LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour + Giveaway -AND Introducing Little Owl

I adore picture books that highlight the themes of love and kindness. That’s why it’s my great pleasure to be a stop on Laura Sassi’s LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour. Readers, this book is incredibly sweet (and I don’t mean because it includes a little something about a box of chocolates), and the ending (which I won’t give away) is darling. Speaking of darling, check out the cover of LOVE IS KIND, featuring Little Owl, the star of the book.

Love is kind cover

And, guess what? You get to meet Little Owl, the brand new story time puppet, right here on Frog on a Blog! Hello Little Owl!

Little Owl

Laura’s stopped by today to talk about how she uses puppets to enhance the story time experience and engage her young audience, and how you can too. Little Owl will soon be joining her on her author visits.

MEET LITTLE OWL: Using Puppets to Engage Young Readers

I started using puppets with the release of my very first book. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in that book, and thinking that my very youngest readers might not be familiar with the species, I thought having a pair of skunk puppets would be an engaging way to introduce the story. The former teacher (and crowd control freak) in me, also thought skunk puppets might be a friendly way to help young audiences settle down before and during the reading since, as you know, skunks are notorious for making a big stink if they get startled.

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Those skunks became such an integral part of author visits, that I decided to incorporate puppets into the author visits for every one of my books – skunks for GOODNIGHT ARK, a rooster for GOODNIGHT MANGER, a seal and mouse for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, and now, for LOVE IS KIND, my newest release, a darling little owl.

Now, in celebration of sharing books with little ones, here are TEN tried-and-true tips for using puppets to enhance a story time experience.

Before the story time.

1. Pick a puppet that fits the book. The puppet you choose can either be a protagonist, like my seal, mouse and owl, or minor characters such as my skunks and rooster. The most important thing is that you have a good reason for picking that puppet – a reason that enhances your story time.  For example, the skunks are useful in introducing an important and fun subplot in GOODNIGHT, ARK.  (They are hiding under the bed in every spread until – at last – they make a big stink that’s important to the resolution of the story.) And that rooster, while very minor to GOODNIGHT, MANGER, becomes a fun and engaging way to introduce the concept of loud vs. quiet voices when putting a baby to bed.

Rooster

2. Play… and plan ahead of time! This is probably obvious, but it’s worth spending time in advance putting together a little stand-up routine for you and your puppet.  This is your chance to tap into your inner comedian.  The more you ham it up, the more the kids will love it! 

3. Practice your ventriloquist skills. There are two ways to use your puppet. Either you can just talk with it and it can shyly nod, react etc., OR you can have that puppet actually converse with you, or “cock-a-doodle-doo” as my rooster does and SING as that darling Diva Delores loves to do! If you decide to have them speak, then I’d recommend practicing your ventriloquist skills in front of a mirror ahead of time.

During the story time.

4. Use your puppets to break the ice. If you are a little shy, like me, then you’ll probably agree that mingling is easier with a buddy.  In that awkward “before the story time officially begins” period, I’ve discovered that EVERYBODY enjoys a little mingling with the author and her storytelling companion – especially when it’s a cute stuffed animal puppet.

5. Have your puppets help introduce the story.  This takes a little planning ahead of time (see step 2), but a short puppet routine is a great way to introduce the themes of your story, any special concepts, or just to get the kids excited.  For DIVA DELORES, for example, my seal puppet likes to sing for the audience so they can hear what opera sounds like. Then she invites them to join along in singing the refrain that appears on certain spreads in the book.  I haven’t finalized exactly what Little Owl is going to do before I read LOVE IS KIND, but it will surely have something to do with kindness and love.

Diva Delores

6. Have the children model for the puppets what “good listening” looks like before you read.  It’s amazing how eager young readers are to engage with the puppets, and I’ve discovered over time that little ones especially like the opportunity to model for my puppets what good listeners look like.  So, I have THEM show the puppets what it looks like to sit quietly with eyes on reader, ready to be read to. (I also use those skunks to my advantage (see intro)). 

7. Use your puppets to engage young readers in some post-reading ponderings. After my readings, I like for the kids to reflect with me on what the characters in the story learned and I’ve found that involving the puppets in the process is effective and popular. For example, after reading GOODNIGHT, MANGER we ponder what made the difference in getting Baby Jesus to sleep.  (The answer has to do with creating a quiet, peaceful atmosphere). Then, together, we see if we can teach our very NOISY rooster to do a quiet cock-a-doodle-doo.  If he learns well, we invite him to join as we sing a final lullaby to Baby Jesus. For LOVE IS KIND, I think I will have Little Owl help me select volunteers to share their post-reading thoughts by looking with me for participants who are showing kindness by being good listeners with each other during our post book chat.

