El Chupacabra: Beware of the Dog by Carlyn Beccia

Hello Frog on a Blog readers! With Halloween just around the corner, I decided it was the perfect time to feature something a little different today. Carlyn Beccia, author of MONSTROUS: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind your Favorite Monsters (a gorgeous nonfiction picture book for ages 9-14, which was released just last week) is here to share the spooky history and science behind el Chupacabra, a mysterious dog-like creature known throughout Puerto Rico and beyond. Read on. If you dare!!!

El Chupacabra: Beware of the Dog

by Carlyn Beccia

We are taught from an early age – don’t approach scary looking dogs, especially if we don’t know what kind of dog it is. In MONSTROUS: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind your Favorite Monsters I wrote about several cryptids – creatures whose existence have not been proven by the scientific community. Although no one seems to ever get a picture of Bigfoot, the Kraken or the Loch ness monster, there is one monster that is oddly not camera shy. Meet the legendary el Chupacabra.

Is this the legendary monster or some other cryptid?   

The Chupacabra was first sighted in Puerto Rico in the 70’s with a wave of sightings then reoccurring in the late 1990s. During this time, livestock throughout Puerto Rico was found with its last drop of blood drained from its carcass. These Chupacabra or “goat-sucker” attacks caused panic with local residents who claimed a vampire was feeding on their livestock. Although descriptions have varied, most describe a hairless, alien-like monster about 4-5 feet tall with spikes going down its back and glowing red eyes.

A pet only an alien could love….

Many believe this beast is a secret government project gone horribly wrong – possibly an escaped group of rhesus monkeys from Puerto Rico’s Monkey Island. Others have theorized the creature is the lost pet of aliens.

Illustration of the Chupacabra from MONSTROUS: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind your Favorite Monsters

Several people got photos of this monster which begs the question; How could so many people be taking pictures of the same ugly doglike creature? The answer may be found in science…..

I am so ugly….I am kind of cute

The Science behind the Chupacabra

The science community has a few theories to explain the legendary Chupacabra. One theory is that this monster is actually a manmade one. The Chupacabra could be a hybrid species created from inbreeding wolves, coyotes and dogs. This theory was confirmed in 2008 when History Channel’s MonsterQuest ran DNA analysis on a suspected Chupacabra. Their tests found a creature with a mix of chromosomes shared by coyotes and wolves.

Another and even more plausible theory is that these creatures are really coyotes suffering from Sarcoptic mange – an inflammatory skin condition caused by the itch-inducing mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Wolves, dogs, and coyotes infected with Sarcoptes scabiei will have extreme hair loss, skin shriveling and constricted blood vessels to the point of life-threatening fatigue. And while normally a coyote or wolf will have no problems hunting prey, once infected with mange, coyotes may choose to go after easier meals….such as livestock.

Sarcoptes scabiei, scabies mite.
This parasite also infects humans causing the itchy rash known as scabies. Because humans have evolved with Sarcoptes scabiei the infection is not life threatening in people.

How to Survive the Chupacabra

In MONSTROUS: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind your Favorite Monsters I gave readers several tips on how to survive a werewolf attack. Fortunately, these tips can also be used with the Chupacabra because this monster most likely has canine ancestry.

Never look a Werewolf or Chupucabra in the eye. It is seen as an act of aggression.

You should also remember the signs that an angry werewolf, dog, or wolf is about to attack. Here is a helpful graphic from the book.

Werewolves, dogs, wolves….Chupacabras. They all use similar body language to communicate their displeasure.

You can learn more about the science and origins of other monsters in MONSTROUS: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind your Favorite Monsters by Carlyn Beccia.

Carlyn Beccia (pronounced Betcha) is an author, illustrator and graphic designer with blood type B+ (in case any vampires are reading this). Beccia’s children’s books, including The Raucous Royals, I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat, and They Lost Their Heads have won numerous awards, including the Golden Kite Honor, the International Reading Association’s Children’s and Young Adult Book Award, and the Cybil Award. If you would like to know what she has in her zombie preparedness kit, visit her at www.CarlynBeccia.com or follow her on instagram.com/carlynbeccia.

Pencil-mania by Stephanie Ward

Please welcome picture book author Stephanie Ward to Frog on a Blog. Stephanie is the author of Arabella and the Magic Pencil, which recently celebrated its book birthday. She’s also the author of Wally The Warm-Weather Penguin, an adorable book I reviewed a few years ago.

Stephanie’s here to share five terrific pencil-themed picture books, perfect for back-to-school time. Take a look!


by Stephanie Ward

The new school year is upon us and students are rushing back to their classrooms with shiny new supplies. So there’s no better time to take a moment to appreciate all the amazing writing instruments in those backpacks.

One of the first books I loved was Harold and the Purple Crayon. How amazing would it be to be able to draw whatever you need at the instant you need it?

Then, there was Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings – a children’s book series turned into a television program about a boy with a magic chalkboard that he entered into every day. Awesome!

Recently, of course, crayons have become a sensation when they went on strike (The Day the Crayons Quit) and eventually came back (The Day the Crayons Came Home).

But in 2019, the mighty pencil – and its often antagonistic eraser – is finally getting its moment.

When Pencil Met Eraser

Written by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos, Jr.

Illustrated by German Blanco 

Ever wonder why there’s a little pink eraser on every pencil? Find out in this picture book that tells the true story of how Pencil and Eraser became the best of friends. When Pencil draws on the pages of this book, Eraser erases parts of Pencil’s work, and the book itself becomes a canvas for their different takes on creativity–until the two discover their artwork is even better when they work together. 

Linus the Little Yellow Pencil

Written and illustrated by Scott Magoon

Linus and his eraser, Ernie, don’t always see eye to eye. But with the family art show drawing near, these two will have to sharpen their collaboration to make something neither one could do on their own!

The Pencil

Written by Susan Avingaq and Maren Vsetula

Illustrated by Charlene Chua

Susan and her sister, Rebecca, love watching their mother write letters to people in other camps. Their mother has one precious pencil, and she keeps it safe in her box for special things. One afternoon, Anaana leaves the iglu to help a neighbour, and Susan, Rebecca, and their brother Peter are left with their father. They play all their regular games but are soon out of things to do-until Ataata brings out the pencil!

Pencil’s Perfect Picture

Written by Jodi McKay

Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

Pencil is trying to draw the perfect picture for his dad. So, he asks his friends Brush, Pastel, Marker, Crayon, and Chalk what makes their art perfect. But they each have a different answer. How will Pencil be able to create his own perfect picture?

Arabella and the Magic Pencil

Written by Stephanie Ward

Illustrated by Shaney Hyde

Arabella is a beloved only child who has a picture perfect life until her brother, Avery, arrives. While she loves him, it’s sometimes hard to like him. She spends her days creating marvelous things with her magic pencil and ignoring him. But when Avery spoils a proper tea party, Arabella erases him from her life. Oops! How can she get him back? 

My own book, Arabella and the Magic Pencil, was inspired by the humble pencil. Way back in eighth grade, my English teacher asked us to write a creative story. I looked down and saw a pencil on my desk and wrote about a girl whose magic pencil made everything she drew become real and everything she erased disappear forever. Today, that story sits alongside a slew of creative books about all the wonderful things a pencil (and eraser) can do.

“I believe that the combination of pencil and memory creates a kind of practical magic…” 
― Stephen King, The Green Mile

Stephanie Ward is the author of Arabella and the Magic Pencil, illustrated by Shaney Hyde, published by EK Books in September 2019. Her next picture book is due for release in 2020 (stay tuned for details!). After many years in marketing, Stephanie now spends her time writing sweet, silly and sidesplitting stories for children. To find out more about her bookish activities, visit www.stephaniemward.com.

Les Pyjamasques: A Sneaky Way to Get Your Children Interested in Learning French by Leslie Van Zee

Do you have a child who loves to watch the popular animated series PJ Masks? When you visit the library, does your child insist on checking out the PJ Masks picture books, every time? You know what I’m talking about–those small, thin, paperback books that take words and pictures directly from the TV series.

There are a lot of books like that-that were created from a popular children’s television series. But! What if I told you that in the case of PJ Masks, it was the TV series that came from books? No, not the paperbacks I mentioned earlier, but rather, a French book series called Les Pyjamasques. I didn’t know that, you might be thinking. Neither did I, until children’s author Leslie Van Zee shared that interesting bit of info with me. And now, Leslie is here to share more about Les Pyjamasques with you.

Les Pyjamasques: A Sneaky Way to Get Your Children Interested in Learning French

by Leslie Van Zee

Hello, fellow Frog on a Blog Readers! As both an aspiring children’s author and a mom of two preschoolers, I’m an avid fan of picture books. But I also am a working mom, and I confess that my kids get a big dose of video time in addition to reading time.

To assuage my parental guilt over this, I try to at least monitor the programs they are consuming. In doing so I end up getting attached to some of the programs almost as much as my kids do. One of the series that we like in our house is the PJ Masks.

For those who aren’t familiar with them, the PJ Masks are a trio of preschool-aged children who acquire superpowers when they don their special pajamas. Then they go out into the night to thwart the plans of their mischievous arch-rivals.

My kids, ages 5 and 3, love the series. That said, I still would much rather have my little ones reading books, so I went looking to see if there were any picture books based on the series.

Lo and behold, the show is actually based on a series of picture books called Les Pyjamasques that have been popular in France for more than a decade.

Created by author-illustrator Romuald Racioppo, there are 25 books in the series, starting with Les Pyjamasques et le Grogarou (2007) and going all the way up to Les Pyjamasques et la momie d’Apophis, Tome II (2019).

