Happy Book Birthday to I LOVE YOU WITH ALL OF MY HEARTS + 6 Qs for Lindsay Bonilla

Isn’t this cover gorgeous?

It’s Book Birthday time again,

and this week we are celebrating Lindsay Bonilla‘s picture book,

I LOVE YOU WITH ALL OF MY HEARTS (Illus. Eleonora Pace/ Creative Editions). 

“Animals come in many shapes and sizes-some have large ears, others have distinctive noses, and still others have far too many eyes! They express emotions in different ways, too, but one thing remains the same: love.”

Lindsay Bonilla is also the author of the picture book, POLAR BEAR ISLAND, winner of a 2018 Parents’ Choice Silver Award.

Let the Questions begin!

Q 1. What was the inspiration for I LOVE YOU WITH ALL OF  MY HEARTS?

Lindsay Bonilla: It actually came from something super silly I used to do with my oldest son when he was about 3 years old. I’d tell him, “I love you with all of my ears,” then I’d rub my ear on the top of his head. Or “I love you with all of my toes,” and I’d tickle him with my toes. I was always adding different parts – elbow, nose, etc. – but whatever I said, it always made him laugh hysterically! At the same time, it conveyed a deeper truth – that he was loved 100%.

Lindsay says her kiddos, “…couldn’t wait for me to autograph their books when the box arrived! My oldest ran into the other room and came back with a pen!!”

Q 2. They say each of our books are a tiny bit autobiographical. Which of the animals in I LOVE YOU WITH ALL OF  MY HEARTS is most like you?

I LOVE YOU WITH ALL OF MY HEARTS by Lindsay Bonilla / interior art by Eleonora Pace/ Creative Editions. 

Lindsay Bonilla: Probably the kangaroo! I’m very energetic and always hopping from one thing to the next. I’m also a pretty protective mama who usually has a kid hanging on me! LOL So I definitely relate to the marsupial side of the kangaroo. Interestingly enough, some years back I asked two people who know me well which animal they thought I was most like and independently of each other, they both came up with the kangaroo!

Picture Book LOVE

Q 3. What message or emotions do you hope young readers will take away after reading your book? 

Lindsay Bonilla: I hope young readers will come away with the feeling that they are deeply loved. Knowing that you have the unconditional love of someone, that you don’t have to measure up or earn that love, gives you such a firm foundation. I was blessed to grow up with that, and that unconditional love is what I feel for my sons. I wrote this story because I just didn’t have enough words to convey it to them! So I hope that every reader will come away knowing that they are unique and loved completely, just as they are.

Writing Process

Q 4. How has your theater experience influenced your writing process?

Lindsay Bonilla: It helps me to think visually. I tend to see my stories like plays or movies playing in my mind.

It also helps me write dialogue. In the theater, you have scripts which are all dialogue with a few stage directions thrown in. The actor has to give the words meaning, figure out the subtext, etc. I’ve actually written quite a few play scripts, sketches, even a few screenplays, so writing believable dialogue comes pretty naturally to me.

When I get stuck, I will sometimes even “act out” my stories, finding voices for the characters, walking around the house like them, etc!

Q 5. I see that you love folktales. Is there a particular one that resonates with you or teaches a key lesson for young citizens of the world? 

Lindsay Bonilla: There are SO many that I love, but with me being a runner and watching a lot of Olympic track and field these days, one that stands out is How the Cheetah Got Its Speed. It’s a folktale from Africa about a race between cheetah and tsessebe, an African antelope. Whoever wins is going to be given the title of the fastest animal in the world. When tsessebe falls, cheetah, has a choice to make – keep running and win the title or stop and help a friend. Cheetah stops to help and in the end is rewarded for his kindness.

Even more than the feats of athletic greatness, I think what moves us most and what we remember the longest are those expressions of kindness when we least expect them.

What’s Next?

Q 6. Tell us about your upcoming projects: THE STORYTELLER (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2022), THE NOTE WHO FACED THE MUSIC (Page Street Kids, 2023).

