TITLE: Parrots Over Puerto Rico

AUTHOR: Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore


PUBLICATION INFO: Lee and Low, 2013

ISBN: 9781620140048

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: grades 1 to 6

GENRE: picture book (nonfiction)


Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home.”

From the publisher: “Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future. Woven into the parrots’ story is a brief history of Puerto Rico itself, from before the first human settlers to the present day.”

THEMES/TOPICS: animals, nature, history

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I like this book because of Susan Roth’s captivating images. The parrots pop off the page in a cacophony of colors. Kids will want to reach out and touch the three-dimensional fabric pictures. The text is a twin tale of Puerto Rico’s development and the parrots’ decline. Every page has a paragraph devoted to each topic. I think my favorite part, though, was the “Afterword,” which explains the parrot conservation efforts of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program.


You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!


PPBF: Sophie Scott Goes South

TITLE: Sophie Scott Goes South


PUBLICATION INFO: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-544-08895-5

SOURCE:  library


GENRE: picture book (fiction)


“Woohoo! I’m going to Antarctica! That’s right, me, Sophie Scott.

From the publisher: “Nine-year-old Sophie is going on a month-long voyage to Antarctica, with her dad, the captain of an icebreaker. Sailing the frozen seas round-trip from Australia to Mawson Station in the South Pole, Sophie recounts the adventure of a lifetime in her own words, illustrations, and color photographs. She’ll show us icebergs, penguins, seals, and whales! It’s a dangerous journey, but Sophie is well prepared for the thrills and chills that await her on top of the world.

This friendly, informative, and beautifully presented picture book is based on the author’s own experiences and shows the wonder of Antarctica through a child’s eyes.”

THEMES/TOPICS: nature, geography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I love this book because of its connection to Alison Lester’s own trip to Antarctica in 2005 as an Antarctic Arts fellow. During her six-week journey, she sent emails and letters to schools and family with details of her trip. Many students wrote back, sending their pictures of Antarctica and the places and animals Lester described. The children’s pictures appear in the book as part of Sophie’s diary.


  • This National Geographic site is one of the best there is for learning about Antarctica. Learn about animal ranges, physical geography and more.
  • KIDSDISCOVER has a free Antarctica lesson plan.
  • Check out these cool photos from the Smithsonian.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: The Kite That Bridged Two Nations

This week, I’m excited to review Alexis O’Neill’s latest, THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS. Alexis was the long-time Regional Advisor for SCBWI’s Central Coast Chapter in California. I love her for always encouraging and inspiring new writers like me.

TITLE: The Kite That Bridged Two Nations

AUTHOR: Alexis O’Neill

ILLUSTRATOR: Terry Widener

PUBLICATION INFO: Calkins Creek, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59078-938-4

SOURCE:  library


GENRE: history


“Whenever wind lifted off the river and sent the trees to dancing,

I’d itch to fly a kite.

From the publisher: “Homan Walsh loves to fly his kite. And when a contest is announced to see whose kite string can span Niagara Falls, Homan is set on winning, despite the cold and the wind—and even when his kite is lost and broken. Homan’s determination is beautifully captured in this soaring, poetic picture book that features Terry Widener’s stunning acrylic paintings. Both author and illustrator worked with experts on both sides of the falls to accurately present Homan Walsh’s story. The book also includes an extensive author’s note, timeline, bibliography, and further resources.

THEMES/TOPICS: history, kites

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Alexis unearthed an amazing true story and transformed the tale into tantalizing poetry. Her rhythmic, lyrical language mimics the rushing river and crashing falls of the great Niagara Falls. This book is a joy to read out loud. Also, Alexis did an incredible job researching this true story. Her author’s note makes clear what we know for sure and what she invented for the sake of the story.

RESOURCES: Alexis lists quite a few in her back matter:

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: WATER CAN BE

This week I am so excited to review Laura Purdie Salas’s forthcoming book, Water Can Be. Laura is a talented poet and a generous soul. Her writerly wisdom in  WRITING FOR THE EDUCATIONAL MARKET helped me get where I am today. And speaking of generous, Laura will be donating part of her royalties from the book to WaterAid, an international water charity.

TITLE: Water Can Be

AUTHOR: Laura Purdie Salas

ILLUSTRATOR: Violeta Dabija

PUBLICATION INFO: Millbrook Press, April 1, 2014

ISBN: 9781467705912

SOURCE:  pre-release review copy


GENRE: nonfiction, poetry


“Water is water —

It’s puddle, pond, sea.

When springtime comes splashing,

The water flows free.”

From the publisher: “Water can be a…

Thirst quencher
Kid drencher
Cloud fluffer
Fire snuffer
Find out about the many roles water plays in this poetic exploration of water throughout the year.”

