Perfect Picture Book Friday: INSPIRE THE WORLD – A Kid’s Journey to Making a Difference Plus GIVEAWAY

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends! And HAPPY INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP DAY! We are so fortunate to be celebrating this day with a very special book- written by one of my Storm sisters, Sammie Vance. What makes this even more special is that Sammie is a kid! And because Sammie is my Storm sister and because it is International Friendship Day, I’m offering a giveaway of a copy of this fabulous book – make sure you leave a comment at the end of the blog post.

INSPIRE THE WORLD: A Kid’s Journey to Making a Difference

Written by Sammie Vance

Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

Published by Spork (August 24, 2021)

Ages: 8-12

Themes: Friendship, activism, making a difference

Synopsis from Amazon:

What started as 8-year-old Sammie Vance’s mission to get a buddy bench for her school to fight loneliness grew to be so much more. Now Sammie is making a difference beyond her hometown. In her first-ever book, Sammie shares how she’s encouraging others through recycling, community, giving, determination, bravery, helping, being herself, and celebrating. She wants to inspire the world one kid at a time.

Why I LOVE This Book:

  1. I love that this is a book written by a kid to encourage other kids to take action to make the world a better place!
  2. I love the format of the book and how we see Sammie grow up, right before our eyes as we turn the pages!
  3. I love the photos and art…the illustrator did a fabulous job!

And we are really lucky because Sammie was able to stop by to chat with us – she’s going to share a bit about her path to publication. WELCOME, SAMMIE!!!!

SAMMIE: I actually wrote the first draft of this book when I was 9. It was going to be a picture book. But as I grew my book grew with me. I love how it turned out. I love how you can see me grow and I hope teachers, parents and kids will be inspired that you don’t have to be an adult to make a difference, you can be a kid to. At 12 I have been able to experience some pretty cool things and have received some prestigious awards. But the best part about my journey has been meeting new people and making new friends. I feel so excited to have my story published. 

Another tidbit is that the girl Talitha Shipman, who does the Sammie cartoons in this book was actually the one that encouraged me to write a book in the first place. It also turned out she lives only 5 minutes from us. We have become great friends throughout the process.

Here’s a little bit about Sammie: Sammie Vance is 12 years old and wants to write books to inspire others to be kind and make a difference.
She has gained worldwide attention through her project where she collected plastic caps and lids and had them recycled into buddy benches for her school and all around the country.
Sammie has been a guest on the Today Show, Nightly News with Lester Holt, covered by Martha Stewart Living, USA Today and many more. She has over 40 million views on numerous videos done on her. She has partnered with Walgreens and UPS who wanted to help her continue to spread kindness.
She has won multiple International Awards including and award named for her. Most recently she won the Diana Award, Gloria Barron Prize and named a top youth volunteer in the country.
From writing and her weekly podcast, to buddy benches and sending smiles, Sammie is spreading kindness wherever she goes.
You can find out more about Sammie on her website

And don’t forget that the best way to tell authors and illustrators that you love their books is to buy them, review them, tell friends about them, and ask your local library to purchase copies for their collection. Please do that for this book! It’s available for pre-order RIGHT NOW and launches August 24th.


Photo courtesy:
  1. One obvious activity would be to organize a buddy bench building initiative – it could be started by a family, a school, or an entire community.
  2. Ten amazing ideas for kid activists:
  3. More places to find areas where kids are making their voices heard:

Make sure you leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway. I will send a copy of INSPIRE THE WORLD to one lucky winner. Perhaps in your comment you can tell us if you or your children or your students have been involved in activism.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends! I hope you are staying safe and healthy.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: SECRET SECRET AGENT GUY Plus PB Critique Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. I’m so excited to turn the spotlight on this new book written by the talented Kira Bigwood and illustrated by the wonderful Celia Krampien. And please make sure you leave a comment because Kira is providing an amazing opportunity for all of you writers…a Picture Book Critique Giveaway!


Written by Kira Bigwood

Illustrrated by Celia Krampien

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Bedtime, girl power, humor

Synopsis from Amazon:

Send little spies to sleep with this hilarious, tongue-in-cheek lullaby set to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Dear Fellow Agents:

Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to join Secret, Secret Agent Guy on his bedtime assignment, code name: Operation Lollipop. Equipped with night-vision goggles, a jetpack, and grappling hook, he is prepared for every eventuality…or is he?

Will this 007-year-old complete his covert quest, or will he be outsmarted by an adversary he never saw coming?

