MAXINE ROSE SCHUR and MILANKA REARDON: Will Write and Illustrate for Cookies


Plate of Cookies




Isn’t it wonderful when we can peek inside the collaboration that results in a beautiful new picture book? When I saw the cover of CHILD OF THE SEA, I instantly fell in love and knew I’d want to invite talented author Maxine Rose Schur and the equally talented illustrator Milanka Reardon to share their journey with us.

Maxine Rose Schur is the author of award-winning children’s books and teaches children’s book writing at conferences and colleges nationwide. Maxine has written books for preschoolers to young adults and as a former actress, enjoys engaging her young readers in lively discussions and activities.

Her picture books include Marielle in Paris which won the 2019 Northern Lights Book Award for Best Picture Book in All Categories. the fun, wacky alphabet book, Pigs Dancing Jigs, and her latest one, Child of the Sea.
More information about Maxine Rose Schur and her critically-acclaimed books can be found at:

Milanka Reardon is the illustrator of An Old Man and His Penguin by Alayne Kay Christian (2020), Who Will? Will You? by Sarah Hoppe (2019), and Noodles’ and Albie’s Birthday Surprise (2016), which is a 2018 Mom’s Choice Gold Award Recipient. Her newest picture book, Child of the Sea written by Maxine Rose Schur, just released on January 18th, 2022. Milanka is a graduate of the Children’s Book Illustration and the Natural Science Illustration Certificate programs at the Rhode Island School of Design. She served as co-Illustrator Coordinator for the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators from 2015-2021. She lives with her family in Webster, Massachusetts.
To connect with Milanka:

ME: WELCOME, WELCOME, WELCOME, dear ladies! It’s a joy to have you stop by! Picture books are always a team effort – and we are excited to hear about the creative journeys that led you both to this moment.
Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

MAXINE: Thank you so much for inviting us here, Vivian. It’s fun to look back and see how things started. When I was five, I fell in love with Heidi. It made me long to go to Switzerland and as an adult my dream came true and I lived for some time high in the Swiss Alps. By sixth grade, my very favorite author was Louisa May Alcott. I read everything she wrote and in particular, I read Little Women over and over again. And of course I loved The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables. I enjoyed books that were realistic yet hopeful. I don’t think I would have liked to read the children’s books that today often deal with very dark stuff.

MILANKA: I can remember my excitement as I discovered books as a child, back in Yugoslavia where I was born. I would beg my single mother for books all the time. One time a traveling salesman came to my mother’s workplace in Titograd (now Podgorica), selling a series of fairytale books. I was so fascinated by the pictures that I begged her to buy them even though I knew she didn’t have the money. When she gave in, I couldn’t put them down. I made her read to me every night, and when she was too tired, I would study the beautiful illustrations and make up the stories in my mind. I still have most of them; books were the one thing, aside from some clothes, that I carried with me in my small plaid suitcase when I came to the US when I was six years old.

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

MAXINE: No matter how long you’ve been writing, you still need an objective critical eye for your work. You never get it perfect the first time and even when it’s in print, it may not appear perfect to you. That’s OK. You do the best you can at any given point in time. That’s what counts. Also, you must have confidence that the story you want to tell is worth telling and if you tell it well, it will resonate with others.

MILANKA: I wish that I knew that writing and illustrating could be a career choice. Art school wasn’t considered a practical option to choose when I was younger, especially for an immigrant girl. I decided to go back to school for art when I was in my mid-forties. I thought that Natural Science Illustration would be a great fit for me since my undergraduate degree is in biology, and after taking electives in children’s book illustration, I found my real passion in art.

ME Where do you like to write/illustrate – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

MAXINE: I write in my home office. I noodle around with ideas with pen and paper and then use my desktop computer to take my ideas it further.

MILANKA: Sometimes I sketch for fun outside when the weather is nice. But when I am working on a project, I like to illustrate inside where I have all of my painting supplies handy and ready to go. I usually bring my easel and paints into the kitchen where I have the best light for painting. But lately, since I started to illustrate on my iPad, I can sit on the couch or anywhere and draw or paint on it while everyone else is relaxing. It’s also relaxing for me. My mother used to do beautiful needlepoint pictures while relaxing with everyone in the room with her. Her hands were always busy.

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

MAXINE: I can only write during the day. I’m too tired at night! However, in the evening, I like to read over what I’ve written in the day and edit— I do that with a pen, relaxed in a chair or in bed.

MILANKA: I draw any time of day that I find the chance unless I am working on a deadline: then it can be all day and well into the night until my project is completed! I like that I have my iPad handy for quick sketches or to jot down notes of inspiration when I don’t have time to dedicate to painting. With traditional medium like oil paints or watercolor, I have to set aside time during the day to devote to my painting project. Sometimes I get so involved in the project that I can’t put it down until I am almost finished. Then I’ll spend days working on those tiny final details and finishing touches.

