Teachers Collect Books to Send Home With Their Students

I was at our local Goodwill in the children’s book section, when I saw them. Two ladies approached the children’s books with purpose and determination. My children and I watched as their cart quickly filled up with books. Curious by the conversation the women had as they searched through the book, I asked: “Are you teachers collecting books for your students?” With great enthusiasm, the women nodded and the principal (who was present) introduced herself to me. I was so moved by their love for the students and the goal to collect books for their kids, I arranged to interview Principal Donna Wiggins of Riverbend Elementary School.

Riverbend Elementry School has 400 students in the K-5th grades. Principal Wiggins has a goal of sending EVERY student 5 books for the summer break. The school is creating a summer reading program to go along with the books they send home with their students. As of right now, Principal Wiggins and her staff of dedicated educators have collected 1 book for each child towards their overall goal of 5 books per child.

While Riverbend Elementary School is not a immersion school, they are also collecting some spanish books to share with their students. “We have a large Hispanic community, and the parents may read Spanish, but not English. So having Spanish books would be a bonus to our families. We are trying to connect with everyone [in our school].” Says Principal Wiggins.

The end of school is next Wednesday, May 24th. If you would like to donate any K-5 picture books, early readers or chapter books, Riverbend Elementary is collecting book donations to reach their goal of 5 books per child for summer break. Riverbend Elementary will be having summer school, and they will be accepting books during the summer as well. To get books to Riverbend, local residents are welcome to drop books off. Or you could also ship books to:

Riverbend Elementary

Attn: Summer Reading Program

1742 Cleveland Hwy.

Gainesville GA 30501

I wanted to share my interview with Principal Wiggins. She was a delight to talk to; it’s very evident she is passionate about reading and encouraging kids to be readers. I share the same passion, so we had a great conversation!

1. Why not just use the Get Georgia Reading Digital Program?

Principal Wiggins: “We love and appreciate digital books, but there is something about a physical copy. There is a lot to be gained from a physical book.”

2. What is the advantage of a physical book?

Principal Wiggins: “A physical copy of a book brings families today. It allows kids to touch the book, learn correctly how to open a book, and which way to turn the pages.

3. What are some of your favorite children’s books?

Principal Wiggins: “Runaway Bunny, and Goodnight Moon. For older elementary students, A Year Down Under is funny. Out of the Dust is historical fiction. Chronicles of Narnia always fun because you can use different voices. Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander is another great one. Oh, and Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.”

4. What are your tips for summer reading:

Principal Wiggins: “Read every day to your child. Discuss what you are reading with your child. Have your child read to you.”

5. What are ways parents can pick out the right books for children?

Principal Wiggins: “Connect books to real life. Find out what your child is interested in. You know your kid best! Stretch your kids! Introduce them to books you think they might be interested in. And finally, make sure your children see YOU reading. It’s okay to have a reading time every day so that you take time to read and your kids get to read on their own too!”

Riverbend Elementary School is doing a great work to spread literacy and encourage their students to be reading this summer. Let’s help them meet their goal by sending them K-5th Grade books!

Riverbend Elementary School

Attn: Summer Reading Program

1742 Cleveland Hwy

Gainesville GA 30501

Interview with BookBox Bloggers

Several weeks ago, I stumbled across the Book Boxes Blog. This blog is designed to provide parents with fun ideas for enhancing books and reading with your children. I love this! We do this a lot already, but I’m always eager to talk books and creating magic with books we love with other book lovers. I hope you enjoy my interview with Erin and Marguerite.

1. Please introduce yourselves!

Erin: I’m Erin! I’m a thirty-something mom, military spouse, and home educator. I’ve been teaching my own kids since Christmas of 2014 when we pulled my oldest from 2nd grade because he wasn’t adjusting well to a new school after moving to Germany. My then 4-yo daughter wanted to join in the fun, so I taught her too. I feel like I have been every “type” of mom: working, stay-at-home, send-to-school, homeschool, etc. When my oldest was born, we needed my salary and I went back to work when he was just six weeks old. I switched jobs between children, but ended up telecommuting. The Army had moved us from CO to VA and my organization wanted to keep me so they allowed me to telecommute. But as an extrovert, I HATED it! So I put in my notice and only went back to work for a month. Fast forward three years and I decided to pursue a teaching credential which I’d long talked about while my husband was deployed. Essentially, I was single-parenting while working full time and going to school online. When we moved to Germany, I couldn’t find a teaching job, so I worked part time as a substitute. I much prefer teaching to substituting, so when my oldest asked me to quit and homeschool him, it wasn’t too hard to decide.

Marguerite: I’m a stay-at-home mom who homeschools my 7 yr old daughter. I knew that I wanted to homeschool before she was even born! When she was just three I became one of the admins for a facebook penpal group (called Homeschool Penpals and Swaps). I have always loved books, often getting into trouble as a child for reading to much!

2. Can you share the premise of your blog?

Erin: Marguerite is the one who came up with idea for Book Boxes, and she posted them on a FB page I am also on. After reading all the comments, I couldn’t believe she didn’t have a blog! So I PM’d her and asked her if she wanted a partner to help her get one set up, and she said yes!

Marguerite: The blog came from my love of books and wanting to climb right into the story. I wanted to make the books come alive for my daughter and make some memories together. I kept seeing those subscription boxes, and really I wanted to buy them all! There are ones about states and countries and fiction books and art…. So fun! But then I would look at them critically and wonder, where they really worth the money? As a single income family, we can’t afford to be frivolous with our spending, and most of what is in subscription boxes is filler that I didn’t necessarily want. But a box full of surprises? I really wanted that for my daughter, so I decided to make my own. I was sharing my boxes on a FB gameschooling page, and kept getting asked about them and asked if I blogged my boxes….. but I didn’t. Erin saw me mention that I would try to get around to it when I found time and asked if she could work with me to get things going! So she set up a blog and has been working with me to get posts made and published.