8. Include your puppets in the story time farewell.  This can be very motivational if your audience is getting antsy because you can promise your young participants that if they hold on just a little longer, then they can pet and hug the visiting puppet!  They love this!  And I am just charmed by how many “I love yous” each puppet has so gently received over the last four years since I first started using puppets.

After the story time.

9. Have a puppet de-briefing session with yourself. After each story time, I find it helpful to evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and what I could do next time to make that puppet even more integral to my story time. For example, it wasn’t until I had done a few story times in that I decided to have my GOODNIGHT, ARK skunk puppets engage my audience in a little quiet “thumbs up” challenge.  But it worked so well, that now, at every GOODNIGHT, ARK story time, my skunk puppets challenge the audience to quietly put “thumbs up” as soon as they spot the skunks on each spread – which makes for a nice set up to the stinky climax! 

Skunk2

10. Most important:  HAVE FUN!  Yes, let’s not forget this last important tip. If you are having fun, it will be contagious!

Thank you for having me, Lauri, and I hope my love for puppets inspires others to experiment with incorporating something new into their story times as well.


Hurrah for puppets! And what a fun post! I wonder if that monkey puppet is still around that I had when I was a kid. Hmm…


Folks, don’t forget to check out the other stops on the LOVE IS KIND tour. 

Love is KInd Blog Tour Schedule

Giveaway

ZonderKidz, the publisher of LOVE IS KIND, has generously agreed to give away a copy of the book to one U.S. blog reader. Just leave a comment here to be entered to win. A winner will be chosen at random on September 30. Be sure to follow Frog on a Blog so that I can contact you if you win.

Thank you Laura and ZonderKidz!

Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones Blog Tour: Schiffer Publishing

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Welcome to Day #7 of the “Sticks ‘N Stones” Blog Tour

To celebrate the release of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones, written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content about this humorous tall tale and giving away chances to win a copy of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones.

Pete Schiffer, the publisher at Schiffer Publishing, and Tracee Groff, the head of Schiffer Kids, the children’s books division there, talked about how Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones strengthens the company’s fall lineup.

Q: Can you talk about Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones? How does this book fit into today’s market for children’s nonfiction and STEAM learning?

[Tracee] Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones is a spin on the infamous feud between fossil hunters Edward D. Cope and O. Charles Marsh. Author Ted Enik’s witty rhymes and G.F. Newland’s wonderfully crafted illustrations introduce children of all ages to the Bone Wars and the contributions these two men brought to the field of paleontology and their universities. Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones is a strong addition to our STEAM-inspired lineup this fall as Schiffer has a long history of publishing in the natural and historical sciences. Children love to discover dinosaurs, and they remain fascinated by them. Enik and Newland capture this love of discovery in the pages of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones, presenting a rivalry that teaches while entertaining, making this book an ideal fit for today’s market.

Q: Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones was published in 2013 by Pixel Mouse House, a small New York City firm. Why did Schiffer decide to publish it again with Pixel Mouse House?

[Pete] Our partnership with Pixel Mouse House is based in building on the strengths of both organizations. Including Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones as one of the first titles in our new partnership is designed to re-launch an award-winning book into the global distribution network to connect with a broader audience. Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones is a wonderful book and the beginning of a series that we feel will be a fun way of teaching unique stories from our past.

Q: What other books are being co-published with this company? Why is Schiffer co-publishing with this New York company? Is this part of your new focus on children’s books at Schiffer? Tell us about this new focus on children’s books.

[Tracee] Schiffer Publishing is partnering with Pixel Mouse House on three ventures this season. Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones is one and the other two are Unraveling Rose by Brian Wray with illustrations by Shiloh Penfield and Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum, written and illustrated by Carolyn Bracken. Pixel Mouse House brings to Schiffer Kids top writers and illustrators in the field of children’s literature. Our partnership was conceived from a mutual desire to grow and develop our newly expanded children’s book line.

Unraveling Rose is a beautifully illustrated story written to help children and families understand obsessive thoughts and behaviors, and how to stop them from getting in the way of enjoying everyday life. Brian Wray uses soft imagery allowing families to tackle tough issues in a way that relates to young children.

Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum teaches children about art and design. Bracken introduces us to Mr. Owliver, a night watchman for the Animaltown Art Museum, and his whimsical world of famous masterpieces like the “Mona Lizard” and Auguste Wrenoir’s “The Loge.” The story of how Mr. Owliver comes to find that all the characters have disappeared from their frames is an engaging glimpse into the world of art history. In addition, the book includes a glossary listing the origins and artists of the paintings in the book and an art history timeline perfect for any burgeoning art history major.

Q: Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones is the first in the Unhinged History book series. Will Schiffer publish more books from the series? Do you plan to publish more children’s books by Ted Enik or other children’s books illustrated by G.F. Newland?

[Tracee] Ted and G.F. are working on finalizing the next book in the Unhinged History book series featuring another infamous rivalry, this time racing to the bottom of the sea. Stay tuned for more details!

[Pete] We do plan to work with both Ted Enik and G.F. Newland on future projects and are discussing several new projects. There are many creative ideas that these two can bring to life to educate and inspire the next generation.

Q: Tell us about Schiffer Publishing, its history, and its mission?    

[Tracee] Our children’s book category has a long history rich in regional favorites like Chadwick the Crab and Lobsters on the Loose as well as the perennial classics The Future Architect’s Handbook, Change the World Before Bedtime, and The Angry Little Puffin. Our mission is to continue to produce timely and curated Chesapeake Bay regional titles while ramping up an expansion of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) learning. We are delighted to present our new mascot, Amelia. Amelia, like the Boston Terriers who came before her on the book farm, is a lively, smart, and affectionate girl who is enthusiastic to learn. She is leading the way at Schiffer Kids by announcing our new STEAM initiative in the 2017 children’s book catalog.

[Pete] Schiffer Publishing was founded in 1974 on our family farm with the aim to educate collectors about the things that they love. Over the years, we have focused on creating publications that serve readers’ passions and unique interests while providing new information and inspiration. This idea has lead us to develop a diverse publishing program where we focus on subjects that people care about deeply and develop their knowledge with over 6,000 titles in print. Our children’s books complement many of the areas we know well and are an extension of this philosophy to look for and serve people’s unique passions while educating them.

More About Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones:

This first book in Ted Enik and G.F Newland’s “Unhinged History” series is a ripping yarn – full of adventure and deceit – that brings to life the best-known public spat in all of paleontology: the bitter rivalry between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh that became known as “The Bone Wars.” Lively and witty rhymes plus beautifully demented illustrations by Newland reveal how the paleontologists’ infamous rivalry began and how their mutual obsession with outdoing and ruining one another spun out of control.

Sticks n stones blog tour authors

About the Author

Ted Enik has worked as an illustrator for most of the well-known New York publishing houses, applying his versatility to both original art as well as classic and current children’s book characters, including the Magic School Bus, the Eloise books, and the popular “Fancy Nancy I Can Read” series. This is the first picture book Ted has authored. It was first published in 2013 by Pixel Mouse House, New York, and honored as a Finalist in the American Book Fest’s 2014 Best Children’s Nonfiction and a Finalist in American Book Fest’s 2014 International Book Award for Best Children’s Nonfiction. Learn more about his books and his illustration at tedenik.com.

About the Illustrator

G.F. Newland is a part-time illustrator and the systems administrator at the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY. His doodles have found their way onto buttons, bags, posters, and T-shirts, and have been published by Scholastic, Hachette, and Pixel Mouse House. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and a pet fish named Enki. Visit his website at gfnewland.com.

Schedule of Blog Tour

November 6Can You Read Me a Story?

November 7A Fuse #8 Production

November 8: Books My Kids Read

November 9Rockin’ Book Reviews

November 10Kid Lit 411

November 11Shelf Employed

November 12Frog on a Blog

Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones Blog Tour

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I’m pleased to report that Frog on a Blog has been invited to take part in a blog tour for Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones. Here’s more information about the book and the tour:

To celebrate the release of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones, written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content about this humorous tall tale and giving away chances to win a copy of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones.

This first book in Ted Enik and G.F Newland’s “Unhinged History” series is a ripping yarn – full of adventure and deceit – that brings to life the best-known public spat in all of paleontology: the bitter rivalry between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh that became known as “The Bone Wars.” Lively and witty rhymes plus beautifully demented illustrations by Newland reveal how the paleontologists’ infamous rivalry began and how their mutual obsession with outdoing and ruining one another spun out of control.

Schedule of Blog Tour

November 6: Can You Read Me a Story?

