Happy Book Birthday: BESS THE BARN STANDS STRONG Plus Double Book Giveaway

Hello dear friends! I hope you all had a lovely long Labor Day weekend and are well-rested – you are going to need to sing a strong Happy Book Birthday for this wonderful new picture book by Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: BESS THE BARN STANDS STRONG.

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday, dear BESS THE BARN! Happy Birthday to you!


Written by Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia

Illustrated by Katie Hickey

Published by Page Street Kids (TODAY! September 8, 2020)

Here’s a little bit about the book from the Amazon sales page:

A steadfast old barn shows she’s sturdy enough to save the day.

Beam by beam and board by board, Bess the barn is built by able hands to keep the farm’s animals safe and sound. Through many seasons and celebrations, that’s just what she does, until she starts to sag…and creak…and slump. Then new everything comes along: a new farmer and a shiny new barn. A mean storm arrives not far behind, putting both barns to a dangerous test―can old Bess weather this threat to the farm?

Bess opens her doors wide, welcoming all to celebrate the year-round ups and downs of farm life and admire the enduring strength and importance of something made to last.

And here’s an early STARRED review from BookPage:

“A true storyteller, Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia gives Bess life with literary gilding; there’s repetition, imagery, personification and more. The prose flows, poetic and brusque by turns, as the finely wrought story oh-so-delicately addresses the concept of passing on… Bess the Barn Stands Strong reminds us that love shelters us through all storms. – BookPage, starred review

And here’s a link to the author’s website and a post about how the story came to be.

I love this story! And I love that, even with the health crisis and the crazy world we are living in, authors, illustrators, and editors are committed to continuing to create beautiful books. Please remember that we can all contribute to the success of books we love by buying them, reviewing them ,telling friends about them, and asking our local libraries to add them to their collections.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway if you’d like a chance to win a copy…author Elizabeth is generously offering TWO copies…so we will have TWO WINNERS! Why not share a time when you had to stand strong?

I hope you all have a wonderful week…and be sure to return on Friday and Saturday when we will be featuring two more brand-new picture books.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: THE GRUMPY PIRATE Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends!

Has another week truly passed by? I can hardly believe it. I’ve been up to my ears in boxes and taking stuff to the dump and giving away books to the library and to friends…just how many books can a person accumulate over the years? And yet, with all of the hundreds of books I gave away, I still have more than a dozen boxes of books in the storage unit, waiting for October 1 when we move into our new house.

One of the books I will definitely be keeping is today’s Perfect Picture Book selection – I connected with the author, Corinne Demas, at my local NESCBWI conference last year…and I absolutely love her newest book that launched in June.


Written by Corinne Demas and Artemis Roehrig

Illustrated by Ashlyn Anstee

Published by Orchard Books/Scholastic (June 2020)

Ages: 4-7

Theme: Emotions, getting along with others, friendship

And getting along and friendship were definitely important factors in the creation of this story – here’s a picture of co-authors, Corinne Demas and Artemis Roehrig.

Synopsis: From Amazon

Gus the Pirate is always grumpy, but can the wise Pirate Queen convince him to change his ways?

There is one grumpy pirate.
They call him Grumpy Gus.
He grunts and gripes and grouses,
and always makes a fuss.

Gus the Pirate complains about everything — ARRRRRGH! Gus grumbles about his lumpy bed and his itchy clothes. He complains about the yucky food and doing his chores on the pirate ship. Even sailing toward buried treasure can’t make Gus happy! Finally, the other pirates have had enough! They ask the Pirate Queen to help.

So the Pirate Queen gives Grumpy Gus a pet parrot — but the parrot is grumpy, too! After Gus spends the day with a parrot who’s just as grumbly and grouchy as he is, Gus realizes his bad attitude might be a little hard to deal with. Can Gus turn his frown upside down before the other pirates make him walk the plank?

All kids can relate to feeling grumpy like Gus, and this swashbuckling pirate adventure teaches kids the importance of trying to have a positive attitude!

Why I love this book:

  1. Starred review from Kirkus: The art is cartoony and appealing. It won’t take much searching for kids to recognize themselves (or their siblings) in Gus’ general poutiness… A paean to grouchy Guses everywhere presented with pouty piratical aplomb.”
  2. Great rhythm and rhyme…a rollicking tale well-told about getting in touch with our emotions.
  3. Wonderful illustrations full of fun that keep the reader engaged from first page to last.


Photo courtesy:

Photo courtesy: https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/66927/25-pirate-crafts-kids-can-make/

Avast, me hearties! Here are 25 super cool pirate crafts to make with the kiddos. For detailed instructions: https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/66927/25-pirate-crafts-kids-can-make/

Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the generous giveaway from Corinne and her publisher of a copy of THE GRUMPY PIRATE. Maybe you can share what makes you grumpy.

I hope you all have a beautiful Labor Day weekend. And please come back next week when we have THREE blog posts…a book birthday for Liz Bedia’s BESS THE BARN STANDS STRONG, a Perfect Picture Book Friday for Dawn Young’s COUNTING ELEPHANTS, and a Will Write for Cookies with Kirsty Call who co-authored MOOTILLA’S BAD MOOD with Corey Rosen Schwartz.

