Indies First, A Celebration of Independent Bookstores



In this season of giving thanks, I am truly grateful for my neighborhood children’s bookstore, Bank Street.

On Saturday, November 28, Indies First celebrates a special day of reading and literacy activities in recognition of independent bookstores. The date coordinates with Small Business Saturday and is meant to encourage holiday shoppers to support independent booksellers across the country.

Bank Street Book Store has invited authors and illustrators to help celebrate this very special day. And check out this amazing schedule!

11:00 a.m.

Mike Curato

Chris Grabenstein

Robie Harris

Amy Hest


12:00 p.m.

Gail Karp

Patty Lakin

Steve Light

Vin Vogel


1:00 p.m.

Daphne Benedis-Grab

Todd Tarpley

Cindy Weill

Monica Wellington


2:00 p.m.

Yvonne Wakim Dennis

Robin Newman 

Jill Santopolo


3:00 p.m.

Meg Akabas

Dan Gutman

Peter Lerangis

There will also be a 10:30 a.m. story hour and 1:00 p.m. puppet show.


If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, be sure to stop by (and support!!!) your neighborhood independent bookstores. They deserve a very big thank you.



Three Cheers for Picture Book Month!


I am THRILLED to be today’s Picture Book Month Champion.


Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative celebrating the printed picture book. It occurs annually in November, and on each day of the month, a picture book champion explains why picture books are so important.

To see the article that I wrote in honor of this wonderful initiative, please click HERE.

A very big THANK YOU goes out to founder, Dianne de Las Casas (author & storyteller), and co-founders, Katie Davis (author/illustrator), Elizabeth O. Dulemba (author/illustrator), Tara Lazar (author), and Wendy Martin (author/illustrator), who put together their worldwide connections to make Picture Book Month happen.

And another big THANK YOU to Joyce Wan ( for the beautiful logo and to Marcie Colleen ( for the Teacher’s Guide and Curriculum Connections in each post.

Don’t forget to “read share and celebrate.”

Happy Picture Book Month!

Happy Birthday, KidLit TV!


It was a wonderful year of firsts for KidLit TV. Founded by Julie Gribble, KidLit TV is the first multimedia website created to aid parents and educators explore the world of children’s literature. It received its first big award, the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, and it is currently in the process of launching KidLit RADIO.

“KidLit TV is an exciting and informative destination for authors, illustrators, teachers, publishers, and anyone with a passion for children’s literature.” — Children’s Book Council

“Visitors are almost guaranteed to find something interesting and useful, whether they are consumers, producers, or curators of children’s literature.” — Parents’ Choice on KidLit TV

Authors, illustrators and fans of all ages came out in droves to celebrate KidLit TV’s BIG ONE.

Here are some photographic highlights:


Julie Gribble and Katya Szewczuk


Adam Lehrhaupt and Ame Dyckman 


Roxie Munro and spouse


Kelly Light and Kat Yeh


Nick Bruel and me 


Beth Ferry, Annie Silvestro, me and Kelly Calabrese


Annie Silvestro, me, Katya Szewczuk, Beth Ferry and Ame Dyckman 


Katya Szewczuk, Dan Yaccarino and Julie Gribble 


Katya Szewczuk, Julie Gribble and Nick Bruel 


Katya Szewczuk, Julie Gribble, Rocco Staino and Tad Hills

Rocco Staino and Kelly Light


Paul Zelinsky, Adam Lehrhaupt and Katya Szewczuk

And as part of this jubiliant celebration, KidLit TV teamed up with Tad Hills and ArtWorks for Youth (AWFY). AWFY provides free visual art instruction, academic support, and mentoring to students in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. To learn more about this wonderful program, please visit: 

Happy Birthday, KidLit TV! I suspect that the BIG TWO is going to be even bigger and better.

For more information about KidLit TV, please visit:



Guest Post by Laurie Wallmark: Writing About Strong Women


I am thrilled to have Laurie Wallmark as my guest blogger today. Laurie and I met many moons ago at one of the NJ SCBWI conferences. In the interest of full disclosure, we are both represented by same incredible agent, Liza Fleissig, and we also have the wonderful connection of being fellow Creston Book authors.

Laurie’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, illustrated by April Chu (Creston Books), releases on October 13, 2015, in conjunction with the celebration of Ada Lovelace Day. She was the world’s first computer programmer.

Ada cover

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is one of the most beautiful and inspiring books that I have read in a very long time. The illustrations will take your breath away. This is a book that will be cherished for generations to come.

Now, without further ado, here’s Laurie:

People often ask me why I choose to write biographies of strong women like Ada Byron Lovelace. Here are three events from my life that contributed to my interest in doing so.

  • In grade school, I played the snare drum in the school orchestra. When it was time to graduate to junior high, I wasn’t allowed to continue with this instrument in school. I was told it wasn’t ladylike to play drums. Instead, I had to switch to playing bass fiddle, because, as we all know, that’s a much more feminine instrument—not! Of course, when the orchestra needed an additional percussionist, they didn’t seem to mind I was a girl.
  • In seventh grade, boys and girls had no choice in the classes they took for electives. Boys took wood shop, auto mechanics, metal working, and mechanical drawing. Girls took sewing, cooking, and art. In eighth grade, since I was interested in architecture, I signed up for intermediate mechanical drawing. The administration wouldn’t let me, since I hadn’t taken mechanical drawing in seventh grade. Luckily for me, I had parents who fought for their children, even their daughters. Because of them, I was able to take mechanical and then, in ninth grade, architectural drawing. Of course, I was the only girl in either of these classes.
  • When I was about to enter high school, my mother asked the principal about the availability of higher-level math classes. He wanted to know if she had a son or daughter. When my mother answered a daughter, he told her the courses didn’t matter because a girl would never advance that far. By the way, he was wrong

Even though I went to school years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, many girls still experiences these types of prejudices in their schooling. This is one of the reasons that fewer than 15% of computer scientists are women. I want girls (and boys!) to read my books and realize they can follow their dreams, no matter where they lead.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, October 2015) is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.” [starred review]

Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. All stops are listed at:

Thank you Collingswood Book Festival!

