It’s the most wonderful time of the year–to give BOOKS! A very special 2020 ICYMthem Book List + recap of Picture Books published in this crazy #pandemic.

It’s here!

A Recommended List of picture books published during this very crazy year…2020

You know…that year when there were no in-store events, or story times & book signings, no school visits or in-person conferences…

*Please note that many of the wonderful titles herein fit into multiple categories. Feel free to mix and match, and click the links to learn more!


Dinosong –Tim McCanna / Richard Smythe / S&S Paula Wiseman

Five Fuzzy Chicks –Diana Murray / Sydney Hansen / Imprint/ Macmillan

Little Hippo –Julie Abery / Suzi Mason / Amicus

Little Monkey –Julie Abery / Suzi Mason / Amicus

This Old Dog –Martha Brockenbrough / Gabriel Alborozo/  Levine Querido

We Will Live in this Forest Again –Gianna Marino/ Neal Porter Books

Wild About Dads –Diana Murray/ Amber Alvarez/ Imprint/ MacMillan

Wild Style –Jenna Grodzicki –a nonfiction Photo book/ Millbrook

Bedtime and Boats!

Arithmechicks Takeaway –Ann Marie Stephens / Jia Liu / Boyds Mill Press

Boats Will Float –Andria W. Rosenbaum / Brett Curzon / Sleeping Bear

Goodnight, Veggies –Diana Murray/ Zachariah OHora / HMH

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Say Good Night –Lauren Kerstein / Nate Wragg / Two Lions

Bios & Narrative Nonfiction

A New Green Day –Antoinette Portis / Neal Porter Books

Breaking The Ice: The true story of the first woman to play in the National Hockey League –Angie Bularro / C.F. Payne / Paula Wiseman / Simon & Schuster

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe –Vivian Kirkfield / Alleana Harris / Little Bee Books

Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey –Lori Mortensen / Chloe Bristol / Versify / HMH

Saving Granddaddy’s Stories: Ray Hicks, the Voice of Appalachia –Shannon Hitchcock / Sophie Page/ Reycraft

The Dragonfly  Aimée Bissonette / Catherine Pearson/  Albert Whitman

The Old Man and the Penguin –Julie Abery / Pierre Pratt / Kids Can Press

The Tinaja Tonight  Aimée Bissonette / Syd Weiler / Albert Whitman


God Blesses Me –Della Ross Ferreri / Worthy Kids

Meditation Station –Susan B. Katz / Anait Semirdzhyan / Bala Kids

Mootilda’s Bad Mood –Corey Rosen Schwartz & Kirsti Call / Claudia Ranucci / Little Bee

The Memory Book: a grief journal for Children and Families  –Joanna Rowland / Thea Baker / Beaming Books


Love by Sophia –Jim Averbeck/ Yasmeen Ismail / Margaret K. McElderry Books

My Maddy –Gayle E. Pitman / Violet Tobacco / Magination

Sadie’s Shabbat Stories –Melissa Stoller / Lisa Goldberg / Spork

When Winter Comes: Discovering Wildlife in our Snowy Woods — Aimée Bissonette / Sasquatch/ Little BigFoot


Cow Boy is NOT a Cowboy –Gregory Barrington / Harper Collins

Extraordinary Ordinary Ella –Amber Hendricks / Luciana Navarro Powell / Amicus

NO Party Poopers!  Gretchen McLellan / Lucy Semple / Little Bee

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Say Good Night –Lauren Kerstein / Nate Wragg / Two Lions

The Old Man and The Penguin –Julie Abery / Pierre Pratt /Kids Can Press

This Old Dog –Martha Brockenbrough / Gabriel Alborozo/  Levine Querido

Two Trucks Get Lost –Corey Rosen Schwartz & Rebecca J Gomez / Hillary Leung / Scholastic

When Pencil Met The Markers –Karen Kilpatrick & Luis O. Ramos Jr. / German Blanco / Imprint


Christmas Cheer  –Sue Fliess / Jay Fleck / Scholastic/ Cartwheel

DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 –Erin Dealey / Luisa Uribe / Harper Collins (New Year’s/ Earth Day)

