Review: The Penguin of Ilha Grande by Shannon Earle

The Penguin of Ilha Grande cover image

When Seu Joao rescued an oil-slicked penguin on the beach by his home in Brazil, he never expected it to turn into a long-term relationship. He cleaned the penguin he named Dindim and nursed him back to health. But when Seu tried to release him back to the ocean, Dindim returned. Nothing could make him stay away from the little cottage next to the beach or the man who saved him.

Shannon Earle’s picture book, The Penguin of Ilha Grande: From Animal Rescue to Extraordinary Friendship, tells this true story of an unexpected encounter that turns into something more. Dindim eventually molted and swam away, but he came back months later and continued to do so for years.

It’s a sweet tale that includes information at the back of the book about the actual event, Magellanic Penguins in general, conservation efforts and more. The Penguin of Ilha is also beautifully illustrated by Renato Alarcao, whose subtle colors infuse Seu, Dindim, the beach, and the ocean with a gentle aura.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Whose Egg Is That? by Darrin Lunde

whose egg is that cover image

Every time I unexpectedly come upon an egg in a nest, I get a thrill thinking about the tiny life growing inside. Darrin Lunde’s picture book, Whose Egg Is That? captures that wonder while helping children learn about the way different creatures lay different colored and shaped eggs that help them survive until they hatch.

Parents can start building that sense of wonder even by reading the inside flap of the cover. “Eggs come in all shapes and sizes. They can tell you a lot about an animal. Look at the hints about each animal. Then look at the animal’s egg. Can you guess which animal laid each egg?”

Gorgeous illustrations by Kelsey Oseid show the delicate blue of robin’s egg, and the speckles on a killdeer’s egg that hides it among a group of pebbles. Children learn about fossilized dinosaur eggs and those of leatherback sea turtles.

At the end, a couple of pages of “Eggcellent Egg Facts” reveal tidbits like the fact that a hummingbird egg is smaller than a dime and that white terns don’t build nests. Instead they balance their eggs on a tree branch.

Whose Egg Is That? will provoke lots of parent-child discussions about all kinds of egg-laying creatures. Put this one on your bookshelf to read again and again.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: H Is For Haiku by Sydell Rosenberg

h is for haiku cover image

It’s not often I am contacted on behalf of an author who has passed away, but when Sydell Rosenberg’s daughter got in touch with me about this delightful book of haiku poems, H Is For Haiku, I knew I had to say yes to a review. Here’s what Amy Losak had to say about her mom and the book:

“Syd was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968. She wrote and published her work over a literary career spanning roughly three decades. I’m a member today.

H IS FOR HAIKU, a picture book, was published in 2018 by Penny Candy Books and was honored by the National Council for Teachers of English in 2019.”

Amy went on to say, “I think of my mother every time I take the time to notice the often overlooked “small moments” in our daily lives. That’s what haiku poetry is all about – it’s poetic “mindfulness.”

I agree, and I particularly like this sweet gem of a book that celebrates small moments in childhood, in nature, and in life in general. If you’re not familiar with haiku, its structure often follows a form of 17 syllables in a pattern of 5, 7, 5 syllables over three lines. The words usually do not rhyme.

I’ll share a couple of my favorites from H Is For Haiku:

Plunging downhill/petals falling in her hair/girl on a bike.

Even in the air/with a berry in its mouth/blue jay caw-cawing.

Illustrations by Sawsan Chalabi are bright and colorful, and there’s a lot of white space on each page, making the images stand out. Losak has written an introduction with information about her mother and the poetry form.

H Is For Haiku is one of those books to keep on the shelves for reading over and over, each time finding something new to appreciate in the words and the illustrations. I highly recommend it.

Make a Gnome Arts & Crafts Project

Today author Raven Howell is stopping by with instructions for a fun arts and crafts project that goes with her book, The 20 Little Poems for 20 Little Gnomes. Keep scrolling through the instructions to fina a visual step-by-step. Try this project when you want to add a little creativity to your day.

Arts and crafts – making fun gnomes for all ages, by Raven Howell

Somebody has the sniffles and is home from school for the day. It’s summer vacation and everyone is done playing outside. Your elementary school student needs a quick idea for an art project. It’s the holiday season and you’d like to make your own whimsical cards to send out. Perhaps you’re a librarian in need of a good activity to draw the middle schoolers for an after-school workshop. Whatever the circumstance, invite a gnome into your life and you’ll probably end up having fun!

Arts and crafts are good for everyone’s motor skills, but when you’re young, you can discover so much about yourself through a good artsy activity. I’m a big believer in art as a wonderful way to teach children that it’s okay to make seeming “mistakes” because there really aren’t any! At any age, if coloring, cutting, pasting, gluing, drawing, bending, or shaping construction paper gives you a sense of accomplishment, go for it.

Gnomes make fantastic arts and crafts projects because they are beloved by so many, and popular any time of year. Also, a gnome project is easy to assist a child with or do on your own without much fuss.

