Perfect Picture Book Friday: NUMBERS IN MOTION: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends.

Our story today is written by one of my nonfiction picture book idols, Laurie Wallmark. Last November, I got to have dinner with her at the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference…what fun!

numbers in motion


Written by Laurie Wallmark

Illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg

Published by Creston Books (2020)

Ages: 8-12

Theme: #WomeninSTEM, courage, mathematics

Synopsis: From Amazon:

Sophie Kowalevski was both a brilliant mathematician and a talented writer. Creative work nurtured her mathematical research, giving her a flexibility of thought she treasured. A wonderful STEAM figure, she not only did mathematical research, but she also created many literary works. This inspiring title tells the story of Sophie’s journey as the first woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics, which required original research, holding a university chair in mathematics, and becoming the editor of a major scientific journal.

Why I love this book:

  • I love books that bring history to life and allow young kids to learn about unrecognized inventors.
  • I love books that show the important contributions of women.
  • I love the illustrations…oh my goodness…Yevgenia is one of my favorite artists.
  • I love the text…the narrative engages the reader from the first page to the last. My almost-seven-year old granddaughter loved it, too!



Photo courtesy:

For detailed instructions on all of these fabulous mathematics activities:

For more wonderful picture book reviews and activities, please hop over to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday linkup.

And of course, please come back tomorrow for the official opening post for #50PreciousWords…you won’t want to miss the opportunity to win one of 24 AMAZING prizes!

Happy Book Birthday: LITTLE HIPPO, & LITTLE MONKEY Plus Giveaway

Book birthdays are always special…even more so when they are for author friends. And guess what? This author has more than one book launching today!!!

So please clear your throats and get ready to sing out for these beautiful books!


little hippo

little monkey

Forgive me…I couldn’t wait! I had to just splash them right up there!

Both books are illustrated by Suzie Mason and are published by Amicus, Ink and are part of the Little Animals Friends series.

And now that you’ve had a little time to enjoy these beautiful covers, please sit back and relax because author Julie and illustrator Suzie kindly agreed to stop by to chat with us…and have a piece of birthday cake, of course.

JULIE: Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday dear Littles,

Happy birthday to YOU!

Thanks for having us on your blog today, Vivian. I do love to sing, and it’s double the JOY when you have book birthday TWINS and can share the day with your incredible illustrator, Suzie Mason. It is very exciting to think that we are now publishing book 3 and 4 together.

Suzie Julie Bologna 18 (7)


I think most of you know that the Little Animal Friends series started out with one little story. A very little story, in fact, as it was less than 50 words and was for your 50 Precious Words contest in 2016, Vivian. I was overjoyed and incredibly honored when you announced it as your top place story and kicked off my publishing journey.

Little Tiger Cover

But Little Tiger wasn’t keen to be an only book, so I wrote Little Panda. It was a very proud moment when the first two launched as board books last year.

Little Panda Cover

When Amicus Ink asked for two new stories, I started to research animals again. So, let me tell you a little about my process.


I look through animal books, photos and videos and when something makes me go “Ahhhh” that often starts a story idea.

Each book is based on the principle that baby animals act just like our human little ones – all about action and exploring, and sometimes overstepping the line. The key is to find lots of action verbs to really ‘show’ what is going on and if those verbs can be specific to the animal that’s even better. I keep track of these verb pairs for all the books on an excel spreadsheet, that way I don’t repeat myself too much.

The books have a consistent structure, but each animal has its own adventure. They have a maximum of 80 words over the 10 spreads. The first line of each quatrain is fixed, Little Hippo, Little Monkey etc. Then each spread follows a similar pattern with the problem climax on spread 6 and Mama to the rescue on spread 7. I know that generally we aim for the protagonist to solve their own problem, but I felt that as young animals and children grow, they need a helping hand from time to time.

little monkey inner 2

When I work on stanzas, the musicality is the driving force for me. The rhyme, rhythm and flow of the words must work to enable the story to be read aloud fluidly. I aim to create a songlike quality and finding the right words can take a long time! I often sing books with children and have a tune which fits the little books, but on a school visit I discovered that the children could rap these stories quite well too!! Oh, I wish I had taken a video!

