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.

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:




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.