Author Interview: MT Hamilton

Several weeks ago, while scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post from a friend about a new book called, Dads Are Mighty, Dads are Strong by MT Hamilton. We love books with monsters, and this one had such bright colored monsters as the main characters, I knew it would be a hit. I’m excited to share my interview with author MT Hamilton today. Enjoy it! You can get Dads Are Mighty, Dads Are Strong by going here.

1. What/Who inspired you to write your book, Dad’s Are Mighty, Dads Are Strong?

MT: My son Caleb had a very difficult time staying asleep the first year of his life, every night every 2 hours he would wake up. Knowing from my experience with his older sister that the time would go fast, I loved/hated these moments. Loved because it was another chance to cuddle my little one. Hated because who want to live like this? It’s like your a crack addict or something. One night the words just popped in my head, “Dads are mighty, Dads are strong, Dads can go all night long.” Sound familiar? This was the genesis of the book and I took 3.5 years to make it what it was today. Originally, the lines were random with random illustrations, but I realized I needed to tie everything together with a stronger story. So, I began writing the story that would only be told through the illustrations. It was challenging to keep it kid friendly and not make the dad look like an idiot for getting too close to the train tracks. My goal of the book is to tell the story of every dad’s true identity. It is not who you are but who you are meant to be. It is all about the journey to get into alignment with your true self. Many books only point out how dads like to do silly things and break the rules that mom sets. I wrote the book as a well rounded perspective on who a dad is. Not only do they love playing, but they provide and protect no matter if they are a stay at home dad or a nine to fiver.

2. I loved that you used “monsters” as the main characters. Is there a reason why you chose monsters for your book?

MT: Originally, I illustrated the book with my white mug as the main character. I wasn’t planning on doing a book just having fun. I love digital painting. When I realized it was becoming something more, I started thinking about how the book can connect with any dad no matter who they are. I didn’t want to be political just relevant. I felt bears and animals were overdone. I love playing “monster” with my kids so I felt that was a great fit. Now, no matter if you are white, black or blue with polka dots, readers can more easily relate to the characters. Even for multicultural families, the kids are different colors than the dad.

3. What was your favorite book as a kid?

MT: remember my mom reading my brother and I “Swiss Family Robinson” and I loved that. The idea of living outside and beating the elements. Can you tell I love backpacking and the outdoors too?

4. What book are you reading now?

MT: Oh goodness, I’m reading several books right now. For fun, I just finished the “Ancillary Justice” series that won several awards. Very entertaining and extremely well written. For personal growth, I am reading “Hero”, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, and a book on relationships.

5. What’s the best thing to you about being a dad?

MT: Just my kids. Loving them and spending time with them. I don’t understand how so many dads are not intrinsically motivated to play with their kids. I love helping them become who they are meant to be and not giving a hoot if they don’t measure up. So many parents get obsessed with their kids being an assignment they have to pass. We have to give our kids room to fail that is what helps them become who they are meant to be.

6. How can kids who may come from a family where a dad isn’t present gain from your book?

MT: I think the book is a great model to aim for, so if dad is way out of alignment with who is meant to be, the book is an encouragement. Dads are mighty and dads are strong, but dads aren’t perfect and sadly sometimes good. You can’t control other’s actions but you can control reaction. So, you look towards model of what a dad should be for your future.

7. Do you have another book in the works?

MT: Haha, I always get asked that. I’m a product manager at a Fortune Top 10 company and one of the methods we practice is called agile/LEAN development. The idea is to not worry about creating perfection but to iterate your way to building a great offering. With each cycle, you are testing your customers feedback and changing accordingly. That’s why I decided to publish my book on-demand. As I receive feedback, I can update the book and add content. So, “Dads are Mighty, Dads are Strong” becomes a living growing thing. Right now, I’m working on a page set from catching fireflies with the kids. The lines go, “When night rolls in, Dads love hugs, and catching some lightning bugs.” I will update the book with this illustration sometime in 2017.

Dads Are Mighty, Dads Are Strong is now available! Grab your copy today! You can also check out the MightyDads Website!

*This post does contain affiliate links. This is at no cost to you, my readers, but it does help support my blog. Thank you!*

Interview with Cookbook Author Kathy Strahs

While at the BlogHer conference last week, I had the honor of meeting and interviewing cookbook author Kathy Strahs. Kathy is food blogger turned three time cookbook author. Her cookbooks include, The Lemonade Stand, She is the founder of Burnt Cheese Press.

