Once Upon a Story
March 30, 2016

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley_cover (2)Twenty Yawns

by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Published by: Two Lions

Release date: April 2016

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

As her mom reads a bedtime story, Lucy drifts off. But later, she awakens in a dark, still room, and everything looks mysterious. How will she ever get back to sleep?

About The Author:Jane Smiley photo

Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, as well as five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults. In 2001 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2006 she received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. This is her first picture book. She lives in Northern California.

laurencastillo_headshot (2)About the Illustrator:

Lauren Castillo is the illustrator of many books, including The Reader by Amy Hest. She has also written and illustrated several books, including Caldecott Honor book Nana in the City and The Troublemaker. She lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. To learn more, visit www.laurencastillo.com.
Twitter: @studiocastillo.

My thoughts:

In our house, any book can be a bedtime book. Sometimes that means pulling out (or faking) that extra ounce of energy at bedtime to read that wild and silly book just one. more. time.
But then there are other days when the kiddo picks a book that’s just perfect for quieting down, settling in, and getting sleepy. TWENTY YAWNS is that kind of book.
The story opens with a day at a beach, and immediately we’re diving headfirst into happy memories, both Lucy’s and ours. Swinging in the waves with dad, walks along the water, rolling down the dunes. Then, as the sun sets and Lucy and her parents leave the water behind, the yawns begin. First mom, then Lucy, then Dad. The sun sets lower (Lauren Castillo’s spread of the sunset is ah-mazing), and the yawns continue. Into bed, story read…but then suddenly, shadows are creeping across the floor and poor Lucy, sleepy just moments before, is wide awake.
In a movement as effortless as a yawn itself, author Jane Smiley moves the reader from happy and content to nervous and cautious. Lucy knows exactly what she needs, but to get it she has to cross a darkened house, a house in which she’s the only one awake. Do you remember that feeling as a kid? How strange it seems, as if the whole world is asleep? How you tiptoe carefully, but as quickly as possible? The feeling is spot-on here. And when her mission is accomplished, and Lucy crawls back in to bed, there’s more yawns as we slip back into a mode of sleepy calm.
There’s so much to love here. The language and illustrations evoke such wonderful emotions, and the (you guessed it!) twenty yawns interspersed throughout create not only a feeling of sleepiness, but a fun little-hide-and-seek for the reader. Not every yawn is obvious!
This has already become a regular in our bedtime rotation.
Follow the tour!
Check out the activity kit!
Watch the book trailer!


One lucky winner will receive an adorable door hanger (one side for quiet time, one side for play) along with a copy of TWENTY YAWNS. (U.S. only. Giveaway closes at midnight on April 6th)


March 4, 2016

Good Morning Yoga-UPDATED cover hi-resGood Morning Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wake Up Story

by Mariam Gates, illustrated by Sarah Jane Hinder

Published by: Sounds True

Release date: March 2016

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 36

From the publisher:

This “wake up” story is so much more than a story. It’s a practice for kids and parents to greet the morning with joy and embark on their daily adventures with intention and confidence. Turn the page and reach up to the sky, press your feet into the earth, and get ready for a great day!

About The Author:Mariam Gates

Mariam Gates holds a master’s in education from Harvard University and has more than twenty years’ experience working with children. Her renowned Kid Power Yoga program combines her love of yoga with teaching to help children access their inner gifts. She is the author of Good Night Yoga (Sounds True, April 2015), and lives in Santa Cruz, CA, with her husband, yoga teacher Rolf Gates, and their two children. For more information, visit mariamgates.com.
Twitter:  @gatesmariam
Instagram: mariam.gates


My thoughts:
We are a yoga family. I started taking a class a year ago, and love it. My almost-7yo asked to learn some of the positions. And my preschooler’s teachers use it to center the kids throughout the day. So Good Morning Yoga is the perfect addition to our family library. The text is both lyrical and directional, each page guiding the child through a new pose and breathing technique. A summary of poses is included in the final pages, as well as directions for visualization. And y’all…these illustrations could not be any cuter. Bright colors, diverse, smiling faces. You can’t help but smile.
I invited Mariam to write a guest post here on the blog. Make sure you keep scrolling after her post for a giveaway!  And if all that’s not enough, you can watch the book trailer, listen to Miriam read from the book, and download this fun storytime kit.
But first, here’s author Miriam Gates with…

5 Ways Yoga is Like Reading


My favorite pastimes have always been yoga and reading. Check out how these two popular pursuits have more in common than you’d think.


