ALLEANNA HARRIS: Will Write/Illustrate for Cookies PLUS Original Art Giveaway



Plate of Cookies







What an honor this is for me! Today I’m hosting the illustrator for one of my upcoming picture books…and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how she has brought the characters of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe to life. Every page turn sings…Alleanna has definitely made their voices be heard!

Alleanna Harris is a illustrator who has been drawing for as long as she can remember. As a little kid, she would draw on every page of her mom’s legal pads, doodle on her notebooks at school and on the programs at church.

She graduated from the University of Arts with a BFA in Animation with Honors, and it was during this time she realized her love for illustration.

She has illustrated several children’s books, including The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, The Day Abuelo Got Lost, Making Their Voices Heard, and Patricia’s Vision.

Alleanna finds inspiration in the beauty in everyday things. Everything inspires her. In her work, she seeks to create images that are immersive, rich in color and have a sense of warmth. She lives in New Jersey.

Thank you so much, Alleanna! I really appreciate you stopping by to answer some questions. I know my readers are excited to find out more about you – and I just want to let them know that the giveaway today – thanks to your talent and generosity – is an original sketch…oh my goodness! One lucky person is going to win a piece of original art created by you! So, dear friends, make sure  you leave a comment below. But please don’t rush through the post to get to the comment section, because you are going to want to read Alleanna’s amazing Q&A.

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

ALLEANNA: I loved Wendelin Van Draanen. I read every single book of her Sammy Keyes series. In terms of illustrators:

Garth Williams, who did the illustrations for Charlotte’s Web and the Little House books.

Eric Carle, because I loved the colored collage and cutouts.

Bill Watterson because I have a ton of Calvin and Hobbes books.

Pat Brady, because I used to love the comic Rose Is Rose in the Sunday newspaper.

cover 2

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

ALLEANNA: A schedule is key! Time management is everything. Deciding which illustrations to do, on which day, and which time of day according to how I work really makes my job easier.

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

ALLEANNA: I have two main places: my room and the kitchen. In my room, I use a drawing desk that my mom got for me before college. It’s next to my bed and I can look out my window to the street. In the kitchen, I sit at the table where I can see out the kitchen window to my front yard and where I can see out the back door to the sun porch and backyard. I like being able to look out the window to daydream every once in a while.

alleanna workspace

For my rough illustrations, I like to use my iPad. I enjoy the ease of use, and it’s almost like pen and paper but it’s digital and portable. For my final illustrations, I use my laptop and Wacom drawing tablet.

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

ALLEANNA: On weekdays during the school year, I wake up really early and I work until late afternoon with short breaks in between. Then I take a long break and I might work for a few hours at night. In the summer, I work anytime, but mostly at night.

ME: Why do you illustrate for children?

ALLEANNA: I illustrate for children because I love it. I want to help kids experience new stories and new people, and illustrating is my way of going about it. I want to help spark their imaginations and looking at illustrations offer a fast track to their imagination.

patricias vision


ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers and/or illustrators, please share. 

ALLEANNA: For writers and illustrators: I’m not sure exactly where I heard this from, but make your things first, and then judge your things later. If you overthink too much, you won’t ever make anything. With than being said, I need to take my own advice!

york journey cover

ME: And this awesome sweetness is not over yet…here’s a special recipe from Alleanna.

ALLEANNA: Here’s a recipe that’s very close to a recipe that my grandma, Me-Me used to fix for a treat. It’s really simple and really tasty.


Mom’s Fried Apples

Total Time
Prep: 15 min.

Cook: 30 min.

Makes 8 servings


  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 6 medium unpeeled tart red apples, sliced
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • Melt butter in a large cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet. Add apples and 1/2 cup sugar; stir to mix well. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until apples are tender, stirring frequently.
    Add cinnamon and remaining sugar. Cook and stir over medium-high heat 5-10 minutes longer.

ME: What a perfect time for an apple recipe, Alleanna! I may have to go apple picking this weekend so that I will have fresh apples to try this yummy looking recipe.

Dear friends, I know we are all applauding for Alleanna – she is a illustrator rockstar – do you know that she has TWO picture books launching in January? YES! She is the illustrator for PATRICIA’S VISION: The Doctor Who Saved Sight by Michelle Lord (Sterling Books, January 7, 2020) and of course, MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee, January 14, 2020)

Folks…this is pretty spectacular! Two books in one month…and she is the ILLUSTRATOR, for goodness sake. This is one busy woman who knows how to prioritize her time. I’m so thrilled to be on her team. And one lucky winner will be thrilled with an original sketch by Alleanna because she is graciously offering that as our giveaway. So PLEASE, leave a comment below to be entered for a chance. And PLEASE, show her how much you love her work by buying her books, reviewing her books, telling friends about her books, and asking local libraries to purchase her books for their collections. And, to learn about Alleanna and her work, please visit her website:

By the way, did you know she has two books that JUST launched last week?  Again…two books that she illustrated in one month! This woman is amazing!!!! THE DAY ABUELO GOT LOST: Memory Loss of a Loved Grandfather by Diane de Anda (Albert Whitman, September 1, 2019).

abuelo cover

And the second book that launched last week is THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF MARY SEACOLE (Puffin, September 5, 2019)

Seacole cover

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

soldier for equality inside 2


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