Happy Book Birthday: MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS Plus Giveaway

Sometimes a book cover grabs your attention. Other times it’s the title. With this book, for me, it was BOTH!


book cover


Written by Margaret Chiu Greanias

Illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow

Published by Running Press Kids (TODAY: August 28, 2019)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Acceptance, be true to yourself

Synopsis: From Amazon: 

“For anyone who loved Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, this is a humorous and important book about learning to follow your heart and proving that kindness can outweigh villainy any day.

Maximillian Villainous is a monster who doesn’t have the heart to be a villain. His famous family pulls pranks on the likes of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and Max spends his time undoing them. So when he brings home a bunny to be his sidekick, Max’s disapproving mother hatches a plan. She challenges Max and the bunny to become a devious duo; otherwise . . . the bunny hops. If they want to stay together, Max and the bunny have no choice but to go against their nature. They blunder into villainy with comical effect until Max discovers that embracing his good heart may just be the key to pulling off the most devious deed of all and winning his family’s acceptance.

Delightfully fun and irreverent, Maximillian Villainous is an empowering story about embracing one’s true self and finding acceptance. Up and coming illustrator Lesley Breen Withrow brings the characters to life with bold and colorful illustrations in a style reminiscent of Richard Scarry.”

Dear friends…I know this is a book that kids are going to love. I feel like I already know the author, Margaret Chiu Greanias. From my very first toe-dipping into the water of this kidlit community, I saw her name as an active participant. And when I spoke to her, I found out that she has loved writing for a very long time.

 Margaret wrote her first terrifically terrible book in fourth grade. From grade school through college, she suffered through English—she was especially bad at analyzing stories and writing essays. Then, during her very last year of college, she took a creative writing class and discovered she loved writing. Despite this, it wasn’t until her second child was born that she remembered her love of children’s books. She’s been writing ever since. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, three children, and a fluffle of dust bunnies.

To learn more about Margaret and her books, please visit her website: http://margaretgreanias.com/

And guess what? The author has graciously offered a copy as a giveaway! Please leave a comment for a chance to win!

I hope you all have a wonderful week! And whenever you have the time, why not hop over to one of the book review sites like Amazon or Goodreads and leave a review for your favorite picture books!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: GRANDMOTHER THORN + Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends!

Before I share this heartfelt story with you, we have some books to give away.

Author Alayne Kay Christian offered a copy of her chapter book, SIENNA, THE COWGIRL FAIRY. And the winner is…


Author Ariel Bernstein offered a copy of her debut picture book,  I HAVE A BALLOON. and the winner is…


Author Penny Parker Klostermann offered a copy of A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE. And the winner is…


Author Nancy Churnin offered a copy of MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN. And the winner is….






Written by Katey Howes

Illustrated by Rebecca Hahn

Published by Ripple Grove Press (2017)

Ages: 5-8

Themes: Friendship, acceptance


From Amazon: Grandmother Thorn treasures her garden, where not a leaf, twig or pebble is allowed out of place. But when a persistent plant sprouts without her permission, Grandmother begins to unravel. “Her hair became as tangled as the vines on her fence. Her garden fell into disrepair. One morning, she did not rake the path.” A dear friend, the passage of seasons, and a gift only nature can offer help Grandmother Thorn discover that some things are beyond our control, and that sweetness can blossom in unexpected places.

Why I like this book:

  • Heartfelt tale that reminds me of the old fables I loved as a child.
  • Wonderful illustrations that create an atmosphere of mystery.
  • Message of friendship and acceptance subtly woven throughout the story.

Related Activities:

Gardening with Kids

gardening activities for kidsPhoto courtesy: http://www.growingajeweledrose.com

There are so many indoor and outdoor gardening activities we can do with kids. Grab an old toy truck, fill with soil, and plant some seeds.  Use empty eggshells as your ‘pot’ and store in the egg carton for stability.  Whenever you eat a fruit that has a pit, plant it…who knows what beautiful greenery might flourish. Growing things with kids helps them learn about life, death, and responsibility.

