If new books are like babies, maybe cover reveals are like ultrasounds. What do you think, my friends?

The lovely Sandra Nickel has a new picture book in the pipeline, due to launch in September 2022 – and I’m HONORED to be sharing the awesome cover of BIG BEAR AND LITTLE FISH, illustrated by Il Sung Na and published by Carolrhoda Books.

OH MY GOSH! I LOVE THIS COVER! I am right there with big bear…and definitely right there with little fish. And I’m wondering, what is going to happen? And aren’t those the feelings a great picture book cover is supposed to elicit?

Here’s a little bit about the book:
Bear Loves Being Big!
At the carnival, she wants to win the biggest teddy bear of all. But instead she wins a fish. A very little fish. Bear and Fish can’t possibly have anything in common, can they?
Although Fish might look small, she proves to be bigger than Bear ever thought she could be, and Bear learns that sometimes even a big bear can be small in the big, wide world. Gentle, accessible prose by Sandra Nickel is paired with richly textured illustrations by Il Sung Na in this sweet story of an unexpected friendship. 

And here’s a little bit about the author:
Sandra Nickel is the author of picture book biographies about the inventor of nachos (Nacho’s Nachos), the discoverer of dark matter (The Stuff Between the Stars), and the first woman meteorologist (Breaking Through the Clouds). She is the winner of a Christopher Award, a Finalist for the Golden Kite Award, and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. You can keep up to date with Sandra at:

And here’s a little bit about the illustrator:
Il Sung Na was born in Seoul, South Korea. He writes and illustrates picture books including A Book of Sleep and That’s My Carrot!, and he also illustrates the work of other authors, such as My Tree by Hope Lim. Currently based in Kansas City, Il Sung spends his time teaching illustration and working on new books. You can keep up to date with Il Sung at:

And I thought, since BIG BEAR AND LITTLE FISH is about a bear (and a fish), you might be interested to know that today is a special day for bears.
Oh’s National Winnie the Pooh Day.
You mean you didn’t know it was National Winnie the Pooh Day?
Hahaha…neither did I. But I love that there is a day to celebrate the birthday of the author who created the Winnie the Pooh series, A.A. Milne.
If you and your children love bears, why not check out one of the Winnie the Pooh classics. Here’s a audio version of the original classic (narrated by Christopher Plummer) available for free on YouTube:
And here’s a read-aloud of Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (narrated by Maurice Evans)

And if you’d like to Pre-Order a copy of Sandra Nickel’s upcoming book, BIG BEAR AND LITTLE FISH, here is a link from

I hope you all have a wonderful week…please stop back for Perfect Picture Book Friday when we’ll be featuring PLANTING FRIENDSHIPS by Melissa Stoller, Shirin Shami, and Callie Metler Smith. And skip back on Saturday when we’ll be turning the Will Write for Cookies spotlight on author Maxine Schur and illustrator Milanka Reardon and their new book, CHILD BY THE SEA.

BENSON SHUM: Will Write/Illustrate for Cookies PLUS Giveaway


Plate of Cookies




I feel so blessed because every day I get to connect with amazing authors and illustrators. And sometimes I am doubly blessed, and the persons is both an author AND an illustrator, all rolled into one! I’m talking about none other than today’s amazing Will Write for Cookies guest, Benson Shum. I know you’ll agree when I share some of the inside spreads of his NEW BOOK, ANZU, THE GREAT KAIJU, THAT JUST LAUNCHED ON JANUARY 11th!!!

Benson Shum is a children’s book Author/Illustrator and Disney Animator. He uses watercolor, ink and digital tools to create his illustrations. Aside from writing and illustrating, Benson is also an Animator at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he was a part of such films as Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Moana, Frozen 2, Raya & the Last Dragon and Encanto. Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Benson now lives in Los Angeles, California. 

You can find him on his website::
And on social media:

ME: And right now, you can find him right here, on Picture Books Help Kids Soar! Welcome, Benson! Thank you so much for stopping by. It’s a thrill to meet you – I absolutely love your books! And I also want to thank you for the generous giveaway – a copy of ANZU, some stickers and an art print! I know everyone is going to make sure to leave a comment and share this post so they will be entered to win. But right now, we want to find out more about you and your path to publication.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

BENSON: My favorite authors/illustrators as a child were Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake, and Alice and Martin Provensen. I remember laughing and giggling through all their books. The play of the illustration with the text was amazing. They fit perfectly. I think that has influenced a lot of my work. Quentin Blake’s work says so much in just a few lines. 

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

BENSON: I wish I read more back then. I may have started writing earlier. There are lots of rules when it comes to story, but we don’t have to be confined to those walls. It’s good to have that structure, but it’s also ok to break them as well.

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

BENSON: I like to write where there is a bit of noise, like coffee shops, the park, the living room with the tv on. I usually like to write with music to get in the mood. If I’m writing something dramatic or sad, I will try to find music that has that emotional beat to it.  When I’m illustrating, I’m usually at my desk because all my tools are there. I always sketch with pen and paper first, then transfer the work digitally and continue to refine. But once I go into final art, I work traditionally with watercolor and ink.

ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

BENSON: I usually write during the day. I’m a morning person, so writing and illustrating in the morning is where I get the most done. Once the afternoon hits, I tend to get distracted. Haha! Also I tend to jot down a lots of notes on my phone when an idea sparks. Whether I do something with those ideas or not, it’s a good idea to write them out.

ME: Why do you write for children?

BENSON: I write for children because I love telling stories. I love to hear stories from my nieces and nephews or friends and listen to how their imaginations are so vast. It’s inspiring. I want to capture that in my books. I also want to make books where kids can see themselves. That my nieces and nephews can say, hey, that’s me

Kids at school absolutely LOVE when author/illustrators come to visit!

ME: Benson, do you have any other thoughts or advice for writers, parents, educators, librarians, or kids?

BENSON: My thoughts and advice would be to read a lot. Read in all genres. Learn to observe things around you. Anything from a tree, to a chair, to how people move and gesture. Keep asking yourself “why” and stay curious. I hope whether you are a kid, parent, educator, writer and or librarians that we look at how the text and the illustrations can sometimes tell a different story. Or give the story more depth. Sometimes a character’s expression can say 10 times the meaning with a single word. That’s why I love kids books, they’re not only for children, they’re also meaningful for grown up kids as well.

Thank you so much Vivian for having me on your wonderful blog. This was so fun, and thank you to the readers for taking the time to listen to me ramble. 🙂

ME: We are the ones who need to be thanking you, Benson! We are grateful for everything you’ve shared…and I know you have one more very special item to share – a favorite treat recipe of yours.

BENSON: Here’s where I got the recipe from:

Ginger Cookie recipe:

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup molasses


Preheat oven 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

In large bowl, mix together margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in water and molasses. Gradually add in the sifted ingredients. Shape dough into small sized balls and roll them lightly in sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press gently to flatten slightly.

Back for 8-10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookie to cool for 5 minutes before removing from oven.

WOW…Ginger cookies are one of my favorites, too. This looks like a need-to-make-this-soon recipe! Thank you, Benson, for your insights and recipe and for the giveaway!!

Hey everyone…please make sure you leave a comment to be entered! And also, please make sure you order a copy of Benson book from your local indie, review it after you read it, tell friends about it, and ask your local library to purchase copies for their collection. These are the things that really help our favorite authors and illustrators – and encourage publishers to make more awesome books!

Please have a safe and healthy weekend, dear friends! Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – let’s join hands and work together to engineer kindness and compassion and equality for all.