Happy almost Book Birthday to–> Q & U Call It QUits + 7 QUick QUestions for author Stef Wade

Stef Wade’s new picture book, Q & U Call It QUits (IllUs. Jorge Martin / QUill Tree Books) hits the shelves next week and we are celebrating with some QUick QUestions…

BUt first–what’s it all aboUt?

For fans of Z Is for Moose and Little i, this hilarious and quirky story about friendship and the alphabet will make young readers excited about letter learning.

P.S. You can Pre-Order your copy here!

7 QUestions for Stef Wade:

Q 1. I love how all three of your pictUre books have strong social-emotional themes of facing fears, fitting in, finding yoUr place. We’re these part of yoUr childhood as well?

Illus. Melanie Demmer / Capstone

Stef Wade: I’m very blessed in my life to have parents, grandparents, teachers and mentors who gifted me their wisdom and guidance to manage so many different situations in life. That’s not to say I haven’t had to face fears or find my place, but with the help of those around me, I was able to manage pretty well. I realize not all kids have that.

There are so many children out there that can’t or don’t share what they’re going through. My hope is that my stories can give guidance to a child and/or open up a conversation with a parent, teacher, grandparent or even other child that will help kids learn how to handle all different social and emotional situations and struggles in their lives.

Illus. Jennifer Davison / Capstone

Q 2.  Where did yoU get the inspiration for Q & U CALL IT QUITS? 

Stef Wade: My oldest son’s preschool teacher (shout-out to Mrs. Willer!) used to say – “this is Q and U and they’re best friends!” It always struck me as so cute. I wasn’t even writing picture books at that time, but when I started, that phrase stuck in my head and the rest is history!

(Interior Illus. Jorge Martin / Q & U CALL IT QUITS by Stef Wade/ Quill Tree Books)

Q 3. They say most books are a tiny bit aUtobiographical. Are yoU more like Q, U, or another letter in yoUr story?

Stef Wade: I love this QUestion! I’m definitely more like U in this story. I’m an extrovert and love being around lots of different kind of people. I’m fiercely independent, so I could see myself getting frustrated by the weight of Q’s neediness. I also tend to work to the point of burnout, so just like U, I need to realize that a little self-care is a good thing! But just like Q realizes in the end, I also value the importance of a long-term friendship and appreciate that friends can be different and that’s what makes a relationship special.  

Taking the #kidlit leap!

Q 4. How is yoUr previous career in marketing similar (and different) to writing pictUre books? What inspired yoU to take that leap? 

Stef Wade: There are so many similarities to my marketing career and writing picture books. Getting your point across in a short space. Making every word count. Being able to pitch an idea. But I’ve also realized that my ability to sell in marketing translates to selling my story to my readers. Not in the “buy my book!” sense, but in writing in a way that makes the reader believe what you’re writing, connect to the character, and care about the story.

I always wanted to write fiction but chose the “more practical” route of business and I don’t regret it! I decided to give my writing a real go when I quit my full-time job to stay at home with my kids. I did a lot of freelance marketing work in the time after that, but somehow, I also found the time to write for myself and it’s been moving forward ever since! And my kids inspire me every day to keep writing for children.


Q 5. What sUrprises did Q&U’s illustrator Jorge Martin bring to the book? 

Stef Wade: What an absolute joy to work with someone as brilliant as Jorge Martin. I could stare at the spreads in this book all day! I included very few art notes in this manuscript and Jorge let his imagination run wild. His ability to convey emotions in these block letter people is such a feat!

(Interior Illus. Jorge Martin / Q & U CALL IT QUITS by Stef Wade/ Quill Tree Books)

I especially love the kids as lower-case letters and the illustrations when the other letter blends start to leave each other (the F and L in the plane gets me every time!)


Q 6. Which comes first in your process—the title, a key phrase, or plot, or___?

Stef Wade: It changes every time! This one started with a phrase, but others start with a feeling, an observation, an article I’ve read, an experience I’ve had. Although, for me, it never starts with the plot! That always seems to come later.

Last QUestion

Q 7. Is there a Q word yoU wanted to place in this manUscript that didn’t make the cUt?

