Winners for the first two giveaways!

Congratulations to Jilanne Hoffmann, winner of Samantha Cleaver’s book RAISING AN ACTIVE READER.

Congratulations to Melissa Darrow, winner of Linda Elovitz Marshall’s book THE POLIO PIONEER.

Winners, please email me at ljrwritenow at and I’ll connect you with the authors!

Reminder to comment on the current book giveaways: ALONE by Megan E. Freeman, ANIMAL ADAPTATIONS by Laura Perdew, and DON’T HUG DOUG by Carrie Finison. Also, a critique giveaway from Evelyn Bookless, author of CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE TREE MACHINE.

Welcome Author Evelyn Bookless – Critique Giveaway

On today’s blog, I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Evelyn Bookless as we celebrate the release of her second picture book, CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE TREE MACHINE. If you missed her first book, CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE, go ahead and order both of them now from your favorite indie book store, while I eat some Book Birthday Cake.

What were you like at the age of your target audience?

Hi Laura, Thanks so much for having me on your blog. What a super question! I was a pretty placid child all around, well, at least I think so. Growing up with three siblings close in age, meant that we all just got on with it. We played and entertained ourselves and had a whale of a time doing so. We got up to all sorts of adventures in the trees at the back of our house. (I grew up in the country in the west of Ireland.) I also loved learning and used to pour over a non-fiction book I had about the environment. That book gave me my first awareness of pollution and endangered species and I was outraged, in my own innocent way. Here’s a photo of me with my mother and siblings. I am sitting in between my two older brothers.

What inspires you?

I get inspired by spending time with my son, who is seven. Little things that he says and does give me story ideas. Our two pet rabbits also inspire / entertain me with fun ideas. I have a chapter book series featuring them planned out – It’s Bagel and Cream Cheese: Bunny Detectives. No Case Too Small! Their antics do make us giggle but I’m not sure if I will ever flesh out those ideas, as I prefer to write picture books. I am also inspired by days out and travel which sadly were curtailed over the past year. I work part-time as a Special Education Teacher in a mainstream international school and I get lots of ideas from the children that I help.  I work with children aged from 5 to 11 so I have a good feel for the differing interests of children at various stages. I love that ideas come from anywhere and everywhere and I try to jot them down on my phone as soon as I can or they vanish.

And here is a photo of my son and I. He transforms into a super Captain Green when I need him to, and relishes in his role as my little book buddy.

What do you hope your readers take away from your books?

CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE GREEN MACHINE launched in the US on January 18th. I have had some lovely support from a number of tree conservation organizations. The Rainforest Trust, for example, have called the book, “A beautiful, informative way to educate the next generation about the importance of ending deforestation.” I hope that readers come away having enjoyed Captain Green’s superhero antics, and knowing some simple ways that they can help prevent deforestation. The back matter features some facts and top tips to keep trees standing.

What can we look forward to next?

I am working on a whole host of other stories, some of which I hope will be published one day. I like to write funny stories with heart. Any messages are usually found along the way in the writing process. I have some in person book signings and school visits lined up for the spring, when I hope it’s safe to do so again. 

Evelyn can be reached at: Twitter and Instagram @evelynbookless and Facebook @evelynbooklessauthor. Her website is

Evelyn is offering a picture book critique, with big picture and line level thoughts. Just leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.

Welcome Author Carrie Finison

Author Carrie Finison

I’m happy to welcome Carrie Finison to the blog today. Her second picture book DON’T HUG DOUG is releasing next Tuesday, January 26th so now is The Perfect Time to order it from your favorite local indie bookstore! Her first book, DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS which made everyone smile, and probably run out to a doughnut shop, was released in 2020. It’s sweeter than doughnuts and I recently read it via FaceTime to my favorite little one. Yes, you should order that one, too.

Carrie looking huggable as a child!

What were you like at the age of your target audience?
I write picture books so my target audience is anywhere from babies to age 6-7 or so. Some of my favorite memories from the upper end of that range are about the street we lived on at the time, which was full of kids. I was a little bit quiet and reserved (and still am) and didn’t like big crowds or really boisterous play, but I liked to play outside with my friends. We played a lot of pretend games. We had two hideouts in giant yew bushes in a park at the end of the street that we named after the way they smelled – one was the Peanut Butter hideout and one was the Dirty Diaper hideout. I remember having a lot of fun with mud in our yard, hauling it around in my green Tonka dump truck. I also vividly remember some of the books I liked to read at that age: One Morning in Maine, by Robert McCloskey, What Do People Do All Day, by Richard Scarry, The Three Robbers, by Tomi Ungerer, Noisy Nancy Norris, by Lou Ann Gaeddert, and Tell Me a Mitzi, by Lore Segal.

