Happy National Nut Day!

Happy National Nut Day! At last it is time to wrap up my “a-corn-y” giveaway for a signed copy of WHEN A TREE GROWS!

Thank you, dear readers, for making great guesses and sharing the contest far and wide through social media links.

Answers ranged from 29 to 63. The average guess was 44 1/2. I guess the one half is the equivalent of one acorn sans cap? And that concludes my fun with acorns math skills.

The correct answer was 55! Since Mike Allegra guessed 56 and Marty Lapointe-Malchik guessed 54, I popped both names into a hat and pulled one winner.

Drumroll… It is MARTY!

Congrats Marty! We will connect via interwebs about book signing and sending with some fun extra TREE swag.

Now I am off to re-distribute 55 acorns to those patient backyard squirrels. Thank you once again for reading, recommending and reviewing WHEN A TREE GROWS!

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“A-Corn-y” Giveaway for WHEN A TREE GROWS

WHEN A TREE GROWS has been sprouting in libraries, schools, bookstores and bibliophilic spaces for six spectacular months. Whee! Happy half-birthday to the team at Sterling Children’s books and talented illustrator Kasia Nowowiejska!

To thank and celebrate all those who have read, reviewed, shared, posted and otherwise nurtured this book’s debut, I’m sponsoring “a-corn-y” giveaway.

While my resident Squirrel chittered. chattered and scolded, I collected fresh, full-capped acorns from the ground around my backyard oak tree. One by one, I dropped them into a clear glass jar and added the lid.

Thankfully, Squirrel did NOT have a slingshot handy! But I promised to return every acorn at the end of the contest. Squirrel seemed mollified.

All you have to do is post your best guess at the number of acorns in the jar. The person who guesses correctly – or the closest guess – will receive a signed copy of WHEN A TREE GROWS, bookmarks and surprise swag!

If more than one guess is correct, I will put all those names into a hat and draw one winner. US mailing addresses only, please.

Post your guess, one per person please, in the comments below, or tag me in a Tweet, Facebook or Instagram post.


I will announce the winner here on National Nut Day – October 22nd!

Good luck, and happy counting!

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A Fun-filled Forest of WHEN A TREE GROWS posts

WHEN A TREE GROWS, my debut picture book, has been ‘sprouting’ on shelves in libraries and bookstores since April, 2019! To celebrate and spread the word, I’ve done some fun interviews and guest posts across the internet. Thank you to everyone who has hosted, posted, read, shared and Tweeted! Every click and comment helps to spread the news about TREE and other awesome picture books available for all readers.

A quick request – if you’ve read WHEN A TREE GROWS and want to tell the world, Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes&Noble are the perfect places to post your thoughts and help TREE reach more readers. Reviews – even just a few key words – are always appreciated! Many thanks!

If you want to catch up on interviews or guest posts you may have missed, the list I’ve shared below features easy click links for the latest news. Links to my earlier interviews at KidLit 411, The Picture Book Buzz with Maria Marshall, Susanna Hill’s Tuesday Debut Series, and Critter Lit with Lindsay Ward can be found on my blog post from April 15, 2019.

WHEN A TREE GROWS Blog posts and interviews

Karlin Gray Q&A Blog – When A Tree Grows

Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb – Cathy Ballou Mealey

Waffles with Writers: Cathy Ballou Mealey by Mike Allegra

It’s Get Caught Reading Month – Celebrate Picture Books

3 Question Interview: Cathy Ballou Mealey by Melissa Stoller/ This Writing Life

When A Tree Grows and Interview – Picture Book Builders

An Interview with Cathy Ballou Mealey – Good Reads with Ronna

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Acorns for all! WHEN A TREE GROWS has sprouted

On April 2nd, my debut picture book WHEN A TREE GROWS officially published! I am so grateful to talented illustrator Kasia Nowowiejska for bringing my forest friends to the page as such sweet, goofy and lovable creatures. I also want to thank my incredible team at Sterling Children’s Books including editors Suzy Capozzi, Meredith Mundy, Eliza Berkowitz and Christina Pulles, art director Ryan Thomann, and my agents Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris-Dontzin at Liza Royce Agency. Along the way I’ve truly appreciated the cheers of my critique partners and my debut picture book publishing pals, the Epic 18’s and Notable 19’s. Thank you everyone!