Why I love this book:

  1. Clever, clever, clever rhyme – a great read-aloud!
  2. Awesome illustrations that really give the reader a sense of movement and drama!
  3. Filled with heart and humor – always my favorite combination for a picture book!

This book has received STARRED reviews:

From School Library Journal: VERDICT This is a bull’s-eye for imaginative children, and the singalong text invites participation at all ages.

From Kirkus: Absolutely charming—no subterfuge about that.


Photo courtesy:

Here’s a link to a bunch of awesome spy-related activities for your little secret agents:

Please make sure you leave a comment – maybe you can tell us if you ever played secret agent when you were a kid. We’ll be picking one name by to win the Picture Book Manuscript Critique that Kira is donating as a super giveaway! And don’t forget that the best way to thank an author for writing a book that you love is to buy the book, review the book, tell friends about the book, and ask your local library to purchase copies for their collection.

I hope you all have a beautiful weekend.

KRISTEN NORDSTROM and PAUL BOSTON: Will Write and Illustrate for Cookies Plus Giveaway


Plate of Cookies





As you can see, you are getting two for the price of one today! Both the author and the illustrator of a brand new book that is sure to be a big hit with kids and parents and teachers, MIMIC MAKERS: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature and it launches in just a few days on July 13!

And before we welcome these fabulous creators to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, here’s a little bit about them!

Kristen Nordstrom, M.Ed. is the debut author of Mimic Makers: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature (Charlesbridge Publishing). This picture book is illustratated by Paul Boston and is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard 2021 selection. Kristen is a founding member and full-time teacher with a Title One, STEAM public elementary school. This magnet school brings the power of hands-on science to a beautiful and diverse group of students including: foster youth, bilingual learners, and children on the autism spectrum. Kristen has a Masters Degree in Education from Pepperdine, extensive training as a STEM educator with The Lawrence Hall of Science, and is a member of NSTA. She is currently completing her National STEM Teaching Certification with Rice University. She is married to a journalist and has two adult sons., Twitter: @KristenNordstr1, Instagram:@knordynordy,
Book Promotion Group:

Paul Boston grew up in the English countryside and spent much of his time heading off into the fields and woods exploring and drawing pictures of the birds and wildlife he found. Now, from his country hideaway in South Wales, Paul keeps himself busy enjoying the outdoors, accumulating musical instruments and illustrating books for young people on subjects including – inventions, airplanes, trains, string and anything else you care to mention. His work has a wide appeal and has been commissioned across a wide spectrum of publishing projects, including activity books, educational titles and non-fiction books. To find out more about Paul and his work:

ME: I’m so excited to welcome you both, Kristen and Paul. Your book is amazing! Thank you for stopping by to share a bit of your writing and illustrating journeys with us.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

KRISTEN: Thank you, Vivian, for hosting us on your awesome blog today.  It is an honor to be included in the company of so many talented writers and illustrators! You lift up the whole kidlit community with your infectious enthusiasm, wonderful writing, and commitment to good literature for children. I loved Roald Dahl’s fantastic stories, Arnold Lobel’s adorable characters and their sweet friendships, and Beverly Cleary’s sense of humor.  She made me laugh!! I could always be found with one of her books in my hand, and she will always be remembered with gratitude in my heart. I could also be found with stacks of books from the library on nature. My mother was an elementary teacher, and she passed down a love of Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, and National Geographic Magazine.

PAUL: There was a great library near where I grew up and I made some lasting connections with the picture books I found. Later on I discovered that so many of my favourites were classics of the picture book world. Conveniently my current line of work gives me excuses to hunt down some of my old favourites – like Virginia Lee Bourton’s Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and The Little House with their fantastic compositions, and her knack for making technology look friendly without ever being cute. I discovered David Macaulay’s epic architectural picture books Cathedral and Underground a little later on. A big favourite when I was small that never attained that classic status was Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll by Franklyn Bramley. The original 1965 version had fantastic 3 colour illustrations by Ed Emberley, where clouds broiled and darkened above an anxious family, before unleashing a storm which was practically audible, all interspaced with entertaining diagrams showing how sound and light travel at different speeds and so on.

 ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

KRISTEN: In hindsight, I would trust my instincts, the creative process, and my curiosity about a subject a bit more. In the early days of writing, I got feedback that some of my manuscripts were too sciency – not commercial enough. This got me wondering if I should be picking more marketable topics, but you have to trust what interests you as a writer. I’ve found the fun of nonfiction is finding a way to draw young readers into a subject they don’t know anything about. This could involve writing a manuscript in thousands of different ways! I’ve learned no matter how many times you deeply revise, you’re always cultivating your craft as a writer, and learning more as a human being. How fun is that? Writing is a creative adventure – enjoy the process.