At the BlogHer conference, Kathy shared about her newest cookbook, The Lemonade Stand. Kathy said the inspiration for The Lemonade Stand came from watching her kids and neighbors put together a neighborhood lemonade stand. As the kids were making lemonade, creating signs, and advertising, Kathy realized this would be a great idea for a cookbook. The Lemonade Stand cookbook’s recipes is kid tested and parent approved. “After, all,” Kathy added. “The good has to taste good since the parents are the customers.” As a parent of an entrepreneurial kid, I can definitely appreciate that Kathy not only considered what would be easy for the kids to make, but what the adults would love to eat as well.

The Lemonade Stand is divided into three sections: Setting Up Your Stand, Recipes and Crafts. This takes The Lemonade Stand from a “just” a cookbook, to a way to an all inclusive, family activity book. This is perfect for ages 6-12 years of age.

Since The Lemonade Stand is Kathy’s third cookbook, Kathy shared the premise behind her other cookbooks as well. Kathy said, “The first one, The Ultimate Panini Press was a reflection of my cooking blog, Panini Happy. The second one, The 8×8 Cookbook, was a reflection of our family lifestyle. The third one, The Lemonade Stand, is a cookbook for my kids.”

Kathy has an MBA and I asked her, “Were you a kid with an entrepreneurial drive?” Kathy replied, “I wouldn’t say I was an entrepreneur, as much as I was a maker. I took sewing classes, did calligraphy, took sewing classes, and was an avid knitter.”

When asked how she started cooking, Kathy said that she started blogging as a new mom. “I started a cooking blog as a mom with a newborn. We had to eat, and I needed something to do, so a cooking blog solved both of those things.” Soon her blog morphed into Kathy becoming a cookbook author and business owner.

As a child, however, Kathy remembers her mom searching out the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. To this day, “If someone says, ‘I have the best cookie recipe or this place has the best chocolate chip cookie!’” Kathy grins. “I have to try it.” What her favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe right now? “Well, The Lemonade Stand cookbook recipe is my favorite for making it the day of. You don’t have to chill this recipe!”

One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What was your favorite book to read as a child?”. Kathy says her favorite is the, “Betsy Series by Carolyn Howard. It was a favorite of my mom’s when she was a child and I loved reading them too. Of course, the Ramona series, All-Of-Kind-Family and the Babysitter’s Club were also series I loved. My mom always encouraged us to be readers.”

So, what Kathy reading now? “Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, all because of the HBO series!”

As a child, who did Kathy look up to as a business inspiration? “Probably Michael J. Fox in my favorite childhood movie, ‘Secrets of My Success’. That was my goal as a child, to be in that corporate world.”

At the BlogHer conference, Kathy was the moderator for the panel session, “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly of Cookbook Publishing”. As a moderator, Kathy was responsible for leading the discussion and coming up with the questions. (You can check out the Twitter notes by searching the hashtag: #cookbooksPubBH.)

As we wrapped up our interview, Kathy passed me her business card, I noticed she had a Julia Childs quote on her business card. Kathy told me, “I love Julia Childs because she didn’t start her TV show until she was in her 50s. This is something I tell college kids, “It’s never too late!”’.

That’s good advice for us all.

You can get Kathy’s books by going to Burnt Cheese Press. You can also follow Burnt Cheese Press on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Interview with Beth Guckenberger

I am thrilled to bring you the interview with author Beth Guckenberger. I was on Beth’s book launch team for her book, Start With Amen. It was a book that made a huge impact on me. I am so glad I had an opportunity to interview Beth. You can read my book review of Start With Amen here.

You can find Beth on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Enjoy my interview with Beth!

1. Your book was incredibly raw and honest. Were you nervous about being so vulnerable with your readers?

Beth: Yes, but it didn’t seem worth the effort of writing without being real. So much pretend is in the world, and I grow most when I honestly exchange with someone. This was my best attempt at starting the exchange. My hope is readers have conversations of substance with people in their life as they process their own insights with each other.

2. For our readers who may have not read Start With Amen, can you share Why Start With Amen? (Side note; this is something I really wrestled with as I read your book, but it felt like such freedom once I worked through it in my own life)

Beth: Starting with “amen” (which means ‘so be it’) is more a posture than a prescription. It means beginning with the realization he is sovereign, and worthy to be surrendered to. Letting go of my agenda right from the start breeds freedom. Then I ask or confess like I would in any normal prayer, concluding by acknowledging who I am addressing, “dear Jesus…” Inverting my prayer life has allowed me to release control, worry, fear and embrace peace, spiritual confidence, freedom.

3. How has the Lord used your book, Start With Amen in your own life?

Beth: The idea of starting with amen has been a tremendous part of my spiritual maturation. The actual book was an act of obedience and any time we say yes to Jesus and then grow through the discipline of following through with that ‘yes’, we are changed.

