Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Ten Wonderful Things about 2020

This past year has brought some interesting challenges, even before the pandemic. Like having my first surgery in January and losing our beloved 16-year-old poodle, Chloe, in February. But along with the trials have come blessings. And since I’m the kind of person to focus on the positive rather than the negative, I’d like to tell you about some of the wonderful things that happened in my life over the past year.

Gimli and Lucy
1. We brought Queen Lucy the Morkie into our home, where she instantly worked her way into our hearts. She is a delightful, playful, happy little puppy girl who loves everyone. Here she is sitting on the steps with our poodle, Gimli. He was pretty heartbroken and out of sorts for a while after Chloe passed, and bringing Lucy home cheered him up (once he got used to her).

2. Federico and the Wolf was published in May! This was especially exciting for me because it was my solo debut! All of my other books were cowritten with the lovely and fantastic Corey Rosen Schwartz.

3. Two Tough Trucks Get Lost was published in September! It's the sequel to Two Tough Trucks.

Having two books release during the pandemic was a challenge, but I made the most of it by having online events and virtual readings. Online events can be a lot of fun, and the best thing about them is that people can join you from anywhere in the world! Even once we are back to doing in-person events (I can't wait!) I plan on holding more online events in the future. 

4. I was a featured author in The Texas Book Festival. This was an incredible honor, and I don't know if I would have been able to attend if it had not been virtual. I was able to record a presentation about Federico and the Wolf and do a live Q and A session with the book's illustrator, Elisa Chavarri. That was a lot of fun! And there's still more to come in the next couple of months!

5. Federico and the Wolf was on Parents Latina Magazine's list of Best Latino Children's Books of 2020. I gotta say, all the Federico love this year has really been an encouraging boost!

6. I signed with an agent--Jem Chambers-Black of Andrea Brown Literary Agency! The past year and a half of my agent search has been discouraging at times, but I finally found the right person after getting a referral from my former agent. Andrea Brown Literary has been my dream agency since forever. I'm so excited to be working with Jem, who's as excited as I am about my verse novel manuscript as well as my picture books. Maybe 2021 will be the year I sell my first novel! 

7. My husband agreed to hang outdoor Christmas lights. This may seem like a minor thing, but to me it's a small Christmas miracle. The most we've ever had before is a light-up Christmas wreath on the front door.

8. My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversay. We got to celebrate with them in June, despite all of the pandemic lock-downs. It was such a relief that they were able to follow through with their plans, even though the event was smaller than it would have been otherwise. They'd been planning (meaning Mom had been planning, haha) for this for about two years!

Salem Isaac
9. The 2020 #PBChat Mentorship. This was my second year volunteering as a mentor for this program, and it was a wonderful experience. I mentored THREE promising picture book writers. Each of them was a delight to work with because of their talent, hard work, and positive attitude. 

10. And now, the best, most wonderful thing about 2020. My daughter gave birth to our first grandchild! His name is Salem Isaac, and he has brought so much joy to our lives already. I just want to stare at his little face all day! But then I wouldn't get anything done. 

How about you? Do you have any wonderful things to be thankful for from the past year? 

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

The Best Board Books and Picture Books to Give This Year

It's December already! Or is it December, finally? It certainly feels more like the former. Yet, even though this year has crawled by for the most part (I've been ready for Christmas since July), the Holidays have managed to sneak up on me. It's almost too late for this list! But in case you are still in need of a few recommendations for the little readers in your life, here is my list of recommended books to give this year, besides my own, of course. The books in this list were either published this year or I discovered them this year. Whether you are buying for an expectant parent, a baby, a toddler, or an independent reader, this list of board books and picture books will help you choose just the right book!

I've not read much middle grade or young adult fiction this year, so if you're looking for recommendations for novels for teens and preteens, check out my lists from 2019 and 2018.

Happy book giving! 

Board Books

ABC Dance! An Animal Alphabet by Sabrina Moyle, illustrated by Eunice Moyle 

If you're in the market for an ABC book, you can't go wrong with this one. It's got fun text, bold and colorful illustrations, and silliness. What more can you ask for?

Curious About Bird
s by by Cathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill

Simple facts accompanied by realistic watercolor illustrations make this an ideal book for a curious little nature-lover.

How Big is Zagnodd 
by Sandra Boynton 

A colorful, silly romp that introduces simple adjectives. Ideal for the little one that is hard to please.

 by Dr. John Hutton, illustrated by Doug Cenko

This colorful and interactive book encourages curiosity. Perfect for little ones who are fascinated by crawling critters.

 by Amy Sky Koster, illustrated by Lisel Jane Ashlock 

Another book for the curious nature-lover. This simple, beautiful book inspires a wonder of nature and includes a guide to what egg goes with what bird. 

Picture books 

God's Protection Covers Me by Amy Houts, illustrated by David Creighton-Pester

This charming book that introduces the concept of God as our protector is the perfect addition to a Christian family's picture book library. 

The Barnabus Project
by The Fan Brothers

This book is gorgeous and imaginative. Perfect for the kiddo that likes strange and impossible stories. 

The Giant of Jum
by Elli Woollard, illustrated by Benji Davi

This book is not only super fun to read aloud, especially the repeating refrain, but it's also hilarious. It's sure to be requested over and over for story time. 

Also by Elli Woollard: The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight and The Great Gran Plan.

The Nest that Wren Buil
t by Randi Sonenshine, illustrated by Anne Hunter

This beauty would be a great addition to the family library or a perfect gift for an independent reader with a love for nature, rhyme, and gorgeous illustrations. 

When I Draw a Panda
by Amy June Bates

This book is perfect for the rebellious creative in your life, encouraging young artists to go beyond the rules when creating. 

One Summer Up North by John Owens

If you know a young person who's a fan of nature and camping, and who appreciates illustrations that tell a story, then this wordless book is the perfect gift! 

by John Sobol, illustrated by Cindy Derby

This lyrical, life-affirming picture book is the ideal gift for expecting parents, a little one awaiting a younger sibling, or anyone who enjoys poetic looks at real life topics.

Nature's Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story by Lindsey McDivitt, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen


The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng
by Sophia Gholz, illustrated by Kayla Harren

Both of these books would make beautiful gifts for older, independent readers with an interest in nature and inspiring biographies.