For detailed instructions on many planting activities: http://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/03/outdoor-nature-gardening-activities.html

I’m excited for tomorrow’s Will Write for Cookies when a very special kidlit friend of mine and fellow Storm sister, GRANDMOTHER THORN’S author, Katey Howes, will stop by to chat with us. Please leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of an autographed copy of her book! And remember that Amazon reviews are important and also much appreciated by the author!

For many more picture book reviews, hop over to Susanna Hill’s website this week.




Andrea J. Loney Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway


Plate of Cookies






I met our Will Write for Cookies guest in Picture the Books 2017, a group of authors and illustrators who have debut picture books coming out this year. And Andrea has not one, but TWO picture books debuting in 2017.

Andrea J Loney’s picture book BUNNYBEAR, (Albert Whitman & Company, January 31, 2017) is about a bear who believes in his heart that he is really a bunny. Her upcoming debut picture book, TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! (Lee & Low, May 2017), is a New Voices Award-winning picture book biography of the legendary black photographer of the Harlem Renaissance, and a third book is coming in 2019. A community college instructor with an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, Andrea is also a proud volunteer for Reading to Kids and the We Need Diverse Books campaign. She lives in sunny Los Angeles, California with her devoted family, embarrassingly spoiled pets, and towering stacks of picture books.

And guess what? Andrea is sharing some more great news:

pw-announcement-of-third-bookWOW! Congratulations, Andrea…that is fantastic! You are on fire!

Before we begin our Q&A, I want to remind everyone that if you leave a comment on this post, you will be entered into the giveaway for a brand new copy of BUNNYBEAR…I’ve seen it (and reviewed it here for Perfect Picture Book Friday). You definitely want to have this book on your shelf.


So, without further ado, let’s welcome Andrea!

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


As a child, I read absolutely everything I could get my hands on – The Snowy Day, A Whistle for Willie, Corduroy, Where the Wild Things Are, all kinds of poetry, Alice in Wonderland, The Little Prince, The Lord of the Rings, The Encyclopedia Britannica; authors Virginia Hamilton, Rosa Guy, Ray Bradbury, Judy Blume, E B White; and all the comic strips I could find. I loved these stories because they allowed me to travel through time and space to other worlds and cultures.

ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?


I first tried writing children’s books fifteen years ago, and gave up in despair after about a year and a half. I wish I’d known back then how invaluable an active membership to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) could be – the critique groups, monthly free events, paid local events, national conferences, and even the Bulletin newsletter made a huge difference in my growth as a children’s author.

I also wish I’d known that part of the secret to publication, at least for me, was to write, rewrite, and revise as many polished manuscripts as possible, so that when opportunity knocked, I was ready for it. It’s not that all of those manuscripts were even publishable, it’s that the process of writing (and sharing) dozens of stories improved my craft draft by draft. 


ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?


While my work desk is in a lovely, fairy light-festooned, cobalt blue room called The Imaginarium, I write pretty much everywhere. My little pink computer (named Seraphine) fits in my purse, so I tend to wander all over the house as I write. When I write standing up, I put the laptop on the kitchen counter next to the fishbowl – along with the cats, my betta fish loves being part of the creative process.


Outside of the house, I write in our backyard with friendly bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies fluttering around – sometimes it makes me feel like a Disney princess. I live 25 minutes away from the famous Santa Monica Beach in California, so sometimes I write by the ocean. But honestly I can work pretty much anywhere – in my car, a café, a hotel lobby, the faculty lounge at my college, anywhere.


For the past decade or so I have been fairly obsessed with Pilot pens, specifically the G2 gel ink pen. I stash them everywhere. And I always carry a notebook of some sort. And journals –I love blank journals with gorgeous covers. Like many writers, I have half a library of pretty blank books, still untouched.


ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?


My favorite time to write is between the hours of 11pm and 3am, but that’s not always feasible for the days I teach 7 am classes. I mean, I’ve done it anyway, but sure I don’t recommend it! So sometimes I get up at 5 am and write until it’s time to go to work. I like writing when the world is dark and quiet so I can color it with my own imagination. But when I have time between classes or days between classes, I generally use that time to write.

