Katharine Holabird – Will Write for Cookies







 Katharine Holabird headshot

I connected with today’s Will Write for Cookies guest of honor back in 2010. I had contacted Katharine to ask if she would be willing to read my soon-to-be-published book, since one of the picture book stories I recommended in it was Angelina Ballerina. Her answer was an immediate, YES! I was THRILLED when I received her endorsement…what an honor to have the author of over thirty-five children’s books say nice things about my work. And when I invited Katharine to participate in Will Write for Cookies, again she said YES! Hurray!

With experience as an editor, freelance journalist and nursery school teacher, Katharine definitely knew what she was doing when she created the much beloved character of Angelina Ballerina. Angelina recently ‘celebrated’ her 30th birthday – and the books have been translated into over fifteen languages!

I’m so happy to have her here to share her thoughts with us.

Welcome, Katharine! I know that so many writers were avid readers when they were young. From what I read on your website, you were a lover of books also.

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


Katharine: My grandmother had a beautiful collection of fairy tales illustrated by Arthur Rackman and Kay Nielson, and I still remember the romance and power of those fantastic stories and illustrations. Later on I read everything by E.B.White and Frank Baum, and adored Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House On The Prairie’ series. Not surprisingly, most of the books I loved had strong female heroines!

 board book

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


Katharine: I wish I’d known more about how the publishing world works and been a little cannier about my choices. When you first get published it’s such a thrill, and it’s easy to be naïve about contracts and fine print. A good agent should advise and encourage, and also keep an eye on all the contract details.


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


Katharine: Recently my husband and I moved back to the USA after thirty-five years in London, and that’s changed my writing habits in many ways. I used to write in a quiet upstairs room in London, but we travel a lot more now, and luckily laptops have made writing on the go very easy. I sometimes write ideas and thoughts in notebooks, but most of my writing is now on my laptop computer. I do a lot of revisions, and for each story I keep a file with dated changes and rewrites in the computer – it really helps keep me organized! I find all I need is a quiet space where I can sit down and concentrate with the laptop. The location doesn’t matter so much now – if you’re engrossed in a story an airplane can be surprisingly good place to write.


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?


Katharine: I love the idea of a muse, because there’s always a touch of magic about writing, as with all creative work (Elizabeth Gilbert has a wonderful TED Talk about working with her muse). So yes, I write when the muse inspires me, though deadlines are also inspiring! When I have a story due I become a binge writer and go at it for a entire days at a time, but then there are periods when I’m just humming along, waiting for the next spark of an idea to arise. I’m now writing a new series about ‘TWINKLE, a little fairy who lives in a magical fairy world and goes to the Fairy School of Music and Magic – it’s a big change from Mouseland, and I’m enjoying the challenge. (TWINKLE is a Barnes & Noble exclusive, available from B&N and Amazon)

Meet TWINKLEroll

ME: Why do you write for children?


Katharine: I started writing for children when I was in my thirties, at home with two young daughters (and then a son). My daughters loved to dress up and dance, just the way I’d danced with my sisters growing up in Chicago. My oldest daughter was a very determined character, and all she wanted for her fourth birthday was a pink tutu. As soon as Tara put on her pink tutu she magically became a great ballerina, and wore it everywhere. I was doing free lance writing for my husband’s publishing company, Aurum Press, and worked on Helen Craig’s first mouse counting and ABC books. When Aurum proposed doing a storybook with Helen I knew it was my chance to write something special for my daughters. I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a first draft about a little dancing character I called Primrose, and this became Angelina Ballerina. It’s now been 35 years since Angelina Ballerina was published, and recently Helen Craig and I donated all our Angelina archive to the Seven Stories Children’s Museum in Newcastle, England. I was there in September to see ”Twists and Tails – the story of Angelina Ballerina,” a show created from our archive materials, and it was amazing to discover my first hand written draft proudly displayed in a glass case in the center of the room!

There’s more information regarding the Seven Stories Children’s Museum on my Facebook page.Family portrait Sept 14





Thank you so very much, Katharine! I’m excited about your new Twinkle series. My little granddaughter will be two years old in April…and she and her parents love fairies.

