Saturday, December 3, 2016

Thank you, Winterville, NC

Wow! Amazing school visits in Winterville, North Carolina.

Here are some of the highlights:

Thank you to Creekside Elementary for this great welcome sign in the library. (Note: There were lots of pics taken here but I don't have them. Will post if I get them. Great school, though. Trust me.)

A nice greeting for Kim Norman and I from Ridgewood.

Check out all the snazzy outfits at the Battle of the Books luncheon

Battle of the Books luncheon

Battle of the Books luncheon

Battle of the Book luncheon

Battle of the Books luncheon

(l to r) Kim Norman, Ryan Davis, me

The whole Battle of the Books gang

(l to r) Angie Britt Egerton, Kim Norman, me, Kris Davis

Had a blast with the awesome Kim Norman

Ridgewood kids filing in to hear my presentation

Me working the crowd

Me and my pal, Kim Norman

Monday, October 24, 2016

Kate the Great and a Giveaway

Suzy Becker must be a ten-year-old girl disguised as a grown-up because she NAILS her adorable character Kate in her new book, Kate the Great: Winner Takes All.

Kirkus says: "A zippy little visit with a likable 10-year-old"

ZIPPY is the perfect word.

Reading this book gave me so many flashbacks and stirred up happy memories from my own childhood.

Like speaking ubbi dubbi. Anybody remember that? The kids on the TV show, Zoom, used to do it. 

Dubo yubou ububbi dububbi?

And the egg thing!

Someone breaks an imaginary egg on your head. Remember that?

From the book:

I sit on the edge of her other bed.  "I'll do the egg thing." After three imaginary eggs, I'm feeling very sleepy.


Do NOT read this book if you don't want to laugh because it is so dang funny.

You WILL laugh. 

A lot.

But the best, best, best parts of this book are the hysterical drawings and handwritten notes.

Here are some of my favorites:

Gene is the school bus driver

This book has kid-appeal written all over it.

Kate is definitely great. 

And so is Suzy Becker.

Because she's GIVING AWAY A COPY!!

Just leave a comment below by 10/27. (I'll also be asking for retweets on Twitter.)  

Kate the Great: Winner Takes All is the sequel to Kate the Great: Except When She's Not, published by Crown Books. Available in stores November 1. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Cover Reveal!! C.M. Surrisi's New Book!

 Look, y'all!!!!

The cover for Vampires on the Run

The second Quinnie Boyd Mystery is coming soon!
If you liked The Maypop Kidnapping (and who didn't?)
you'll love Vampires on the Run.
It's deliciously fun and just the right amount of spooky. 

Coming this March from Carolrhoda Books

Monday, October 3, 2016

Rewards and Blessings

Some folks work hard all day and their only reward is a paycheck.

But writers of children's books are rewarded in many ways besides money. 

(And, um, there are children's writers all over the internet right now reading this and sputtering out their coffee and saying, "Money?" But, I digress...)

We approach a school with a large banner taped to the door that reads, "Welcome, Author!"

We walk down the hallways of that school and admire the students' artwork about our books taped to the walls.

We open a manila envelope and a pile of letters and drawings spills out, each one letting us know how much that student enjoyed our books.

We Skype with classrooms and book groups full of excited students and answer their questions about our books.

But sometimes, we get one of the finest rewards of all: a note letting us know how our book has directly affected a reader and given him or her a mirror to see themselves.

I recently received such a note about my new book, Wish.

In the story, the main character, Charlie, meets a boy who has, in her words, an "up-down" walk - a limp that often prompts his classmates to tease him in unkind ways.

Here is the note (with permission from the sender): 

Hi Barbara.

My daughter Sofie and I finished reading Wish last night.  We both loved it.  

That is no small thing as Sofie doesn't always love to read.  

She was first interested because of her love of How to Steal a Dog and because Wish also includes a dog.  

When reading, however, she was especially interested in Howard and his up down walk as she has cerebral palsy and her own kind of up down walk.  

Thank you for writing about a child she could relate to in a book with a girl and a dog.  It really matters to her.  

On a related note, she is curious about Howard. If there is anything you can share about why you included him, she would love to know.

All the best,

Let me repeat two lines:

Thank you for writing about a child she could relate to in a book with a girl and a dog.  It really matters to her. 

Let me repeat one more line:

It really matters to her. 

That line was not just a reward.

It was a blessing. 

It was a blessing and a reminder of the importance of writing books that serve as both windows that give readers a glimpse into the lives of others and mirrors that reflect and give value to a reader's own life experiences. 
Thank you, Patricia and Sofie, for that blessing.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Constance Lombardo is in the House and a Giveaway!

 Today I'm celebrating a book birthday!!

Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America by Constance Lombardo

And Mr. Puffball himself stopped by to tell us that author/illustrator Constance Lombardo is here to tell us a bit about herself and her latest book.

