Perfect Picture Book Friday: MONSTER TRUCKS

Last weekend I attended the SCBWI ENCORE presentation at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Massachusetts. I’m thankful for kid lit friends, Mona Pease, who drove all the way from Maine, and Beth Gallagher, who picked us up and chauffeured us to the event. The fall foliage was astonishingly beautiful and the day-long conference was filled with inspiring and informative programs.

Next weekend, another book event takes place…the Keene State College Children’s Book Fair. I’m hoping to be able to go. The only problem with going to these book events is that it’s tempting to buy every book!

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection is one I actually didn’t have to buy. At our local indie bookstore’s Teacher Appreciation Week, I placed my name in a raffle bowl. And I could hardly believe my ears when the manager from Toadstool Bookshop called and informed me that I was a winner of a picture book which is perfect for this Halloween-is-around-the-corner season. To read all of this week’s Perfect Picture Book reviews, hop over to Susanna Hill’s website.



Written by Anika Denise

Illustrated by Nate Wragg

Publisher: Harper Collins (2016)

Ages: 3 and up


Courage, never give up, you don’t have to be the biggest in order to win


From Amazon:

Readers will delight in this lively read-aloud story with a clever and surprising twist at the end—perfect for Halloween and year round!

 Ready, set, go! The monster truck race is on in this frightfully delightful picture book.  On a spooky speedway, Monster Trucks moan! Monster Trucks grumble! Monster Trucks groan!

 Join Frankentruck, Zombie Truck, Ghost Truck, and more as they race to the finish line. But one of these trucks isn’t quite who you think.

Why I like this book:

  • Love the clever simple rhyme that is matched perfectly with illustrations full of kid-appeal
  • Totally a new twist on a Halloween story for children that has just the right amount of tension and suspense without being scary


  1. Let your children design their own monster trucks.
  2. Make up silly Halloween rhymes with your children…take turns with each line.
  3. Check out other great Halloween picture books here:


This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill. Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, dear friends and readers. If you enjoy writing children’s stories, don’t forgot about Susanna’s Halloweensie Contest. I’ll be posting my entry to the contest next Friday right here on my blog. But if you want to find out more about the contest, click on this link.



SYLVIA LIU: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway



Plate of Cookies






When I was new to this kid lit community, several names appeared frequently in blog post comments and writing challenges. These people seemed to have a confidence…a sense of knowing what they were doing. They were helpful, generous, and they made me feel so welcome. Sylvia Liu was one of those special people.


Sylvia Liu is an environmental attorney turned author and illustrator. Her debut picture book as an author, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books 2016) was the 2013 Lee & Low New Voices Award winner. She is inspired by her family, oceans, cephalopods, aliens, penguins, and more. Visit her website at She is the co-founder of the kid lit resource website, 


So, dear readers, now you know a little bit about Sylvia…and, by the end of this interview, hopefully you will know more.

Sylvia…I’m thrilled to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar! I want to remind everyone that there will be a giveaway of a copy of Sylvia’s brand-new book, Mornings with Grandpa, which I reviewed yesterday for Perfect Picture Book Friday. To be entered into the giveaway, please leave a comment at the end and share something you loved doing with a grandparent or something you enjoy doing with your grandchildren.

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


Even though English wasn’t my first language (Chinese was), my mom took my sister and me to the library all the time to check out books. I don’t remember specific picture books I loved (other than the Dr. Seuss), but I fell deeply in love with stories like CHARLOTTE’S WEB (E.B. White), A WRINKLE IN TIME (Madeleine L’Engle), WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS (Wilson Rawls), and THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER (E.L. Konigsberg). I stumbled across Andre Norton’s science fiction stories and that turned me onto a whole world of sci-fi and fantasy (Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Lloyd Alexander, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Frank Herbert).

ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?


I wish I had found a critique group sooner, though if I had, I wouldn’t have found my wonderful current group. I spent a lot of time writing and revising with little outside feedback, which resulted in a slow start and lots of wheel spinning.

ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?


I usually write at my computer in my study, but I keep a sketchbook in my purse. I jot notes, random musings, and first drafts in the sketchbook. I sometimes write in my Notes app on my phone while waiting at one of my girls’ sports practices.

ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?


Usually, I spend at least a morning or an afternoon each day on creative pursuits, whether writing or illustrating. Sometimes I will go days without writing because I’m focused on illustrating, while other days, it’s the reverse.