When my children’s picture poetry book, The 20 Little Poems for 20 Little Gnomes, was releasing I needed some type of activity to take along to elementary schools that I’d be visiting with my book presentations. Usually, I introduce myself to the classroom, I read, engage with the students, and we end up doing some type of hands-on activity together. I came up with a simple paper bag puppet craft. Here’s the scoop:

You’ll need:

Paper lunch bag (s)


Crayons or paints


Medium to thick stock colored paper or good construction paper

  1. Lay your paper bag on the table so that the flap is up. Cut curves at the bottom of your bag. No need for them to be even – you’re creating your gnome’s beard.
  2. Color the bottom of your paper bag white– or any gnome color you’d like for his beard.
  3. Cut out a colorful triangle just wider than the paper bag to create his hat.
  4. Cut out a round or oval gnome nose in a different color using your colored paper stock.
  5. Glue the hat and nose on your paper bag.
  6. Now you’re free to decorate your gnome any way you wish. I used magical stickers that I placed on his hat.
  7. When you’re finished, remember to gently place your hand inside the paper bag to lift him for your gnome puppet!

For gnome crafts, the top “hat” part of the gnome is easy – some type of loose triangular shape. It can be cut out, decorated, and detailed to one’s age level. The beards are the fun stuff! You may use a small white paper plate half and cut slits into it vertically to create white beard hairs or try a simple handprint using white finger paint. Double up the handprint, turn it upside down, and your finger prints will be the beard strands. Yarn for beard looks really good, but then be ready to spend a little more effort with gluing.

Several options for the gnome nose are pom-poms, buttons, oval shaped stock paper cut-outs, and seashells. With gnomes, it’s not even necessary to create eyes. You’re placing the nose between the bottom middle of its hat and the beard. You can glue on google-eyes, but I find eyeless, the gnome remains a little mysterious.

For older children, we created gnomes from pinecones. I brought in strips of red felt which we cut on a diagonal/triangular. These are easily shaped into the cone-like hats, and then we rolled white play dough into small balls that we squished on as noses. Hardly any adult help was needed, and we had a couple dozen gnomes within a half an hour.

Remember to use arts and crafts as self-expression when you need it, and I hope a good-fortuned gnome inspires your creativity in the coming year!

Book Review: The 20 Little Poems For 20 Little Gnomes by Raven Howell

Today I’m taking part in the Wow! Women on Writing blog tour for Raven Howell’s newest book of poetry for children. I’m featuring a review now, and on January 10 Howell will have a guest post with ideas for an arts and crafts project to make fun gnomes for all ages. Check back then to see what she has to say. My review is below, followed by more info on other stops on the blog tour if you want to check out more.

My review: Poems for children have the special ability to spark a love of poetry in little ones while also encouraging shared time reading with parents and other adults. Raven Howell’s book, The 20 Little Poems For 20 Little Gnomes is a great example of a picture book of small poems that will warm the hearts of both children and adults.

Illustrations by Nazli Tarcan enhance the approachability of the words that are sometimes whimsical, sometimes wistful, and always expressive of some emotion or experience. For instance, the poem titled “Sadness” reads, in part:

If you’ve caught
the sadness bug,
I’ll wipe your tear
and give a hug.
We’ll pluck a daisy for the vase,
coax out smile lines
on your face.

Other poems are odes to nature, the seasons, cats, and more. The 20 Little Poems For 20 Little Gnomes is a book you’ll want to curl up with in a favorite spot and read time and again. I recommend it for all the little gnomes in your life.

20 Little Poems cover image

Book Review: From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith

Today I’m taking part in a WOW! Women on Writing blog tour for Melanie Faith’s From Promising to Published. This book for aspiring and beginning writers is sure to provide a dose of inspiration along with its practical advice. Read on for my review and then more info about the author.

From Promising to Published cover image

Writers looking for inspiration about how to get their work into the hands of people who can publish it will find it in Melanie Faith’s guidebook, From Promising to Published: A Multi-Genre, Insider’s Guide to the Publication Process.

Faith’s straightforward writing style makes the book feel like you are getting advice from a trusted friend. The book is divided into four sections, making it easy to navigate ahead or go back for a quick review of something already covered. The sections include how to start out as a writer, how to find the right audience and market for your work, getting paid and celebrating your successes large and small, and thriving long-term as a writer.

Faith pulls from her myriad of experiences as a poet, photographer, prose writer, professor, editor, and tutor to give bits of information and encouragement for any kind of writing. Most chapters conclude with a helpful exercise so readers quickly can put the advice into practice.

From Promising to Published is an inspiring guide that writers will want to keep at hand as they continue to grow in their craft.