 From the publisher:

In Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America (Harper/Collins), Mr.
Puffball, El Gato and the gang take to the road in search of some
fantastic footage for their buddy film. Hop aboard this fast-paced travel adventure – It’s van-tastic! 

Our interview: 
What is it with you and cats?

Funny you should ask, Barbara. When I started writing, my books were about turtles and snails, two animals I can totally relate to. But my cat Myrtle kept giving me that penetrating ‘Why don’t you write about cats?’ look. So I did. Also, cats are furry, whiskered, and they have pointy ears!

Interesting! Next question: you have a knack for getting inside a cat’s head. Have you ever been a cat psychic?

Not exactly. I get my insights into the feline mind by watching, listening and belly-rubbing. My cats are Myrtle the Elder and Gandalf the Grey, the mischievous kitten. G.G. was the inspiration for Pickles, the adorable, but irritating kitten, who is in my new book, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America.

When did you start drawing?

My first drawing of Three Men in a Tub, done when I was only four years old, is the stuff of legends. Unfortunately, it has gone missing. (Have you seen it?) When I was about ten, my sister Rita did a drawing. Not to be outdone, I did my own drawing, and I haven’t stopped since. I used to draw people. Now cats. What’s next? Maybe I’ll draw one of those scary jumpy bugs my cats keep killing and leaving lying about. But probably not.


Tell me more about your latest book, please.

Sure thing! My illustrated middle grade novel, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America, is the second in the Puffball series. Mr. Puffball and his BFF El Gato film a buddy movie demo reel at American landmarks such as the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, the Coney Island Cyclone, and Paul Bunyan’s Onion Ring Ranch. Rosie is the director, and the rest of the gang is along for the ride. It’s a wild road trip adventure with lots of chase scenes, rodeo numbers, diner mishaps, and litter box stops. 

In writing and illustrating this book, what was the most challenging part?

I love to draw cats, people, donuts, and other round-ish things. Drawing cars, vans and road signs requires straight-ish lines. I did my best, and I’m very proud of my drawing of the funky road trip vehicle – a VW microbus. It has wheels and everything!

Is it true there’s a character in Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America named Benedict Cumbercat?

Yes! I’m a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan, and I love all things British. In my book, Benedict Cumbercat does some not very nice things, but in the end we understand his motivation. There’s even a visit from the Queen of England! I drew this character as a corgi, since evidently Queen Elizabeth II loves corgis. 

 What is one thing you’d like your readers to know about Mr. Puffball?

I’d like them to know that Mr. Puffball is a good-hearted, loyal, and fun cat with a big dream-to be a movie star! I think we should all dream big! My dream is to write and illustrate books that kids of all ages will love and that make them laugh. I think my dreams are coming true!! 

What’s the best part of being a published author?

The absolutely best part is getting fan mail!! (after my first book, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars) It’s such a thrill to hear from kids who love Mr. Puffball! Some say they don’t usually like reading, so if I can get a kid into reading through my books – wow!! Some include drawings, which is wonderful. Either way, I just love hearing from my readers.

The second best part is going into my local bookstore or library and finding my book on the shelves. What an amazing feeling!  

What’s next?

I’m working on Mr. Puffball book three!! More adventures are on the way…

Thanks for stopping by, Constance.

To celebrate this new addition to the Mr. Puffball series, Constance is giving away a signed copy!
Just leave your email address in the comments by 9 p.m. Sept 27.

Constance Lombardo enjoys drawing and writing about cats who
are famous and infamous. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, daughter, Myrtle the Good Cat and Gandalf the Grey the Mischievous Kitten.

Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America (HarperCollins) is on shelves today. Visit your local independent bookstore to get your copy.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Be Light Like a Bird - A Book Birthday!

To celebrate the book birthday of the wonderful new middle grade
novel, Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schröder, I invited her to stop by and tell us where the seed for the came from.

It's always fun to hear how a seed grows and then blossoms into a book.

Here's what she said:
            When I visit schools students often ask where my ideas come from. So I'd like to share here the origin of a particular idea that I used in Be Light Like a Bird: a girl burying roadkill and a boy taking photos of animals killed on the road.

            Be Light Like a Bird is the emotional, realistic fiction story of 12-year old Wren, who is heart-broken after losing her father in an airplane crash. Wren's father always told her to be "light like a bird, not like a feather," - to control her own destiny, to make her own choices. But Wren is adrift after her father dies. Her mother acts distant and angry and takes her away from her home. Over the course of the story Wren has to heal, and when she finally learns the reason for her mother's behavior, she needs to learn to forgive.

Monika with her dog, Frank

            After her father's death, no body was found and her mother
doesn't even want to have a memorial service for her late husband. In developing Wren's character, I tried to put myself in Wren’s position and felt that her desperation about the loss of her father and her mother’s distant behavior needed an equally desperate outlet. She ends up burying roadkill. The idea for the roadkill came to me on my morning run in my North Carolina neighborhood, where on any given day one may find small animals dead on the road. I often wonder what it says about people’s relationship to animals that so many of them are killed in this way and then left dead and unattended on the asphalt. 

