Author Guest Post: “Coping with Creative Arts” by Rebecca Weber, Author of The Painter’s Butterfly


“Coping with Creative Arts”

From the time I could speak, I wanted to be a teacher! I bet you thought I was going to say author. But professional writing seemed like the kind of career that only lottery winners and famous-people-who-were-not-me could achieve. I spent much of my childhood bossing around my younger sister and cousins, forcibly sitting them in front of a stand-up chalkboard and passing out quizzes to be sure they were paying attention to my genius lesson plans. With each scrape of the chalk against the blackboard, I had not a single doubt that teaching was the career path meant for me.

Fast forward to student teaching in college and I got a hard dose of reality real fast. Education is stressful for everyone involved: administrators, teachers, and students alike. While I loved working with kids to enhance their wonder of the world, the nearly unattainable standards and diversity of learning styles threw me for a loop, not-to-mention my undiagnosed anxiety acting as my own worst enemy. I made it through student teaching mostly emotionally intact, and one of my favorite memories of the whole experience was when I created a poetry unit for my fourth grade class. I’d been head-over-heels for poetry since elementary school, and surely the kids would explode with excitement over poetry too.

Not exactly! I got quite the mixed response to my unit plan. Some kids took a very simple approach, creating poems that rhymed but didn’t have much personal significance. Some kids stared at me like I’d grown three heads when I brought up “haikus” and “syllables” and “structure.” I’m sure they were thinking “Poetry is for old people long dead. What’s it matter to me?.” However, there were a select few that completely transformed through the week or two of my unit. One boy in particular, an athlete and class clown, read multiple poems in front of the class, each with deep emotional significance and obvious natural talent. He had never written poetry in his life, and yet his words entrapped me, bared his soul for everyone to see. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have glimpsed his ‘truth’. Proud isn’t a strong enough word. I’ll never, ever forget how poetry helped him unfurl his vulnerability.

Poetry is but one of many forms of art essential to living. I’m of the belief that everyone should have something in which to channel their passion. With anxiety and mental illness pervading current day society as it does, the arts have never been more necessary (or underappreciated). Creative arts allow people to see and understand themselves, to sort through emotional struggles or questions in a proactive and beautiful way. And yet, education insists that tests are the true measure of learning. I taught preschool for many years in a private school because it gave me the freedom to teach kids in a way that suited them best. Preschool makes self-expression a priority through fun first: singing, arts and crafts, dance, and active play. As teachers, we wove academic learning into those artistic activities. And the kids were better for it. Preschoolers are essentially at an age where they’re learning to be functioning humans, but who decided that once kids reach elementary, middle, or high school they’ve suddenly achieved full self-awareness? The idea seems ludicrous to me.

In my debut middle grade novel, The Painter’s Butterfly, 12 year-old foster child, Nova, uses her innate talent for drawing to cope with a lifetime without a permanent home. In fact, I’d say the only reason Nova survived her nomadic lifestyle is because of her art. She finds a kindred spirit in her newest guardian, painter Mr. Russell, and they use their mutual love of art to build a positive bond with one another. While The Painter’s Butterfly is a work of fantasy and fiction, the creative arts hold the same merit and potential in our everyday lives. Writing, painting, drawing, music, you name it…each allow us to channel confusing emotions into something tangible that can be more easily understood. The arts allow us to truly be seen.

The creative arts put human passion and well-being ahead of everything else, and I know many educators who utilize these incredible tools in their classrooms, despite the “teaching to the test” mentality.. I hope one day society puts the arts on their deserved pedestal, but until then…

Have you been creative today?

Published February 7th, 2023 by Kinkajou Press

About the Book: What if art could come alive and guide you home?

Twelve-year-old foster child Nova longs to find her one true home. When jealousy of her art ability upends her most cherished placement, Nova’s dropped in the middle of nowhere to live with painter Mr. Russell in his ramshackle farmhouse.

While exploring, Nova sneaks into the attic and discovers a magical easel that brings paintings to life. She puts her art skills to the test and gets caught in a whirlwind adventure, complete with rainbow butterflies, a devious leprechaun, and a journey to the rainforest.