What inspires you?

I get a lot of inspiration from language – words and phrases put together in unusual ways, or repetition that delights me. And rhyme too. The title of my debut book – DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS – came to me just because of the fun of saying that phrase. And my second book – DON’T HUG DOUG – obviously rhymes. The character couldn’t have any name other than Doug! I’m always listening to the things people around me say (especially kids) and thinking about how I can work them into a story concept, or use them as snippets of text or dialogue.

What’s something you hope your readers take away from your book?

DON’T HUG DOUG is probably the most message-driven story I’ve written. It’s very clear from the start, even the title, what is the message. I hope that what readers will take from the book is that it’s OK to not feel comfortable with hugs, to express that to others, and have those wishes respected – or to respect them, if you are the one offering a hug. Since I wrote the book in the second person, it offers plenty of opportunity for the reader to take on the role of Doug and say out loud that they don’t want a hug, and also to practice asking others whether they do or don’t want a hug. Mostly, I hope it will spark some conversation between the adult and child reader about the topic.

Carrie has generously offered to give a copy of DON’T HUG DOUG to one lucky winner. Comment on this post to be entered to win!

What’s next for you?

DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS came out in July, 2020, and DON’T HUG DOUG comes out January 26,2021 so the last six months have been a very busy time of book promotion, and learning how to do all that in a pandemic. I’ll continue to support those books and I hope to ramp up my school visits in 2021, while also (I hope) getting back to a more regular writing schedule. Then in 2022 I have two more books scheduled for release – HURRY, LITTLE TORTOISE, which is about a little tortoise who continually gets passed by her classmates on the way to school, and LULU & ZOEY, a story about two very different sisters.

Check out other posts and launch events with Carrie and follow her on Twitter @CarrieFinison

Welcome Author Laura Perdew – Giveaway Alert

Please help me welcome Laura Perdew, author of several books for the education market, THE FORT released by Page Street Publishing, and an amazing STEM series PICTURE BOOK SCIENCE SERIES: ADAPTATIONS, published by Nomad Press. Laura is generously offering the entire series, yes all 5 books, for the giveaway! Laura is a local friend, active member of our SCBWI group, and pre-Covid, we met on a regular basis as part of a group of local authors, and we met weekly at our local library. Does anyone else miss going to the library?

What were you like at the age of your target audience?

When I was in elementary school, I loved school but I also loved being outdoors – in the woods, at the beach, by a stream (or in it!). I remember riding my bike all the time and building elaborate forts in the snow. I loved animals, too, and had posters of horses, baby seals, and racoons on my wall. And, not surprisingly, I also loved reading and writing. I wrote my first story when I was seven called, Paddington in the Strawberry Patch, based off my Paddington Bear that fit in my hand and the strawberry patch in front of our house. I still have the Paddington Bear and the story (but not the strawberry patch).


Laura at age 5

What inspires you?

Nature! The natural world is full of so many amazing, complex, beautiful things. Sometimes that inspiration comes from being outside (hikes to high mountain lakes in the summer are the BEST), and other times it comes from learning about something new and surprising in nature (the things that make me go WHOA!)

What’s the one thing you hope your readers take away from your books?

I hope readers will have that same WHOA! response that I have and be inspired to learn more about animals and nature. Because, in the words of Jane Goodall, “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall all be saved.”

Laura is offering the Adaptations Series below as a giveaway. Please comment on the blogpost for a chance to win.

  • Spit Nests, Puke Power, and Other Brilliant Bird Adaptations
  • Water-Walking, Sidewinding, and Other Remarkable Reptile Adaptations
  • Antifreeze, Leaf Costumes, and Other Fabulous Fish Adaptations
  • Stink Fights, Earwax, and Other Marvelous Mammal Adaptations
  • Sunscreen, Frogsicles, and Other Amazing Amphibian Adaptations

What can we look forward to next?

I have another picture book science series coming out in March about space (Nomad Press): 

  • The Earth: One-of-a-Kind Planet 
  • The Moon: Small-but-Mighty Neighbor 
  • The Sun: Shining Star of the Solar System 
  • The Stars: A Gazillion Suns 

In addition, there’s a not-yet-public picture book in the pipeline with a potential publication in 2022. I have other picture book manuscripts I’m working on, too, both fiction and nonfiction, in various stages of the writing process. 

