Alma and How She Got her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal

Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela had a long name--too long, if you asked her.

When Alma complains that her name doesn't fit, her Daddy tells her the story of her name. I love how Alma learns about her family and realizes by the end that each part of her name connects her with her ancestors. The illustrations are beautifully rendered with pink for the present and blue for the past. This is a great book for reading with kids and talking about family history, the story of their names and how no matter what they are called, only they can tell their story. 


GRANTED by John David Anderson plus GIVEAWAY!

I love every single one John David Anderson's books. (Find my interview of him here).  GRANTED was yet another compelling, humorous and heartwarming story.  

This whimsical book kept me turning the page long after my bedtime. Ophelia is a compelling main character with quirks and weaknesses and strengths that make her likable and relatable. I love the idea of a fairy that is a wish granter. I love the idea of wishes actually being granted by actual fairies. Ophelia's relationship with Sam, the dog, made me laugh. Sam the dog is hilarious and lovable. I especially loved his response to Ophelia's question: "Why are you following me?" 

Sam: "Because you are broken and lost and I licked you, so now we are friends."

Full of plot twists, hope and magic, this story revolves around the themes of friendship and loyalty and breaking the rules for all the right reasons. 

Granted by John David Anderson 
(Published February 13, 2018) 
ISBN: 006264386X  and ISBN13: 9780062643865

Everyone who wishes upon a star, or a candle, or a penny thrown into a fountain knows that you’re not allowed to tell anyone what you’ve wished for.  But even so, rest assured: There is someone out there who hears it.

Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is no ordinary fairy – she is a Granter: one of the select few whose job it is to venture beyond the boundaries of the Haven and grant the wishes of unsuspecting humans every day.  It’s the work of the Granters that generate the magic that allows the fairies to do what they do and to keep the Haven hidden and safe.  But with worldwide magic levels at an all-time low, this is not as easy as it sounds.  On a typical day, only a small fraction of the millions of potential wishes get granted.  And even granting those promised few means navigating a human world fraught with danger.

Today, however, is anything but typical.  Because today, Ophelia is going out on her first assignment.  And she’s about to discover that getting what you truly want takes much more than a handful of fairy dust.

John David Anderson is the author of Ms. Bixby's Last Day, Posted, Sidekicked, Minion, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at

For the chance to win your very own copy of GRANTED, comment on this blog.  If you share on social media tell me in your comment, you will have another entry for winning GRANTED.  Giveaway closes on March 20th.  

3 Ways to Improve Your Writing Life

 “Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.” –David Brooks
On New Year’s Eve, my 6th grade daughter discovered she didn’t get a part in the middle school play.  We prepared her for this possibility.  After all, her older siblings didn’t get in  as 6th graders either.  But Syd’s disappointment didn’t stop her from reaching her goal.  On New Year’s Day, she let her feelings fuel a song that she wrote for the drama teacher.
Sydney’s words and music had the desired effect.  She is now a cast member in her middle school play.  And I’m flummoxed.  Although I’ve always believed in the power of words, I never thought a child of mine would have the gumption to test it.  This new year,  Sydney inspired me to rethink my reaction to rejection, think outside the box, and approach my goals in a new way.
  1. Reframe rejection.  Rejection hurts! But if we reframe our rejection as a success, and not a failure, then everything changes.  Every rejection reminds me that I’m submitting and creating–and that’s an achievement!  What if my rejections fueled energy for more submissions and research into better places for my work?  What if I celebrated after my 100th rejection this year? What if I took what I learned from my rejections, like Sydney did, and turned them into something beautiful, regardless of the outcome?
  2. Think outside the box.  Writing for kids is all about creativity and original thought.   The best ideas always come from connecting two unrelated ideas.  Syd’s idea to write a song for another chance, was way outside the box.  It may not have worked.  She’s lucky that it did. But either way, she created something beautiful.  Probably writing a song to an editor to plead the case for my manuscript isn’t the answer, but then again…
  3. Approach goals differently. Many of my goals exist just so I can mark them off my list.  Don’t get me wrong–I want to do them, but there’s no excitement behind them.  Sydney’s passion for musical theater helped her make a goal to be in the middle school play, and it helped her reach for that goal even after rejection.  As a writer, I must do the same.  I need to make writing goals that I’m passionate about and reach for my goal–even after rejection.  And if I choose a goal that makes me feel like singing?  All the better.
What have you done to improve your writing life?
This was originally posted on Writer's Rumpus, here.

The 12 Days of Christmas, by Greg Pizzoli

The 12 Days of Christmas, by Greg Pizzoli, I adore Christmas books!  And this one is even more fun because I love singing songs/books to my children! The text for this book is familiar to everyone since it's the traditional 12 Days of Christmas Song. 

But the pictures make this story unique. Mama elephant's reaction to the baby elephant's gifts are hilarious and tell a great story about materialism and how too much stuff can clutter your life. The illustrations are filled with expression, color, and surprises on every page. 

This is a delightful whimsical Christmas book that I will continue to sing to my children every year!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.