Following the magic, Nova stumbles upon an underground cellar that houses a startling secret. She’s forced to choose: escape to a prior foster home, or mend her relationship with Mr. Russell. Nova makes a dangerous mistake when she strikes a match of revenge. She must survive the inferno to learn the true meaning of home.

About the Author: Rebecca is a Midwestern girl with a lifelong passion for books! She spends most of her time nurturing her baby girl and two Boston Terrier fur-babies, and flipping houses with her realtor husband. It took fifteen years to find the courage to craft her first novel, The Painter’s Butterfly, but now she’s never letting her feather pen go! While she misses teaching preschool-aged children their ABC’s, Rebecca is thrilled to have the chance to reach middle graders worldwide with her fantastical stories.

Social Media Info:
Twitter: @RWeberWrites
IG: rebeccaweberwrites
Facebook: Rebecca Weber – Author
TikTok: @rweberwrites

Thank you, Rebecca, for reminding us of the importance of creativity!

Author Guest Post: “Traveling the Globe with the City Spies” by James Ponti, Author of City Spies: Mission Manhattan


“Traveling the Globe with the City Spies”

I love to travel and I love to write, so it’s not surprising that the characters in my books do a fair amount of globetrotting. In the first four City Spies adventures, the team has been to London, Paris, San Francisco, Moscow, Beijing, and Cairo. My hope is that in addition to providing exciting backdrops for the stories to unfold, these locales also spark an interest in readers for faraway places.

I research each of them thoroughly and try to visit them in person when I can. (Covid made this impossible for books 3 and 4.) I do this research not only for accuracy, but also inspiration.  An unexpected detail about a location can help bring the story to life and provide a boost to the plot. (For example, while working on this book, I learned that an anti-tank rocket was once fired at MI6 headquarters and bounced off!)

Many educators have told me they use the books to “take their students” to the same locations as the City Spies, which fills my heart with joy. One way you can do that is on my website. There is a page ( that features the locations from the books and includes research photographs, maps, and travel videos that I’ve made for each one.

With the release of Mission Manhattan on February 6th, I thought I’d tell you about four of the locations that play important roles in the story. (I visited all of them in person with one exception – just like that rocket, I am unable to get inside MI6 headquarters.) In some instances, I was given special tours and in others I acted like the characters and snuck around hoping not to get caught. Along the way, I took hundreds of photos, a few of which I’ve included here.

Piazza San Marco – Venice, Italy

The book starts off in Venice. (My wife was particularly happy to help me research this stop.) Made up of more than one hundred small islands connected by a seemingly endless number of footbridges, the city is unlike anywhere else in the world. The primary setting in the book is Piazza San Marco, which Napoleon is said to have called, “The drawing room of Europe.”

The pictures I’ve included highlight the famous bell tower that stands over three hundred feet tall. During the action scenes in the first chapters, this is where Kat is positioned as the alpha of the mission. I made sure to get a picture of what she would see and I came across a plaque memorializing Galileo, which I worked into the story.

“Four hundred years earlier, this was where Galileo looked to the heavens with his newly invented telescope and discovered order in the universe. Now it was where a fourteen-year-old spy looked across a sea of demonstrators, hoping to figure out which ones were a threat to the others.”

MI6 Building – London, UK

The headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) is quite conspicuous considering the clandestine nature of what takes place inside. Located in the heart of London, its exterior features prominently in several James Bond movies. In Mission Manhattan, the City Spies travel there to secretly meet with the chief, who is universally known as C.

Since I couldn’t visit in person, I scoured books, podcasts, interviews and their website.  ( I was particularly interested in the architecture, which is unlike any other building I know.

“The massive Secret Intelligence Service headquarters overlooked the Thames, and its architecture seemed equal parts Mayan temple, medieval castle, and nuclear power plant. Commonly called Vauxhall Cross, it was a well-known London landmark, but up until now, the only time the City Spies had gotten a good look at it was while watching James Bond movies.”

Iranian Embassy – Washington, D.C.

Washington is a favorite city and I visit it frequently. In Mission Manhattan, the City Spies go to some well-known D.C. landmarks like the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the U.S. Botanic Garden. But I was most intrigued by a much lesser-known location – the Iranian Embassy.

