GIVEAWAY!!! Two Copies of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale! Plus Book Signing and Pre-Order Information

Yes! A Goodreads giveaway. Easy to enter! I’ll send a signed copy to each of the two winners. US residents only. Simply click on the cover of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale and you will be taken straight to the giveaway. Good luck!

I hope you’re able to join me at my signing to celebrate the release of my new book, A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale (on-sale date 9-5-17). See synopsis and reviews below.

Book Signing with Penny Parker Klostermann
Tuesday September 5th • 4:00-6:00 pm
Texas Star Trading Co.•174 Cypress St.•Abilene, TX
**See convenient Pre-Order Details below

If you’d like a copy of my book please take advantage of the pre-order price of only $15.00 (Regular retail price is $17.99) by giving Texas Star Trading Co. a call at 325-672-9696. They’ll reserve a copy for you and it will be waiting for you when you arrive. You can even have it signed ahead of time if you choose. Just give them the personalization details when you call to pre-order. Copies will be available at the book signing for the special, pre-order price of $15.00

Even if you can’t make it to the signing you can take advantage of the pre-order price through Sept. 5, 2017. Go straight to their website by clicking HERE, add your personalization details per website instructions, and have your signed book shipped to you.

If you are going to pick your pre-ordered copy up from Texas Star Trading Co. instead of having it shipped, then you should call to pre-order and let them know your personalization details at that time.

Synopsis: From the creators of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight comes a fun fractured fairy tale about an aspiring chef who mistakenly turns story ingredients into delectable dishes. . . . Uh-oh!

In the magical land of fairy tales, William doesn’t quite fit in. He’d rather poach pears than pursue princesses, and he values gnocchi over knighthood. . . .

When he stumbles on a delivery of food destined for Fairy-Tale Headquarters (a pumpkin, apples, and a few measly beans), he decides to spice things up and whips the paltry ingredients into delectable dishes. But as you might have guessed, Snow White’s wicked stepmother doesn’t exactly want her magic apple baked and drizzled with caramel.

The team that brought you There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight delivers a hilariously fractured, whipped, and souffléed fairy tale that is chock-full of delicious details and jokes to satisfy every appetite!

Praise for A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale:

KirkusKlostermann’s triple-twisted tale is a cute concoction that children familiar with the traditional stories will enjoy.

School Library Journal~ a fine recipe for a fractured fairy tale—blend familiar storybook characters with lots of dialogue, add a pinch of disharmony, and stir in a happy-ever-after ending.

Road Trip! Trucks on Tour With Susanna Leonard Hill + a Giveaway!

Road Trip! Yep! That’s right . . . a road trip with Susanna Leonard Hill and her new book, The Road That Trucks Built! On this road trip we will explore interesting tidbits about the construction of her book!

Pick your favorite from below!
Start your engine. Let’s go.

Speaking of Road Trip, Susanna’s book has been on a road trip of sorts. It’s been on a blog tour. Later in the post there’s a list of all the places it’s been. And guess what . . . A special prize will be raffled off among anyone who comments on every single blog tour stop, so don’t miss a single fascinating installment! I’ve left handy links below.

Now let’s start that road trip and hear from Susanna.

Me: Susanna, I just finished reading and rereading and rereading, etc. THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT. I’m completely in love with this book. The cumulative structure is just right for your story. The trucks are perfect — mighty, but adorable and friendly.

Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich Used by permission of Little Simon

Susanna: I know! Aren’t they cute? Er, I mean tough!

Me: And the cover is a toy! Genius! (A cardboard wheel is part of the cover and readers can turn it to make the trucks move in a circle!)

Susanna: I wish I could claim it was my genius… but it wasn’t really. It was the editor’s (although I may have nudged his genius with my genius because my original conception for the manuscript was a pop-up book or a book that had moving parts… 🙂 )Me: I predict this book will be movin’ on down the road into the homes of many young truck-loving readers!

