has led to rich discussions and have opened the lines of communication between parent and child because these books tell children that we are allowed to talk about hard things. A Kids Book About Death clearly and directly explains what it means to be alive and what it means to be dead. It explores the various ways to die and the feelings that may come with it. It addresses why it is important to talk about death, why life is important, and how love is an element of life that continues even after death. A Kids Book About Grief is an excellent follow-up to this title, diving deeper into the emotions that arise following a death and reassuring readers that grief is normal. Just a note: the books in this series have no pictures, but the words are truly all you need! 

Jayne Pillemer is a former children’s book editor who now spends her days raising her children and writing! Her debut picture book, STILL MINE, was inspired by her Grandma Helen’s special love and was called “tender and touching” by Kirkus Reviews. Jayne lives in Harrison, New York with her husband and their three sons, who all love it when she makes Grandma Helen’s old recipes.

Up Close and Personal With Susanna L. Hill and Betsy Snyder (+ a Giveaway!)

You can alpha-bet that I’m P-U-M-P-E-D to be a stop on the ALPHABEDTIME Blog Tour! As a matter of fact, Frog on a Blog is the final stop of the tour, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome author Susanna Hill and illustrator Betsy Snyder here to wrap things up in a super enjoyable way!

To visit the other blog tour stops, click the image above!

Make sure you read the whole post because there’re lots of goodies to explore, including Susanna and Betsy’s fun, informal interview; an adorable, printable craft project for use at home or school; an awesome example of one of Betsy’s sketches with the finished illustration; Susanna’s very first book ever; and, last but not least, a giveaway of their fabulous new book Alphabedtime! Let’s go!

This is the last stop on the ALPHABLOGTIME tour! If you’re just tuning in and want to know any of the “Creation of the Book” details about Susanna’s inspiration for the book, or how Betsy approached the monumental task of creating the art, please check back to some of the earlier stops on the tour, several of which covered those topics. If you’d like to know who instigated the Alpha-Mayhem, then By Word Of Beth is the stop for you! If you are looking for activities to go with the book, they can be found at Maria Marshall’s and Laura Sassi’s. For some delicious Alphabet Cookie recipes, Little Red Story Shed with Julie Abery is the place you want to go. All the links can be found at

But here and now we’re going to get down to the nitty-gritty, the bare bones, the essential inner-workings, and give you a sneak peek at the up-close-and-personal! Just who are Susanna and Betsy?

Are you ready? Yes!

Favorite color? 

Betsy: Blue—the color that makes me think of the ocean, my happy place.

Susanna: Cornflower blue – so pretty!

What was the first book you ever wrote/illustrated and how old were you?

Betsy: I don’t remember the first “book”, but the first piece of art I remember illustrating as a child was one I titled The Invisible Lady With One Orange Leg (orange marker scribble on cardboard, age unknown). Clearly I was destined for greatness, ha!

Susanna: The Girl And The Witch (can you guess what it’s about? 🙂 ) I wrote it in 2nd grade. The decorative cover should make it clear why I do not illustrate my own books!

Favorite (bedtime) snack? 

Betsy: Buttery popcorn!

Susanna: I’m not a bedtime snacker, but for a regular snack, my favorite is a Snickers bar and Diet Coke (I know! Dreadful! But favorite means special occasion – not something I do often. Er, not too often…)

Favorite quote from a children’s book?

Betsy: “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” – The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Susanna: “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” – E.B. White, last line of Charlotte’s Web

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Betsy: Either a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld, a soap opera writer, or an artist. 

Susanna: I wanted to drive a steam roller and put my baby on the seat next to me.

What are 3 things people might not know about you? (or people might be surprised to learn?)


1. I was born in North Carolina.

2. I love to ice skate.

3. My name fits perfectly into the Itsy Bity Spider song (sing it—the itsy Betsy Snyder went up the water spout…)


1. I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee (if Alabama means New York City and banjo means piano…but I’d have to be Pippi Longstocking to actually have a piano on my knee…)

2. I know all the words to the 1970s Big Red chewing gum commercial. Also, to the Oscar Mayer jingle. . . and the Dial jingle. . . As well as the theme songs to The Love Boat, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch. . . I could go on, but I don’t want to scare you TOO much! And I wasn’t even allowed to watch TV, except for PBS! (Of course, ask me for my ATM pin number and I have to look it up – there’s only so much real estate in the brain and mine is full of meaningless nonsense!)

