This Book Is Gray & GIVEAWAY

“This book was GRAYT!” Student A, 2nd grader from my Michigan class!

My students got to hear This Book is Gray for their Classroom Book A Day read aloud. It was a huge hit from start to finish. Before reading picture books, we peak under the book jacket (we call it the “undies”) to see if there is any new details to see. Sure enough, Lindsay has drawn readers a fun surprise. After checking out the undies we look at the endpapers, as those sometimes are part of the story. And yet again, Lindsay has used the beginning end papers to give readers some art language to help you understand the story better. All this fun information and we didn’t even start the story yet!

The book is set through gray’s eyes, why doesn’t he get used? He is important? He doesn’t always have to be a depressing color. As he tries to tell a story using only gray, the other colors show up.

“I liked when all the colors show up and interrupt” Student B says excitedly.

Lindsay weaves in some fun puns that had my kids chuckling when they caught her humor. But my students also realized that their were lessons on kindness and including others to take away from the book.

Thank you Blue Slip Media for having us on the blog tour and for providing the book for review. All opinions are our own.

**GIVEAWAY***Win a copy of this book for being one of our readers! For one entry, follow our blog & comment on this blog post. For additional entries head to our other social media pages. US only. Courtesy of Two Lions.

About the author:

Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series as well as Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby, and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives in Peninsula, Ohio, with her family. Gray is one of her favorite colors. Learn more about her online at www.lindsaymward.com.Twitter: @lindsaymward

Santa’s Story & GIVEAWAY

Welcome to our stop on the blog tour for Santa’s Story by Will Hillenbrand. Thank you Blue Slip Media for including us. All opinions are our own.

Santa’s Story is about remembering the traditions we have for our families and how forgetting them can change everything. It is the night before Christmas and Santa is trying to find his reindeer to get ready for the next day. Santa is baffled when the reindeer aren’t anywhere to be found. He begins to think what he might have missed. With some thought, Santa comes to realize he forgot all about their night before Christmas tradition. With everything back on track, the reindeer come back to Santa, engage in their tradition and are ready for Christmas.

I don’t want to spoil what Santa and the reindeer do each year to get ready to deliver presents, but let’s just say, if you are reading this blog, it will put a smile on your face.

I adored the illustrations in this book, I love reading winter stories where the pictures transport you to night or snowfall. This book was no exception!

We’d like to continue to spread the holiday cheer and are offering one lucky reader a copy of SANTA’S STORY, courtesy of Two Lions. Please follow and comment on this blog post for one entry and visit our other social media pages for other opportunities to enter. US only. Giveaway ends Tuesday 12/3/19

Are You A Frank Or A Bean?

Frank and Bean is a clever early chapter book written by Jamie Michalak and illustrated by Bob Kolar. This book was a huge hit with my 2nd and 3rd grade students. They had a blast getting to know both Frank and Bean. Thank you Candlewick Press for sending us the book for review. All opinions are our own.

My students thought the characters were “super funny” and enjoyed that they were so different. They loved looking at Bob’s pictures and how he captured their personalities so well. Many related to either being a Frank or being a Bean. We discussed some themes or morals we can take away from the story. Then the kids had some questions for Jamie……

And Now…..Questions from the Kids:

How did you come up with this idea? 

It started with the idea of two picnic food friends named Frank and Bean. I first had the idea when my sons were in kindergarten and second grade. My youngest son, who’s chatty and loud, was obsessed with RVs, jelly donut holes, and playing the drums — just like Bean. My oldest, on the other hand, was more like Frank. He preferred walks in the woods, soft jazz, and yoga. So I kind of lived with my characters!

Why did you make Bean so loud?

If you’ve ever been on a long car ride with my youngest son, you’d know why! But I also wanted Bean to show readers how difficult it can be to find your own story or words in a loud and busy (and screen-filled) world. Frank shows Bean how to be quiet to hear the words within him. 

It’s okay to be quiet — and even bored. That’s when your imagination really comes to life.