Thank you so much for having me today, Vivian. And it’s over to Suzie…

Suzie’s Process:

For Julie’s books I like to have a really good grounding in the anatomy of the animal protagonist before I begin.  The art style is simple and sweet, so the animals have to be very clear and understandable, especially as the target audience is the younger end of the children’s age groups.  For Little Monkey I was lucky enough to be able to visit a zoo that had the chosen monkey species.  I took a lot of reference photos – monkeys in all sorts of odd positions, interacting with each other, and especially in motion!  Back at home I spent some time sketching these photos, trying to reduce the detail until I could draw the monkey with a simple outline and have him still be recognisable.  The trickiest part was figuring out his snout and ears!



little monkey inner

Once I have a style in mind I’ll draw up a couple of sketches of each spread based on Julie’s text. Sometimes the publishers ask me to include a certain setting or action, and sometimes it’s up to me to interpret the text from scratch.  I have to ensure there is plenty of ‘blank’ space on each spread to incorporate the text, and to allow the animals to stand out and not get overwhelmed with background details.  I send the sketches over and make any amendments where suggested, then when the publishers have picked their favourite sketches they’ll tell me where the text is going and I can start illustrating!

Little Monkey - Cover sketches


All my art is hand drawn in photoshop, so I’ll start with a white page with my sketch superposed over it, and fill in the different areas with colour piece by piece, using multiple layers.  I use a lot of texture brushes to get a soft look, and only ever use pure black for the animals’ features, such as eyes and paw lines.  When black is usually called for, such as the black fur of the monkeys, I use darker shades of other colours to keep the animals colourful and ensure their facial expressions are always easily readable.  For example, Little Panda has purples, blues and pinks in his ‘black’ fur areas!

little panda inner 1

I use light and bright palettes, which I choose at the start, in order to bring a cohesiveness to the book.  Each book has its own palette – when picking a colour for the scene I’ll first use one from that palette and then add others as needed to bring interest. 

Little Hippo gif


Once the scenes are all drawn, I send them to the publishers who will come back to request any changes.  For example, for Little Monkey one of the spreads had two rounds of amendments – first to add more colour in the scene with extra plants and flowers, and then to bring in a blue sky to brighten the whole scene up.  When the art is all approved, my portion of the work is done, and I don’t see anything else until a box of books shows up on my doorstep several months later!  Seeing the books in real life with the art and text together is one of my favourite parts of this job. 

Litte Monky gif


Wow…thank you so much, Julie and Suzie. You just gave us a mini-workshop in writing and illustrating a board book!

To find out more about Julie:

Julie Abery is a children’s author and former Pre-K teacher. Originally from England, she has spent half of her life living in Europe, bringing up her three (now grown up) children and experiencing new languages and cultures. She now calls Switzerland home.

Julie’s debut board books Little Tiger and Little Panda illustrated by Suzie Mason, published in March 2019 with Amicus Ink. Little Hippo and Little Monkey joined the Little Animal Friends series in February 2020; a nonfiction picture book biography entitled Yusra Swims, Creative Editions, illustrated by Sally Deng in February 2020; a true story THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN, Kids Can Press (Fall 2020) and nonfiction picture book bio SAKAMOTO AND THE SUGAR-DITCH KIDS, Kids Can Press (Spring 2021).

She is represented by Essie White of Storm Literary Agency.


Twitter: @juliedawnabery

Facebook: julieabery

Instagram: juliedawnabery

To learn more about Suzie:

Suzie was born and raised in a tiny village in Buckinghamshire, where she was always drawing and creating things. She then chose to pursue science by studying astrophysics at university, with no end game in mind for such an oddly-specific degree, and tried out events management before returning to academia. While searching for a creative outlet during her studies, she discovered and fell headlong in love with digital art. Now back in another tiny village, this time in Worcestershire, she is delighted to be able to spend her time drawing and creating things once again.

To learn more about Suzie and her wonderful books:

And that’s not all folks. Julie actually has ANOTHER book that launches today...YUSRA SWIMS (Creative Editions, illustrated by Sally Deng)

yusra swims 1

And we are not done yet! Please leave a comment and share on social media to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of LITTLE HIPPO or LITTLE MONKEY.

It’s been a busy month…the first half I spent in Chicago, doing school visits and bookstore events…and the second half I spent in Spain with my son and his family…today I fly home…and will be working hard on the #50PreciousWord International Writing Contest official post…I hope all of you have been working hard on your stories! I can’t wait to read your precious words!



Can such heavy topics be presented in an entertaining and engaging way?

And the answer is…YES.


