New Books


In January, Rourke Educational Media released my newest titles in the Let’s Explore Science series. My author copies of Rock Cycle and Tools of the Trade: Using Scientific Equipment arrived yesterday. There’s nothing like holding new books in your hands and imagining them in the hands of young readers.




AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Elizabeth Matthews

PUBLICATION INFO: Candlewick Press, 2007


SOURCE: library


GENRE: picture book


“At a time when France was the center of all that was wealthy, grandiose, and fashionable, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel was born poor and skinny.”

From the publisher: “Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel was always different. And she vowed to prove that being different was an advantage! Poor, skinny, and orphaned, Coco stubbornly believed that she was as good as the wealthier girls of Paris. Tapping into her creativity and her sewing skills, she began making clothes that suited her (and her pocketbook) — and soon a new generation of independent working women craved her sleek, comfortable, and practical designs. Now an icon of fashion and culture, Coco Chanel continues to inspire young readers, showing just how far a person can come with spunk, determination, and flair.”

THEMES/TOPICS: be yourself/individuality

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Matthews does a wonderful job of making this innovative woman accessible for kids. My eight-year-old has read this book over and over again. When I asked him what he most liked about it, he said it was the rags to riches story element.


  • Play dress up! Have your kids use old clothes to make their own innovative fashions.
  • Help kids learn to sew. SewMama will get you started.
  • Simple sewing projects for you to try.

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: Blue On Blue



AUTHOR: Dianne White


PUBLICATION INFO: Beach Lane Books (2014)


SOURCE: library


GENRE: picture book


“Cotton clouds.

Morning light.

Blue on blue.

White on white.”

From the publisher: “Discover the joys of a wild rainstorm in this poetic picture book, illustrated by a Caldecott Medalist.

Join a farming family as they experience the full range of a thrilling seaside thunderstorm—from the wild wind and the very first drops; to the pouring, pouring rain; to the wonderful messy mud after the sun returns!

With gentle, rhyming text and vivid artwork from a Caldecott Medal–winning illustrator, this sublime depiction of nature’s patterns turns a storm into a celebration.”


WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Dianne White’s rhythmic text builds and bursts just like the thunderstorm it depicts. Beth Krommes’s illustrations add an additional layer to the story, showing the reaction of a girl and farm animals to the storm. Young children will love the rhythm and rhyme. In the classroom, teachers can use the book to discuss weather patterns.


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!

A Typical Day

IMG_2594Many people think of writing as a romantic profession. The writer lounges outside in the sunshine, notebook and paper in hand, writing inspired poetry. The writer, fueled by coffee, hovers over the keyboard dashing off page after page of perfect prose. Somehow my life never resembles either of these pictures (except for the coffee!).

Last Friday, I kept track of “Where My Time Goes.” It’s an assignments in the creativity book, The Artist’s Way.

As a full-time mom and part-time writer, here’s the cold hard reality of where my time goes on a typical day (last Friday).

  • Get up before everyone else, usually around 5 a.m.
  • Get coffee and write Morning Pages per The Artist’s Way. This is part journal, part to-do list, and part working out ideas on works in progress, currently a fiction picture book and a teen novel.
  • Critique fellow students’ scenes for Novel Writing class
  • Review chapter book critique from an editor; consider how to revise chapter book before submitting it to agents
  • Respond to questions for online book study group
  • Write blog post
  • Morning routine – get kids breakfast, make lunches, etc.
  • Take kids to school
  • Test first-graders on sight words/play first-grade librarian
  • Read agent rejection email and ponder giving up for the 100th time
  • Text parents of basketball team reminders about Saturday game time
  • Call for information about summer reading camp for the kids
  • Walk dog (Note: This doubles as pre-writing time. I work out story problems and draft chapters while I’m walking.)
  • Eat lunch while reading blogs and responding to comments on my blog
  • Research and write a chapter for freelance children’s book assignment
  • Make chocolate chip cookies for after-school playdate
  • Order pizzas for dinner
  • Revise and dummy picture book
  • Get wrapped up in edits and burn cookies
  • Eat burned cookies to see how bad they really are
  • Pick up kids from school
  • Playdate, dinner with friends, kids to bed
  • Read middle grade novel, The Case of the Missing Moonstone, and chapter in a biography for a potential picture book biography

When I’m on deadline my days often look very different, with up to five hours of actual fingers-on-keyboard writing time. Still, almost every day features household chores, volunteering at the kids’ school, walking or yoga, reading or writing during the boys’ sports practice. I’m sure I would be more productive without all these commitments, but I’m not sure if I would be as inspired.

Fellow writers, where does your time go?



AUTHOR: Julie Falatko


PUBLICATION INFO: Viking Books for Young Readers (February 2, 2016)

ISBN: 978-0451469458

SOURCE: personal copy


GENRE: picture book


“Snappsy the alligator wasn’t feeling like himself.
His feet felt draggy.
His skin felt baggy.”

From the publisher: “Snappsy the alligator is having a normal day when a pesky narrator steps in to spice up the story. Is Snappsy reading a book … or is he making CRAFTY plans? Is Snappsy on his way to the grocery store … or is he PROWLING the forest for defenseless birds and fuzzy bunnies? Is Snappsy innocently shopping for a party … or is he OBSESSED with snack foods that start with the letter P? What’s the truth? ”

THEMES/TOPICS: storytelling

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Snappsy…How do we love you, let us count the ways. My first-grader is a big fan of other metafiction like WE ARE IN A BOOK (Willems) and A PERFECTLY MESSED UP STORY (McDonnell). He found the dichotomy between what the narrator said about Snappsy and what Snappsy was actually doing to be hilarious. Snappsy shopping at the supermarket was a favorite. This book is fun for home, but is wonderful in a classroom as well. I read it to a group of third-graders for Read Across America, and the book prompted a lively discussion about narrators and storytelling. The students also commented on Miller’s illustrations, including the fact that Snappsy is holding a book about himself on the front cover.


  • Have older students write a Snappsy-style book. What happens when the narrator says one thing, and the character does another?
  • Falatko offers Snappsy activity sheets on her Snappsy Activity Sheets.
  • Make your own Snappsy using egg cartons and more.

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!