3. Your blog has so many ideas; how often do you do these “book boxes” with your children?

Erin: I actually just ordered the things for my very first Book Box (which hasn’t hit the site yet). I fell in love with the idea as soon as I saw it but then I had to read the book I wanted to do and decide what to put in the box. There is so much out there that it can be hard to narrow down.

Marguerite: I have been making these boxes just since the end of October! I made a bunch for my daughter for Christmas…. I wanted to make more but was restricted by money. So I made my first 6 and planned out several more. Then when I was talking to other homeschool moms many would ask me to help them build a box around the next book they were reading. I have thoughts and ideas on paper for around the next 20 or so boxes I want to make for my daughter! Crazy I know. But for my read alouds with her we get through around 2 books a month.

4. What’s a favorite book you’ve read aloud with your children?

Erin: There are so many good ones it’s hard to choose. Recently my daughter requested a book from the library, The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates. I read that one with “voices.” My voices don’t make a lot of sense. I always read the protagonist in my natural voice, but her parents were my approximation of blue-blood Brits, while I mixed in Scots, Cockney, Irish, American Southern, and who knows what else. I should mention that only my Southern accent is even close to passable. It doesn’t matter to my kids though, they love it even if its nonsensical.

Marguerite: I really enjoyed reading Heidi to my daughter. It was a story she was familiar with having watched two versions of the movie and the tv series that was on Netflix last year. But she LOVED the story! She kept saying that it was so much better then the videos and as soon as I was done with it she asked me to start it again. She still wont let me put the book away on the shelf. She said she wants it on her nightstand forever because it makes her happy.

5. What was your favorite book as a child?

Erin: Can I give you them for various stages? When I was in elementary I loved The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. I must have read it hundreds of times. I have two books that I discovered in middle school and have treasured ever since: Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Marguerite: Wow, that one is hard! Like I said, I was reading constantly. I loved so many different books! I can give you a favorite theme; fantasy. But favorite book? That is hard. In elementary and middle school my favorite books were the Laura Ingalls books, Hobbit, The Narnia books, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and the Xanth books. In high school I added in (but didn’t replace) The Dark is Rising series and Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series.

6. What are you reading now?

Erin: Right now I’m reading The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. I do read fiction too, it’s just not on my shelf right now. I’m a big sci-fi junkie, and my favorite author is Neal Stephenson.

Marguerite: Right now I am reading “On the Farside of the Mountain” to myself while reading My Side of the Mountain to my daughter. Farside of the Mountain is the second book in the trilogy and I had never read it before! I always try to read books through before I read them aloud to my daughter. I am also listening to Echoes in Death by JD Robb on audiobook. I LOVE audiobooks, they make housework seem so much easier.

7. Why do you think that book related activities are important?

Erin: I sincerely believe that reading enables you to learn anything you need to. I love Book Boxes even though my kids don’t really need the extra encouragement to read. I want them to see the connections between the page and the physical world. And reading aloud gives us time to snuggle and enjoy each other’s company. I very fondly remember my mother reading all of the Narnia series to us, among the many things she read. We lived somewhere with no electricity for a while, and we would all crowd onto my parents’ bed under the mosquito net and listen to tale of faraway places being read by flashlight. Those memories are some of my favorites.

Marguerite: I think doing activities that go along with the books you are reading is so important because it is another way to make the stories come to life. It is so fun to cook a food together that the characters just ate, or plant a garden while reading about children who love to help things grow. It is a fun family activity, and will make wonderful memories! Also it was a way to experience the stories that wasn’t a lesson plan. I have tons of lapbooks that I was planning on doing with my daughter for each of our books, and while she greatly enjoys art and has enjoyed making lapbooks before, I found that she wasn’t really enjoying the stories when we had to do the lapbook component the next day before we continued on with our story. By not having to stop to work on lessons, the stories are no longer “school” and she is getting much more involved in them, to the point of crying because the book is over and she really wanted to hear more about what happens to the characters!

Interview with Alastair Heim

I’m so very excited to share an interview with Alastair Heim, author of No Tooting At Tea. This is such a fabulous book!!!! We (my kids and I) were all giggling throughout the book as we read it together. No Tooting At Tea is a great read aloud book; it is SO FUN. I guarantee parents and children alike will love reading No Tooting At Tea! Alastair is a gracious and kind author; you can tell he has a passion and love for writing children’s books. I was so honored to chat with him. Be sure to buy No Tooting At Tea and/or request it from your local library (I did both, because No Tooting At Tea is THAT AWESOME!). You can also find him on Twitter and visit his website.


1. What inspired you to write No Tooting at Tea?

Alastair: Before I answer that, I want to thank you very, very much for the chance to be interviewed. So, thank you! Okay…NO TOOTING AT TEA was inspired by an actual imaginary tea party I was invited to back in March of 2014. Everything was progressing perfectly properly until one of the other guests TOOTED. The tea party hostess remained calm (this was not the first time this sort of nonsense had happened at one of her parties) and politely instructed all of us that there was, “No tooting at tea!” I was immediately inspired and began writing the manuscript right away. I feel incredibly lucky to have been there at that exact moment because, had I not, there would be no book.
2. The trio of sisters in your book are hilarious, whimsical, and fun. Were the characters inspired by anyone you know?