May Saves the Day cover


Written by Laura Gehl

Illustrated by Serena Lombardo

Published by Capstone Press

Ages: 4-7

Synopsis from Amazon:

From her trendy suit to her messenger bag, May is the picture of a successful businesswoman. After all, she is founder and sole proprietor of Word Saver, Inc. Carrying her trusty bag of letters, May saves the day again and again, turning angry BEES into playful BEETS and a rampaging BEAR into a silly BEARD. Stu begs to be her sidekick, but May insists that a businesswoman does not need a sidekick. However, May quickly realizes that teamwork may be the word of the day when a tornado threatens the town. Author Laura Gehl brings word play to a new level in this adventurous and humorous picture book, featuring spirited art by Serena Lombardo.

Here’s a bit about the author:

Laura Gehl is the author of nearly two dozen picture and board books including One Big Pair of Underwear (Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title, International Literacy Association Honor Book, Booklist Books for Youth Editors’ Choice); the Peep and Egg series (Parents’ Choice Recommendation, Amazon Editors’ Pick, Children’s Choice Book Award Finalist); My Pillow Keeps Moving (Junior Library Guild selection, New York Public Library Best Books of 2018 selection); I Got a Chicken for My Birthday (Kirkus Best Picture Books of 2018 selection); and Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer (A Mighty Girl Best Book of 2019). Laura’s 2020 releases include Baby Paleontologist (Harper Collins); Judge Juliette (Sterling); Apple and Magnolia (Walker Books); The Ninja Club Sleepover (Page Street Kids); Cat Has a Plan (Simon & Schuster); and May Saves the Day (Capstone). Laura lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with her husband and four children. Visit her online at

And here is a bit about the illustrator:

Serena Lombardo was born in Naples, Italy, in 1990. She graduated in Fine Arts and later studied Concept Art and Character Design. As a child, she dreamed of being a valiant knight, and found her true Excalibur in a pencil. Drawing  fantastic and adventurous worlds has always been her passion, and making others dream by telling stories through illustrations her mission. She works now as a full-time illustrator for books and magazines in the United States, Great Britain, Belgium and Italy.

Right now, I am visiting with my son and his family in Chicago. My granddaughter, Sophie, is almost seven – I read the story with her and she LOVED it! I asked her why…she told me she loves that the main character is a girl businesswoman. She loves how words and letters are used to save the day. And she loves that Stu gets a job with May in the end.

Yes…I agree…there is so much to love about MAY SAVES THE DAY!

MAY SAVES THE DAY is now available for preorder on Amazon!

And now I’d better get packing…we leave on Thursday for 10 days  in Barcelona and Madrid…and I already have two tentative kidlit meetups planned…what fun!  I hope you will all check out the lovely Perfect Picture Book review that Beth Anderson did for Making Their Voices Heard.

Please don’t forget that the official post for #50PreciousWords goes live on February 29…I’m looking forward to reading all of your wonderful stories!



Grab a cuppa and hold onto your hats, folks! This is going to be an exciting post.

First of all...I am so honored to bring you the covers of two very special books wriiten by a dear friend of mine, Amber Hendricks. She’s the author of SOPHIE AND LITTLE STAR (Clear Fork, 2018) which is one of my granddaugther’s favortie picture books…and the upcoming EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY ELLA (Amicus, Feb 25, 2020) and SUPERHEROES DON’T BABYSIT (Beaming Books, June 2, 2020). But Amber also has two board books in the pipeline for 2020 and 2021 – that is amazing!!! And what is even more amazing is that Continue reading

Perfect Picture Book Friday: BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends! 2020 seems to be a banner year for stories about strong women who engendered change in one way or another. And I’m so excited to review this particular book because it’s written by one of my favorite nonfiction picture book biography authors, the one and only Nancy Churnin!


Written by Nancy Churnin

Illustrated by Felicia Marshall

Published by Creston Books (February 4, 2020)

Ages: 6-11

Themes: Discrimination, perseverance, art

Synopsis: From Amazon

Growing up in the late 19th century, Laura Wheeler Waring didn’t see any artists who looked like her. She didn’t see any paintings of people who looked like her, either. As a young woman studying art in Paris, she found inspiration in the works of Matisse and Gaugin to paint the people she knew best. Back in Philadelphia, the Harmon Foundation commissioned her to paint portraits of accomplished African-Americans. Her portraits still hang in Washington DC’s National Portrait Gallery, where children of all races can admire the beautiful shades of brown she captured.

Why I love this book

  • Well-paced lyrical narrative that engages the reader from the first page to the last
  • Glorious illustrations
  • I love true stories of perseverance and courage


Paper Plate Self-Portraits

Photo courtesy:

I love using paper plates for art projects…they are inexpensive and so versatile.

