Wednesday, April 26, 2023


Have you ever wondered who invented the dishwasher? Read my review and you'll find out!

This STEM picture book by Kate Hannigan starts with an introduction that gives the reader an idea about this spunky woman and the historical context of the story. And I love how illustrator, Sarah Green, shows Josephine looking out of the page as if she's looking into the future.

Next, we see the inciting incident: chipped dishes!

Josephine puts on an apron and goes to work. But,

Stuck at the sink washing dirty plates, Josephine's fingers weren't free to tickle the ivories at the piano. Or pick her favorite flowers....or even scratch the furry ears of her beloved hounds! (Isn't that a clever way of showing Josephine's interests?)

So, she decided to find a way to get her dinnerware clean without dings and nicks.

She pondered.

She sketched

She tinkered.


She measured saucers and soup bowls, calculating how big her contraption would be.

She used pliers and wires, shaping metal baskets to hold plates, glasses, and spoons.

(Did you notice the alliteration and the internal rhyme?)

 Despite the grief and financial worries after her husband died, Josephine and George tested and tinkered and pushed and persevered until she was satisfied.

Josephine submitted a patent application and waited a year. In December 1885 she was awarded a patent for her dish-washing machine!

Josephine's next obstacle was to find investors who would help build her business. She took her machine to the 1893 Columbian Exposition and she took home the highest prize!

She found financial backers and orders poured in from hotels, restaurants, schools, and hospitals.

Even into her seventies, Josephine was marketing her machine to hotels and modern department stores.

I love how this book comes full circle, mirroring Josephine's initial dreams--and how the illustrator gave Josephine a special place--on the front of a lovely teacup. 

This STEM book is a great curriculum resource for K-3rd grade as an aid in discussing inventions, women's history, and the industrial revolution. For more backstory on why Kate Hannigan picked Josephine's story, see Beth Anderson's blog. For more information about Josephine's patent process, go here.

How would you like to own this dish-washing machine?


To enter this giveaway, please leave your name and email address (if you are new to my blog) by April 29. U.S. addresses only. If you prefer not to leave your name, you can email me instead. Educators and librarians get a second chance, just identify yourself in the comments.

Congratulations to Hewi Mason who won Mr. Thatcher's House and to Danielle Hammelef who won Luna's Green Pet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023


 It's time for another double review and giveaway courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press!

LUNA'S Green Pet

This is a delightful debut picture book by Kirsten Pendreigh and illustrated by Carmen Mok about a girl who feels left out because no pets are allowed in her apartment.

Her friends make suggestions but none of them felt right. Until one day Luna finds something very unusual.

She names her plant, reads to it, and even takes it for walks--which usually works out well.

Her pet was perfect, even if her friends disagreed. 

But,  one day, strange clumps of bumps appeared. Luna worried.

During the night, the bumps burst open! A powerful perfume woke Luna...Stephanie's sweet scent wafted through the building.

Luna was thrilled. And when the pet parade walked down her street, Luna was proud to display Stephanie.

Stephanie offered one more surprise. She grew a pod!

I love the sweet ending that shows seeds floating away on the night wind with Luna saying. "Someone out there is waiting to love their own Stephanie."

The back matter includes why houseplants make great pets, recommendations for which houseplants to try, and information about Stephanotis Floribunda.

Mr. Thatcher's House

Kristin Wauson wrote and illustrated this clever and funny debut book. Make sure you read her author interview below to see how she came up with her ideas.  

In the beginning, the reader finds Mr. Thatcher building the perfect house. (Aha! The character and his goal in one simple sentence!)

But no matter how hard he tried, something always seemed missing. So, he kept on working and the house grew and grew--but it still wasn't perfect. (Aha #2! We get the character's internal drive and obstacles!)

One morning, his work was interrupted by one of his neighbors.

Of course, Mr. Thatcher doesn't want her to stay in his imperfect house, but the witch makes herself at home baking goodies.

There's another knock on the door.

Mr. Thatcher is suddenly surrounded by the sound of music provided by the three pigs.