All of the characters in the tv series are drawn from characters in the books, though the names are a little different. The main protagonists are:

  • Connor/Catboy from the tv series is known in the books as Yoyo by night.
  • Greg/Gekko is known as Gluglu by night.
  • Amaya/Owlette is known as Bibou by night, and in the earliest stories was actually a boy.

It is a shame that none of the Les Pyjamasques books have been translated into English, because they really are delightful. The illustrations are rich and full of detail and energy – much more painterly and organic in style than the cartoon series. The plots of each book are far less formulaic as well, and as a result share much more imaginative scenes and scenarios.

I also like that in the books the line between good and bad is more fluid. For example, in one story the Pyjamasques try to stop a gang of archrivals from breaking into a candy machine but then decide that they also want to eat candy and end up sharing the candy all together. I can’t help but adore these little quirks of realism. Yes, it’s good to encourage good morals and teamwork, but the tv series sometimes gets a little preachy about it.

To give you an idea of what the books are like, here is a review of the third book, Les Pyjamasques et Lilifée. Having since read all of the books online, I think this is a good representative of the series.


It’s a snowy night and a fairy-like creature named Lilifée is descending from the sky to make artistic creations with snow. 

She is dainty and cultured, in contrast to the boisterous capers of the three masked little boys who intrude upon her scene.

Who are these masked acrobats of the night? They are Les Pyjamasques: Bibou, Gluglu and Yoyo (who are all three boys in the earliest books).

They are all captivated by her beauty and start vying for her attention. When their antics and one upmanship send a volley of snowballs at Lillifee’s snowman, it comes to life and climbs out of the snowbank to chase them.

Being Lillifee’s creation, however, the snowman is not as dangerous as he looks and just wants to present her with a lovely snow flower. This is the right way to win her favor, the Pyjamasques learn.

My thoughts:

As with all the books, there are some very imaginative concepts here. I like the fact that Lilifée’s snowman is a copy of one of the giant head statues from Easter Island, and that the whole body is underneath it in the snow. The characters are very engaging, one can’t help but smile at their antics. The plot is well-paced for 3- to 5-year-olds, and the little twist at the end is very cute.

I’m not at all fluent in French, so I can’t speak much to the quality of Romuald’s prose. But it strikes me as very authentically French, such as in little details like Lilifée dismissing the Pyjamasque’s snowmen as works of bad taste.

I would encourage even non-French-fluent parents to consider hunting down a copy of one of these books. It is a great way to give your kids some exposure to a foreign language.

I have probably an intermediate-level understanding of French, and with that and handy Google Translate, I am able to figure out the gist of things well enough to satisfy my little ones, as evidenced by regular requests for these books at bedtime.

If you are interested in learning more about this series, there is a great deal of info collected in a wiki here at Fandom.com. You can order the books via Amazon.fr or from the publisher’s website: Gallimard-Jeunesse.


Leslie Van Zee is a mom, children’s author and former euphoniumist who lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay area. By day she develops corporate communications designed to resonate with grown up audiences, and by night she crafts stories to settle her kids in to bed that often get them too wound up to sleep. She loves fusion jazz, podcasts, and singing silly songs while doing housework. Visit her blog stories.leslievanzee.com for more book reviews, original stories and thoughts on balancing work and parenting.

Thank you for stopping by, Leslie! This was so interesting, and I especially like the original illustrations by Romuald Racioppo. Lovely!

Show Me How! with Vivian Kirkfield and Sweet Dreams, Sarah

Folks, we’re back with another wonderful Show Me How! post from kidlit author and friend Vivian Kirkfield. This post is number three in Vivian’s three-part Frog on a Blog series, in which she shares a summary of one of her picture books, followed by a Positive Parental Participation Note, then a craft, and finally, a recipe, just like she does in her book Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking. (For more information about Show Me How! and to read my review, click HERE.)

Two weeks ago, we showcased Pippa’s Passover Plate. Last week, we talked Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book.

Today, I’m excited to feature the picture book biography Sweet Dreams, Sarah!

But first, let’s hear a little about the book’s journey to publication.

Sweet Dreams Sarah: The Journey

I am so thrilled to have another opportunity to share a little bit more about my journey to publication. I’m blessed to have five book deals…with five different publishing houses…with five different editors…with five different illustrators…and of course, each of the manuscripts is different.

I wrote Sweet Dreams, Sarah in July 2014, the month after I took an online class in writing nonfiction picture books. I’d always been a fan of nonfiction….as a child, I read the Encyclopedia Britannica for fun. 😊 The teacher of that class encouraged us to surf the internet to find interesting topics…the first this…the first that. And I found Sarah E. Goode, one of the first African American women to get a U.S. Patent. I researched…there was almost nothing about her – and that spurred me on to dig for more because it makes me so sad when someone back in history does something amazing and they are forgotten…or worse, never even recognized in their own time.

sweet-dreams-sarah-text waiting and wondering

Image from Sweet Dreams, Sarah

Reaching out to librarians (HURRAY FOR LIBRARIANS!) and checking census records, I was able to amass enough information to write a story. And here is the process I used to refine it. I gave it to a few critique buddies. Then I revised based on their feedback. I sent it to Rate Your Story. It got an ‘8’. ☹ I revised as per their feedback and gave it to more critique buddies and revised based on that. And sent it to Rate Your Story. It got a ‘3’. Then I revised again and sent it to more critique buddies and polished based on their thoughts. And entered it in the Rate Your Story annual contest, won second place, and knew I had a strong story that I could send out to agents and editors. Which I did. It was Sweet Dreams, Sarah that garnered interest from four different agents. I signed with Essie White of Storm Literary Agency in late 2015, she sent it out immediately, and we had a book deal before the end of the year.

But every book has its own journey, right? Some are quick out of the gate and then slow to be published. Others take time to find the right home and then everything is golden from then on. The journey to publication for this book fell into the former category. There were many frustrations for me as the author because I felt an obligation to honor the subject of my story and I felt responsible to make sure the book was authentic and true. It was a long haul, but I’m happy to say we now have a beautiful book that is getting excellent feedback from the major reviewers. And I’ll be presenting it to four elementary schools and a bookstore in the Chicago area (where Sarah lived and worked and had her store) next week!

Sarah cover

SHOW ME HOW!: Sweet Dreams, Sarah

SUMMARY: With freedom in her pocket and hope in her heart, former slave Sarah E. Goode comes north to Chicago. She opens a furniture store, but after listening to her customers, she realizes that much of the furniture sold is too boxy, too bulky, too big for their cramped living conditions. And then, Sarah not only builds a unique cabinet bed that saves space, but she also applies for a patent. Remember, this is 1885, a time when most women don’t even own anything, much less a patent. They can’t vote and many times, they don’t control their own wages. But Sarah was a trailblazer and her courage and ingenuity will inspire young children today.

sweet-dreams-sarah-patent received

Image from Sweet Dreams, Sarah

*Positive Parental Participation Note: We all have hopes and dreams – and young children are no different. We can encourage kids by listening to them and by respecting their thoughts. We all need a cheering committee and parents are a child’s biggest fans. Is your child interested in art, science, math, sports, nature, reading, or maybe carpentry, like Sarah? Join together in activities that validate your children and their passions.

CRAFT ACTIVITY: Make a Build Your Dream into Reality” Chart

There are many simple woodworking crafts to be found in books or online and I hope you will check those out to try with your children so they can be builders like Sarah.

But here’s an idea that may help your children build their dreams into reality.

  1. Talk about dreams. What are their dreams? A trip to Disneyland? A camping weekend with friends? A room make-over? Becoming a cartoonist or a major league baseball player?
  2. Make a chart on a piece of poster board or paper. Detailed instructions are here: https://www.imom.com/printable/brilliant-goals-chart-for-kids/#.XOxSbIhKg2w
  3. List the steps to get to the goal. Your children may have to do research to find out what steps they need to take. Earn money for the trip? Clear out clutter for the make-over. Take art classes/join a team/practice for the life goals?
  4. As the weeks pass by, check progress on the chart together.
  5. Goals can change…and we can have more than one goal.


I don’t know if Sarah E. Goode ever made oatmeal raisin cookies for her children, but I know I did. And I also know that oats were an important staple in Chicago, and the Quaker Oats Company still has a factory in Illinois that produces granola bars and cereals.

For a detailed ingredient list and instructions, please go to: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/10264/oatmeal-raisin-cookies-i/

I’ve made these and they are GREAT! I hope you all get to try them also.

Thank you so much, Lauri, for having me…it was fun stopping by Frog on a Blog. And now I’m off to prepare my presentation for four schools in the Chicago area next week. I’ll also be at the Andersons Bookstore in La Grange on Saturday, June 8 at 11am, reading Sweet Dreams, Sarah. But before I fly off to Chicago, I have a bookstore event in Dedham, MA at Peter Reynolds’ Blue Bunny Bookstore…it’s on Saturday, June 1st at 1pm…I hope if your readers are in either area, they’ll bring the kiddos and stop in for a story and a craft activity…and the kids will get a free Otters activity book.

If you’re going to be in the Chicago or Dedham, MA areas while Vivian is there, I highly recommend you stop in to see her. You won’t be disappointed!

Thanks so much, Vivian, for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us here at Frog on a Blog, not once, but three times! We are lucky indeed. 🙂


Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Vivian lives in the quaint New Hampshire town of Amherst where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, and just about anywhere people are playing with picture books.