Susanna: I sure hope so! It seems like it would make an excellent car seat companion 🙂

Me: One very special thing about picture books is the marriage of text and art. As I mentioned above, the trucks are perfect. Erica Sirotich did an amazing job of making your wonderful text come to life. It was delightful to spend time with each spread and take it all in. In doing this I quickly noticed that the art not only includes hard working trucks, but also includes hard working, hardhat wearing birds! They’re just as adorable as the trucks and I love the fact that little birds are helping big trucks build the road. They’re certainly not birdbrains and add much fun to the visual story.

I thought it would be interesting to compare some of the work these hardhat wearing birds are doing to the work that has to be done to bring a book to life.

We could call it . . . Book Construction: Not for Birdbrains!

Let’s start with the yellow bird that is carrying a rock. This reminded me of digging for an idea. On the same spread there is an orange bird surveying the road. We must have ideas for stories … but beyond that we must survey (carefully consider) the idea in terms of story. When did you realize your idea had enough “story” for a book?

Susanna: Hmm… let me just adjust my thinking cap hard hat… I think I knew it from the beginning. The idea was the story of trucks working together to build a road. It was more a question of execution – how to tell the story. I wanted to keep it fairly simple for young readers, but not “dumbed down” (if you’ll forgive the expression 🙂 ) I wanted to call all the trucks by their proper names and teach a little about the jobs they do, and I wanted to tell it in a way that was fun but also interesting and educational. The cumulative structure and engaging read-aloud rhythm of The House That Jack Built seemed like a nice model to build on.

Me: On another page, there is a pink bird observing the road building progress and a blue bird clearing debris.

Did this story progress easily or were there times when it was messy and you had to clear debris and clean things up as far as rhyme, meter, word count, or other details?

Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich Used by permission of Little Simon

Susanna: The actual story was pretty clear in my mind from the beginning. But yes, there was definitely mess! There is always mess. Really. I am never inviting any of you to my office lest you grow faint at the sight of my “filing” system:-) I’m not sure how easily your rhymes come to you, Penny, but for me there is always a great deal of experimentation. I went through MANY versions of the rhyme, because I wanted it to work smoothly without feeling forced and without adding unnecessary words or lines just to make the rhyme and meter work. So I tried a lot of different ways of saying what I wanted to say, switching the words and ideas around until I got a balance between story, rhyme and meter.

Me: One of my favorite bird characters is the green bird that wears a traffic cone as a hat and appears to be totally enjoying himself. I know that writing is extremely difficult and can be frustrating. But was there a part of this book journey that was especially enjoyable for you?

Susanna: Well, I have to admit… I like big trucks and I cannot lie 🙂 (Me: That cracks me up, Susanna!) As I’ve mentioned in other interviews, I did plan (at age 3) to drive a steam roller, and although I ended up taking a road less, umm, flattened? 🙂 , my love of trucks is long-standing. So it was enjoyable to write about trucks. I also really like telling a story of how something works, in this case, building a road. I liked learning about it myself, and I like the idea that kids could enjoy learning about it too, through the story. But probably the most enjoyable part was that I wrote this book for my son, so it was something I got to do for him and share with him even before it was published. (A long time before it was published, actually, since I wrote it when he was under 5 and now he’s 21! 🙂 ) Also, I don’t know about you, but when I think of trucks, I think of truckloads of good things… like chocolate… 🙂

Me: Later in the book two of the birds are riding on the Paint Marker truck. They seem very happy with the stripes being painted on the road. Maybe they think of it as “road art”. 🙂 Describe how you felt when you first saw Erica’s art for your book?

Susanna: I was thrilled! I think her art really suits the story. I love how colorful it is. I love how each truck has its own personality and facial expressions. I love all the little details, like the flower in the bulldozer’s smoke stack. And I LOVE the construction worker birds! The one with the cone on his head is probably my favorite too 🙂

Me: Her details are amazing. Let’s face it . . . the whole book is amazing and kids are going to treasure it!
I appreciate you sharing about the construction of this book. I can tell that both you and Erica put a lot of thought and hard work into making it so delightful. Hearing about your process is useful to writers and reader alike.