  1. Shhhh…. Both yoga and reading are done quietly. What is happening inside is what matters most. And with each activity, the quieter you are, the easier it is to do.


  1. Develop those muscles! Yoga and reading are different kind of exercises, but both are strengthening and lead to a healthier you. Yoga is an obvious physical workout; creating increased flexibility and a stronger body. Reading develops those mental muscles and just like any other part of the body, it requires regular activity to keep it working at its best.


  1. Relaxation in Action: Everyone knows that yoga is a great way to slow down and de-stress. The wonderful thing about reading is that no matter what else is happening in your daily life, losing yourself in a great story is a wonderful way to find some inner tranquility and often much needed perspective.


  1. Imagination Central: Where else can you feel what it is like in your body to fly, or move like a snake in the grass? Where else can you imagine you are weightless in space or as large as a giant? Yoga poses, like reading, allow you to take your imagination on an incredible ride.


  1. Fun To Do Together! Doing yoga with your kids is a great way to spend time with each other and explore something new while learning to feel calm and awake mentally and physically. Reading together, it goes without saying, is one of the most wonderful activities you can do with your children because there too, you get to experience new worlds side by side.


One lucky winner will receive both books by Mariam Gates–GOOD MORNING YOGA and GOOD NIGHT YOGA, along with a full-color poster! (U.S. only. Giveaway closes at midnight on March 12th)


August 28, 2015

25122006That’s (Not) Mine by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Published by: Two Lions

Release date: September 2015

Ages: 2-7

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

Two fuzzy creatures both want to sit in the same comfy chair. The trouble is, they can’t agree who it belongs to. They get madder and madder, until…

With expressive illustrations and simple text, this giggle-inducing tale about (not) sharing and (not) being a good friend features the endearing characters from Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small.


About the Author and Illustrator:

Husband-and-wife team Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of You Are (Not) Small, which won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award and was named a Notable Children’s Book by the American Library Association. They live in New Jersey with their two daughters, Kate and Lily, a guinea pig named Athena, and a hermit crab named Anna Kang Headshot 8-16-15 _credit Christopher WeyantOlaf.
Anna, a native New Yorker, grew up believing everything was hers until one day she realized it was her brother’s, too. She received a master’s degree in fine arts from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where the visual storyteller in her was awakened, forever changing the way she saw art, life, and everything in between. In addition to writing, Anna loves to read, travel, laugh, eat, and nap. Visit her online at www.annakang.com or on Twitter @annakang27
Christopher Weyant Headshot _credit Anna Kang
Christopher is a cartoonist and illustrator. His work can regularly be seen in the New Yorker. His cartoons are syndicated worldwide and have been featured on the Today Show, Meet the Press, and World News Tonight. Christopher likes to share everything but his personal space on the subway. Visit him online at www.christopherweyant.com or on Twitter @chrisweyant05
My thoughts:

Last year, I shared with you Chris and Anna’s first book, You Are (Not) Small. From the first reading, this book was wildly popular at our house. In fact, a year later, it’s still sitting in our rotating book basket in the living room, and still gets read frequently. And we’re not the only ones who loved it.  Earlier this year, the book was awarded the 2015 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, an American Library Association award given annually to a book for beginning readers.

So when That’s (Not) Mine, the newest collaboration by this husband and wife team, arrived on our doorstep, there were many grabby hands. The six-year-old, who has read the first book so many times she practically has it memorized, the three-year-old, who immediately recognized the bears on the cover, and mine.
We were not disappointed.
That’s (Not) Mine features the same two bears we’d already come to love. This time, they’re faced with a topic well known to the preschool (and sibling) set: sharing. One comfortable armchair, two bears. One bear who was sitting in it first, but got up.  One bear who took it over.
Sound familiar?  So will what happens next. One clever bear comes up with a way to trick his friend from getting out of the desired comfortable armchair (my 6yo is a pro at pulling this stunt on her younger brother). But it doesn’t take long for the duped friend to realize what has happened, and then the battle is on.
The text is sparse, the illustrations big and expressive against a white background. The result is that each page conveys so much emotion and action, simply. We see the progression from slight irritation , to sneaky retaliation, to satisfied smugness, and then to outright anger as these two friends battle for what is apparently the best seat in the house. It’s a scene that’s played out half a dozen times (or more!) in preschool-aged homes everywhere. Then, as with You Are (Not) Small, the final page leaves the reader with a satisfied giggle.
This book is just so much of what you want your young child to read. It’s silly, and simple, and wholesome, with characters who are real and flawed and lovable.
Just like those preschoolers who won’t be able to keep their hands off it.
Want to win a copy? One lucky winner will receive a copy of THAT’S (NOT) MINE plus an adorable full-color poster. (U.S. addresses; allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.) Just fill out the entry form below by midnight on Friday, September 11th.




