Sunday, March 22, 2015

Heather Has Two Mommies (A New Look and a New Cover)

A twenty-five year milestone has been reached in the telling of a sweet children's book called "Heather Has Two Mommies. Those many years ago, no one wanted to publish the book, but that did not stop its author, Leslea Newman. The book's topic was a cultural and legal flash point 25 years ago, angering conservatives over the morality of same-sex parenting and landing libraries at the center of community battles over placement in the children's stacks.

AP Exclusive: Watershed picture book 'Heather Has Two Mommies' reissued with a new look Today, Heather — of "Heather Has Two Mommies" — has a lot more company in books for young kids about different kinds of families, but hers was out of print and seemed visually dated. That's why creator Leslea Newman decided on a new version, updating the look of her watershed story with fresh illustrations from a new artist and tweaking the text to streamline.

There's one big change, but you have to squint to notice: Heather's Mama Kate and Mama Jane wear little matching rings on their marriage fingers
I don't specifically say that they're married but they are.  I don't know where I could have smoothly inserted that into the text. That's not what the story is about. The story is really about Heather.

Heather has two mummies... and now they're married!Heather was Newman's first picture book and is certainly her most well-known. The latest edition, out this month, is from Candlewick Press, with illustrations by Laura Cornell replacing those of Diana Souza.

Newman wrote the story in 1988 after a chance encounter in Northampton with Amy Jacobson, a lesbian mom who was looking for reading material that better reflected her life with her partner — now wife — and their young daughter — now grown.

"Every step I was educating people about our family because there was nothing else," recalled Jacobson. "If I hadn't done it somebody else would have found an author. The book needed to happen."

Newman, a full-time writer and poet at the time, chronicles Heather's love of all things "two," including her moms, one a doctor and the other a carpenter. When Heather joins a home-based play group — changed to "school" in the new version — she is saddened when teacher Molly reads the children a story at nap time focused on a daddy.

Original Cover
As the children chime in with their fathers' occupations, Heather bemoans, "I don't have a daddy," when asked what hers does for a living. The original story has her tearing up as she wonders if any other family looks like hers. The update has the children chiming in with the work of their mommies AND daddies, and it eliminates Heather's tears.

The process of getting Heather published in 1989 was a slow one:

After I wrote the book I sent it to many, many publishers. Small presses, large presses. Children's book presses told me to try lesbian presses. Lesbian presses told me to try children's book presses. Nobody was really interested.

There were about 50 turndowns. That's why she co-published the book with a friend who had a desktop printing business. The two found an illustrator and financed the endeavour mostly from $10 donations, promising each contributor a copy from the 4,000 they printed up.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Passover Kids' Book-Escape from Egypt

I am showcasing a terrific new book for Passover which begins this year with the first seder on the evening of April 3.

Twins return to the Egyptian desert in Kimmel's time travel adventure "Scarlet and Sam." (Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing)When twins Scarlett and Sam bicker about who is going to recite the Four Questions at the seder, their magical Grandma Mina cuts the squabbling short: “Tonight, at the Seder, we don’t just tell the story of Passover. We become part of it.”
This set-up begins Eric Kimmel’s time-travel Passover adventure that transports the duo to the Egyptian desert, back to the time of Moses and Aaron as they prepare to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. The Ten Plagues, Pharaoh’s palace, and the suffering and indignity endured by Israelite slaves come alive for the siblings, who manage to make a podcast of their experience.
Older readers familiar with Kimmel’s hugely popular illustrated books (“Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins,” “Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock” and “The Chanukkah Guest”) will again enjoy his flair for storytelling in the illustrated chapter book that will appeal to school-age kids. It’s a terrific pairing with Kimmel’s earlier “Wonders and Miracles,” a lavishly illustrated seder companion that explains and demystifies the customs and traditions.
Scarlett and Sam: Escape from Egypt
Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic
Kar-Ben ($15.95 hardcover, $5.95 paperback, $6.99 eBook); ages 6-9

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Harper Lee's Words to Reporter: 'Go Away!'