Alastair: They very much were. I have three kids who are terribly funny, wonderfully charming, and sometimes stubborn. They are my inspiration for a lot of what I write and different elements of their personalities really came to life in this book. What was amazing to see was just how much Sara Not inadvertently captured the essence of my kids in her illustrations, without ever having met them (she lives in Italy). This book is incredibly special for me because it truly captured the life stage my children were at when I was writing it.
3. In the back of the book, you have a lovely spread of tea party refreshments suggestions. What’s your favorite refreshment to have at tea?

Alastair: Oh, boy…that’s a tough one. I’m a huge fan of sweets and treats of every kind, but I have to say that there’s nothing better than a chocolate croissant paired with a nice cup of tea. There’s a local bakery that makes chocolate croissants that essentially taste like “how-can-these-not-be-donuts?” deliciousness that we pick up from time to time – not often enough, if you ask me ;-).
4. We love having tea parties. Do you partake in tea parties often?

Alastair: I absolutely do! As my kids are getting older, the tea parties are happening a bit less frequently, but I do get invited to one from time to time. The tea party that inspired NO TOOTING AT TEA is, by far, my favorite one I’ve ever been to.

5. Can you tell us your favorite book as a child?

Alastair: My absolute favorite book as a kid was BARNEY BEAGLE PLAYS BASEBALL by Wonder Books – which my mom picked up at a garage sale. Looking back, I think I was way more enamored by the pictures than I was the story, but I vividly remember reading it over and over again. In fact, my mom recently sent me a box of books from when my brother and I were kids, and this book was at the top of the stack. I also read a lot of Berenstain Bears stories and have vivid memories of checking out Shel Silverstein books from my school library.

6. What are you reading now?

Alastair: I am always purchasing new picture books for my children, but the book I’m most excited about is the one I’m reading with my oldest daughter. She has recently caught the “Harry Potter” bug, so we have just started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone together – a book I first read back in 2001. It’s been fantastic to watch her experience a story that holds such a magical place in hearts across the world.
7. My kids think you should write a sequel to No Tooting At Tea. Do you have any books in progress you can tell us about?

Alastair: Well, please tell your kids thank you and YES, there is another book in this series coming out in the Fall of 2018. It is called NO PEEKING AT PRESENTS and is actually a prequel to NO TOOTING AT TEA (the girls are a bit younger). It features the same older sister who has a lot of rules for her younger sisters on the night before Christmas. I am really excited about this story and can’t wait for your kids to read it!

Interview with Author Megan Hall

Today is the book launch day for Catch Somewhere by Megan Hall. This debut YA novel follows the story of Kinsley, a teenage girl who experiences heartbreak that leads down a destructive path.  I enjoyed reading this book because you see and feel the struggle of Kinsley. It is heart wrenching, but there is hope too. I really appreciated how Megan weaved such a great story about an important subject (cutting), but with a Christian perspective. I wanted to share my interview with Megan:

1. What inspired you to write your book, Catch Somewhere?

Megan: I was teaching middle school at the time, and part of our day was spent on Writing Workshop, where my students had the freedom to write anything they wanted, in any genre, for a set amount of time. Several of my girls decided to try their hands at longer stories with chapters, and I thought, “Well, maybe I can do that, too.” I didn’t even have a plot when I wrote the first few pages. I’m not sure I even knew where the story was going until I was about halfway through! The characters drove the story.

2. You address the hard subject of cutting in Catch Somewhere; was this something that you dealt with personally?

Megan: It was. I’ve written about my journey with self-injury on the Huffington Post blog before. I struggled with cutting in high school because, like my main character Kinsley, I wasn’t sure how to deal with emotional pain. Also like Kinsley, I ended up finding healing from that addiction.

3. What do you hope readers gain from reading Catch Somewhere?

Megan: For teen girls, I want them to see that there is something more, bigger, and beyond. It’s so easy to be young and think that what we see is all there is, and when all we see is hopelessness and pain and angst, we are lost. It’s difficult to grasp the reality that things will get better. I want my readers to find the only One who can truly anchor their souls.

4. How can Catch Somewhere help girls who are cutters?

Megan: There is such a stigma with self-injury. I think it’s still widely misunderstood, although there have been strides made in the last two decades from when I was a teenager. Cutters are wrongly thought to be suicidal, which is usually not the case, although occasionally the two can be linked. I want this book to do two things: show those girls who struggle that they aren’t alone and they don’t have to feel shame, and to raise a realistic awareness of the issue for others.

5. What resources do you have for cutters?

Megan: That’s a great question. I think there are some good programs out there, like To Write Love On Her Arms . Sometimes it’s easier to take the first step by connecting with someone who doesn’t know you personally, and TWLOHA has a good resource page for that. I also have a website where people can message me and I can help connect them to further resources. But honestly? I firmly believe that healing happens in community. I would urge anyone to find someone they trust, a parent, teacher, youth leader, older sibling, friend, and talk with them. We walk out our healing with each other.

6. Can you share about your ministry, Dauntless Grace?

Megan: I’d be glad to! Dauntless Grace is a ministry for women, to connect them with a meaningful story. Like Kinsley in the book, we all have a broken story. For her it was an absent father, a broken heart, and feeling unworthy. Our stories may look different. But the truth is, we all need healing, and we all need connection. We all need hope that there is something more. Dauntless Grace aims to help women find that hope, that new story, one that has been redeemed by God. We have a conference called Re:3 (Rewrite, Redeem, Release) that we bring to churches to help women find a new story in their own lives.

7. What book influenced you as a teenager?

Megan: I read between 100 and 200 books a year, so it’s difficult for me to pinpoint certain books! I know I read a LOT of Lurlene McDaniel books, which are super depressing now that I look back on it! I devoured anything I could get my hands on, though. I remembering discovering Lori Wick (Christian romance author) as a teenager and reading her novel Pretense, which I still read at least once a year.