3. I am a lot more comfortable with dogs and horses and cats than I am with people. I’m pretty sure I was one of those three animals in a past life because I love to bask in sun puddles. 🙂

Which characters in ALPHABEDTIME remind you most of your own children? 

Betsy: S’s affinity for sharks and U running around in his underwear remind me of my spirited 5 year-old son—he has a way of making bedtime wild.

M’s magic makes me think of my 8 year-old daughter—she went through a phase where she practiced her tricks and put on magic shows.

And T’s T-Rex stuffy and Triceratops helmet are a nod to both of my dinosaur-loving kids.

Susanna: Okay. In the interest of maintaining positive relationships with my now grown children, I will not attribute names or genders to any of my choices. 🙂 But I’d say D (the noisy musician), K (the entertaining clown-around), F (the feather-boa-wearing reader), W (the quiet, serious, nonfiction reader), and Z (the dog-loving baby) grew up in my house!

Favorite stuffy/lovey as a child?

Betsy: Mr. Bear, a big stuffed polar bear that my grandma gave me. He definitely became REAL to me.

Susanna: Pink blankie

Do you have a pet, or is there a pet you wish you had?

Betsy: My family and I have a 5-month-old golden retriever puppy-monster named Penny—we adore her fluffy cuteness but fear her puppy teeth. My kids also have 2 goldfish named Golden Sun and Strawberry that are surprisingly still alive since being won at Home Days in August.

Susanna: I have two rambunctious young rescue dogs who came from bad beginnings and are still learning that the world doesn’t have to be a scary place. Their names are Finn and Violet, and if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ve seen way more of them than you probably ever wanted to! I also have a spotted pony named Hoops who technically belongs to my daughter, but I have inherited her. Lucky me! 🙂

Favorite tip/advice?

Betsy: “You do you.” I adopted this phrase after I first heard a close friend use it years ago (thanks Melissa Wolf!). It’s great advice for kids, but also for artists and writers, don’t you think?

Susanna: If you stir coconut oil into your kale, it makes it easier to scrape into the trash… 🙂 Oh. Did you mean a writing tip or advice? How about this: the joy of being a writer is that you can do anything. The story is yours. You are in charge. You can write happy or sad, quiet or exciting, mysterious or funny. Whatever mood you’re in, whatever you need in the moment, you can make it happen. And if it’s doing something good for you, it will do something good for someone who reads it.

On a more book-related note, we thought it would be fun to show you one of Betsy’s sketches together with the finished art so you could see how it transformed.

And Betsy also made a craft to go with the book, which you can use at home or in the classroom. You saw it here first, folks! 



Was this a fabulous post or what? That’s a rhetorical question because of course it was fabulous! Thank you, Susanna and Betsy! But, just when you thought you couldn’t take any more fabulousness, you’ll have to hold onto something because we have a giveaway too!! The publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, has generously offered a copy of Alphabedtime to one lucky person. To win a copy of Alphabedtime, leave a comment on this post. A winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, November 30. Susanna will send a personalized signed bookplate to go with it if the winner desires. This giveaway is open to US residents only.

Susanna L. Hill is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, including Moon’s First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship, and the award-winning author of over twenty-five more books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis, Can’t Sleep Without Sheep, and the popular When Your Lion Needs a Bath series. Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai.

She does frequent school and library visits, teaches picture book writing, and has a popular picture book blog. Susanna lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley where she practices the alphabet with her children and two rescue dogs. Find Susanna online at

Author-illustrator Betsy Snyder’s smile-inducing art can be found on everything from social expressions products, board games, plush, decor, fabric, wallpaper, and of course—books!

