Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Two "Coloring" Books from Sleeping Bear Press: Two Reviews PLUS Two Giveaways!

Today I'm sharing two new books from Sleeping Bear Press. Although they're not coloring books per se, they each use colors to teach important friendship lessons. Written for the pre-K through first grade crowd, teachers, librarians, parents, and caregivers will enjoy sharing these sweet books with young readers.

The Color Collector 

(Written by Nicolas Solis and illustrated by Renia Metallinou.)

Notice the color palette and simple text on the first page:

On the next page, the boy remembers what it's like to be the new kid and greets Violet. He watches her walk home from school. "I was on one side, she on the other." 

"Until one day." The boy watches her pick up a red candy wrapper and put it into her backpack. 

He notices how she picks up many different things. Here is the first full color spread:

When the boy asks her what she does with what she collects, she invites him to her home, where she proudly shows him her room:

 Each brightly colored wrapper

        piece of trash and speckled leaf

        has a place on her walls, her ceiling, her door.

        They are no longer forgotten bits blowing in the wind.

        Along her wall they are one.

        They are her sky,

        her beach,

        her village.

       They are beautiful.  

Violet tells him about her people that she left behind. In the process of sharing this with him, she is no longer alone. She has a friend. 

In the end, the boy has acquired a new friend...and a bright red leaf that he picks up, and puts in his backpack.

Isabel and Her Colores Go to School

(Written by Alexandra Alessandri and illustrated by Courtney Dawson.)

Here is the opening page:

"She was ready for class, except..."

That night, she dreams of everything that can go wrong. The next day, she wakes up and doesn't want to go to school. But, her mother isn't swayed by her daughter's tears. She kisses her goodbye and in a voice that is "soft and amber like a ripened mango" she tells Isabel that it is okay to be scared. 

That doesn't relieve Isabel; she is an outsider when she peers into the classroom. Despite not knowing English, Isabel does her best to copy her classmates--but makes the mistake of counting in Spanish.

Another little girl tries to be her friend, but Isabel can't understand what she is saying.  Isabel is miserable and decides that school is no fun.

But finally, her teacher announces that it's coloring time and Isabel guesses what colorear means. When Isabel shows her picture of two girls holding hands in which she uses every color imaginable--the other girl gets the message.

And when her teacher holds her drawing up for everyone to see Isabel decides,

Stormy blues and blizzard whites softened to a brilliant aguamarina--just like home. Maybe school wouldn't be so bad after all.

This English/Spanish book includes a Spanish glossary in the back.


In your comment please indicate if you have a book preference. Make sure you leave your email address if you are new to my blog; continental U.S. addresses only. Giveaway ends July 30th at 6 PM. 


Susan Rice won FRANKENSLIME from last week's blog. Thanks to all of you who entered! 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

FRANKENSLIME : A Review, Illustrator Interview, and an Autographed Giveaway!

 Today I'm pleased to review Frankenslime (Macmillan, 2021) written by Joy Keller and illustrated by Ashley Belote. I'm particularly excited since Ashley is the Carolinas-SCBWI illustrator coordinator and this is her debut picture book.

Take a look at this amazing cover!


Here is the book's simple, yet captivating first line:

Victoria Franken was a slime scientist.

What kid wouldn't want to keep reading after that?


Victoria loved experimenting and creating different slime combinations, but quickly became bored...

Along with her trusted research assistant, (her dog, Igor), Victoria set out to try some new combinations. Following the scientific method, Victoria didn't stop trying, even when she didn't exactly meet with success.

Victoria started creating slimes that were so amazing that people lined up to get them!

But Victoria wasn't satisfied. One night she got an idea that wouldn't let her rest. She and Igor went to her attic laboratory. While a storm raged outside, she poured and mixed until...

  Victoria held her breath. Igor whimpered. 

They watched as this newest slime became ALIVE!

Although Victoria initially runs away from her creation, "cursing her chemistry skills," in the end, Goop (as Victoria names him) becomes her new lab partner, and together they come up with slime recipes which they share at the end of the book.