June 8, 2015

Disappearance of Emily H blog tour banner 

The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy

Published by: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Release date: May 2015

Ages: 8-12

Pages: 256

From the publisher:

A girl is missing. Three girls are lying. One girl can get to the truth.

Emily Huvar vanished without a trace. And the clues are right beneath Raine’s fingertips. Literally. Raine isn’t like other eighth graders. One touch of a glittering sparkle that only Raine can see, and she’s swept into a memory from the past. If she touches enough sparkles, she can piece together what happened to Emily.

When Raine realizes that the cliquey group of girls making her life miserable know more than they’re letting on about Emily’s disappearance, she has to do something. She’ll use her supernatural gift for good . . . to fight evil.

But is it too late to save Emily?

About the Author:Barrie Summy photo

Barrie Summy is the author of the I So Don’t Do mystery series starring thirteen-year-old detective Sherry Holmes Baldwin, and the recently released The Disappearance of Emily H. Barrie lives in Southern California with her husband, their four children, two dogs, a veiled chameleon, and a fish. There was once a dwarf hamster, but let’s not go there.
Visit her online at her website or Facebook page.
My thoughts:
Okay, I admit I’m a sucker for a good magical realism. Stories that are firmly grounded in reality, but have just a twist of the fantastical. Just enough that I can *almost* believe that that magic might actually exist outside my front door.  So The Disappearance of Emily H. caught my interest right away. I loved the premise. A normal eighth-grader, Raine, with one very unordinary skill: the ability to see memories in the form of sparkles. Once Raine holds one of these sparkles in her hand, the memory appears as a vision, transporting Raine right into the moment. Don’t you love the idea that memories are all around us, sparkling on fenceposts, backpacks, and lockers, just waiting for us to grab them?
The book opens with Raine standing in front of her new school…again. Raine has had a lot of new schools. Five, to be exact. Three of them being middle schools. Raine’s mother attracts bad relationships like a magnet. And when the relationship falls apart, her mom packs up the house and moves on for a “fresh start”, dragging Raine with her.
Yielding Middle School is just like all the others. There’s the cliques, the pretty girls, the cute guys, the bullies. Raine quickly makes friends with another new girl, the previously homeschooled Shirlee, and finds a place on the cross-country team. Sure, there’s mean girl Jennifer and her posse. But for once, Raine’s mom seems to be focused on really starting over, without a new guy. She’s even planting flowers in their little house with the pink shutters. Things might actually work out this time.  Raine might actually get to have a normal year.
Until Raine catches a memory that gives her a glimpse into what happened to Emily Huvar, a Yielding Middle School student who disappeared a few months ago. When Raine learns that she’s living in Emily’s old house, she becomes determined to solve the mystery. But the more she digs, the more she realizes she may be in over her head. Then a chance encounter leads Raine to discover that …the answer to what happened to Emily Huvar is closer than she imagined…and a thousand times more dangerous.
I’m showing my age here, but remember The Face on the Milk Carton? This had the same twist-and-turns, confused reality, building-to-a-dramatic-climax feel for me, but with the added benefit of a little sparkly magic. The characters are oh-so-real, the emotions high (as they often are for middle schoolers), and the conclusion one that the reader doesn’t quite see coming. We feel for the missing Emily, but we also feel for Raine as she struggles not only with the mystery that has, quite literally, fallen into her fingertips, but also with her mother, the mean girls, and even the cute boy, elements all middle-aged readers can relate to.
Intrigued? I’ve got you covered!

The Disappearance of Emily H.Giveaway!