Since making her publishing debut, Betsy has illustrated and/or authored over twenty books, earning recognition from groups including the Society of Illustrators, The New York Times, Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine, Indie Next List, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center and Please Touch Museum. Betsy lives in northeast Ohio, where she enjoys cozying up to doodle with her art-loving family, and venturing out to schools and libraries to encourage kids (and even grown-ups) to share their stories and chase their dreams. Learn more about Betsy and her books at

Reminder: It’s Never Too Late To Go After Your Dreams

Today’s guest is multi-published illustrator Phyllis Harris. Over the years, Phyllis has illustrated many books for children, but she always dreamed of writing and illustrating her own books. Last year, at age 59, her dream came true with the publication of her beautiful Christmas picture book The Gift Shop Bear. This darling book features a magical holiday story with illustrations to match. Phyllis stopped by to remind us that it’s never too late to go after your dreams. That’s a reminder we could all use, don’t you think?

My road to publication as an author has not been a typical one.

I have worked as an illustrator in traditional children’s publishing since 1999 and have created the art for over 30 children’s books, but my debut as author-illustrator was just released last year.

Although I had written lots of first drafts of picture books through the years, I was so invested in the illustration side of publishing that I didn’t take the time needed to go after my life-long dream of creating my own books as author-illustrator. Until one day it occurred to me, I am not getting any younger so I had better get busy.

Spread from The Gift Shop Bear

Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House series, was first published at 65 years old, and I was already in my fifties. So, I made the decision to take a sabbatical from my illustration career to focus solely on the writing side.

I worked really hard on honing my craft of writing. Some might say, I became obsessed, and, as we all know, kid’s publishing is about passion and persistence.

Spread from The Gift Shop Bear

After lots of writing and re-writing and revising, I had finally created some projects that I believed were ready to submit. I was able to get an amazing agent and a year after signing on with her, my debut picture book as author-illustrator was acquired by a publisher. THE GIFT SHOP BEAR was born into the world October, 2021. What a thrill it was to hold that book in my hands!

C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” I truly believe that no matter our age, if we persevere, it will happen.

Phyllis Harris first started her career in graphic design at a newspaper while also freelancing at Hallmark Cards. She then shifted to illustration full time where she has happily continued for the past 20 years, creating the art for over 30 children’s books. In recent years, she has focused more on her writing as well as illustrating picture books. Her debut author/illustrator picture book, THE GIFT SHOP BEAR which released on October 26, 2021.

Phyllis has illustrated many different types of children’s products such as trade and mass-market books, religious and educational books, children’s games, and even rubber stamp designs. A couple of her favorites include a best-selling celebrity children’s book and a never-before-published Margaret Wise Brown book. She launched her online shop in 2012 and now has thousands of customers and collectors all over the world. Her art prints are also licensed and sold at many online retail stores including Wayfair, Overstock, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Walmart, Home Depot, and Amazon.

Phyllis is represented by Adria Goetz at P.S. Literary.


Discover the power of friendship in this nostalgic Christmas tale of a young girl and her furry friend—perfect for fans of The Velveteen Rabbit, Corduroy, and The Polar Express

All year long, Bear watches from his spot in the attic as the seasons change, waiting for the first snowflakes that signify Christmas is coming. You see, at Christmastime, Bear gets to join his special friend, Annie, in the festivities in her grandma’s gift shop. But this year is different–the gift shop is closing and Bear’s future seems uncertain. Will Bear see Annie and Nana again? The heartwarming conclusion will make this story a family favorite at Christmastime each year. Author-illustrator Phyllis Harris brings a warmth and coziness to her art and storytelling that give the book the timeless feel of a Christmas classic.

Interview Alert: Laura Sassi

I’m thrilled to welcome multi-published children’s book author Laura Sassi back to Frog on a Blog! Laura first appeared here in 2018 when we were a stop on her blog tour for her beautiful picture book Love is Kind, when she introduced us to Little Owl, her story time puppet. Read about how Laura uses puppets to engage young readers HERE. Laura’s returned today to share a bit about herself and her darling new board book Happy Birthday, Christmas Child!: A Counting Nativity Book, which published on October 4, just in time for Christmas shopping. I had the pleasure of viewing the digital arc, and this book is so, so special. Let’s hear more about it from Laura!