I know you have grandchildren and we are so happy to have this special smoothy recipe that you make for them.


Katharine: I have two adorable grandsons (still waiting for a little girl who loves pink!)

I’m not much of a baker, but the boys and I like to make smoothies together – they’re so delicious, and I add some Green Superfood flavoured with chocolate!


2 Cups milk or almond milk

1 banana

1 cup cleaned strawberries, blueberries or raspberries (or combination)

1 peeled Kiwi

1 tablespoon Green Superfood – Chocolate flavour

Blend until smooth and yummy!

Wow! Thank you for your candid and helpful answers, Katharine. And I can’t wait to try your smoothy recipe.

With the holiday just around the corner, I know that parents and grandparents are looking for great gifts for kids – I can’t think of a better one than a BOOK. I noticed there are two different Christmas titles for Angelina Ballerina books, and of course, board books, paper backs, Kindle versions, audio tapes and many other ways people can share the beloved Angelina Ballerina. These are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, indie bookshops and from the Penguin Website, Angelinaballerina.com, Hitshopusa.com and HITEntertainment.com.

If you want to connect with Katharine, you can visit her amazing website: http://katharineholabird.com/

And if you are interested in viewing the Elizabeth Gilbert TED talks she mentioned, here they are:



What a way to end Will Write for Cookies for the year. I started this series in January. Have you read all twelve posts? Here is a list with links so you can catch up on any you might have missed:

Iza Trapani

Susanna Leonard Hill

Susanne Gervay

David Seow

Emily Lim

Emma Walton Hamilton

Christopher Cheng

Dianne de las Casas

Anne Marie Pace

Jane Yolen

Julie Hedlund

Tara Lazar

Sandra Beckwith

Laura Purdie Salas

Katharine Holabird

And 2015 will be another exciting year – Katie Davis, Laura Gehl, Julie Rowan-Zoch, Donna McDine, Marty Banks, Suzanne Williams, Artie Bennett, Miranda Paul, Becky Gomez, and more authors and illustrators will be stepping into the Will Write for Cookies spotlight…I hope you won’t miss a post.

And, if you still have any vision left after this ultra-long post, head over to Susanna Hill’s blog and read some of the incredible stories that have been entered in her 4th Annual Holiday Contest: http://www.susannahill.blogspot.com


Perfect Picture Book Friday: Angelina’s Christmas – Reaching Out to Help Others

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s time for a Perfect Picture Book review and craft activity. If you head over to Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog today, you won’t find her usual picture book link up because the 4th Annual Holiday Contest is underway…check out the scores of incredible original stories – you are in for a treat!

Today’s picture book is especially perfect for this time of year. And I’m really excited because the author, Katharine Holabird, is going to be my Will Write for Cookies guest tomorrow.



Written by Katharine Holabird

Illustrated by Helen Craig

Publisher: American Girl (2002 – hardcover) Puffin (2008 – paperback)

Ages: 3-5+

Themes: Christmas, friendship, helping others


Opening Lines:

“Christmas was coming and everyone at Angelina’s school was working hard to prepare for the Christmas show. Angelina and the other children stayed after their lessons to rehearse and help decorate the hall.”


From Amazon:

“When Angelina Ballerina sees the postman, old Mr. Bell, all alone at Christmastime, she decides to bring him some holiday cheer. Cousin Henry doesn’t want to help until he finds that there’s a real Santa Claus living in their town!” Continue reading

Hither, Thither and Yon Save Christmas – A Holiday Contest Story

Polar Express

My grandson spent the weekend with his mom at the North Pole, riding the Polar Express and meeting Santa. Tuesday, we’ll be putting up the tree and getting ready for a welcome visit from my son and his family who are flying in from Chicago to spend a few days with us for Christmas.

I hope all of you are able to get into the spirit of the season…no matter whether you celebrate one of the winter holidays or not. Our backyard is a snow-covered wonderland – there is a special hush that falls in the woods when there is snow on the ground.