Show Me How! with Vivian Kirkfield and Four Otters Toboggan

Yay! Kidlit author and friend Vivian Kirkfield is back for part two in her three-part series of Show Me How! posts right here on Frog on a Blog. Last week, she featured her picture book Pippa’s Passover Plate. Vivian shared a summary of the book, followed by a Positive Parental Participation Note, then a craft, and finally, a recipe, just like she does in her book Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking. (For more information about Show Me How! and to read my review, click HERE.) 

Today, we continue the fun and learning with Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book. Read on!

Thank you so much, Lauri, for giving me space on Frog on a Blog again. …I wanted to speak for a moment about the writing journey that many of us are on. It’s not an easy trail to follow…there are twists and turns and boulders that sometimes block the way. Your critique buddies weigh in on your manuscript and you wonder which advice to take…which suggestions to implement. If you send your stories out to agents and/or editors, many may be rejected. Sometimes you don’t even find out because they don’t send a response. But I want everyone to know that I truly believe if you are passionate about being a picture book/children’s book writer, then please, don’t give up. The Only Failure is the Failure to Keep Trying.

Let me share what happened with Four Otters Toboggan. I wrote it back in 2013…it was called ‘Visitors to Deep Pool’ then. I revised it dozens of times with the help of my critique buddies. I sent it out…an agent responded: this is pure poetry…so beautiful…but not for me. UGH! Then after I signed with my agent Essie, she sent it out…numerous times…and editors kept passing on it. One editor wrote: This is the most beautiful lyrical language I’ve ever read. I got lost in the musicality of the words. Every child should have a copy of this book. But sorry, it’s a bit too quiet for my list.


But we didn’t give up and, finally, an editor fell in love with it and thought it was perfect for his list. That’s the thing. This business is so subjective…and our stories have to find their way to the person who falls in love with them.

I was lucky because my agent sent some art samples from one of her illustrator clients along with the manuscript. The editor loved the pairing and signed Mirka Hokkanen to do the pictures. The publication process was lovely, and I got to see early sketches. Mirka and I and the Pomegranate team collaborated in an effort to create a book that is beautiful to the ear, and features STEM back matter that makes it a must have for early primary school classrooms.

four otters cover

SHOW ME HOW!: Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book

SUMMARY: Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, April 2019), illustrated by Mirka Hokkanen, is a counting book that introduces kids to ten endangered animals who visit a pristine river where the character of the water changes as quickly as a young child’s moods. Filled with lyrical text and modern woodcuts, we see dragonflies dancing, ballerinas on a liquid stage, river otters tobogganing down a mudslide, and mud turtles stretching their necks as day turns into dusk and the mountains swallow the sun.

*Positive Parental Participation Note: Encourage children to get involved with saving the planet. Small steps like not running the water while brushing teeth will save precious energy…and using canvas shopping bags will cut down on the plastic that pollutes the oceans and endangers sea creatures.

CRAFT ACTIVITY: Make Animal Finger Puppets

All you need is a piece of paper, a pair of scissors, glue, and markers or crayons. For detailed instructions: http://www.auntannie.com/Puppets/ConeFinger/

For simpler instructions:

  1. Cut a small square of paper that fits around one finger when you roll it up and apply glue so that it stays rolled in a cylinder.
  2. Draw a separate small circle that will be the head of the animal (otter, fox, etc.) or the shape of a butterfly or a fish.
  3. Add features to the circle or shape…eyes, nose, whiskers, or markings on the butterfly or scales on the fish.
  4. Glue the circle or shape near the top of the cylinder.
  5. Make several so that you and your child can role play as endangered animals. 


Kids love to help in the kitchen…and there is so much learning that can go on there. Science, Math, Geography, History, Problem Solving…the list goes on and on. Why not make some healthful trail mix to take along on a woodland walk as you look for animals in the ‘wild’…even a day at the playground can yield birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and all types of insects and bugs to the observant child.

Combine your favorite nuts and seeds and dried fruits…almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, raisins, etc.

Mix well and store in airtight containers or zip-lock bags.

Easy-peasy for kids to help make!

Now I think I need to mix up a batch because I’m hungry for something healthy! And I just might take a bag of this along with me when I go to my upcoming book events. I’ll be at Paul Reynolds’ Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, MA on Saturday, June 1 at 1pm for a story-time, reading FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK and also SWEET DREAMS, SARAH. And then I’ll be flying to Chicago the next day and will be at Andersons Bookstore in La Grange, IL on June 8 at 11am for their story hour, sharing OTTERS and SARAH. I hope if any of your readers are in either of those areas, they will COME ON DOWN to say hello and spread the word to friends who have children.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Lauri!

So glad you were able to stop in again, Vivian!


Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Vivian lives in the quaint New Hampshire town of Amherst where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, TwitterPinterest, InstagramLinkedin, and just about anywhere people are playing with picture books.

Coming up next week: Post number three in Vivian’s Show Me How! three-part series. She’ll be sharing a fun craft and delicious cooking activity for her book Sweet Dreams, Sarah. Stay tuned!

Show Me How! with Vivian Kirkfield and Pippa’s Passover Plate

I’m so excited to feature kidlit author and friend Vivian Kirkfield on Frog on a Blog! When my book The Peddler’s Bed came out a few years ago, Vivian was one of the first bloggers to host me on her fantastic site Picture Books Help Kids Soar. I couldn’t wait to return the favor! And now I’m overjoyed to finally have the chance!

In a series of three posts in three successive weeks, Vivian will offer craft and cooking activities that parents and children can do together after reading one of her picture books. First, she’ll share a summary of the book, followed by a Positive Parental Participation Note, then a craft, and finally, a recipe, just like she does in her book Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking. (For more information about Show Me How! and to read my review, click HERE.) How cool is that! Today’s book is Pippa’s Passover Plate.

Hello, Lauri! Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog. Frog on a Blog has long been a favorite of mine and I’m honored to be here.

My journey on this path to picture book publication started decades ago. I wasn’t writing picture books then…I was reading them…first to my kindergarten students and then to my own children. But I never seriously considered writing them until my 64th birthday. You see, I had self-published a guide for parents and teachers, SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING (MoneyPenny Press, 2010). It was the book I had wanted when I was teaching and raising my children – 100 picture book suggestions and a craft project and a cooking activity for each title.

Long story short, my son took me skydiving for my 64th birthday and when my feet touched the ground, I knew that if I could jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I could do anything I wanted. And what I wanted was to become a picture book author. I began blogging to spread the word about the parenting book and met loads of people who also wanted to become picture book writers. I joined challenges. Took classes. Wrote and revised and submitted. And was lucky enough to snag an amazing agent and, over the next few years, received a bunch of book contracts.

This year, three of my picture books launched. And so, when you suggested that we follow the format SHOW ME HOW and provide a craft and cooking activity for each of my picture books, I was thrilled!!!

Pippas Passover Plate cover

SHOW ME HOW!: Pippa’s Passover Plate

SUMMARY: Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, Feb. 2019) illustrated by Jill Weber, is a joyful rhyming tale of courage, friendship, and perseverance. When Pippa Mouse can’t find her special Seder plate, she must face her natural enemies to question each even though Cats and Snakes and Owls make her Quiver, Quaver, Shiver, Shake with fear. But time is of the essence – sun sets soon, it’s getting late…and the Passover holiday will be starting. Spills and chills occur when Pippa goes to ask Golda Fish if she has seen the plate and the little mouse falls in the lake. Oh no! But life is good when friends are near and Pippa and her new friends join together in a wonderful Passover celebration.

*Positive Parental Participation Note: Encourage children to build relationships with friends by arranging playdates with schoolmates. Create finger puppets to role play with your child – sometimes a child will open up and be more honest about things they are afraid of when they can pretend they are someone else.

CRAFT ACTIVITY: Make a Seder Plate


Photo courtesy: PJLibrary.org

Materials needed: Paper plate, cupcake liners, marker or crayons, glue.

Directions: Print the names of the foods at the bottom of each cupcake liner. Glue onto plate. Decorate plate.


(Recipes courtesy of illustrator Jill Weber)

There are two secrets to light and fluffy matzo balls—letting the mixture sit for at least a half an hour. (the mixture will become spongy and thick.) and simmering the matzo balls long enough. To be sure, cut one open to make sure it is cooked through.

Makes about 18 medium sized matzo balls.

3 tablespoons of chicken fat (or canola oil)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup matzo meal
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
3 tablespoons of chicken stock

Using a fork, blend together the chicken fat and the eggs. Mix in the matzo meal and salt. Finally, add the chicken stock, mix well, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Bring 2 quarts of water, lightly salted, to a full boil. While the water is boiling, form little balls about the size of a walnut from the matzo mixture. Drop into the boiling water. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 40 minutes. The matzo balls will double in size and rise to the top. When they are done, remove with a slotted spoon and add to the soup for 10 minutes or so to absorb the flavor of the broth.



We usually serve this with shredded chicken from the stock and about 4 small matzo balls per person.

2 quarts homemade chicken stock
1 cup of sliced carrots
1 rib of celery sliced
salt to taste

Reheat the stock and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add the matzo balls and simmer another 10 minutes. Serve. Enjoy!

And I hope everyone enjoys the book…so far, the reviews have been lovely. I think this is so much more than a book about the Passover holiday. It’s a story about courage, perseverance, and friendship…qualities that we hope all children will embrace.

Thank you so much for letting me stop by to visit, Lauri.

It’s my pleasure, Vivian! You’re welcome anytime!


Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Vivian lives in the quaint New Hampshire town of Amherst where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, and just about anywhere people are playing with picture books.

Everyone, be sure to stop by next week for the second post in Vivian’s Show Me How! series. She’ll be sharing a fun craft and delicious cooking activity for her book Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book. I can’t wait!

