Perfect Picture Book Friday: SOLDIER FOR EQUALITY

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. Today’s selection is from one of my very favorite author/illustrators, Duncan Tonatiuh. And today is also the day that Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book link up is back in business – so please make sure to hop over to her blog later to discover more wonderful picture book reviews.

But first, we have a book to give away. A couple of weeks ago, we turned the spotlight on Barry Wittenstein and his newest picture book: A PLACE TO LAND: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation. And the winner is:


Congratulations, Laura…I will connect you and Barry so he can get a copy of this amazing book out to you.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program. Perfect Picture Book Friday is a celebration of the picture book genre. About eight years ago, there was a NYTimes article that claimed that picture books were dying out…that most parents of young children wanted to give them real books to read…like chapter books…books with lots of words and few pictures. Fortunately, that didn’t happen…picture books are not dying out and, what we are seeing in the schools recently, is a rebirth of the usage of picture books, especially nonfiction ones…and especially for the older kids.

Nonfiction picture books are so important. ROOM TO READ says that they expand a child’s vocabulary, aid second language learners, teach a child about the world they live in. And I would add: they allow children to see themselves, introduce children to incredible art, encourage children to find solutions to their own problems. And for me, one of the best things about recent nonfiction picture books is that they often uncover stories of people that history had forgotten..or, as in the case of schools in this country, that our textbooks never revealed.

soldier for equality

SOLDIER FOR EQUALITY: José de la Luz Saénz and the Great War

Written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

Published by Harry Abrams (Sept 2019)

Ages: 6-8

Themes: Discrimination, courage

Synopsis: From Amazon:

Award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh brings to life the story of a Mexican-American war hero
José de la Luz Sáenz (1888–1953)—or Luz—believed in fighting for what was right. Although he was born in the United States, he and his family experienced prejudice because of their Mexican heritage. When World War I broke out, Luz volunteered to join the fight. Because of his ability to quickly learn languages, he became part of the Intelligence Office in Europe. However, despite his hard work and intellect, Luz often didn’t receive credit for his contributions. Upon his return to the US, he joined other Mexican-Americans whom he had met in the army to fight for equality. His contribution, along with others, ultimately led to the creation of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which is the oldest Latino civil rights organization. Soldier for Equality is based in part on Luz’s diary during the war. It includes a biography of Luz’s later years, an author’s note, a timeline, a bibliography, and an index.

soldier for equality inside 1

Why I love this book:

  • Written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh…enough said!
  • I love stories that uncover true heroes who can inspire kids.
  • There are few nonfiction stories that portray Latinx people – we need so many more!

And here are some of the starred reviews the book has already received:

“The author’s insightful use of Sáenz’s war-diary entries boldly introduces this extraordinary American’s triumphs and struggles . . . An important contribution to this volatile chapter in U.S. and Mexican American history.”

(Kirkus Reviews)

“Using kid-friendly language that doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of prejudice and war, Tonatiuh expertly crafts an informative and engaging picture book biography supported by primary sources. If the straightforward text doesn’t grab young readers, the arresting pre-Columbian inspired art will.”


“Tonatiuh unfurls this story in a streamlined narrative, enlivened by touches of Spanish phrasing and quotes and paraphrases from Sáenz’s own diaries, that sets up the situation quickly and effectively yet still flows naturally . . . Youth literature has been limited in its coverage of Latinx civil rights, and this will be a useful and readable introduction to one of its originators.”

(The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“An inspiring introduction to an underrepresented figure who pursued his lifelong vision for equality and justice.”

(Publishers Weekly

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spiegler-teachyoungchildsocialjust-notstockPhoto courtesy:

For activities and other information, please check out these great links on diversity:

Thank you all for joining me here today. I am grateful that you spend some of your precious time with me. Tomorrow I’m headed for ENCORE, the NESCBWI mini conference in Hartford, Connecticut. It should be an awesome day filled with dear friends, good food, and of course, fabulous kidlit workshops. And next week, I’ve got a special guest for Will Write for Cookies: Alleanna Harris, the illustrator for Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. There will be an amazing giveaway of an original sketch by Alleanna.

Have a safe and happy weekend!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: I AM A THIEF Plus Book Giveaway AND Manuscript CRITIQUE

Authors, illustrators, and publishing company publicity departments often reach out to bloggers to see if they can feature upcoming picture books. I try to do as many as I can – because I LOVE reading them and I LOVE sharing them with parents, librarians, teachers, and all of my kidlit friends. Sometimes I get a chance to read them to my six-year old granddaughter over Skype…and, when she asks me to read the book again and again and again, I know we’ve got a winner.