THE STORYTELLER is extremely special to me. As a professional storyteller, I set out to write a picture book that celebrated the power of oral storytelling. It turned into a book about deep family relationships, the bonds that we form around the stories we share, and how stories anchor us and give us hope. I am incredibly proud of this book and can’t wait to share it with the world. I think Noar Lee Haggan’s illustrations are going to be stunning!

THE NOTE WHO FACED THE MUSIC is about a Half Note who feels like she’s not as good as the other notes in the musical staff. It’s a humorous, pun-filled story about learning to be yourself and love yourself. It will definitely resonate with music lovers and anyone who’s ever felt like they just don’t measure up. (Pun intended!) 🙂

Congrats on your recent Deal Announcement for THE NOTE WHO FACED THE MUSIC too!
Website art from lindsaybonilla.com, by fellow Ohioan & friend, Dave Szalay.

To learn more about Lindsay Bonilla and her books, see LindsayBonilla.com and

follow her on Twitter: @LindsayBonilla and Facebook: @AuthorStorytellerLindsayBonilla

Next up on the blog: A Happy Book Birthday celebration for Katelyn Aronson’s CLOVIS KEEPS HIS COOL.

Kindergarten Countdown!

Interior art by Joseph Cowman from K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN by Erin Dealey, Sleeping Bear Press

It’s Back-To-School time and this post is for the almost-Kinders (and their parents, teachers, & caregivers) in your lives.

Let’s Get Ready!

When K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN came out (see Book Trailer here), a dear friend, Kathleen Guerrero, the Executive Director of our local First Five El Dorado, saw all of the activities in our book, and gave me some Kindergarten Readiness suggestions. I’ve paired them with picture books:

  1. Share your enthusiasm for the start of school. (See our paper chain activity from K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN above.) Talk about when you were in Kindergarten. Read, read ,read books about the first day of school.

2. Make sure your child is comfortable being away from home (and you) for several hours. Here’s a sweet Youtube read-aloud of LLAMA LLAMA MISSES MAMA created by the late Anna Dewdney.

Strange new teacher.

Strange new toys.

Lots of kids and lots of noise!

What would Llama like to do?

Llama Llama feels so new . . .

LLAMA LLAMA MISSES MAMA by Anna Dewdney / Viking

3. Encourage your almost-Kinder to make choices, even if it means making mistakes. Children learn from experiences, and will develop positive self-esteem and confidence.

By Karen Kilpatrick, Luis O. Ramos Jr., and German Blanco / Imprint

Mistakes aren’t always bad. Just ask Pencil and Eraser, in WHEN PENCIL MET THE MARKERS.

“Purple Marker colors everywhere―even outside the lines. When the other markers call his creativity a mistake, it’s up to Pencil and Eraser to help Purple discover how making mistakes and making art go hand-in-hand.”

4. Help your child to develop friendships. The ability to interact with peers is critical in Kindergarten.

In this wonderful bilingual book, ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL, by Alexandra Alessandri (Illus. Courtney Dawson/ Sleeping Bear Press), Isabel is worried because her first language is not English. I love how she discovers ways to communicate and make new friends.

“This first day of school story beautifully serves as a mirror for children learning English and as a window into their experience for their classmates.”

STARRED review SLJ

5. Kindergarteners go to the bathroom all by themselves. Make sure yours can–and knows how to wash hands after!

Interior art by Joseph Cowman from K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN by Erin Dealey, Sleeping Bear Press.

6. Establish a sleep routine, including reading books, and a set bedtime.

S is SLEEP. All Kinders need it

after long hours filled with fun.

Shhh. It’s time for bedtime stories.

Stars are shining. Day is done.

K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN
Interior art by Joseph Cowman from K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN by Erin Dealey, Sleeping Bear Press.

Bonus!

Here’s a month’s worth of activities for August.

August activities, created by First Five El Dorado
Interior art by Joseph Cowman from K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN by Erin Dealey, Sleeping Bear Press.

Happy Back to School to ALL–whatever that might look like.