The Whimsical World Of Bilingual Books by Derek Taylor Kent

Please welcome back to Frog on a Blog, author, screenwriter, performer and director Derek Taylor Kent. You may remember Derek’s last visit when he shared “The Mystery of the Picture Book” along with his first El Perro book El Perro con Sombrero: A Bilingual Doggy Tale. (Read that article along with my review of his fabulous book by clicking HERE.)

Derek and his wife author Sheri Fink are the founders of Whimsical World, an empowering children’s brand that publishes books and produces whimsical merchandise, inspiring entertainment, and magical experiences for children of all ages. 

I’m happy to report that the sequel to El Perro con Sombrero, El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos (that’s fun to say!) is hot off the presses. I asked Derek to stop in and tell us a little about the book and how it ties in with Whimsical World’s mission “to inspire, delight, and educate children of all ages while planting seeds of self-esteem and high achievement.”

The Whimsical World of Bilingual Books

By Derek Taylor Kent

Hello Frog on a Blog readers! This is Derek Taylor Kent, AKA Derek the Ghost. You may know me as the author of the middle-grade series Scary School, the bilingual picture book El Perro con Sombrero, and many more that have been reviewed right here on this blog.

derek book collage new book copy

I’m here today to share with you some exciting insider info about my latest book, the sequel to El Perro con Sombrero called El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos.

But first, in case you hadn’t heard yet, last year I married fellow children’s book author Sheri Fink! (www.SheriFink.com) We are truly the perfect match for each other and have had soooo much fun and so many adventures since we’ve been together. Check out Sheri’s Instagram @Sheri_Fink and you’ll see what I mean.

One of the best parts about our relationship is that we got to combine our imaginations and books together to create a brand new children’s brand called Whimsical World. We say that our mission at Whimsical World is to inspire, delight, and educate children of all ages while planting seeds of self-esteem and high achievement. This mission includes not only our library of books, but also live events such as school visits, book festival appearances, comic cons, plus pop-up experiences like Unicorn Parties and whimsical book launches.  We also have whimsical merchandise, lesson plans for schools to accompany our books, interactive fan experiences on our website, and some truly incredible things in the works that we can’t wait to share with you.

Some of you may be wondering how my latest book, El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos, fits in with our Whimsical World mission to inspire, delight, and educate children while planting seeds of self-esteem and high achievement.

All of our books at Whimsical World carry important social-emotional learning messages. They are designed so that every child discovers something new about themselves when they read each story. They can also come to a better understanding of how to be a good person, a good friend, or a good family member. Some of our most popular titles with these messages include The Little Rose, The Little Unicorn and The Little Seahorse. Some of the books are also certified STEM educational books such as Counting Sea Life with the Little Seahorse and Simon and the Solar System.

El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos fits into both categories, as it can be used for educational purposes as well as for social-emotional learning. On the education side, it can be utilized by youngsters learning either Spanish or English. Since the text is written in both languages (see images) children will naturally gravitate toward the language they don’t know once they’ve heard it in their native tongue for the first time. With the first El Perro con Sombrero, parents have often told me that their kids prefer to have it read to them in Spanish even though they don’t speak it! That’s because they know the story so well that hearing it in Spanish makes it a whole new story for them and their brain starts automatically picking up the language. Much to the parents’ shock, the kids start speaking it around the house automatically!

from book

Dual immersion schools also use El Perro con Sombrero because sometimes stories can create a more positive language-learning association than textbooks. When they read the story about Pepe, the homeless dog who chances upon a lucky sombrero that turns his life around, students become excited about language because they see that no matter where you come from, we all love the same characters and stories.

Besides the two El Perro books, I have a third bilingual picture book called Doggy Claus/Perro Noel, about Santa Claus’ dog who takes Santa’s sleigh so he can deliver presents to all the dogs in the world.  This one is perfect for language learning during the sometimes distracting holiday season!

Doggy Claus Cover Cropped Correct

In El Perro con Sombrero meets Los Gatos con Gelatos, Pepe has settled at home with his new family and his best friend is the daughter, little Lucia. He waits patiently at her feet while she finishes her homework so they can go outside and play together. But when Lucia accidently drops her homework assignment on the way to school, Pepe decides he must bring it to her before school starts so she can get her A in math. However, his mission turns out to be fraught with peril, including a gang of ice-cream-loving cats called Los Gatos con Gelatos who have other plans for Pepe.

Throughout his journey to the school, Pepe is confronted with a series of obstacles where the easy thing to do would be to give up and go back home, but each time he makes the conscious decision not to give up and come up with clever and creative solutions. The social-emotional learning message in this book is about persistence, hard work, creative problem solving, and how good deeds can end up benefitting you in the long run.

Overcoming multiple trials and errors to accomplish his goal gives Pepe the ultimate feeling of peace and earned self-esteem by the end.

That’s a valuable lesson no matter what language you speak. Olé!

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the book and how you have been able to use books and stories to teach languages and important lessons to your little ones. 

You can learn more about Derek’s books and Whimsical World at www.WhimsicalWorldBooks.com and www.DerekTaylorKent.com. Follow on Social Media @DerekTaylorKent and @WhimsicalWorldBooks

Derek and Sheri2

Derek, Sheri and Zander

Derek Taylor Kent is an author, screenwriter, performer and director based in Los Angeles. Best known for his children’s books, his best-selling, award-winning books are treasured in hundreds of thousands of homes across the world. He and his wife, author Sheri Fink, are the founders of Whimsical World, an empowering children’s brand that publishes books and produces whimsical merchandise, inspiring entertainment, and magical experiences for children of all ages.

Writing Children’s Books Young Readers Will Love by Rosie Russell

Rosies Books

Please welcome author/illustrator Rosie Russell to Frog on a Blog. Rosie is a former teacher who now creates children’s books full time. I love that she donates a portion of profits from her book sales to great causes! Rosie stopped by today to offer tips on writing books that young readers will love.

Writing Children’s Books Young Readers Will Love

I love picture books! Reading them to children and exploring how the author and illustrator came up with their story fascinates me. It’s the drive and passion that started my job as a full-time author and illustrator.

I’ve had many people tell me writing picture books must be easy. I wish I could tell them it is, but it’s very hard. Coming up with a tale that young readers will enjoy and finding important elements to work with, are the keys to success for creating entertaining books.

Write from your heart.

I base most of my books on something or someone in my life. Either it’s a memory or event that was personal or topic a child will love reading about.

It’s great to come up with a theme outside of your own experience. When doing so, make sure you incorporate your own voice in the story, along with lots of research on the subject.

Make your books engaging with colorful illustrations.

Children love bright colors, so use them often.

I made one that has a darker cover. It’s called Moonshadow Mae. I ran a survey with my fans and they voted for the image.

They liked how it looked more intriguing and mysterious. The inside illustrations are much brighter. The story itself is about a young girl named Mae that loves and adores the moon. It’s my first hardcover with a Library of Congress number for those that wish to add to their libraries and stores. It’s also available in paperback.

Add information for a more interactive story.

Another tip readers love: Have an interactive story or information with fun things to think about or do in the back of the book.

Many of my books include activities, fun projects, and recipes. A few of them have added questions for further learning.

In Beasley’s Journey, I’ve included simple questions the reader can answer, and an important tip for pet owners.

For Beasley and Friends to the Rescue, I’ve included pictures of the real live pets, each character is based on.

For my Maggie, Millie and Merrie series, I include art projects, recipes, and fun things to do at home.

My two Search and Find books show over a hundred things to find: Picture finds for non-readers, and word finds for readers.

Last, include fun dialogue.

Children love it when a character’s voice is heard through the dialogue. Change up the voices in a read aloud to convey their special traits. 

Thank you for having me as your guest today.

Thank you for stopping by, Rosie!

Rosie RussellRosie Russell is the author and illustrator of eight children’s books.
She has studied Early Childhood Education and has taught students in elementary and middle school for fifteen years in the Midwest.
Rosie now writes and illustrates full time and is looking forward to sharing her books with students, encouraging them to write and illustrate their own stories.
A portion of profits from her books will be donated to different causes, depending on the subject of her books.

For more information about Rosie or to purchase her books, click the following links:

Books By Rose


Barnes & Noble

Rainy Day Books

Beautiful Earth by Lisa Olson

Trees Cover

Please welcome author Lisa Olson to Frog on a Blog. You may remember Lisa from a while back when she stopped in to talk about her wonderful picture book series American Herstory. (You can read about the series by clicking HERE.)

Today, Lisa’s back with a gorgeous new book And the Trees Began to Move, published by Eifrig Publishing just in time to celebrate Earth Day on April 21, and to “honor nature and all of its blessings!”

Lisa’s love for our Earth and the abundance of amazing life that surrounds us every day is evident in her article below. Enjoy!

Beautiful Earth

The earth laughs in flowers.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.” ~ John Ruskin

Walk through any wooded lot with your eyes WIDE open and your mind perfectly still and you will find a real-life Enchanted Forest. If you look…REALLY look…with all of your senses, you WILL see it. Magic…REAL magic, moving all around us. Living, breathing, growing and ever-changing…this tiny revolving planet in a vast solar system of stars is home to us ALL! Every day, life is exploding around us in a dazzling display and we barely flinch at the wonder of it.