Susanna: Thank you so much for having me on your blog (again!), Penny! I so appreciate the opportunity to share with your readers, and I’m so grateful to you for helping spread the word of my new books. Plus, you gave me an idea! You know how, on the highway, you see those signs that say ROAD CONSTRUCTION AHEAD? Well, I think I need one over my desk that says BOOK CONSTRUCTION AHEAD! 🙂

Me: That’s a wonderful idea! Perfect for a writer’s desk.

As promised, here is a look at where Susanna’s trucks have been and I’ve made it easy for you. Here are the links to every single stop. Just click, enjoy, comment, and move on down the road to the next one because remember . . . someone is going to win a special prize. Comment on each of these blog posts and you’ll be in the running. But do it today because I’m the last stop on the tour 🙂

Blog Tour Kickoff

Book Review/Arts and Crafts Activity   

Book Review and another Arts and Crafts Activity  

Activity Kit Reveal

Interview With Illustrator, Erica Sirotich – Giveaway

Q&A With Susanna – Giveaway

Guest Post by Susanna – Giveaway

Interview With Susanna


Interview With Susanna 

Interview With Illustrator, Erica Sirotich

Giveaway Winner Announced

Book Review, Craft  – Giveaway

Publishing Life and a Recipe

Interview With Susanna With an Art Emphasis

I’m the last stop on the tour 😀

GIVEAWAY: Readers! Lucky you! Susanna is giving away one signed copy of The Road That Trucks Built! All you have to do is leave a comment below. Leave your comment no later than midnight (CDT) Sunday, August 20, 2017 so that I can draw a winner! ***You must be in the United States to win.

And don’t forget to share on social media.  The hashtag we are using to promote the book is #trucksontour.  Every time you share a post on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram using #trucksontour you will get an entry into a raffle where 3 winners will each get a $25 Merritt Bookstore and Toystore gift card.

Meet Susanna: Susanna is the award winning author of over a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner and an Itabashi Translation Award Finalist.)  Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one forthcoming in Chinese.  Her newest books, When Your Lion Needs A BathWhen Your Elephant Has The Sniffles, and The Road That Trucks Built will be published by Little Simon in July 2017.  When Your Llama Needs A Haircut (Little Simon) and Alphabedtime! (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books) are forthcoming in Spring 2018 and Spring 2019 respectively, with additional titles coming in 2018 and 2019.  She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.

Places to Find Susanna: Website:
Face Book Author Page:
Making Picture Book Magic (online picture book writing course):

When You’re Lucky Enough to Win a Copy of One of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Books!!!



Buffy Silverman!

You have won a copy of

Are you ready??? An elephant should be arriving soon so you’ll really need this book!
Kleenex not included so stock up!


David McMullin!

You have won a copy of

A lion is on its way so you will really need this book!
Bubble bath not included so stock up!

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog to read about these two adorable books. If you missed the post, you can go right HERE and read my interview with Susanna. If you weren’t a winner just click on a book cover and you can buy your own copy 😀



When We’re Lucky Enough to Have TWO New Books From Susanna Leonard Hill

Yes! You read the blog post title right! TWO new books from Susanna Leonard Hill! As you can see from the banner above, the covers are adorable. And I promise you the books are just as adorable as the covers. In case you would like to read other posts about Susanna’s new books, here is a handy schedule so that you can visit other stops on the blog tour.

But now let’s get down to the business of learning more about these books.

Due to the nature of these two books, WHEN YOU ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES and WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH, I thought it only fitting that I should check in on Susanna. Her books are instruction manuals and I have no doubt that her instructions are tried and true. However, hers aren’t your everyday instruction manuals. They involve (of all things) an elephant and a lion. Knowing how serious Susanna is about her writing I imagine her bravely taking on the dangerous task of caring for an elephant with the sniffles. And the even more dangerous task of giving a lion a bath.