8. What are you reading now?

Megan: Today? Or tomorrow? I seriously read 3-4 books a week. Right now I’m tearing through Julie Klassen books, which are Christian historical romance novels. My answer will seriously change next week though, so ask again!

9. Will there be a sequel to Catch Somewhere?

Megan: I think so. I have a little bit of an idea in my head. I sat down the other night and wrote a few pages. I think the sequel will be from Alayna’s point of view. I’m interested to see what happens when she leaves her small-town bubble for college and has her faith challenged a little. I make no promises that this will happen anytime soon!

You can find Megan at her website and Facebook page.

Interview with Caroline McAlister

There is such a richness in picture book biographies. My children and I love reading stories of real people and what inspired them. John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien by Caroline McAlister is a brand new book just released in March 2017. I was so excited about this brand new picture book biography, I promptly emailed Caroline and asked if I could interview her for my blog. She graciously agreed. I love that Caroline McAlister has written a picture book biography about JRR Tolkien for children. This book is beautifully illustrated and the story beautifully told. My kids loved “the dragon book” as they kept referring to it. For myself, Caroline’s book has me looking biographies of JRR Tolkien; I need to know more!

Enjoy my interview with Caroline!

1.What inspired you to write a picture book about JRR Tolkien?

Caroline: I was inspired by Tolkien’s essay “On Faerie Stories.” It is a difficult, rambling piece, but enchanting. He wrote it around the same time he wrote The Hobbit to deliver as a lecture in honor of Andrew Lang, who collected and edited the Red Fairy Book and Green Fairy Book, which Tolkien read as a child. In this essay Tolkien is justifying his love of fantasy to scholars who denigrated the world of faerie, as he called it. He remembers his childhood attachment to fantasy in this passage:
The dragon had the trade-mark Of Faerie written plain upon him. In whatever world he had his being it was an Other-world. Fantasy, the making or glimpsing of other-worlds, was the heart of the desire of-Faerie. I desired dragons with a profound desire.”

His desire gave me a way to tell his story.

2. What do you hope children take away from your book?

Caroline: I want children to recognize the magic of imagination and imaginative play. I’m not sure that our current educational policies value and empower children’s imaginative lives, but it is through imaginative play that I believe children do their most important and profound learning.

3. In your author’s note in John Ronald’s Dragons , I noticed you mentioned Tolkien’s editor’s son thought The Hobbit was ideal for children, ages 5-7 year olds. What do you think is the perfect age introduce Tolkien’s books to children?

Caroline: I think that very much depends on the individual child. Tolkien wrote in the same essay about children:

“…at any rate children differ considerably, even within the narrow borders of Britain and such generalizations which treat them as a class ( disregarding their individual talents, and influences of the countryside they live in, and their upbringing) are delusory.”

If a child is delighted by the funny names and jokes in The Hobbit and can listen for a whole chapter, that child is ready.

4. In your book, you introduce children to the TCBS (Tea Club and Barrovian Society). Is this a tradition you have carried on with your students?

Caroline: I have occasionally brought tea and cakes to class, but have not tried to bring them into the library. Our library at Guilford now has a coffee shop inside it, so taking tea among the stacks is no longer subversive the way it would have been for Tolkien and his buddies.

5. I loved how John Ronald had such fond memories of his mother reading to him. Who encouraged a love of reading in your life?

Caroline: Both my mother and father read to us. We did not have a television so reading was our entertainment. I distinctly remember it was my father who read us The Hobbit. I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember being tickled by Bilbo’s alliterative name and hairy feet. He seemed quite real to me.

6. You travel every year with students to England to study fantasy. What’s your favorite part of this annual trip?

Caroline: I don’t go every year. Guilford is a small college and I go when I can get enough students signed up. The last time I went, I got to hear Phillip Pullman speak about Blake in the Sheldonian Theater and a group of students sang some of Blake’s poetry that had been set to music. When we came out of the theater the windows glowed orange against the night sky and it was magical.

7. Why do you think fantasy is important for children?

Caroline: I think children have a kind of plasticity of mind which allows them to suspend disbelief more easily than an adult. This does not mean that a child doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality. Rather it means children can move more nimbly between them; in other words, they know how to play, and it is through play that they learn empathy, that they develop curiosity, that they stretch and grow.

8. What was your favorite book as a child?

Caroline: I remember loving the Little House on The Prairie Books, perhaps because I was the younger of two sisters and because I loved making things. As an adult, I was disturbed to discover the books’ anti-new deal ideology and the racism in the depiction of the Native Americans. When I read them to my daughters, we also read Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House, but the smallpox epidemic was frightening to them. I also remember loving the T. H. White The Sword in The Stone. I thought it was hysterical that Merlin’s owl pooped on his shoulder.

9. What books did you read to your children?

Caroline: Gosh! We read everything under the sun. They were born in 95 and 97 so Harry Potter was very important to us. My husband had a serious illness when the girls were 5 and 7 and he started reading Harry Potter with them when he got home from the hospital. It was a way for all of us to bond and get over our trauma. She does such a good job in those books of creating a complete world for children to enter, what Tolkien calls a secondary world.

10. What are you reading now?

Caroline: I just finished reading Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale, which I adored. I thought his mashup up of saint’s legends and super hero tropes was brilliant. I am also reading The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia. And on the coffee table in front of me is a book of essays entitled The Size of Thoughts by Nicholson Baker. His crazy in depth research inspires me, and like him, I hate people who throw out old books.