One of Monika's many beautiful gardens

            But then I also remembered that many years ago, a friend of mine, the talented photographer Jim Pojman, had shown me a series of black and white pictures that he had taken of roadkill. If you have the stomach for them you can see them here:

            Jim also had taken pictures of objects arranged in several rows of equal lengths, such as gummi bears, screws, buttons, dead flies, etc. From that memory I developed the idea to have Theo show Wren such images during one of their early meetings. He pulls out his binder of photos and shows her a picture of screws and then the photos of roadkill he had taken, which, of course, she doesn't want to see at that point, since she doesn't want to have anything in common with a nerd like Theo. 

            As you can see, often events, memories, and observations are stored for a long time in a writer's head and just as a new story develops they may connect and become a part of that story.

 Monika grew up in Germany and has lived and worked in international schools in Egypt, Chile, Oman and India. She is the author of Saraswati's Way, The Dog in the Wood and My Brother's Shadow. Before she moved to the US she was the elementary school librarian at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. Monika now lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and dog. If she doesn't write she reads, bakes or tends to her flower garden. Her latest novel for middle-grade readers is Be Light Like a Bird. Visit her at:


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

#TrueFriends and a Great Giveaway

Back in this blog post I told y'all about a writing retreat I went to a couple of years ago.

It was at the beautiful vacation home of Kirby Larson.

(l to r) Kirby Larson with Winston the Wonder Dog, Susan Hill Long, Augusta Scattergood, and me

The amazing result of that writing retreat is that ALL FOUR of the manuscripts that we worked on there were published this year!

So we decided to keep the Sisterhood united and work together to help our books wing their way into the world.

We have some #TrueFriends goodies for you!

Here are 4 quick videos from us, telling a bit about our books.

And...drum roll, please...a fantastic giveaway!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Sisterhood

In June of 2014, Kirby Larson invited Augusta Scattergood, Susan Hill Long, and me to have a writing retreat at her beautiful vacation home in Washington state. We all jumped at the chance.

What a special time we had!

Here we are with Winston the Wonder Dog. (l to r): Kirby, Susan, Augusta and me

Writing all day.

Then critiquing (so important).

Then breaking to watch the sunset and drink a little wine.

And here's the coolest part:

All four of the manuscripts we were working on at that retreat were published this year!

What are the odds? Seriously.

Here they are: 

AND Augusta's book and my book are publishing on the SAME DAY (August 30).

What are the odds?

Here's the fun part: we call ourselves the Butterfly Sisters. Here's why (as I remember it....we might all have variations of the story).

In an early draft of WISH, I had a scene where the main character hurls some very harsh words at her friend. Harsh and sharp. I then wrote that she wished she could take those words back...scoop them up like butterflies in a net.

My brilliant peers pointed out to me that that metaphor didn't seem appropriate for gathering harsh, sharp words.

Dang it! They were right. 

But I loved that phrase so much I was determined to keep it. I just moved it to a more appropriate place.

So we had a running joke about butterflies.

And all four books have some sort of reference to butterflies. (Go read the books and see if you can find them.)

So there you have it. 

AND...this year Kirby invited us to have another retreat. BUT...Delta Airlines dealt me a lousy hand and cancelled my flight. So I couldn't go!!!

But we got together to critique the best we could:

Long Live the Sisterhood!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Love That Cow

Okay....could I love that cow any more?
I don't think so.
Do I adore the work of Sharon Creech?
Um, heck, YEAH!

I love this book so dang much.

"...the smells and the heat and the noise were pouring in the windows and squeezing us from all sides."


"It seemed they didn't want to waste friend effort on someone who was leaving town."

*Sigh again*

"The voice full of honey but the words...not."

*Big heaving sigh*

This book VIBRATES with action and sounds.....the WORDS:



And then there is this:

"Sometimes an hour is a blink
A flash
A wink, a flicker
A dashing gallop
And sometimes
An hour stretches
Second by second
An endless
of drips"


Who even thinks up that word?

I really, really, really loved this book.

And so will you. 

But, um, sorry.

Pub date 8/30


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Student Blurbs for WISH

I adore these blurbs for WISH from Patrick Allen's awesome 4th graders in Colorado.

"This is the best novel of the year!" --Kinsey 

"Soon it will have a New York Times best seller stamp on it!" --Norah

"I WISH it were out sooner!" --John

"Wishes might not come true, but reading this book made mine come true!" --Michael

"Great mix of comedy and emotion. This book makes wishes come true!" --Caleb/Hannah

"Now I know what to wish on." --Ben

Monday, April 18, 2016

Shout Out to McDonald Green Elementary

Big thanks to Mrs. Weeks

 and all the great students at

McDonald Green Elementary School

 in Lancaster, SC.

I had a blast!