Trees pic

*a sneak peek illustration from AND THE TREES BEGAN TO MOVE

Nature is glorious…TRULY! Shades of green and gold shimmer and the wind whispers its secrets to the trees as it passes through the canopy of leaves. Wildflowers speckle the ground in a colorful spray amid dappled shadows and bright splashes of sunlight. The sharp whiff of pine mingles with the sweet scent of newly budded blossoms and together they move among the oaks and willows in an endless dance. Delicate butterflies with gossamer wings taste the world around them with their feet! AMAZING! Buzzing bees and tiny dragonflies with iridescent wings dart here and there in miraculous loops and aerial maneuvers that leave you dizzy as your eyes track their journey from flower to flower.

With Earth Day fast approaching, we have the perfect opportunity to reflect on the miracles and everyday magic that literally surrounds us every moment of our lives. If we all plant just one seedling, together we have the power to grow an entire forest! We are called to be good stewards of our natural world. The TREES call to us…listen! It’s no coincidence the innermost part of a tree is called The Heart. Beating together, we thrive.

Lisa pic 1

First and foremost, Lisa Gammon Olson is a mom of three amazing young men; Grant, Kyle & Jay. She lives with her husband Bruce in Coon Valley, WI, where she is the secretary at the Coon Valley Elementary School….a job she adores! She believes the most important skill we can ever teach our children is “How to be Kind.” Any kindness we do, no matter how small, has the power to change someone’s life. Growing up in northern Wisconsin has instilled in her the wonder of nature… sparkling lakes, endless forests and trails littered with pine needles and possibilities. Preserving our planet and populating it with human beings who are Respectful, Responsible, and Kind seems like an awesome idea.

For more information about Lisa and her books, visit lisagammonolson.com.

Pops Jamison And The Skwerdlock

Created with GIMP

Please welcome John Jamison, a.k.a. Pops Jamison, to Frog on a Blog. John is the author of several books for both children and adults. Today, he’s here to talk a bit about his Skwerdlock series for kids, which he also illustrates. What’s a Skwerdlock? Read on to find out.

It took me thirty-eight years to write Meet the Skwerdlock!. The idea appeared one very early morning as I sat in a rocking chair with my two-year-old sick daughter and made up a silly song about a funny looking dog called the Skwerdlock. I tried writing Meet the Skwerdlock! then, but it just didn’t work.

Over the years, I tried several more times to write the book, with no success. I talked with illustrators and had some very nice images created, but the Skwerdlock always looked like I did that Easter Sunday back in the third grade when they dressed me up in that white skirt and big red bow for the children’s choir. As nice as the pictures were, they just weren’t the Skwerdlock we knew. I couldn’t figure the book out. What was the Skwerdlock for? What did the book teach? What was the message? Why write the book?


Two years ago, my daughter’s three-year-old daughter asked what the Skwerdlock looked like. I got a piece of paper and pencil and started drawing the image from that old song. I drew ears like an elephant, a nose like a hog, and all the rest. I am not an artist, and my drawing was evidence of that fact. I started to toss it and try again when I heard the voice.

“You forgot my shoes,” the Skwerdlock said.

I drew some shoes.

“Aren’t you going to add some colors?” he said.

I got some watercolor paints. I didn’t stay inside the lines, and some of the pencil marks I hadn’t erased showed through the paints. It was nothing at all like the nice illustrations I had seen before, but, finally, it looked like the Skwerdlock.

“Now aren’t you going to write that book about that night we met?”

So I did. And then I wrote I Saw the Skwerdlock!, and have just finished Never Take the Skwerdlock to the Doctor!. I finally realized that the Skwerdlock wasn’t about looking perfect, and wasn’t about teaching a lesson or making a statement. The Skwerdlock thinks kids get enough of that. The Skwerdlock is just fun–an opportunity to escape from the pressures of growing up and learning, and just spend some time letting our imaginations dream about things that might be.


I illustrated the books with my own pictures. People sometimes point out that the colors go outside the lines, and there are pencil marks showing in places. I smile and tell them that’s exactly how the Skwerdlock looks, too. He is not perfect, and has smudges here and there, just like me. Meet the Skwerdlock! and the other Skwerdlock books are just an excuse to sit on someone’s lap in the recliner and smile.


John Jamison is a life-long believer in the power of stories. First as a pastor, then educator, creator of Centers for Innovation at multiple universities, Director of a national Game and Simulation academic degree program, and a consultant for e-learning and brand development, John has used the power of story to bring about serious change and have some fun in the process.

John grew-up in a small river-town in Illinois, and describes his childhood as “kind of Tom Sawyer-ish with a blend of Wizard of Oz.” John says, “I grew up in a family of storytellers and liars, and I spent most of my time trying to figure out which was which.”

Keep up to date with his books at https://jbjamison.jamisonbooks.com.

PA Young Reader’s Choice Award by Nadine Poper

Please welcome picture book author and elementary school librarian Nadine Poper to Frog on a Blog!

Nadine serves on the committee for the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award. She’s stopped by today to share a bit about this special award, sponsored by the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, that allows the students to vote for their favorite books.

PA Young Reader’s Choice Award (sponsored by PSLA)

By Nadine Poper-committee member

The students of Pennsylvania are gearing up to vote in their very own book award, the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award (PYRCA). There are 4 lists created each year by 24 PA school librarians, grades K-3, 3-6, 6-8, and YA. Each list has 15 books on which students can vote for their favorite, one per list. The book with the most votes from each list is the winner. The votes are cast by the students of Pennsylvania. 

The lists are carefully balanced to include all genres: picture books, poetry, chapter books, middle grade, biographies, and nonfiction, as well as a variety of topics and characters that will appeal to both boys and girls and that celebrate various cultures. 

Students will place their votes by March 15, and the winning books are revealed at the annual Pennsylvania School Librarians (PSLA) Conference. Winning authors from the previous year often attend the awards breakfast at the conference to receive their recognition. 

School libraries across the Commonwealth participate by purchasing the books for their collections, sharing the book talks, book trailers, and lesson ideas with their students.  The book talks and lesson ideas are created by the committee members so that teachers and librarians have resources at their fingertips. 

One lesson idea, for example, that I incorporate with my elementary students involves students taking on the roles of animals in the ocean and demonstrating the break down in the food chain as discussed in If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams. 

My students enjoy participating each year because it is a book award where their voice matters. I do a big Caldecott and Newbery award unit also, which we have so much fun with as well. However, the kids know that those awards are chosen by adults, where as the PA Young Reader’s Choice Award is all about what they like the most. 

Here’s a small sampling of titles to be voted on this year:

For more information and to see a complete list of all 2018-2019 books, visit the PYRCA website here.

Most states have their own children’s book awards. Click here for the current list in your state. 

Nadine Poper 1

Nadine Poper is an elementary school librarian for an urban PA school district, a mom to 3 amazing young men, a wiener dog owner, and foster mom for homeless dachshunds. 

She uses the proceeds from her dachshund picture books to help support dachshund rescue. As a school librarian, Nadine serves on the committee for the PA Young Reader’s Choice Award. Nadine’s traditionally published debut picture book PORCUPETTE AND MOPPET will be released June 2019 by Blue Whale Press.

Her second picture book, RANDALL AND RANDALL, will be released Fall 2019.  Visit her at www.nadinepoper.weebly.com.

5 Best Culturally Diverse Picture Books to Read Now by Ilham Alam

DiversityPlease welcome back to Frog on a Blog author and mom Ilham Alam. This past September, Ilham shared her Top 5 Books for Kids to Learn ABC’s.

Today, she’s stopped by with another wonderful list: 5 Best Culturally Diverse Picture Books to Read Now.




5 Best Culturally Diverse Picture Books to Read Now

by Ilham Alam

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Ebony Glenn

Mommys Khimar

This is one of the books that I always recommend for kids and is a perennial favourite for many reasons. It teaches diversity and acceptance through the means of the oft-misunderstood Hijab, or Khimar. Through the eyes of a little girl, we can see her love for her mother and her mother’s many beautifully coloured khimars. We see the reasons why this little girl and her mother choose to wear the khimar, and cultural reasons are only one part of it. I also love that it depicts diversity in relationships as it appears that her parents have an inter-religious marriage, yet family members with different religious beliefs still love each other all the same. Read the book to find out what her favourite color of khimar is.

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

Sea Prayer

Written by the writer of the celebrated novel, Kite Runner, this poem has been written as a dedication to the refugees from Syria and likely inspired by the story of Aylan Kurdi. In wispy and haunting pictures with short but powerful verses, we see the story of a boy and his family who had a lovely life in Syria prior to the current Civil War. Then comes their decision to flee using the dangerous Mediterranean crossing, just for a fighting chance to reach safety in Europe. Before they get into the boat, the father whispers a sea prayer to his son, who’s asleep in his arms and unaware of the perilous sea journey that he’s about to take. If nothing else, this book will fill you with compassion for their plight.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman


This is an untold history of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission and should be read by all kids, especially girls from diverse communities. These 4 pioneering African-American female engineers/mathematicians, are wonderful role models, as these women displayed intelligence, grace, talent, and courage, to become the first women of colour to be employed at NASA as scientists. These women worked on the historic missions, which successfully sent the first American man into space, the first people ever on the moon in 1969, and vastly improved the safety of commercial airplanes. And these women made their astonishing achievements at a time of segregation among races and when women, especially black women, had little access to higher education.

Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora


This is the African version of “Old Macdonald had a Farm, E-I-E-I-O.” Younger kids will love the familiar sing-a-long, but with different animals, and older kids will love learning about the different animals that are found in the African continent. All will love the rich yellows and browns showing Mikamba, his animals, and his village. This is a clever retelling of the age-old nursery rhyme by Rachel Isadora, meant to teach us something about another part of the world.