Laura can be reached at:

Twitter – @lmperdew  Facebook

Instagram – authorlaurap Website

Welcome Megan E. Freeman – Giveaway Alert

I’m thrilled to welcome Megan E. Freeman to the blog today to celebrate the release of her debut middle grade novel, ALONE, beautifully written in verse. I’ve read excerpts and am eager to read the rest of the book. Megan is a member of my local Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) group. I’ve already preordered two copies which I hope to get signed when we can safely meet again in person. Megan has generously offered to giveaway a signed copy of ALONE, US only. Don’t forget to comment on the blogpost to be entered to win.

Megan E. Freeman
Megan at the age of her future readers.
If you ask me, she looks exactly the same except for the bangs.

What were you like at the age of your target audience?

I don’t know for sure, but I remember being a pretty serious kid. Or maybe I just wanted to be taken seriously. My dad was a college professor and I grew up in Los Angeles. On long drives across town, he and I would have what we called “intellectual discussions,” and we would talk about everything from politics to religion to history to pop culture. He always made it clear that he was interested in my thoughts and ideas, no matter how old I was. I was also lucky to have wonderful teachers who taught me to love writing stories and poems, and I grew up surrounded by books. I don’t remember learning how to read, but I know I’ve always loved it. I used to transpose characters from the books I was reading into the places where I was. We’d be driving down the street and I’d picture Laura Ingalls or Jo March standing on the street corner, and I’d imagine pulling up in our car to offer them a ride and how shocked they would be by all the modern changes and technology. I infused my present reality with the fictional realities of the books I read.

What inspires you?

Beautiful language takes my breath away, and if it’s employed in the telling of a good story, I’m pretty much a goner. Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet and theologian who has a short podcast called Poetry Unbound where he reads and talks about different poems he loves. The episodes are only about ten minutes long, but they are sublime and I always feel inspired afterward. I also love watching live dance and live music performances. There is something about the creative collaboration between human beings that touches a deep, primal place in my heart. I am very fond of our species and its limitless ability to create beauty and meaning and connection. I’ve really missed live performances during COVID. But I’m also deeply inspired by the natural world, and I love the opportunity to go for a walk or sit and watch the sun rise or set. I love watching the birds at the feeders outside my office window. It’s a kind of meditation.

What’s the one thing you hope your readers take away from your book?

The question “What if?” is always at the beginning of every story idea that tickles my fancy. It was asking that question that led me to explore all the different ideas that became ALONE. I don’t have any specific message or lesson for readers to take away. It would be wonderful if the book inspires young readers to explore their own “What ifs.” Humans need creativity to thrive and reading keeps imaginations fertile. I also hope reading ALONE will make readers hungry to read more books.

What’s next for you?

I have some things in the pipeline right now, and I’m finishing revisions on a work-in-progress that I’m hoping to send to my agent soon. I’m having a great time connecting with readers and working on all the launch events for ALONE, but I’m also eager to get back to my current characters and story. I love spending time in their world so it’s really fun to write. 

Megan can be reached at:

Facebook:  @meganefreemanwrites Twitter:  @meganefreeman

Instagram:  @megan_e_freeman_writer

Welcome Linda Elovitz Marshall – Book Giveaway Alert!

Today I am thrilled to share an interview with author, Linda Elovitz Marshall. She has generously offered to give one lucky winner a copy of her book, THE POLIO PIONEER DR. JONAS SALK AND THE POLIO VACCINE. Leave a comment on the blog for a chance to win this book (US addresses only.) In a year when everyone’s mind is on vaccines, I couldn’t be more excited to read this book.

What were you like at the age of your target audience?

I was a spunky, sassy kid. I loved books and stories. When I was in third grade, my parents got me an encyclopedia for children. They also got me a typewriter. I decided to read the entire encyclopedia. Every night, I would find something else to write a “report” about. Every morning, I would bring my report into school. Fortunately, I had a teacher who encouraged me.

Wow! You would have been my favorite student. I love this idea.

What inspires you? 

Anything and everything inspires me. I try to find something new and exciting each day…and add it to my “idea” file. There’s so much to learn about!

What’s the one thing you hope your readers take away from your books?