November 7: A Fuse #8 Production

November 8: Books My Kids Read

November 9: Rockin’ Book Reviews

November 10: Kid Lit 411

November 11: Shelf Employed

November 12: Frog on a Blog

Sticks n stones blog tour authors

About the Author

Ted Enik has worked as an illustrator for most of the well-known New York publishing houses, applying his versatility to both original art as well as classic and current children’s book characters, including the Magic School Bus, the Eloise books, and the popular “Fancy Nancy I Can Read” series. This is the first picture book Ted has authored. It was first published in 2013 by Pixel Mouse House, New York, and honored as a Finalist in the American Book Fest’s 2014 Best Children’s Nonfiction and a Finalist in American Book Fest’s 2014 International Book Award for Best Children’s Nonfiction. Learn more about his books and his illustration at tedenik.com.

About the Illustrator

G.F. Newland is a part-time illustrator and the systems administrator at the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY. His doodles have found their way onto buttons, bags, posters, and T-shirts, and have been published by Scholastic, Hachette, and Pixel Mouse House. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and a pet fish named Enki. Visit his website at gfnewland.com.


Stop back on November 12 to read an interview with Pete Schiffer, the publisher at Schiffer Publishing, and Tracee Groff, the head of Schiffer Kids. They’ll be discussing how Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones fits into their fall lineup.

And don’t forget to visit all of the blogs on the tour!

Trucks On Tour (plus a Giveaway)

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Can trucks be adorable? They can if they’re the hard-working, road-building crew from Susanna Leonard Hill and Erica Sirotich’s new picture book THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT, set to be released on July 25. In this fun rhyming story, readers may recognize a familiar rhythm, that of the classic nursery rhyme THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT. I’ve asked Susanna to talk a little bit about the process of taking something familiar and turning it into something fresh and new.

truckscover

Making Cinnamon Drop Rainbow Raisin Surprise Out Of Gruel

(or, how to take something old and tired (and in the case of gruel, kind of disgusting 🙂 ) and make it fresh, exciting and new!)

by Susanna Leonard Hill

“Mom!” your horde hollers. (Or Dad – I’m not gender stereotyping, just writing from my own point of view… more on that in a minute 🙂 )  “What’s for dinner?”

“Chicken,” you answer.  (Or veggie burgers, pasta, chili, pork chops, soup and salad, salmon, beef stew, or burritos…)

“Not again,” the horde whines.  (Because – as you all know – the only good answer to this question is pizza.  Everything else is old and boring and only to be tolerated because it’s better than starving to death, a danger the horde feels to be imminent every evening!)

You bristle.

You shopped and washed and chopped and diced and put time and effort into a delicious and nutritious meal for them – time you could have spent writing! – and for what?

Ingrates!

You’d think you’d offered them watered-down gruel!

Looking down into their pathetic Dickensian faces – “Only gruel, mum?  Please, mum!  Mightn’t we have something better?” – it dawns on you that there’s another way of serving up dinner.

(And no, it’s not hiring a personal chef or feeding the children out of a trough in the back yard… although both options are tempting 🙂 )

Uh, Susanna?  (I hear you interrupt.)  Do you have a point?  We’re supposed to be talking about writing, not gruel!

Why, yes, in fact, I do. 🙂

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that there are no new stories.

This is a daunting statement if you’re a writer.

Really!

If there are no new stories, what are we supposed to write?

As with the age-old question of what’s for dinner, there may not be anything new… but it’s all in how you serve it up!

Gruel takes on a whole new interest, meaning, and desirability if you put in your own dash of this and pinch of that and present it as Cinnamon Drop Rainbow Raisin Surprise, or Banana Berry Blast Supreme!  Suddenly the horde is front and center at the table, eager to partake.

So it is with writing.

Perhaps it’s true that there are no new stories.  (Perhaps not, but that’s a debate for another time.  The point is it can often feel true when you sit down to write.)

But just because something has been done before, whether it’s peanut butter and jelly or a picture book about bedtime, doesn’t mean that you can’t put a whole new spin on it.

Your spin.

Believe it or not, no one else will tell a story exactly the way you do because you are unique.  You come at everything from your own point of view.  (I told you we’d get back to that in a minute. 🙂 )

You bring your own unique combination of feelings, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, memories, experience, and dreams to everything you write.  As a result, I could ask 20 of you to write a bedtime story and I would get 20 new and different stories.  They might be similar in concept, but the execution would be unique to the individual – from who you choose as characters, to what the precise problem or goal is in relation to bedtime, to how you resolve the story, to your choice of language and mood.

Because of this, we can take things that have been done before and make them new – turn the familiar into the fresh and fun.

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Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich
Used by permission of Little Simon

When my son was little, he loved heavy equipment.  We read a lot of books about big trucks.  Most of them simply pictured and described the trucks and what they were used for, or showed them on a road going somewhere.

