IS IT OVER? Nope, Just Getting Started!

If you subscribe to my newsletter and also to blog updates, this could  reach you twice. Please forgive me, if that is the case, but I’m trying not to miss  anyone who might be interested in joining in on this journey.

Today the countdown begins…

My first picture book will release exactly three weeks from today, July 6, 2021.

There are several ways to participate in the excitement:

A virtual BOOK BIRTHDAY event on July 6, an actual in-person outdoor event for those in the area on July 18, and a 10% discount on preorders through the publisher, Penit! Publications.

By the way, I heard earlier today that the discount code, PENIT10, was glitchy in the early hours. I  requested a check on that, but please send a comment if you encounter a problem. The discount ends on release day. 

If you did NOT get the newsletter with details, here are a few links that could help:

Newsletter online link:

Direct link to the virtual event, which requires registration:

Both the virtual event and in person event include a chance to win a free copy of the book, so I’ll include that offer here. Anyone who comments here, from today through July 1 will be included in a drawing for a free copy of the book, signed by me AND Becky!

That’s about it for now, but watch for some upcoming reviews of OTHER great picture books involving Dads/Daddy/Fathers, just  to set the mood for



I’ve had requests to include the release sheet with full information, and so I am adding a download here for anyone interested.


Cover Reveal for IS IT OVER?

When you choose a picture book and steps up to a counter, or click on a web page shopping cart, the last thing on your mind is the complex journey that brought that particular book to your hands  You  may select a picture book based on cover appeal, a catchy title, the back blurb, the subject matter, a recommendation, or even a full review. Seldom is the reason for a purchase based on the author or illustrator whose work made that book possible,.

That’s as it should be, even when considering all-star creators among the world of children’s books.  The magic power of picture books is their ability to cast a spell on readers in ways we can’t entirely understand. The back story of the journey from idea to checkout counter is circuitous and challenging, even in the best of circumstances. Today I begin the process of revealing the magic I hope you’ll find in my new picture book, IS IT OVER?

In coming days and weeks I’ll be sharing some examples of those ups and downs and sidesteps, but today is a time to celebrate.

As of today, it is official.

My picture book, IS IT OVER? is not yet ready for sale (at an independent bookseller in your neighborhood, or an online shopping cart) but it will be, on July 6, 2021! For today, though, the cover reveal is featured on the amazing blog of a friend, colleague, and coach extraordinaire, Rochelle Melander.



I am thrilled  to have reached this day, and here’s why:

In the publishing world, a cover reveal is as much a “NO TURNING BACK NOW!” shout to the world as it is an “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING!”  swoon of excitement. I hope that you’ll click over to Rochelle’s post to read some or all of my guest post about this book and how it came to be.

In case you are in a hurry, though, THIS IS IT!

Having my words and story become a book is joyous, but I’m doubly excited to share this cover  to celebrate the GORGEOUS, lively, and sensitive illustrations of another friend and colleague,Wisconsin SCBWI artist Rebecca S. Hirsch. Click her name to see her website for some added sneak-peeks at a few interior scenes. If anything draws readers to this book it will be Rebecca’s storytelling illustrations, inviting browsers to check out the story, and helping them to fall in love with Risa and her Dad.

I hope to have Rebecca as a guest here in the coming weeks, sharing more about her approach to converting letters on a page (or screen) into a visual narrative that tugs at the heart and invites chuckles and smiles.

I’ll have more news about this cover reveal and about the back story of bringing this picture book to your hands, including Rebecca’s work in my newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed, you may want to, just to be sure you won’t miss any breaking news. Just scroll to the bottom of this page and click the SUBSCRIBE tab. I tend to send out three-to-four newsletters per year with some updates and seasonal wishes. To tell the truth, though, in the coming months I’m likely to send out a newsletter every  there-to-four weeks, keeping you posted on reviews, events, availability, and more. Don’t worry though, after the wave of release activities subsides, I’ll resume a more seasonal approach. And if you try it but find you aren’t interested in receiving it, just unsubscribe.

