New Picture Book – A Small Kindness

I was lucky to get this sweet ARC just before Christmas. The conceit is simple: kindness is like a game of tag. The smallest gestures–a smile, a compliment, a bit of encouragement, writing someone a note–can make someone’s day. They’ll then want to spread that good feeling on to someone else, offering their own bit of kindness. Here, being kind isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s fun! The end of the text implies the reader is now it.

The children in this book are multi-ethnic and differently abled. (One child has a walker, and another wears glasses.) But that doesn’t matter in Ms. Jones’s class!

Young readers will love the bright, vibrant illustrations. A great classroom read to encourage students to play and work together.

Pre-order here.


It’s National Poetry Month! As adults, we might recognize that by checking out a few readings, maybe buying a new anthology or a few collections by new-to-us poets. Kids should absolutely get in on the fun, too.


My picture book NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID is a villanelle–not exactly the poetic form that many kids study in elementary school. Actually, most people don’t study vilanelles at all until they read Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

I love the form, though–basically, it’s based around two lines that repeat throughout. To me, these lines are like the “hook” or chorus of a pop song. So of course the main character of my villanelle is a rock star!

To me, poetry is alive and vibrant and emotional. It’s a whole world crammed into just a handful of lines on a page. In NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID, I celebrate those who forge their own paths, those who don’t take “no” for an answer, who refuse to be discouraged by critics…and those who also like a little punk with their poetry.

You can snag a copy of NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID here, and check out a sneak peek below:




I took a few chances on my latest picture book, NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID. The book is blend of things that, at first blush, shouldn’t go together:

  1. Poetry and rock ‘n roll: The book itself is a story in verse, and the main character is a singer in her own rock band.

  1. Katydids and singing: Of all the creatures on this earth, katydids are not exactly what you’d consider great singers. To me, their voices sound like creaky screen doors opening over and over! And yet, the main character of NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID is, in fact, a katydid.

  1. Kids and formal poetry: Poetry, some think, is stuffy. Or hard. And formal poetry? For young readers? And yet, the book is itself a villanelle, a form most readers don’t encounter until later school years, when they read Thomas’s “Do not go gently into that good night,” arguably the most famous villanelle written.

  1. Photos and illustration: Each page of the book contains watercolor illustrations merged with photographic elements.

The thing is, though, mixing up pieces that seem like they belong to two different worlds is, I think, where absolute magic happens. We see things in a new way. We realize some of the best rock songs are really like three-minute poems (and the repeating lines of the villanelle is like the repeating chorus of a rock song). We realize that for kids who are MG readers, straddling the line between grown-up ideas and younger interests, photos and illustrations can make the perfect combination. We realize that the best singing voices are like Katy’s—not technically perfect, but full of soul. And, most importantly, we realize that finding new ways to make poetry (even formal poetry!) accessible to young readers means that they won’t be intimidated by it as adults. We help foster a lifelong love and appreciation of poetry.

Take a chance—find a new “odd-couple” pairing to put in your own WIP! And check out more about NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID at my #SCBWIBookStop page.


I am a lifelong music nut. SERIOUS nut. Most of the time, I think I’d rather have music than food.


In fact, this picture offers a bit of proof—that’s me, in about 1992, with a member of Tesla (who’s in the midst of signing his autograph). Because in addition to seeing as many concerts as I possibly could, I also used to do my fair share of autograph hunting—anything to get just a little bit closer to my favorite musicians. As many of you already know, I even taught piano and guitar lessons as I was drafting my earliest manuscripts—and my students actually inspired me to write for younger readers.

As an old literature major, I’m also a poetry nut. I’ve hung out at as many poetry readings as I have concert doors—but for some reason, it never crossed my mind to get a shot taken with, say, Miller Williams (Clinton’s second inaugural poet) when I heard him read his work.

My latest release, a picture book for more advanced readers entitled NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID, combines my lifelong loves of music and poetry:



Saturday night just isn’t Saturday night without Katy Did and The Antennas. At least, until a rotten review leaves Katy’s bandmates thinking maybe they could do better with another singer.