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai and Kerascoët


Who doesn’t know of Malala Yousafzai? She is the brave young woman who was nearly killed for speaking out in support of girl’s education and equality between the genders. In simple sentences, Malala expresses her desire to rewrite her society with her pencil. In beautiful painting-like images, Malala shows us what her life was like in the deeply conservative part of Pakistan that she is from, the lack of safety and security, her home and family, and the lost potential of her female peers being denied schooling. This book is not only autobiographical, but inspirational, as kids can see what Malala’s determination and courage eventually got her: the right to an education. Kids here will be a bit more thankful that there is universal public education in the West and that it is their birth-right to get quality education, when they read about Malala’s hopes and sacrifice.

Ilham Alam


Ilham Alam is a married mom of 2 from Toronto, Canada and an avid reader of most genres. As a dedicated bookworm, she has been on a mission to turn her 2 boys and her cat into dedicated readers as well (she’s making good progress). She also has her upcoming picture book, Wonder Walk, being published by Iguana Books in Spring 2019. You can pre-order your copy of Wonder Walk today and also multiple perks to go with it for a limited time only.

wonder walk

Pre-Order Link:



becoming beautiful

Please welcome author Tarang Rawat to Frog on a Blog! Tarang’s on an important mission to inspire and empower girls to be strong, independent, and confident–through her book Becoming Beautiful. Read on to see how you can help!

Are you a parent of a lovely little girl who often spends hours in front of the mirror disapproving of her face or figure? Do you try to find confidence in your child’s smile, but see it fading away every day? And wonder who stole it? Where did it go?

Well, your daughter is not alone. Statistics show that negative body image and low self-esteem is a growing epidemic in our society. Children today are exposed to fake and unrealistic standards of physical beauty. Influenced by popular television shows, celebrity culture, social media, and peer pressure, our young girls often embrace an unnatural image of beauty from a very young age. And when they compare themselves to those unrealistic standards, they feel inadequate and imperfect. If young girls are dissatisfied with the way they look, they are bound to develop negative body image and low self-esteem, which is detrimental to their growth and success in life.

If we let the status quo be, we run the risk of leaving behind a generation of girls that are completely unaware of their potential and self-worth.

I strongly believe that every girl deserves to know that she’s beautiful, and through my book, Becoming Beautiful, I want to help girls see their true beauty. Becoming Beautiful is an inspirational children’s book written for girls, aged 4-9, who find it difficult to recognize and accept their true, awesome self.

With Becoming Beautiful, I describe a beautiful tale celebrating girl power, embracing your true self, and recognizing your inherent beauty. Becoming Beautiful is here to make girls feel incredible as they truly are.

finalized becoming beautiful

To fund the production, design, and printing of my book, I am running a Kickstarter campaign from February 13th to March 13th and am seeking community support to make this book a reality.

The book trailer and pre-order of the book are now available on www.becomingbeautiful.us.

Becoming Beautiful is on a mission to empower young girls to love their bodies and themselves. When a girl feels more confident in her body, she will be more assertive, perform better physically and academically, and she will say ‘yes’ to more opportunities.

More than a book, it’s a message that needs to be shared with parents and adults, so we can raise a generation of strong, independent girls who are proud of themselves.

Support this campaign and give your daughter the gifts of confidence, self-worth, and happiness.

tarang's pic.

Tarang Rawat

About the Author: 

Tarang Rawat had an early affair with writing. Sadly, the romance ended, leaving behind splatters of dark poetry, which never saw the light of day. While other things caught her attention, they could not keep it for long. However, she found other venues of engagement; from designing clothes for models to designing system for companies, she’s worn many hats and balanced many cups.
As fate would have it, old lovers crossed paths again, and the romance rekindled. They picked up where they left off, a more candid affair this time.

Inspiring Young Readers with Facts and Fiction by Henry Herz

Please welcome picture book author Henry Herz back to Frog on a Blog. You may remember the interview I did with Henry last year. Or you may be familiar with one of his wonderful books. Just this year, three new picture books were published, and I recently discovered another is set to be published in February. Henry is on a roll! Henry’s stopped in today to talk a little about how Rudyard Kipling and the amazing diversity of the animal kingdom helped influence one of his latest books, How the Squid Got Two Long Arms, and how they can inspire your writing too, so that you can entertain and educate kids.

Rudyard Kipling is perhaps best known for his JUST SO STORIES, a compilation of delightful fictional explanations for why many animals are the way they are. Some of its short stories include: How the Whale Got His Throat, How the Camel Got His Hump, How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin, How the Leopard Got His Spots, and How the Elephant Got His Trunk.


Kipling deserves credit not only for his impressive creativity, but also his mastery of language and humor. Here’s the glorious opening passage of How the Whale Got His Throat. “On the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and he ate fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel. All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth—so! Till at last there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a small ‘Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the Whale’s right ear, so as to be out of harm’s way. Then the Whale stood up on his tail and said, ‘I’m hungry.’ And the small ‘Stute Fish said in a small ‘stute voice, ‘Noble and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man?’”

I’ve been a fan of the JUST SO STORIES since my mom read them to me when I was a young child. I’m frequently amazed at the diversity of life on Earth. So, when I learned that two of a squid’s arms were longer than the others (don’t ask me why), I decided to write a picture book offering a “creative” explanation for that development. And I wanted to employ alliteration and lyrical language to evoke (and honor) Kipling.

The second influence in the writing of my book was one of my all-time favorites – the immensely talented Jon Klassen’s Caldecott-winning picture book, THIS IS NOT MY HAT, in which a little fish steals a big fish’s hat, and gets his comeuppance in the end. I liked the theme of “do unto others”, and I especially loved the irony of the unreliable narrator. To me, few things ring so true and are as funny as people’s ability to deceive themselves. Thus, with an admiring mashup of Kipling and Klassen, HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS was, er, spawned.


Now, Kipling’s comic premise, the idea that an animal’s features that are modified after is birth (e.g., clipping a bird’s feathers) could somehow be genetically passed to its offspring has been discredited by Mendelian genetics. Although it did gain its own label: Larmarkism, after Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Your immediate response should be: “Who cares? These are FICTIONAL tales.” And you’d be right. But I’d add that fact can be stranger than fiction. Here are a few crazy animal traits that evolved over time. These critters clearly all deserve their own Just So Story too. Go home Darwin, you’re drunk! 🙂


The Star-Nosed Mole (Condylura cristata)

With impressive digging claws and a face only a mother could love, the star-nosed mole’s claim to fame is the 22 appendages surrounding its nose. They are not olfactory, but rather touch organs that help the functionally blind mole find food. The journal Nature rates it the fastest-eating mammal, taking as little as 120 milliseconds to detect something, decide if it’s edible, and eat it. That is even faster than I can eat Boston crème pie.


The Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques)

This master of disguise looks like something right out of a high fantasy novel. When not simply drifting, movement is achieved by the small, nearly transparent pectoral and dorsal fins. Its leafy protrusions do not aid in propulsion. Their only purpose is camouflage. It’s built for stealth, not speed. As if that’s not enough, they can change color to further blend in with seaweed. Now you see me, now you don’t.


The Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)

This seven-foot long, 90-lb. pin-striped mammal is a walking vacuum cleaner. While its huge bushy tail is impressive, its foot-long snout is what makes it a fuzzy terror to ants and termites alike. Technically, it’s the tongue that shoots 18 inches out of the snout that gives insects nightmares. The anteater has poor eyesight, but a sense of smell 40 times more powerful than humans. That, combined with huge digging claws make mincemeat out of anthills or termite mounds. Adding insult to injury, the anteater doesn’t even produce its own stomach acid. Its digestion is aided by the formic acid provided by its prey. Now, that’s just lazy.

Mother Nature gives us authors so much material with which to work. I hope these wonders of the natural world with exaggerated features increase your appetite for how fiction and non-fiction are both terrific ways to entertain kids and inspire them to learn.

Henry Herz Henry Herz has an engineering Bachelors from Cornell, an engineering Masters from George Washington U., and a national security studies Masters from Georgetown, none of which helps him write fantasy and science fiction for children. He is represented by Deborah Warren of East/West Literary Agency. Henry is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). He participates in literature panels at a variety of conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon. Henry reviews children’s books for the San Francisco Book Review and the San Diego Book Review.

For more about Henry and his books, please visit his Website.

Book Review: ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME: A teacher and writer’s perspective by Laura Roettiger


I spent most of my teaching career at a school with a population of over 90% Latinx. When I heard about Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal, it was especially interesting to me because I miss my Chicago students and imagined them hearing the book. Lucky for me, I have a wonderful group of students here in Colorado to read to, coming from a variety of ethnicities.

The basic premise of Alma, is she thinks her name is too long, until her father explains to her how she got the name Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela. It’s a lovely story celebrating family, tradition, and being proud of who you are.

I can turn any book into a lesson and an activity after years of teaching. With Alma, the teaching extension wrote itself. When I first told them there would be homework, they protested, but when I explained what it would be, the energy in the room shifted to enthusiasm. The children were given a graphic organizer and sent home with the task of asking their parents about the origin story of their names.

story of your name graphic

As the children returned with their homework, I learned one of them is named after a WWE wrestler that his father likes and another is named for an NFL player. One is named for a Disney character, and another is named for a character in a movie her mom liked. The stories of aunts, uncles, grandparents were also shared on the page and in class. Many of them didn’t know these stories before the assignment and that is a tribute to Juana Martinez-Neal and her inspiring story.