We discussed that 2 themes in the book were don’t be afraid to share things and don’t be afraid to be quiet or silly if you are, why did you choose to put these themes in the book? 

I think they’re themes kids can relate with. For some, sharing what they wrote can be scary. Especially if you’re a quiet hot dog who’s used to being alone. Bean isn’t afraid to be his silly self — but he is scared of the night’s noises. But the thing about good friends is that they can help each other get over fears — and together make something special. Like a song about jelly donut holes, for example.

Will this become a series? We’d like a book 2! 

Aw, thanks! There is a book 2! It’s called FRANK AND BEAN: THE FOOD TRUCK WAR. Bean decides to get a food truck and compete in the forest’s Food Truck Friday contest. But to win, he must beat the scary reigning champ, Mad Dog. Luckily, Frank is there to lend a hand — and make up a new song.

Teacher Question- Why did you make it an early chapter book reader? Did it ever start in a different format?

Early readers are my favorite format to write and to read. James Marshall’s books are the best! But yes, FRANK AND BEAN began as a picture book, until Bean demanded more room to express himself. 

And finally thank you for giving us a book that reminded us to not be afraid to be ourselves!! 

Thank YOU, smart human beans, for the excellent questions! Here’s to all the stories YOU’ll write this year! 🙂 

Thank you for having us on the Frank and Bean Blog Tour. Check out the other places Frank and Bean have been and will be soon!

A Very Important Post

If you mention the name “Margaret Wise Brown”, most people’s minds instantly go to Goodnight Moon, The Important Book, or The Runaway Bunny, and childhood memories of reading her books come flooding back. She wrote over a hundred books, but her unique life was unbeknownst to many. Until now. The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, written by Mac Barnett, with beautiful illustrations by Sarah Jacoby, shares the story the infamous author that few really know.

We were generously given copies of The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown from Harper Collins to read and review, and we thank Sarah Jacoby for taking the time to share some thoughts with us!

Here’s our interview with illustrator Sarah Jacoby…

Can you give us an inside scoop on the illustrations that we wouldn’t learn from looking and reading the book? 

I actually have an entire blog devoted to the research behind the images. Check it out! (https://veryimportantmargaret.tumblr.com)

Here are some secret easter eggs:

Did you see the bunnies in the modern times library? One of them is supposed to be a little Mac and one of them is supposed to be a little me. (See photo of little Mac and art from the book).

There is also a scene with a horse and a flower cart. That is a real horse that I saw when I was visiting the Hollins University Archives. I had fun imagining Margaret riding her.  I learned from her yearbook that she was in the riding club. (See photo of horse and photo of Margaret in the riding club and art from the book)

You’ll notice that there is a flower pattern running through the book. If you look closely you’ll see it withering over time. 

Also! If you look closely you’ll notice that all of the historical-time images of Margaret doing things have a slight border. That’s to indicate that these images are contained by something-like the book the modern librarian bunny is reading. Everything else is full bleed (fills up the whole page). 

Is that enough secrets for now? There are more.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

Oh boy, many many many books have stuck with me. Many. Let’s see if I had to choose one (from many!) I might choose 

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. She’s someone that I look at a lot (perhaps that’s obvious?) for her incredible art, but also for her imaginative storytelling. I recall reading the book when I was small and being awestruck by the character if Miss Rumphius-especially when she traveled to distant lands. As an adult I love the type of role model Barbara Cooney supplied there.  

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

I have many of one item: half drunk mugs of coffee. Perhaps that’s gross. Here’s what happens: I make a nice hot cup of pour over coffee in the morning. It takes me like, ten minutes. It’s a waste of time, I know, but I love it. It’s my little ritual as start to warm up and paint. I then take a couple sips and enjoy that hot mug of coffee as I begin painting. I then get distracted by painting and my coffee gets cold. Eventually I’ll put it in the fridge with the dream of making iced coffee in the afternoon. But I usually don’t get around to it. So yes, I have at least three in my fridge right now. What does this say about me? I am passionate and loyal to my activities at hand, but I am also highly distractible.  