Here is a little Saturday morning bit of news about the acclaimed literary recluse, Harper Lee.

Lee, of  To Kill A Mockingbird fame, has been in the spotlight perhaps more than she'd like recently.  Last month, her publisher announced that a prequel to her classic titled Go Set a Watchman will publish later this year.  It is narrated by an adult Scout.

Photo Flash: Book Cover Unveiled for Harper Lee's GO SET A WATCHMAN
The Alleged Book Cover
 The announcement was a surprise to Lee's fans, as she has stated for decades that she doesn't plan to release another novel.

It also has also spurred a resurgent interest in Lee, who appears to decline contact with journalists on principle. But that hasn't kept some from trying. While most attempts to reach out result in crickets, one Alabama reporter finally got a written response from Lee: his crumpled letters, with "Go away!" scrawled across them.

Connor Sheets, a reporter for wrote: 
I hoped she would confirm that she is in fact lucid and fully in control of the destiny of Go Set a Watchman...I hoped she would help clear up all the questions the world has been waiting to have answered about the circumstances of the book's planned release. [...] It appears that Nelle, as her friends call her, is very much with it, that she is still lucid and that her acerbic, press-averse side is fully intact

Friday, March 6, 2015

World Book Day was Yesterday! Not Too Late to Do Great Things with Books

Yesterday was  World Book Day, an event designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and is marked in over 100 countries around the globe. 

PrintBringing together publishers, booksellers, schools and other parties to work together to promote books and reading for the personal enrichment and enjoyment of all, one of the main aims of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.

There’s nothing quite like losing yourself in a good book.

What's Your favorite book?  I'd love for you to leave a comment here with your choice.  What a better way to begin the day than giving thought to books that have made us laugh, cry, think, dream, learn, and make good decisions about our lives.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

New Sherlock Holmes Short Story Found After 111 Years (Perhaps...)

Walter Elliot, an eighty year-old historian unearthed a forgotten Sherlock Holmes work after it had been in his attic in Selkirk, Scotland for almost fifty years.

An 80-year-old historian named Walter Elliot unearthed a forgotten Sherlock Holmes after it had been sitting in his attic Selkirk, Scotland, for nearly 50 years.
Ceru Iajes/SWINS

Elliot told The Telegraph: 

Usually people would throw out these books or sell them off. It has been in my family for quite a while now. I have no idea if it has ever been published…I have no idea how many they made and sold.
AP Photo
The book is called "Sherlock Holmes:  Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar. It concerns Watson going on a trip to Selkirk ."I've always been interested in history and my family has always passed on stories and I suppose this was one of the stories that was passed down,” said Elliot. 

“I’ve had this book for about 40 or 50 years. I must have got it from a friend because I can’t remember buying it from anyone.”The story in in a 45 page pamphlet and was written in 1904 by Sir Conan Doyle to help raise money to rebuild a wooden bridge that had been flooded in town.I can’t remember how much they raised…they wanted it to be a carriage bridge, but they didn’t get quite enough for that,” Elliot said.  Instead, he added, they built an iron bridge “and it’s still there today."


Just after a new Dr. Seuss book was discovered, historian Walter Elliot claimed he owns a copy of a never-released Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar” is a 1,300-word short story that Doyle purportedly wrote more than 80 years ago. The booklet holding the story will be on display at the Cross Keys Selkirk Pop-up Community Museum in Selkirk, Scotland, starting Saturday. But while Sherlock fans might rush to see the piece, experts are skeptical that the recently discovered story was actually written by Doyle. (GalleyCat, L.A. Times)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review of Her Pink Hair by Illustrator/Author Jill Dana

A sensitive new children's book about childhood cancer has been written and illustrated by artist/author, Jill Dana and published by Guardian Angel Publishing. 

Her Pink Hair is a story about two little girls.  The narrator tells the story of her best friend, Stephanie, who has pink hair.  How did she get pink hair?  Stephanie used to have long brown hair then short brown hair.  But she got sick, was very tired and then she had no hair.