In fact I imagine these dangerous tasks so … uh … well … uh … like I said dangerous, that I strongly suggested to Susanna that I conduct this interview by email instead of in person. I mean I’m not the one who chose to write these books and I don’t fancy putting myself in that kind of danger. Call me chicken if you like but I sure didn’t want any part of tromping or chomping!

Speaking of tromping, let’s start with the elephant.

Me: Susanna, I realize that elephants can look all gray and trunky and sweet, but let’s face it … they’re BIG! How did you do the research for this book? Did you actually observe an elephant? Was the elephant in your home for any length of time? Did you go through a lot of trial and error to determine the best way to deal with an elephant with the sniffles? Did you go through a lot of tissues? That’s a lot of questions (because I’m very curious) but, in general, I would like to know what your process was like as you wrote this brilliant instruction manual for those of us who some day might have an elephant with the sniffles?

Susanna: Penny! Penny, is that you? Argh! Urgh! If this elephant would justMoveOVER!
Ah! *gasps with relief* There you are!
Oh! And you have company! Hi, everyone!
PennyPennyPenny. I think we’d better begin by addressing the elephant in the room, don’t you?
No, not Umberto. (Although I should introduce him. Umberto, meet everyone. Everyone, Umberto.)

Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill, Illustration copyright © 2017 by Daniel Wiseman, Used by permission of Little Simon

No. I am referring to the fact that you, my dearest Penny, refused to come here in person, feeling that you’d be in danger.
Oh, ye of little faith!
They don’t call me Safari Su for nothing! Did you really think I’d let my elephant tromp you?
Because of course you are right. I do take my research seriously, so Umberto has been camped out
here on Blueberry Hill for many moons. But he’s pretty harmless unless you happen to dart behind him when he’s about to sit down and he doesn’t see you in time… 🙂

As you may know, I have a bunch of kids. Some might say a horde. So I have dealt with many a kid-sniffle. And when kids have the sniffles, well, they often feel a little bit miserable – runny-nosed, itchy eyed, scratchy-throated, sorry-for-themselves little critters. So I got to thinking… (always dangerous 🙂 )… what would make them feel better?
If I were a chef, I might have whipped up a healing ganache or some such.
If I were crafty, I might have knitted, crocheted, or quilted a cozy coverlet.
If I were musically-inclined, I might have strummed a little ditty to cheer them.
Alas, I am none of those things.
But I am a writer.
So I thought to myself, how about a story?
And that is how this little instruction manual came about.
No kid wants to know how to take care of kids, though. That’s no fun!
So I thought to myself, hmmm…a kid might not want to take care of a kid, but EVERY kid needs to know how to take care of their elephant! (Every kid HAS an elephant, right? It’s not just me..? 🙂 )

Elephants, as it turns out, are not so very different from kids.
They like the crusts cut off their peanut butter sandwiches.
They insist on wearing rainboots even if the cloudy sky is only hinting at rain. Just In Case!
They won’t even consider going to sleep at night until you conduct the Mommy Sweep (clearing out any monsters who might be lurking in the closet or under the bed.)
So it came as no surprise that when they have the sniffles, just like kids, they need to be tucked in bed, entertained, waited on hand and foot, and kept happy and quiet so as to avoid sneezing and get better!
They just need everything exponentially larger and in greater quantities 🙂

Me: Why that doesn’t sound so dangerous. It seems like Umberto wasn’t into tromping at all. He just needed a little love.
But the lion . . . Yikes! They seem to like to chomp things. And people seem just right for chomping. Yet you and the lion must have come to some kind of agreement since you’re still standing. Same questions apply here—How did you do the research for this book? Did you actually observe a lion? Was the lion in your home/bathtub for any length of time? Did you go through a lot of trial and error to determine the best way to bathe a lion? Again, that’s a lot of questions (because I’m still very curious) but, in general, I would like to know what your process was like as you wrote this brilliant instruction manual for those of us who might have a lion in bad need of a bath?