4. My blog is all about reading and books, can you share with your favorite book was as a child?

Beth: I loved novels, and probably Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume was one of my favorite stories. As I grew, I appreciated true stories and today read more of those than any other kind.

5. What’s a book you are reading now?

Beth: My friend, Lauren Casper, just wrote a book It’s Okay About It about her autistic son. I am in the middle of it and appreciating her warm, conversational tone and spiritual insights.

6. When you are writing, do you have a daily ritual you follow?

Beth: I have no ritual! I do lots of travel, so I wrote a bunch of Start With Amen on a plane, or in a hotel room. Once I am under a deadline, I write whenever I can (I have a houseful of kids!) usually in my room (where I can shut the door!) and with a Diet Coke in hand.

7.  Who do you consider to be a “hero in the faith”?

Beth: Oh, no doubt, my mom. She reads her Bible so much and has a enthusiasm for it’s fresh insights, despite the fact she’s been studying it for 50 years! I appreciate how she gains strength from it for her life, relationships and calling.

8. Are you working on another book?

Beth: Always! I always have an idea or two floating around my head and my hard drive. I am working on three proposals right now, we’ll see which ones stick around. Thanks for asking!

*This post contains affiliate links. This is at no cost to you, but it does help support my blog. Thank you so much!*

Interview with Illustrator Jose Lucio

I’m so excited to share my interview with Jose Lucio with you today. Jose is a talented illustrator who has illustrated several books I’ve had the honor of reviewing (check out my review for Heave, Ho! here and Free Rain here.). His works include incredible artwork. In Heave, Ho!, you will get to pause at the modern techniques he uses in the story. In Free Rain, the illustrations are so bright and cheerful. Jose is from Georgia and his Instagram feed is full of school visits, sneak peeks to new projects, and new places his books are going. You can find Jose by going to his website, Facebook, and Instagram.

I hope you enjoy this interview!

1. Can you share the art techniques you used in Heave, Ho! And Free Rain?

Jose: All of the artwork for my books and illustrations are done in Photoshop. I start out by creating really simple shapes for the characters and environment. Once I have the shapes all set, then I start layering up visual textures to give each element its own unique look.

2. Where do you get the inspiration for your artwork?

Jose: Inspiration for me comes from everyday life. Especially from the quirkier side of things. I suppose that’s evident in my book about a bunch of worms and a book about a coop of nervous chickens.

3. Do you have a daily ritual when working on a project?

Jose: I do a lot of freelance work, which means my schedule is always shifting to whatever project or projects are coming up on a deadline. Overall, though I wake up and go for a walk with the dogs (2 chihuahuas), then I spend a few hours at the drawing table/computer, around lunch I’ll go run some errands and walk the dogs again, after that I can usually manage another hour at the drawing table before I start teaching, most days I have 2-3 hours worth of art lessons that I teach, when I get back home I’ll play with the dogs for awhile, have dinner, then finish up the night by doing the business side of things- emails, marketing, booking, etc. Then when I find myself dozing at the computer I’ll head to bed.

4. Do you have any new books or projects in the works?

Jose: I don’t have any book projects at the moment, and that’s mainly because it takes a lot of time and effort to get the word out about a new book, so my focus right now is spreading the word about Free Rain. I will be doing small tours throughout the summer and then I’ll be on the road for September and October, so I’m also pretty engaged with that.

5. I noticed you do school visits. Can you share what you love about school visits?

Jose: School Visits are so much fun, they really are a highlight of this whole process for me. When I’m at a school we do an interactive reading and then we all do a drawing activity together. Through the drawing lesson, I share “the secret to draw anything in the whole wide world” and kids are always so amazed at the end by what they’ve created.

6. If a school wants to arrange a visit with you, how can they contact you?

Jose:  I’m always looking to visit more schools and libraries, so just send me a message at to book a visit. There are also a lot of pictures of past events and more details on my website, so feel free to swing by there and have a look around.

7. Any tips for budding young artists?

Jose: To all the young artists out there, of course I have to say practice, practice, practice! In addition to that, know that there are at least a zillion ways to create art and I believe there’s really no wrong way to do it- just different ways. Try as many out as you can, you’ve got the seemingly infinite world of tutorial videos on the internet- watch a few of those and you will see that everyone’s got there own unique way of doing things.

8. What was your favorite book as a child?

Jose: It’s really hard to pick a favorite book from my childhood, but there was always something about Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs that really sparked my imagination. For some reason, that book more than any other allowed me to see myself in that environment. The illustrations do more than just tell the story- they invite you in, you can smell the air, and you can feel the storm in the coming breeze. I love it!