11. You have also written Holy Mole and Brave Donatella and the Jasmine Thief; do you any other book projects in store? If so, can you tell us about them?

Caroline: My next book is Jack and Warnie’s Wardrobe is about C.S. Lewis and his brother and it is currently with my editor at Roaring Brook.

Be sure to check out Caroline’s website.

Interview with Chrissy Metge

Last week, I had the pleasure of sharing my book review of  Chrissy Metge’s book series, Max and His Big Imagination. Today, I am thrilled to share my interview with Chrissy.

1. Was the character Max inspired by anyone you know?

Chrissy: Yes he is inspired by my nephew Max, he was only 2 years old at the time when I came up with the idea, now he is nine! but my son now who is 20months continues to inspired me everyday!

2. As a child, did you have a big imagination like Max?

Chrissy: Oh yes completely! and still do, I think sometimes I exhaust all my friends and family around me with all my ideas! Haha!

3. What was your favorite book as a child?

Chrissy: Oh gosh! so many but I really loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and Doctor Dolittle books, I think I read all of them so many times, and then there was The Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton. Oh, I feel like going and reading these all again right now just thinking about them!

4. What are you reading now?

Chrissy: Right now I am reading Be Awesome: How to live your best life by Stacey Ritz, an awesome, uplifting book for busy people like me. 🙂

5. Can you share how your background in animation influenced your book writing process?

Chrissy: I have been in the animation industry my whole working life, I have been involved in making 14 movies and by being around so many talented people, some that have even won academy awards, it really does rub off after awhile. I can see it all play in my head, I can build whole worlds in my imagination in only a few seconds. The hard part for me was training and disciplining myself to get it into the written word as I see it in my head :).

6. Your website sings of your love for your animation job, what prompted you to expand into the children’s book world?

Chrissy: I have so many ideas but never the time to bring them to life! My son was born 6 weeks early literally on my last day at work when I was working on The Jungle Book movie. So I never had a chance to switch off and in the beginning babies sleep quite a lot especially when you have a prem baby, so I decided to use that opportunity to write! it was good for me! Sometimes, when you are a new mother, it can be quite lonely. You are suddenly all by yourself with a beautiful new baby, it can take time to get used to. So my books were a way to calm my mind and help with the adjustment, and enjoy my time with my baby more.

7. I saw you had an excavation/sand exploration book about Max. Do you have other books planned for the series?

Chrissy: Yes the Sandpit, is all about Dinosaurs! its so fun! My son lovingly refers to it as his AWWWWW book haha. Yes, so many! I would love to write 10 at least, I have 3 more written in my head already just need to get them out there, its such a joy!

8. What do you hope your readers gain from the Max and the Big Imagination series?

Well in today’s modern world, its so easy to let our kids get caught up in the latest gadget or toy, and don’t get me wrong toys are great and can actually aid in imagination as worked into my books. But I think its important to give them the space to do that and also sometimes they may only need a cardboard box, a bucket and spade to bring out a HUGE Adventure :).

You can find Chrissy on social media on Facebook and Instagram. You can also check out her website.

Interview with Corey Egbert

Last week, I had the great privilege of sharing with you the children’s book, If Dinosaurs Could Talk For Me. This was easily one of our favorite read alouds of 2017. (I know it’s only March, but I’m telling you this: IT’S SO GOOD.) This week, I’m really happy to share my interview with Corey Egbert.

1. Tell me where the idea behind If Dinosaurs Could Talk For Me came from?  Corey: The idea for the book came very unconsciously. I think I just started writing and I realized afterward what it’s about — using art to overcome barriers and connect with others. Ben’s shyness is a barrier because he fears rejection, but by having the courage to express his feelings through writing and drawing, he’s able to connect with Sophie.

2. I love that the main character struggles with being shy, were you a shy kid? Corey:  I wasn’t at first. But when I was ten, my parents divorced and I had to go to a new school. This made me feel very shy, and it took me a long time to overcome. For me, meeting my wife was like Ben meeting Sophie. I realized how deeply connected I could be with someone and it has helped my shyness melt away.

3. I noticed that you used primary colors. Can you share why you chose to use limited colors? Corey: Ben is blue because it singles him out and symbolizes his shyness. Sophie is red because she stands out in Ben’s eyes in a very bold way. The background characters are less saturated because Ben doesn’t connect with them like he does with Sophie.

4. Who inspired you to pursue art/writing? Corey: From a young age I’ve liked to draw and make up little stories. My mother was always very encouraging of both, and she told me I’d be a published author and artist someday. She was right! I also had some great professors in college who helped me have confidence and ushered me towards artistic opportunities.

5. Have you always been interested in dinosaurs? What’s your favorite dinosaur? Corey: I loved dinosaurs as a kid. I had several books about them and if you’ve ever seen Disney’s Fantasia there’s a scene about the evolution and extinction of dinosaurs that I would watch on repeat. I’d have to say Ultrasaurus is my favorite, because obviously.

6. Have you always wanted to write a children’s book? Corey: It’s been a goal from an early age. Reading, writing and drawing have always been something I enjoy and the best way to express myself – just like Ben.

7. Were you a reader as a kid? What was your favorite book as a kid? Corey: I read sooo much when I was young. My favorite book changed a lot, but a big one was Where the Wild Things Are.

8. What are you reading now? Corey: Leaves of Grass. I think America could use another Walt Whitman right now.

9. Do you have another book in future? Corey: Definitely. Nothing’s in the works yet but I do have an idea I’d like to pursue involving acrobats. I think I’ll let the dust settle a bit before I embark on that next journey.