Rain and the threat of a hurricane couldn’t dampen the excitement at the Collingswood Book Festival.


My dauntless detectives, Wilcox and Griswold, staked out the children’s section where they interviewed, fingerprinted, and took a ton of mug shots of potential suspects. Unfortunately, Miss Rabbit’s carrot cake is still M/I/A. If you happen to have any information about Miss Rabbit’s cake, please contact the Missing Food Investigator Hotline, 1-800-MFI-FOOD.


Here are some mug shots from yesterday’s AWESOME event:




Timothy Young 

colls10IMG_9854Laura Scott Schaefer


Kat Lindseycolls8IMG_9851

Allison Gutknechtmecolls6


Johanna Bilbo Staton

Detectives Wilcox, Griswold, and I would like to shout out a very big THANK YOU to Sidra Hobbs-Fernie and her amazing staff and dedicated crew of volunteers, as well as to Barnes & Noble, for making the day extra special.

The Kat’s Meow: Katya Szewczuk’s Field Trip to the Princeton Children’s Book Festival

It was the Kat’s Meow chatting with Katya Szewczuk from KidLit TV at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival. Check out all of her wonderful interviews!

Detectives Wilcox and Griswold were relieved to learn that Katya was not a real cat. However, they were most perplexed about the whole cat appeal. Why would anyone want to be an ordinary cat when you could be a far superior mouse? :)

Thank You Princeton Children’s Book Festival!


Dreams do come true. I have been a HUGE fan of the Princeton Children’s Book Festival for as long as I can remember, and have always dreamed of participating as an author. Yesterday that amazing, incredible, you-take-my-breath away, someone-is-going-to-have-to-pinch-me dream came true.

In a nutshell: It was AWESOME! Over 100 authors and illustrators participated in this year’s festivities, the 10th anniversary of the Princeton Children’s Book Festival. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I wanted to ask everyone about their books, craft, and tell them HOW MUCH I LOVE THEIR WORK in a not-so-stalkerish kind of way. But in a mildly stalkerish way, I managed to catch Katya Szewczuk from KidLit TV in the bathroom. Since she was sporting a pair of cat ears, I figured she might be game for a quick hello and then the barrage of “OMG! I am such a HUGE fan.”

W&G Princton

Detectives Wilcox and Griswold 

My dauntless detectives, Wilcox and Griswold, from The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, were on the job. They had taped off the crime scene area under the purple tent at table #4 and had taken a GAZILLION mug shots of potential suspects identified as avid readers.

The day flew by faster than I can say “Publishing Contract” 500 times, and aside from mug shots, I had few opportunities to take photos.


Matt Myklusch, Emily Christie Burack and Samantha Berger

But I was extremely fortunate to have been table “roomies” with the great Matt Myklusch and Samantha Berger. I only had a brief chance to catch up with the amazing Ame Dyckman, Audrey Vernick, Kate Samworth, Beth Ferry, Monica Wellington, Kristine Lombardi, Emily Christie Burack, and my old school friend, Nick Bruel.


Matt Myklusch, me, and Samantha Berger

The festivities ended with a wonderful picnic at the home of Joanne and Deanne, the booksellers for this incredible event.


Ame Dyckman


Audrey Vernick and Kate Samworth


Allyn Howard, Kristine Lombardi, and Monica Wellington 

On my way back to the garage, I paused one last time to take a look at the Princeton Public Library when I noticed a quote from Jorge Luis Borges. During my junior year abroad I spent an entire year (yes, you read correctly!) studying Borges. At the time I very much had a love-hate relationship with him for challenging me as a reader, writer, and student. He kept me up at 3:00 am with three different dictionaries (French-Spanish, Spanish-English, and French-English), and my notes reflected the madness of his textual labyrinths. Anyway, it seemed very fitting that the last words that I saw on my way out were his.


Thank you Allison Santos and the amazing team at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival. I am certain that you all must have super powers for putting this incredible event together. I cannot wait until next year’s festival.

p.s. Mr. Borges, I think you’re right. Paradise has to be a library. What else could it be?

Wilcox & Griswold on the Job at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival


At the donut shop on this crisp fall morning, I managed to catch up with the #2 detective on the MFI force.

RN: Detective Wilcox, can please you tell us what’s happening at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival this weekend?

DW: I can’t go into specifics about an ongoing investigation, but I can tell you this. A person of interest in a case about a missing carrot cake is apparently a HUGE fan of the Princeton Children’s Book Festival. We’ve heard from a reliable source that he or she may try to make an appearance at the festival.

RN: Will the Missing Food Investigators be ready if he or she does?

DW: Absolutely! Captain Griswold and I will be working our beat from the Purple Tent, Table #4. We’ll be fingerprinting and taking mug shots of potential suspects.

RN: What can visitors to the festival expect?

DW: Fun! The Princeton Children’s Book Festival is celebrating its Tenth Anniversary with over 100 of authors and illustrators participating in the festivities.

RN: When are the festivities scheduled?

DW: September 19, 2015, 11 am to 4 pm.

RN: Thanks for answering my questions. And I’ve got to ask, what’s your favorite kind of donut?

DW: Nothing’s better than a cheese donut with a cup of black coffee. (You know, just like the cops on TV.)

W&G Princton