MAXINE ROSE SCHUR: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway


Plate of Cookies





Today is the second part of our double-header, dear friends. And I’m thrilled to bring you this Q&A with the lovely Maxine Rose Schur, author of the fabulous book that was our Perfect Picture Book selection yesterday, BRAVE WITH BEAUTY.

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 book, Marielle in Paris won the 2019 Northern Lights Book Award for Best Picture Book in All Categories. Maxine’s latest picture book is the fun, wacky alphabet book, Pigs Dancing Jigs.

More information about Maxine Rose Schur and her critically-acclaimed books can be found at: www.maxineroseschur.com.

ME: Welcome, Maxine! It’s a pleasure to have you sharing your writing journey with us today. Thank you for your time…and for your generous giveaway of a copy of BRAVE WITH BEAUTY. I know everyone is excited to learn more about you…so let’s get started!

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

MAXINE: I’m so happy to be here, Vivian! When I was a child I absolutely loved Alice in Wonderland, the delightful and somewhat unsettling absurdity of it, enhanced with illustrations by John Tenniel. Tenniel was the original and most famous illustrator of Alice. His illustrations are detailed, atmospheric, and disturbing— perfect for conveying the bizarre imagery of dreams. Later I fell in love with Little Women, perhaps because I had no sisters and this was a way for me to imagine the fun of living in this cozy world of girls. Also, I want to mention a book that takes place in my hometown of San Francisco, The Hill of Little Miracles by Valenti Angelo.  How I loved this book! It’s about an early 20th century Italian fisherman’s family living on a hill in San Francisco. Though Valenti Angelo wrote children’s books, he was most known as an artist and has illustrated many beautiful books. His family immigrated from Tuscany in the late 19th century and his style was influenced by the medieval manuscripts he saw in a monastery as a child. We met and became friends when I was an adult. Though his books are out-of-print, they reflect his positive spirit and love of family. They’re worth checking out.

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

MAXINE Well, I’m not sure I can answer that because I think learning to write is a process and it takes time. You learn to write by writing. If you have any talent at all, you’ll get better, little by little. I don’t think it can be rushed. I was fortunate in that I started to write for children when I lived in New Zealand. I lived there after traveling around the world for more than a year. My first stories were about some of my travel adventures and published by the New Zealand Department of Education. I was so tickled to find that people liked my stories that it gave me the confidence to write more. Five years later when I returned to the US, I took a full-time job for Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. I couldn’t believe I could have a job writing for children— favorite thing! I wrote stories, articles and poems and hung out with the other writers. Once, my boss told me they needed a poem about soybeans by the end of day. Soybeans! I wrote the poem and it was published.  So that job taught me you don’t wait for inspiration; you write.

To expand on that, the very act of writing unleashes ideas. Most often it’s like what the French philosopher, Montaigne said, “I write to find out what I’m thinking.”

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

MAXINE: When I’m first figuring out a story, I write longhand and this can be anywhere—in bed, at the beach, in a comfy chair. I think the brain is so connected to the hand that thoughts fly out when I have a pen so it seems thinking and recording is a single action. Sometimes I wonder if my thoughts would come slower if I didn’t know cursive?

When I like where the story’s going then I go to my desktop computer in my home office to type it up.  

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

MAXINE: I write in the morning or afternoon. If I write in the morning,  I find I have to get up and take a walk in the afternoon as sitting in a chair for hours makes me restless. I have to move.

ME: Why do you write for children?

MAXINE: I like the challenge of brevity. I like conveying ideas and emotion in a concentrated way. It’s not as easy as some people might think. Also, because I loved books as a child, I write books that I would have liked to read—books that inform, are suspenseful, funny, show a child’s agency and inspire by offering a sense of hope.

To end, I would love to quote a little verse by fellow children’s book author, Deborrah Rose. It’s is a little poem for all of us who may not make a fortune as writers but find great value in expressing what’s in our minds and hearts.

I’ve made it to an upper rank,

but not much money in the bank.

I see the books upon the shelf,

I see myself.

I love that, Maxine! And I know many writers will be nodding their heads. No one should go into this business to get rich with dollars…because most of the time, we still need to keep our day jobs. But I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else…and I’m sure you feel the same way.

Your insights are much appreciated, Maxine…and I know you have more awesomeness in store for us because I got a peek at the recipe you are sharing.

Maxine’s Perfectly Powdery Pecan Balls

Preheat oven to 300.


½ cup unsalted butter

1 T sugar

Pinch of salt

1 t vanilla

1 cup pecans

1 cup flour

Powdered sugar

How to make them

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy

Add salt and vanilla.

Grind nuts and mix with spoon

Add flour to mixture

Form soft dough and roll into little balls

Place balls on cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes

Take out of oven and roll in powdered sugar to coat while still hot.

You can substitute almonds or walnuts for the pecans. Also, you could add a pinch of nutmeg to the batter and later sprinkle with cinnamon.

Oh my gosh! I LOVE pecan balls! Thank you so much, Maxine. I think quite a few of us will be making these ASAP.

Dear friends…please remember that the best gift we can give authors is to buy their books, review their books, tell others about their books, ask local libraries to purchase their books for the shelves. And don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of BRAVE WITH BEAUTY.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. August is fading fast…Monday is my house closing…and I will be living with my daughter and her family full-time…I am soooo excited!