Both children and adults (who are familiar with the Frankenstein story) will enjoy this book. The recipes at the end are a nice addition to a fictional picture book. The author has inserted a STEM connection too as Victoria learns the importance of recording her observations and results.


(Information for us picture book writers who want to know more about the illustrator side of things!)

CAROL: Did the manuscript come to you with illustrator notes? 

ASHLEY:  There were only two art notes in the manuscript. 

CAROL: Were you give total freedom to create the illustrations? 

ASHLEY:  I felt like I had tremendous creative freedom and was able to incorporate my ideas into the work.  After I sent in my first round of sketches, the art director provided feedback that I applied to the work and that direction ultimately resulted in a better book. There were a couple more rounds of changes and then I moved into the final, color artwork. I learned a lot throughout the entire process!  

CAROL: Did you interact with the author at all? 

ASHLEY: Nope! Joy is an amazing writer and this story is so imaginative. We didn't have any contact during the process. We interact a lot on Twitter which is fun. Now that the book has been released, we've been tweeting at each other quite a bit in order to celebrate the book and do some marketing. We do have an event scheduled together next February, so I'm really looking forward to that! 

CAROL: What is your style? What medium did you use?

ASHLEYMy style is definitely whimsical. I tend to illustrate for young, picture book age audiences and skew towards the cute, humorous side of things. My goal is to bring laughter to viewers!

The medium I used for FRANKENSLIME was digital. I am working all digital now using my IPad and Procreate. They are a great combo and I feel like my work gets done efficiently. Procreate is easy to learn and a lot of fun to experiment with!

CAROL: What's up next?

ASHLEY: My debut author/illustrator The Me Tree early reader is being released on November 2 from Penguin Workshop. Valenslime, another book with Joy, will also be released on November 16.  Listen Up, Louella will be released by Fiwell and Friends (Macmillan) in June, 2022.

CAROL: That's great, Ashley. Thanks for joining us and sharing your debut picture book as an illustrator!

Here is Ashley's contact Information. Please follow her at:


One fortunate blog reader will win a personally autographed copy of this fun picture book. Since I know Ashley through SCBWI, let me know in the comments if you are a member and I'll enter your name twice. Giveaway ends July 24 at 9 AM. Please leave your email address if you are new to my blog! Continental U.S. addresses only. 


Congratulations to Virignia Rinkel who won Saving Lady Liberty last week. 

Here's a note from Claudia Friddell:

"Thank you for all of your wonderful comments and thanks, Carol, for your review and interview for Saving Lady Liberty. It was a joy to write, and I loved having the opportunity of sharing Pulitzer and Lady Liberty’s story with your readers!”

Thursday, July 15, 2021

SAVING LADY LIBERTY: An Author Interview with Claudia Friddell--Part II

Two former posts in this mini-series include my review of Saving Lady Liberty: Joseph Pulitzer's Fight for the Statue of Liberty and Part I of this author interview. 



CAROL: When you were researching Saving Lady Liberty, how did you know what information would fit into your story and what you should leave out? Similarly, how did you know what to save for the back matter? (I can’t believe Carolyn Yoder gave you 8 pages for all your information. Lucky you!!)


CLAUDIA: Well, that’s a great question! Usually, I figure that out along the way. I always start out by including too much information, and as I whittle my story down, I decide what goes to the back matter and what gets left behind. It’s like starting with a block of wood and chiseling away to find the shape of the story. I know I can only keep the facts and details that help move along my plot. Of course, I find all kinds of fascinating nuggets while treasure hunting that I can’t wait to share. I save those for the back of the book. As a former teacher, I want my back matter to be as interesting as my story. I want teachers, librarians, and students to find lots of extra fun facts and enriching material at their fingertips. Fortunately, Carolyn Yoder understands and values the importance of back matter!


Claudia at her writing desk in her river house.
(Does any other writer covet that space besides me?)



CAROL: As a child of 2 German Jewish immigrants, I was touched by the fact that this is an immigrant’s story. Have you received any feedback from teachers or children about immigration? 