Located across the street from the British and Brazilian embassies (which feature heavily in the plot), the Iranian embassy has remained empty ever since the United States and Iran severed diplomatic relations more than forty years ago. It stays empty way because of Article 45 of the Vienna Convention, which someone explains in the book.

“Technically, that land is part of Iran. But the Iranians can’t come here and do anything with it, so it just sits there like a haunted house.”

The idea of this mysterious abandoned building in one of the most expensive locations in Washington, D.C. was too interesting for me to pass up. When I visited to research all the locations in the book, I snuck around and took a dozen pictures of the embassy including these.

New York Public Library, Schwarzman Building – New York City, NY

I love the New York Public Library’s mission, collection, and history. Its main building is featured prominently in the climactic chapters of Mission Manhattan.

“The main branch of the New York Public Library was one of the most iconic buildings in the city. Its Fifth Avenue facade featured three grand arches guarded by a pair of majestic marble lions. The building was home to ornate reading rooms, special collections, and literary treasures as varied as Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and the original stuffed animals that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.”

For my research, some staff members showed me behind the scenes along with my wife and editor. One of my favorite details from the tour concerned the interior stacks, which are hidden from public view. There are seven floors of cast iron and steel bookcases that are mostly empty because the books have been moved to a more environmentally appropriate location underground. The shelving units can’t be moved though, because they are structural elements and help keep the building standing. For me, it is a fascinating detail and just screamed out to be the setting of a chase.


I am happy to say that there will be at least eight books in the City Spies series and that means there are many more exciting locations to come. In fact, the first part of the writing process is always when my editor Kristin asks me, “Where are we going next?”

Here’s hoping that you come along with us!

Published February 6th, 2024 by Aladdin

About the Book: The City Spies head to the Big Apple when a credible threat is made to a young climate activist who is scheduled to speak in front of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly. With Rio acting as alpha and a new member in their ranks, the team’s mission to protect a fellow teen takes them on an exciting adventure in, around, and even under the greatest city in the world as they follow leads to the outer boroughs, the UN Headquarters, and even the usually off-limits stacks that extend deep under the main branch of the New York Public Library.

City Spies 5 – Book Trailer

About the Author: James Ponti grew up in a small Florida beach town, where he dreamed of one day becoming a writer. He loves pasta, laughing at funny stories, and going to the movies on weekday afternoons. One of his absolute favorite things to do is travel with his family, and it was during a trip to London and Paris that he got the idea for City Spies. He now lives in Orlando, Florida and is the New York Times Bestselling author of four middle grade book series. Find out more at

Meet James at his in-person book tour!

Tuesday, February 6 at 6:00pm ET
Politics and Prose at The Wharf (Washington, D.C.)
In conversation with Hena Khan

Wednesday, February 7 at 6:00pm ET
Books of Wonder (New York, NY)
In conversation with Gordon Korman and Adam Gidwitz

Thursday, February 8 at 6:00pm ET
RJ Julia Booksellers (Madison, CT)
In conversation with Jake Burt

Friday, February 9 at 6:30pm ET
An Unlikely Story (Plainville, MA)

Saturday, February 10 at 2:00pm ET
Bush Auditorium at Rollins College (Winter Park, FL)
In conversation with Stuart Gibbs

Thank you, James, for taking us on this journey with you and the City Spies!

Author Guest Post: “Ways to Get Middle-Grade Students Excited About Reading” by Sherry Ellis, Author of Bubba and Squirt’s City of Bones


“Ways to Get Middle-Grade Students Excited About Reading”

When kids are young, they are excited about books. Many even want to be authors when they grow up. I always chuckle during school visits when I ask the question, “Who wants to be an author when you grow up?” Inevitably, every hand goes up in the kindergarten and first grade groups. As the grade number goes up, the hand numbers go down. Middle-schoolers rarely have ambitions to become an author. Sometimes that also means they don’t enjoy reading. How can we get these kids excited about reading? Here are some tips teachers can use in their classrooms to get them motivated.