Who should also need a house? None other than,

Mr. Thatcher went back to work, but there were MANY interruptions. And the next time he heard knocking, he panicked.

Mr. Thatcher had enough. He moved out. 

But then he stopped and looked inside his house and saw that cakes were baking and a stew was bubbling. There was music and laughter and the comforting crackle of logs in the fireplace. For the first time, his house felt like home.


 CAROL: I would like to know how you came up with this fun idea! I love how you integrated the fairy tale characters into the story. Can you tell my readers a little bit about how you developed that idea? What was your inspiration? 


KRISTEN: In 2018 I wrote down the idea that became Mr. Thatcher’s House. I was participating in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm, which is something I always like to do. My husband and my father-in-law build Craftsman-style homes and I was inspired by my father-in-law, who has been remodeling his own house, in his spare time, for the past 30 years. It’s going to be perfect one day—if he can ever finish.


I started thinking about all the classic stories I remembered from childhood and realized that many of those stories involved a house problem. In the most obvious one, a trio of pigs had their houses reduced to rubble by a pesky wolf. But, I started having a lot of fun thinking of all the reasons different fairytale characters might need new homes. The bears had suffered a home invasion by Goldilocks, and Hansel and Gretel keep eating a poor elderly woman’s house.


And what did all these characters need? They needed a master carpenter – someone to build them the perfect house!


CAROL: Is this your debut book as an author-illustrator? 


KRISTEN: Yes. This is my first published book!


CAROL: Can you tell us about your path to publication?

KRISTEN: I always liked to draw, and I worked as a graphic designer before coming to children’s books. I left my job in 2015 after my youngest son was born. In 2016, I joined SCBWI and attended my first conference. I knew very little about children’s books, so was extremely lucky to be awarded a mentorship with a published illustrator at that conference.


In 2018 I put together the dummy for Mr. Thatcher’s House, which helped me connect with my agent, Adria Goetz during a #PBPitch event. After I signed with her, we polished the dummy and she sent it out for submission in late 2019. Then 2020 happened and everything slowed down considerably, but we accepted an offer in February of 2021, the book was announced in May and it came out in the fall of 2022.


Please leave me your name and email address (if you are new to my blog) and which book you'd prefer to win--I try to honor requests. This giveaway ends on April 21. American addresses only. Subscribe to my blog and/or share this on social media and I'll enter your name twice. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

WRITE2IGNITE PRESENTS: A Master Class on Hooks, Queries, and Proposals

 The spring 2023 Zoom Write2Ignite Master Class is on a topic that many writers fear: writing the dreaded query letter or proposal that will make catch an editor's attention. For those of you who are writers, you know exactly what I mean.

Write2Ignite is pleased to host writer and speaker, Kim Peterson, on April 22 for a day of learning, and writing along with opportunities to submit to two editors. Here's an interview with Kim on what she plans to cover.

The schedule includes three workshops; three breakout sessions to work either on your hook, query, or proposal; and interviews with Deborah Wuehler, Senior Editor and Director of Production at The Old School House, and Acquisitions Editor, Katherine Easter, at Zonderkidz

All this for only 69.00! All participants will have access to the class for three months afterward PLUS the opportunity to submit to the editors!

You can register here. I'm leading one of the breakout sessions and I hope to see you there!

BONUS: We have several door prizes and are offering a student discount. 

Friday, April 7, 2023


When a writer begins a work of historical fiction, she must start with research. For me, that means hours of reading Holocaust websites and books.  

As I mentioned in my first blog about Escape from Nuremberg, I decided to try my hand at writing a graphic novel. So, of course, that meant reading them to understand the genre. Here are the first few that I found at my library. 

GAIJIN by Matt Faulkner

Matt Faulkner's story of a Japanese-American boy is based on Faulkner's great-aunt's experiences. 13-year-old Koji Miyamoto faces prejudice and persecution after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He worries that his father might be fighting for the Japanese but doesn't receive word from him. 