The immigration theme to this story is what interested me the most. I was fascinated to find that Lady Liberty’s journey to America parallels that of Joseph Pulitzer and millions of other immigrants in many ways. I chose to completely personify the statue. I always refer to her as Lady Liberty because of her very human story—she was raised in another country, she had a long and dangerous journey, she arrived in America with an uncertain fate, and she found firm footing in a new land of opportunity through the generosity of everyday Americans. I also love knowing that immigrants built the pedestal. The immigration theme has been a great interest to the teachers and students I’ve talked to, and I will never grow tired of hearing their stories of how it’s important to them!



I assume you found lots of other information out about Pulitzer.  Have you thought of writing about other aspects of his life? (ie, The Pulitzer Prize?) 


CLAUDIA: I was fascinated to learn about Joseph Pulitzer’s life from reading James McGrath Morris’ excellent biography, Pulitzer. While there were many different facets to Pulitzer’s complicated and accomplished life, most of them, unfortunately, are not kid friendly! 


He left instructions for the Pulitzer Prizes in his will so I’m not sure if there’s a book there. I think it would be fascinating if someone wanted to write about the history of Pulitzer revolutionizing the newspaper. He was responsible for making the template for our modern-day newspapers to make them entertaining, informative, and readable for all Americans. And he lowered the price to a penny so everyone could afford to read them! 




CAROL: How do you think your book is relevant to children today? 


CLAUDIA: This is the most important question I ask myself.  I think Saving Lady Liberty is relevant in so many ways for kids. Like countless other children, Joseph Pulitzer faced and overcame great adversity and loss as a child. As a Jewish boy in Hungary and a Jewish man in America he faced discrimination his entire life, but he never let any of these obstacles keep him from pursuing his dreams. Through hard work and perseverance Pulitzer not only survived—he succeeded in becoming one of America’s greatest success stories. 


Most children today are familiar with crowd funding, so I was excited to introduce them to the very first crowd funding venture. Pulitzer proved that the small contributions from ordinary folks united by a good cause can accomplish amazing things. He used his newspaper to remind his readers that in a democracy they had a voice in speaking up for liberty. Pulitzer’s passion for a free press inspired him to modernize newspapers to inform and entertain readers of all ages and backgrounds, and his passion for excellence inspired him to create the Pulitzer Prizes. It is timely and relevant for kids to learn that staying educated and informed of facts and events, not only inside one’s community but far beyond as well, can help them find their way in the world. 


Patriotism is the obvious term for Pulitzer’s motivation in Saving Lady Liberty, but for children, I like to describe it as gratitude. Pulitzer never forgot that only in America could he have reinvented himself and lived his rags to riches life. He wanted others to appreciate that it isn’t just a gift to live in a free country. There are responsibilities that go along with keeping those freedoms alive. He seemed to know that people not only need a welcome—we all need reminders, so we never forget and never take our freedoms for granted. I hope, after reading Saving Lady Liberty, kids and adults alike will be as inspired as I am by Pulitzer’s love of liberty and his devotion to democracy, a free press, and equal opportunities for all.


Each time you leave a comment on one of the three posts about Saving Lady Liberty your name will be entered. Giveaway ends on July 16 at 4 PM. Continental U.S. addresses only. 



Monday, July 12, 2021

SAVING LADY LIBERTY: An Author Interview with Claudia Friddell - Part I

 Last week I reviewed Claudia Friddell's picture book biography, Saving Lady Liberty: Joseph Pulitzer's Fight for the Statue of Liberty.  I promised you an author interview and not only are you going to receive one post revealing Claudia's writing and researching process--but two! I hope you enjoy learning about Claudia's passion to share Pulitzer's fight and how she communicates that passion to her readers--both young and old. 



CAROL: What was your inspiration for Saving Lady Liberty

CLAUDIA: When I visited Liberty Island with friends six years ago, I was surprised to see Joseph Pulitzer’s statue in the sculpture garden that honors the five founders of the Statue of Liberty. When I went home and started to dig for treasure—that’s code for research! — I learned that if not for Joseph Pulitzer’s first crowd funding effort to raise money for the pedestal, Lady Liberty would not be standing in New York’s harbor. I felt like this was an important, patriotic American story that kids should know. Adults should know it, too!