Stef Wade: Why, of course! There are so many lovely Q words but I decided to drop “quixotic” from the lexicon of this story. Other choices that didn’t make the cut: quintessential, qualmishness, quadrumvirate, quadratic and definitely not quarantine….

We also love the word QUirky, and this candid of Stef, dressed as Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek, to Zoom with a whole bUnch of schools…and celebrate:

Happy June 15th Book Birthday to Q & U CALL IT QUITS!

To learn more about Stef and her books,

check out StefWade.com

and follow her on Twitter: @Stef_Wade and Instagram: stef.wade

Next up on the blog–JaNay Brown-Wood‘s new picture book, SHHH…THE BABY’S ASLEEP!–also out on June 15th.

Happy TWO more weeks of Sixth Grade + One more Room 504 Poetry Blog takeover!

Hi Blog Friends–Mrs. Howard’s 6th graders are back with one more blog takeover before school is OUT!

(Can I get a Woo-Hooo!???)

They have come a LONG way since we first met in December:

See their Blog Takeover #1: Happy Book Birthday DEAR EARTH

and WRITING Takeover #2.

Today they shared their amazing color poems, inspired by Eileen Spinelli’s classic picture book,

IF YOU WANT TO FIND GOLDEN (Albert Whitman / Illus. Stacey Schuett).

*Great mentor text!

Here’s one of my favorite lines from the poets in Room 504:

“White is the smell of frosting on a three layer cake.”

Here’s another one:

After they read their poems to me, we had some more fun with metaphors, and then I challenged them to write a poem to give to next year’s class, about Mrs. Howard.

Dear readers, here is the result:

Beware of Mrs. Howard

by Room 504

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She makes you learn a lot!

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She grades us on Khan and Lexia and EVERYTHING!

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She will make you do a call and response.

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She will text your parents if you don’t do your work, and she will give you the


Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She will make you do your math.

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She makes you write a lot, and cries during THE PEARL.

(It’s a book!)

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She is very nice and a great person.

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She bites if you are late on anything!

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She will turn on her bad side–like a light switch–if you don’t pay attention in class.

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She will NOT pick you as her favorite student because WE ARE and will always be!

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She will give you sass.

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She does a lot of dancing.

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She will probably give you a five minute break so use it wisely.

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She just randomly walks around and stares at people.

And if you miss a day, she will give you a ton of assignments and won’t let you go until you finish them.

Beware of Mrs. Howard…

She is THE BEST!

— June 1, 2021

Thank you to the WRITERS in Room 504, and CONGRATULATIONS ON EVERYTHING YOU HAVE ACCOMPLISHED during this crazy year. Special Thanks to your fabulous teacher, Mrs. Howard–and all of the educators (and parents) out there who have stepped up in the craziness and made learning fun and meaningful.

Happy almost SUMMER, my friends.

Next up on the blog: Happy Book Birthday to author Stef Wade and Q & U CALL IT QUITS!

“Bon Book Anniversaire” to PIGLETTE’S PERFECT SURPRISE + 4 Qs for Katelyn Aronson

Katelyn Aronson and PIGLETTE are back in Paris with a fun sequel, PIGLETTE’S PERFECT SURPRISE, (Viking), once again with wonderful art by #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Eva Byrne.

This Piglette story takes place in a posh Paris patisserie,

where Piglette is determined to make the most perfectly pleasing cake for Madame Paradee’s party.

Time for a Book Birthday Blog Party.

D’accord, mes amis?

And we have questions for author Katelyn Aronson!

Katelyn Aronson

Q 1. As a former perfectionist (most of the time…), I appreciate Piglette’s PERFECT Surprise so much! What do you hope young readers will take away from the book?

Katelyn Aronson: Oh, Erin, you and me both! I am a reformed perfectionist, and am still trying to loosen up after all these years. (I’ve been pretty hard on myself all throughout life.) What I really hope young readers take away from Piglette’s second adventure is that perfectionism does not always help one to flourish.

Since Piglette is always striving for “perfection,” it was important to me to show her coming to terms with the not-so-pretty side of her own perfectionism. Of course, a drive for excellence is a good thing! But only when it is accompanied by self-love, acceptance, and an ability to embrace reality when it falls short of perfection. There is happiness to be found in giving one’s best rather than necessarily achieving the best.