Susanna: Now, the lion was another matter.
That lion ruled my house for months!
Months, I tell you!
At the time, he was not a lion. He was a 21 month-old old girl. A 21 month-old girl who had been treated with nothing but love and kindness since the day she was born, bathed tenderly and carefully from day one (well, day eight actually, since there can be no bathing before belly buttons) never carelessly splashed or doused or traumatized by water in any way.

And yet…
…one dark day…
…that 21 month-old girl decided there would be NO MORE BATHS!
And she was just as fierce as any lion, and just as LOUD!, believe you me!
And let me tell you, there was a great deal of experimentation, trial and error, coaxing, cajoling, middle-naming, and bribery involved in solving that problem!LION-2Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill, Illustration copyright © 2017 by Daniel Wiseman, Used by permission of Little Simon

After that, getting a lion into the tub was child’s play 🙂
It turns out that when you live with a horde of kids, research on wild animal behavior is easier than you might think. It seems to come with the territory 🙂

Me: Goodness! I never thought of it that way but you make excellent points. And after hearing from you, I’m certain that every household . . . and I mean EVERY household . . . should own a copy of your two books just to keep everything under control.

What’s that you said, Susanna? REALLY???!!! How generous of you! Listen up everyone!!!

Susanna is giving away one signed copy of each book! All you have to do is leave a comment below. Leave your comment no later than midnight (CDT) Thursday, August 10, 2017 and your name will be written on a tissue and place in my bathtub so that I can draw a winner! If an elephant and lion show up at my house before the drawing, I may have to use another method for the random drawing. Either way I will draw a winner for each book! ***You must be in the United States to win.

Don’t forget to share this post using #whenyourbooks!  Every time you post with #whenyourbooks you get an entry in the end-of-tour raffle for a Special Prize!

Meet Susanna: Susanna is the award winning author of over a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner and an Itabashi Translation Award Finalist.)  Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one forthcoming in Chinese.  Her newest books, When Your Lion Needs A BathWhen Your Elephant Has The Sniffles, and The Road That Trucks Built will be published by Little Simon in July 2017.  When Your Llama Needs A Haircut (Little Simon) and Alphabedtime! (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books) are forthcoming in Spring 2018 and Spring 2019 respectively, with additional titles coming in 2018 and 2019.  She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.

Places to Find Susanna: Website:
Face Book Author Page:
Making Picture Book Magic (online picture book writing course):

Interview With Jackie Azúa Kramer, Author of The Green Umbrella and a Double Giveaway!

TheGreenUmbrella-cover-layout.inddToday we’re here to celebrate Jackie Azúa Kramer’s upcoming book, THE GREEN UMBRELLA, which will be on shelves January 31, 2017. That’s tomorrow 🙂
**Don’t miss the double giveaway. Details below.

Here’s the synopsis of THE GREEN UMBRELLAWhen Elephant takes a peaceful walk with his green umbrella, he’s interrupted by a hedgehog, cat, bear, and rabbit―each claiming that they’ve had exciting adventures with his umbrella. After all, it is an umbrella, and it certainly hasn’t been on any adventures more exciting than a walk in the rain. Or has it? Things aren’t always what they seem in this charming tale of imagination, sharing and friendship.

Prepare to be more than delighted with this book. It’s so full of imagination that I believe readers will be inspired to take imaginary adventures of their own.

Speaking of being inspired, it’s a fact that inspiration is a wonderful and necessary part of writing. Jackie wrote a great article for the Society of Children’s Book Writers (SCBWI) and Illustrators Summer 2015 Bulletin. Her article talks about inspiration. For today’s post, Jackie agreed to answer these questions about how she feeds her imagination with sources of inspiration.

PPK: In your article, Light My Fire, in the SCBWI bulletin, you discussed pictures as prompts or inspiration for your writing. Can you share about this source of inspiration?