I like to stress hope and possibility – the possibility of helping to make the world a better place, of doing something useful, and that we all have talents. There are so many types of talents and abilities. I think it’s important to see that sometimes, what seems like a screw-up is, when looked at from a different perspective, actually a talent.

What can we look forward to next?

I have three more books currently in the publishing pipeline. They’ve not yet been publicly announced, so I’ll just mention that two are picture book biographies and the third is a very sweet story told in verse. I’m working on several other projects, including a MG novel. Although I’ve been social distancing and keeping much to myself during the pandemic, I’ve found plenty to write about and I’ve made lots of new writing buddies.

Linda can be reached at:

Twitter @L_E_Marshall Instagram @LindaEMarshall Facebook: Author Page: LindaMarshallBooks

She’s a judge at and a member of SCBWI, the Authors Guild, and PEN.

Other books released in 2020 by Linda Elovitz Marshall

Don’t forget to comment on this post and let me know what social media you share it on for your chance to win THE POLIO PIONEER.

Welcome Samantha Cleaver – Giveaway Alert!

I’m excited to welcome Samantha Cleaver to kick off my new twice-weekly blogposts devoted to writing for and reading with children. Samantha and I taught together in Chicago about ten years ago. Since that time, she moved to North Carolina, began raising her own little readers and earned her PhD. She is the author of two books about Active Reading, Read with Me and Raising an Active Reader. READ WITH ME explains how to do Active Reading with children age 2-5.

RAISING AN ACTIVE READER explores how to continue (or start) Active Reading with children in grades K-3.

Samantha has generously agreed to send RAISING AN ACTIVE READER to one lucky winner! (US only)

To enter: comment on this blogpost, share this post by reblogging, sharing on Twitter, and Facebook and be sure to let me know where you’ve shared it for more chances to win.

Enter the Giveaway below

What is Active Reading? 

Active Reading is a way to read with, rather than to children. The goal of Active Reading is to create a conversation about books, and it supports kids’ reading development by supporting language, vocabulary, and background knowledge. The ABCs of Active Reading are: Ask questions, Build vocabulary, and Connect to the child’s world. More information:

How did your books come to be? 

While I was studying to earn my PhD in special education with a focus on reading, I worked with a local nonprofit, Read Charlotte ( Part of our work was figuring out what were the most impactful strategies that parents could use with kids to prepare kids to be strong readers by 3rd grade. We (my co-author Munro Richardson, and I) discovered dialogic reading and the decades of research that supports it and were excited! Then, we recast dialogic reading into the ABCs of Active Reading (Ask questions, Build vocabulary, and Connect to the child’s world), and combined the ABCs with some additional strategies that are also good to do while reading aloud to encourage parents to read with instead of to their kids. During this time, I was also raising my own family, so my older children (now ages 6 and 5) were my own guinea pigs for all the Active Reading strategies that I was learning about. I can say, as a parent, that Active Reading has helped my kids learn to read, and love books, and I’m so excited that these books share this way of reading aloud with kids with more families. 

As I wrote these books, I thought back to my own experience growing up in a house where books were a daily part of our life. There are many stories of me sitting with my mom, reading through stacks of picture books as a toddler and preschooler. I distinctly remember listening to my mom reading novels to me as an elementary schooler. When she read The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkein to me and my sister, the voice she used for Gollum was so scary I still can’t watch the movies without covering my eyes when he’s on the screen. 

Now, my children are the age that I discuss in the books (ages 6, 5, 2 and 2 months) and Active Reading is one of the favorite parts of our day. My kids share the love of reading that I had when I was their ages, though in different ways. My oldest will read anything that she can get her hands on. My 5-year-old loves to read stories and then immediately act them out. And, my 2-year-old will only sit for books about his favorite thing—vehicles. We’ll see what my youngest likes best about books. 

 What inspires you? 

This year I’ve been inspired to learn more about my multicultural family’s traditions and experiences. My kids are Ghanaian-American, so I’ve learned more about the Ghanaian and west African traditions, including foods (yum!) that we are passing down to them. 

What’s the one thing you hope your readers take away from your books? 

I hope that readers feel more confident in their read aloud sessions with their children after reading my books. And, I hope that readers gain an understanding of the importance of books and reading aloud in children’s lives, and that that inspires them to make it a priority for their communities.

 What’s next for you?

In 2021, I’m focusing on writing for children and hopefully you’ll be able to use the ABCs of Active Reading with my picture book soon! 

You can find Samantha on Twitter: @Cleaver5S and her website

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