Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Two new books from Lerner! What's Your Story, Frederick Douglass? and What's Your Story, Sequoyah?

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

In the warm before the cold a couple days ago, my two newest books from Lerner Publishing landed on my doorstep: What's Your Story, Frederick Douglass? and What's Your Story, Sequoyah? Such fascinating men, both of whom fought for the rights of their people. Douglass for African Americans during the 1800s, and Sequoyah for the Cherokee and American Indian tribes. The books look great! I hope your library or school gets a copy.

Monday, November 9, 2015

"Koala Wanted" poem in Highlights, Dec 2015

Highlights Magazine

Hi, everyone,

Good news! My sleepy koalas have found their way to Highlights! Thanks, Joelle and the Highlights team, and thanks, Jess von Innerebner, for such an adorable illustration!

Please check out Jess's other work here, http://www.jessvoni.com/published-works/jgtrl9sdv3823vomtv9j1jkg24bn0x.

Take care!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Please indulge me for a minute...



                                      KANSAS CITY ROYALS


                                             THE WORLD SERIES!!!

We're huge baseball fans at my house, and following the Royals through the World Series was the most fun we've had in a long time. My family and I attended the parade in downtown Kansas City today, and it was a huge blast!

Here's a great overview of the day's events. Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

River Read Update--with Pictures!

What a great day to be a Pirate!

River Read was a huge success, thanks to the hard work of Shannon Cuff, her staff, and the Park students who ushered everyone around and made sure all the technology worked.

And thanks to the kids and teachers. You were great! Wish I'd gotten a picture or two of us.

Here are a few of the authors who participated in today's event (photo credit: Natasha Hanova).
(l to r, Susan Schank, Ann Ingalls, me, Lisa McCormick, Mary Schulte, Debra McArthur)

(l to r, Susan Schank, Natasha Hanova, me, Lisa McCormick, Mary Schulte, Debra McArthur)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Park University's River Read is Coming!

Hey Everyone,

Park University's River Read is just around the corner--October 13, 2015--and I'm excited! River Read is a day-long event for 4th graders in the area to gather at Park University and interact with authors of children's literature. Students will learn about writing fiction, nonfiction, the difference among genres, and more.

I'll be participating for the fourth year, and I can't wait to see the kids, their teachers, and parents! My session is called Creating Great Characters. We're going to talk about how writers develop characters their readers care about. What makes fictional characters memorable? How they look? How they speak? How can you tell Henry from Mudge in the text?

I'll try to post a picture or two afterwards. See you soon!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Look what the UPS man brought me!

Laura Sassi's darling new picture book, GOODNIGHT, MANGER [Zonderkidz], illustrated by Jane Chapman [The Bear books]! It's all about trying to get a good night's sleep in a really busy stable, and it's darling. The rhyming text is sweet and funny; the illustrations are huggable and witty.

Please go buy yourself a copy when it releases on October 6, 2015. It's the perfect Christmas gift for the baby in your life.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Box of Healthy Books

Hey, all,

Look what arrived on my doorstep last week--my latest titles from Amicus: INSIDE MY HEART, INSIDE MY LUNGS, and INSIDE MY MUSCLES.

Narrated by characters students will identify with, these super-informative books take readers on a journey inside their bodies. Eye-catching illustrations bring the texts to life.

Check out this description of the Inside My Body series on Amicus' website:


Thanks, Amicus!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Scarecrow's Restaurant" in October Highlights magazine

Yay! My most recent poem is on page 7 in the October 2015 Highlights magazine. Such great art by the talented Luke Flowers!

Thanks, Highlights!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Hey Everyone,

Remember in early May when Marilou Reeder stopped by and told us about her picture book, THE DARING PRINCE DASHING?

Well now she's got an awesome Kirkus review to show you! The part I especially like is when they acknowledge that Reeder's heroine "isn't in need of saving." Princess Power!

Read the full review below.


Congratulations, Marilou!

Readers, you can visit Marilou on Twitter @MarilouReeder.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Smart, Fierce, Amazing (Kids and) Animals!