Q 2. Many readers may not realize that you live in Switzerland—(or is it France?) Where are you from originally and how did you wind up abroad?

Katelyn Aronson: The answer is: both! I actually divide my time between both countries. During the week, I work as a language teacher for international schools in Switzerland, and though I technically live in France, I’m on the Franco-Swiss border.


How I originally came to France in the first place is the stuff of storybooks. At least, I see it that way! I was born and raised in southern California, and in my early twenties, I worked as manager of an independent children’s bookstore. At the time, Random House announced a bookstore window display contest featuring their audio book collection. To enter, you had to decorate your bookstore’s front window based on the theme—“travel”—and feature Random House audio books. The opportunity absolutely fired my imagination, and I remember staying after work in the evening just to design my window, hoping against hope that I’d have a chance at the grand prize: an all-expenses paid trip to Paris!

Months later, a phone call from New York took me totally by surprise: I HAD WON THE GRAND PRIZE! I’ll never forget that moment. (I have since lost all photographic evidence of my window display, but I seem to remember some kind of model plane swooping in and an oversized postcard from France in the background.) That spring, I enjoyed a view of the Eiffel Tower from my 5-star hotel room, just like in the movies. This may have been the inspiration for the Palace hotel in Piglette 2! I guess it’s no surprise that I moved to France permanently a few years later. It also seems appropriate that I now have several books coming out with Penguin Random House—ha! Life can feel so “random” sometimes, but occasionally, things come together in the most magical way.

Illustration/ interior by Eva Byrne from PIGLETTE’S PERFECT SURPRISE by Katelyn Aronson (Viking).

Q 3. Which of the following French pastries best describes your path to publication or your writing journey?

a.     éclair ( translation: “lightning” or “flash of lightning”)

b.     cannelé (fluted, or shall we say “grooved.”)

c.      financier ($$$)

d.     madeleine (My definition: “In an old house in Paris…” or perhaps pleurer comme une madeleine /cry like a baby?)

e.     C’est du gâteau – ( “piece of cake”)

f.       ____________ your choice

Katelyn Aronson: A few of these French creations are very time-consuming to make, so in that way they definitely resemble a typical writing career! But for my personal path to publication, I’m going to choose f. my own choice = crêpes. That’s because after you whip up crêpe batter, you have to let it “repose” on a shelf in the fridge a while before actually making your crêpes. The process reminds me of so many points in my writing career: I’ve often been hungry and eager for things to take shape. And yet, I’ve had to put manuscripts on a shelf and wait patiently, when I would much rather just heat up that griddle and get cooking! I’m sure others can relate.

ED note: Absolutely. YES to this. I have several manuscripts in “repose” at the moment. I always say the hardest part about writing children’s books is the WAITING.

Q 4. What is your absolute favorite spread of PIGLETTE’S PERFECT SURPRISE and are you at liberty to show it here?

Katelyn Aronson: I’m indebted to New York Time’s #1 Bestselling illustrator Eva Byrne for making this latest Piglette installment truly mouthwatering! I love this spread of Chef Pistache tutoring Piglette in the art of pâtisserie –making. I wish I could be there in the kitchen with them!

Illustration/ interior by Eva Byrne from PIGLETTE’S PERFECT SURPRISE by Katelyn Aronson (Viking).

Katelyn Aronson: There is also one more spread of the book that I especially adore, since it is the very first vertical spread in a picture book of mine. I won’t show it here, as it is a climactic point in the book that I’d like readers to discover for themselves. But I am pretty excited to have a scene in my book that requires readers to turn the book on its side. Those surprise vertical tilts are a feature I’ve always enjoyed in picture books, and it feels special to have one in a book of my own.

Merci beaucoup to Katelyn Aronson for joining us for this Book Birthday Blog Party today.

And there’s a virtual Launch Party coming up on May 29th, 10:30 am CT, hosted by Mystery to Me bookstore!

Sign up here for PIGLETTE AND KATELYN’S scrumptious story time on Crowdcast.

To learn more about Katelyn Aronson and her books, follow her on Twitter: @MademoiselleK8

Instagram: authorkatelyn

and check out her author page.