Lucky me, I was able to sneak into my local Barnes&Noble and get a copy just a few days in advance. What a thrill! The lovely children’s bookseller snapped some photos of me and my book ‘in the wild’ and we chatted about our mutual love of all things moose.

I’ve also been guest blogging about WHEN A TREE GROWS and my author journey, giving away signed copies and offering tidbits of picture book publishing advice. Check out the links below if you have missed any posts or want more information! I’ll be adding additional posts along the way. More fun is coming!


WHEN A TREE GROWS Blog posts and interviews

KidLit 411 Author Spotlight – Cathy Ballou Mealey

Maria Marshall The Picture Book Buzz – Interview with Cathy Ballou Mealey

Susanna Hill Tuesday Debut Series Presenting Cathy Ballou Mealey

Critter Lit with Lindsay Ward – Interview with debut author Cathy Ballou Mealey

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Celebrate National Moose Day!

Moose, marvelous moose! Who doesn’t love a moose?

As I wrote WHEN A TREE GROWS, I assumed that there must, of course, be a day of celebration for the moose.

I googled “National Moose Day” and found a few results. Alas, January 15, 2016 seems to be the last time this important holiday was observed!

Clearly, it is time to re-energize this special day for Alces alces If you’d like to join me, here are a few ideas:

Gather your favorite books starring moose characters and have a read-a-thon! Share your favorite books with the #NationalMooseDay hashtag on social media.

Don’t have a moose book on hand? Head to Kohl’s with $5 and get yourself the fabulous Oliver Jeffers’ THIS MOOSE BELONGS TO ME.  For another $5, add the amazing, cuddly bean-shaped Moose stuffie shown above! Profits from Kohl’s Care merchandise supports happier and healthier communities nationwide, totalling almost $340 million to date.

Convert your brown paper lunch bag into a moose puppet! The link will bring you to simple step directions courtesy of The Romantic Homeschooler.

Still want more? How about pre-ordering WHEN A TREE GROWS before it launches on April 2, 2019? Available via bookstores, online, through Indiebound, or even at Target now for only $12.11!


Not ready to pre-order? Then ask your friendly librarian to order a copy for the public or school library near you. They’ll let you know when the book has arrived and can be checked out.

Even though National Moose Day 2019 will have passed, you can celebrate by sharing a review online at Goodreads or Amazon. This author will be oh-so-grateful. 😉

Three cheers for Moose!

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Squirrel Antics and “When A Tree Grows” news

Fact: The yard is filled with acorns.
Fact: The yard is filled with squirrels.
Fact: Squirrels exceed my shutter speed.

In preparation for the launch of my picture book, When A Tree Grows from Sterling Children’s Books, I’ve been trying to capture some silly squirrel antics on camera.

The squirrels must know. They taunt me.

It rained all morning. The squirrels squatted plumply on the grass, nibbling nuts and holding their thick, fluffy tails over their heads like umbrellas. “How cute!” I thought, and raced for my camera. Alas…

But these speedsters can’t compare to the cute squirrel rendered at the pen of illustrator Kasia Nowowiejska. Just wait until you see!

Our squirrels dangle from tree limbs,         
race across fence tops, and snack on our
flowers when they tire of the acorn buffet.

The other character in the book is a moose.
I am still waiting patiently for a moose to
appear in the yard. Will I have a better chance of snapping a moose photo? I may not need the telephoto lens…


Until I can officially share more details about When A Tree Grows, you’ll have to pen its official release date –  April 2, 2019  – onto your calendars!

In the meantime, I’ll be thinking about writing future picture books with s..l..o..w but still photogenic subjects. Stay tuned!

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Seriously Silly: New Books from Mike Allegra

Author photo courtesy M. Allegra

I am pleased to welcome author and doodler Mike Allegra to Bildebok! Mike and I connected several years ago through Susanna Hill’s wonderful blog and writing contests, and we’ve been exchanging puns and occasional critiques ever since. Mike’s writing journey has followed an interesting and varied path including playwriting, newspaper reporting, magazine editing and now to children’s chapter and picture books.