Next time on the blog, a Book Birthday celebration for Lindsay Bonilla’s I LOVE YOU WITH ALL OF MY HEARTS.

Happy Book Birthday to ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL + 5 Qs for Alexandra Alessandri + a #Giveaway

Feliz Cumpleaños!

We’re celebrating the bilingual Book Birthday for

ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL

by Alexandra Alessandri, Illus. Courtney Dawson, Sleeping Bear Press–

and there’s a #GIVEAWAY –details below.

“A first-day-of-school story steeped in vibrant imagery…This story affirms the experiences of English language learners while encouraging empathy for others. Readers will root for Isabel and her colorful new beginning.”  

KIRKUS
(Cover Illus. Addy Rivera Sonda / Albert Whitman)

We first chatted with Alexandra here,

about the release of her debut picture book,

FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA!

We’re super-excited to ask her five questions about

ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL:

  • Q 1. What was the inspiration for ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL?
    Alexandra Alessandri: Isabel and Her Colores Go to School was inspired by my experience of starting school in New York. My home was a Spanish-only space, so I knew very little English when I started kindergarten, and because of this, I misunderstood my teacher and literally got lost in the hallways! While Isabel’s story is different, I did channel that sense of feeling lost because of language barriers.
Can you find Alexandra?

Q 2. I love that this book is bilingual. What Spanish word(s) would Isabel use to describe her first experience at school?
Alexandra Alessandri: Isabel would say her first experience at school was sorprendente—surprising!

ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL by Alexandra Alessandri.
Interior spread by Illus. Courtney Dawson, Sleeping Bear Press.

Q 3. Were there any surprises that your illustrator Courtney Dawson brought to the book?
Alexandra Alessandri: I don’t know that I would call it a surprise, but I love how Courtney captured the colors and swirls of sounds that Isabel hears. There’s something magical in those illustrations and how they capture Isabel’s emotional state so perfectly.

ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL by Alexandra Alessandri.
Interior spread by Illus. Courtney Dawson, Sleeping Bear Press.

Advice for others on this #kidlit journey:

Q 4. Do you have any advice for pre-published Alexandra, and readers who might also be beginning, not-yet-published #kidlit writers? 
Alexandra Alessandri: Keep your eyes on your own journey. It’s so easy to look around you and compare your journey with that of others, to minimize your successes—and sometimes, the lack thereof—by others’ standards, but that is counterproductive in the end.

ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL by Alexandra Alessandri.
Interior spread by Illus. Courtney Dawson, Sleeping Bear Press.

#Kindness

Q 5. What do you hope readers will take away from ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL?
Alexandra Alessandri: I hope they take away how important it is to extend kindness to someone in need. Even a small gesture, like welcoming someone new, can make the world of a difference.

Happy Book Birthday to ISABEL… & Alexandra Alessandri

Did we mention there’s a #Giveaway?

Alexandra is offering EITHER a signed copy of her new book OR a picture book critique (400 words or LESS)
To enter: 1. Follow Alexandra Alessandri on Insta or Twitter.(see below)
2. RT this blog post on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #IsabelAndHerColoresGoToSchoolGiveaway
Deadline: Monday August 1st (next week) midnight / EST

Spread the word about this fabulous back-to-school book!

To learn more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books,

check out her web site: alexandraalessandri.com  and follow her on

Twitter: @apalessandri

Insta: apalessandri

We’ll be back soon with Book Birthday celebrations for

Katelynn Aronson’s CLOVIS KEEPS HIS COOL

and Lindsay Bonilla’s I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEARTS

7 Picture Books to Read Before Kindergarten Starts!

Yes, it’s STILL summer, but this is a list of before-school-starts picture books.

Like you, we LOVE the wonderful “tried and true” back-to-school books like THE KISSING HAND and THE NAME JAR, and newish ones like ALL ARE WELCOME and SCHOOL’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, but have you checked these out?

1.

ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL by Alexandra Alessandri, Illus. Courtney Dawson, Sleeping Bear Press

In this BRAND NEW bilingual picture book (releasing July 15, 2021) Isabel, whose first language is Spanish, doesn’t speak much English and is worried about her first day at Honeytree Elementary School. During coloring time, she discovers there are many ways to communicate and make new friends.

(Q & A Birthday Blog coming SOON!)

“A first-day-of-school story steeped in vibrant imagery…This story affirms the experiences of English language learners while encouraging empathy for others. Readers will root for Isabel and her colorful new beginning.”

KIRKUS

2.

PLANET KINDERGARTEN by Sue Ganz-Schmidt, Illus. Shane Prigmore, Chronicle Books

“A genius way to ease kids into the new adventure that is kindergarten.” 

KIRKUS –starred

This is a fun read for almost-Kinders who are about to go “boldly where they have never gone before!” 

3.

THE DAY YOU BEGIN by Jacqueline Woodson, Illus. Rafael López, Nancy Paulsen Books

“A beautiful and inclusive story that encourages children to find the beauty in their own lives and share it with the world. . . . Each child feels very alone until they begin to share their stories and discover that it is nearly always possible to find someone a little like you…”

School Library Journal –STARRED

Jacqueline Woodson is one of my #kidlit heroes and this book is wonderful! Need I say more?

4.

K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN – by Erin Dealey, Illus. Joseph Cowman, Sleeping Bear

Packed with interesting and engaging things to do, this alphabet book is a must for families who have a child who is going to go into kindergarten.

–Through the Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews

This rhymed picture book book gives almost-Kinders and parents & caregivers a book full of Kinder Countdown activities to do as they wait for Kindergarten to start, and Kinder Challenges to do throughout the year.

K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN by Erin Dealey, Interior spread Illus. by Joseph Cowman, Sleeping Bear

But this is more than an A-Z of events: it includes a ‘kinder countdown’ and a ‘kinder challenge’ with each alphabet letter to encourage additional insights into what kindergarten and school means, and is especially effective when parents choose it for reading aloud.

–Donovan’s Bookshelf

5.

HELLO SCHOOL! by Priscilla Burris, Nancy Paulsen Books

“Burris spotlights the newness of the first day of school in this fun-loving book. . . . The author enumerates special classroom activities, covering circle time, snack time, and quiet time. The humor is spot-on. . . . Sure to be appreciated by Burris’s young fans, this is a perfect read-aloud for the start of school.”

School Library Journal

Burris’ sweet book takes almost-kinders through the day and gives them a reassuring look at what to expect.

6.

KINDERGARTEN COUNTDOWN by Anna Jane Hays, Illus. Linda Davick, Dragonfly Books

“I’ll be ready, I’ll be smart.

I will get a running start.

I’ll say thank you, I’ll say please.

I will say my ABCs!”

Excerpt from: KINDERGARTEN COUNTDOWN by AnNa Jane Hays, Illus. Linda Davick, Dragonfly Books

I can relate to the energy and excitement of this almost-Kinder kid

as she counts down SEVEN more days until school starts.

7.

KINDERGARTEN HERE I COME! by D.J.Steinberg, Illus. Mark Chambers, Grosset & Dunlap

“Kindergarten, here I come.

I’m checking off the list

of everything I need for school.

Let’s see…what have I missed?”

excerpt from: KINDERGARTEN HERE I COME! by D.J.Steinberg, Illus. Mark Chambers, Grosset & Dunlap

As you probably know, I LOVE rhymed picture books

(those with solid scansion and rhyme)

and this one fits the bill.

Also–KindergartenMe approves of this list!

Happy Reading with your ALMOST-KINDERGARTENER too!

Happy Book Birthday to SHHH! THE BABY’S ASLEEP + 10 Qs for for JaNay Brown-Wood

YAYYYY!!!!

It’s a Book Birthday for JaNay Brown-Wood‘s newest picture book,

SHHH! THE BABY’S ASLEEP

Illus. by Elissambura, Charlesbridge.

Delightful comic relief for every household with a baby.

