Friday, August 16, 2019

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Let me tell you about my friend Cap.

Cap and I first met on a Sunday morning at church several years ago. She was sitting in the pew directly behind us, so my husband and I introduced ourselves during greeting time. "My name is Cap," she said, and I remember thinking what an interesting name that was.

It was impossible not to like Cap immediately. She was one of those people that seemed to radiate the joy and love of Jesus. She continued to sit behind us every Sunday, and we always greeted her warmly, and I often sat to chat with her while everyone around us was making the rounds.

Before long I discovered that two of Cap's grandsons--of whom she was immensely proud--attended the school at which I worked. I remember the delight in her eyes when I told her that I worked with each of them regularly in my capacity as a para. As if that didn't delight her enough, when she learned  I was an author with my first picture book soon to be published, she was so tickled and impressed that she insisted on hearing all about it.

Cap was around 74 years old at the time, and not in the best of health. But she stayed active and was always full of joy and optimism, even when she was recovering from an injury or surgery. Nothing could keep her down for long.

In June of 2015, Cap was one of the first people to show up for my first ever book store event, celebrating the release of WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? Here she is standing next to me as I signed her copies of the book (she bought several).

Over the past few years, I've gotten to know Cap fairly well through our chats at church, impromptu visits in her cozy living room, and occasional phone conversations. I learned that Cap was not her real name, but a nick name given to her by her Navy husband early in their marriage. She was immensely proud of her children and grandchildren, and her love for her husband (and his love for her) was nothing less than inspiring. She was married at 17, and she and her husband would have celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary later this month.

Eventually, Cap stopped sitting behind us on Sunday mornings and started sitting with us. She would come into the sanctuary, moving slowly but intentionally with the aid of her walker, and look toward our usual spot. I loved the way her eyes lit up when she saw me.

Cap was a dear friend. She was also my biggest fan. Bigger than my own mother, if that is possible. She always wanted to know about my next book, always insisted that I keep her up to date so that she wouldn't miss out, always reminded me how proud she was of what I had accomplished. If I got an update from my editor, Cap got an update too.

So, naturally, when I received the F&G's of TWO TOUGH TRUCKS several months ago, I went for a visit. Cap was delighted to see the early, unbound version of the book. I even brought my iPad along so she could see the digital version of the not-quite-finished FEDERICO AND THE WOLF. She was tickled. And she couldn't wait to see each of those books in finished form.

Unfortunately, Cap passed away last week, so she never got a chance to see those books in published form. But I am so glad to have been able to share their journey with her. Even more than that, I am so glad to have been able to call such a delightful, loving woman my friend. I will miss her a lot.

And if you didn't know her, you missed out.

Monday, July 29, 2019

My daughter is getting married!

Samantha and Zac

My daughter is getting married next Sunday. Now, I'm not usually a very sappy or emotional person, but I can't help but think of all the things that will be different once this week is over. This week is the last week of wedding planning, but also the last week for a lot of other things.

The last week of having all three of my children living under my roof,
sharing a bathroom,
sharing laughs,
sharing looks across the table.

The last week of preparing nightly dinner for five,
of cooking together,
of adding each of their requests to the grocery list.

This is the last week I will be able to knock on my daughter's door to say
Good morning
What time do you work today?

The last week of sleeping at night
with her just on the other side of the wall,
only a few steps away.

This is the last week of having any say
in what time she comes home
or how late she sleeps in
or whether she should really wear that skirt.

The last week
before my family grows bigger,
welcoming a new member,
a second son.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

TWO TOUGH TRUCKS update, and giveaway WINNER!

Vroom! Zoom! TWO TOUGH TRUCKS, my and Corey's next picture book, will be released into the world on September 17, 2019. That's just over two months from now!

TWO TOUGH TRUCKS, in case you didn't know, is not just about trucks. It's also a first-day-of school friendship story! How perfect, then, that it will be out right around the beginning of the school year. If you are looking forward to this book's release, here are some ways you can help rev up support for it over the next few weeks:

  • Add it on Goodreads
  • Request and/or hold it at your public library
  • Preorder a copy for a little one in your life
  • Tell your friends and family
There will be some celebrating going on as the book's release date gets closer, so stay tuned!

And now...announcing the winner of the Summer Book Giveaway:

Rebecca Levington!

Congratulations, Rebecca! I'll be in touch via email.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Updates and a GIVEAWAY!

I know I've been away from the blog for a while, but not without good reason. Since my last post at the beginning of May, I've been preoccupied with:
  • Daughter #2's college graduation
  • Son's high school graduation
  • Son's graduation party
  • Vacation to the mountains in Colorado (where I saw a moose for the first time)
  • Enjoying time with my hubby during his two week's off
  • Revising a picture book with Corey
  • Critiquing three picture book manuscripts (I offer paid critiques now)
  • Preparing for the #PBChat Mentorship program
  • Revising a middle grade verse novel for an agent
  • And planning my daughter's wedding, which is happening in ONE MONTH!
In the midst of all of that, my two books had birthdays. WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? turned 4 and HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS turned 3! So, as a slightly belated celebration, I'm giving away one copy of each to a lucky winner! Simply fill out the form below to enter. Ends Wednesday, July 10 at 11:59 p.m. The winner will be announced on Thursday, July 11!

Good luck, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Saturday, May 04, 2019

12 Picture Books about Gardens: A Read, Discuss, Do! Book List

Gardens can be so many things. A pot of flowers on a front step, a manicured flower bed in a city park, even a stretch of wild prairie! These books explore gardens in all their forms, inviting readers to got out and get involved in nurturing their own little piece of nature.