THEMES/TOPICS: nature, poetry, nonfiction

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: To folks who say nonfiction can’t be fun, I say, “read this.” Like her previous book, A Leaf Can Be, Water Can Be is a lyrical read-aloud. I’d argue that children much younger than age five would enjoy both the poetry and bright illustrations. Laura includes extensive back matter, for example, additional information about how water makes clouds, houses tadpoles, and feeds otters. I love that she’s included this information at the end rather than on each page, which would disrupt the flow of her verse. She also includes a glossary and places to find additional information.

RESOURCES: Last year I reviewed George Ella Lyons’s ALL THE WATER IN THE WORLD and collected quite a few water resources. I’ll revisit them here:

  • The EPA has this lesson plan on the water cycle for grades K-3 and 4-6.
  • The US Geological Survey has a cartoon infographic about the water cycle, here. They also have a graphic available as a placemat. Now you can think about the water cycle when you have a glass of water with dinner.
  • For grades 3-5, check out Scholastic’s Study Jams lesson plan on the water cycle.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

2013: Where Did The Time Go?

As much as I deal with words on a day-to-day basis, I still love numbers. In my opinion, an Excel spreadsheet is perfect for any occasion, just like a little black dress. With that in mind, I developed a spreadsheet for my writing work in 2013. My plan is to do this each year, so I can track time spent on different types of writing assignments. Eventually, I’d like to compare the time clocked to the pay earned. This may take a few months, as pay often lags the projects’ completion by several weeks.

Starting in March, I used Slimtimer.com, an online timesheet program, to track time spent on different tasks. Author Laura Salas mentioned the Web site in her book, WRITING FOR THE EDUCATIONAL MARKET, and I think it can be very helpful for writers.

This first year is not 100% representative of my work, since I started a couple of months in. But those first couple of months were spent working on proposals, many of which got go-aheads. The second caveat is that I’ve noticed I’m less likely to hit the timer when doing critiques, attending writers’ workshops, and writing some of my own picture books. If I’m not getting paid, I’m less likely to “punch in” even though the work is just as important. With that said, here’s a snapshot of where I spent my time in 2013:

Paid work:

  • Children’s magazines     17%
  • Children’s books (work for hire) 18%
  • Assessments    20%
  • Curriculum    27%
  • TOTAL paid work: 82%

Unpaid work:

  • Proposals, etc. that haven’t sold yet    7%
  • Picture books    11%  (probably a little low)
  • Critiques  3% (definitely low; I always forget to hit the timer for this)

Because of rounding issues, you’ll notice that the total is over 100%. But, I can still glean some information from the general trends. First, I definitely put in the time when there’s a contract and a deadline on the table. Getting paid for 80% of the work I did is pretty good in my opinion, since much of my work is on speculation. My busiest quarter was the last one of the year, when the assignments came flooding in.

The downside of being so busy is that my picture books fell off my “to do” list.  I did little work on my pet projects except for a some research here and there. It’s something I hope to change in 2014 by joining Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book challenge once more.

As a byproduct of using Slimtimer, I’ve become much more productive when I’m “on the clock.” I ignore emails, Facebook, etc. when I know the clock is ticking.

What’s your experience with Slimtimer? Do you have any other productivity tips or tools for writers?

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Henry and the Cannons

Wow, it’s been awhile. My last PPBF post was in October! Yikes.

Yesterday’s blizzard in Boston and New York inspired this PPBF pick. Stay warm everyone! (I probably shouldn’t tell you it’s in the 60s in California.)

TITLE: Henry and the Cannons


PUBLICATION INFO: Roaring Book Press, January 2013

ISBN: 978-1596432666

SOURCE:  Library


GENRE: nonfiction


“It was the winter of 1775. The American Revolution had begun, and things weren’t going well for the Patriots of Boston, Massachusetts.”

From the publisher: “Before Washington crossed the Delaware, Henry Knox crossed Massachusetts in winter—with 59 cannons in tow.

In 1775 in the dead of winter, a bookseller named Henry Knox dragged 59 cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston—225 miles of lakes, forest, mountains, and few roads. It was a feat of remarkable ingenuity and determination and one of the most remarkable stories of the revolutionary war. In Henry and the Cannons the perils and adventure of his journey come to life through Don Brown’s vivid and evocative artwork.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, nonfiction

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I’m working on a slice-of-history picture book and used HENRY AND THE CANNONS to study form and structure. Much like Barb Rosenstock’s THE CAMPING TRIP THAT CHANGED AMERICA, this book focuses on one episode in American history and shows how it connects to a larger story.


Don Brown found an unsung hero, as there’s little for students about Henry Knox on the Web. Here are a few sites:

  • The Knox Museum in Maine has several Revolutionary War lesson plans on its education site.
  • The Library of Congress has a lesson plan built around a letter from General George Washington to Henry Knox.
  • Daughters of the American Revolution exhibit about Knox.
  • Travel the Knox Trail in the Hudson River Valley (but probably not today due to the weather.)

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!