Happy Book Birthday: WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY Plus Giveaway

Bookstores have closed their doors! And libraries are shut down! But never fear, parents, teachers, boys and girls…writers are still writing great stories and publishers are still getting them printed! Many bookstores are taking online orders and shipping for FREE or are enabling customers to do curbside pickup!

So today we are honored to sing a HUGE HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY to a brand-new Middle Grade novel from one of my favorite kidlit authors, Darlene Beck Jacobson.



Written by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Pubished by Creston Books

Here’s a fabulous review from Kirkus that will give you all an idea of what the book is about and why it is such an important book, especially in these times.

With his father missing in action in Vietnam, 11-year-old Jack faces a long, lonely summer at his grandparents’ home. While the enthusiasm for life his younger sister, Katy, displays does much to lift his spirits, it’s the companionship of his new friend, Jill, that makes all the difference. But she’s dealing with major problems of her own. The tale is related in free verse, short lines and spare prose cascading narrowly down the pages, conveying a powerful message of bully management: ‘Bullies need our permission to / rule over us.’ This realization is enhanced by insight Jack’s own dad provides through a boyhood diary, suggesting that even bullies might need friendship. Although it’s set in the 1960s, the story reflects timeless issues that will resonate with modern readers. A fresh, inspiring exploration of a daunting issue.“―Kirkus Reviews

WOW! Here’s another book I’ll need to snag for my 11-year old grandson – with #shelteringathome the word of the day, our kids need books like this to engage, entertain, educate…and inspire them!

I’m grateful to authors who write books like this…and Darlene is sharing even more with us. She’s giving away a copy of WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY. Plus, here are a few words from her:

Darlene: Since birthdays are traditionally celebrated with cake, I thought I’d share one of the poems from the book aptly titled CAKE:

cake for Darlene wishes book


A five-layer cake with pink frosting and

five candles sits in front of Katy

while she closes her eyes and makes a wish.

A quiet, silent one that Fred will never hear.


Katy huffs



as we all cheer and the flames go out.


As pieces of cake get passed around,

I remember Katy’s first birthday,

how all of us,






blew out pretend candles, laughing, trying

to get a

one-year-old to blow air,

to blow out her own candle.


She stared at us, like we were the

best entertainment, then

she grabbed a chunk of cake in her chubby fist,

smushing it into her mouth,



I think that was when

I knew I’d love my sister


This is terrific, Darlene…we are getting a sneak peek at a bit of the book!

Remember dear friends, let’s support our favorite books:

  • Buy their book – many indie bookstores are shipping for free or are doing curbsite pickup.
  • Write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or B&N.
  • Ask your library to purchase the book…some libraries have online patron request portals…and even if libraries are closed right now, their online presence remains on and you can get your request in for whenever they are ordering books.
  • Tell your friends about the book.
  • Take a photo of your child reading the book and post on social media.

And leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY. Most of us have had at least one experience with a bully…can you share yours?

Please stay safe…be kind…embrace this #shelterathome as much as possible.


Perfect Picture Book Friday: PLAY LIKE AN ANIMAL Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends! I’m so happy to be back doing picture book reviews. The #50PreciousWords Contest kept me pretty busy – congratulations to ALL who participated…the generous industry pros who donated critiques, seats in writing classes, and books…my amazing judges, Maria Marshall, Julie Abery and Diane Tulloch…plus the 390 brave souls who shared their wonderful stories and the many people who took their time to leave 5734 positive, encouraging, and supportive comments. WOW!

We are in a new era – it almost feels like we are existing in a science fiction novel – and the author hasn’t finished the final chapters so we can’t skip ahead to find out how it ends. My heart goes out to those whose health has been impacted…to families struggling to keep things together as parents and children adjust to remote working/learning…to businesses trying to find new ways to create revenue.

I am, however, a very optimistic person…my sister used to call me Pollyanna because I could always find something to be glad about. We will get through this. I’m heartened to see how many people are reaching out to see how they can help others. And I’m impressed with how quickly people have found new ways of conducting meetings and events…with how many school districts stepped up to provide remote lessons. Employees who had previously begged to work from home, only to be told it was impossible…are doing it now…and making it work.

For the creatives in the kidlit world, working in isolation is not a new thing. But books that are launching are missing out on bookstore events, book festivals, school visits, and other venues that might help get the word out and sell books. With libraries and bookstores shutting their doors, social media becomes even more important as a vehicle to tell the world about these new books. And that’s why I’m especially thrilled to bring you a brand-new (comes out on April 7) picture book by one of my very favorite authors, Maria Gianferrari. And guess what? Maria and her publisher are going to send a copy of the book to one lucky winner of our giveaway!

play like an animal


Written by Maria Gianferrari

Illustrated by Mia Powell

Published by Millbrook Press (2020)



Synopsis: From Amazon:

Dash! Hide! Splash! Ride! Exuberant text celebrates all the different ways animals play, from rhinos taking mud baths and parrots somersaulting through the air to kangaroos boxing and dolphins diving through the surf. Additional text explains how playing benefits animals. Fascinating back matter gives more information about the featured animals in the book and encourages readers to make time to play every day!

Review from Booklist:

“This colorful nature book considers how and why various animals play. In most cases, a particular type of animal appears on a double-page spread with one or more illustrations and a few phrases of text. Nearby, a small red square carries a sentence or two explaining how those playful activities (tug-of-war, tag, etc.) can strengthen the animals, sharpen their wits, or improve their survival skills. For instance, in four illustrations on a double-page spread, a mother kangaroo boxes with her joey: ‘PUNCH, / KICK, / SMACK-SLAP!’ Within an adjacent red square, the text explains that play fighting prepares kangaroos for defending themselves against predators and mentions that mother kangaroos let their joeys win. The back matter includes information about the animals mentioned as well as a further reading list. Fun for sharing one-on-one, the book often shows animals engaged in activities that children enjoy. The lively artwork, created with ‘paints, handmade textures, and digital media,’ offers energetic scenes of animals in motion. The last double-page spread shows kids playing, too. An inviting choice for animal-lovers.

