Something’s Fishy – A Valentiny Tale

Image xourtesy of Wikimedia By Elma from Reykjavík - Gullfiskur, CC BY 2.0,

Image courtesy of Wikimedia
By Elma from Reykjavík – Gullfiskur, CC BY 2.0,

“It’s February 14th Trawler!”

Lucy planted a sticky, lip-balmy kiss on the outside of his bowl.

Ugh! Would he have a blurry view all day?

“Let’s give this a polish.”

Once his bowl sparkled, Trawler flicked his thanks in a quick, slick circle.

“I’ve got a special breakfast for you!” Lucy chirped.

What? Not his favorite ocean flakes? Ugh!

She sprinkled tiny red hearts on the water. Trawler sulked, but he hadn’t eaten since yesterday. He nibbled. Yum! Swooping in happy loops, he gobbled heart after heart.

“Yay! You like them!” Lucy smiled. Suddenly she plunged her soft pink hand into the bowl.

Ack! What was going on? Was he going to the vet again? Was it fin rot? Scale scum?

“It’s a new Java Fern! Isn’t it nice?”

Trawler fluttered his fin against the delicate greenery. What was going on? Why the extra attention?

“One last surprise for my special guy,” said Lucy.

A last surprise? Uh oh, thought Trawler. Maybe he had fin rot, scale scum AND gummy gills. But he didn’t feel sick.


“Meet Goldie! She’s your new bowl mate!”

Trawler’s eyes popped and his jaw dropped. Bloop! A bubble escaped his gaping mouth.

Goldie blinked. Bloop!

“Have a Fintastic Valentine’s Day!” said Lucy.

* * * * * * *

Yes, dear Readers, it’s time once again for Susanna Hill’s super sweet Valentiny Story Contest! Valen-tiny because the stories are not very long and are written for little people. You can savor these treats long after all the bon-bons have been consumed and the flowers have faded, because love has no season! Shovelling snow, however, does have a season – winter. And since we have had lots of snow and lots of shoveling, I was gifted with extra time to dream up a funny, finny tale for this year’s celebration!

If you haven’t written your entry yet, here are THE RULES: Write a Valentine story appropriate for children ages 12 and under with a maximum of 214 words in which someone is confused!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone confused. (It can be the main character but doesn’t have to be.) You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.) Something’s Fishy scoots under the wire at 210 words. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Mrs. Beasley, meet Woody: A Toy Tale

beasleyThis is Mrs. Beasley. She was featured in a 1970’s era TV show called Family Affair. I had my own Mrs. Beasley doll, and my favorite thing about her was that her plastic spectacles were removable. They were the perfect accessory for playing school, or putting on the cat. Needless to say, those flimsy frames broke often. My mother discovered that she could write to Mattel and, for a meager sum, purchase replacement glasses. I estimate she spent twice the doll’s price in new specs before I lost interest or got my own real glasses, whichever came first.


2016-december-b-011This is Woody, the cowboy from Pixar’s Toy Story. He’s been one of my son’s favorite characters for a long time, but he was never perfectly content with this toy. You see, the jaunty hat is really just a fabric brim sewn onto Woody’s cloth head. It simply cannot, will not come off, no matter how much you tug, pull and plead. Perhaps because of my Mrs. Beasley fixation, I felt I had to do something to address this problem.



2016-blog-xmas-003This is Woody 2. His jaunty plastic hat is removable. It fits perfectly on your big toe, or on the guinea pig. His hat, in fact, is the perfect size to disappear into the average American toilet and completely plug the plumbing. You might try removing said hat with a plunger, or a wiry toilet snake. Possibly with a ginormous wet/dry vacuum. You may find it necessary to tear out the entire toilet, then jostle and shake the slippery ceramic behemoth until the hat falls out. This may cost significantly more than the cumulative amount spent on the toy, Mrs. Beasley and all her replacement glasses.


2016-blog-xmas-006This is a DIY plastic ornament bubble from the craft store. It is the perfect size to hold one well-bleached, scrubbed and sanitized jaunty plastic cowboy hat. This makes a wonderful keepsake commemorative ornament for the tree, marked Christmas 2016.