  1. Plan lessons around your favorite books and topics. If you’re excited about the book, that enthusiasm will show and may infect your students – in a good way!
  2. Show students you’re reading, too. Post a picture of your current read on a board each week and encourage kids to ask about it.
  3. Maintain a classroom library. I see this in classrooms for the little kids all the time, but not so much in classrooms for older kids. Fill it with a wide variety of popular novels – books that would appeal to both boys and girls. Consider including shorter stories and some with illustrations that may appeal to reluctant readers.
  4. Encourage independent reading by providing time to read. Have students set individual goals and reward students for reaching them. Don’t attach a grade to it though. Students may get turned off by that.
  5. Watch movies of the books after reading them and compare the differences.
  6. Use audio books. Okay, so that’s not exactly reading, but it could get reluctant readers interested in books.
  7. Implement classroom book clubs in which students get to choose what they want to read from a list of books and then get grouped with others who want to read the same thing. Give them some ideas for topics they can discuss that are related to the books. Encourage them to come up with their own.
  8. After reading a book, have students participate in activities that help them flex their own creative muscles: imagine a different ending, write a letter to the main character referencing a specific scene, interview the villain, draw a map of the story’s setting, etc.
  9. Introduce students to a popular new series. The cliff hangers might entice reluctant readers to keep reading.
  10. Adopt an author. If students are excited about an author’s book, visit that author’s website and find out if that author can do a school visit or Skype visit. You can also see if that author has done any videos or webcasts that can be shown in the classroom.

With a little ingenuity, teachers can make reading fun, interesting, and engaging. And who knows? Maybe if a lot of teachers do this, the number of hands of middle-schoolers who want to be authors will go up!

Book #3 of the Bubba and Squirt series
Published January 16th, 2024 by Dancing Lemur Press

About the Book: Creepy Underground Catacombs!

Bubba and Squirt are back for another rousing quest as they travel through the mysterious vortex to Paris, France. It’s another wild adventure as they track down art thieves, encounter terrifying monsters, and discover the whereabouts of their missing father.

Will they make it out alive or join the rest of the skeletons in the City of Bones?

About the Author: Sherry Ellis is an award-winning author and professional musician who plays and teaches the violin, viola, and piano. When she is not writing or engaged in musical activities, she can be found doing household chores, hiking, or exploring the world. Ellis lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sherry Ellis’ Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China won the Reader’s Favorites Silver Medal for the Children’s Grades 4-6 category.

Thank you, Sherry, for sharing some good advice to get readers reading!

Author Guest Post: “Museum Mysteries” by K.H. Saxton, Author of The A&A Detective Agency: The Fairfleet Affair


“Museum Mysteries”

In The A&A Detective Agency: The Fairfleet Affair, 12-year-old detectives Alex and Asha get their first big case when Dr. Alistair Fairfleet disappears under suspicious circumstances. Dr. Fairfleet, the agency’s primary benefactor, is also the chairman of the Fairfleet Institute and its world-famous museums. As Asha and Alex follow the trail of clues and puzzles that their mentor left behind, they must explore the four main branches of the Institute: the Fairfleet Museum of Art, the Fairfleet Historical Archives, the Fairfleet Center for the Performing Arts, and the Fairfleet Museum of Natural History. These centers of history and culture provide the sleuths with plenty of topics to research and mysteries to investigate, and they present a similar entry point for young readers hoping to learn and engage more deeply with the text.

The Fairfleet Museum of Art

The many masterpieces of the art museum are curated by the equally impressive Dr. Prudence Ito. Admiring the artwork leads Alex and Asha to some important clues as well as more questions. What do an ancient Greek bust of Pallas Athena and a painting of a frog by an elusive French artist have in common? Perhaps that there is more to each of their stories than meets the eye…

Class Activity: You don’t need to travel to Northbrook to give students access to great artwork. Visit a local gallery, explore a student art exhibit at your school, or browse the online collection of a well-known museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Let students pick a piece of artwork for a creative writing exercise, then ask them to write a short fictional narrative inspired by their selection. Give them time to observe the piece, brainstorm, freewrite, and share.