As a picture book writer, I’ve been studying different aspects of craft and I believe this book is a perfect example of heart. Julie Hedlund, founder of the picture book challenge 12×12, talks about how heart is so important in picture books. I find it hard to define heart, but easy to find examples. The illustrations, also the work of Juana Martinez-Neal, are unique and match the story perfectly, complete with sepia toned drawings that look like old photographs.

This book earns 5 stars from me because its simple message is full of heart and it created a wonderful family project for my students. I’m sure many families would find this to be inspirational.

Laura R

Laura Roettiger is the author of the picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon (Eifrig Publishing, 2019) She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. Laura has three children of her own, all of whom were led by curiosity and creativity into STEM-related professions. Laura is also a part of #PictureBookBuzz, a group of authors with books being released in 2019.

Find Laura on Twitter @ljrwritenow and at her website LauraRoettigerBooks.com.

The Inspiration Behind DEREK THE FLYING DODO by Vanee Apoolingum

Please welcome author Vanee Apoolingum to Frog on a Blog. Vanee stopped by to share a little about the inspiration behind her new book DEREK THE FLYING DODO.

DEREK THE FLYING DODO is my first children’s book that has just been published! It is an exciting adventure story for 5-7 year olds about friendship, having the courage to be different, and never giving up on your dreams. Since my book has been published, two questions that I have been asked regularly is why did I do it, and what was my inspiration?

Derek cover

So why did I decide to publish a book? Well, since having my two sons, bedtime reading has always been a precious moment in our day. We all get to wind down and lose ourselves in wonderful and magical children’s books and stories we make up together.

Picture books such as Spinderella, Hello Mr Dodo!, Little Dinosaur’s Big Adventure, and Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon have all got important messages about friendship and having the courage to be different. All the illustrations in these picture books are vibrant and colourful and are great at drawing in young readers! In addition, the adventures that the characters share in those books are truly magical. Just over a year ago my boys said I should write one of our stories down, so I decided, why not.

Inspiration has come from past and present experiences, which have shaped my story one way or another. Whilst I have been living in London for over 17 years, I was born and brought up on the paradise island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The Dodo was native to this island and famous for its inability to fly (as well as being extinct!). It has always fascinated me, but growing up, there were hardly any children’s books about this bird. So naturally, when I first decided to write a book, I wanted to base my main character on the Dodo. Even though there are now some picture books on the dodo, the theme has generally been around extinction of the bird or the fact that it can’t fly.

However, I wanted to bring a little bit of magic and fantasy to my readers – hence making Derek the Dodo fly!

flying dodo

The locations in my book were also heavily influenced by my upbringing in Mauritius. Growing up, I was incredibly lucky to be surrounded by Mauritius’ natural beauty. The luscious white sandy beaches, crystal blue water, dense rainforest, and some of the most beautiful botanical gardens gave me the perfect inspiration when writing my book. I was immediately drawn to my childhood memories, all the places I spent so much time in and where some of my best memories still are. Mark Twain very rightfully summed it up when he said “Mauritius was made first and then heaven, heaven being copied after Mauritius”!

Mauritius illo

The themes of friendship, having the courage to be different, and dreaming the impossible were influenced by my 6 year old who was assessed as Gifted a few years ago. When he first started school, he was very different to his peers and struggled to connect to other children. However, he always knew he was different and very readily and strongly embraced that.

So there you have it, why I wrote my book and what my inspiration was. My hope now is that children reading my book will be transported into this magical story and share the thrilling ride with this wonderfully unique Dodo, and, just for a little bit, dream that the impossible can happen!

Vanee A photo

Vanee Apoolingum was born and raised on the paradise island of Mauritius. Growing up in exotic surroundings plus childhood stories about the flightless dodo provided her with the inspiration for Derek the Flying Dodo.

For the past 17 years she has swapped warmer climates for the milder (and wetter) weather of London. In her very limited spare time, thanks to her two young boys, she enjoys reading, writing and baking with her children.

Book Review MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS: A Teacher And Writer’s Perspective by Laura Roettiger


Everything about the book Maximillian Villainous (Running Press Kids, 2018) made me know it was going to be a hit at school. To be honest, I was excited to find this book at the library and I knew my enthusiasm would add to their interest. The title alone captured the imagination of the children who wanted to know more about this villainous monster. But wait, Max isn’t a villain! And right away, the author had us engaging with the main character.

The class of second and third graders may not know about the rule of three, expertly employed by author Margaret Chiu Greanias, but they sure appreciated the way it was woven into the story. The three tasks for Max: “1. Steal something 2. Make someone cry 3. Gain fame by being devious” are cleverly highlighted in the illustrations so that children focused on the list. We even compared it to the classroom rules, which was fun and another way to interact with the story. Of course, the students explained the tasks were the opposite of what they should be, demonstrating that the author and illustrator did a great job engaging the readers early in the story.

As a picture book writer, I’ve been studying different aspects of craft and I know how important page turns are. This book is a model of page turns done well. I’d like to mention two excellent examples. The first that attracted attention (read children needed to chime in with their predictions) involved the bunnies digging in the Sandman’s stash of magic sleeping dust. Many of the children knew what would come next. The other is when Max has an idea, complete with the villainous “Mua-ha-Ha!” This was definitely the class’s favorite part of the book (read everyone was making the sound and believed Max was turning into a villain like the rest of his family.) Well played, Margaret!

The illustrations (by Lesley Breen Withrow) in Maximillian Villainous are fantastic. They are colorful, full of wonderful detail, but not too busy, and whimsical, matching the tone of the story. Even the way the Illustrations were laid out on the pages and the use of signs and notes created a high level of interest for the children and for me.

This book definitely earns 5 stars from me because it’s got humor and heart on every page. Additionally, it allowed for a fun reading lesson learning about problem and solution in a story where they weren’t as obvious as in many books. This helped me know what the children understood and which ones needed more help. It is more proof that picture books are excellent vehicles for learning.

Laura R

Laura Roettiger is the author of the picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon (Eifrig Publishing, 2019) She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. Laura has three children of her own, all of whom were led by curiosity and creativity into STEM-related professions. Laura is also a part of #PictureBookBuzz, a group of authors with books being released in 2019.

Find Laura on Twitter @ljrwritenow and at her website LauraRoettigerBooks.com.

Top 5 Books For Kids to Learn ABC’s by Ilham Alam

ABC imageParents, have the past few weeks been hectic because your kids are going back to school? You may even be feeling emotional because your little one is starting preschool or kindergarten for the first time. Do they know their ABC’s? Is there a way you can help them learn? Of course! ABC picture books! 

Author and mom Ilham Alam has stopped by today to share her favorite books for helping kids learn the alphabet. Read on for a great selection of ABC concept books!

Top 5 Books for Kids to Learn ABC’s

By Ilham Alam

September is finally here, which brings with it cooler temperatures, apple cider and apple picking, harvest and pumpkin farms, and leaves of red and gold. It also brings the back-to-school season with kids back in their classrooms, many of them for the very first time.

As a parent/guardian, how can you best prepare and help your child succeed during Kindergarten? By ensuring that their learning in the classroom is reinforced at home, if your child is not already familiar with their basics like ABC’s by the time they reach JK.

Here are the Top 5 books for kids to learn their alphabets. I have read all of these books with my oldest son, who’s off to Kindergarten this year. We both enjoyed these books for various reasons and are recommending them to you:

Dinosaur A-Z: For Kids Who Really Love Dinosaurs

Dino ABC

This book has photo-realistic pictures of 26 of these prehistoric and majestic creatures, complete with short facts about each of the dinos written in the first-person and meant to make your child laugh along while they learn. I credit this book for teaching my son his alphabets, including the correct order of the letters. In addition, the book spells out the pronunciation of each of the long names phonetically, ensuring that your child begins to connect the letters with sounds. We have had this book for a year and my son still requests to read this a few times a week as it’s not only taught him fun dino facts thus encouraging his passion, but also, he has learned his alphabets and beginning reading skills using the now-familiar words. I cannot recommend this enough and this book is our favourite of the bunch.

Dr.Seuss’s ABC

Seuss ABC

Who doesn’t love the silly rhymes found in Dr. Seuss’s iconic books? This ABC book is no exception and has illustrations featuring many of Dr. Seuss’s familiar characters. The text goes full throttle right from the beginning in fast-moving, foot-tapping, finger-snapping rhymes. What I liked about this was that it also introduces big and little letters to your child, so that visually your child can see where and why big and little letters are used.

Elmo’s ABC Book

Elmo ABC

This ABC book features another iconic children’s character: Elmo from Sesame Street. The book cover is a bright blue making our fuzzy red monster stand out, thus attracting your child’s eye and inviting them to read it. Inside, we meet Elmo and his friends as he tries to figure out what his favourite letter of the alphabet is. Elmo is having a hard time deciding because there is something to love about each letter. For example, he loves the letter ‘B’ as Elmo loves cute babies. Keep reading to discover what Elmo’s favourite letter is. This book stood out for me because it helps to introduce kids to everyday words corresponding to each letter.

Chicka Chicka ABC by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault

Chicka ABC

I am sure you have heard of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom? This is the alphabet version which begins,

A told B, B told C/

I will meet you on top of the coconut tree 

This is another fantastic way for your kids to learn their alphabets as it turns it into a catchy song, which is a great way for your kids to remember and get comfortable with a new concept. And I found it unique that bright colours like orange and hot-pink are the dominant colours used here. You can also put on a YouTube video of the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Alphabet song and dance along to it as well, to further help with the memorization of the alphabets. 

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

Eat Alphabet

This is a different type of alphabet book as each of the alphabet pages have colorful, painting-like pictures of different foods corresponding to each letter. It is a good book for kids to learn of the many different types of food. This could even inspire your little one to try new foods, which is what my son and I like about it. However, this does not have fun rhymes like the other ones listed here.