I had a great time recently talking with kids and their caregivers about smart, fierce, and amazing animals at the Mid-Continent Public Library in Liberty, Missouri. We're just about to make grizzly bear claws!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Speaking Engagements

Hey, everyone,

I had the opportunity to speak to some great kids and their adults last Thursday, June 25 at the South Independence Mid-Continent Public Library. We talked about SMART, FIERCE, AMAZING ANIMALS, including chimpanzees, grizzly bears, and bearded dragons. The kids asked great questions and really had fun making their own four-inch long bear claws.

I'll be presenting the same program at 1:00pm on Wednesday, July 8 at the Blue Ridge Mid-Continent Public Library in Kansas City, Missouri and at 10am on July 13 at the Liberty Mid-Continent Public Library in Liberty, Missouri. I hope you can join me to learn about these interesting animals!

Also on July 13 at 2:30pm, I'll be reading a portion of Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at Barnes & Noble's Zona Rosa location in Kansas City, Missouri. You can read more about the Read-A-Thon here.

I hope to see you at one of these upcoming events!

Take care,


Monday, June 15, 2015

Critique Across Missouri

Hey, everyone,

Last week I had the opportunity to host four other picture book writers in my home to talk picture books. What fun!

We discussed characterization, pacing, story problems, illustration, the rule of three, emotional resonance, and lots more. We critiqued one another's work and even heard a couple of original songs by one of the attendees.

The event was called Critique Across Missouri, and it was organized by Kim Piddington, Missouri's RA for SCBWI. Several groups held similar sessions all over the state.

Thanks, Kim, for getting us started, and thanks to those of you who sat around my kitchen table last Wednesday morning!

Sue Gallion, Ann Ingalls, Shelly Long, Luanne Marten

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Fast Food" in Highlights for Children

Hey, everyone,

Good news! My nonfiction poem, "Fast Food," is on page 19 of the July Highlights for Children. It's about the harpy eagle. Talk about fast! If you're not a Highlights' subscriber, check out a copy at your local library.

Thanks, Highlights!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015


***Update May 5, 2015***

Thanks again to everyone who entered Marilou's Cover Reveal Contest. We have a winner!

Danielle Farrelly Modzelewski

Congratulations, Danielle! Send me an email [address in profile], and I'll forward your information to Marilou.

Thanks for playing, everyone. And congrats on the book, Marilou!


Hey everyone,

I'm thrilled to host my good friend and critique buddy, Marilou Reeder, on Just Kidding. Marilou is a fellow picture book author and an incredibly nice person. That's why I'm honored she chose my blog to reveal the cover of her debut picture book, THE DARING PRINCE DASHING! (Woot!) Don't you just love the illustrations by Karl West! You'll love Prince Dashing's story, too! Read on for more daring details.

Here's Marilou:

Hi, everyone! I’m so excited to share the cover of my first picture book, The Daring Prince Dashing, with you. The illustrator is the ├╝ber talented and hard-working  Karl West. He has added so many fun details in the spreads, and it’s been a real thrill to see my characters come to life through his artwork. This is a debut book for both of us.

The Daring Prince Dashing is about an adventurous prince who finds his kingdom pretty boring until he meets his fearless match. It releases on November 3, 2015.

To celebrate my cover reveal, Jody is hosting a giveaway on her blog beginning today! Just share my cover somewhere on social media (twitter, facebook,  etc.) and then leave a comment on Jody’s blog telling me what you’ve done. You’ll be entered into a drawing for a $15 gift card to Barnes and Noble. The deadline for entering is Monday, May 4th, and the winner will be announced on Jody’s blog the next day. 

Thank you, Jody!

I'm delighted to be part of your cover reveal, Marilou! Congratulations on your first picture book! 

Friends, don't delay! Share Marilou's cover, and then dash back here and tell us where you've shared! You can find Marilou on twitter @MarilouReeder.

Have a great day, everyone!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

High Five--May 2015

Hey everyone,

It's the Day-After-Earth-Day, and I'm celebrating with a little golden bird...and the May issue of High Five magazine. Why? I have a letter poem, "Lucinda's Cake," on pages 16-17 about a bird. I hope you'll check it out at your local library. Or...listen to the issue at HighlightsParents.com. Click on the blue High Five image then on the "High Five Audio Edition" button on the right. Enjoy, and Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Hey everyone,

Some delicious news has been baking at my house! This went up on Publisher's Marketplace today.

