Dig in, Listen and Learn About a Toad


Perhaps it was the continued dreadful heat that led me to Dig Wait Listen: A Desert Toad’s Tale by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Barbara Bash (Greenwillow Books, 2001) last week at the library, but I am glad I selected it. It’s perfect for listening. It’s also perfect for creating a long moment of waiting, of imagining what it must be like for the desert spadefoot toad to wait and wait for rain. Waiting underground for months. This book is perfect for a special afternoon of reading with your favorite young reader.

With lyrical language Sayre not only depicts a deep sense of waiting, but also portrays the whole desert ecosystem around the toad in its burrow. Fun words that evoke the actions of animals above ground will keep a young reader’s attention, waiting with the toad for rain.

Finally, with plop, thunks and gusshhhhh the rain finally comes and we learn what the toads do to complete their life cycle in the brief weeks where small pools of water will exist. It’s a race to the finish that is totally opposite the long slow waiting part of their lives.

Added back matter completes this lovely book that has vivid imagery, life cycle facts, and beautiful illustrations. It’s one to share over and over, maybe while you’re waiting for something.



A Cozy Way to End the Summer


With September settling in and students back to school, there’s a set of books that will bridge the gap between feeling wistful that summer is over and embracing the change of seasons. The Summer Visitors and The Winter Visitors both by Karel Hayes (Down East Books) tell of a family’s use of a summer cottage and then, at the end of summer, getting the house ready to close up for the winter.

What I love about these books are the other visitors in each scene that the family always seems oblivious of except for curious signs (missing pies, returned kites, etc). The Winter Visitors was actually published first, but I like reading them the other way around. Either way, the illustrations are delightful – full of details that are fun to linger with.

In the classroom it might be fun to write a parallel story with different visitors, perhaps mice, which undoubtedly do visit cabins left empty over the winter. At home, it might be fun to wonder why the family isn’t getting more curious about the clues and to discuss which scenes are possible (eating honey) and which are unlikely (popping corn).

However you choose to read The Summer Visitors and The Winter Visitors, I think you will enjoy your time spent with them.



Rice from Heaven

In the spirit of kidlit inclusiveness, I thought I would share this blog post written by Beth Anderson, a children’s author. I read The Girl with Seven Names by Heyonseo Lee this summer and this book profiled, Rice from Heaven looks like a beautiful way for children to understand the difficult political situation and immoral treatment of people in North Korea. I look forward to reading it. Beth’s blog is wonderful for introducing me to special children’s books.

Beth Anderson, Children's Writer

Earlier, author Tina Cho shared how she turned her real life experience into a picture book. Today, as part of Perfect Picture Book Friday, here’s more about this important book. 

Title: Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans

Written by: Tina ChoRicefromHeaven coverIllustrated by: Keum Jin Song

little bee books – 2018

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/topics: North Korea, humanitarian aid, hunger

“Out in the countryside, across a bridge, to an island blanketed with rice fields, Appa and I ride. We reach a place where mountains become a wall. A wall so high, no one dares to climb. Beyond that wall and across the sea live children just like me, except they do not have food to eat.

Overview: (from barnesandnoble.com)
Rice from Heaven is a true story about compassion and bravery as a young girl and her…

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An Untimely Senescence

I love this time of year when I am canning extra produce and the nights start getting cooler. I can feel fall in the air – a beginning of the end of frenzied summer – and I welcome it. But in my personal life I apologize for the early senescence that occurred with keeping up with this blog. I had a wonderfully rich summer, and while I read a lot of picture books that deserve a blurb about them, I never seemed able to sit down and write a short piece.

Chris and I took an Alaskan Cruise up the Inside Passage in late June. I saw streams where I imagined them teeming with salmon in early fall. I had just released Salmon Matters: How a Fish Feeds a Forest and it was great to see the temperate rainforests where salmon (should) thrive. I did have some guilt about the carbon footprint involved in traveling, especially a cruise, which was not helped by seeing the shrinking glaciers and hearing local talk of salmon decline.




Cruising the Inside Passage

coffee on board

Best Cafe Ever

In July I visited two friends I’d met 26 years ago when I attended Bard College for my Masters in Environmental Studies. Such trips are always good; yet they always play with my sense of time, uprooting me just enough that forward momentum is stalled a bit. An internal senescence: take stock of where I am, who I am and where I want to head in life.