I wanted to do something different.

I wanted to show how a group of trucks could work together to build a house, or a road, or something…  That was me.  Something that came from me. My experience of reading with my son.  My own fascination with heavy equipment.  My own interest in how things work.

My story would be a story – not just a description – and it would be about the trucks, of course, but also about the process of building and about teamwork.

I made a list of the vehicles I might potentially include.

I mucked about with a number of different openings.

I played with which trucks to use and how to include them.

And I thought to myself, what is the best way to tell this story?

And out of nowhere, like a tickle of memory, a sequence of notes that conjures up a familiar song, I thought, a sequence story… like THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT!

Without even really realizing it, I was taking something familiar (THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT) and making it something new – making it mine.

Someone else would have written this story a different way.  They wouldn’t have thought about sequence, or it wouldn’t have occurred to them that THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT would make a perfect vehicle (hahaha) for a story about trucks building a road.

But other people have certainly had the same idea with different topics.  Have you read THIS IS THE STAR? or, THE TREE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT? or any one of a number of other stories based on the familiar rhyme but encompassing different stories, characters and ideas?

Someone else might have started with THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT but used it to frame a story about filling a picnic basket because they had a family tradition of picnics every Sunday after church.  Or they might have used it to frame a story about building a car because of their race car-obsessed daughter… or anything else under the sun.

I came to the rhyme a little bit round about, but lots of people start with it, or some other familiar rhyme, song, or story.

For example, THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY.

Writers with unique perspectives and ideas wrote THERE WAS AN OLD MONSTER, and THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT, and THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED SOME BOOKS… and many others.  What character could you put in that story and what would they swallow and why?

Fractured fairy tales fall into this category as well – picture books abound that are based on the THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, and GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS, among others, all of them entertaining and delightful.  Those stories are familiar frameworks – scaffolding upon which to build something new, different, and fun.

Iza Trapani has made a career out of starting with familiar Mother Goose rhymes and spinning them into wonderful creative new stories that expand the original to new heights and depths.  That’s a whole other field of familiar you can cultivate into something new.

Give it a try today!

Start with something we all know:

The House That Jack Built

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly

She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain

Hansel And Gretel

There Was A Crooked Man

Little Boy Blue

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Eensy, Weensy Spider…

…or any other fairy tale, song, or nursery rhyme that appeals to you.

Change the characters or the setting.

Give the character a different problem, goal or challenge.

Put the story in a different format – cumulative or parallel instead of classic or circular.

Or take a manuscript of yours that hasn’t worked right just yet and see what happens if you put it into one of these shapes.  What if you tried working your story about a stray dog into a Jack And The Beanstalk tale?

There are so many ways to freshen the familiar!  And whatever you choose will be unique to you.

Take that old gruel and add a spoonful of cinnamon, and a handful of black raisins, golden raisins, and cranberry raisins and voila!  Instead of boring old gruel that no one wants, you have Cinnamon Drop Rainbow Raisin Surprise that has everyone begging for second helpings!

Hope that gives you a positive little nudge in your writing today!

Thank you so much for having me here at Frog On A Blog for the second time in a month, Lauri!  I so appreciate your support for my new books and your willingness to help spread the word!  And thanks to everyone for stopping by to read! 🙂

Thank you so much, Susanna, for stopping by and sharing your knowledge with us. We’ve all got our engines revving and we’re ready to write. But first, let’s visit the rest of the stops (or is it the rest stops?) on the Trucks on Tour blog tour. Vroom!!!

Truck Blog Tour Schedule

Giveaways

You can win a signed copy of Susanna’s book THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT by replacing a familiar title with one that has a truck in it. (For example: The Little Bulldozer That Could, in place of The Little Engine That Could) Put your title in the comments. At the conclusion of the blog tour, a winner will be chosen at random and will be notified.

Plus

A special prize will be raffled off among anyone who comments on every single blog tour stop, so don’t miss a single fascinating installment!

And don’t forget to share on social media.  The hashtag we are using to promote the book is #trucksontour.  Every time you share a post on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram using #trucksontour, you will get an entry into a raffle where 3 winners will each get a $25 Merritt Bookstore and Toystore gift card.

Susanna Leonard Hill is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for children.  She teaches an online picture book writing class – Making Picture Book Magic (http://www.susannahill.com/MAKING_PICTURE_BOOK_MAGIC.html) – offers picture book critiques, and does frequent school and library visits.  She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.