One sparkly winner will receive a copy of THE DISAPPEARANCE OF EMILY H by Barrie Summy (U.S. addresses; allow 4-6 weeks for delivery). Enter below by 11:59pm on June 22.




Follow along on the blog tour!

Thursday, June 4
Ms. Yingling Reads
Fri, June 5
Mon, June 8
Once Upon a Story
Tues, June 9
Read Now, Sleep Later
Wed, June 10
Thurs, June 11
Unleashing Readers
Fri, June 12
Small Review




April 2, 2015

Hooray! It’s that time of year again.

It’s the day I can totally overindulge on chocolate cake and queso and whatever else my heart desires and not feel an ounce of guilt because

Hey! It’s my birthday!

Once upon a time I could sleep in late, too, but now there are little people in my life for whom “sleeping in late” means sleeping until 7am. And then they want cake. For breakfast.

It’s all about the cake.

Okay, the cake and the books.

Because it has become tradition around here to share the joy with a little birthday book giveaway!

I’ve done something a little different ever year. It’s always somehow personal to me (it is my birthday, after all), but also a chance to share some of the celebration with YOU.

So here’s what I’ve come up with this year.

In January, I picked a word to be my “guide” for the year. This is not a new practice, but it’s the first year I’ve done so. The word I picked was:


That means different things to different people, but for me it meant setting goals and reaching for them. Looking for the silver lining in tough situations. Focusing on the positive. Acknowledging the small gifts in the midst of all the negative. Being the shine for others.

For this year’s giveaway, I want to shine some light on a few books that, in one way or another, fit with my personal theme for the year.

Here’s how it works:

1. Check out the books below. I’ve selected two early readers, 2 picture books, and 2 middle grades.

2. Fill out the entry form (U.S residences only, sorry! One entry per household) by midnight on THURSDAY, APRIL 9th.

3. Submit.


That’s it! I’ll draw one winner and ship them the book of his/her choice.


That’s just as good as cake, right?

This year’s selections are:

(click on an image for more info)

Good luck!


Maria G. , enjoy your copy of FISH IN A TREE!


January 19, 2015

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls

Published by: Schwartz & Wade

Release date: January 2015

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 40

From the publisher:

Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled. 


About the Author:05_lauriethompson_PhotoByMaryBalmaceda (2)

Laurie Ann Thompson is the author of Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, a how-to guide for teens who want to change the world. An advocate for social justice, Laurie is dedicated to inspiring and empowering young readers. Emmanuel’s Dream is her picture-book debut. Visit her at lauriethompson.com.
A CCSS-aligned curriculum guide for Emmanuel’s Dream is available here

My Thoughts:
Happy Monday, all!
For those of us in the U.S., it’s also Martin Luther King Day. For many, it’s a day off of work, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect on ourselves as a nation, and a man who believed that facing adversity did not mean ‘impossibility.’
Which also makes it the perfect day to share with you this story of not only diversity, but also plain ol’ hard work and strong spirit.
Emmanuel’s Dream is the true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Today, Emmanuel is recognized as an athlete, an activist, and a philanthropist. His life (thus far, he’s only 37) has been made into a documentary (also entitled Emmanuel’s Gift), and he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
But before all that he was a kid in Ghana. A kid who wanted to do what the other kids did, and a kid whose mother believed he should do what all the other kids did. While this book contains moments that will make young readers gasp in surprise, or make round ‘o’s of awe, what also comes through is how normal of a kid Emmanuel was. Don’t most kids like to play soccer at recess, or ride bikes with friends?
I had the chance to ask author Laurie Ann Thompson what she would like her readers to take away from Emmanuel’s story. Here’s what she said:
What would you like to see children learn from Emmanuel?
I want children to learn that they, too, can be brave, creative, and determined enough to go after their dreams, no matter what challenges they may face in their lives or what other people might tell them along the way.
But we all know that picture books aren’t just for the young.  What would you like to see adults take away from Emmanuel’s Dream?
I hope adults take away that same message of empowerment for themselves, of course, but that they also understand the broader message of everyone having the potential to change the world. I think keeping that in mind would make us all a little more tolerant, a little more accepting, and little more supportive of one another. And that would be a very good thing.
I love her responses. Have faith, keep working, and be supportive of one another.
It does, indeed, seem like that would be a very good thing.