Eenie Meenie Halloweenie –Susan Eaddy / Lucy Fleming / Harper Collins

Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! — Alexandra Alessandri / Addy Rivera Sonda / Albert Whitman

Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon –Virginia Loh-Hagan / Timothy Banks / Sleeping Bear

Wild About Dads –Diana Murray/ Amber Alvarez/ Imprint/ MacMillan (Father’s Day)

Imagination and Whimsy 

Do Not Rake Your Garden in a Party Dress –Aimée Bissonette / Kelly Pousette / Cameron Kids

Gurple and Preen: a Broken Crayon Cosmic Adventure  –-Linda Sue Park / Debbie Ridpath Ohi / S&S

How to Find a Unicorn  –Sue Fliess / Simona Sanfilippo / Sky Pony Press

How to Meet a Mermaid –Sue Fliess / Simona Sanfilippo / Sky Pony Press

Hugsby –Dow Phumiruk / Viking

Travel Guide for Monsters –Lori Degman / Dave Szalay / Sleeping Bear


Arithmechicks Takeaway –Ann Marie Stephens / Jia Liu / Boyds Mill Press

Double the Dinosaurs: a Math Reader  –Diana Murray / Mette Engel / RH Books for Young Readers

Five Fuzzy Chicks –Diana Murray / Sydney Hansen/ Imprint/ Macmillan

Lia & Luís: Who Has More? (Storytelling Math) –Ana Crespo / Giovana Medeiros / Charlesbridge


Construction People –edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins / Ellen Shi / Wordsong

Friends and Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children – Authors and Illustrators of The Writer’s Loft / Writer’s Loft


DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 –Erin Dealey / Luisa Uribe / Harper Collins

Dream Big, Little Scientists  –Michelle Schaub / Alice Potter / Charlesbridge

Flash and Gleam: Light In Our World  –Sue Fliess / Khoa Le / Lerner/ Millbrook

In a Garden –Tim McCanna / Aimée Sicuro / S&S Paula Wiseman

The Princess and the Petri Dish  –Sue Fliess / Petros Bouloubasis / Albert Whitman

The Farm That Feeds Us  –Nancy Castaldo / Ginny Hsu / Quarto

The Old Man and the Penguin –Julie Abery / Pierre Pratt / Kids Can Press

We encourage you to consider these books for your holiday gifts.

And if possible, #ShopIndie #indiecember.  

Last but not least, this post is a heartfelt thank you to our wonderful author & illustrator #kidlit community, for coming together this year even stronger and more determined to help get each other’s books on the radar of young readers and their families. Special shout-outs to #2020BookLook, bloggers everywhere, @2021derfuls (who started early!) and my amazing @EastWestLit family. It definitely takes a village and I wouldn’t want to “live” anywhere else.

Cheers to 2021–

and Stay safe

Happy Book Birthday DEAR EARTH–>from Room FIVE04 =blog takeover + Giveaway Boost!!

It’s a Book Birthday Party/ Blog Takeover for 

DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5

by Erin Dealey, Illus. Luisa Uribe

(Harper Collins)

“A well-thought-out presentation of an important environmental message.” —Kirkus

Poster art: MP

We are Mrs. Howard’s AWESOME 5th/6th graders from room FIVE04

–here to celebrate!

We met up with Erin Dealey on Zoom, showed her the Book Birthday posters we made, asked her some questions, and wrote poems.

So here’s part 1 of


From Your Friends in Room FIVE04.

Click image to view trailer. Art by Luisa Uribe.

Q1 –from Ruby: When did you figure out that you wanted to be a writer?

Erin Dealey: First off, thank you for taking over the blog today, and for celebrating DEAR EARTH’s book birthday with me. It was great fun to meet you!

As for your question, the short answer: I was definitely NOT the kid who wanted to write books some day. (Long answer below.)

Room FIVE04: Erin Dealey’s 6th grade journal is proof! She read us an entry:

“It’s the same thing today and I don’t know what to write. The End.”