Q. You were a teacher before becoming a children’s author. Do you think your experience as a teacher has helped you in your writing career?

L.S.: Absolutely! There’s nothing quite like teaching elementary school to immerse a future author into the world of writing for children. As a teacher, I pored over each text so I could engagingly teach my kids about the many wonders of storytelling including setting, mood, plot, character development, theme and more. I also decided early on that, just like my students, I would keep a daily writer’s journal. For fun, I often assigned myself the same writing projects I gave them. All this helped to lay a great foundation to the daily discipline and nitty-gritty of writing, revising and polishing my own work.

Q. What do you love most about picture books?

L.S.: The storyteller in me loves the magical way picture books use both words and images to tell a complete story. Neither is complete without the other and the result, when well done, is vibrant and interactive because readers must engage with both for the full reading experience. I also love the size and feel of picture books. They are just perfect for reading with a little one by your side or in your lap, and there’s nothing more magical than that.

Q. Your books often feature feel-good messages of kindness, friendship, hope, and love. How important are those themes to you? And what inspires your writing?

L.S.: When I look over all the stories, poems and articles I’ve written over the last twenty years, I do see common messages of kindness, friendship, hope and love. Other themes that have woven their way in include perseverance, forgiveness, and telling the truth even when it’s difficult. I consider these to be important seeds of good living that were planted in me by my parents. They are themes that I hope to pass on to my own children – as well as the children I write for. I’m delighted to say that I see these seeds blossoming in young children everywhere, and that inspires me to keep writing.

Q. Tell us about your beautiful new book Happy Birthday, Christmas Child!. Why did you decide to make it a counting book? And was it always intended to be a board book?

L.S.: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISTMAS CHILD! invites children and their families to join Mary and Joseph as they wait for Jesus to be born. It’s inspired by a favorite Christmas verse from Luke 2:19 that describes Mary’s wonder as she pondered the events surrounding the birth of Christ. Similarly, I hope that by infusing counting into HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISTMAS CHILD!, littlest readers and their caregivers will slow down, explore, count and marvel with Mary and Joseph as they await this special birth. And, yes, I envisioned it from the beginning as a board book, perfect for even the tiniest hands to hold.

Q. Gabi Murphy’s illustrations are so bright and cheery and complement your joyful, rhyming text so perfectly. How did you feel when you saw the completed book for the first time?

L.S.: I have been blessed with wonderful illustrators for each of my books and Gabi Murphy just continues that blessing! I love her bright and joyful rendering to the text and love each and every spread. I felt JOY when I saw the completed book for the very first time, JOY and ANTICIPATION, not just for the book’s release, but also for Christmas, which is one of my favorite times of year.

Q. Where can fans connect with you online?

L.S.: I would love for readers to check out my newly renovated website and blog – Laura Sassi Tales – and follow me there for weekly fun in your inbox. I also love connecting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @LauraSassitales! (Same handle for all three.)

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers? What’s next for Laura Sassi?

L.S.: Well, in the fun planting seeds category, I’m delighted to share that I have two dear-to-my-heart books releasing in 2023. The first, MY TENDER HEART BIBLE, is a rhyming board book that includes 12 of my favorite bible stories that point to God’s love, releasing with Paraclete Press in February. Then in Fall 2023, I’m looking forward to the release of MY TENDER HEART PRAYER BOOK, a collection of 24 short rhyming prayers to take a child through the day and foster conversations with God. And beyond that? Hmm… good things, I hope.

Congratulations, Laura! We can’t wait to see your new books and the many more to follow!

Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of multiple books for young children including the best-selling Goodnight, Ark, which was a 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist; Goodnight, Manger; Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, which is a 2021-2022 Iowa Goldfinch Award Nominee; Love Is Kind, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book; Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep, Bunny Finds Easter, and Happy Birthday, Christmas Child!, her new counting board book. Laura’s Tender Heart Bible and Tender Heart Prayer Book are both forthcoming in 2023 from Paraclete Press.