The story's text is lovingly written and easy for young readers of ages five to eight.  The illustrations, created by Ms. Dana are made of mixed media clay, done in a mixture of pastel and somewhat brighter colors.
Jill Dana at the Miami SCBWI
Conference, Jan. 2015 

I would heartily recommend this thoughtful book to parents, librarians, and other caregivers of children.  Her topic is a difficult and important one that is well done.  Ms. Dana has achieved a successful marriage of  reality, appropriate prose, and luscious illustrations. 

Jill Dana is an author, illustrator, artist, teacher, and
 filmmaker. She is a certified elementary educator with a Master of Education from FAU. She is an award-winning filmmaker with an MFA in film and television production from USC. She also studied psychology and motion pictures at the University of Miami. The author will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Her Pink Hair to a children’s charitable organization.

Please visit

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Newly Found Dr. Seuss Manuscripts to be Published by Random House

Following the recent discovery of an original manuscript and sketches by beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss, a new book by the late author will be published in July and at least two other titles are planned, publisher Random House announced Wednesday.

PHOTO: The cover of a previously unknown Dr. Seuss book titled, What Pet Should I Get?“What Pet Should I Get?” will be published on July 28, nearly 24 years after the author’s death. It will be the 46th book by the man whose publications have sold more than 650 million copies worldwide and appealed to generations.

His books have featured imaginative illustrations of fantasy characters and employed engaging rhyme. According to Random House, the new title will focus on a child's excitement over selecting a pet, and will feature the brother and sister characters introduced in Seuss’ “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”

Among the most famous titles written and illustrated by Theodor Seuss Geisel, whose books were published under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss, are “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “Horton Hears a Who!” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
Several of the books have been adapted into films, including “Horton Hears a Who!”, “The Lorax” and “The Cat in the Hat.”

His final book before his death, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”, was published in 1990. He died in Sept. 24, 1991, at the age of 87.
PHOTO: Inside pages from the newly revealed Dr. Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get?
From "What Pet Should I Get?"

A box filled with pages of text and sketches was found shortly after Geisel’s death when his widow, Audrey Geisel, was remodeling her home, according to Random House. The box was set aside and rediscovered in 2013 by Geisel and Claudia Prescott, Geisel’s longtime secretary and friend, the publisher said.
The text and illustrations for “What Pet Should I Get?” were found nearly complete.
Geisel’s widow called the discovery “undeniably special” but not surprising.

“Ted always worked on multiple projects and started new things all the time -- he was constantly drawing and coming up with ideas for new stories."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Young Detectives In; Vampires Out in Waterstones Young Adult Book Prizes

Young detectives have replaced vampires in young adult fiction according to the organizers of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize in the United Kingdom.

Eighteen children's books have made the shortlist
This year's shortlist features six titles where children are left to their own devices to solve mysteries.

The awards, now in its 11th year, includes Erin Lange's Dead Ends and Smart by Kim Slater. Waterstones has seen a "striking resurgence" of children's mystery books, according to Melissa Cox of the book company:

By borrowing from the detective genre, many of our shortlisted authors have allowed their characters to deal with some very serious issues within a framework that also feels safe and familiar for young readers. 

Also shortlisted for 2015 is Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens, which features a pair of boarding school girls investigating the violent murder of their teacher, while Smart by Slater follows a misfit teen investigating the death of a homeless man.

The list also includes Harriet Whitehorn's Violet and the Pearl of the Orient, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald's The Apple Tart of Hope and A Boy Called Hope, continuing the theme of crime-solving children.