The author provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author

Melanie Faith photo
Melanie Faith

Melanie Faith is a night-owl writer and editor who moves through the daytime world with her camera. She’s an introvert who likes to wear many hats, too, including as a poet, photographer, professor, and tutor. She’s been a doodler for years but just recently started to share her perfectly imperfect doodles. She loves to write about historical settings in poetry and prose, and this fall she taught both a Leaping Worlds class for historical fiction and time-travel writers as well as a university class about publishing. She especially enjoys creating nonfiction craft books that assist fellow authors on their writing paths, including books packed with tips about writing flash fiction and poetry. Her latest published craft books are: Photography for Writers, guides for teaching online and writing a research book respectively, and From Promising to Published: A Multi-Genre, Insider’s Guide to the Publication Process (all from Vine Leaves Press). Read more about her books, classes, and arts projects at

Author Interview: Sara Bennett Wealer

sara bennett wealer photo

Sara Bennett Wealer’s Grave Things Like Love is set in a funeral home in an old mansion rumored to be haunted. But the issues it covers are very much part of living: friendship, taking risks, figuring out who you really are even when that goes against family expectations.

Here, the author answers questions about the book and what’s up next for her.

Are parts of “Grave Things Like Love” drawn from your own experiences?

Music plays a big role in the story, and that’s definitely a big part of my personal experience. Elaine plays piano for funerals and accompanies her friends in the school choir. As someone who grew up singing in church, school choirs and community musicals, I know the joy that can bring—and also the pressure! Elaine’s friends are getting ready to audition for the school musical and for college music programs, which brings back very specific memories for me.

The Midwestern, small-town setting is another aspect of life I know well. I grew up in a small college town in Kansas, so my childhood wasn’t as rural as Elaine’s, but my parents and much of my extended family are from just the kind of town that Elaine hails from. Dodson, Illinois, feels very familiar to me, and I hope it will to others who know a place like that.

What inspired you to add a supernatural element to your latest novels?

I enjoy stories that have a little “something something” extra in them—an element that isn’t full-blown paranormal or fantasy but that is still a little “out there” without being the sole focus of the story. When I sprinkle those elements into my own writing, I purposefully try not to explain too much about what is happening and why. That’s because I like the idea that the strange can be a part of everyday life. Sometimes things just are, even if we don’t understand them.

What do you want young readers to take away from “Grave Things Like Love”?

It’s very easy to think we have to have everything figured out by a certain point in our lives—especially when we have family traditions and expectations weighing in. That kind of stress is understandable and natural, but I want to show that there’s a bigger picture, and it’s OK to take a little time, explore the broader world, and not have it all set in stone according to someone else’s timeline.

While we’re talking about the big picture I think that applies to death as well. I wanted to show that, while it’s a huge mystery and something most people fear on some level, it’s also a part of everyday life. Elaine’s dad talks about “the juxtaposition of the Universe,” which he defines as joy in the face of pain. “Grave Things Like Love” has a decent amount of the comic and absurd, even as it takes place in a funeral home. I like that we can hold joy, pain and more within ourselves, all at the same time. To me, that’s a big part of what makes us human.

Why was it important to you to write a main character with anxiety? What do you hope your readers will learn from Elaine?

Anxiety (along with its often-BFF depression) has always been part of my life. I live with it, as do several members of my immediate family. And when I look into the past, I can clearly see older family members who experienced it at a time when society wasn’t as open or accepting about mental health issues, which led to a lot of pain and dysfunction that could possibly have been lessened with proper treatment.

I’m fortunate that my anxiety is something I can manage with strategies like exercise, mindfulness, proper nutrition, and medication from time to time. I know others for whom anxiety is a much more disruptive part of their lives. For all of us, though, it’s something we do have to live with, and that’s what I wanted to portray in this book. The way Elaine experiences and deals with anxiety is reflective of how I experience and deal with it, and that was something my editors liked—that anxiety is simply a part of her life and not the sole focus of her story.

What is next for you in your writing career?

I have a dream to write a puzzle box story inspired by my favorite sci-fi series, “Dark,” on Netflix. (I’m on a personal mission to get more people to experience this show! Watch it now! It is so so SOOO good!!!) I’m not sure I can pull it off—I’m working up my courage to get started. In the meantime, I’m dusting off some older projects, re-imagining them and, I hope, transforming them into something that will sell. These are stories that have stuck with me, and as my writing has evolved and improved, I’m finding that I’m able to take them to a level I might not have been able to back when I did those initial drafts. I’m also getting an itch to try short stories. All of this is a long way of saying I’m in the mood to experiment and evolve!

Book Review: Still Mine by Jayne Pillemer & Sheryl Murray

still mine cover image

Talking to young children about death when they lose someone they love—a family member, friend, or someone else—can seem impossible. Yet, children often need to talk to find comfort in tragic situations. A new picture book called Still Mine can help foster those conversations in an age-appropriate way.

Written by Jayne Pillemer and illustrated by Sheryl Murrary, Still Mine reassures young ones that even though they can no longer see or hug the person or pet who is gone, they can still love them.

The illustrations evoke comfort, with curving lines and soft edges and muted colors. The book is joyful at first, showing relationships between children and parents, grandparents, friends, and pets. Then it turns wistful with the lines:

still mine interior pages

Now you are gone and I can’t come along. I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

Then questioning:

What will I do if I don’t have you?

Who will make your special treat?

Who will nuzzle noses?

Finally, the book shows how memories can bring comfort, and knowing that the lost loved one will stay forever in the heart. It’s a sweet and gentle concept that may bring comfort to grief.

The author provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

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