Erin Dealey: In 6th grade I got to go down the hall once a week and read to the kindergarteners. This is when I really discovered picture books. But write them? Ha! I liked to draw but by high school, I thought I might be a math teacher, mainly because my Algebra teacher was lots of fun and I knew how to get good grades in math.

In 10th grade English, I shared a poem we had to write, an example of alliteration, and the whole class laughed. I took it as proof that I was not a writer. Now, when I look back, I wonder if my friends laughed because they were used to me being funny, making people laugh. Still, to a 10th grader, it was horrifying. But funny thing:

I loved words.

I didn’t figure out I wanted to be a writer until much later. However, I’ve always loved words. I liked to make up jokes and puns with my friends. I loved memorizing the lyrics to my favorite songs–partly to sing along, but I also loved writing them down. I feel like that’s where I learned to rhyme. I also wrote angsty poems in a journal, which I showed no one!

And yep, I entered college as a MATH major. Halfway through university, my counselor asked me why I was taking all those English Lit classes… Long story short: I switched majors–with a plan to become a high school English/Art teacher.

Poster art: JR

Q 2. –from Isabel: What inspired you to write books?

Erin Dealey: Ha–I’m getting there…

  1. I was teaching high school English and Theater, and I found myself having to expand various scripts to fit the needs of my theater students. Then one day I found a cheesy novel that a student had left on a desk, and I thought, “I could do that!”
  2. I was also the ASB advisor and constantly telling my students to get past their doubts and follow their dreams. Never let the “If onlies” get you.
  3. My mom always used to tell us, “You never know until you try.” So I tried writing that novel. Over and over. (I may have just recently cracked the novel code, finally!)
  4. When our daughter was born, we read stories night and day, and somewhere along the way I realized that picture books are theater.

Poster art: JP

Q 3. –from Bubba: How long does it take for a book to come out? 

Erin Dealey: When I started out, I was told it usually takes about two years from when you sign the contract for a picture book to be released. This will vary from book to book. The illustrator gets a year to do the art –although sometimes they get it done sooner. Plus, even if you think you’ve submitted a “perfect” manuscript, the editor will have more revisions and suggestions for you. It’s so very important to be open to these changes. I’ve found that the input only makes the book better.

With DEAR EARTH… I signed the contract in the summer of 2018. I worked on edits from Harper Collins team (including notes from science expert, nonfiction author Melissa Stewart) through October. In December 2018, I learned that the amazing Luisa Uribe would be the illustrator. Her art made the story come alive! I am so very thankful for our editor Tamar Mays, our art director Erica DeChavez, Melissa Stewart, and the entire DEAR EARTH team, as well as my incredible agent, Deborah Warren of East/West Literary.

Room FIVE04: Happy Book Birthday! We learned a lot today. (Writing a picture book and turning it in is like waiting for Mrs. Howard to grade our papers–only it takes much LONGER!) Thank you for letting us takeover your blog today, and for helping us write this poem for Dear Earth–

Dear Earth–Thank you.

You give us kindness.

Kindness is beautiful.

Beautiful flowers.

Beautiful nature.

Beautiful stars and moon.

Beautiful universe.

Beautiful as you are.

Are you tired?

Tired of people trashing you?

Tired of being treated wrong?

Tired of people throwing plastic in your ocean?

Tired of climate change?

Tired of smoke in the sky?

The sky should be blue.

Blue like clean water.

Water that flows peacefully.

Peacefully floating…

Floating in space.

Space is wonderful as you are, dear.

Dear Earth–Thank you!


from your friends in Room FIVE04  

To learn more about DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends In Room 5

(a 2020-2021 Winter Indie Next pick)

and other books by Erin Dealey,

check out,

follow her on Twitter @erindealey and Instagram erindealey, 

#Teachers: LitLinks by Patricia Newman features DEAR EARTH + #STEM letter writing activities for Ss of all ages.

And as promised: there’s a DEAR EARTH #BookGiveaway over on Vivian Kirkfield’s Perfect Picture Book Friday. 

NEXT WEEK on the blog–join us for 5 Qs with THE Sharon Creech.