His latest picture books Everybody’s Favorite Book (Macmillan) and Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist (Dawn) will be out in October 2018 and March 2019, respectively. The first two books in his hilarious Prince Not-So Charming series are out now. I am so glad he was willing to answer a few questions about his latest works!

You have had a busy, exciting writing and publishing year. Can you tell us what’s happening at the moment?
So much! I spent most of 2017 shirking both my day job and my blogging responsibilities to write the Prince Not-So Charming chapter book series. At that same time, I was working with an editor on a picture book, Everybody’s Favorite Book and with another editor at another publisher for another picture book, Scampers Thinks Like A Scientist.

Mike Allegra; illustrated by Claire Almon Available October 30, 2018 from Imprint/Macmillan

I was crazy busy, but it was a crazy fun busy.

These days I’m crazy busy thinking, “Gah! What’s my marketing plan?” So for the past couple of weeks I’ve been running around saying, “Hey! I have books! Look! Books!” which is sort of a marketing plan, I suppose.

Wow – picture and chapter books! When you began writing for young readers, did you imagine tackling a broad spectrum of genres and ages?

Yes. I have a habit of overcompensating to avoid literary ruts. As much as I loved my first PB, Sarah Gives Thanks (a nonfiction biography), I wanted my next PB to be different from Sarah in both content and tone. I think a book that features a man-eating guinea pig qualifies as “different from Sarah.”

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist is also different from both Sarah and EFB; it’s a fun picture book for the education market. And then there’s Prince Not-So Charming, which is my attempt at writing for older readers.

What made you want to write chapter books? Tell us about the process of writing the PRINCE NOT-SO CHARMING series.
Prince Not-So Charming was a work for hire opportunity. I was already working with Macmillan on Everybody’s Favorite Book when I said to my editor, “Listen. I love you. I love this publisher. Please hire me to write anything else.” As luck would have it, Macmillan was kicking around an idea for a series about a prince who wanted to be a jester. So my editor invited me to write a 2,000-word audition piece—and I got the job!

And it was a great job. I won a year-long gig living the dream: writing books that I knew were going to get published. There is so much joy in knowing that a book you are writing will be published; I could play and experiment without fear. Macmillan liked my work enough to expand the original four-book deal to a six-book deal.

Long story short, 2017 was the most creatively fulfilling year of my life.

What have been the biggest differences between writing picture books and chapter books?
Prince Not-So Charming gave me the freedom to explore more complex stories and themes. It allowed me to show how character relationships grow and evolve from one book to the next. And it also gave me a chance to wander off on whimsical tangents, fool around with running gags, and hide Easter eggs that reference other books in the series. I adore writing picture books, but PNSC was an exhilarating change of pace.

And the editorial process, is that also different?
Very different. Everybody’s Favorite Book, unlike Prince Not-So Charming is highly dependent on visual humor. Many of the jokes land because the text is saying one thing while Claire Almon’s amazing illustrations indicate something entirely different. There were a lot of details to iron out to make sure the verbal and visual elements synced up as humorously as possible.

Prince Not-So Charming has illustrations, too—and good ones—but none of Matt Hunt’s drawings drive the narrative. So the PNSC editorial process was all about scrutinizing the content of my writing.

I don’t prefer one editorial process to the other, really. It’s just that EFB and PNSC exercised different parts of my noodle.

What’s up with the punny-funny pseudonym Roy L. Hinuss?
The pseudonym was a condition of the work-for-hire deal. I wasn’t allowed to use my real name because if I turned out to be an unreliable hack or a whiny, petulant diva, they could replace me with someone else. I really didn’t care about the pseudonym, though. My writing life has never been about getting my name “out there”; it’s been about finding good writing jobs. And the PNSC writing job was about as good as they come.