I'm so excited to be working with Chrissy Pulles at Simon Spotlight! And a big thanks to my agent, Kathleen Rushall, for providing all the right ingredients for this deal! (click once on the image to enlarge)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Hey guys,

This was announced today on Publisher's Marketplace! Super excited and thankful (despite the TINY TEXT THAT I AM UNABLE TO ENLARGE)!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CINDER EDNA by Ellen Jackson...Still delighting readers after 20 years

In 1994, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard published Ellen Jackson's CINDER EDNA, a fun, twisty take on the traditional Cinderella story. Twenty years later, The Washington Post revisited CINDER EDNA to find out why kids and their caregivers are still reading and loving this tale. (It's still in print!)

Ellen has stopped by today to discuss the book and her writing. Thanks for coming, Ellen! Can you believe it's been 20 years since CINDER EDNA was published? 

How did you decide to write this story in the first place?

Even as a little girl I was bothered by the Cinderella story (even though it was probably my favorite fairy tale). For example, I could never understand why the prince didn’t recognize Cinderella when he came to her house with the glass slipper. He’d been dancing with her all night, and presumably looking at her. And why “glass” slippers? That didn’t seem like the best choice of material for a pair of shoes. My first thought was to write a humorous story that would explain all those little discrepancies. But then it occurred to me that Cinderella wasn’t much of a role model either. Why not have my Cinderella be spunkier and more of a go-getter?

Did the writing come quickly, or did you have to work to get it just right?

The general plot came fairly quickly, but I struggled to get the details just right. For example, at the end there’s a description of the Cinderella’s life as a queen and daily routine. I wanted to make it funny, and I rewrote it several times. And the same was true at the beginning of the book where I tell about Cinder Edna’s chores. The details had to be funny, but appropriate and not too distracting.

Was there a message behind the story that you wanted to convey to kids?

I don’t really try to send a message when I write. My primary goal is to entertain and make children (and, hopefully, their parents) laugh. The “message” or theme usually creeps in somewhere along the way, but it’s often just a part of how I look at the world. In the case of CINDER EDNA, I was aware that Cinderella had led me astray as a child. It instilled in me the idea that I needed to look for a prince–someone who would sweep me off my feet and provide for all my needs. And I’d better grow up to be beautiful to attract that prince.

That was just my childish take on the story. Don’t misunderstand, I love fairy tales and I think that most can be interpreted in more than one way, especially Cinderella. But I’m not beautiful and I’ve learned that it’s more satisfying to improve your own life rather than expect a fairy godmother to do it for you. All this was in the back of my mind when I wrote the story, but I wasn’t really planning it all out consciously.

After you finished writing the story, how long did it take to sell it?

It took awhile—probably at least two years. It was rejected 40 times before the 41st publisher acquired it. Some editors thought it should be a “magazine piece.” Others thought fractured fairy tales were a dying genre. There were a lot of different reasons why it was rejected.

Tell us about the illustrator, Kevin O'Malley. Had you worked with him before or since?

I’d never worked with Kevin before, nor have I worked with him since. At the time, he was very much an up and coming illustrator at Lothrop, Lee and Shepard.  Kevin and I did sign books together at ALA when CINDER EDNA first came out, so I got to meet him. I thought he was absolutely delightful. He’s a wonderful performer and very funny.

CINDER EDNA is still going strong as a book. Hasn't it been performed on stage, too?

Yes, CINDER EDNA has been made into a short film, performed as a play by several different theater companies, and made into a musical three or four times. My agent has sold foreign rights to Germany, Korea, and several other countries.

That's amazing! I'm thrilled for you that this wonderful story--one of my personal favorites--has touched so many lives. Thanks a bunch for telling us about it, Ellen. And continued success with your writing!

Readers, you can visit Ellen at http://www.ellenjackson.net/.


Thursday, January 22, 2015


They hide in the shadows. They balance like cats on overhead beams. They vault over castle walls. All to learn their enemies' plans. And unlike samurai, if ninjas do their jobs well, no one will ever know they're there.

Learn all about ancient ninja warriors in my latest book, NINJA WARRIORS, released by The Child's World on January 1.

Do YOU ninja?