 E: Why do you write for children?


To spread the love – to help other children discover the love of reading that I enjoyed as a child.

 ME: Sylvia, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that writers might want to hear.


My advice to writers has been said by many, but I’ll reiterate: read, read, and read some more. Write from your heart. Learn the craft. Connect with other writers. Never give up!

Wow…thank you so very much, Sylvia. Each one of your tips for writers would make an excellent poster to hang up for inspiration!

And here’s something else that will give many of you some inspiration for those left-over bananas that no one will eat…Sylvia’s recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins


This is quick and easy recipe that takes 30-35 minutes to make from start to finish.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 or 1½ bananas, the riper the better
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (substitute ½ cup of chopped walnuts if you prefer)


Makes 12 muffins

Preheat oven 400 degrees

  1. In a small bowl, mix the wet ingredients together: egg (lightly beaten with fork), bananas (mashed), milk, and oil.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir together until just moistened. Do not overmix.
  4. Add the chocolate chips and mix in.
  5. Grease a muffin pan or use cupcake cups in a muffin pan. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.
  6. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Yum! I will definitely be making these!

To connect with Sylvia or to find out more about her book or her art (yes…Sylvia is an illustrator as well as an author:


Twitter (@artsylliu)



Please don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Sylvia’s new picture book. Just tell us something special you remember doing with a grandparent or something you love to do with your grandchildren. And if you are able to share the post on social media, more people will be inspired by Sylvia and get a chance to win a book.

 Logo final BB2 1 inch 300dpi

I hope you all have a beautiful weekend…I’m off to Gardner, MA for an SCBWI ENCORE writing workshop program with Mona Pease and Beth Gallagher.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: A Morning with Grandpa

Hold onto your hats! Today’s post is chock full of good stuff!

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday…so you know we are going to have a super picture book to review. And, because this is the third Friday of the month, we will be featuring the debut picture book of tomorrow’s Will Write for Cookies guest, Sylvia Liu! Woo-hoo!

But we need to make a few announcements first.

  1. The lovely Susanna Hill has announced her long-awaited Halloweensie Contest…I’ve participated in this writing challenge for many years…it’s a ton of fun…and ONLY 100 WORDS. Check out the rules and prizes (oh, but definitely, with Susanna, there are always prizes) right here.
  2. Last month we ran a giveaway for a copy of Joan Leotta’s Summer in a Bowl. Thank you to everyone who commented…I enjoyed hearing what your favorite salad ingredients are. And the winner is:



Barbara, I’ll be contacting you ASAP so I can get the book out to you.

  1. Tomorrow we’ll be giving away a copy of A Morning with Grandpa…so please stop by.

And now, thank you for your patience…it’s time for our #PPBF review.



Written by Sylvia Liu

Illustrated by Christina Forshay

Publisher: Lee and Low Books (2016)

Ages: Preschool – Grade 3


Family life, health and fitness, yoga


From Amazon:

Mei Mei s grandpa is practicing tai chi in the garden, and Mei Mei is eager to join in. As Gong Gong tries to teach her the slow, graceful movements, Mei Mei enthusiastically does them with her own flair. Then Mei Mei takes a turn, trying to teach Gong Gong the yoga she learned in school. Will Gong Gong be able to master the stretchy, bendy poses? Winner of the LEE & LOW New Voices Award, this title celebrates, with lively spirit and humor, the special bond between grandparent and grandchild and the joy of learning new things together. Readers of all ages will want to try out some tai chi and yoga too!

Opening Lines:

“Mei Mei watched Grandpa dance slowly among the flowers in the garden.”

Why I like this book:

  • I love books with multigenerational characters…and here we have a beautiful give and take relationship…each learning from the other.
  • Text is filled with wonderful language as the author explains how to do various tai chi and yoga moves…as a reader, I loved how the story sounded…as a writer, I appreciated how carefully the author chose each and every word.
  • The illustrations are absolutely perfect! We feel the character of Mei Mei…we see Mei Mei and her grandpa moving through the garden.


  1. In the back matter, the author provides explanations of various tai chi moves and yoga poses.
  2. Book trailer on Mr. Schu’s blog:


This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill. Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s special post!


SYLVIA LIU will be in the house!

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