Coming soon: More Book Birthday Blog Parties and Q&As with authors like Stef Wade, JaNay Brown-Wood, and Christine Van Zandt.

Also…I may have NEW BOOK CONTRACT news to share!!!!!

(That’s all I can say for now….)

What were we saying about waiting?

Happy Book Birthday ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS & 6 Qs on 100+ books by Lori Mortensen

Lori Mortensen’s 100th (+) picture book, ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS (Abrams),

released May 4th, with Illustrations by Rob Sayegh Junior:

“Well-written and full of fun surprises.”

― Kirkus Reviews

THAT calls for a blog-party Q & A!


And boy do we have questions!

Q 1. What was the inspiration for ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS?

Lori Mortensen: When I was young, my sister and I used to spend hours drawing at the kitchen table. Since she was nearly three years older than I was, sometimes I’d compare my drawings to her drawings and wonder why mine weren’t as good as hers.

When I decided to write a story about a frustrated young artist name Arlo, I was tickled to imagine that he could see his drawing in a new way and realize that his drawings were actually wonderful all along.

ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS by Lori Mortensen / Abrams / Interior art by Rob Sayegh, Jr. / 2021

Q 2. Were there any surprises that illustrator Rob Sayegh Jr. brought to the book?

Lori Mortensen: I love Rob Sayegh’s illustrations. One of the fun surprises he brought to this story were all the little octopus references he sprinkled throughout the town before the main story begins—signs, the number eight, an octopus here, a tentacle there. Readers can start enjoying Arlo’s story as soon as they open the book and start looking around.

Q 3. I LOVE the word “disaster-piece.” Did you ever write a manuscript (that turned into a book) that felt like a disaster-piece at first? If so, which one—and what made you keep going?

Lori Mortensen: “Disaster-piece” is a great word, isn’t it? I was delighted when I made it up. However, when I begin writing anything, I have to love something about it to keep working on it, so calling it a “disaster-piece” wouldn’t occur to me even though it might be challenging to write.

I’m always very hopeful when I’m working on something because I know it’s only a matter of time before it evolves into something wonderful.

Q 4. What was the most surprising discovery you made –about Arlo, your process, octopuses (octopi?), or the story itself, as your book, ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS, went from idea to published book?

Lori Mortensen: When I begin writing, I don’t always know where I’m going and that was the case when I began writing ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS. I knew he’d try to draw something and it would go horribly wrong in all kinds of fun and imaginative ways. But the question always is—Then, what? That was the challenge. As an author, I realized the story could have gone off in many different directions at that point.

ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS by Lori Mortensen / Abrams / Interior art by Rob Sayegh, Jr. / 2021

Lori Mortensen: However, whatever direction I decided to go, I knew the ending had to be surprising, yet satisfying. So, I sat at my computer with my fingers curled over the keyboard and thought and thought (as many of my characters do—ha, ha!). Hmmm . . .

Spoiler Alert! (Well–sort of…)

Finally, the perfect ending popped into my head. Who knew that an octopus might be having the same sort of bad drawing day as Arlo? One of the joys of writing is taking a kernel of an idea and coaxing it into something meaningful, memorable, and delightfully unexpected.

Q 5. What do you hope young readers will take away from ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS?

Lori Mortensen: That we’re better than we think we are and maybe the best thing about doing anything is the sheer joy of making the effort. In fact, I recently sat down and drew my own ARLO octopus picture. And—I like it! I think Arlo would like it too.

Nice octopus, Lori!
For a fun activity, check out these preliminary Octopus sketches by Rob, and then try to draw your own!

Speaking of which–> download the BONUS activity guide for ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS here!

Q 6. How have you managed to write more than 100 books and 500 stories and articles? (CONGRATULATIONS!) Any tips for those of us with similar writing goals?

Lori Mortensen: Thanks, Erin! That’s a lot of writing, isn’t it? And that’s what it comes down to—parking yourself at the computer and making it happen word by word. Interestingly, many years ago when I first began writing, I set my sights on children’s magazines and set a goal for myself—100 manuscripts sold. I carefully studied what magazines such as Highlights, Ladybug, Wild Outdoor World, The Friend, and many others published. Then, keeping their style, readership, and tone in mind, I sat down and got to work.