Thanks to Schwartz and Wade, ONE LUCKY WINNER will receive a copy of EMMANUEL’S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls. (U.S. addresses only). Enter below by 11:59pm on Monday, February 2nd.

 Good luck!

Follow Emmanuel on the rest of his tour:

Mon, Jan 12
Great Kid Books
Tues, Jan 13
5 Minutes for Books
Wed, Jan 14
Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Jan 15
Fri, Jan 16
Cracking the Cover
Sat, Jan 17
Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 19 (MLK Jr bday)
Once Upon a Story
Tues, Jan 20
Wed, Jan 21
Geo Librarian
Thurs, Jan 22
Nonfiction Detectives
Fri, Jan 23
The Fourth Musketeer AND  Kirby’s Lane
Mon, Jan 26
NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Jan 27
Teach Mentor Texts


January 9, 2015

When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Published by: Harcourt Brace

Release date: January 2015

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 40

From the publisher:

Apart from sticker burrs and sand fleas, Cardell’s life is mostly wonderful. He knows he’s loved through and through by his perfectly good mama and his perfectly good daddy. They live in different parts of the desert, but that’s okay–Cardell is mostly used to it. Then Otis comes calling, and Cardell feels a “grrr “form in his throat. Otis can’t make jalapeno flapjacks or play Zig-the-Zag anything like Cardell’s daddy. And so Cardell waits for Mama to say “”Adios, ” Otis.” But what will happen if she doesn’t?


About the Author:Kathi Appelt photo

Kathi Appelt’s perfectly wonderful stepfather was a terrific storyteller, and she grew up to become a teller of stories, too. She is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her picture books include Oh My Baby, Little One, illustrated by Jane Dyer, and the Bubba and Beau series, illustrated by Arthur Howard. Her novels for older readers include two National Book Award finalists: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp and The Underneath, which was also a Newbery Honor Book. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To download a free, CCSS-aligned curriculum guide, visit Kathi’s website at kathiappelt.com.

Watch the WHEN OTIS COURTED MAMA book trailer (created by Kathi’s own two sons!) :


My thoughts:

I’m a big advocate for books that handle the tough stuff. As parents, we often want to protect our children from life’s challenges. Sometimes we can get away with that, at least for awhile. But inevitably, that tough stuff comes up, and when it does, it’s nice to have those books we can read with our kids. The ones that show children peers, families and situations like their own. It normalizes tough stuff, and makes whatever that child’s thinking,feeling, and experiencing “okay.”

When Otis Courted Mama is the story of a blended (coyote) family. Right from the start, it’s made clear that Cardell, is a well-loved kid (um, coyote). Even though his parents live in different parts of the desert, and even though each household is different, Cardell’s life is “mostly wonderful.” He doesn’t mind sharing his “perfectly good daddy” with his stepmother, Lulu, and his stepbrother, Little Frankie. And he doesn’t even mind the other coyotes who have come to court mama. They never stay around long, and then Cardell has his “perfectly good mama” back to himself.

So it’s a bit of a shock when Mama doesn’t say “adios” to Otis, who arrives one day with flowers and cactus candy. Cardell is confused. And defensive (this coyote is not like his perfectly good daddy!). And even a little protective of mama.  All emotions one might expect to see in a child whose parent begins a serious relationship with a new adult.

And while those relationships don’t always work out, some do. The adults who, like Otis, work hard to win the child over and who include the child, and who wait patiently…sometimes those adults become someone special. Not replacing mama or papa, but in addition to. And that’s the message Appelt delivers.

Jill McElmurry, who also illustrated the Little Blue Truck series, captures the essence of the Southwest that she grew up in.  From the golds and browns of day, to the purples and blues of night, to the bright red bandanna themed endpapers, every page explodes with color. And her subtle use of expression allows the reader to feel the full range of emotions, both Cardell’s and his mama’s, without Appelt having to put it into words.

A special book, especially for children of blended families, but also for children in other kinds of families, as they explore the different family dynamics the world has to offer.

And now:

EVERYONE can find a full-color door hanger and other fun downloadables at kathiappelt.com.

 Thanks to Harcourt Brace, ONE LUCKY WINNER will receive a copy of WHEN OTIS COURTED MAMA.  (U.S. addresses only). Enter below by 11:59pm on Friday, January 23rd.

 Good luck!