In August I attended a Nuts and Bolts of Science Writing workshop at the Highlights Foundation. On the way, I visited with a friend I had met at my first Highlights workshop six years ago. I feel like I have known her far longer and am grateful for her friendship. At Highlights I met twenty-one attendees with rich and interesting backgrounds, two amazing workshop teachers: Miranda Paul and Jennifer Swanson, and ate wonderful local foods prepared by Highlight’s chefs. True to what I have found to be common in the kidlit world, the experience was inclusive, encouraging, informative and inspiring. I drove home with a head full of new ideas, thoughts on revising old ideas and ponderings about my writing path.

lodge at highlights

The Lodge at Highlights Retreat

So while nature’s frenzy leads eventually to senescence in growing, my frenzied summer (and the planning leading up to it) is my excuse for this blog’s senescence. However, I was doing a lot of growing, both inside, and unfortunately a bit on the outside from the ‘all-you-can-eat’ cruise food. I look forward to fall every year as a chance to change pace, move inward, regroup and hunker down into a writing flow. And I’ll continue sharing some wonderful picture books with you here…. very soon.

monarch on orange flower


The Proof is NOT in the Pudding

The proof is not in the pudding – it’s in my hands.  Literally.   My proof of Salmon Matters: How a Fish Feeds a Forest arrived today and I am thrilled to upload it to Createspace and Amazon.  In other words, it’s available for purchase.  If you or your young reader enjoyed Milkweed Matters: The Life Cycles within a Food Chain, then perhaps you’d like to check out Salmon Matters too!

Get your copy here.

I need to give a HUGE thanks to my husband Chris.  We spent hours pouring over the digital files from Createspace frustrated by the error codes each time we uploaded the book’s file to them.  The first proof had errors so it was back to the ‘uploading board’, but this one is beautiful!

Salmon Matters has the same illustrator, Betty Gatewood, with whom I am grateful and honored to work.  She has graciously adapted to my sometimes scattered approach and, I think, enjoyed delving into the how-tos of painting bears and fish and water scenes.

Any of the frustrations of self-publishing – and there are many – seem to fade away when I hold the book in my hand.  I look forward to continuing to learn about this process and to improve in my understanding and execution of my final product.  Until then, I hope you enjoy learning about how salmon and trees and bears are connected as much as I did when I first learned about this cycle.

salmon matters proof


But that’s not all.

I have enjoyed fledging Oliver’s Otter Phase, especially the visits with young readers, and especially when hearing how enthralled a child was from a parent. There is a little lull this summer as schools are out, but I am planning some events for the fall and have joined a Read Local Program of my regional SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), which will help with promotion.  I look forward to more readings and spreading the science and wonder of sea otters and kelp forests.  I am grateful to all readers who took time to come to my debut party, purchase a book, write a review or promote Oliver in some other way.

But that’s not all.

Writers aren’t usually satisfied with one book, or even a few. And so, we keep writing while coaxing the one with new wings. We build more nests.  I have several submissions in the works.  While I cannot elaborate them now, I certainly hope I can in the future. The harsh reality is that some of my nests will fail.  I will rebuild.

But that’s not all.

When I got my first traditional book contract with Arbordale Publishing, I was in the process of self-publishing Milkweed Matters: A Close Look at the Life Cycles within a Food Chain. And so, my first book was self-published, as opposed to taking the traditional route with a publisher. Some people think self-publishing is an unwise move career-wise, but I wanted the challenge. I have been happy with comments from both parents and children about the book – so much so that I asked my illustrator to tackle another one with me.

COMING SOON – Salmon Matters: How a Fish Feeds a Forest tells the story of how salmon, trees, the ocean, bears and nitrogen cycling are all connected using the same repeated phrase But that’s not all found in Milkweed Matters.  I love Betty’s watercolor illustrations as much as those in our first book.  I’ve ordered the proof and if all is well, it will be leaving the nest in the next month. I hope readers who loved Milkweed Matters will enjoy this new ‘tale’ of nature’s amazing interconnectedness. It is another case where the science enthralled me and I wanted to share with others.

But that’s not all.

Oliver’s Otter Phase will always be my debut baby. I am so grateful for the whole experience and will keep working to promote it – and maybe that is where my bird metaphor ends.  But, I will also keep building nests and hoping they fledge into the hands of children.

BookOfTheMonth_Cover                          milkweed-matters-2016-09-26-cover



It’s World Oceans Day

It’s World Ocean’s Day and that means we have a winner!  Three to be exact.  Congratulations to Kelly Woods, Amber Stewart and Maureen Simmen.  I have contacted the winners and will get their books in the mail soon.

If you love and care for our oceans as much as I do, please check out the website for World Oceans Day.  Being aware of problems and educating others is a good start to helping.

Perhaps you entered because you love sea otters.  Oliver’s Otter Phase is available at Arbordale Publishing and Amazon.

Perhaps you love reading books to children.  In that case I highly recommend many of Arbordale’sbooks.  Each one has four pages of back matter for Creative Minds.

Thank you to all who entered!