Laura had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She’s been a homeschool mom, children’s ministry director, historic museum interpreter, and more. She writes daily from her home in New Jersey and finds special joy in pointing kids to God and to good through story and sharing her love of reading and writing at school visits, church gatherings and other events.

Understanding Ourselves and Others: 11 Social-Emotional Learning Books for Back-to-School by Lisa Rogers

I’m excited to welcome fellow literacy supporter and animal lover Lisa Rogers to Frog on a Blog today! Lisa is a children’s librarian turned children’s book author and has published several books with several more on the way. It’s no surprise that she loves books and reading and writing “from the shores of a pond outside of Boston, Massachusetts (and sometimes from on the pond itself, where I kayak almost every day in summer).” Lisa stopped by today to share 11 beautiful recent social-emotional learning picture books that are perfect for back-to-school time. This is a must-read post!

Back to school is an excellent time to introduce children to books that support their social-emotional learning. During this transition to the school year, that support can help children as they develop routines, negotiate new friendships, adapt to new environments, and understand expectations.

It’s not simply a matter of putting on a backpack and being ready to learn. Each part of the day – waking up on time, gathering school materials, getting out the door, lining up at school, unpacking that backpack, finding one’s cubby, choosing a seat on the bus or at the lunch table, working with new partners, having a different teacher – can be filled with ups and downs that challenge a child’s sense of self and equilibrium.

Picture books give children an opportunity to see, understand, and respect themselves and others during what can be a vulnerable time. Here are 11 books to share at home and school with suggestions for related activities.

Every year on the first day of school, I sat, fraught with worry, anticipating that the teacher would mispronounce my name and that my classmates would laugh. Saying someone’s name correctly shows caring, respect and affirmation, and that models that for everyone. Hearing a child’s name mispronounced inspired educator Jamila Thompkins-Bigelow to write YOUR NAME IS A SONG, illustrated by Luisa Uribe and published by The Innovation Press in 2020. “Names are songs. Sing your name,” says Kora-Jalimuso’s momma. And so she sings her classmates’ names, her teacher’s name, and her own in this book of affirmation and respect. Children will enjoy singing their own names and those of their classmates!

Children’s multifaceted personalities are met with understanding in WHAT I AM written and illustrated by Divya Srinivasan (Viking, 2021). Her main character might be shy at first, then reluctant to leave a party, have dark skin compared to some friends and light compared to others, is sometimes mean and selfish, other times kind and generous.” We must take care never to doubt our own worth,” the author says in a note.  “Each of us is a unique, priceless, vital part of this world.” To extend the experience of reading this book, young readers might draw or write about facets of their personalities.

At age 3, my daughter put together her own dollhouse using Allen wrenches. Upending gender stereotypes and celebrating individual preferences is the theme of EXCEPT WHEN THEY DON’T by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Joshua Heinsz (Little Bee Books, 2019). The takeaway: “Be exactly who you are.” Children might discuss their own preferences in dress, in work, and in play.

Taking pride in one’s heritage and understanding that love is what connects us is the focus of WHERE ARE YOU FROM? by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jaime Kim (Harper, 2019). When other children ask the main character where she’s from, she asks her abuelo to help her answer, because “like me, he looks like he doesn’t belong.” Abuelo’s answer will surprise readers and inspire them to talk about their own loved ones. Teachers might also use the text as a model for a whole classroom poem or individual poems about families.

Lots of family moves take place over the summer, so it’s natural for children to feel sad at not seeing those friends when they go back to school. GOODBYE FRIEND, HELLO FRIEND, written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld (Dial, 2019), shows the many losses that children experience can be balanced with some very joyful hellos. This book could be used as a wonderful model for a group-generated poem on goodbyes and hellos.

A little support and love helps Magnolia thrive in APPLE AND MAGNOLIA by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Patricia Metola (Flyaway Books, 2022). Though sometimes making an extra effort to reach out might not seem worth the trouble, this lovely book validates the importance of caring and kindness. In a short author’s note, Gehl notes the ways in which trees actually do help each other. Young readers will be able to note the parallels between Apple and Magnolia and themselves.