Thank you Sarah for taking the time and answering our inside scoop question. We enjoyed learning more about the book and its process.

A Spiky *GIVEAWAY*

What happens when you think you are meant to be bad and then one day your world is turned around? In the book Spiky written and illustrated by Ilaria Guarducci, translated by Laura Watkinson, we find out just what can happen when Spiky looses his spikes. Now without his armor, he doesn’t feel as scary, or act in wicked ways. He simply feels lost, lonely and out of place. Fortunately a wise bunny comes along and helps him see that it isn’t what is on the outside that matters, but what is on the inside.

The message in the story is an important one, and throughout the book we see many animals acting in fun ways, which will get the kids giggling (who doesn’t love to see a bunny sun tanning?). Using this book with kids can be a huge help discussing how other people feel when you aren’t nice, or about stepping out of your comfort zone. The greatest lesson I discussed with my son was to judge people based on their thoughts and actions, and not how they look.

Thank you to Blue Slip media for sending us this book to read and review. All opinions are our own.

***GIVEAWAY*** To celebrate this stop on the blog tour, one lucky winner will receive a copy of Spiky, courtesy of Two Lions. To enter:

  1. Follow us on Instagram, like the post, tag at least one friend (more tags = more entries)
  2. Follow us twitter, like and retweet post

Author Bios

Ilaria Guarducci studied at the Nemo NT Academy of Digital Arts. Since 2012, she has worked as a freelance author and illustrator for various publishing houses and advertising agencies. She has written and/or illustrated seven children’s books. Spiky, published in Italy under the title Spino, was shortlisted for the Soligatto Award for Best Picture Book. Ilaria lives with her family in Prato, Italy. Learn more at www.ilariaguarducci.blogspot.com.


Laura Watkinson is an award-winning translator of books for young readers and adults. She translated Soldier Bear and Mikis and the Donkey, both by Bibi Dumon Tak and illustrated by Philip Hopman, and Mister Orange by Truus Matti, all of which won the Batchelder Award. Additionally, her Dutch-to-English translation of The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt won the Vondel Prize. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in a tall house on a canal in Amsterdam with her husband and two cats. Learn more at www.laurawatkinson.com.Spiky is the first release from Amazon Crossing Kids, a new imprint for children’s books in translation. Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

Two Truths and A Lie & **Giveaway**

We are so excited to be on the Two Truths and A Lie: Forces of Nature blog tour. We love this series!

If you aren’t familiar with the series, this is the 3rd book by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson. In each book the authors have given us three stories in each chapter. All the stories are engaging, fun, detailed and written with such conviction that you have to believe them. But things aren’t always what they seem, it turns out one of the stories isn’t true. Your job as a reader is to figure out which one is a lie. Seems easy enough? Well, you’ll just have to dive in to see!

What we think is so wonderful about this book (and the other two) is that it makes the readers detectives. In this day and age with so much content being presented at kids, it is nice to see a book that makes us use many of the reading skills we have been taught to figure out what is real and what isn’t, because, truth be told when you read it, all the stories are written so well, it is hard to figure out the lie. At the end of the book, and included in the educator’s guide, are tips to help readers determine what is the truth. These are such great tips and strategies that we can all follow in the “fake news” day and age.

Questions for Ammi-Joan (AJP) and Laurie (LIE):

Can you give us an inside scoop that we wouldn’t learn from reading your book?

AJP: One of the most fun parts about working on these TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE books has been spotting and selecting the stories that we want to tell. Something you might not know is that Laurie and I have an enormous spreadsheet on Google docs; every time we come across a fantastic story, we put the info about it into our spreadsheet. Then, when it comes time to write the next book, we have a whole mountain of material available to choose from. 