JAK: I have very strong memories in my childhood, of what I’d call, visual inspiration. As a family we travelled all over the world. Exotic destinations like India, Israel, Venezuela, and Russia, to name a few. Between the people, architecture, clothes, art, food it was a feast for the eyes, not to mention all my other senses.

And the visual muses continued with my fascination in movies and theatre. I grew up close to New York City, and my parents would often take us to Broadway plays. The curtain rises and there are the incredible actors and sets, lighting, costumes and props. And movies…from the Golden Age of Hollywood to foreign and indie films, I can’t get enough.

So when I write, like scenes and acts in a play, I envision the page turns; the sets, costumes and props. As a matter of fact, every story I’ve ever written, I see as a moving image. Here’s one of my favorites—To Kill a

PPK: Pictures are inspiring to me, too, Jackie. I’ve come up with many ideas based on an expression or action conveyed by an image. You mentioned to me that music is another source of inspiration for your writing. I’m curious about this. Could you tell us more?

JAK: Music! I think of the oft-used quote, “If music save the savage beast…” My music, as we have this virtual conversation is a plane flying overhead, birds chirping, dogs barking, kids playing, wind over trees, and more. In my upcoming picture book, The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press), a story about loss, and the sensitive questions and emotions between a boy and his father. I listened to sweeping movie soundtracks, A River Runs Through It and Out Of Africa. Here’s a sample:

I call that my writing environment in which I create a mood or a virtual reality.

PPK: So music helps create a mood for writing, as well as your writing environment. Tell us about your writing environment. And do you only write in one environment or do you move around your home or even outside your home? Do different environments inspire different parts of your writing?

JAK: Yes! I often venture out of my home workspace to a bookstore or my lucky local library where I wrote The Green Umbrella. Each place has a unique ambiance. In a secluded corner of the library I look out onto a tree lined street and this beautiful, old church.


And six months out of the year, I love to write outdoors in my beautiful yard, surrounded by trees and flowers, I lovingly refer to it as ‘The Canopy’. My soundtrack becomes birds chirping, dogs barking, kids playing and the wind over trees. How can one help, but be inspired.


PPK: Many writers advise getting out and living life to spark inspiration. How important is this advice in your writing life? How do you employ this advice?

JAK: As Matthew McConaughey said, in Dazed and Confused, “Just keep livin’! L-I-V-I-N!” It’s super important to live the life that one’s given. I call it the three ‘R’s’—refuel, recharge, renew. As creators we tend to work in isolation. In order to give our best, we need to give back to ourselves. Museums are an endless source of inspiration. Both in their 80’s, Matisse’s ‘Cut-Outs’ and Picasso’s ‘Sculptures’, remind me that it’s never too late to learn, and for new possibilities in creative expression.


The three R’s are available to all of us in the smallest of ways. Light a candle, listen to music, take a walk, talk to people. I don’t need to go far. I’m lucky to have a beautiful park in my town.


But every now and then, I have a bout of wanderlust and I’m gone, gone, gone. My partner in crime, and I, get on a plane, rent a car, stay in one town for a couple of days and move on…it’s so freeing. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit my ancestral roots in Spain.


Jackie, thanks so much for sharing about inspiration. I know it will be helpful to writers, both young and young at heart.

Double the Giving, Double the Fun! Giveaway for You and a Little Free Library!

Readers, today is your lucky day because Jackie is giving away two signed copies of THE GREEN UMBRELLA to one lucky winner! One copy is for the winner to keep. And the other copy is to donate to a Little Free Library near you. Little Free Library is near and dear to Jackie and I love that she’s donating a copy to be placed in one of them. If you’re not sure if you have a Little Free Library close by, you can follow this link and perform a quick search to find out—Little Free Library Map. If you want to know more about Little Free Library, head over to their website: Little Free Library. If you win, we need ‘proof of’ with an official charter sign and charter number. All registered LFL’s have them. For a chance to win, leave a comment on this post no later than midnight (CST), Monday, February 6, 2017. I will use to choose a winner. The winner will be announced on Friday, February 10 in my A GREAT NEPHEW AND AND A GREAT AUNT post.