Koji is put into an internment camp and his mother chooses to go with him. There he faces even greater pressure from the other boys who call him "Gaijin" (foreigner); he is a stranger and alien in his own country. He is pressured into committing petty crimes but eventually chooses to do the right thing. 

In the end, six years later, Koji is reunited with his father in Japan.

Since this was my first WWII graphic novel, I was interested to see how the passage of time is shown simply through small text boxes on the page and how much of the story is communicated through the illustrations.  It made me appreciate the art behind the graphic novel genre--a book told through vivid images and sparse text. 

In the Author's Note, Faulkner describes his great-aunt's trauma of being sent to an internment camp.

BOMB written by Steven Sheinkin and illustrated by Nick Bertozzi

This graphic novel adaptation of Steve Sheinkin's novel, BOMB: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, was hard to put down. The recommended reading level is from 10-14, but it's a complicated story with flashbacks and multiple characters. I think it would be challenging for the average ten-year-old although it would show him the immense story behind the bomb's development, and probably demand a second read for true comprehension. Full of science such as physics and chemistry and history, I think it's suitable for older readers and adults as well.

BOMB is a story within a story. The "bookends" of the book are images of the FBI coming to arrest Harry Gold in May 1950 and then showing him put in prison. The story of the bomb's creation is set within the context of Harry telling the FBI agents how he leaked atomic secrets to the Soviets. 

A ton of information is included: world politics and politicians,  prestigious scientists who played different parts, places where the bomb was tested, the spies and unsung heroes, and the men who dropped the bomb are all mentioned. Although Sheinkin clearly shows why the bomb was developed and detonated, he and Bertozzi also show the devastation and destruction in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

In keeping with the serious nature of the book, the colors are dark and foreboding. 


MAUS by Art Spiegelman

Although MAUS: A Survivor's Tale, was not written to be a graphic novel, it has become a classic that tells the Holocaust story from the perspective of a survivor (William Spiegelman) as told to his son, Art Spiegelman. Notably, it is the first comic book to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 and is graphic in its portrayal of the Holocaust and its effects on victims and their children. 

Like BOMB, this story is also bookended by the narrator and there is the same story-within-a-story motif. The reader gets a brief glimpse into Art's childhood which foreshadows what William experienced in the war. The books moves quickly to Art's adulthood in which he is estranged from his father. The book shows Art's desperation in capturing his father's story. Was this so he can write and publish it? Or is it because he longs for reconciliation with his father. One can only wonder. 

The reader views William's trauma as the Polish Jews are terrorized and murdered, but we also see Art's trauma following his mother's suicide, his conflicts with his father, and his feelings of worthlessness and despair.  The multi-generational effects of the Holocaust are disturbing. 

Spiegleman's art is very different than Bertozzi's. His panels are in black and white as seen from a scene in the opening of the book. (I found it on this Pinterest board).

I SURVIVED: The Nazi Invasion, 1944 from the novel by Lauren Tarshis, adapted by Georgia Ball, illustrated by Alvaro Sarraseca, and colored by Juanma Aguilera.

This book follows Max and his younger sister, Zena, who live in a ghetto in Esties, Poland. Their father was taken away by the Nazis and they're on their own. Finding a chance to escape, they hide in a hayfield where a sympathetic farmer gives them shelter. 

Much to their surprise, they find their aunt hiding in the same farm. She is a member of a partisan group that is resisting Hitler and conducting raids against Nazi factories and trains. 

Max and Zena are led to their hideout in a swamp, but their journey is filled with peril as the Nazis spot them. 

The ending is satisfactory as the children are reunited with their father, but the devastating effects of war are not minimized. 

The graphic novel is adapted by Georgia Ball from the award-winning novel by Lauren Tarshis. The text and illustrations (by Alvaro Sarraseca and colored by Juanma Aguilera) move the story along quickly. I had read about the partisan effort in Germany, but particularly appreciated learning more about their work in Poland. The book includes back matter about the Holocaust. 

All of these powerful books would be great curriculum resources in either middle school or high school. 


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