What are you working on now? Do you plan to focus on PB or chapter books, or is there MG or YA in your future?
My agent is pitching a couple of my manuscripts—two picture books and a chapter book—so my fingers and toes are crossed for another contract. Right now I am working on a middle grade mystery novel. It’s a very different story from what I’m used to, but I’m excited about where it’s taking me.

Brussels Sprouts without ice cream
Courtesy of Rainer Zenz via Wikimedia Commons

When and where can we get our hands on PRINCE NOT-SO CHARMING books, and where can we find you online? And more importantly, your homemade Brussels sprout ice cream?
The first two books in the Prince Not-So Charming series can be found wherever fine books are sold. They can also be found where less fine books are sold. In other words, my Prince Not-So-Charming books are not judgmental. I think we could all learn a little something from Prince Not-So-Charming books.

Everybody’s Favorite Book will be out on October 30, but can be preordered on Amazon or wherever else. And you totally should preorder it because it has a man-eating guinea pig in it. And do feel free to follow my blog http://www.mikeallegra.com or my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/heylookawriterfellow because I’m fun!

As for the Brussels Sprout ice cream, well… let’s just say that the FDA has unilaterally and, I think, rather recklessly declared that it is “unfit for human consumption.”

Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us Mike! If you’d like to enter the giveaway for the first two Prince Not-So-Charming books: Once Upon a Prank and Her Royal Slyness, please leave a comment below. If you share this post on Twitter, Instagram or some other platform, please let me know how many additional entries to toss in the jester hat for you. ** Giveaway closed

** Congratulations to LAURI MEYERS whose name was drawn as the lucky winner ***

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Questions from Kwansei Gakuin University

Furoshiki wrapping cloths

In September my dear college friend Naoko asked if I would correspond with her English-language students at Kwansei Gakuin University. Their assignment was to interview a professional about their work, and many were interested in learning more about authors and children’s books.

Of course I was delighted to accept, and even more excited to receive their thoughtful emails and questions. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if one or more of them actually wrote and published a children’s book someday? I shared the contact information for the Japan chapter of SCBWI with one student who was particularly keen on securing an internship.

Fifteen students contacted me, and each one asked, in one form or another, “What inspired you to write picture books?” That was good practice for me, answering a typical getting-to-know-you type question. The second most common question, “Where do you get your ideas?” also provided practice in preparing for future book talks or school visits.

My childhood books from Yokohama

Some of the more unusual questions prompted me to think deeply before answering. Here is a sample of those intriguing questions:

• Did you read picture books when you were young? Please tell me a memorable episode about picture books.
• What is your happiest and saddest experience in your job?
• There are a lot of picture books of old Japan, but is there also such a phenomenon in a foreign country? If it’s good, please tell me a famous story. ( I particularly enjoyed this question because my uncle sent me books from Yokohama in the 1970’s, and I loved Japanese fairy tales)
• What do you think is the power of a book?
• What do you think about e-books versus paper books?
• What can we do for children in poor countries who cannot read even if they want to read books? Do you think each of us can do something?
• What should I do in the future if I want to change people’s minds?

It was a thrill to correspond with such engaged, interesting students. One sent an illustration of a delightful manga-style monster. Another wrote about how much she enjoyed Marcus Pfister’s The Rainbow Fish. Other childhood favorites were Kon to Aki, Guri and Gura, and Leo Lionni’s Swimmy. Their hobbies and dreams include watching baseball, interior design, illustrating, working with children, and teaching.

Today I received a lovely package of tea, chocolate, stationery and other goodies from Japan. Thank you Naoko, for the perfect fuel to inspire me on this mid-winter day! And thank you to Sae, Nozomi, Ikuho, Miki,Moe, Tomoka, Kanon, Anna, Tomoka, Riho, Kazuma, Yurika, Yuki, Ryosuke and Kana for your questions!

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PPBF: I Have a Balloon

I Have a Balloon

Written by: Ariel Bernstein

Illustrated by: Scott Magoon

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (September, 2017)

Suitable for ages: PreK -3

Themes/Topics:   sharing, not sharing


“I have a balloon.”

“You have a balloon.”

“I have a balloon.”

“That is a – big –  balloon.”