The prize has three categories: picture books, fiction 5-12, and teen.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Little Known Peter Pan Facts

 Whom among us does not love the irrepressible Peter Pan?  Not many, I'll bet.   Interestingly, the most famous lines of the play were cut during productions of the show during World War I. (The drawings below are copies of original sketches.) For some other intriguing facts, read on:

1. Peter Pan was originally a play. It was later adapted into the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy.The first stage version opened at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London on 27 December 1904. The Guardian gave it a great review: “Even those who least relish it must admit that no such play was ever seen before on any stage. It is absolutely original — the product of a unique imagination.” The play proved so popular, it was re-staged every year for the next 10 years.
2. J.M. Barrie was constantly updating the story. The script was rewritten and changed each year. In that spirit, our version of Peter Pan is set in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was a time when the very idea of what it was to be young or old was shifting. By transporting the story to a new era, I hope we can take a fresh look at this familiar tale about growing up or staying young forever.
3. Fairy Dust was added later for health and safety reasons. Originally Peter and the Lost Boys could fly unaided, but after several reports of children injuring themselves attempting to fly from their beds, J.M. Barrie added Fairy Dust as a necessary factor for flying.
4. The original productions pioneered new stage effects. In the original stage productions, Tinker Bell was a dot of light that moved about the stage focused by a mirror. In our production Tinker Bell is a beautiful puppet designed by Sue Dacre, a regular puppet maker at Jim Henson. Sue has also made us some spectacular flying puppets, who soar over the audience.

5. The first Wendy house appeared on stage in 1904. J.M. Barrie needed a house that could be built quickly as these lyrics were sang “I wish I had a darling house, The littlest ever seen, with funny little red walls, and roof of mossy green”.
6. Peter Pan didn’t wear all green. That’s partly a Disney invention. In the original stage productions he was said to wear auburns, tans, browns and cobwebs. To keep with time time-period in our version, Peter Pan wears a leather jacket and has a look not too far away from a young James Dean.
7. Captain Hook went to Eton. In the original play, Hook’s last words are “Floreat Etona”, the Eton motto. In a lecture about the character, J.M. Barrie confirmed his attendance at the school. Captain Hook also knew Long John Silver. Despite being in different novels by different authors, it seems that Hook and Silver crossed paths. J.M. Barrie and Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson were contemporaries and knew each other, hence the cross-over.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Humorous (and Oh, So True) Writing Tips

Fabulously Funny Writing Tips

As an author, I am forever on the lookout for wonderful writing tips!  Behold, the greatest list maybe ever assembled is below.  Not my list, it is one a writer can use in a humorous vein--or not!  Have a look:

1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
4. Employ the vernacular.
5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
8. Contractions aren’t necessary.
9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10. One should never generalize.
11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
12. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
13. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
14. Profanity sucks.
15. Be more or less specific.
16. Understatement is always best.
17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
18. One word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
23. Who needs rhetorical questions?
24. Parenthetical words however must be enclosed in commas.
25. It behooves you to avoid archaic expressions.
26. Avoid archaeic spellings too.
27. Don't repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
28. Don't use commas, that, are not, necessary.
29. Do not use hyperbole; not one in a million can do it effectively.
30. Never use a big word when a diminutive alternative would suffice.
31. Subject and verb always has to agree.
32. Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
33. Use youre spell chekker to avoid mispeling and to catch typograhpical errers.
34. Don't repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
35. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
36. Don't never use no double negatives.
37. Poofread carefully to see if you any words out.
38. Hopefully, you will use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
39. Eschew obfuscation.
40. No sentence fragments.
41. Don't indulge in sesquipedalian lexicological constructions.
42. A writer must not shift your point of view.
43. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
44. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
45. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
46. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
47. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
48. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
49. Always pick on the correct idiom.
50. The adverb always follows the verb.
51. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
52. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
52. And always be sure to finish what you begin--if you find it's worthy!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The We Need Diverse Books Fundraising Campaign and New Video

We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.
Their mission statement is:

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process. 

The team have launched a crowdfunding venture on Indiegogo and hope to raise $100,000.00 that will be used towards several different projects. Future plans include bringing diverse books and authors into disadvantaged schools, initiating the Walter Dean Myers Award & Grant program, and launching the inaugural Kidlit Diversity Festival in Washington, D.C.
Have a look at a video about the campaign above; it features appearances from Matt de la PeñaJohn GreenMarie LuCindy PonGrace LinLamar GilesTim FederleJacqueline Woodson, and Arthur LevineFollow this link to read a transcript. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Five Charities That Promote Literacy

First Book1. First Book: “At First Book, our innovative approaches tackle the single biggest barrier to the development of literacy – access to books. To date, First Book has provided more than 120 million books to children in need, increasing access to needed materials for educators and administrators, and helping to elevate educational opportunities for our nation’s most disadvantaged youth.”