I hope this list of 12 garden books inspires you to not only talk about gardens and nature with your kiddos, but also to get out and explore some gardens with them, and maybe even plant a little (or big) garden of your own. All it takes to get started is a pot, some soil, and a seed!

Badger's Perfect Garden by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki

A story about gardening, friendship, and unexpected results. Use this book as inspiration to plant your own perfect (or perfectly imperfect) garden.

Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

This book shows readers--in bouncy, lilting rhyme--that gardening can happen anywhere. In an old pot or an empty lot! Let this book inspire you to grow your own "anywhere farm" whether you have room for one pot on the front step or a back yard of your own!

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small

Another beauty that shows gardening can happen anywhere, even in a city full of concrete!

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

There's a lot going on in the garden all year long, both above and below ground. Perhaps this book will inspire you to take a closer look at what's happening in the garden, whether in your own back yard or at a local park.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Nature sprouts up in abandoned human places, inspiring a young gardener to learn and grow along with this "curious garden." This book might inspire you to look for places where curious gardens are trying to grow. The cracks in a city street? Inside an old, abandoned car? An empty lot that's overgrown with weeds and wildflower?

Florette by Anna Walker

Another gorgeous book about bringing a garden to the city.

My Busy Green Garden by Terry Pierce, illustrated by Carol Schwartz

What kinds of busy birds and bugs can you spot in a garden near you? Even a simple patch of grass has a lot of life buzzing in it. Look closely!

Mortimer's First Garden by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Dan Andreason

Let this sweet little book inspire you to plant a seed and watch it grow!

We are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines, illustrated by Julianna Swaney

A story about a family's journey to becoming gardeners, and all the ups and downs that came with it. Maybe this book will encourage you to learn and grow with gardening in your own way!

Dig In! by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Mary Peterson

A simple and bold book for the littlest gardeners that will encourage them to dig in the dirt. What will they discover? There are lots of things to discover when planting a garden!

Green Green: A Community Gardening Story by Marie Lamba and Baldev Lamba, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez.

A rhythmic story about bringing green to the city, with lots of helpful information in the back about how to make your own community more free as well as ways to support pollinators.

The Magic Garden by Lemniscates

A beautiful book that encourages readers to go out and experience that magical wonders that a garden can bring to light. This book includes extensive back matter for the curious reader!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


The title just about says it all for I'M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-ups by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith.

Doesn't the title alone make you want to flip open this book to find out what mischievous stuff is going on in there? Do it! You won't be sorry. This delightful book of poetry has something to amuse every kid or kid at heart, whether they think they like poetry or not. The poem "Out on the Farm on a Saturday Night" alone is more than worth the effort. What does an upside-down cow sound like? How about a sideways cow? I bet you're wondering!

Full of fun word play, irresistible humor, and clever poem structures, not to mention delightful illustrations, I'M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING is a must-have poetry book for every home or classroom library. Whether during National Poetry Month or All Year Long, it would be nonsensical for you to miss out on this brilliant book of poems!

I borrowed it from the public library. And I don't want to bring it back. So I guess I better go buy my own copy. You come too! Or go check it out at the library. But don't forget to bring it back, no matter how tempting it is to keep it for yourself!

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Just for Fun: 10 Random Facts About Me

It's been a long time since I wrote a post like this, but Michelle I. Mason wrote a fun one and (sort of) challenged her readers to do the same, so here I am, following her example! I tried really hard to dig deep and list the most interesting things. Judge for yourself on whether I succeeded!

1. My hubby and I have been married for a quarter of a century.

2. My teenage son thinks I'm a little weird because I enjoy playing Minecraft. But he can't tease me too much because he plays along with me!

3. One time I dressed up as Bilbo Baggins for my church's Trunk-or-Treat event. I made the costume myself out of repurposed clothing I found at a thrift store.

4. One of my favorite hobbies is making handmade journals. Some are made with repurposed chipboard covers and pages made of card stock or drawing paper. Others are made out food boxes (such as cake mix or cereal) and other repurposed papers. It's a fun creative exercise, and I sometimes give the finished products away as gifts.

5. My daughter Samantha sometimes calls me Mo, after the father in the book Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, because of the book-repairing skills I acquired during my years working in a school library. Many damaged books have gotten a new lease on life thanks to that handy skill! I've repaired Bibles and other books for family members and friends, and have even rescued a few from the church pews when I've noticed them in need of a good gluing. I brought them back as good as new, of course.

6. Another title I've earned from my children is that of The Finder of Things because of my knack for finding missing things when everyone else's efforts have failed.

7. When I was a little girl I went through a long list of things I wanted to be when I grew up. A doctor, a policewoman, a zoologist. At the top of the list was always "wife and mother," though. Artist and poet were there too, but they always seemed to be a part of me that I had to develop rather than something I wanted to become some day.

8. I have a weakness for science fiction movies, especially those involving alien invasions or space exploration. In fact, one of my favorite movies ever is Independence Day. But the sequel? Let's all just pretend it doesn't exist. Are you with me?

9. Besides English, I have studied three languages at some point in my life. German, Japanese, and Spanish. I studied German while I lived in Germany as a kid, and for six years in school after that. I took one year of Japanese in high school. And I've been slowly learning Spanish over the past 25 years of being married to a native speaker. It's a shame that I'm not fluent yet, but I can get by when I must, and I've made it my goal to be proficient (and comfortable) in conversational Spanish by the end of this year.

10. I have never broken a bone, but I have: gotten whiplash in a freak swimming pool accident, torn the ligaments in my left foot while dancing, chipped my right elbow on a skating rink floor, and bruised my coccyx (tailbone) when the swing I was on broke.

Do you have any of these things in common with me? I'd love to hear about it!