9. What are you reading now?

Jose: Right now I’m slowly reading Consolations by David Whyte. I say slowly reading because it’s the kind of book that you read a couple of pages and then give it some time to settle in, which works well for piecing it in to my schedule. It’s an examination of language and the underlying meaning of everyday words- really unique and thought provoking.

*This Post contains affiliate links. This is at no cost to my readers, but it does help support my blog! Thank you so much!*

School Gives Away 2000 books!

If you remember last week I shared the vision and goal of Riverbend Elementary to give each of their 400 students five physical books by the end of the summer. You can read my post here.

Well, so much happened in a week!

Fox5 Atlanta picked up the story of Principal Donna Wiggins and her staff collecting books to give to their students for the summer. You can read the article here.

What I didn’t know when I shared last week is that Riverbend Elementary didn’t just give kids a couple of books in a Walmart plastic shopping bag, the Riverbend Elementary staff  prepared an extensive READING KIT for each student to take home for the summer. I get emotional when I think about the Reading Kits because it is truly an act of love and example of the passion educators have for their kids and the importance of getting books into the hands of kids and their families during the summer months.

Earlier this week, I stopped by Riverbend Elementary. My kids and I showed up unannounced to donate books. Principal Wiggins graciously gave us a great tour of how her hardworking staff were packing these Reading Kits. Keep in mind, these dedicated teachers were doing this on top of the end of the year parties, Kindergarten graduations, and Award ceremonies. I saw them hustling to pack books for each individual student. They carefully selected books that were age-appropriate for the children to read.

Riverbend Elementary staff were SO VERY KIND to me and my children. As you all know, I have three children under 5 years old. It’s nothing short of an adventure when we go anywhere. But, the Riverbend Elementary staff were so kind to us. When we showed up, we had no idea the Kindergarten Graduation was going on. Nevertheless, From the front office to the teachers we met, we were warmly greeted. This is a staff who LOVES kids and it shows. Even the exhaustion of the end of the school year could not dampen the excitement these educators had for their students.

The Summer Reading Kits were so impressive. Each student was given a beautiful and hardy bag. Inside the bag were a stack of FIVE age-appropriate books for each student and a folder. The folder held information about the Get Georgia Reading Program (the digital reading program), several reading logs, a reading related bucked list, a letter to the parents from Principal Wiggins, and information for participating in our local county’s library summer reading program. This bag was a treasure trove for reading! If you remember, Principal Wiggins had a goal of 5 books for each student. Well, they collected and distributed 2000 books! WHAT AN INCREDIBLE ACCOMPLISHMENT!

Riverbend Elementary created Reading Kits that would set up their students for success during summer break. Not only that, these Reading Kits have set the parents up for success too. Even if the kids and families don’t go to the library or utilize the digital reading program (which I hope they do it ALL!); if they just read those 5 books, that’s FIVE solid books kids and families are reading together. The Reading Kits could be the key that opens up a world of reading for children and their family. That bag full of reading goodies introduces families to a wonderful screen-free activity that not only enhances their family time, but also sets their kids up for success in the upcoming school year.  Reading is so powerful and life changing!

When Principal Wiggins gave me a tour, she mentioned how she had just come out of the Kindergarten Graduation. In the graduation, when she told the parents what they were doing with the Reading Kits, the parents and families cheered. Hearing that, showed me that parents are excited about what Principal Wiggins and her staff have created. They’ve thrown open the door to possibility of reading in a very tangible way and the students and families are excited!!

As we walked around, I noticed my kids were getting so excited. The stacks of books and the reading logs were drawing my kids in. It was like the Pied Piper; they couldn’t help but gravitate towards all the books! Principal Wiggins graciously gave us reading logs and we will be utilizing them this summer!

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the numerous book donations Riverbend Elementary received. Principal Wiggins showed me her office which was PACKED and overflowing with books they had collected for their students. If you donated books to Riverbend Elementary, THANK YOU SO MUCH. You helped make these Reading Kits possible. Thank you for investing and believing in the importance getting kids reading!

Every time I think about Riverbend Elementary and what they accomplished in providing summer Reading Kits to their students, I can’t help by grin from ear to ear. I also can’t help but get weepy too. The vision for these Reading Kits, combined with the hard work of the staff to pack them speaks so highly of the Riverbend Elementary School Educators. I’m so thankful to have met Principal Donna Wiggins. She and her staff are a treasure and our school district is so fortunate to have them investing in our children.


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.