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

AJP: This is SO hard! I’ve been sitting here for ages trying to answer this question, and finally I started scrolling down my list of books I’ve read over the past years. Reader, this did not help! Instead, I just spent a highly enjoyable twenty minutes going, “Oh my goodness, that was such a good one!” and “I loved that read!” So many books have stuck, and all in different ways, that it seems impossible to spotlight just one. That said, the book I am in the middle of reading right now is MERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEARS, and it is definitely one that will stick with me for a long time—it’s fantastic!

What is currently in your fridge that tells us about you?

AJP: In my fridge you will find… (a) three different types of butter; (b) multiple varieties of cheese; (c) a can of non-fat whipped cream. One of these facts is NOT true – can you guess which? ☺

Thank you to Walden Press for providing us with a copy to giveaway. (US only) There are several ways to enter:

  1. Follow our blog (if you don’t already do so) and leave a comment on this post
  2. Follow us @storymamas and authors Ammi-Joan Paquette & Laurie Ann Thompson on Twitter and Retweet
  3. Follow us and the authors on Instagram and Like/Comment on the post
  4. Follow us and the authors on Facebook and Like/Comment on our post

Be sure to checkout the educator’s guide that accompanies the series!

Lastly, did you figure out the lie from above?  It is a true fact that non-fat anything is not welcome in my fridge… if there is a more fundamental food fact about me, I don’t know it!

The First Men Who Went to the Moon – With Author Interview & Inside Scoop

I was able to bring my son to a lovely author event sponsored by Book Beat, in Metro Detroit area, this past month. To celebrate March is Reading Month, Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rhonda Gowler Greene both spoke at the Oak Park Public Library about being an author and their new books.

Rhonda’s presentation was centered around her newly released book, The First Men Who Went to the Moon. It is a wonderful story that teaches readers about how Apollo 11 took its men on a mission to the moon. The book uses a rhyming and repetitive text structure that is also circular. On the side of each page, is even more information and facts about the text and illustrations. The book is entertaining, engaging and informative. The illustrations by Scott Brundage are gorgeous and make you feel as if you are in space. The story will hook readers of all ages. My son and I loved hearing her speak and have enjoyed reading the book and learning even more about the historical event!

Rhonda was kind enough to answers some interview questions and give us the inside scoop on the book!

Can you give us an inside scoop that we wouldn’t learn from reading your book? 

Well, this year is the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.  When I wrote the story a few years ago, I didn’t have the anniversary in mind.  But, I’m so glad the manuscript sold when it did and the book is out for Apollo 11’s 50th.  

The story sold the summer of 2017.  I was told then the book would have a Spring 2019 release.  The publisher definitely wanted it out for the anniversary. I was so happy to hear that, but also a bit worried it might not actually happen because getting a picture book published in less than two years is a very tight squeeze.  Several of my books took three to four years from contract to release. But everyone worked VERY hard to keep the book on schedule. Right around Thanksgiving when I was so busy with other things, I had revisions to do. Then I had more due right around Christmas.  The illustrator (Scott Brundage- whose art for the book is amazing!), my editor, the copyeditors, the fact checkers, the designer, etc. were crazy busy, too, meeting deadlines. Everything came together though—and beautifully. I appreciated the team effort!

The 50th is being celebrated all over the country this year, and especially in July because the Apollo 11 mission was July 16–24, 1969.  I’m honored to be speaking and signing at the Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on July 21.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

  I would be a children’s media specialist/librarian because I love books and I love working with kids.  I actually got my master’s to be a media specialist. (Before that, I was an elementary teacher.). I never worked as one, though, because I became a stay-at-home mom after my husband and I started a family (4 kids within 7 years).  I read A LOT to my kids. I think that sparked an interest in writing stories of my own. Luckily, after a few years (and 220 rejections!), I began selling some of my stories to publishers.

Maybe I’m a librarian at heart though.  I own so many books, my house looks like a library!

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

 Wow, it’s hard to pick just one.  I can think of certain books in all genres that have stuck in my mind.  But, I’ll pick one of my favorite picture books– Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin.  It’s a classic and a 1996 Caldecott Honor Book.  I never get tired of reading it. The writing by Lloyd Moss is so clever.  And the whimsical illustrations by Marjorie Priceman match the text perfectly.  Maybe it sticks in my mind because I have a music background (minored in music/piano) and— because I love going to the symphony!