ME: Why do you write/illustrate for children?

MAXINE: I write for children because I can write big emotions—- go to the heart of important things. Children have big emotions and they too are interested in big, important questions. I love creating characters and then watching these characters take on a life of their own— one that almost seems they directed themselves. Also, when I write children, I have the wonderful opportunity to learn new things in my research. For example, in my past books for kids, I’ve learned so much about newly-discovered animals including how a grain mill works, why tropical fish are so brightly colored, the history of the Māori,  Renaissance mazes, Afghanistan in the 14th century, Ethiopian Jews, New Zealand birds and Persian carpets!

MILANKA: I illustrate for children because I have loved to draw and paint since I was a child and I think that it is that inner child in me that still has stories to tell with pictures. Communicating to children with art in books is so much fun and it is so freeing to use your imagination in creating worlds for children that don’t always make sense to adults. Also, children don’t always have a complete grasp on language, so the pictures are so important and work together with the words to tell the story. And it is so satisfying when a story resonates with a child and that child reacts to an image you have created with laughter, happiness and even sometimes tears. It makes it all worth it.

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

MAXINE: If you want to write for children, it’s beneficial to take a writing class geared to writing for children. Also, don’t for a moment, think it’s easy! Writing a good picture book includes understanding rhythm, suspense, the sound of the words, the art of selection, the arc of a good story and perhaps above all, the emotional world of the young child. If you work hard, stay humble, and honor the child-reader, you’ll succeed.

MILANKA: I learn so much from children and from reading children’s books, before to my children and now to my little grandchildren. It is so much fun to see what sparks their curiosity and to follow their lead. Books are so important to them; they learn about the world through them and they explore their feelings by seeing others that mirror them and their lives. My only advice would be to keep writing and illustrating your stories. They will be important to some child one day. Keep writing your stories, find a critique group that will help you hone your craft, and join SCBWI. They are wonderful resource for both writers and illustrators.
Thank you, Vivian, for having me on your blog. I wanted to add that working with Maxine on Child of the Sea was wonderful. I remember reading Maxine’s American Girl book, Samantha’s Surprise with my daughter when she was younger. It was one of our favorites. And my little granddaughter loved Marielle in Paris by Maxine. I was so honored to illustrate one of her books

ME Oh, it was my pleasure, Milanka – and I agree…Maxine’s words are amazing! And so was her treat recipe that she shared the last time she was on my blog. But today, the tables are turned a bit and you are sharing a special recipe of your own.

MILANKA: My recipe for kolache, a favorite of our family. I usually make them at Christmas or Easter. This recipe is based off the one from page 449 of Treasury of Christmas (Publications International Ltd, 1995), which itself is based off a traditional Eastern European recipes for small jam-filled cookies that vary slightly from country to country.



1/2 cup of butter, softened
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of all-purpose flour
Fruit jam, (my favorite is strawberry-rhubarb or apricot jam. I order them from Kitchen Kettle Village in Pennsylvania. It’s so delicious and it doesn’t leak out of the cookies like some jams do).


  1. Combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl.
  2. Beat until smooth and creamy.
  3. Gradually add the flour, blending to make a soft dough.
  4. Divide dough in half, cover and refrigerate until firm.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Roll out dough on floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. This is more fun if you have a little helper!
  7. Cut into 3 inch squares.
  8. Spoon in one teaspoon of fruit jam in each square.
  9. Bring two opposite corners to center, pinch together to lightly seal. Fold sealed tip to one side and pinch to seal.
  10. Place one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  11. Bake 10 – 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  12. Remove to cooling racks. 
  13. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

HURRAY! I love these cookies. Mainly, I love raspberry jam and apricot jam – anything made with either of those is a sure-fire winner in my house!

A huge THANK YOU to both Maxine and Milanka for sharing their insights and their journey with us. And, dear readers, you know the drill. The best way to show that you love a book is to:
1. Buy it, if you can.
2. Review it.
3. Tell friends about it on social media and in person.
4. Ask your local library to purchase copies for their collection.
If everyone who loves a book does even ONE of these things, that would be of enormous help to authors and illustrators – and publishers will be able to keep making beautiful books like CHILD OF THE SEA.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I just flew to Chicago to spend a week with my sister. She’s always a fabulous beta reader for my manuscripts…so, I’ll share a few with her and see what she thinks.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: Peace, Salaam, Shalom

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. Today’s featured book is very special for several reasons. It’s all about kindness, compassion, and inclusion. It about how friendship can blossom among people of different cultures and religions. And, it’s written by THREE AMAZING AUTHORS, Callie Metler Smith, Melissa Stoller, and Shirin Shamsi.