And on Dec. 15th, Room FIVE04 will be back for part 2 of their blog takeover–with more poems! 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting…A Book! = 6 Qs with debut MG novelist and poet Megan E. Freeman

It’s a Book Baby Shower and YOU’RE invited!

Congrats to debut MG author and poet Megan E. Freeman! –photo credit Laura Carson

Today we’re celebrating this beautiful debut novel in verse:


by Megan E. Freeman,

entering into the world on January 12th, 2021.

sonogram…aka gorgeous cover art by Pascal Campion.

Proud publishing family: Aladdin / Simon & Schuster (see Q4)

I’d say it’s a perfect excuse

to add a new post to my series:

What To Expect When You’re Expecting

…a book!

Don’t you love this fun pic of pregnant Megan taken…a “few”  years ago… : ) ?

6 Qs with Megan E. Freeman:

Q 1. Conception: What was the inspiration for this book baby?

Megan E. Freeman: The idea for ALONE came after my daughter and I read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell in our mother-daughter book club when she was in fifth grade. I was thinking about Karana being left behind on the island, and I couldn’t stop wondering what might happen if a modern-day seventh grader was left behind in a Colorado town.

Newbery Medal winner Island of the Blue Dolphins, HMH BfYR

Q 2. Naming the baby. Where did you get the title? How is it significant? 

Megan E. Freeman: I was inspired by the same historical story that inspired Scott O’Dell, so I did some research about the original events. In the 1850s a middle-aged woman, the last known survivor of the Nicoleño tribe, was discovered living on San Nicolas Island off the coast of Southern California. It was believed she had lived there alone for at least eighteen years, and she became known as The Lone Woman of San Nicolas. When I was writing and needed a working title, I used Lone Girl, since in my head my character was The Lone Girl of Colorado. When it came time to choose a permanent title, we settled on ALONE because it captured the essential conflict of the story while appealing to readers of all genders.

Q 3. Growth: How has the manuscript grown since conception? 

Megan E. Freeman: The writing of the book took many iterations and many years. I first wrote the book in prose, in third person voice, and in past tense. After many rounds of revisions, submissions, and feedback from multiple sources, I began again, this time tapping into my experience and skill as a poet. I rewrote the story in verse, using first person voice and present tense. This allowed me to get inside Maddie’s head much more and explore the solitary and sensory nature of her experience. The poetry freed the story.

…Poetry freed the story.

Q 4. Who is your “Birthing” team–Art Director, Editor, Crit group, etc

Megan E. Freeman: I am lucky to be working with Kristin Gilson at Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. Everyone at Aladdin has been terrific, from Anna Parsons in the editorial office to Chelsea Morgan and the copyediting folks to Heather Palisi’s design team and all of the people working to get ALONE into the hands of booksellers and librarians. And I think we can all agree that Pascal Campion’s cover art is simply sublime. Of course my agent Deborah Warren and the East West Literary authors and illustrators are incredibly supportive, too, as are my writing and critique partners. I’m a lucky duck.

The proud publishing family!

Q 5. Since this will post just before Thanksgiving, and expecting tends to activate our emotions, what gratitude might you like to share?

Megan E. Freeman: I’m so grateful to the middle grade and YA authors in The21ders and Classof2k21 debut groups. They have been invaluable sources of information and cheerleading, not to mention moral support. If I could offer one piece of advice for debut authors, it would be to find a debut group the minute you get your book deal. I truly can’t imagine navigating this process without them, and as solitary an endeavor as writing is, being in a debut group puts you on a team that’s all working together for everyone’s greater good. Plus, there are hurdles and milestones that no one in your real life will fully comprehend. But your debut group will not only understand, they’ll sympathize or celebrate the heck out of it with you. I feel huge gratitude for being included in those groups.

Q 6.  All parents have hopes and fears for their children. What do you hope or fear for ALONE?

Megan E. Freeman: I dearly hope that ALONE finds a place in the canon of middle grade books, and that it will allow me to connect directly with young readers through school and library visits. I taught school for many years and I love talking with children. All the work leading up to publication involves working with adults, but the book is for children and I am eager for them to find it. The only thing I fear is that somehow the COVID-19 pandemic will stunt the life of the book or prevent me from being able to fully engage in the effort to help it find its feet. While many of the book’s themes are eerily relevant to the isolation and social distance we’ve all been experiencing, I long for the time when we will say, “Remember back during the pandemic…”

ED note: Let’s help get this book baby out into the world, shall we, friends?