This is Stinky Pete, a character from Toy Story 2. He is the toy my son wants for his birthday. Pete’s hat looks much bigger than Woody’s, probably too large to clog a toilet, sink or tub. That cannon, though, may have to be confiscated. Oh wait, Stinky Pete is for sale only on eBay, for $199.95! I guess we will never have the opportunity to find out just how large that hat or the cannon really is.

Hope all your holiday adventures were happy ones!

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A Thanksgiving Reprise for Hand Turkeys

As many of us begin preparations for the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m offering a look back at one of my favorite poetry picture books, Deborah Ruddell’s brilliant A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk.  Visit my original #PPBF post with resources by clicking this link.


I find it most insulting
that you traced around your hand
and colored all my feathers
either plain old brown or tan.

Where’s the copper? Where’s the gold
that a turkey should expect?
Where on earth is raw sienna,
and where is the respect?


Finally, I’m baffledpineskunk
that you’ve made me look so dumb.
My head is quite distinguished
and it’s nothing like your thumb.

Used by permission of the author, Deborah Ruddell, 2009.

Wishing those who celebrate a pumpkin pie-perfect kind of day gathered with family and friends to express gratitude for health, happiness, and one another.

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Crafty is one word with many meanings, yet I can always apply it somehow to the wonderful books written by Maria Gianferrari. Penny, the young heroine starring in Maria’s Penny & Jelly series, is very crafty in the artistic sense. She manipulates yarn, clay, paper, paint, tape, even shaving cream to find her talent or create an imitation Jelly dog. The determined mother in Coyote Moon is a crafty hunter, scouring her suburban neighborhood for a meal to give her hungry pups.

In Maria’s newest book, Officer Katz and Houndini, we meet not one but two crafty characters. Houndini is an illusionary performer extraordinaire, escaping from handcuffs, stockades, ropes and boxes with ease. The crowd ooh’s and aah’s as he tips his stovepipe hat and bows modestly. But he’s a prankster as well, annually defacing the official portrait of the town’s feline founder with a large swooping Houndini-like mustache. The cocky dog’s disrespect bugs crafty Officer Katz to no end, inspiring him to invent elaborate contraptions to catch Houndini once and for all.

Q: Officer Katz is a careful, methodical inventor. He’s drawn fancy blueprints before building each of his clever contraptions. When it comes to writing picture books, are you are plotter that carefully outlines how your story will begin and end, or a pantser that goes with the flow of the story?

I’m not really either—I’m somewhat in the middle. Because of the research involved, I tend to do more plotting and outlining with my nonfiction picture books, mostly because there are cool animal facts that I try to weave into the narrative.

For fiction, I don’t usually outline to get started with a draft, though I may have a vague ending in mind—some kind of general arc. Other times I have a clearer idea of the ending, and work out the best way to get there though the drafting process. I often have to let things marinate quite a bit, thinking both consciously (and subconsciously) before I dive in. So it’s a bit of both I guess.

Q: Houndini has practiced and polished his elusionary arts to perfection, dazzling the audience with his incredible feats. What writerly arts do you practice regularly that hone your skills to produce picture book perfection?

The magical arts of reading and revising. I read and re-read tons of picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, all kinds of genres, studying them for voice, use of white space, emotional arcs, especially the ones that make me cry.

And of course revision—re-envisioning the story so that all of these elements come together. Luckily I have wonderful critique partners to help me with this.

Q: Maria, there’s no question that you have “crafty” talent with words and picture books. Are you also “crafty” with artful activities that inspire your work? (aka sewing, sculpting, welding, leather tooling :D) 

Not really, though I am a crazy plant lady and have a “green thumb.” I don’t have a much of a garden, but I have a lot of potted flowers on our deck. Here are two of my favorites.

catplanter feeder-flowers








And here’s a photo of an avocado plant that I grew from seed. It’s about a year old.


From the publisher’s website:  Officer Katz is looking forward to a nice retirement until his arch-nemesis, Houndini, reappears one final time to challenge Katz to a showdown. If Katz manages to catch Houndini after three tries, Houndini will stay out of Kitty City forever. But if Houndini manages to escape, the town will be renamed…Houndiniville. And Katz isn’t about to let his town go to the dogs.