Claudia (on the far right) at the Statue of Liberty in 2015
with a fellow teacher
and a former student's family.

CAROL: Can you speak about your writing process? I would also love to hear about the different versions you created and how your editor, Carolyn Yoder, helped you pull them together. 




CLAUDIA: My writing process can vary depending on the subject, but I do have a few constants. 


The journey of writing a book can take years, so for me I need to answer yes to the following questions before heading out on that long and winding road: 

·      Can this real-life event read like a kid-friendly story? 

·      Is there something familiar and historically significant (the Statue of Liberty) combined with something virtually unknown, historically significant, and interesting to kids (Pulitzer’s crowd funding campaign to save the Statue of Liberty)?

·      Is the story timely and relevant for kids today?


Once I’m all in, I read everything I can about my subject from adult biographies, articles, diaries, and interviews to every children’s book I can find relating to the subject.

I take tons of handwritten notes. I often organize my content and sources in a notecard file box. This is especially helpful when writing nonfiction to keep track of sources and quotes. I am also big on writing outlines— I start broad and add layers of detail.

Finding the voice and my literary style is the hardest part for me. Once I have a plan, I get on the computer and start writing…thousands of drafts! I find it helpful to make dummies with sticky notes for my picture books.


Frequently I try writing my books a few different ways. I initially struggled to find the best way to weave together Pulitzer’s story with Lady Liberty’s journey. I wrote many different versions and finally showed my editor two of my favorite beginnings. She pointed out sections of each version that she liked, and I went back to work. Her invaluable input helped me find my voice and my story.


CAROL: Please expound on the “treasure chest” of documents you found while researching—and the people who helped you. How did you know when your research was done? 


CLAUDIA: I know it sounds corny, but I really do consider the research process to be a treasure hunt. Hidden in old documents, letters, newspapers, articles, journals, and diaries there are fascinating nuggets of information that help bring true stories from long ago to life.


While I was reading another book about the Statue of Liberty, I saw a wonderful quote from a child’s donation letter in response to Pulitzer’s plea for pedestal contributions. I headed to the New York Public Library where a few amazingly helpful librarians guided me to some very fuzzy, hard to read 135-year-old microfilm copies of The World newspapers. That’s where I found the wonderful children’s letters that I included in my book.


I have found that with nonfiction projects with extensive back matter information, I’m never really finished with the research until everyone has signed off on the last pass of the book. It’s important to continue to keep up with pertinent information throughout the entire writing and editing journey. For example, in the final copy-editing stages of Saving Lady Liberty, I learned that one of the smaller statues had been moved to another location, so I needed to update that information in the back matter. 


As I scrolled through days, weeks, and months of papers, I found the hidden gems I was searching for— children’s letters sprinkled among thousands of names and messages from a broad swath of patriotic Americans. Whenever possible, I like to feature the actual words of my subjects, so it was wonderful to not only find some of Pulitzer’s most passionate editorials about saving Lady Liberty in his newspaper, but it was a special treat to highlight the patriotic letters from American children!

PART II will be about Claudia's research process, the immigration theme, Joseph Pulitzer (with a hint at a book someone else should write!), and relevance to children.


The giveaway list started last week. You can increase your chances to win this book by leaving a comment today and on the next post. Winner will be chosen on July 16. REMEMBER:  Please leave your email address if you are new to my blog so I can enter your name. Continental United States addresses only.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Saving Lady Liberty: Joseph Pulitzer's Fight for the Statue of Liberty- A Picture Book Review and A Giveaway- Part I

Like me, you might associate Joseph Pulitzer with the Pulitzer Prize. But, you might not know how he was instrumental in bringing the Statue of Liberty to the United States. Here is the inspirational story of Saving Lady Liberty  (Calkins Creek, 2020) which author Claudia Friddell packed into forty-eight informative pages. The illustrator, Stacy Innerst, is not new to my blog. Check out his illustrations from Lincoln Clears a Path.