“Madeleine relates her own riveting, immersive story in believable detail, her increasingly sophisticated thoughts, as years pass, sweeping down spare pages in thin lines of verse in this Hatchet for a new age. . . . Suspenseful, fast-paced, and brief enough to engage even reluctant readers.” —Kirkus Reviews

Huge thanks to Megan for joining the blog today.

To learn more about ALONE and Megan E. Freeman’s poetry and school visits, check out her web site:

and follow Megan on Twitter: @meganefreeman

PS You can Pre-order

SIGNED COPIES of her book here!

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving to all.

We’re taking next week off for family and #gratitude (and turkey)

AND to prep for the Book Birthday of

DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5

(Harper Collins / Illus. Luisa Uribe, Dec. 1st, 2020) Yayyy!!!!

But that’s not all, you guys…

THE Sharon Creech joins the blog on Dec. 8th, to celebrate her latest novel,

ONE TIME (Harper Collins, Sept. 8, 2020).

See you then!

How is a goalie like being an author? + other Qs about BREAKING THE ICE by Angie Bullaro (part 2)

Since November means #hockey, and we had such fun

celebrating Angie Bullaro’s debut picture book BREAKING THE ICE,

(Simon & Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books / Illus. C.F.Payne)

why not kick off the season with Part 2 of her interview?

BREAKING THE ICE is a nonfiction picture book about Manon Rhéaume, the first and only woman to play in the National Hockey League. (top photo, R) In fact, she broke the gender barrier in hockey from the peewee leagues on up.

In a recent article on, Manon talked about the messages of the book:

“I think the message is for anyone to follow their dream…If you’re passionate about something, if you work really hard, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.”

“The other message is that you don’t need to fit a mold to do something you really like. I was probably the total opposite of what an NHL goalie should look like — my size, my gender — but I got the opportunity. I didn’t let anything stop me from doing what I loved most. I was given the opportunity to challenge myself at the highest level and I went for it.”

Which brings me to these 6 questions for

BREAKING THE ICE author Angie Bullaro:  

Q 1. How is being a goalie like writing a book? How is it different?

Angie Bullaro:  They’re the same because they both are insanely difficult and take a tooooooon of practice, a lot of mistakes, and loads of hard work. They both require incredible mental strength and fortitude too.

They’re different because no matter how many stories I’ve written, they never come flying at my face 100 miles an hour!!! Ha!

Both Manon (lower L) and Angie (lower R) were interviewed on The Morning Show Canada in celebration of their book launch.

Q 2. Circling back to one of the themes of BREAKING THE ICE: Do not give up. Have you ever felt you needed to hear those words –as an author? Or as your younger self?

Angie Bullaro: Oh geeze, almost every day! I always wanted to be an actor and a writer but I grew up in East Detroit where that was not what people did. Everyone thought I was crazy, or more accurately – they thought I was foolish. I had to remind myself on daily basis not to give up, no matter what others said, no matter how difficult it was or how many years it would take.

It’s been a long journey and there have been hundreds of times I didn’t think I’d make it or wasn’t good enough to make it. Especially during those times of self-doubt it’s important to remember not to give up. I believe anything is possible if you work hard and don’t give up!

Making Every Word Count

Q 3. We picture book authors know that every word counts. And I read how you focused only on certain areas of Manon’s journey in this book. What’s one of the scenes that was hard to cut?

Angie Bullaro: Deciding at what point in her life to stop at was difficult. Playing in the NHL was this extraordinary thing, but Manon continued to do incredible things after 1992 like play in the minor’s and actually get paid to play and to be a part of the first women’s team to go to the 1998 Olympics when women’s icy hockey was first accepted as a winter sport. She has led such an amazing life.

Bullaro stars as Manon in the film Between the Pipes, which was the inspiration for their picture book.