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?


 Homemade yogurt.  I hate to cook (would rather be reading or writing!), but I make my own yogurt, a big batch every couple of weeks.

Thanks so much Rhonda for putting together a wonderful presentation and for stopping by Storymamas for this interview. The book is published by Sleeping Bear Press and is out now! Lastly, we wish Rhonda all the best at Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in July!

Hungry? Read Our Inside Scoop about Pancakes to Parathas

Thank you to author Alice B. McGinty and Little Bee Books  for sending us this delicious book to read and review. All opinions are our own!

Pancakes to Parathas – Breakfast Around the World takes readers on a trip around the world learning all about typical breakfast faire found in different countries. Each page is filled with an introduction to the popular breakfast food, bright and detailed illustrations by Tomoko Suzuki and a closer look at the country’s traditional dish.

This book taught me so much about foods I need to try! Many of foods Alice includes I have not gotten a chance to eat and I’m excited to have learned about them. Some I hadn’t even heard of, while others I knew the name, but didn’t know a lot about the ingredients or history. I love how each page also gives you the proper pronunciation of each word. It also provides a map at the end to show us where each country is locate on the map.

This book can add so much to any library collection. While reading it with young kids it helps them have a deeper understanding and appreciation for other cultures. In a classroom I see this as a great resource for studying countries, cultures or traditions. Wherever you choose to share this book, you are sure to come away hungry! (See link below for an awesome Israeli Salad recipe).

Alice was kind enough to stop by our blog and tell us the inside scoop of the book, information you wouldn’t know from reading the book. Here’s what she had to say:

The idea for this book began I saw a photographic article from the New Yorker showing pictures of children from around the world eating breakfast. “Could this be a picture book?” I wondered.

I decided after some thought that it could make a great picture book. But breakfast is complicated. Foods in one country can be very unfamiliar to people from other countries. As I looked at the photos and read the descriptions of the foods, I wondered how I could make breakfasts around the world accessible and understandable to young readers.

After a few weeks, I had an idea. I decided to focus on the things that we had in common. I chose one familiar element from each of the breakfasts, such as “breakfast in Australia is salty” and “breakfast in Israel is a homegrown feast” and I worked the text around that. That’s how the book began!

Although I’d visited several of the countries in the book (I had a great time chasing down cornmeal porridge in Jamaica and can give you a recipe if you like!), I wanted to find people who were actually from each country, in order to get the breakfast time details needed to make the book truly authentic. I loved the process of finding and communicating with people from each place, and asking them about their memories of breakfasts as a child. This involved reaching out to friends who grew up in, or still lived in, each country. It also gave me the chance to meet new friends. I had a lovely time at an Indian restaurant in my hometown, talking with the owner about his memories of breakfasts in India. Then, as an extra special surprise, he brought me back to the kitchen and had the chef give a demonstration of how to make parathas – with delicious samples to taste.

I think everyone enjoyed sharing their experiences, and the unique details they gave me helped each country in the book come to life!

If you’d like to try and make your own Israeli salad, click on the link below for a yummy recipe from Miri Leshem-Pelly.

Israeli Salad Recipe

Where Do Your Wishes Go? The Collectors- Inside Scoop & *GIVEAWAY*

I was at an arcade with my 4 year old son this weekend. I gave him a set amount of quarters he can spend. His eyes immediately set on the claw machine. The claw machine that is known to cause frustration and heartbreak among its players. My son was adamant about using his money to get one of the balls inside. As a parent I am doing my best to convince him not to waste his time, but he kept putting his money in and getting no results. Although outwardly I was trying to set him up for failure, I can see the scene now, all quarters gone, no ball and one hysterical crying kid; so what did I do quietly inside my head? I made a wish and asked for him to win a ball. And you know what, two attempts later, when quarters were almost gone, he moves his claw and gets THREE balls! Not one, not two, but 3! He was so happy! As I was for him and I knew I would not leave with a crying kid.