You can connect with Corey on his website. You can also find Corey on Instagram. (This post contains affiliate links at no cost to my readers, but it does support my blog. Thank you!)

How One Teacher Reads Aloud To Her Middle School Classroom

I LOVE talking books and reading with friends and family. Recently, my friend Emily Allison shared with me how she uses a weekly story time in her Middle School classroom. To say I was intrigued was an understatement; I cried listening to Emily talk about this sweet tradition. I love that Emily takes time each week to read aloud to her classroom, I know I had to interview Emily so she could share with you.
1. Can you tell me about your Friday Story Time?

Emily: I got the idea for story time from a friend, Bobby Ivey, who taught high school chorus. He read a children’s book to his seniors every Friday. Four years ago, I asked him if I could use his tradition and he said absolutely! Now, every Friday at the end of each class, I sit and read with my students. I teach 6 classes ranging from 6th-8th grade so each class has a different take on the book of the week.

2. Were you worried about having a read aloud time for 6th-8th graders?

Emily: Honestly, I was incredibly self conscious. I hated reading aloud in school and didn’t have any experience doing it in my adult life either. I decided to just give it a shot and if my students hated it, I figured it would be easy to ditch. I introduced the first book on the first day of school. I read Max Lucado’s You are Special. Ever since then, I always select a particularly meaningful book for the first day of school. I use it as my theme for the year. On my 8th graders last day of school, I reread them the first book we ever read together in 6th grade. It is sentimental and we all really love it. .

3. Do you have any favorite books you’ve read to them?

Emily:  Oh goodness. I don’t know if I could narrow down my list of favorites! I think my two favorite beginning of the year books are In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek and Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna. They have some amazing lessons in them. My students love to act out the books as well, so the best ones for character acting are Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, George and Martha (a 4 story set) by James Marshall, Piggy Bunny by Rachel Veil, and Sixteen Cows by Lisa Wheeler.

4. Why do you think reading aloud to middle schoolers is important?

Emily: I think kids today are forced to grow up at a much younger age. They have more and more responsibility placed on them, both academically and socially. Reading aloud is so important, especially in young children. The best part about reading to my four year old at home is the shared bond we have over the stories. We enter into the world of imagination together and weeks and months later, we can still be discussing past books. This same bond is there with my middle schoolers. Story time gives them 10 minutes a week to just be a kid. We do it for pure enjoyment.

5. How has this changed your classroom dynamics?

Emily:  Four years ago I made a decision to focus my attention on the positive behaviors of my students. I started pouring all of my attention into the great things going on, and rewarding them with our shared story time at the end of the week. We do a lot of activities to reinforce this basic idea, and when my attitude changed, so did my students. Story time has helped create a shared love between us beyond the music we already share. It makes my classroom feel more like a home in which they can express themselves safely while sharing their innermost hopes and dreams. Whether we are reading a new story or a childhood favorite that they brought in; whether I am a reading, a student is reading, or a guest is there, we are free. Free to escape to a world a little simpler and a little more beautiful. The positive benefits of this are indispensable.

6. What is the feedback you have gotten from your students?

Emily: My students really love it! Every Friday, the first thing they say to me is, “What book did you bring?” or “Can I be a character?” I have found some of my most reserved students enjoy taking part in story time. It is always impressive to me to see them come together! I think my 6th and 7th graders think it is fun and silly, but by the time they walk out in 8th grade, they understand the magnitude and beauty of it. When I reread to them the first book we shared in 6th grade, they can fully grasp the lesson I was trying to give them. That is always a really touching moment.

7. What does your administration think of this tradition?

Emily:  I am blessed beyond measure with the most supportive administration around. They love to see all of our teachers work to create meaningful experiences in our classrooms. They give us the freedom to create a safe and creative environment in the form that works best for us. My principal has even been a guest reader!

8. What would you say to other teachers who may want to start a weekly read aloud time with their class?

Emily: Do it. Take the leap of faith needed to be vulnerable. I was so worried my students would think this was too childish. What I have found is that my students see my heart and my intentions. They have met me where I am at and they appreciate that I am trying to protect their childhood. Story time may look simple from the outside but it is so much more. My students will remember these moments. They will remember that we read The Kissing Hand on their first day of 6th grade and that it reminded them that they had someone looking out for them during some of the most challenging years of their school life. They will remember that we read A Bad Case of Stripes and that they were encouraged to be themselves even if it meant not fitting in, and they will remember reading The Night Before Christmas before each break because it reminded them that traditions carry weight and that they are important. It will also make you as a teacher seem more real. You will enter into a new world where you are more approachable and don’t we all want to be a trusted face to our students? You never know who’s life will be saved because they knew you cared.

Emily Allison has served as the choral director at East Hall Middle School in Gainesville, Ga since August of 2008. She is a lover of books and music. She enjoys investing her time in her students futures and in creating life long musicians. She resides in Toccoa, Ga with her husband Jake, their two kids Anthony and Nora, and more books than she cares to admit.

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Interview with Joy and Finley Author, Rachel Ingram!

I love conducting author interviews. Anytime you can get to know an author better, it really does provide great insight of what inspired the book! Reading Joy and Finley was such a treasure, I knew immediately I had to interview Author Rachel Ingram for you all.  If you missed my review, be sure to check it out. You can purchase Joy & Finley by going to Rachel’s website. It comes beautifully wrapped; making it truly HAPPY MAIL!

1. In Joy & Finley, you mention that one of your goals is to encourage parents to travel with their children more often. Can you share how you implement this with your family?