  • Does your piece suggest characters and a conflict?
  • Does it make you think of a particular setting, theme, or mood? Feel free to embrace abstract or creative connections.
  • Can you imagine a story in which the piece of art itself shows up as a key detail, plot point, or symbol?

The Fairfleet Historical Archives

The archives house a wide variety of documents and primary sources related to the history of Northbrook, the Fairfleet family, and the other branches of the Institute. A young archivist named Minnie Mayflower helps the sleuths piece together evidence from the past. As Asha and Alex soon discover, good research is critical to good detective work.

Class Activity: Consider what archival materials exist at your school and what might be available for classroom use—an old yearbook or student newspaper, for example. Allow students to peruse one such source and choose a photograph, article, or something else that interests them for further reflection.

  • What do you notice? What details stand out to you?
  • Can you make any inferences about this moment in the past based on your observations?
  • How does the experience of students at the time seem similar to or different from your own?
  • If you could talk to these students from days gone by, what would you ask them?

The Fairfleet Center for the Performing Arts

Quentin Carlisle, the charismatic but conniving artistic director of the FCPA, tests the detectives’ patience as well as their theatrical knowledge as he prepares for a production of King Lear and gives Alex and Asha some additional insight into the Shakespeare-themed clues of the case.

Class Activity: Have students think of a book or a play that they have both read and seen in performance. For many students, this might be a book that was adapted into a movie. Students should spend a few minutes jotting down notes on what they remember about each version and then address the questions below.

  • How was reading this story different from watching it? Which experience did you prefer and why?
  • What changes were made between the text and the performance? Were these changes necessary or effective?
  • If you were to direct your own performance, what choices would you make? Who would you cast in important roles? What costumes, props, or set details would help you realize your vision?

The Fairfleet Museum of Natural History

The natural history museum and its serious executive curator, Dr. John Wright, are at the heart of The Fairfleet Affair. In the Hall of Cultural Artifacts, objects like the Nabataean Zodiac fascinate Asha and Alex and lead them to contemplate questions about museum curation, provenance, and cultural heritage.

Class Activity: Students should pick an object from home that is especially meaningful to them and then imagine that a museum curator 200 years in the future is trying to decide how best to display or share this object with the public.

  • Where and how should the object be displayed? What other items or artifacts might be nearby? What would you call the exhibit?
  • What information should be included on the museum placard?
  • Does the object have personal, family, or cultural significance for you? Do you think that the museum can honor this special meaning? If so, how? If not, what fate would you prefer for the object?

Published September 19, 2023 by Union Square & Co.

About the Book: Follow clues, solve puzzles, crack the code… find the missing millionaire.

The celebrated museums of the Fairfleet Institute are known for curating the mysteries of humanity. But they don’t solve mysteries. Luckily, twelve-year-old friends Alex Foster and Asha Singh of the A&A Detective Agency do. Or they will . . . once they get a real case to test their skills as sleuths.

When Dr. Alistair Fairfleet, the institute’s eccentric chairman, disappears on the first day of Alex and Asha’s summer vacation, they receive a letter written by the missing millionaire himself inviting them to a game involving complicated clues and puzzles. It is just the sort of case they’ve been waiting to tackle. But nothing in the Fairfleet case has a simple solution. As the kids track down clues, they uncover art forgeries, archaeological crimes, and Fairfleet family secrets. All of this tests their partnership and forces them to confront the complicated legacies of the people and places they admire most.

Praise for the Book: 

““[T]he intricate plot—jam-packed with brain teasers, convoluted twists, and red herrings—keeps readers in suspense while neatly paving the way for a sequel in Saxton’s series-starting debut.” —Publishers Weekly

“A complex, cinematic, and eclectic page-turner.” – Kirkus

“Saxton reveals a knack for constructing a mystery, planting baffling clues, and creating interesting characters of varied ages Tension rises and falls, but the pace of the narrative never falters, and readers will enjoy seeing the puzzle pieces fall into place during the satisfying conclusion. A smart, involving first novel.”—Booklist

“Young readers will find The Fairfleet Affair a solid introduction to the genre and will, most likely, look forward to forthcoming Northbrook crimes the A&A duo can solve.” —New York Journal of Books

“Full of clues and puzzle pieces to ponder, this complicated mystery will keep readers guessing all the way until the end.”—School Library Journal / Teen Librarian Toolbox

About the Author: K. H. Saxton is an English teacher and boarding school administrator in Connecticut. The A&A Detective Agency: The Fairfleet Affair is her first novel.