2. Donors “ is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on our site, and you can give any amount to the project that most inspires you.”

3. We Give Books: “We Give Books distributes books to children in need across 5 continents through our Charity Partners. Featured Charity Partners receive book donations from We Give Books on an ongoing basis.” 

4. Better World Books: “Better World Books uses the power of business to change the world. We collect and sell books online to donate books and fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than 8 million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.”

BetterWorldBooks.com5. Girls Write Now: “Founded in 1998, Girls Write Now is the first organization in the country with a writing and mentoring model exclusively for girls. Girls Write Now provides guidance, support, and opportunities for at-risk and underserved girls from New York City’s public high schools to develop their creative, independent voices, explore careers in professional writing, and learn how to make healthy school, career and life choices.”

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What Kids Want From Books!

scholasticA surprising 73 percent of kids report the they would read more if they could find more books that they liked, according to a new report by Scholastic.

The Kids & Family Reading Report: Fifth Edition, which comes out entirely in January, examines the reading habits of kids 6-17. The research reveals that  70 percent of kids want to read a book that will make them laugh when reading for fun and 54 percent like reading books that allow them to use their imagination.
Different age groups seek different types of stories. According to the report kids 6-8 like to read books with characters that look like them and kids 9-11 enjoy with a mystery or problem to solve, whereas 12-14 year olds look for books with smart, strong or brave characters and 15-17 year olds are looking for books that allow them to escape.

Here is what kids of different ages are seeking:
54% say:  Let me use my imagination.
48% say:  Tell me a made-up story.
43% have characters they want to be like because they are smart, strong, or brave.
43% teach me something new.
41% have a puzzle or mystery to solve.
*73% say:  I would read more if I could find books I like!

Kids 6 to 8
Are more likely than older kids to want:books with characters that look like them.
Kids 9 to 11
Are more likely than younger kids to want:books that have amystery or problem to solve.
Kids 12 to 14
Are more likely than older kids to want:books with smart, strong or brave characters.
Kids 15 to 17
Are more likely than younger kids to want:books that let them forget about real life for a while.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Jeremiah Lucky and the Guardian Angel by Jane Ellen Freeman

A lovely kids' chapter book titled Jeremiah Lucky and the Guardian Angel, has just been published (Guardian Angel Publishing) and is one I'd recommend for your independent readers.

Jane Ellen Freeman, an author of children's books, wrote the book and dedicated it to "all children being raised by a single parent."  The book takes the reader through several days of Jeremiah's life, both at school and at home.  There is much to be admired in the eight-year-old's home life.  His mom is a nurse who loves and supports her son, and in spite of his fireman father's death in the line of duty, Jeremiah is a lucky boy!  

The story is a sweet one that in some ways reminds me of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.  And as with that classic film, a guardian angel named Angus McDermit, appears to Jeremiah just when he needs one most!

The illustrations, which I love, were done by Eric Hammond and are reflective of the nurturing atmosphere of the story.  Ms. Freeman and Mr. Hammond, however, never fail to keep the book moving at an appropriate and interesting pace for young ones. 

The author is a former teacher who divides her time between her home in West Virginia and Florida. Now a full-time writer, Jane writes for children, teens, and adults and is a member of Florida Writers Association andthe Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Visit her at:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Christmas Greeting

Somehow it is the festive time of year once more, and I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.  I also want to thank you for all the support you have shown me and this blog.

In this season of love and good will, it is, I believe, important to pause a moment and reflect on our blessings and the important people in our lives.  I am so very grateful for my husband, and sons and their families, and faithful friends, and good health.  And the list could go on.

It is my hope that everyone who reads these words may do the same in his or her own way.  Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate the holiday.  The sentiment applies to those of you who do not.

I wish the very best wishes to you all during this time of renewal, rebirth, and rejoicing.  A Happy Holiday to you all!