One of the most exciting parts about signing with an agent, besides SIGNING WITH AN AGENT (!!!!), is being adopted into an instant family. Your agent-sisters-and-brothers are so supportive, kind and blow-you-away talented. I’ve known Maria for years, and I knew that when Ammi-Joan Paquette signed her, she’d skyrocket to fame.

Penny and Jelly

PENNY & JELLY: THE SCHOOL SHOW is Maria’s debut, but she already has a half dozen more books to come! Phew! She’s got some serious talent.

And since PENNY & JELLY is about a school talent show, I thought Maria, illustrator Thyra Heder and editor Cynthia Platt might like to share their HIDDEN talents for the PENNY & JELLY blog tour.

Maria Gianferrari, Author

My hidden talent: I am the plant whisperer. Here are some of my favorite plants, and flowers:


I took this Clematis in for the winter and here it is blooming. It’s now back on our deck.


My very happy jade plant.


This is my heartleaf philodendron. It keeps growing. And growing. And growing. It just might take over our house.


But somehow I haven’t figured out how to speak orchid. A friend recently gave me this lovely specimen.


But I’m afraid it may end up looking like this.

Time will tell!

Thyra Heder, Illustrator

My hidden talent is not so hidden. I like to dance so much that once I start I usually cannot stop until the party is over and everyone is gone and I open my eyes and I’m the only one left. Here is a photo of me dancing to my walkman at age 11 in front of painted portraits of my Hungarian great grandparents.


Cynthia Platt, Editor

Maria might be a plant whisperer, but I like to think of myself as a guinea pig whisperer.

While I never thought of myself as a rodent person–and was, in fact, deeply squeamish about having one in the house–the loud, demanding, rather snuggly Flicksbee (I take no credit for her name, alas) has wormed her way into my heart. So maybe my hidden talent isn’t so much being a guinea pig whisperer as being open to new things? Regardless, my guinea pig is awesome.


So now that you know these book creators’ secret talents, it’s time to pick up PENNY & JELLY so you can discover their talent! 

And Maria will take a look at your talent, too. She’s giving away a picture book critique to one lucky random commenter. Leave a comment about YOUR hidden talent! (Seriously, I can’t wait to read these.)

Plus, there’s also a copy of PENNY & JELLY for a second winner. So comment away! Two winners will be chosen in mid-July.

Good luck!

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Maria writes both fiction and nonfiction picture books from her sunny, book-lined study in northern Virginia, with dog Becca as her muse. Maria’s debut picture book, Penny & Jelly: The School Show, illustrated by Thyra Heder, will be released on July 7th, 2015 (HMH Books for Young Readers). A second Penny & Jelly book titled, Penny & Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars, will be released in June 2016. Maria has five additional books forthcoming from Roaring Brook and Boyds Mills Presses as well as Aladdin Books for Young Readers in the coming years. To learn more about Maria, visit her website: and on Facebook.

And you can visit Penny & Jelly at their website:, and on Instagram: @pennyandjelly.