Q 4. How does your experience as an actor influence your writing?

Angie Bullaro: I’m always thinking about action. Like a movie, a book needs action. And so I see things in scenes and how an actor would perform it. It helps me to see what moves the scene along and what is boring to watch (i.e. read).

Interior art by C. F. Payne BREAKING THE ICE, S&S Paula Wiseman Books 2020

Q 5. What do you hope young readers will take away from BREAKING THE ICE?

Angie Bullaro: Dream big. Work hard. NEVER give up.

ED note: You heard her, friends: 

Dream big. Work hard. NEVER give up.

Q 6. What question do you wish I’d asked? 

Angie Bullaro: Honestly, the questions you’ve asked are very different from ones I’ve been getting recently so I’m not sure I have an answer for that. Maybe what food do I dislike the most? The answer would be peas. Please no one ever send me peas. J

Ha–got it!

To learn more about Angie Bullaro and her awesome book BREAKING THE ICE

check out and follow her on Twitter @AngieBullaro and Instagram @angiebullaro.

Up next, a guest post by debut author Megan E. Freeman on

What To Expect When You’re Expecting…a book!

Until then…you know the drill:

Be safe!


Happy (belated) Book Birthday to NO Party Poopers! + 6 Qs for #kidlit author Gretchen McLellan

It’s PARTY time, friends.

Gretchen McLellan’s latest picture book,


(Little Bee Books / Illus. Lucy Semple)

deserves a celebration

and EVERYONE’S invited!

“In line with [McLellan’s]…wordplay, Semple loads the bright,
simply drawn illustrations with partying animals amid scenes of either imagined disaster or, at the end, festive conviviality… The paws-itive point here: …regarding differences in others as opportunities rather than obstacles.”


Which brings us to my first question…

Q 1. I love the theme of inclusion in NO PARTY POOPERS! What was the inspiration for this book?

Gretchen McLellan: I’ve found that the ideas that take hold of me and make it into published work have deep roots and themes. Although the initial drive for NO PARTY POOPERS was to explore xenophobia, -isms and stereotyping in a lighthearted way, I have always been concerned about inclusion and belonging.

I grew up in a highly mobile, military family and my radar for acceptance and belonging was switched on early and has never turned off. In a large family of always-the-new kids, one or the other of us was inevitably experiencing those dreadful moments at school when invitations were passed out for parties, but not to us. Exclusion hurts. So in my metaphorical party, everyone is welcome all the time.

Free bear hugs!

Click HERE to view the fun trailer. 

Q 2. Speaking of parties, what was it like, launching NO PARTY POOPERS! during the Pandemic? What celebrations had you envisioned (pre-COVID) and what changed once your Book’s Birthday got closer?

Gretchen McLellan: I know I am not alone in saying that launching a book during this Pandemic has been extremely difficult. I think we’ve all been humbled by our lack of control over circumstances, and I’ve come to accept that I had extraordinary bad luck in launching particularly this book this year.

NO PARTY POOPERS! Interior Illus. by Lucy Semple, Little Bee Books 2020

First, the book was bumped because of Covid. As you know, most picture books are printed in Asia and with Covid raging, printing and shipping schedules were affected.

NO PARTY POOPERS! Interior Illus. by Lucy Semple, Little Bee Books 2020

Second, my plans for prepromotion and launch all had to be jettisoned. The cute fabric I bought for table coverings was used for masks instead. The crafts for in-person, bookstore events went on line. ( FREE paper bag puppets download available here.)

Third, the book’s birthday was on the day of George Floyd’s funeral. Having a virtual launch was unthinkable as the world was taking to the streets. Let’s be honest, the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice is far more important than a picture book launch–even if the book is about inclusion.

NO PARTY POOPERS! Interior Illus. by Lucy Semple, Little Bee Books 2020

And now, Covid is in a terrible second wave and, although metaphorical, the setting of NO PARTY POOPERS! is in direct conflict with social distancing and public health and safety. While I celebrate and value this book and its message of inclusion, I am worried that given this context, some may interpret the book politically. 2020!  Phew! I really thank you, Erin, for helping me get the word out!