Written by Callie Metler Smith, Melissa Stoller, and Shirin Shamsi

Illustrated by: Kate Talbot

Published by Spork/Clear Fork (2021)

Ages: 4-7

Themes: Friendship, inclusion, diversity

Synopsis: From Amazon:
When they meet on the first day of school, three girls realize they are different from each other – Molly is Christian, Savera is Muslim, and Hannah is Jewish. Through a class planting project, the girls’ friendship blossoms, and they learn they are more alike than they thought. Written by three women authors from the same faith traditions as the girls in the story, this book brings more kindness and understanding into the world.

Why I Love This Book:
1. I love that three authors, each identifying with a different religion, got together, worked together, and wrote together to create this book about friendship, inclusion, and diversity.
2. The story is one that young kids can identify with – real-life and relevant situations that they will recognize.
3. The illustrations are engaging and help the young reader/listener keep pace with the story and look forward to turning the pages. And there is a lot to notice on each page!

To learn more about these three amazing authors and the talented illustrator, check out a wonderful interview on Ellen Leventhal’s blog.


Photo courtesy:

Check out this website for tons of craft activities and other projects to promote friendship, kindness, and compassion:

I’ve already got my copy of PLANTING FRIENDSHIP, but if you are looking for where you can get yours, please check your local indie or
And remember, beautiful books need our help so that publishers will make more of them. Share the post on your social media platforms, tell friends about this book, and ask your local library to purchase copies for their collection!

For more wonderful picture book recommendations and resources for kids, please check out Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post.

I hope you all have a safe and wonderful weekend. Please stop by tomorrow for Will Write for Cookies and a Q&A with Maxine Schur and Milanka Reardon.


If new books are like babies, maybe cover reveals are like ultrasounds. What do you think, my friends?

The lovely Sandra Nickel has a new picture book in the pipeline, due to launch in September 2022 – and I’m HONORED to be sharing the awesome cover of BIG BEAR AND LITTLE FISH, illustrated by Il Sung Na and published by Carolrhoda Books.

OH MY GOSH! I LOVE THIS COVER! I am right there with big bear…and definitely right there with little fish. And I’m wondering, what is going to happen? And aren’t those the feelings a great picture book cover is supposed to elicit?

Here’s a little bit about the book:
Bear Loves Being Big!
At the carnival, she wants to win the biggest teddy bear of all. But instead she wins a fish. A very little fish. Bear and Fish can’t possibly have anything in common, can they?
Although Fish might look small, she proves to be bigger than Bear ever thought she could be, and Bear learns that sometimes even a big bear can be small in the big, wide world. Gentle, accessible prose by Sandra Nickel is paired with richly textured illustrations by Il Sung Na in this sweet story of an unexpected friendship. 

And here’s a little bit about the author:
Sandra Nickel is the author of picture book biographies about the inventor of nachos (Nacho’s Nachos), the discoverer of dark matter (The Stuff Between the Stars), and the first woman meteorologist (Breaking Through the Clouds). She is the winner of a Christopher Award, a Finalist for the Golden Kite Award, and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. You can keep up to date with Sandra at:

And here’s a little bit about the illustrator:
Il Sung Na was born in Seoul, South Korea. He writes and illustrates picture books including A Book of Sleep and That’s My Carrot!, and he also illustrates the work of other authors, such as My Tree by Hope Lim. Currently based in Kansas City, Il Sung spends his time teaching illustration and working on new books. You can keep up to date with Il Sung at:

And I thought, since BIG BEAR AND LITTLE FISH is about a bear (and a fish), you might be interested to know that today is a special day for bears.
Oh’s National Winnie the Pooh Day.
You mean you didn’t know it was National Winnie the Pooh Day?
Hahaha…neither did I. But I love that there is a day to celebrate the birthday of the author who created the Winnie the Pooh series, A.A. Milne.
If you and your children love bears, why not check out one of the Winnie the Pooh classics. Here’s a audio version of the original classic (narrated by Christopher Plummer) available for free on YouTube:
And here’s a read-aloud of Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (narrated by Maurice Evans)

And if you’d like to Pre-Order a copy of Sandra Nickel’s upcoming book, BIG BEAR AND LITTLE FISH, here is a link from

I hope you all have a wonderful week…please stop back for Perfect Picture Book Friday when we’ll be featuring PLANTING FRIENDSHIPS by Melissa Stoller, Shirin Shami, and Callie Metler Smith. And skip back on Saturday when we’ll be turning the Will Write for Cookies spotlight on author Maxine Schur and illustrator Milanka Reardon and their new book, CHILD BY THE SEA.