As a family, we decided that traveling and experiencing the world, whether that was overseas or in the US, is a priority. And that having young kids, isn’t a hindrance to traveling, it just makes the adventure more interesting! So we set goals (see below!) and we split up the travel tasks. I usually come up with an idea or a place to go, and Keith books the flights, hotels, things to do and packing supplies. Then I pack the girls’ stuff and mine all together, he downloads the reservations/tickets and off we go!

It’s about adopting a traveling and exploring lifestyle, even when it comes to setting aside some money every month for travel 🙂 And remember, that it’s okay to upset a routine or a schedule…especially the kids’ routine! They learn how to adapt, get along better, and get to experience the fun of new people and places. Plus, we often travel to places during their non-peak seasons, allowing for cheaper flights/hotels, and easier hours to ask off from work.

One last hint, is to come up with a funny secret word between you and your spouse or kids, that makes everyone laugh. That way, the next time someone gets stressed out while traveling, all you have to do is whisper the word in their ear and they’ll laugh instead of getting upset!

2. What tips do you have for parents traveling with young children?

Go at your own pace, be as mobile as possible, and always carry a first aid kit 🙂

It’s fun to schedule bike tours or to get passes to unique attractions, but don’t schedule out your whole day. Chances are you will be so stressed just trying to get to all your scheduled events, that you don’t actually enjoy them! Schedule 1-2 things to do, and have a flexible plan for the rest of the day. Don’t worry, you will still get to see everything, but this gives you the time you might need to go back to the hotel and change your shirt after your baby just had a poo explosion in the baby carrier!

Resist the urge to take your stroller and be as mobile as possible! There are so many great baby/kid carry solutions for travel, that allow you to hop on and off subways, go on tours, and maneuver through a crowds like a pro. Buy a kid carrier that has compartments and an sunshade/hood as well. You can pack it up for that day’s adventures, not have to carry any extra bags, and your kid is set whether rain or shine. I’m also a fan of encouraging your kids to walk. It might take twice as long, but sometimes going at a slower pace is better!

First aid kits, with baby wipes, will be your best friend! Kids trip, fall, climb, and get scraps at home, which means they will do the same while traveling! A first aid kit can be as simple as bandaids, antibiotic ointment, sanitizer, wipes and tissues all in a ziplock bag. It will be mom and dad to the rescue as you clean off the scrap, put ointment on it and place a bandaid on it, all within minutes, allowing your travels to continue! Plus bandaids are great for the blisters mom and dad are going to get from walking and carrying kids everywhere:)
3. Do you have any upcoming trips?

Disneyland!! Our daughters are at the perfect Disneyland age, and are super excited to go in February. Plus my oldest daughter’s name is Elsa (she was born before the movie!), so Frozen is a pretty big deal at our house 🙂 We are also hoping to go to Victoria BC this spring, and explore Olympic National Park this summer. Right now, our house is under construction, so hopefully by the fall we’ll be done, and we can get more trips in!
4. Where have you traveled with your kids?

Our first trip with kids was to Hawaii when my oldest was only 3 weeks old! We lived in Caserta Italy for 3 years, and in Italy we traveled to Naples/Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Sardinia (gorgeous beaches!), Rome, Pisa, Tremoli (on the Adriatic coast), Florence, Venice, Como and Bolzano. In the UK we visited London, Portsmouth, and Dover. In France we saw Paris and the French Alps when we stayed in La Clusaz (near the Swiss border) and we visited Geneva Switzerland on that same trip. Germany is one of my favorite places to visit, and we saw Munich, Berlin (love!), Stuttgart, and Schwangau (Neuschwanstein Castle is amazing!). We’ve also been to Vancouver and Whistler BC, Portland Oregon, and a few east coast cities such as Williamsburg and Portsmouth. And of course we’ve traveled around Washington state :)!

5. Do you foresee Joy & Finley becoming a series?

Yes! We want Joy, Finley and Sir Sam to be characters that encourage kids to have adventure and travel. We’re hoping to write books that include settings from all the places we’ve been,and then to start traveling internationally more often, so that we can write books about new places!

6. (Follow up question to #5): What is next for Joy & Finley, the Italian Race mentions London?

I have a feeling Scotland Yard is going to need some help solving a great British mystery! Of course there are going to be 1930’s airplanes and motorcycles, a chase through London and Dover, plus some great British food, words, and history. It’s making me crave bacon crisps and British biscuits!

7. Do the adventures of Joy & Finley reflect your real life travels?

Yes! (see above about the next books being in places we’ve been!) Living and traveling overseas opened up so many doors, including great cultural insights for Joy & Finley. We love the history of European cites as well, and tried to include that in Joy & Finley with the time period (1930’s) and the places they visit. Also, no one really escapes living near Naples Italy without a few dents in their car, and you can pretend you are driving a race car down the Autostrada (like an interstate) because the speed limit is loosely interpreted 🙂

8. Speaking of influence, Sir Sam was one of my favorite antidotes to Joy & Finley. Is Sir Sam a real dog?

Sir Sam is based off of our own wire fox terrier, Samper! We got him when he was only 8 weeks old, and he has flown everywhere with us:) He is 7 years old now, and is definitely just as full of spunk as Sir Sam. He loves running down the hiking trails, going with us to take the girls to and from school, and laying on a blanket in front of the fireplace. Our family would not be the same without him!

9. For parents who are unable to travel overseas with their kids, how do you recommend family explore new places (aside from reading Joy& Finley)?