 Renee F., you’re a winner!

Follow sweet Cardell on all his tour stops!

Mon, Jan 5
5 Minutes for Book
Tues, Jan 6
Cracking the Cover
Wed, Jan 7
Thurs, Jan 8
Unleashing Readers
Fri, Jan 9
Once Upon a Story
Sat, Jan 10
Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 12
Geo Librarian
Tues, Jan 13
The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog AND NC Teacher Stuff
Wed, Jan 14
Teach Mentor Texts
Thurs, Jan 15
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Jan 16
The Fourth Musketeer


November 14, 2014

 Snowman’s Story by Will Hillenbrand

Published by: Two Lions

Release date: November 2014

Ages: 4-7

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

One wintry day, a hat lands on the head of a newly made snowman and brings him to life. Hiding inside the hat is a rabbit, who listens to the snowman read a story to some animal friends. When the snowman falls asleep, the rabbit hops away with the book. But the snowman isn’t about to let his story or the mischievous rabbit get away. The chase is on Filled with charm and fun, this wordless picture book from a beloved illustrator lets kids tell their own version of the story, even as they delight in the action-filled pages.

About the Author:WillHillenbrand2012 (2) - Copy

Will Hillenbrand has illustrated many beloved picture books, including Kiss the Cow by Phyllis Root; and Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep!, and Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze! by Maureen Wright. He has also written and illustrated a number of picture books, including Down by the Barn, the Bear and Mole series, and Mother Goose Picture Puzzles. Will enjoys visiting schools to talk about the creative process involved in making a picture book. He lives with his wife, Jane, and their son, Ian, in Terrace Park, Ohio. For more information, visit his website: http://www.willhillenbrand.com.


My thoughts:

(PSST! Once you’re done reading, scroll all the way down to the bottom for some free goodies, and a giveaway!)


I’ve written before about how much we enjoy wordless picture books. It’s a chance for my emergent reader to “read” the story, in her own words. And they’re often so richly illustrated that that story can change with every reading.

Snowman’s Story opens with an inquisitive bunny who discovers a top hat in a winter field. At this point, the reader already has an idea where this story might be going. Sure enough, a strong wind whips the hat up and onto the head of a nearby snowman, constructed by the forest animals. Immediately, the snowman comes to life, but instead of leading everyone “down the streets of town”, he opts for reading his newfound friends a story. When the story ends, bedtime looms and the sleepy animals depart, waving goodbye to the yawning snowman. But wait. Has anybody remembered the inquisitive bunny? Out he pops, grabbing the book, and suddenly the chase is on. Through the woods, over a gorge, ducking snowballs, Snowman and his friends eventually find the sneaky bunny, who has a surprise of his own.

 In our current Christmas collection, we have two copies each of The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, and the Golden Book version of Frosty the Snowman.  In each case, one copy is so well-loved that the binding has split and the book falls apart in your hands. One of the Frosty books is from my parent’s childhood, so it’s on its third generation. Knowing that tiny hands don’t always equal gentle hands, we packed our old copies away somewhere safe a few years ago and bought newer copies to replace them. Thank goodness, because our children love both classic stories as much as we did.

 Snowman’s Story feels like a blend of the two. It has the warmth and richness of The Snowman, with the adventure and kid-appeal of Frosty the Snowman. Usually when I receive picture books for review, I immediately read them with my own pint-size reviewers. Who better to offer an honest opinion? This time, though, I’ve hidden the book. Every year, in the 24 days leading up to Christmas, the kiddos and I unwrap a seasonal book to share after dinner. The selected books are a mix of classic and contemporary, books we’ve had for years (or even from my childhood), and books I buy new. This year, I look forward to adding this one to the rotation. I’m anticipating frequent reads.

Check out this book trailer:

And now…



Congratulations, Maureen B.!


Want to win a copy for yourself? Two Lions/Amazon has generally offered a copy to give away. Enter below by 11:59m on Sunday, November 30th.  (U.S addresses only, please)



Even MORE Fun!