ED note: That’s what #kidlit friends do, right?

Speaking of which, here’s a link to purchase a copy of NO PARTY POOPERS!  

Q 3. What surprises did the illustrator, Lucy Semple, bring to this adorable book?

Gretchen McLellan: There are so many! Some of my favorites are the camels drinking out of the kiddie pool with twisty straws, the raccoons getting water to wash the cake from a red fire hydrant, and the skunks spritzing the air from an old-timey perfume atomizer!

NO PARTY POOPERS! Interior Illus. by Lucy Semple, Little Bee Books 2020

Writing Tips: 

Q 4. What would you tell your earlier, teacher self, who thinks she might want to write children’s books someday? Any tips? How has your work as a teacher and reading specialist influenced your career as a children’s author?

Gretchen McLellan: I had the lens of a wannabe author the whole time I was teaching, so I can tell you what I did. I read kidlit widely and selected the best and most beautiful for my classroom and home libraries. I paid close attention to kids’ reactions to what we were reading–which stories left them spellbound, which made them laugh out loud and cry, which characters did they love and why.

Study mentor texts.

As a reading specialist, I observed the match of text to young reader and developed a solid understanding of what makes a great easy-to-read story and early chapter book. In my read-alouds, I learned the essential place and power of the picture book in education and in children’s lives.

Learn from others. 

I wrote grants to bring authors into my schools and took notes on how they engaged small and auditorium-sized elementary audiences. I observed children, their conflicts, their worries, their triumphs and joys. I jotted down story ideas.

Read, read, read!

Both MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3 (Peachtree / Ilus. Grace Zong) and I’M DONE! (Holiday House/ Illus. Catherine Lazar Odell) were inspired in my classroom. 

All in all, I advise anyone who wants to write for children to read, read, read and spend time with real kids and observing kids.

Q 5. What projects are you working on now?

Gretchen McLellan: One of my lifetime goals is representing the underrepresented voices of the military child in literature. I explored the issue of moving, preserving friendships and making new friends in my picture book BUTTON AND BUNDLE (Knopf / Illus. Gillian Flint / 2019) and what parent deployment is like from a child’s perspective in my upcoming WHEN YOUR DADDY’S A SOLDIER.

I am in the final revision stage of a middle grade novel called OPERATION SPEAK. The novel is set on two military bases, one in Washington and one in Germany and is about a boy struggling to reconnect with his father who has just come home from war.

These sound wonderful, Gretchen!

I have one more question for you, since my book, DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5

will be out next month:

Q 6.  If Bear or Panda, or any of the other characters in NO PARTY POOPERS! could write EARTH a letter, what would it say?

Gretchen McLellan: Thank you so much, Erin, for inviting me to your blog. You are one of my kidlit and earth heroes. I can’t wait to hold DEAR EARTH…from your friends in Room 5 in my arms! Here’s a letter from Panda and Bear:

Dear Earth,

We want to have a big party

And invite all our neighbors and you!

We want it to be earth friendly

So here’s what we’re going to do: 

  • Avoiding plastic would be fantastic!
    • We’ll use reusable/recyclable forks, knives and spoons.
    • And reusable/recyclable cups, plates and bowls.
  • We will decorate with earth-friendly streamers.
  • We won’t let balloons go in the air!
  • We will compost what we can when the party is over.

Your Earth Heroes care!

Sincerely, Panda and Bear

ED: I love it! Earth and the kids in Room 5 would too!

Thank you, Gretchen, for joining me today.

To learn more about Gretchen McLellan, please visit her website, and follow her on Twitter: @gmclellan5 

And heads-up…

#Teachers: Gretchen’s website is full of FREE downloads (from crafts to phonics and spelling activities to Readers Theatre) that Gretchen has developed to extend the experience of her books in the classroom.

#Author friends: These materials may spark ideas for you to develop classroom-ready downloadable materials of your own.

Next up–Part 2 of our conversation with debut author Angie Bullaro and BREAKING THE ICE, including how being a goalie is like writing a book! (Here’s part 1 ICYMI)

Until then, be safe, dear friends.