Thank you, K.H., for these amazing activities that tie into your book!

Author Guest Post: “Unveiling Memories and Creativity” by Will Hillenbrand, Author of Voices in the Hollow


“Unveiling Memories and Creativity”

I invite you to join me on a deeply personal journey into the heart of my childhood memories through the pages of The Voice in the Hollow. Here, I’ll share how this narrative became a cherished part of my life and shaped my understanding of memory, creativity, and the power of sharing our most cherished stories.

Retracing my steps

The Voice in the Hollow is more than just a book; it’s a portal to my past. I’m transported back to the footpath of the Old Hollow, a place that once held so much mystery and wonder for me. It’s a story that captures the essence of my childhood.

Recreating Childhood Experiences

One of the most exciting aspects of crafting The Voice in the Hollow was the opportunity to recreate the sensory experiences that defined that unforgettable adventure. The scent of mothballs in the frozen air, the crunch of snow underfoot, the chill that sent shivers down my spine – these details were not just written words but memories brought to life.

As I wrote and illustrated, I was determined to make readers feel right there with me, stepping in my footprints through the snow, experiencing the same wonder and mystery that captivated me many years ago. This journey was not just about storytelling but about sharing a piece of my soul.

Guarding My Treasure

For decades, The Voice in the Hollow remained a secret, known only to me. It was a mystery I kept hidden, waiting and wondering if I should ever share it with the world. I always felt a deep connection to this story. When I reached middle age, I made, with great care, the decision to retell it to my wife. This retelling unlocked a more profound passage into the story’s mystery. Still, I wondered how I could adequately visualize this for young readers.

Peeling Back the Layers of Creativity

Now, let’s dive into the creative process behind this narrative. Crafting a story like The Voice in the Hollow is not just about putting words on paper; it’s about building a world, populating it with characters like Hubert Cumberbun, and weaving emotions into the fabric of the narrative and landscape.

I wanted to create a story that resonated with readers and inspired them to explore their VOICE as a storyteller (as Hubert has) and the acceptance of mystery as an essential fabric of our lives.

Illustrations: Adding Depth to the Narrative

One of the most exciting aspects of The Voice in the Hollow is the collaboration between storytelling and illustration. The visuals in the book aren’t just there for decoration; they are an integral part of the storytelling experience. Each illustration is a brushstroke in the canvas of memory, capturing the essence of the narrative and offering readers a visual connection to the story’s world.

As an author/ illustrator, I could blur the lines between words and pictures. I don’t understand it; I can’t describe it, yet another mystery—the magic of the picture book.

Memory and Transformation

At its core, The Voice in the Hollow explores the profound connections between memory, creativity, and transformation. It’s a story that reminds us of the enduring influence of childhood experiences on our adult lives. The adventures and encounters of our youth continue to shape our choices and perspectives, no matter how many years have passed.

By sharing this story, I inspire others to reflect on their childhood memories and find THE VOICE for the stories that have shaped them. Our past experiences can influence our present and future, no matter how distant.

In Conclusion

As you journey into the heart of “The Voice in the Hollow,” I want to express my gratitude for allowing me to share this deeply personal narrative with you. It’s a story that has been guarded and cherished for decades, and I’m thrilled to bring it into print finally.

My story behind this story has given you a glimpse into the world of memory, creativity, and storytelling. May it inspire you to explore your memories and creative passions and appreciate the stories that have shaped your life. “The Voice in the Hollow” is a testament to the enduring power of childhood experiences and the transformative potential of sharing our most cherished stories. Thank you for joining me on the Hollow, and I look forward to sharing more stories with you in the future.

Published October 3rd, 2023 by Holiday House

About the Book: A young mouse’s shortcut home turns into a fantastical journey guided by a mysterious guardian in this wintery tale with a breath-taking double gatefold surprise.