Today I have a special treat for you – well, I hope it will be a treat. My friend, children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill, is holding her famous annual Holiday Contest. All week, writers can post a holiday story for children on their blog and link it to her post or they can add their story to the comment section if they don’t have a blog of their own.

hoilday contest 4

Rule rundown: 350 words or less, kid-friendly (for children under 12), story must include some weather event that impacts the holiday.

At the end of the week, Susanna and her assistants will pick some of the stories and put up a poll where you can go and vote for the one you think is the best. There are great prizes…the quality of the stories is incredible…I hope if you are not participating, you will visit some of the blogs and read the entries.

My story is about three musicians, Hither (a mouse who plays acoustic guitar), Thither (a jazz-funk drumming toad) and Yon (a swan who plays classical violin). When a tornado rips through the town of Delight, will their music be able to soothe the savage storm?

tornado_noaaPhoto courtesy: http://www.weatherwizkids.com/weather-tornado.htm (This is a GREAT science site for parents, teachers and kids!)


Hither, Thither and Yon Save Christmas – (303 words)

Have you heard about Hither and Thither and Yon,

a mouse and a toad and an elegant swan,

who battle with music one dark Christmas night

in the midst of a storm in the town of Delight?


Hither and Thither love Club Razzmatazz

and evenings of improvisational jazz.

Guitar on his shoulder, and drums at her hips,

they be-bop along with a song on their lips.


And Yon, he is headed the opposite way.

His violin sings at the Swan Lake ballet.

Each night the whole audience rise to their feet.

“Encore!” they all clamor. “Please maestro, repeat!”


The wind whips and whistles – a dust-cloud appears.

It whirls and it swirls and it deafens the ears.

And Hither and Thither turn up the wrong street.

They enter the ballet with toe-tapping feet.


Around the next corner at Club Razzmatazz

the jazz band is missing some guitar pizzazz.

Again the wind howls and rumbles and roars

and Yon and his fiddle explode through the doors.


As Hither plays jazz funk and Thither, the blues,

the dancers don taps on their soft ballet shoes.

At Club Razzmatazz, things are going quite well

as Yon and the band are beginning to jell.


But outside the spiral of wind picks up steam,

rip stripping the roofs – “Help!” the dancers all scream.

The storm is a monster – a villain – a beast

gobbling gaily wrapped gifts like a fine Christmas feast.


But Hither’s guitar strums a soft lullaby,

and Thither’s drum whisks with a hush and a sigh,

and answering back is Yon’s sweet violin.

Soon the twister starts losing its devilish spin.


The town has been rescued, and Christmas is saved,

and good boys and girls who all year have behaved

get tickets to Hither and Thither and Yon,

now appearing on Broadway in “MOUSE, TOAD AND SWAN.

The End

Ta-Da! I hope you enjoyed that.

Logo final BB2 1 inch 300dpi

And I hope you sign up for my newsletter so I can send you the Anti-Bullying Toolkit Guide for Kids: http://eepurl.com/8pglH. Everyone who subscribes will be entered into a raffle for a copy of my parent-teacher resource book, Show Me How! The winner will be announced in the first blog post of the year.

Stay warm! Eat chocolate! Read books!

Top ALA Picture Books Make Great Holiday Gifts for Kids

The gift-giving holidays are almost here. The stores, online catalogs and media are all trying to get you to spend your money – but what does a young child really need or want?

jeremy checking out his new easel

If you want to know the truth – not much! Paper and crayons or markers, some clay or play dough, safety scissors, glue, picture books – and you, of course!

On Friday, I usually review a picture book, but this is a great time of year to check out some of the top picture books of 2014 (all are on the American Library Association’s Notable Books list)…you might want to pick up a couple to put under the tree. I reviewed two of them this year – if you click the links, you’ll also find the craft activity instructions that accompanied each post.

A Big Guy Took My Ball written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Ball written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan

Bully written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Count the Monkeys written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Exclamation Mark written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Nino Wrestles the World written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales Continue reading