Why I love this book:

  • Fabulous illustrations that will keep kids engaged
  • Fun and informative text helps kids relate actions of animals to their own activities
  • Rich back matter makes this a must-have for schools and home-schoolers (which right now all kids are)



Super-Fun-Animal-Crafts-for-Kids.-A-lot-of-animal-paper-crafts-nature-materials-crafts-and-a-lot-more.-A-perfect-activity-for-kids-to-make-them-busy-and-entertained.Photo courtesy: https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/animal-crafts-for-kids/

For details on these incredible crafts (I want to make those butterfly rings at the top!): https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/animal-crafts-for-kids/

Here’a a bit about the author:

Maria Gianferrari’s childhood playground was nature: climbing trees, playing hide and seek in the cornfield and slapping cow patties for fun! Nowadays she tries to keep the spirit of play alive in her writing. She enjoys playing Dominion with her family sans the curse cards, and her late dog, Becca, was always ready for a game of “catch the flying biscuit.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

To find out more about Maria and her books:


Her book is available for pre-order on Amazon

Please remember, dear friends…with bookstores and libraries closing their doors, we need to support our favorite authors even more. What can we do?

  • Buy their book – many indie bookstores are shipping for free or are doing curbsite pickup.
  • Write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or B&N.
  • Ask our library to purchase the book…some libraries have online patron request portals.
  • Tell our friends about the book.
  • Take a photo of a child reading the book and post on social media.


Please come back on Tuesday for a BOOK BIRTHDAY post for another dear friend, Darlene Jacobson. And we’ll have more Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews later this month. Plus, don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of PLAY LIKE AN ANIMAL (mailed to US addresses only, please).

Also, to find more fabulous picture book reviews and activities, please hop over to Susanna Hill’s website.

Let us know how you are doing? And please message me directly if you are struggling with this situation…sometimes it can help to have a pair of listening ears and a remote shoulder to lean on.

Stay safe, dear friends.

#50PreciousWords Contest 2020: And the winner is…



Art by Vicky Fang

WELCOME ALL! In the midst of this unprecedented health situation, the kidlit community is stepping up to the plate. Authors and illustrators are creating video storytimes and lessons for kids who are home because schools are closed. And I hope that participating in this contest has given many of us a sense of normalcy – focusing on writing a 50-word story doesn’t leave much brain power for worrying about anything else, right?

Since this is a contest that celebrates the life and genius of Theodore Geisel, the beloved Dr. Seuss, I wanted to give a special shout-out to one of the stories:

By Linda Staszak 49 words

The Cat in the Hat didn’t know what to do–
The Grinch was still pestering Cindi Lou Who.
And nobody wanted the green eggs and ham–
The Wockets and Horton were playing with Sam.
And Sneetches chased Thidwick, the big-hearted moose…
This craziness thanks to the great Dr. Seuss.


Thank you so much, Linda…I loved your rhythm and rhyme…and the topic was spot on! Have you thought about doing a nonfiction pb about him? Continue reading

Perfect Picture Book Friday: FREE FOR YOU AND ME Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. I’m just catching my breath becasue #50PreciousWords closed last night at 11:59pm…a couple of stats for you…over 375 entries, over 3000 comments and counting because I know in the next two weeks, many of you will be reading through these fabulous stories and I’ve only commented on a few so far, 24 prizes, and  4 judges who will be burning the midnight oil for the next two weeks…look for the winners’ post on March 21.

I’m really excited about our perfect picture book today…written by a dear friend, Chris Mihaly, it examines the importance of the First Amendment. And she is giving away a copy of this wonderful book to one lucky winner…so don’t forget to leave a comment and share the post on social media.


Written by Christy Mihaly

Illustrated by Manu Montoya

Published by Albert Whitman (2020)

Ages: 6-10

Themes: First Amendment Rights, freedom, government

Synopsis: From Amazon

It’s a free country! But what does that mean? Find out the five liberties protected by the First Amendment. Vivid examples from history and everyday life demonstrate the meaning of freedom of religion, speech, and the press, and the rights to assemble peacefully and to petition the government.

Why I Love This Book:

  • Fascinating info…when I was a kid, I read the Encyclopedia Britannica for fun…I would have LOVED this book!
  • Great illustrations…they will keep the kids turning the pages for more.
  • It’s so important for our children to have a strong understanding of why our freedoms are so important – they will be the ones insuring that these freedoms are protected in the years to come!

Related Activities

Make Your Own Campaign Poster

campaign posterPhoto courtesy: https://www.education.com/activity/article/make-your-own-campaign-poster/

For detailed instructions and lessons plans: https://www.education.com/activity/article/make-your-own-campaign-poster/

Here are a couple of websites with great info for kids about the First Amendment:



For more wonderful picture book reviews, please hop over to Susanna Hill’s blog.

And more good news…leave a comment and share the post on social media for chances to win a copy of the book thanks to author Chris Mihaly.

Remember, dear friends, the best way we can thank our favorite authors is to:

Buy their books

Review their books

Tell friends about their books

Ask our local library to purchase copies for their collection

And please don’t forget to enjoy all of the wonderful #50PreciousWords stories…leaving a positive comment will give a great boost to the confidence of our kidlit writers! https://viviankirkfield.com/2020/02/29/50preciouswords-2020-contest-is-officially-open/

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 Continue reading

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 Continue reading



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 www.lauragehl.com.

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!