When a blizzard closes the library early, Hubert decides to take a shortcut home through the spooky Hollow. Just as Hubert is gathering his nerve to press on, another mouse appears and offers to take his hand.

Together they journey through the snow, an ominous forest, over fallen trees traversing ravines, and over the mountains. Hidden in the terrain are scenes that evoke myths of the origins of Earth’s mysterious features and nature’s erratic behavior. In a stunning double gatefold sleeping bears spring to life, setting off a landslide and sending Hubert and his guardian running.

Just as Hubert is reaching his destination he turns to find his guide gone. Hubert races home to tell his family about his wild adventure through the Hollow.

In this winter tale, with a sparse text  Will Hillenbrand crafts a new family favorite for settling down on snowy nights.

A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of the Year

Thank you, Will, for taking us on this journey and giving us insight into your process that we can share with our readers!

Author Guest Post: “3 Activities to Help Children Meet Challenges Successfully” by Elizabeth Godley, Author of Rock, Scissors, Paperbag


3 Activities to Help Children Meet Challenges Successfully

As children grow, they will face many challenges. Some of these challenges will be small, like learning to tie their shoes, while others will be larger, like making new friends or dealing with a bully. It is important for kids to learn how to meet challenges successfully so that they can overcome them and grow as individuals.

Activity 1: Brainstorming Challenges

The first activity is to brainstorm a list of challenges that children might face. This can be done as a whole class activity or in small groups. Once the list is complete, have students share their thoughts on how they might meet each challenge.

Activity 2: Role-Playing

The second activity is to role-play different challenges. This can be done in small groups or as a whole class. Have your students choose a challenge from the list and act out how they might meet it. After each role-play, have the group discuss what went well and what could be improved.

Activity 3: Journaling

The third activity is to journal about challenges. Have your students write about a challenge they have faced and how they met it. Encourage them to be honest about their feelings and to reflect on what they learned from the experience.

These are just a few ideas for activities that can help children learn how to meet challenges successfully. By providing our students with opportunities to practice and reflect, we can help them develop the skills they need to overcome any challenge they may face.

Published November 8th, 2023 by Nobody’s Banana Publishing

About the Book: Rock, Scissors, and Paperbag are the bestest of friends! Paperbag is afraid of everything, Rock is a talented musician, and Scissors is an excellent Orange Ball player. After the school bullies, The Bucket Kids, steal Scissors’ fake orange-ball, the kids decide to get back at the bullies. What if they could get a real orange-ball from The Great Orange Tree? That would show The Bucket Kids!

Recalling the local magical legend, they embark on a fantastic adventure to find The Great Orange Tree. However, while solving the riddle within the ancient map, they encounter a cave monster, a tornado of rapping cooties, and the horrid Land of Smells. How will they face each challenge? Will they end up back home? Will they get a real orange-ball? And if they do, will they share it?

Throughout their adventure, Rock gains confidence, Paperbag conquers his fears, and Scissors makes peace with being imperfect. Best Buds!

Winner of the 2023 Speak Up Talk Radio International Firebird Book Award, Rock, Scissors, Paperbag is a spellbinding tale of friendship, fantasy, and adventure. A perfect book to be shared and treasured.

About the Author: Hi! I’m Elizabeth Godley. I have been working with children for almost 20 years as a teacher, caretaker, mentor, fairy, clown, and friend. I am a kid magnet. Seriously at school, I cannot walk across the playground without at least 3 kids saying “Hi, Ms. Godley!”, showing me a cool stick they found, and/or asking “Are you on TikTok?” This is my second children’s book and my first kid’s chapter book. Writing books for children is a long-held dream of mine! You are helping it become a reality.

Why do I write? I want to add joy to children’s lives in a way that makes them feel connected and not alone. Kids are so “plugged in” nowadays and isolated. That is why I wanted to write Rock, Scissors, Paperbag. I want to encourage kids to make friends, go on make-believe adventures, get dirty, stand up to the bully, accidentally scrape their knees, and make some innocent mischief. In. Real. Life. Technology is amazing, but it can’t beat the smell of a library book or the weight of a water balloon in your hand.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for giving educators these tools to help their students through challenges!