Thank you, Ilham, for the terrific list of ABC books that are sure to help any child learn the alphabet and have fun at the same time!

Ilham Alam

Ilham Alam

Ilham is a Student Advisor by day and a writer and Children’s Book Author by night. She has her upcoming picture book, Wonder Walk, releasing later this year, to be published by Iguana Books. An avid children’s lit book reader and traveler, she has documented her adventures on her book review and family travel blog, Story Mummy: www.storymummy.com.

Once Upon a Time…in History….by Lisa Olson

 “It’s easy to get sucked up into the enormity of life and not think you could ever make a difference. That’s what I like all my books to say. YOU ARE IMPORTANT!!!” ~Lisa Olson





I love this quote by Lisa Gammon Olson, author of the American Herstory series! Lisa contacted me recently about her picture book series and I could tell (even through e-mail correspondence) that she’s very passionate about what she wants young readers to take away from her books. I asked Lisa to tell us more about the books and the messages they impart.

My American Herstory Series started where every story starts…with a Once Upon a Time…a small snippet of time from our past, as seen through the eyes of one young girl.  

Working as a secretary in a small rural elementary school has given me a glimpse into the inner workings of a child’s heart and mind.  I see their need for acceptance, for praise and to feel valued as an integral part of the daily school routine.

My father taught 9th grade World Geography and American History. My three sisters and I grew up immersed in daily discussions of current and historical events, interconnected and tightly woven together, todays, tomorrows and yesterdays… sewn together in the colorful patchwork quilt of life.  I’ve always been amazed at the tenacity of the human spirit and the will to survive and even thrive in harsh conditions throughout history.

So, in wanting to validate every child’s sense of belonging, coupled with a passion for history, Dust Flowers, came to life.  The first book in this historical fiction series takes place during one of the most difficult periods in American history, the Dust Bowl Era. Imagine being a child, watching your parents struggle to farm during a decade long drought, besieged with daily black blizzards of swirling dust and not having ever felt a drop of rain in your entire lifetime.  What could one small girl do in the enormity of a drought?  Every act, no matter how small, can change someone’s life for the better. Growing a flower and bringing a smile to her mother’s sad face promises something even more precious…hope!


Illustration from DUST FLOWERS by Lisa Olson, illustrated by Kyle Olson, published by Eifrig Publishing

Children need to know that everything they do in life will affect someone or something, either positively or negatively, depending on their actions.  In the second book, Sewing the Magic In, a young girl living in 1912 learns her own impact and importance.  She’ll find out how her seemingly tedious work in the costume department plays a part in bringing the magic of the circus to life.


Even the orphan train riders in the third book, The Cheese Song, can find hope and promise in a situation far out of their control.  Each of us has a part to play on this earth and we soon find out we are all dependent upon the actions and kindness of others. Lessons learned from the past, hopefully, help us to grow and evolve in the future.


Illustration from THE CHEESE SONG by Lisa Olson, illustrated by Lauren Rutledge, published by Eifrig Publishing

While the American Herstory series starts with “Once upon a time”…every book ends with a message of hope, love and the pursuit of the American dream, and they live, as we all should… “Hope”fully ever after.

Lisa Gammon Olson is an author for Eifrig Publishing.  She lives in Coon Valley, WI, where she is the secretary at the Coon Valley Elementary School….a job she adores!  She believes the most important skill we can ever teach our children is “How to be Kind.”  Any kindness we do, no matter how small, has the power to change someone’s life.  Growing up in northern Wisconsin has instilled in her the wonder of nature… sparkling lakes, endless forests and trails littered with pine needles and possibilities.  Preserving our planet and populating it with human beings who are Respectful, Responsible and Kind seems like an awesome idea.

Learn more about Lisa and her books at http://lisagammonolson.com 

Hope. Kindness. Tenacity of the human spirit. What wonderful messages for all of us to take into the New Year!

How “The Aviator Owls and Mina’s Garden” Came to Life


Aviator Owl Books co-founder Sarah Porcher is a young woman who has impressed me greatly with her creativity, generosity, ambition, and seemingly boundless energy. She first appeared on Frog on a Blog last summer and shared how she started Aviator Owl Books. She also said that the goal of Aviator Owl Books is to “inspire and educate children through print books, eBooks, online games, and apps”. And as if that isn’t enough, Sarah and her co-founder Chris Bill support charitable causes, such as First Book and the Make-a-Wish Foundation, through their book sales. You can read my interview with Sarah by clicking here.

Sarah is back to take us through her fascinating illustration process for her new book The Aviator Owls and Mina’s Garden. (As a writer, not an illustrator, I’m always intrigued by the art techniques that illustrators use for their books.) Take it away, Sarah! 

Hi everyone! I’m so happy to be able to share some of my illustration techniques for our new book The Aviator Owls and Mina’s Garden! I’ll start with a brief introduction. My name is Sarah and I’m co-founder of Aviator Owl Books Inc. where I write and illustrate the books under the pen name S. A. Porcher. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about how I illustrated our newest book The Aviator Owls and Mina’s Garden, which is to be launched April 24 (2015). 

So let’s get started! First, if you’ve seen any of our books before you’ll know that we have two different illustration styles: one using flat designs and vectors, and one with a digital painting technique. For any book with Aviator Owl characters, I use vector illustrations, so this post will be about that process.

I begin all of my illustrations with simple sketches on plain printer paper. I prefer to use ballpoint pens, but occasionally I’ll use pencil. The Aviator Owls were born on paper in 2009, so the basic character sketches have been finished for a long time. That made the illustration process for this book a little more streamlined.

After the character sketches are complete, I’ll sketch out extremely rough layouts for every spread in the book. And by “extremely rough” I mean that the only person on the planet who can understand them is me. Then I will organize them into a storyboard just to get a sense of the storyline. After this I have two options: 1. I scan in the rough layouts and add each one to a spread in Adobe InDesign (InDesign is my best friend) or 2. I use my Wacom Bamboo tablet and the pencil tool in InDesign to sketch the storyboard in by hand, using the physical sketches as a guide. Having the spreads in InDesign helps me a lot because as I fill in the illustrations I can scroll down and remind myself where I’m going next.



Rough Spread

Rough Spread

Next up is starting a spread. I don’t start at any one in particular, I just sort of randomly choose. Now, because I have been working with the Aviator Owls for a long time, I am usually able to adjust them in Illustrator without having to refine my sketches too much. With a new book with new characters, at this point in the process I would have to pull out a pen and paper and sketch out a much more refined spread to use as a guide. But not the owls. Usually at this point they tell me where they want to go (It’s quite nice. I barely do anything at this point)!

I open Illustrator and start a new document, which I will save immediately as “Mina’s Garden”. Then I’ll open any document that has the owls I already designed and copy them into the new document. I work in layers in Illustrator, so I’ll use the same document for the entire book, but every new page will be on a different layer. The tool I probably use the most is the pen tool, and I’ll create (using my Wacom tablet) all of the vectors that are needed for the page.

Mina Duplicates

Mina Duplicates in Illustrator

I pop over to Photoshop and start a new document with the correct dimensions for the book (Aviator Owl Books are all 8.5” x 8.5”) and copy in everything I need. I do touch-ups in Photoshop and then save the document. Unlike in Illustrator, in Photoshop every spread gets its own document. I try to keep these as organized as possible. Every book gets its own folder, and the Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop documents are all dropped there. The Photoshop documents are named “MinaBook01” through “MinaBook14” so I can find it all later.

Spread in Photoshop

Spread in Photoshop

Then it’s into InDesign. Command + D lets me place the Photoshop documents into InDesign. This entire process – from Illustrator to InDesign can take several weeks – sometimes months – depending on the complexity of the book, the number of new characters/objects, and, of course, my schedule (I am still a full-time college student). I am generally a very impatient person, so as soon as I finish a spread in Photoshop, it goes into InDesign. Spread by spread, the rough sketches in InDesign turn into the Photoshop images.

Spread in InDesign

Spread in InDesign

When I’m coming close to the end of the illustrations, I’ll start to fill in text. At this point it’s easy because I’ll have been working on the manuscript since the illustrations began. I’ll use the text tool in InDesign and write directly on top of the images. If something doesn’t fit well, or the text seems too out of place or “just three pixels too far to the left” (yes, I am that kind of person), I’ll go back into Photoshop and adjust the image to better incorporate the text.

Multiple Spreads

Multiple Spreads

When it’s close to its final stage, I’ll export a low-res file and send it to the other co-founder of AO Books so he can look over it and bring a new perspective. Out of the entire process I think this is one of the most important parts. I am just one human, and after looking at the same project for several weeks it becomes very easy for me to miss things. Usually Chris will look over it and send back comments and we’ll go over them together. This back-and-forth will go on for as long as it’s needed. When it’s complete I’ll add the “book” information – ISBN (which I purchase from Bowker), the cover page, the pages dedicated to the charity we’re supporting through that book (for Mina’s book it is DIG), and then we send it out to CreateSpace for a proof copy.

DIG Logo

Click the Logo to learn more about DIG.

And that in a nutshell (okay, a very big nutshell) is my illustration process for vector illustrations. I hope you enjoyed learning about how I illustrate, but if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask them here, or contact me at saporcher050@gmail.com. And for more information on Aviator Owl Books, be sure to check out our website at aviatorowl.com where you can find free printable activities, all the books, and news about The Aviator Owls and Mina’s Garden, due out April 24th, 2015.

ThankYouOwlsLemonade (2)