Help Snowman Find his Story (free downloadable game!)
Snowman’s Story Coloring Sheet
Follow all the stops on the SNOWMAN’S STORY blog tour!
Mon, Nov 3
As They Grow Up
Tues, Nov 4
Cracking the Cover
Wed, Nov 5
Geo Librarian
Thurs, Nov 6
5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Nov 7
Momma Drama
Sat, Nov 8
Booking Mama
Mon, Nov 10
Just a Little Creativity
Tues, Nov 11
Kid Lit Frenzy
Wed, Nov 12
Children’s Book Review
Thurs, Nov 13
Displaced Yinzer
Fri, Nov 14
Once Upon a Story
Unleashing Readers






August 26, 2014

Watch Out Hollywood! More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child cover Watch Out, Hollywood! More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child by Maria T. Lennon

Published by:HarperCollins

Release date: August 2014

Ages: 8-12

Pages: 224

From the publisher:

Hilarious tween heroine Charlie C. Cooper—reformed bully, misguided fashionista, and so-called middle child—is back! This sequel to Confessions of a So-called Middle Child will delight fans of Louise Rennison, Mean Girls, and Harriet the Spy.

Charlie’s adventures offer a fresh look at middle school, bullying, and mean girls. In Book Two, Charlie navigates sudden celebrity and auditions for a television series, but a little white lie may endanger the one friendship Charlie can truly count on—and her connection to swoon-worthy crush Bobby! Poignant and seriously funny, Charlie’s account of her dilemma is one all tweens will relate to.

Charlie knows what it feels like to be stuck in the middle, but it’s finally her time to shine. After saving her friend Marta in the old Houdini tunnels of Los Angeles, Charlie’s become a local hero, gained sudden celebrity, and *MIGHT* just become a TV star! But will Charlie let her newfound fame go to her head? Watch out, Hollywood!


Note about today’s special guest post:

I have been sharing books here on this blog for several years. When reviewing picture books, I’ll often include the thoughts and reactions of my own young children, but when reading middle grade or young adult books, I’m on my own…my children are not yet old enough for those titles.

I read the first book in this series a while ago, though never reviewed it here. What I enjoy most about Charlie is her flaws, her brutal honesty. A reformed bully, yes, but not sappy-sweet. Charlie has learned a lesson or two about compassion towards others, but she’s still a teenage girl, one struggling with her desire to fit in while standing out, loving her family while rolling her eyes at their lameness. Charlie cannot be categorized. She is real, and complex, and, well, a pre-teen.

A couple of months ago, I shared Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child with with a friend’s daughter, Allison. She finished it almost immediately, and asked if there would be any more.

As a matter of fact…

Not only was there another one releasing, but it was releasing soon, and I happened to have a copy at home. I handed the book over to her the following week, and she finished it within two days, and then agreed to guest post here on Once Upon A Story.

So today, I’m pleased to have my first guest post by a young reviewer, right in the middle of those “middle grade” years.  I give you…

Allison’s thoughts:

In Spring of 2014 I read Maria T. Lennon’s book entitled Confessions of a So-called Middle Child and enjoyed it cover to cover. She writes with a very unique style, both straightforward and detailed at the same time. From the perspective of a teenager in middle school, she captures perfectly the essence of growing up and adds an unusual twist to it.

In Ms. Lennon’s second, Watch out Hollywood! More Confessions of a So-called Middle Child, the same techniques are applied and the storyline is as exciting as ever. When Charlie, our “hero”, has become very popular with the media, an offer is made to her from an agent who promises her own TV show. But what Charlie doesn’t know, is that telling a tiny little lie to get the part can result in big social troubles with potentially everyone at her school. All the people she considered as friends are quickly turning on her. Now, Charlie has to fix what she has done and make up for her mistake before it is too late.

Ms. Lennon has brought the story to life. The challenges that Charlie face have become bigger than ever, and she has done an excellent job of illustrating that for the reader. This book has used amazing storylines to point out that doing something bad early on won’t help your situation; it will just expose more and more problems later on. As a 6th grader, I would recommend this series to my friends, and I hope that there is a third book!


Thank you, Allison, for taking the time to stop by!