“…The text is composed of playful rhyming couplets, with sound effects hand-lettered in all-caps crowding into compositions as if they have lives of their own. The colorful, stylized illustrations add to the book’s playful tone, lending a tense energy and a sense of barely controlled chaos to this Black family’s humorous plight.” —KIRKUS

“Naptime in a busy house, where the baby has finally fallen asleep, means staying quiet, and it’s not easy with so many people around! …This book expertly captures the fine line between wanting to get things done while the baby sleeps but also ensuring a docile environment. VERDICT Accessible and engaging, this tale can be used in story-hour settings, and will find a home on most shelves.” —SLJ STARRED

We’re SHOUTING with excitement for this fun naptime romp.

And we have a few questions too:

  1. They say most books are a tiny bit autobiographical. Are you more like Mom, Daddy, Grammy, Pop Pop, Shae, Dante, Rover the dog, or the neighbor in SHHH! THE BABY’S ASLEEP–?

JaNay Brown-Wood: In this story, I am TOTALLY Baby’s older brother, who I call Junior. He’s in most of the spreads reminding family members to keep quiet so baby can sleep. This story was directly inspired by my husband and I trying to keep a quiet environment so our then-infant daughter Vivian could sleep. And boy, was it a struggle, especially when the whole family got together (we are VERY loud talkers). Also, “Grammy” and “Pop Pop” were actual names I called my maternal grandparents when I grew up, so it was super fun to include that in a story—personal and poignant, too.

2. What surprises did illustrator Elissambura bring to the book?

JaNay Brown-Wood: Vibrancy, vibrancy, vibrancy! I love the colors she used to capture the family. They pop off of the page and are so fun to look at. I also really like the textures she’s captured as well. Looking at her illustrations never gets old! Not to mention, the design and text of the onomatopoeic words which make the visuals on each page so dynamic. There is so much to love—and laugh aloud at—about her illustrations.

SHHH! THE BABY’S ASLEEP by JaNay Brown-Wood, Interior spread Illus. by Elissambura, Charlesbridge

3. Can you tell us about any edits or cuts you made to your manuscript on its journey to becoming a book?

JaNay Brown-Wood: Something that was really important to me with this manuscript was capturing the right onomatopoeic language. I mean, have you ever stopped and thought: what sound does a hair dryer make and how do you spell it? So, I played with a few versions to capture the best sound and the proper spelling. I also played with different names for the characters, too, for Dante, Shae, Mr. Young, even Rover! I am beyond satisfied with what me and my editor decided on.

4. In what ways has being a mom changed how (and when!) you write picture books? How do you fit writing into your very busy day as a professor and a Mom?

JaNay Brown-Wood: Having Vivian has intensified my want to advocate for diverse books. When I reflect on my childhood which was rich with literature, but included so few books with black girl protagonists that I saw myself in, I wanted to do what I could to make sure Vivian’s experience is different. But not just her experience, the literacy experiences of children everywhere. I am a firm believer that all children should be able to find authentic books that reflect their experiences back at them in a meaningful and validating way. Having Vivian put that drive into high gear.

5. What is your most vivid, “I want to write books” ah-ha moment?

JaNay Brown-Wood: I have always been a storyteller, from as far back as I can remember. As a child, I wrote stories for fun and sometimes acted them out. As a matter of fact, my sixth-grade teacher even predicted that I’d be a “best-selling author.” Even as a teenager, I would spend hours crafting stories and characters in a notebook and just letting my pen take me on fantastical journeys. So, I always knew I loved creating stories.

The Make-it-happen Moment

It wasn’t until I finished my undergraduate degree that I decided I wanted to truly try to get something published. I immersed myself in all things kidlit (SCBWI, craft books, market books, creative writing course, etc.) and kept the faith, even though some people told me to consider self-publishing. While self-publishing is the right choice for some, I knew I wanted to go the traditional route (publishing house, contract, etc.)—and I am very happy I did! I guess in summary, there was no one “ah-ha” moment, but more like a “okay, you’ve always loved writing so let’s finally make this thing happen” moment instead. And each of those moments just cemented my love for storytelling and sharing my words with the world.