Author Guest Post: “The Powerful Nature of Graphic Memoirs” by Claire Lordon, Author of One in a Million


“The Powerful Nature of Graphic Memoirs”

I think graphic memoirs are so powerful because not only are you reading a story but you can also visualize things as well. When I was thinking of creating my graphic memoir One in a Million there never was a doubt that it was going to be in graphic memoir format. I wanted to show what I went through. I knew I would have a hard time conveying what depression felt like in writing, but with my illustration background I sure knew how to show it.

Graphic memoirs are just that, memoirs that are created with graphics. While creating this book I first called it a “graphic novel memoir” just because I hadn’t heard the term graphic memoir, and because it gave people an idea that it would be similar to a graphic novel. The term “graphic novel memoir” always seemed like a misnomer because how can something be a novel and a memoir? It was only since Jarret J. Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo that I started hearing the term graphic memoir in use. It fit and since then I’ve heard many other books use that term too. I made sure that the term graphic memoir was on the cover of my book because I needed people to know that it’s a true story.

Since I started working on my book I have also learned about the term “graphic medicine”. This is a subgenre of comics, graphic novels, and graphic memoirs that depict or have themes relating to healthcare. One of the interesting ways graphic medicine is being used is in the medical humanities at medical schools. Medical students can gain an understanding of what a patient’s perspective may be.

The importance on memoirs, including graphic memoirs is that they give the reader an insight into another person’s life and perspective. This can help create compassion and empathy for others. My hope is that my book helps others that are going through something similar. I also hope that others gain some understanding of what being sick as a teen can entail (especially if someone looks “normal” on the outside). Everyone has a story to share. What will be yours?

Some of my favorite graphic memoirs:

  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Hey, Kiddo by Jarret J. Krosoczka
  • A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat
  • Parenthesis by Élodie Durand
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  • In Limbo by Deb JJ Lee

Writing prompt

Everyone has a story to tell.

Create a short comic about an event in your life. It could be as simple as to your morning routine today to a big life event. Don’t worry about your art skills. Stick figures will work (see

Some prompts: What is the happiest memory you have? What is the saddest memory you have? What was your day like yesterday? Draw a comic of your most recent birthday.

Create a grid on paper could be 4×4 or more, depending on how long you want your story to be (some comics are even just a single panel! I encourage starting with a 4×4 so you can show time passing). You can work on creating your characters separately or you can just jump into creating. Draw your character(s) and make sure to leave room for the text (if needed). Remember in comics half the story is in the art. So if you want to show someone putting on their shoes you don’t need to state it in the text (ex. ”…and then I put on my shoes.”) We don’t need the text because we can see it. Happy creating!

Published October 10th, 2023 by Candlewick Press

About the Book: Debut graphic novelist Claire Lordon’s medical misfortunes may be one in a million in this relatable memoir, but so is her determination, grit, and passion to beat the odds and reclaim her life.

Something is wrong with Claire, but she doesn’t know what. Nobody does, not even her doctors. All she wants is to return to her happy and athletic teenage self. But her accumulating symptoms—chronic fatigue, pounding headaches, weight gain—hint that there’s something not right inside Claire’s body. Claire’s high school experience becomes filled with MRIs, visits to the Mayo Clinic, and multiple surgeries to remove a brain tumor. But even in her most difficult moments battling chronic illness, Claire manages to find solace in her family, her closest friends, and her art. A deeply personal and visually arresting memoir that draws on the author’s high school diaries and drawings, One in a Million is also a sophisticated portrayal of pain, depression, and fear that any teen or adult can relate to. With a sensitive preface and an author’s note connecting past to present, this true story of resilience strikes a moving balance between raw honesty in the face of medical and mental trauma and the everyday musings of a teenager.

About the Author: Claire Lordon is an author, illustrator, and designer who creates children’s books, comics, murals, maps, and greeting cards. She is the author-illustrator of Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster, the Taking a Walk series, and other picture books. One in a Million is her first graphic novel. Claire Lordon lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Thank you, Claire, for these writing prompts to get our students creating!