For our final act, we’re pleased to offer one dazzling, crafty copy of Officer Katz and Houndini.  No need to be blindfolded or come up on stage. Just leave a comment – maybe tell us what magic act you’d like to perform? – to be entered in the drawing. (Sorry – U.S. residents only) In  2 weeks you’ll learn whether this was your lucky day!

Maria Gianferrari Courtesy Monogram Arts

Maria Gianferrari
Courtesy Monogram Arts

Hot diggety dog! Maria Gianferrari’s a lucky dog—she gets to write stories about cats and dogs, and when she’s dog-tired, she can catnap in her office. Maria lives in northern Virginia with her cat’s meow of a family: her scientist husband, artist daughter, and top dog, Becca. She is the author of the Penny & Jelly books as well as Coyote Moon and the forthcoming Hello Goodbye Dog. To learn more about Maria, please visit her website at, Facebook or Instagram.


Monday, Oct. 17th: Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) 3 GIVEAWAYS: a query pass from Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary; picture book critique from me, and a copy of Officer Katz & Houndini!!

Tuesday, Oct. 18th:                 Librarian’s Quest

Wednesday, Oct. 19th:           Bildebok

Thursday, Oct. 20th:               Mamabelly’s Lunches with Love

Friday, Oct. 21st:                     Pragmaticmom +  book giveaway

Monday, Oct. 24th:                 Homemade City

Tuesday, Oct. 25th:                 ReFoReMo THINK QUICK  with Carrie Charley Brown

Update:  Congratulations ROSI HOLLINBECK!
You are the lucky winner of the Officer Katz and Houndini giveaway.
We will contact you for information on where to send your book!

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Title Trends: SHOUTING

Friction. Tension. Our adult world is rife with stress and conflict lately, and I’ve noticed it has somehow trickled into new picture book releases as well. I’m neither praising nor condemning the trend, just commenting.

I live in a neighborhood filled with kids.  In fact, there’s a daycare center right next door. While that provides marvelous fodder for picture book inspiration, it’s also a window into the reality that little ones do shout, yell, argue and get passionately LOUD on a regular basis.

Here are some of the recent titles that have caught my eye:

Leave Me Alone! as reviewed by Julie Rowan Zoch








Let Me Finish! as reviewed by Danielle Davis








Horrible Bear! as reviewed by Dylan Teut










Have any other picture book titles caught your attention that could be included in this category? Other interesting title trends that you’ve noticed?

Happy Friday, happy reading.

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Finding the Right Notes: WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING


Written by Arthur A. Levine
Illustrated by Katie Kath
Running Press Kids • Ages 4 to 8
$16.95 US • $21.99 CAN

Noah’s Grandpa is an energetic, operatic powerhouse of fun. He starts singing at sunrise with a booming tune to greet the day. He sings while he and Noah walk the dog, calling up songs for all weather and all occasions. There is a song for making (or burning) cinnamon French toast, and a song for tuna salad without celery. No wonder Noah adores spending time with his buoyant, upbeat Grandpa who always finds joy in the song of life.

But when Grandpa’s memories begin to fade, Noah is hurt and unsure how to respond. Grandma, ever patient and supportive, steps in to help Noah understand the nuances of his changing relationship with Grandpa. No surprise, a few simple notes provide a pathway for Noah and Grandpa to reconnect once again on the sunny side of life.

WABM 2016 006

If young readers do not know all the tunes referenced in Levine’s story, take this opportunity to introduce them to classics like “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma! (as sung by the delightful Nathaniel Hackmannor “Suppertime” from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.


Katie Kath’s lightly layered illustrations play a beautiful lilting melody with delicate watercolors that highlight the joy and energy Grandpa and Noah share in good times.  Washing color from portions of the images subtly reinforces the fading of Grandpa’s memories in a visual language that even the youngest readers will grasp. Check out the activity page on Kath’s website for three terrific craft ideas to accompany the story.