6. What writing tips would you give pre-published JaNay, way back before you entered the NAESP writing contest that lead you to Charlesbridge?

JaNay Brown-Wood: I would say “Nay, don’t lose faith. It’s all a process and it takes time, but don’t give up. Set small goals and keep working toward your ultimate hope: a published book.” That’s what I’d tell pre-published me. And pre-published me might respond, “You sure I can do this?” to which I’d say: “100% certain.”

7. I see that you’re a big Harry Potter fan. If you could have a Butter Beer or cup of tea with one of the Harry Potter characters, who would it be?

JaNay Brown-Wood: It would be a tie between Hermoine and Ginny Weasley–two powerful females who make a huge impact on those around them. It would be a Girl Power teatime with French tea and macarons because, why not! And then, I’d ask Hermoine if we could use the time-turner just for a bit so I could go back in time and give my late little sister a hug (and a wet willy in her ear, lol)—she was a big fan of Hermoine and Ginny, too.

Awww… we wish you could do that, JaNay.

8. What books have you read to Vivi lately that you would recommend to other busy parents?

 JaNay Brown-Wood: I love the LAYLA AND THE BOTS series by Vicky Fang and illustrated by Christine Nishiyama. Vivi really loves the characters, and I thoroughly enjoy the seamless and effortless use of STEM. Also, FROG AND TOAD often frequent our bedtime stories. But get this, Vivi will tolerate my books when I choose read them to her sometimes, but she actively asks for me to read her my other book coming out later this year called AMARA’S FARM (Peachtree Publishing, September 2021). That character really resonates with her—and I can tell it is a mirror for her since the character is a little black girl with two afro-puffs, just like my Vivi.

Note, here’s proof of Vivi’s excitement about the LAYLA AND THE BOTS books:

She’s featured on Vicky Fang’s website on the Creation Gallery!

9. What’s the craziest thing a young reader has said to you at an Author Visit?

JaNay Brown-Wood: So many crazy comments to choose from. Like the time the student was unimpressed because she said, “I’ve met other celebrities before, too, you know?” or the time a child asked me why Imani didn’t just get in a rocket to get to the moon. Then there are the standard “How old are you?” and “Are you rich?” Student questions and comments are always so enjoyable and definitely keep me on my toes.

10.   What has been the most memorable experience you’ve had in your children’s author career, so far?

JaNay Brown-Wood: There have been so many beautiful experiences I’ve had as a writer, but there are two that really stand out in my mind. The first was when I was reading IMANI’S MOON to a group of children, and a young African American girl looked up at me with pride in her eyes and a smile on her face. In her lap was her own copy of the book, and she followed along as I read the book, flipping to each page I was on. That moment stays with me. It felt like a confirmation that I am doing something meaningful in the world. That I was actually having a direct impact as I shared about a little Black girl who persevered through challenges and overcame—and that if she could do it, so could children everywhere.

The second was when IMANI’S MOON got a shoutout on the Stephen Colbert show. He listed me as an author to read instead of Dr. Seuss. It was completely unexpected and surreal. And it felt amazing to know that so many people around the world heard my name and saw my book on his show—and that he recommended it to his viewers. What a moment that was! What a wonderful, memorable moment!

HOW COOL IS that?????

Happy Happy Book Birthday to

SHHH! THE BABY’S ASLEEP

To learn more about JaNay Brown-Wood and her books,

Check out her website: JaNayBrownWood.com

and follow her on Twitter: @janaybrownwood , Facebook JaNayBrownWood

and Instagram: janaybrownwood

And Happy Summer Reading to ALL!

Enacting a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for our students…

I’ll be off to Fine Arts Camp –which is a day camp this year–during the month of July, but back to celebrate books by Lindsay Bonilla and Katelyn Aronson in August.

Also–fun fact: I just signed a contract for a new picture book. Yayyy!!!!! More news –when I can share it, I promise!