If you’re a social media person, you can also tune into my ongoing news leading up to and after  the release of IS IT OVER? Just use the tabs on my home page and follow. While you’re at it, follow Rebecca on Instagram: @rhirschillus  and Twitter: @rhirschillus. Find Rochelle @WriteNowCoach, and the publisher @PenItPub.

As I said in the opening paragraph, books find their own fans. I’m not too shy, though, to invite any and all family, friends, and followers to jump on board this bandwagon and enjoy the ride with us!



Happy EARTH DAY, 2021

All this week I’ve been sharing posts recommending picture books that can inspire and ignite a spirit of conservation and activism regarding our one and only planet, Earth. Today is the actual and official EARTH DAY, 2021, the fifty-first such day, and noteworthy for a variety of reasons. If you care to take a look at my picture book blog posts, I’d suggest starting with today’s, since it acknowledges the power of combined effort in Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson’s effort to launch this environmental awareness and activism movement.

The post includes several picture books that will blow you away with the power of their text and illustration. It ends with a link to a YOUTUBE video of the song BLUE BOAT HOME, lyrics and music written by Peter Mayer.  (If you don’t move over to that post, the title is linked here, too.

Why would I mention all this here? Because some changes are coming soon to this website.

By mid-May this location will expand and update to include information about the release of my first picture book. Watch for the cover reveal and details about celebration plans. This site will also be rolling in an addition page that will cross- post new picture book posts, ones that, until now, I’ve only had on my longstanding blog, UNPACKING THE POWER OF PICTURE BOOKS. Posts will soon appear on both sites in an attempt to reach readers with wide interests. And, if my best intentions are carried out, I will be reworking the archives on my picture book site to make archived posts more readily accessible for those seeking a “just right” book for particular readers, topics, and occasions.

For now, this post is simply to answer a few of the questions I hear, including:


Oh, my, yes. But much of it has been behind the scenes. Stay tuned!



Review: Mightier Than the Sword- Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing

Mightier Than The Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing

Written by Rochelle Melander

and illustrated by Melina Ontiveros

Beaming Books

ISBN-13 : 978-1506466408

Publication Date: July 27, 2021

Hardcover List Price: 22.99

I’ve been eagerly awaiting my opportunity to share a review of this book for months. My timing is entirely in support of leading as many readers to find it, read it, share it, and celebrate it as possible. The release date is July 27, 2021, and I’m excited to host an interview with Rochelle here on July 30. I was honored to host the cover reveal post (HERE) for MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing (I think you’ll enjoy learning more about the backstory of this book in that interview.)

If this introduction indicates that I’m a fan of the book, I’ve succeeded. I would have LOVED to have and work with this book while still teaching and planning writing activities in my classrooms. Even though my writing workshop opportunities with young people are fewer since I retired, I’ve already added it to lists of recommended books and will share examples from it during future school visits.

Rochelle and I are members of the same writing group, so I had the joy of hearing about this project in its early stages. That includes reading this the final result before it became available for sale. I expected wonderful writing, remarkable content, and a book I would love. MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD is all that, and more, including colorful illustrations and an appealing book design. In fact, I was privileged to offer a blurb, which I include here:

This remarkable book is packed with inspiration, motivation, and information. Writers who are featured within its pages range across millennia, gender and gender identity, culture, race, age, and professions. A consistent four-page structure for each profile provides facts in highly readable narrative, includes appealing art in bright colors, defines the writer’s purpose,  suggests contemporary comparisons, and invites writers to apply those purposes in ways that are relevant to young lives. From famous (Anne Frank) to little-known (Qiu Jin, Chinese Revolutionary for Women’s Rights), the writers’ lives and mighty-mastery of the written word are revealed through brief quotations, with citations and a bibliography in back matter. A brief concluding chapter presents familiar tips (Writers read. Writers listen. Writers explore.) with each described through quotations from writers featured in earlier chapters. Whether reading from front to back, or dipping into the profiles using the helpful Table of Contents, this is a must-have resource for teachers and young writers. Honestly, writers of any age will want this book.

I admire Rochelle’s commitment to this project and her belief in and outreach to inspire and empower young writers. I particularly appreciate the depth of research that is her foundation for the range and reach of individuals she included, across time, geography, circumstances, gender, and fame (or lack of it). Every reader will find connections among the many examples included.