Brief Synopsis (from publisher’s website):

Owl has a balloon. Monkey does not. What will happen next? Hint: this is not a book about sharing.

Owl has a red balloon. Monkey does not. “That red balloon matches my shiny red tie,” says Monkey. “I’d look fancy walking to school with a shiny red balloon. The only thing I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a shiny, big red balloon. It would make me SO HAPPY!” But Owl does not want to give it to him. So Monkey tries to find something that Owl wants: a teddy bear, a robot, a picture of TEN balloons. Owl does not want any of these things. But then, Monkey offers him…a sock!

Hmmmmm…Owl is intrigued. Will he trade his shiny red balloon with Monkey?

Links To Resources:

Play with a balloon! Here is a link to 11 fun balloon games.

Make sock puppets! Here is a link to crafting a super sock friend.

Eat ice cream cones! You’ll understand why after the last page.

Why I Like This Book:

Kids and their stuff. Littles can become ardently passionate about the oddest possessions, particularly when said items are desired by a member of the competition. Bernstein nails this dynamic perfectly in her dialogue-driven story. Magoon enhances the hilarity with quirked eyebrows, defeated slouches, and exasperated frowns exchanged between the main characters, Owl and Monkey. Packed with funny, charming and oh-so-insightful truths for parents and young readers alike, I HAVE A BALLOON is a lighthearted look at the process of negotiation when sharing becomes paramount.

My favorite line:

“All I can do with my balloon is hold it. All day. Just standing here, holding it.”

My deepest thanks to illustrator Scott Magoon who sent me this book after I entered his giveaway for subscribers to The Magoon Tribune. Kudos on the endpapers Scott – a really nice touch!

For a complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books hosted by the incomparable Susanna Leonard Hill.

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PPBF – Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton

Big Machines: The Story of
Virginia Lee Burton 

Written by: Sherri Duskey Rinker

Illustrated by: John Rocco

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics:   biography, storytelling, heavy equipment

Opening:   This is Virginia Lee, but everyone in seaside Folly Cove simply calls her Jinnee. Anyone who meets Jinnee will tell you that she is quite magical.

Brief Synopsis:

Virginia Lee Burton created much beloved, classic picture books starring the big machines that her sons, Aris and Michael, adored. From a steam shovel named Mary Anne to Katy the brave tractor, and Maybelle the cable car, Jinnee Burton wove endearing stories around the rumbling, chugging, heavy-hauling BIG equipment that fascinated her sons.

Links To Resources:

Read Virginia Burton’s books!  Here is a list of her HMH titles.

Activity pages! Try these printable pages for Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel

Watch a movie! Preview a movie about Jinnee’s life in this trailer.

Visit Cape Ann MuseumLots of Jinnee’s work is on display.

Why I Like This Book:

I’ve been crazy about Jinnee Burton’s work since my first visit to the Cape Ann Museum in 2013. You may remember reading my blog post Follow Me to Folly Cove in which I gushed about seeing her books, tools and samples of her work on display.

Aris Demetrios (c.) shares the Burton archives with Sherri Duskey Rinker and John Rocco in Santa Barbara, September 2015

When I learned that Sherri Duskey Rinker and John Rocco were teaming up to create a tribute book about Jinnee in preparation for the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott-winning The Little House, I was really excited to see their work.  In August, Publishers Weekly offered a sneak-peek into their collaboration. Sherri and John worked closely with members of Burton’s family, which including digging through the vast archives stored in her son’s garage!

The Cape Ann Museum hosted one stop on the national tour for BIG MACHINES, an event I could not, would not miss. Sherri and John gave an engaging, entertaining presentation to an audience that knew, worked and lived with Jinnee in her heydays.  Their loving tribute to Burton echoes throughout the book’s pages in carefully-chosen words, rhythm and iconic patterns  of swirling, swooshing text and image pairings. For the adults who love Jinnee’s books and the new generation of young readers that will be introduced to them for the first time, BIG MACHINES is a big winner!

For a complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books hosted by the incomparable Susanna Leonard Hill.

Sherri and John signed lots of books!

Love my Mary Anne illo!


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