PAUL: When I first started working as an illustrator, the isolation was quite an issue. At college everything I was doing was in some kind of conversation with, or a reaction to what everybody else was doing – even when it wasn’t something we were literally talking about. After being in that environment for so long, I found it hard to keep track of who I wanted to be as an illustrator. I know now that starting out professionally is the time when it is most important to have somebody to communicate with and share feedback. If I had been better at that I think I would have made much faster progress back in the early days. I think it might be easier starting out now in the sense that there are online communities you can connect with, share and learn from that didn’t exist back then.

ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

KRISTEN: I write on my trusty Mac at my kitchen table in the early morning hours before school.

PAUL: I feel very lucky about where I work. I am currently in my upstairs room in South Wales, facing out over the rooftops of my small town, beyond the roofs are fields, and about 20 miles away, there are distant hills. I can’t grumble! It’s a big room but full of piles of picture and reference books because I desperately need more shelves.

ME: Why did you write a picture book about biomimicry?

KRISTEN: I started early in my career as a teacher reading aloud from a chapter book to my students after lunch each day. I also told my students a true story from nature, usually about animals, that I had read in the newspaper or National Geographic.  It was during this special storytelling time that I began to appreciate the deep connection children have to nature and animals. Because while my kiddos always loved to hear chapter books read aloud, when it came to nature and animal stories, you could hear a pin drop in the room. The wiggling stopped. The fidgeting paused. It was a lean-in moment. As  a teacher, you pay attention to those moments.  In my beautiful, very diverse, public school classroom,  I was witnessing a collective curiosity and deep love children share about the natural world. When I came across the topic of biomimicry (long story), I fell in love with the subject because it hinged on the idea of learning from the living world, and is a deep investigation into animals and plants.

PAUL: One of the things I immediately liked about Mimic Makers was that biomimicry is such a new field that it has really not received much attention in picture book form. It isn’t often that you get to be one of the first people to explore a new subject like this. And Mimic Makers combines several of my favourite subjects in a way I hadn’t encountered before. Kirsten also did a great job of simplifying some very technical innovations into a story about the excitement of looking at nature, and all the different ideas you can come up with as a result. 

The text also literally left plenty of space for my own interpretations of things, which usually draws me in. Some editors like to set everything out precisely – with lots of text and little boxes for the drawings, which can be helpful – but I’m sure what all illustrators really want is to be sent a layout with big empty spaces to fill! Working this way meant that sketches had to go back and forth a couple of times to get everything in the right place, but the editorial team was really good and only jumped in to help with new information and feedback where it was most helpful.  Some spreads needed updating a few times during the writing process to keep pace with new developments, as some of the biomimicry projects are still at the laboratory stage. For me it was important to get some kind of continuity to some very different ideas at very different scales, from whale-sized to microscopic and show people thinking and working and give a sense of place without getting too technical. I think we managed to keep things fun as well as informative.

ME: Oh my goodness! Thank you both so very much! It’s always a thrill to discover what motivates and inspires authors and illustrators! Kristen, we’ve been friends in kidlit groups for a while, but can I ask you…why do you write for children?

KRISTEN: It is an honor to write for young children. I’ve raised two amazing people (I’m partial), and I’ve taught in a public elementary school for over twenty years.  Children are innately creative, compassionate, and curious.  They forgive, they laugh, they look out for each other, and they live life to the very fullest. Sure, they have their moments when they can’t share the tetherball on the playground or graciously give somebody else a chance to be the line leader, but children are tapped into a kind of genius for living. They start each day as a new beginning, and it’s a privilege  to be in their company as a teacher, and to write for these awesome humans.

I feel the same way, my friend. And now I think we are about to be motivated and inspired to bake…and it’s a GLUTEN-FREE recipe! Take it away, Kristen!

Oatmeal Cookie Recipe (Gluten Free)

¼ cup of butter
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
¾ cup sugar
3 cups rolled oats
¾ cup brown sugar
6 oz chocolate chips
2 eggs
½ cup sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.In a large bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, and butter.  Beat until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and baking soda and mix well. Add peanut butter and mix.  Stir oats, chocolate chips, and nuts.Place each teaspoon full of dough about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly brown around the edges.

YUM!! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Please make sure you leave a comment on the blog to be eligible for the giveaway of a copy of this incredible book! Why don’t you share which insect or animal you think humanity could learn the most from? And remember, our favorite authors and illustrators need our support – buy their books at your local indie, review their books on Amazon, and request their books from your local library.