I love that question! We are huge advocates for getting outside and exploring your local community and cities! I recommend making monthly adventure goals, as well as setting a goal to go on 2-4 larger trips in the US every year. For monthly goals, you should have at least one day trip planned, and then set a goal to go on a hike, visit a new park, go to a new bakery, visit a new bookstore etc. at least once a week. I’m a fan of packing the kids in the car, driving for 2-3 hours and then visiting museums, local attractions, restaurants, etc. for a fun day trip! And then getting out with the family, a least once a week, is great relationship building time as well. The longer trips can be a road trip to the next largest city, a national park, a ski weekend, a history trip in Boston or Philadelphia…the options are endless! The big factor is setting aside time to plan out trips, and making a goal to follow through.

To learn more about other countries, the library is a great resource! I make it a goal to get at least 2-4 children’s books just about other countries or cultures, every time we go to the library. Kids love learning about other little kids, and both fiction and non-fiction books are great teaching resources. Plus it’s fun to try to get the accents down when your reading a book about another country!

10. What was your favorite book as a child?

I totally wanted to be Nancy Drew!!

For picture books, I loved Goodnight Moon and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. They were some of the first books we bought when our oldest daughter was born. And yes, I have a Nancy Drew set of books on my shelf, that I plan on giving my daughters when they get older 🙂

11. What are you reading now?

A Small Town in Germany by John le Carre and Captain Riley by Fernando Gamboa. I’m a fan of the spy/mystery, adventure, and history genres. I just finished Winter Fortress by Neal Bascomb and LOVED it!!

12. Who influenced your writing and/or traveling spirit?

As a child I fell in love with Indiana Jones and wanted to be an archaeologist (they are still my favorite movies!) We didn’t travel much when I was a kid, so from an early age, my goal was to get out and see the world, like Indiana Jones. I’ve always had a sense of adventure and desire to travel, and my parents encouraged me to work hard and achieve my travel dreams. My first real adventure was when I moved away from Texas to go to college in Colorado, at 18. It was just me!! From there I traveled to Norway, the UK, Holland and Spain after my freshman year, and I’ve kept going since 🙂 I’m definitely different than my other family members who still live in Texas and don’t travel much, but that works for them and traveling works for me!

I also have a philosophy that the world is such an amazing place, filled with people who can inspire us, encourage us, and teach us. My husband and I believe that every kid should have the chances we had to work hard, dream and go on adventures. That is why a portion of every Joy & Finley book sold, goes to international relief organizations that do amazing work for kids all over the world. We love to travel, but we love Jesus even more, and traveling the world is so much better when you love and help others along the way!


Be sure to follow Rachel on Instagram and Facebook for more Joy & Finley adventures!


Interview with Queen Girls Publication

My daughter is kind, sweet, lover of pink, and fierce. She knows what she wants and where she is going. Her ability to embrace her femininity, while be brave and courageous are all attributes that I have learned from her. Raising a daughter is such a joy!  Which is why I am excited about our first author interview of 2017, the women behind Queen Girls Publication are using real life heroes to inspire girls to be leaders. The Queen Girls Publication is still on Kickstarter and you should definitely check them out! They are also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest

1. Tell me about how you came up with the idea for the Queen Girls Collection?

It has been a little over a year now since our idea was born! My sister in law and co-creator, Jimena, had recently given birth to her first baby (my darling nephew) and I, had just returned home from a year of traveling. As a new mom, Jimena started looking at children’s books a bit deeper and recognized various stereotypes present in children stories – Jime is also well invested in human development and passionate about psychology. She is now training to become a life coach and recognized that there was a lack of empowering content for young girls, in a time when they begin to create perspectives and beliefs they will hold for the rest of their lives. Combined with my educational background of working as a speech pathologist and experience working with children abroad – both of which showed me the difficulties that children are facing to follow their dreams, we thought this would be a great journey to start together. A journey that would give us the opportunity to jump into action and be part of a movement that strives towards diversity.

2. I know you are doing a Kickstarter campaign for the first book, but what other women do you hope to highlight in the future?

We have our next two Queens picked out! One is ‘Savi, Queen of Education’ inspired by Savitribai Phule, an Indian poet and social reformist who paved the way for education of girls in India. The other is “Isadora, the Rebel Queen’ inspired by Isadora Duncan, a woman ahead of her time, who gave birth to modern dance. There are so many other inspiring women we have on our minds, as well. Our intention is to use the help of our Kickstarter backers to decide on future Queens! They are already sharing their ideas of women with us like Viola Desmond and others!

Our vision is to create a collection where other authors, illustrators, and aspiring creators can join to write books on their own Queens.

3. What is your favorite thing about Bessie?

We love how adventurous Bessie was. In order to follow her heart and make her dream come true, Bessie had to use her adventurous spirit to take risks, be brave, go outside of her comfort zone, and do things that no girls had ever done before.  We would love to see the girls that read our books aim to use this trait to help make their dreams come true!

4. How do you hope your series influences young girls?

We want our series to teach young girls that with a dream and some hard work, they can be anything they want. Absolutely anything. We want girls growing up in a world where gender barriers do not exist and where they are encouraged to be themselves, no matter what that may be. We truly believe we need to be reading different stories to our girls, and this is why we are creating positive content for young readers.

5. Who was your role model growing up?

My role model growing up was my older brother, Justin – intelligent, personable, adventurous, independent, and ambitious to name a few. I was constantly following in his footsteps. His influence has had a huge impact on who I am today, and I will forever be grateful for having him to look up to.

6. As a child, what was your favorite book?

A favorite book of mine, among many, was “The Little Engine That Could.” It ties in with the Queen Girls mission – inspiring children to dream, believe, and achieve! “I think I can, I think I can!”

7. Why is your collection called Queen Girls?

Queens are kind, brave, loyal, determined and real! They are passionate, have dreams and follow their heart! We are aiming to break free from the stereotypical princess ideology and instead, steer our girls towards Queens.

 Check out their Kickstarter!