For detailed instructions:

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. And I hope you come back tomorrow for our VERY SPECIAL COVER REVEAL of TWO of Amber Hendricks’ upcoming books PLUS a SNEAK PREVIEW of our upcoming #50PreciousWords Contest and the list of prizes. PRIZES? You’d better believe there are prizes!

Launch of an Imprint & Launch of a Book – Good News for Kidlitland

Hello everyone! Today’s post is filled with GOOD NEWS!

First of all, a dear friend of our kidlit community, the incredible Callie Metler-Smith of Clear Fork Publishing, is announcing the launch of a new imprint and a limited-time ABOVE THE SLUSH opportunity for readers of this blog.



We are accepting submissions for our Spork Children’s Imprint and for our new imprint &MG.
&MG will feature Middle Grade books and we are asking for submissions right now that deal with some of the tough issues that kids ages 9-14 are dealing with. 
Submissions can be made by going to or by emailing the submissions directly to Please put Above the Slush somewhere in the header of the query letter.

Oh my gosh…what an opportunity! If you’ve got a polished manuscript you think would fit the Spork vision or you’ve been holding on to that MG work, wondering who you should send it to…here is your chance!

A big thank you to Callie for this generous offer!

So, the title of this post was Launch of an Imprint and Launch of a Book. We’ve revealed the Imprint launch…and now for the Book Launch.

Are you ready to sing a big Happy Book Birthday to…

ella and marilyn

Launching January 28, 2020

Illustrated by Alleanna Harris
Published by Little Bee Books

Here’s what the reviewers are saying:

Kirkus Reviews:
This warm story emphasizes Ella’s role in her  (Marilyn’s) success, thus avoiding the trap of the white-savior narrative. Many white artists have benefited from imitating black ones; this is the rare narrative to acknowledge that.
Harris’ illustrations capture the iconic looks of the two stars.
A good volume to include in a larger conversation about friendship, allyship, and social justice.(author’s note, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

School Library Journal:

The relatively simple text is supported by an author’s note and extensive sources, both primary (videos and interviews) and secondary (books and online resources). Kirkfield makes clear that both women brought deep personal feelings to their performances. Harris’s digital illustrations are varied, from vignettes to full and double-page spreads.

VERDICT An inspiring story about 20th-century icons that will be unfamiliar to most young readers. Recommended for schools and public libraries. 

Sometimes even stars need a little help to shine.” Focusing on the friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, this picture book highlights the similarities between the two women and the ways in which they helped each other succeed.
Back matter includes an author’s note and primary and secondary sources. A solid purchase for larger collections.

I’m excited for all of the upcoming book events that will help spread the word:

Jan 29 at 7PM: Andersons Bookstore in Naperville, IL
Jan 30: School visits to Naperville and Aurora, IL
Feb 4: School visits to Skokie and Evanston, IL
March 10: Kids’ writer workshop at Amherst Town Library, Amherst NH
March ?: Author Event at Books of Wonder in NYC
March 21 at 10am: Story time at Silver Unicorn Bookshop in Acton, MA
April 4 at 11am: Story time at Toadstool Bookstore in Nashua, NH
April 18: Sustainability Fair in Wilton, NH
April 25: Children’s Festival of Stories in Denver, CO
May 18: Wilkins Elementary in Amherst, NH
June 25-30: Annual ALA in Chicago, IL
July24-27: LASCBWI Conference

Thank you, dear friends…having your support and encouragement means the world to me.

And thank you, dear Callie, for providing this fabulous submission opportunity to my blog followers.

LAURA RENAULD: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway



Plate of Cookies






It’s been quite a while since our last Will Write for Cookies post. And there’s no better way to jump back into this author interview series than with someone like today’s guest.

LAURA RENAULD is the author of Porcupine’s Pie, illustrated by Jennie Poh (Beaming Books, 2018) and Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers, illustrated by Brigette Barrager (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020). She is also the creator of the Debut Review Challenge which encourages readers to write online reviews for debut authors and illustrators. Laura lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and their two story-telling sons. Read her blog, sign up for her quarterly newsletter, and learn about the Debut Review Challenge at You can also find her on Twitter (@laura_renauld; #DebutReviewChallenge), Instagram (@laurarenauld), and Facebook (@kidlitLaura).

I am so very thrilled Laura was able to stop by today to answer a few question about her writing journey…and of course, we are excited to see what delicious treat recipe she will share with us, plus she’s offering a giveaway of Continue reading