As we exited the arcade a thought passed over me, it took me back to one of the theme’s in the book I just finished. In The Collectors, we find out that some wishes won’t ever come true, as they aren’t wished in a correct manner, but the ones done in a correct way, will come true. When a real wish goes through, you don’t wish for how it comes true, so at times it might end up being granted, but at the expense of someone or something. Truth be told, the way I wished for my son winning, according to the book, wouldn’t have come true, but the fact that it did come true and I could have never predicted the how (him winning 3 balls!) made me stop and think more about this book after finishing it. And that’s what good books do!

The Collectors by Jacqueline West just took home the Schneider Family Book Award Honor for Middle School book! This action packed story follows our main character of Van. Van likes to keep to himself, but while at a park one day, he finds his curiosity take over when he observes unusual behavior from a girl and a squirrel, it appears they are stealing coins from the fountain. Van tries to figure out what he just witnessed and in doing so is thrown into a good vs. evil underworld of the collectors, a group collecting and keeping wishes from coming true. With a hidden world, talking animals, and not knowing who to trust, Van tries to navigate this world and find out who is being genuine and what the real truth is about our wishes.

This book keeps you on the edge of your seat with some valuable messages along the way. Van, our main character wears hearing aides, but it was fascinating how Jacqueline writes how he hears the world around him, and that in Van’s eyes, his disability is viewed as his normal, despite what others feel. Friendship, what makes a true friendship, and that many of us can struggle in different ways but by giving people chances, we can open doors to understanding new things.

Jacqueline stopped by the blog to answer this question. (Read to bottom to see how you can win a copy of the book).

Can you give us any inside scoop on the book that we wouldn’t learn from reading it? 

When I started writing the story that would become The Collectors, I didn’t know that Van was hard of hearing. Most of the other elements of the story were in place — Van’s collecting hobby, his life with his opera-singer mother, his discovery of an underworld filled with secretive people, odd creatures, and gathered wishes — but it wasn’t until I was halfway through the first full draft that I realized: Oh. Van wears hearing aids. It felt like the character had told me this important fact about himself only after I had gotten to know him well. And once I knew that fact, everything else in the story fell into place. All of the logic and all of the magic worked in ways they hadn’t before. It was incredibly exciting, and incredibly scary,because, as a hearing person, I wasn’t sure I could do Van’s perception justice. But I had wonderful help with my research, from librarians to teachers to several deaf and hard of hearing students. (Of course, you can learn that bit from reading the book — at least, you can if you read the acknowledgements!)

***GIVEAWAY INFORMATION**** Thank you Jacqueline for sharing the book with us! She was kind enough to donate a signed copy of The Collectors to one lucky reader! Here are three ways to enter, (US only: Giveaway closes on Tuesday, 2/12 @ midnight ET).

  1. Follow our blog and comment on the this post
  2. Follow us on twitter @storymamas and retweet
  3. Follow us on Instagram, like the post, and tag a friend

Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish

According to Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld…….

This wonderful new book about making the most out of your birthday will be released next Tuesday, February 12th. Penguin books was gracious enough to send us the F and G to read and share.

This book is is adorable! It takes you through the 10 rules the authors have picked to help any reader have a successful birthday. With humor spread through the text and pictures, this will surely have readers of all ages laughing and hoping their birthday isn’t too far away to celebrate.

“Rule #5- There must be signing. Traditionally the “Happy Birthday” song. Sung happily and loudly and definitely off-key. ”

I am so excited to use this as my new go-to birthday book present! Also, it can be used in the classroom to talk with your kids and students about birthday traditions.

“Rule #9- You must blow out the candles in one single breath. Unless you are a camel…..” (Page turn…)

I also envision this as a great book for reading and writing in the elementary classroom. Using the part mentioned above, I can see how it helps kids with predictions, inference, or even for writing. Kids can practice personification, but still using real facts.

This one is a winner! Please preorder now!