Want to know more about Maria?Maria Lennon photo_credit Chiara Berruto
Maria T. Lennon is a graduate of the London School of Economics, a novelist, a screenwriter, and the author of Confessions of a So-called Middle Child, the first book featuring the irrepressible Charlie C. Cooper. When not driving one of her four children to school or volunteering at school libraries, she can be found sitting in a parked car, a café, or a library, writing novels, travel articles, or just passed out. To learn more, and to download a free curiculum guide, visit her website: http://confessionsofasocalledmiddlechild.com/.
Follow all of the stops on Maria T. Lennon’s blog tour!
Wed, Aug 13
The Hiding Spot
Mon, Aug 18
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tues, Aug 19
The Book Monsters
Wed, Aug 20
The Children’s Book Review
Thurs, Aug 21
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Aug 22
Booking Mama
Mon, Aug 25
Read Now, Sleep Later
Tues, Aug 26
Once upon a Story
Wed, Aug 27
The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
Thurs, Aug 28
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Fri, Aug 29
Beauty and the Bookshelf

And now…


One lucky winner will receive both books featuring Charlie C. Cooper–CONFESSIONS OF A SO-CALLED MIDDLE CHILD, new in paperback, and WATCH OUT, HOLLYWOOD! MORE CONFESSIONS OF A SO-CALLED MIDDLE CHILD, in hardcover! (U.S. addresses only.)

1. Fill out the form below

2. One (1) entry per household

3. U.S Residents only, please.

4. Giveaway closes at 11:59pm on Tuesday, August 8th.

Good luck!


August 8, 2014

You Are Not Small You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Published by:Two Lions/Amazon Publishing

Release date: August 2014

Ages: 2-6

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

Two fuzzy creatures can’t agree on who is small and who is big, until a couple of surprise guests show up, settling it once and for all!

The simple text of Anna Kang and bold illustrations of New Yorker cartoonist Christopher Weyant tell an original and very funny story about size—it all depends on who’s standing next to you.

My thoughts:

We received this book a month ago. Which means, for the last month, I’ve been biting my tongue, trying not to say too much, because I knew I had this blog tour stop coming up.

You Are (Not) Small was an insta-hit in our house. The book arrived in the afternoon mail, we opened it right after naps. We read it once. Got to the end. And read it again. Both the 2yo and the 5yo, one on either side of me, demanding another read.

First, I love the play on perspective. I have a 5yo who, compared to her peers, is “small.” But if you ask her, she’ll tell you she’s “big”. She’s five, after all. Five year olds are big kids. “Small” is her 2yo brother, nevermind that he’s only a few inches shorter and a few pounds lighter. This books takes the idea of big and small and turns it on its head, with an ending that had my preschooler both thinking and giggling.

The text is simple, another reason this book was perfect for both my children. My youngest may not have understood the message about perspective, but he followed the simple plot. My oldest, who is just learning to read, recognized several of the words, and was able to read parts independently, something that’s hugely satisfying for an almost-kindergartener. Pair this with bright, bold illustrations and plenty of white space, and both kids were captivated.


I asked Anna and Christopher to share a little bit about themselves by answer a few questions. Here are their responses:

Chris Weyant and Anna Kang

You Are the best at recalling random and useless facts; nagging (according to my daughter).

You Are (Not) a fan of wet socks; shopping.

You Are happiest when reading.

You Are (Not) afraid to try new foods.


You Are the best at being able to identifying any actor just by their voice in commercials and radio.

You Are (Not) a fan of chalk.

You Are happiest when drawing or being with my kids. Or even better, drawing with my kids.

You Are (Not) afraid to try fixing stuff (even though I may make it worse).

Thank you, Anna and Chris, for taking the time to visit!
Want to know more?
Christopher Weyant’s work has been published worldwide in books, newspapers, magazines, and online. His cartoons are in permanent collection at The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. Anna Kang received her MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL is their first children’s book; they are currently at work on a sequel. They live with their children in New Jersey.
Be sure to visit all the stops on their blog tour!
Mon, Jul 28
Cracking the Cover
Tues, Jul 29
As They Grow Up
Wed, July 30
Susan Heim on Parenting
Thurs, July 31
5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Aug 1
Kid Lit Frenzy
Mon, Aug 4
Geo Librarian
Tues, Aug 5
Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Aug 6
Children’s Book Review
Thurs, Aug 7
Children’s Book Review

And now…


Two Lions/Amazon has offered to give away one (1) copy of You Are (Not) Small to a lucky reader. To enter:

1. Fill out the form below

2. One (1) entry per household

3. U.S Residents only, please.

4. Giveaway closes at 11:59pm on Friday, August 22nd.

Good luck!

Congratulations, Courtney W.!


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