That’s what happened with today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection. Sophie absolutely loves I AM A THIEF…and I think you will also. PLUS, the author and publisher are donating a copy of the book as a giveaway AND…the illustrator is offering a picture book manuscript CRITIQUE to one lucky winner. Make sure you leave a comment at the end.

But before we get to the review, we have a giveaway to announce.

Several weeks ago, the lovely Shannon Stocker, author of CAN U SAVE THE DAY? was featured on my blog and she offered a Picture Book Manuscript Critique. And the lucky winner is:


Congratulations! I will be contacting you shortly and putting you in touch with Shannon.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I am a thief


Written by Abigail Rayner

Illustrated by Molly Ruttan

Published by NorthSouth Books (2019)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Honesty, courage, family

Synopsis: From Amazon:

When Eliza Jane Murphy—line leader, captain of the worm rescue team—impulsively pockets a sparkly green stone from her classroom’s “Exploring Green” display table, her heart crumples.

My heart stopped singing. My letters went wonky. I was too heavy to swing! 

I wanted to put it back . . . But what if someone saw? 

But when she discovers that nearly everyone in her family took something once in their lives—from her baby brother and mom, to her nana with her sausage-stealing dog—Eliza overcomes her shame to make things right.

A hilarious and heartfelt story about stealing and finding the courage to do the right thing.

I am a thief inner 1

Why I love this book:

  • Filled with heart and humor – from the first page to the last!
  • So relatable for all children
  • Fabulous illustrations that move the story forward to its VERY satisfying ending


Make a Family Tree

Family-Tree-CraftsPhoto courtesy:

So many ideas for family tree activities. For detailed instructions:

Thank you, my friends, for stopping by to visit. Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of I AM A THIEF and for the picture book manuscript critique. We will have two winners…one person will get the book and another person will receive a pb critique! And if you get to read the book and love it,  why not post a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

I am a thief inner 2

BARRY WITTENSTEIN: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway



Plate of Cookies







Sometimes I want to join every kidlit Facebook group there is because I meet the best people in them – like our guest today. Barry and I are both members of Susanna Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic alumni Facebook group. He’s a cracker-jack writer – I love his sometimes bluesy, sometimes power-punching, all the time awesome free verse writing style…and if you’ve Continue reading

Perfect Picture Book Friday: A PLACE TO LAND: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation PLUS Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends! As promised, we have a double-decker, close-out-the-summer special: a brand-new picture book (just released on Tuesday – and if you leave a comment, you will be entered into the giveaway of a shiny new copy) that is sure to take plenty of awards…it’s already garnered amazing starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Horn Book. And here’s one from Continue reading

Happy Book Birthday: WAKAWAKALOCH Plus Giveaway

LET’S ALL SING HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Chana Stiefel’s newest picture book that launches TODAY:

Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to WAKAWAKALOCH, Happy Birthday to You!



Written by Chana Stiefel

Illustrated by Mary Sullivan

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers (August 27, 2019)

Here’s a bit about the book:

No one can pronounce Wakawakaloch’s name. Why couldn’t she be called something simple . . . like Gloop? That’s a name you can find on a T-shirt! But after a visit with her village’s elder, Wakawakaloch discovers what her name means, and how powerful names can be. Gloop may be easy to say, but the girl who helps her friends embrace differences and wear their names proudly? Her name is Wakawakaloch!

Continue reading




Plate of Cookies



photo Shannon



Why do I love this kidlit community so much? Because of people like today’s guest, Shannon Stocker, that’s why!

Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who loves all letters equally. She lives with her husband, Greg, and her children, Cassidy and Tye, in Louisville, KY, where she molds the alphabet into picture books and songs all day. LISTEN, Shannon’s picture book biography about deaf percussionist, Evelyn Glennie, is next in line (Dial/Random House), and several of her stories have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors.  Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, and an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate. She’s also a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. To subscribe to her blog, visit her website, She can also be found Continue reading

Perfect Picture Book Friday: CAN U SAVE THE DAY? Plus Critique Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, my friends. It’s been a couple of weeks – a bit of a summer blog break, plus with the #PBChat Mentorship applications and manuscripts, I knew I’d be a bit buried for a while. I’ve started working with my mentee, the lovely Helen Ishmurzin – and we are both enjoying connecting and finding out more about each other.

Life here is busy as usual – I received a phone call from the publicity department at Continue reading