If this sounds as appealing to you as it does to me, it is available for preorder from Amazon, HERE, from Barnes and Noble, HERE, and from the publisher, Beaming Books, HERE. You might also support your local independent bookseller by asking them to pre-order for you. However you choose, even if that means waiting for the publication date and requesting it form your library, I urge you to read and share this book.

And check out more about Rochelle Melander:

Twitter: @WriteNowCoach








The Overlap of THEN and NOW: Asian American Hatred

Award-Winning Graphic Novel/HistoryDISPLACEMENT

By Kiku Hughes

Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 18th 2020 by First Second
ISBN  1250193532
Praise For DisplacementA 2020 ALA Asian/Pacific American Award Young Adult Honor Title

Listed as one of YALSA’s 2021 Great Graphic Novels for Teens

This is a compelling and highly accessible graphic blend of personal history, American history, current events with a dose of magical realism. The central premise is the time-travel-displacement experience of a contemporary Japanese-American daughter. She becomes aware of surprising and traumatic  details of her grandmother’s Japanese internment story from her own seemingly lived experience. For those familiar with Jane Yolen’s THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC, (Holocaust history) it is an effective device to engage young readers with the past that is integrated through a contemporary lens.
This graphic format is highly readable and emotionally powerful. It reads as  a well-researched fictional piece, until reaching the end to discover that the author’s family story actually forms the complex foundation of the story.
Hughes includes information about her own family, and about notable resistance heroes from that illegal incarceration experience. I’ve read multiple versions of Japanese internment stories. This one does a fantastic job of tying history to present day, of exploring the reason that much of this history was silenced, even within families, and of the crisis of identity as it relates to personal past, social past, and present realities.
Highly recommended.
April. 2021
Hardcover, 400 pages
by HMH Books for
Young Readers
ISBN 035813143X
Traci Chee is an award winning author. Reading this book confirms that she is a consummate storyteller and researcher. She frames the Japanese-American incarceration during WWII (and related United States War Powers orders and consequences of that era) within a network of deep and rich friendships, neighborhood history, and the individual voices/experiences of a group of Japanese-American teens. I felt I had a decent grip on the facts of this era, which proved to be seriously lacking. This book approached as close to a lived experience of those events as someone removed from the time and place could have. I won’t forget the experiences or the characters, and neither will you.
At first I imagined I’d need a chart or notes to sustain the complexity of the individuals, their levels of connection, their personalities, and their varied experiences throughout the five years portrayed in this novel. That was far from the case, because each person’s voice and emotional journey engaged me and stayed with me. Each was so thoroughly brought to life on the page that any individual experience brought to mind its impact on the others to whom they were so intricately and brilliantly connected.
I classified this (for my own purposes) as both fiction and nonfiction because the actual experiences of Chee’s family members and others she interviewed are seamlessly woven throughout the fictional telling within actual time and places. If you have no clue about what “no-no” responses were (and their consequences), what segregation camps were, how the 442nd Regimental Combat team changed the outcome of the European front in WWII (and the cost of those successes in Japanese-American lives), or how the Revocation of the Japanese Exclusion Ban actually affected imprisoned Japanese-Americans, this is a must-read book.
And even if you DO have enough background that you feel aware of the above details (as I was), this is STILL a must-read book. What it provides is a much-needed understanding of the real-time impact of those years on those who were victimized by it, and also by the rest of American society in entrenching racism within our lives. When the phrase “systemic racism” is used (and so often denied), a book like this can help to make it real. It can (might) also open the door to honest conversations. What’s more, it is a compelling, engaging, emotional journey that every good read should be.
Both titles are classified as books for teens, yet both should be read by adults as well, and I will be encouraging that among my friends and network. The graphic DISPLACEMENT is particularly effective with middle grade readers who are in the process of learning American history.
These are  also an essential reads for those in support of current Asian-American-Pacific-Islanders who are targets of overt racism that threatens lives and security in this “free country” of ours. It is not enough to shake our heads or send “thoughts and prayers”. Voices, bodies, and activism are the responsibilities of all who believe in the core values of this country, of humanity.
Learning accurate information about generational trauma and hatred can prepare us to be more effective allies.