Watch the adorable trailer!

Be sure and check out Jackie’s other blog tour stops. You will learn about this wonderful book and learn more about Jackie. Click HERE to see the schedule and find links to other stops.


Meet Jackie: Jackie earned her Masters of Education from Queens College. She is a member of SCBWI and has written for the SCBWI Bulletin. In 2014, she was invited to be a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, Bank Street College. In 2015 Jackie was a presenter at the 1st nErDCamp Long Island.  Her picture book, The Green Umbrella (North South Books) debuts February 2017. The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, TBD) and If You Want to Fall Asleep (Clavis Books, Spring 2018). Visit Jackie at:

Other Places to Find Jackie
Twitter @jackiekramer422
Facebook Jackie Azúa Kramer


Happy 10th Blogiversary to Irene Latham—A Wild Celebration!

Today I’m helping poet, Irene Latham, celebrate her blogiversary. It’s the BIG 10. Irene’s “one little word” for this year is “wild” so how fitting that she has a Wild Roundup over at her blog. I met Irene online and am wild about her poetry!

In saying congrats to Irene, I want to reshare a poem I wrote which was inspired by rabbit tracks in the wild.Hare_tracks_on_snow

text pic 9

Happy 10 Blogiversary, Irene 🙂

GOODNIGHT, MANGER-Interview with Laura Sassi and Jane Chapman—PLUS a Giveaway!

Goodnight Manger Bk Cover

I’m thrilled to be a part of the GOODNIGHT, MANGER blog tour. You won’t want to miss one stop on the tour. You can view the schedule HERE.

Synopsis:Goodnight, Manger, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by New York Times bestselling artist Jane Chapman, tells the story of Mary and Joseph as they try to get Jesus to sleep in the noisy stable after his birth. Told in gentle, lulling rhyme, Goodnight, Manger is an adorable and tender bedtime story, for Christmas or any time of year.

If you haven’t seen the book trailer yet, have a look.

For today’s blog tour stop illustrator, Jane Chapman, and author, Laura Sassi, were gracious enough to answer a few questions.

Me: What drew you to Laura’s GOODNIGHT, MANGER story? What made you decide it was a story you’d like to illustrate?

Jane: It was a new take on a story that everyone knows. I love that it gets across the humanity of Jesus – He was a normal baby! Laura’s brilliant text manages to be both funny and reverent all at the same time.
I took a deep breath before accepting it because I try to avoid illustrating books with people in. I feel confident about drawing animals, but not people. That said, I wanted to challenge myself, and Laura’s text is SO good.

Me:  What was your reaction when you learned Jane would be the illustrator of GOODNIGHT, MANGER?  What appeals to you most about her work?

Laura: I was thrilled when my editor told me that Jane had agreed to take on this new project. She was also the illustrator for my first book, Goodnight, Ark. Jane did a marvelous job capturing the many wonderful expressions and movements of the storm-frightened animals in that book and I knew that she would do an amazing job with Goodnight, Manger as well. And once again, Jane’s work has again exceeded my expectations. The final illustrations for Goodnight, Manger glow with a warmth and gentle humor that perfectly captures the essence of the story.

Me: What is your process when taking a manuscript from text to fully illustrated spread? How collaborative, if at all, was the process?

Jane: First I draw, draw, draw. As I collect the character drawings together, I am thinking about how they could interact on the pages. After that I draw thumbnails (tiny drawings of suggested pages), then the final rough drawings to show the publisher.
I never collaborate with the author – even if he’s my husband! If there is any art direction written on the text, I remove it before I start drawing. I find that having a fixed idea at the beginning can inhibit possibly better thoughts of how the pictures will look.

Me: The best picture books have the perfect interplay between text and art. As authors we do our best to leave room for the illustrator to bring their part of the story. Did you and Jane communicate as she was creating the art? Did you make any changes to your text as a result of this communication?