What’s a Katy Did to do when she’s been dumped for a Songbird?
Featuring a main character who is both literally a katydid insect and the singer in her own band, NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID offers a story of perseverance and finding beauty in unexpected places as well as a fun, attention-grabbing way to introduce young readers to formal poetry. The book itself is a villanelle, a type of poetry that features refrains that repeat throughout—much like the chorus in a rock song. Great for classroom use and for readers in the fourth to sixth grade. Sheets in the back of the book walk budding poets through writing their own first villanelle.

Why a villanelle?

It’s not as frequently studied as some other poetic forms, especially in the elementary levels. I find it’s a form not usually discussed much until high school, actually, when students read Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night,” arguably the most famous or most recognizable villanelle ever written.

Don’t worry—it’s not too sophisticated.

Kids in this age group (about 9-12) are straddling the line between childhood and slightly more grown-up interests. That’s why this book (which is, from front to back, a single villanelle) is also a picture book, featuring both photographic and illustrative elements—and a katydid lead singer with bright red hair, no less!

The Importance of Poetry

I was so delighted to see Tracy K. Smith (our current poet laureate) on CBS This Morning, discussing the accessibility of poetry. I also believe that poetry is what our youngest readers naturally gravitate toward. And yet, somewhere along the way, readers become intimidated by it. It’s my hope that NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID helps to continue to make formal poetry both accessible and fun for your young readers.

Snag a Copy

NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback. For those who incorporate the book into their own classroom or library activities, I can always be reached at for Skype visits.

Sneak Peek:




My picture book HOW BIG IS A HEART? is all about the arrival of a new baby and one little boy’s feelings about being the big brother.


The book really does make a great gift should you find yourself invited to a baby shower for a family where a soon-to-be big sibling (full, half, or step) is involved. You can give a copy to the soon-to-be big sibling, helping to make sure they aren’t feeling left out or overlooked.

But thinking about baby showers made me realize it could really become a family affair. So I added a few items to my CafePress store–tote / diaper bags for Mom featuring a HOW BIG IS A HEART?-inspired graphic as well as a few sweet “Put me in your heart” items (onesies, shirts, etc.) for the soon-to-be little sibling. Because that’s exactly what you want older siblings to do–make space for their little sister or brother in their hearts…



I’m delighted to announce that my first picture book, HOW BIG IS A HEART?, is now available. The book centers on Gavin, a young boy who is facing the imminent arrival of a baby brother–all while believing that he’s fallen out of favor in his family in the midst of the new-baby bustle. An interaction with a grandmother with a sweet tooth (and slightly better insight than the rest of Gavin’s relatives) begins to convince him otherwise.

HOW BIG IS A HEART? features bright watercolor hearts and pages. But the goal with these illustrations is to highlight the story, not overshadow it. Also, the text of HOW BIG IS A HEART? is perfect for slightly older readers as well–those familiar with my MG THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY will find a somewhat similar voice or lyrical style in these pages.

The book is a perfect fit for those children who are also going to become big siblings (it’s even a nice gift to bring to a shower when older siblings–full, step, or half–are involved). But it’s also a sweet tale of love within a family, which makes it a good choice for any young reader. The book can prompt those readers to consider how they want to fill their own hearts.

HOW BIG IS A HEART? is available on Amazon. The paperback features a glossy cover (for slightly better durability), and the e-book is discounted to $1.99 (or is a free read for those in KU):

HeartCover2Gavin doesn’t want a little brother.

His mother will have to toss Gavin out of her heart to make room for a new baby.

Yes, Gavin’s become a regular piece of junk you get rid of at a garage sale—out with the old to make way for the new.

Or is he?

How big is his mother’s heart, exactly?

Only Memaw really knows…



I’m delighted to announce that my first picture book for young readers is forthcoming; this book has been with me for years, and I’m delighted to finally be sending it out into the world:


Gavin doesn’t want a little brother.

His mother will have to toss Gavin out of her heart to make room for a new baby.

Yes, Gavin’s become a regular piece of junk you get rid of at a garage sale—out with the old to make way for the new.

Or is he?

How big is his mother’s heart, exactly?

Only Memaw really knows…

How Big Is a Heart? will make a great gift book for any child in a growing family, and will be available in both e-book and print forms.

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