To learn more about WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING, visit the stops on its virtual tour featuring these fine blogs:

8/2 Flowering Minds

8/3 MomReadIt

8/4 Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books

8/5 Stacking Books

8/6 #Kidlit Book of the Day

8/8 Enjoy Embrace Learning

8/9 Unleashing Readers

8/10 Two Writing Teachers

8/12 Geo Librarian

8/13 Randomly Reading

From the publisher: WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING is the touching story of a young boy who learns to accept his grandfather’s gradual memory loss and enjoy the fun, beautiful moments they still have together. Inspired by his relationship with his father, acclaimed publisher and editor Arthur A. Levine tackles the challenging subject of a deteriorating loved one with sensitivity, tender prose, and a powerful, uplifting message. Paired with Katie Kath’s vivid watercolor illustrations that carefully express each emotional detail, this book is a reassuring ode to how love can help us find even what we think is lost.

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A Stellar Selection! Penny and Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars

9780544280052_lresPenny & Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars
HMH Books for Young Readers, June 2016

Written by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Thrya Heder

In this young and funny picture book companion to Penny & Jelly: The School Show, Penny is invited to go to a slumber-under-the-stars sleepover—but with no pets allowed, how can Penny enjoy the night? Readers of Pinkalicious and Ladybug Girl will swoon over best friends Penny & Jelly.

Maria graciously agreed to answer a few questions for Bildebok readers about what inspires her work and what tickles her funny bone. Read on for her terrific answers!

  • Where are you most likely to be inspired for a book idea?

Nature, especially if it’s a work of nonfiction. I often get ideas while walking my dog, Becca. The other perfect place for ideas is in the shower.

  •  If you could be any character in a children’s book, who would you be?

twig 2That’s a tough one, but I’ll go with the first one that popped in my head. One of my favorite picture books as a kid was Miss Twiggley’s Tree by Dorothea Warren Fox. I still have my childhood copy. Miss Twiggley lived in a treehouse, with her dog, Puss, and two bears. She’s quirky and a bit of a recluse. It was my introvert dream come true.

If Maria’s answer intrigues you as it did me, you can find out more about this title in a fun review from Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves by blogger Burgin Streetman. Here’s a little excerpt of the text:

Funny Miss Twiggley
Lived in a tree
With a dog named Puss
And a color TV.
She did what she liked, and she liked what she did,
But when company came
Miss Twiggley hid.

  •  Do you have any favorite jokes about stars or dogs?

 I have two!

Q: Did you hear about the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac?

A: He stayed up all night wondering if there was a dog.

Q: Why didn’t the dog star laugh at the joke?

A: It was too Sirius. (Ha-ha!)

The Mercator Globes at Harvard Map Collection. 1551

The Mercator Globes at Harvard Map Collection. 1551

I have to admit I am a little rusty on my astronomy, so here’s a fun link to Rita’s Dog Blog for those who want to brush up on Sirius and canine constellation maps.

Thank you Maria for visiting and getting us excited about the next chapter in the Penny & Jelly series! 

Author photo courtesy of Monogram Arts Photo

Author photo courtesy of Monogram Arts Photo

Maria Gianferrari hasn’t slumbered under the stars recently, but she has two favorite stars: the dog star, Sirius, like Penny and Jelly, and Betelgeuse – because it’s so fun to say! Maria stargazes from her backyard in Virginia with her husband, Niko, an amateur astrophotographer, her artist-daughter, Anya, and the dog star of her household, Becca. Visit her website, and follow Penny & Jelly at

Also available: my interview with Maria from her debut launch in July, 2015. 

Follow the P&J blog tour:2015 July 023
June 9th  Pragmatic Mom
June 10th  Mamabelly’s Lunches with Love
June 13th  Little Crooked Cottage + Homemade City
June 14th  Kid Lit Frenzy
June 15th  Miss Marple’s Musings
June 16th  Bildebok
June 17th  Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

***NEWSFLASH***Special Giveaway***
To win your very own copy of Penny & Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars, please leave a comment below and I will enter you in the drawing! If you’ve already commented – your name is in the drawing!

Congrats Teresa Robeson! A copy of
Penny & Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars

will be winging its way to you soon!

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