Laura: Jane and I had no direct communication during the illustration phase, but before she took on the project she said something to the effect that if an action is described in the text, it MUST be included within the pages. With that feedback, Jane, the editor, and I all agreed to cut four verses. At first I thought I would miss the verses, but I don’t. What was lost in text, Jane beautifully made up for, and even enhanced, in illustration! The result is a truly magical melding of my words and her art.

Me: Goodnight, Manger has a Christmas theme. The story of Baby Jesus holds a special place in hearts everywhere. Looking at the cover, I see a sweetness-with-humor element that will draw readers to your book. What do you want readers to take away from your story? Could you both speak to this?

Jane: I want readers to recognise the humanity of Jesus and of His mother. I remember being a new parent to a crying baby – it’s not easy! This book doesn’t stick religiously to the Bible account of events (the wise men appear too early), but it does get across the idea that having a baby in a stable could be a bit messy, and that even Baby Jesus would have cried.

Laura: First and foremost, I want kids (and their parents) to enjoy the story. There’s so much to see on every page and the rhymes are fun to read aloud. I also wanted to offer readers a fun, Christmas-themed story which would keep Christ (rather than Santa) as the focus during what has culturally become a very secular Christmas season. As a mom, I have tender memories of putting my babies to bed and how hard it was when they were overstimulated and overtired. I wanted to play up those tender feelings and remind my youngest readers (and their parents) that Jesus was once a baby too, who cried and felt everything they feel.

Me: I love how you have chosen to depict Baby Jesus and his parents and the angels.  What was the inspiration behind the illustrations?

Jane:I drew lots of peasants from different countries, and a lot of acrobats! I don’t think angels are always in white – surely God would enjoy more colour? And I know that angels are without gender, but I thought they should probably have trousers on because otherwise I was going to end up with them showing too much leg!
Jesus was difficult. The team at Zondervan had me redraw Jesus a few times because He was looking too old on my pictures. Oh my, just thinking about painting all those people makes me shiver. I find it very difficult to paint skin tones…

Me: Laura certainly has a way with rhyme. The text sings. But I wondered if you have a favorite verse?

Jane: I don’t have a favourite verse. It’s ALL really, really good. (But I do like the picture where one of the wise men is being nibbled by a couple of goats – it reminds me of a visit to a local farm with my father-in-law: my son put grass in Grandad’s trouser pocket.)

Me: And Jane certainly has a way with illustrations. I could hang any page/spread on my wall. But I wondered if you have a favorite spread?

Laura: Ooh, that’s hard. I love every spread. The warm hues Jane has chosen for the stable interiors practically glow. And I love the sweet interactions and gentle humor included in each illustration, such as the mice peering dotingly down on Baby Jesus and the exceptionally expressive rooster and hen. In fact, I chose a rooster puppet as my storytelling assistant for author visits because of Jane’s delightful depiction of the bird. But, if pressed to choose I think my absolute favorite spread is the one with the angels singing sweet hosannas overhead in their colorful star-spangle tunics. One angel is even playing a fiddle and another an accordion!

Thank you, Jane and Laura, for answering these questions. And thanks for creating this beautiful book.

Here is Laura’s storytelling assistant. He looks like a very capable assistant 🙂rooster

Goodnight Manger Bk Cover

GIVEAWAY: Zonderkidz is offering one hardcover copy – fresh off the press – to one lucky winner.  And here’s the important part:  To be eligible, you must be a U.S. resident and have a physical address, not a P.O. Box. For a chance to win a copy just leave a comment on this post by midnight CST, Wednesday, October 21.

Laura Sassi photo
Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. Her poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in numerous family publications including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. and FamilyFun. She is the author of two picture books, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz 2015) and GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014). She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.


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Jane Chapman lives in the south-west of England with her illustrator husband, Tim Warnes, her two sons, and a couple of cute bantams. She has been illustrating children’s books for twenty years, but hasn’t run out of steam yet. She enjoys painting fur, whiskers and all kinds of weather, but especially snow.