With the change of pace, new experiences, and full schedules that back-to-school brings, HURRY UP! A BOOK ABOUT SLOWING DOWN by Kate Dopirak, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (Beach Lane, 2020) is a reminder that taking time to enjoy the world around us can bring calm and delight. Children can follow the main character’s lead in slowing down, paying attention to the big and small worlds around them, and finding a peaceful end to each day. Children might brainstorm ways to make their lives less stressful or add beauty through observation.

Everyone learns differently. In Jamilah Thompson-Bigelow’s ABDUL’S STORY, illustrated by Tiffany Rose (Salaam Reads, 2022), Abdul loves to tell stories but has difficulty with forming letters and with spelling. Encouraged by a visiting writer who shows Abdul his own mistake-filled writing, Abdul perseveres and writes a story of which he’s proud. This book is a natural conversation starter about understanding learning differences and the importance of compassion, encouragement, and not giving up.

Hugs are a great way to show affection (or were until the pandemic hit) but not everyone likes them. The main character in DON’T HUG DOUG by Carrie Finison, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman (Putnam, 2021) good-naturedly explains that he doesn’t like hugs. This book models ways to politely but firmly decline unwanted shows of affection. Children could discuss their likes and dislikes and share their preferences with their friends and classmates and try out the myriad of fun high-fives depicted in the book.

Learning how to handle one’s emotions is important at home and at school. The premise of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR PET BRAIN by Nelly Buchet, illustrated by Amy Jindra (Beaming Books, 2022) is that your brain is like a pet: it can get into some tough situations, but with some planning and practice, you can teach your brain to acknowledge the feeling, balance your emotions, and find calm. A fun and practical approach that can be modeled in the classroom and at home.

In BE KIND by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hill (Roaring Brook Press, 2018), a child considers what it means to reach out with and support others, how difficult that can be, and the ways that small acts of kindness can make a difference. Children would enjoy thinking of ways they could be kind, and recounting the ways in which others’ kindnesses have made a difference in their own lives.

Lisa Rogers is a Boston-area longtime elementary school library teacher who now writes full-time. Her debut picture book, 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW,” illustrated by Chuck Groenink (Schwartz & Wade, 2019), received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, is a Bank Street Best Children’s Book, a Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice, a Junior Library Guild selection, an ALSC Notable Books shortlist book, and winner of the Boston Authors Club Julia Ward Howe Award and the Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award.

HOUND WON’T GO, a rhyming picture book illustrated by Meg Ishihara (Albert Whitman, 2020), is a 2021Massachusetts Must-Read book. She has two poems in FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN (Writers’ Loft Press, 2020) and a poem in the forthcoming IF THIS PUDDLE COULD TALK (Candlewick, 2024) edited by Irene Latham and Charles Waters. DISCOVER HER ART: WOMEN ARTISTS AND THEIR MASTERPIECES, coauthored with Jean Leibowitz, (Chicago Review Press, 2022) features the lives and paintings of 24 women artists. Five forthcoming picture book biographies are to be announced. Find her at or @LisaLJRogers on Twitter and Instagram.

Happy Book Birthday to BRAINSTORM! by Rebecca Gardyn Levington!

Title: Brainstorm!

Author: Rebecca Gardyn Levington

Illustrator: Kate Kronreif

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Release Date: August 3, 2022

Format: Hardcover

Summary: When it’s time to write in class, one child feels like she has absolutely nothing to say. But suddenly—ker-plink!—one drop, one tiny thought, hits her. Before long, she’s caught in a shower of funny phrases, a whirlwind of adjectives and verbs, and a downpour of huge ideas. BOOM, CRASH! It’s a gigantic brainstorm of creativity for her to soak up and play in!

BRAINSTORM! is targeted to children in grades K-3, who are beginning to learn how to shape and sharpen their idea-generation and storytelling skills. It includes writing prompts and a glossary to help parents, teachers, and librarians encourage kids to have fun playing with new ideas.

Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.