While I cherish the romantic concept of the muse and do my best to entice her (mine likes flowers, green tea, and fairy lights), deadlines motivate me more than anything. Sometimes the muse graces me with her presence and it’s like magic, but I show up to work on my stories whether she is there or not. My deadlines come from my agent, editors, competitions, online challenges, and contests. Also, belonging to a few critique groups means that I am constantly generating new material to share with others. I may not write every single day and some days I only write for fifteen minutes or so. But I rarely go more than two days without writing, revising, or brainstorming something.

ME: Why do you write for children?


Over the years, I’ve been a poet, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a television writer, yet becoming a children’s book author was always my dream. Why? It was through picture books that I fell in love with words, reading, and the whole world around me.

Also, when I was in the second grade, my family moved from a big city with many folks of all ethnicities to a small town with few people of color. I had a hard time fitting in. So, I escaped my fear and sadness by reading. Books were always there for me. Books delighted me. Books saved me. By the third grade, I vowed that when I became an adult, I would never forget how it felt to be a little kid and that I would write the kind of stories that I’d wished were available when I was a child – stories that embrace and celebrate the humanity of all children.


ME: Andrea, 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.


For aspiring writers:

At my first SCBWI national summer conference in Los Angeles, I heard SCBWI president Linn Oliver refer to the people in the room as published writers and pre-published writers. That moment was a turning point for me. Once I saw myself as “pre-published,” the “getting published” part felt inevitable.

I also took action to back up that feeling – I joined critique groups, attended SCBWI events, joined Facebook groups like Sylvia Liu’s KidLit 411 and Kristin Fulton’s WOW NonFicPic, and online challenges like Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Challenge and Tara Lazar’s Storystorm (formerly known as PiBoIdMo).

The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that the kid lit world can be exceptionally kind and generous. Immersing myself in this community has made all the difference for my career. So join in the fun, because there is a child out there waiting to read a story that only you can tell.

Hurray, Andrea…joining in the fun is the best way to learn and grow. It encourages us to write and revise and submit…and that’s the way we will get our story to the child who is waiting for it. I totally agree with you. Thank you so very much for participating in Will Write for Cookies…this was so much fun!

To connect with Andrea and find out more about her awesome books:

Website: www.andreajloney.com

She is also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest @andreajloney.

And now something REALLY special…Andrea has shared a unique treat. When I asked her for a cookie recipe, this is what she said:


I don’t bake cookies, mostly because I’m so good at eating them – often too many of them – and then staggering around the house moaning, “Why, oh, why did I eat all the cookies?”

But if I want a quick, easy, tummy-friendly treat, sometimes I whip up a gluten-free mug cake. There’s only six ingredients and it takes ninety seconds to make in a microwave. Best of all, all I have to clean afterwards is a fork, a spoon, and a mug.



(from itsanerdylife.com)

 Prep time:  2 mins

Total time:  2 mins

Serves: 1


1 Large Egg

1 Tbsp. Almond Flour

1 Tbsp. Coconut Flour

2 Tbsp. Chocolate Chips

2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup

1 Tsp. Vanilla


Crack the egg into the mug and whip with a fork.

Add the rest of the ingredients into the mug and mix well.

Microwave on High for 1½ minutes.

If the cake is still too squishy, microwave again in 30 second increments until firm.



 And now, dear friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Andrea’s BUNNYBEAR. If you could be any animal in the world, which would you be?

THIS JUST IN…Susanna Leonard Hill has announced her famous VALENTINY CONTEST: https://susannahill.com/2017/01/28/announcing-the-2nd-annual-valentiny-writing-contest/

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Next week, we’ll be reviewing another 2017 debut picture book, BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, and the author, Annie Silvestro, will be our Will Write for Cookies guest. Such richness…this is going to be a stupendous year for picture books. The journey is all the more fun for having you along.