Little by little my manuscripts sold. Each sale boosted my confidence until I met and exceeded my goal. Confidence from magazines sales gave me confidence to pursue other writing goals in the trade and educational market. Along the way there were plenty of rejections—I still get rejections today—but writing children’s literature is such a extraordinary endeavor, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

My writing tips?

  • Read, read, read. (The best writers are readers.)
  • Think about the stories you like and why you like them.
  • Then, show up and write even if your Muse has taken a hike.
  • Have fun. (My best manuscripts are always the ones I had fun writing.)
  • Write the kinds of stories you’d love to read.

To learn more about Lori Mortensen and her 100+ books (Still amazed!) check out LoriMortensen.com,

read her previous blog post (about Kindergarten Lori),

and follow her on Twitter: @lorimortensen

or Facebook: LoriMortensen.

Lori will also be celebrating ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS at Face in a Book on May 15th 11am-1pm.

Go say HI!!!

Happy #TeacherAppreciationWeek –month, YEAR! + FREEBIES

Just like #EarthDay should be EarthYEAR, Teacher Appreciation Week should be 365 days 24/7 –right?

Shout out to ALL of the teachers and librarians who stepped up to make learning fun and meaningful in the last 14 months. Who’s with me?

Pandemic or not, these amazing, dedicated, nurturing humans did NOT stop.

Look at this wonderful book review Mrs. Flicek’s (WI) 1st graders from King Elementary wrote for DEAR EARTH:

Ms. Zapp (top photo) made these very cool SeeSaw activities for her 2nd grade class–and is using DEAR EARTH as a way to teach Friendly Letters:

Mrs. Hopping‘s TK and Kinders sent pictures of PETER EASTER FROG and sweet thank you notes:

Tina Delekta’s 3rd graders at South Maple Elementary (MI) made these wonderful #EarthDay posters:

Thank you #1–> #Teachers & #Librarians: Harper Collins helped me make a YouTube read-aloud of DEAR EARTH for your classroom! Click this link to view and share. More FREEBIES below.

Mrs. Harris’ students in Virginia helped me unbox my new books, sang Happy Birthday to them, and sent me predictions of what PETER EASTER FROG might look like! What fun! Mrs. Harris is so cool, she made the local news!

We Zoomed and Google Met, some went back hybrid, and I’m telling you, the teachers ALL stepped up.

Check out the blog takeover from Mrs. Howard’s (CA) AWESOME 5th/6th graders from room FIVE04: HERE!

I LOVE these reviews from Mrs. Pete’s 5th graders. (CA)

Thank you #2 for you, dear #teachers & #librarians: Here are the links (Spotify, Apple, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon…pretty exciting!) to my #reading song so you can sing it too: “If you love books and you know it…”

Media Tech Lynn Baker sang it with me at our virtual assembly.

Do you see the cool poster Mrs. Baker (Cambridge Heights Elementary / CA) is sharing in the photo above? That’s the reverse of the book jacket to DEAR EARTH. I’m so thrilled that you can repurpose it and encourage Ss to be Earth Heroes all year long.

Be sure to read Ms. Carrie Strayer’s (WA) 4th grade blog takeover (Here. And here. ):–> “Writing is NEVER wrong.”

After Ms. Wilcox’ 1st graders (MI) read DEAR EARTH… they talked about ways they could be heroes. Yayyy!!!! Each student picked three ways that they would be earth heroes. (See their clever craft projects above.) And since one of their goals was to save electricity, they kept their classroom lights off all day–which is wonderful in so many ways!

Interior DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5/ Illus. by Luisa Uribe/ Harper Collins

These letters to earth (above) are from the virtual 1st graders from Gaylord Community School MI.

I could go on and on. But the main message of this post is:


Whether it’s one of your former teachers, your child’s teacher (past or present), or teachers you know who keep moving forward in this craziness because they BELIEVE in kids. And their belief in young people makes a difference EVERY day.

As promised: MORE FREEBIES here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you dear educators. Every. Day.

Most Sincerely,

Erin Dealey