Joseph Pulitzer loved words. And the word he loved best was liberty.

Maybe that's because Joseph, the son of a wealthy Jewish merchant, enjoyed freedoms that other Jewish boys outside of Pest, Hungary could not. But after his father died when Joseph was eleven, his world changed forever.
That is Claudia Friddell's opening which lures readers into turning the page. 

The book proceeds to show how Joseph was left penniless--unable to even get a job in the army because of his poor eyesight. But,

(Isn't it cool how Lincoln appears in this book too?)
Pulitzer went from guard duty in the Civil War (where he'd rather plan battles on the chess board than be in a battle) to a poor immigrant who couldn't speak English (although he was fluent in French, German, Hungarian, and Yiddish).

After weeks of sleeping on park benches, Joseph hopped a train and headed for St. Louis--a city filled with German-speaking immigrants. 

When he wasn't working or learning how to read and write English, Joseph played chess in the library. He caught the attention of an owner of a German newspaper and finally got a job he loved--he was a reporter! 

Grateful for the freedom to write what he chose, Joseph uncovered corruption and inequality. His brash manner and relentless drive didn't earn him many friends but no matter--Joseph kept moving up until he owned the newspaper alongside his chess-playing boss.

Joseph married and traveled to the 1878 Paris World's Fair where he was entranced by Graham Bell's talking machine and the "colossal copper leaf of Auguste Bartholdi's unfinished statue, Liberty Enlightening the World.."
Albert Fernique/New York Public Library

After being impressed with the statue, Joseph met Auguste.

But although the United States had agreed to build a pedestal for the statue, New Yorkers didn't want to pay for it. When he returned to the States, Joseph vowed to convince his fellow citizens to pay to have the pedestal built and installed on Bedloe's Island (renamed Liberty Island in 1956).

Pulitzer bought the New York World newspaper and put Lady Liberty in the middle of the masthead:


He wrote editorials and scolded wealthy NewYorkers. 

What a burning disgrace it will be to the United States if the statue of the goddess is brought to our shores on a French government vessel and is met by the intelligence that our people, with all their wealth, have not enough public spirit, liberality, and pride to provide a fitting pedestal on which it can be placed!

No matter how hard he tried to raise the money for the pedestal, Pulitzer didn't have enough. Finally he came up with a new plan. "If a person donated even a penny, he would print their name and their story in the World."

His idea worked. Stories poured in and Pulitzer printed them all. Two of my favorite pages show letters from children with their contributions. One child sold squash and pumpkins and sent in ten cents, another raided his "frog-bank" and combined his earnings with his friends for another ten cents. One kindergarten class sent in $1.35.

Finally, Lady Liberty was loaded into 214 crates and sailed across the stormy Atlantic. 

Of course, when the pedestal was completed, that was a newsworthy story!

Eight years after Pulitzer first saw Lady Liberty, he "witnessed Bartholdi unveil his magnificent monument ready to welcome every traveler with a torch of hope and a promise of freedom." 

As the daughter of German Jewish immigrants, I imagine that the first time my parents saw Lady Liberty, they were filled with a mixture of fear, awe, and excitement. Here was the symbol of the country that would be their new home--a place of liberty.


Next week Claudia will answer questions about her research process and her path to publication. 

Claudia's newest fan,
"Uncle Bob" Toupal. 


This book is an excellent resource for any student studying immigration and American history. Eight pages of back matter include little-known facts about the statute and Joseph Pulitzer. Claudia Friddell has created an educator's guide with a variety of  activities for students in grades 2-6. 

For more details about how the statue evolved and how it was connected to the end of slavery and Reconstruction, see this post.


Leave a comment to enter the giveaway along with your email address if you are new to my blog. If you also leave a comment next week on the interview, then I'll put your name in twice. Winner's name will be drawn at 4 PM on July 16.  Continental U.S. addresses only. 

Congratulations to Helena George and Kim Peterson who won copies of THE BUTTON GIRL.


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