Heartwarming Picture Books about Sibling Relationships by Debra Westgate-Silva

I’m happy to welcome children’s book author Debra Westgate-Silva to Frog on a Blog! Debra’s delightful picture book Bethlehem Barn published just last year. She’s worked in public education for many years, as well as in child advocacy and welfare. Debra’s stopped by today with a fabulous list of some of her favorite sibling-themed picture books. I love this list! Let’s hear more from Debra!

Debra Westgate-Silva is a middle child and the mother of twins.  She is the author of Bethlehem Barn, a picture book retelling of the Christmas nativity story from a new point of view–the animals themselves!  Her work has been published in Highlights Children’s Magazine and Teaching Tolerance.  She’d love to hear about your favorite sibling books.  Connect with Deb on Facebook, Instagram, or through her website

You can support authors by leaving book reviews and by asking your local library to carry their books.  Bethlehem Barn is available for purchase at,, and  

“Finding the Funny” by Jennifer Buchet + PB Critique Giveaway!

I’m thrilled to feature children’s book author Jennifer Buchet on Frog on a Blog today! Her book Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma is just so clever and is gorgeously illustrated by Cassie Chancy. When I spoke with Jennifer about writing a guest post, she suggested sharing how she was able to turn a notorious villain into a funny character, and I absolutely loved that idea. If you’re a picture book writer, you’re sure to find her story illuminating. Be sure to read to the end for information about winning a picture book manuscript or query critique. Take it away, Jennifer!

When I drafted my first picture book, Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, I faced a huge challenge, Not just acing the pacing, not just perfecting the word count, but how do I NOT scare away my audience when writing about one of the most famous villains in history!

The answer: I try to make them laugh!

Let’s face it. Kids dig humor. Adults dig humor, too! People love to laugh and bonus, it’s good for you!

When it comes to writing picture books, humor can be a key element both for your intended audience (the littles) and their readers (the adults—after all, you want them to enjoy reading your book again and again and again!) And when kids laugh, we all laugh!

The original Medusa is known for being a hideous, horrendous villain, turning everyone to stone. I wanted my readers to laugh, not exactly cry with each page turn! So I had to turn my story ideas around and look at different angles and possibilities.

Right away I decided to make my main character, Little Medusa, a descendant of the original mythological meanie. This allowed me a lot more wriggle—and giggle—room.

Since I’m not a natural at writing humor, I read a lot of humorous mentor texts. I also researched how to craft funny kidlit. There are so many varieties of funny, it’s like trying to choose one flavor of ice cream out of forty drool-worthy flavors! There’s fun with fear, gross funny, sarcasm and wit, visual humor, parodies, and etc. But which way was right for me?

I also had to choose what role humor would play in my story. A well-timed laugh? An insightful character glimpse? Moving the arc forward? I wanted my audience to root for Little Medusa, to laugh with her, not always at her.

So I placed her in situations that not only revealed humorous physical challenges (the outer loop of the story), but also situations that exposed emotional conflicts (the inner tale).

The result of all this hard work? I gave Little Medusa a massive pythonic problem! A Gorgon girl who loves snakes, but can’t stand having them slither through her hair. Once she receives her very first serpentine friend, she begins questioning if she really wants to turn people to stone with a stare! Using her imagination, heart and smarts, Little Medusa does her very best to please her family, her snake and herself.

Bringing humor into your writing isn’t always easy, nor is it always fun at first! It’s actually a lot of hard work. But if you do your research and try different styles, you just may find that perfect punchline!

Awesome! Thanks so much, Jennifer! Folks, if you haven’t yet read Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, I encourage you to look for it. You won’t be disappointed.

Giveaway Alert!

Jennifer is kindly offering a free picture book manuscript critique up to 600 words (non-rhyming) or a query critique. To be eligible to win, please comment below, and share this blog on social media, tagging both Jennifer and myself, to earn extra chances. I will choose a winner at random on July 31. Good luck!

Jennifer Buchet is an award-winning author and pre-kindergarten educator. She is a feature contributor for Faces magazine while also creating new picture books and chapter books.

An easy way to support an author is to leave Book Reviews and ask your Local Library to carry their books! Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma is available for purchase at:, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

You can swap tales and puns with Jennifer here: