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by Marzieh Abbas

Before I jump into my guest blog post, I want to thank you for having me, Tara! It’s such a pleasure to be here talking about my debut picture book for the traditional US market. Your blog has been a favorite ever since I began writing in 2019.

Now, let’s talk about how A DUPATTA IS… came to be:

Long before I began writing for children, I came across a photograph when my mom was cleaning out her drawers. It was one of us sisters wrapped in a dupatta, an oversized South-Asian scarf, that had been tied like a sari. It was from the time we were visiting Karachi to see my Dadi, my grandma. She always wore saris and loved to dress us girls up in pseudo-saris, using fancy dupattas.

A few years later, she passed away. My father, the youngest of three sons, along with us, moved back to Pakistan to be with her in her last years. A few weeks after she passed, we noticed my dad had been sleeping with her dupatta tucked beside his pillow. He had asked my mother never to wash it, as it held her scent and helped hold her memory close.

Not only did this stay with me for a long time, it was the spark of an idea for my debut picture book, A DUPATTA IS… (illustrated by Anu Chouhan) which releases today, April 11, 2023!

Once Anu started sharing her illustrations, I was moved to tears. Her detailed settings, inspired by her own childhood with her grandma, resembled my Dadi’s home, right down to the bangle stand and wooden cupboard.

The story came full circle when my mom cleared out a cupboard of my Dadi’s dupattas and saris and sent over one of her favourites for me. It was almost exactly the same as the dupatta Anu had illustrated in her first spread. Have a look! I used it as a backdrop for this shot:

Thank you, Marzieh! What a beautiful story behind your story!

Blog readers, Marzieh would love if you could join her for virtual book launch tomorrow, April 12, 2023 at 10 a.m. EST. You can register here.

Marzieh is also giving away a 30-minute AMA session! 

Leave one comment below to enter. A random winner will be selected in two weeks!

Good luck!

Marzieh Abbas is a baker-turned-award-winning author. She loves adding magic to her creations- whether that’s a seven- layered rainbow cake or the books she writes for children all over the world. She enjoys learning new skills, jumping rope, sipping chai, and observing nature. A DUPATTA IS… is her debut picture book in the traditional American market. She has several upcoming children’s books including AWE-SAMOSAS (Clarion, 2024), HENNA IS…(Feiwel and Friends, 2024) and YASMEEN LARI, GREEN ARCHITECT (Clarion, 2024). Marzieh is a member of SCBWI and a graduate of the Lyrical Language Lab and Children’s Book Academy. Marzieh dreams of owning a talking parrot someday. But, until then, she lives in Pakistan with her husband and children who inspire her every day. She is represented by Lynnette Novak at The Seymour Agency. Visit her on the web at, Instagram @marziehabbas_author and Twitter @MarziehAbbas.

by Molly Ruttan

Hi Tara! Before I begin, I want to take a moment to thank you for having me on your incredible blog! I am a big fan of yours—it’s such a pleasure to be here!

The roots for my new picture book SOMETHING WILD (Feb 28, 2023, Nancy Paulsen Books), which is about overcoming stage fright, go back to my childhood. When I was in second grade, my mother signed me up for violin lessons. I loved playing, but the stress of performing was too much for me—I ended up quitting the orchestra and sadly giving up the instrument altogether.

Fortunately, stage fright didn’t stop me from loving music and performing, and I’ve enjoyed being the drummer, back-up singer or both in many rock bands over the years. But the days leading up to performances were always (and still are) full of anxiety for me. What finally helped me manage was when I realized that I could rely on my muscle memory and my discipline to pull me through, in spite of my mind, which was busy panicking. This awareness has given me a great sense of comfort. It especially has helped once I am on stage—even to the extent that I actually can enjoy being there!

Here I am with The BumbleBeez, a kids rock band, circa mid 90s. Even though we performed for kids, I would still have anxiety on the days leading up to performances. I was the drummer and backup singer, (but not the original one; I recorded some singles, but I’m not on the albums) with Leanne Sterling (l) & David Scheffler (m). You can find the music on Apple Music & Spotify.


When it was time to create the final art for Something Wild, I began listening to a lot of violin music to get into the flow. I became totally inspired to pick up where I left off as a kid, and start playing again! I had a viola that had belonged to my mother, so I started taking lessons. I’ve been learning for about two months now. Here I am, playing the violin as a kid, and playing the viola now.

The book itself started to take form when I was pre-published and taking a class with Marla Frazee. She had given us the task of illustrating a sequence, and since I was performing a lot at that time, I was inspired to try and illustrate how stage fright felt for me. I painted a short narrative about a girl who was afraid to perform, but when she took the stage and remembered how much she loved to play, the world around her transformed into something wild and beautiful. It felt like the beginning of a book, but I couldn’t figure out what came next.

Several years later when I was working on my author/illustrator debut THE STRAY (2020, Nancy Paulsen Books), an SCBWI regional mingle coordinator asked me if I would present my “Path to Publication”. I said yes, but I was terrified. My stage fright kicked in, and I had many sleepless nights leading up to the event. To calm myself, I decided to use the strong emotion I was feeling to try to generate a new book. I started writing down how I was feeling, and all of a sudden I remembered my illustrations. The sequence I had drawn was the end of a story, not the beginning! I feel forever grateful for that presentation experience, which caused me so much anxiety—without it I would not have discovered the beginning of this book.

Presenting my “Path to Publication” at the SCBWI Regional mingle, 2018.


Some of the members in my Illustration Collective The Mullberries at a book-signing for Marla Frazee’s book Little Brown (2018, Beach Lane Books). Left to right: Helen Yoon, Judy Faulkner, Gail Buschman, myself, Annelouise Mahoney, Joy Dabby and April Zufelt. Not pictured: Jackie Huang, Danielle Heitmuller, Heidi Aubrey and Tricia Candemeres.

I spent the next several months working out the details with the help of a group of fantastic, talented friends. (We are now an Artist’s Collective called The Mulberries.) I am so grateful for them, and for my agent, Rachel Orr, for supporting me all along the way. And of course I am deeply thankful to Nancy Paulsen, for publishing it! Her wonderful expertise along with my brilliant art director Cecilia Yung—and the whole amazing team at Penguin—brought it to life! I hope that Hannah’s story will provide a comforting and entertaining journey for other anxious kids (and adults) to embrace, and an inspiration for them to try allowing something wild happen for them, too!

Interior spreads from SOMETHING WILD written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House ©2023.

Thank you for sharing your wild journey with us, Molly!

I think many introverted writers can relate to the SOMETHING WILD story.

Blog readers, Molly is giving away a delightful prize pack: a book, a sticker sheet, a round sticker & a bookmark. Just leave one comment below to enter and a random winner will be selected next month. (How about telling us if you get stage fright?)

Good luck!

Molly Ruttan grew up making art and music in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and earned a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art. Molly now lives in the diverse and historic neighborhood of Echo Park in Los Angeles. She played violin as a child, plays drums, sings in a community choir and has just started learning the viola. She loves exploring all kinds of fine art and illustration mediums, including making her own animated book trailers. Her life is full of art, music, family, friends and all kinds of pets and urban animals.

Molly’s titles include her author/illustrator debut, THE STRAY, (Nancy Paulsen Books); I AM A THIEF! by Abigail Rayner, (North South Books); and VIOLET AND THE CRUMBS: A Gluten-Free Adventure by Abigail Rayner (North South Books). SOMETHING WILD is Molly’s second author/illustrated book and has received a starred Kirkus review. She has two additional books forthcoming.

Molly is represented by Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency. To contact Molly, purchase books & view her book trailers, go to

by Ann D. Kofsky

Back in the day when my kids were all shorter than me, they kept me on my toes. I recall vividly not having time to sit down. A nice meal sitting at a table? Nuh-uh. Not happening. We were lucky if there were plates at all!

The exception to this was Shabbat and holiday meals. We’d pull out a tablecloth, set the table, and start singing the traditional songs…

And swoop!

One by one, when they each had had enough, they would slide down under the table.

They’d still participate: Songs would float up from the floor. They’d pop up to eat, and then slip back down.

It made me wonder: what was so fun under that table? What adventures were they having down there?

Fast forward many years, when I’m trying to brainstorm a Passover book, the phrase that started circling around my head was a classic variation of a key Passover seder refrain, “What makes this night different from all other nights?” Except in my head, it was swirling around as, “How can my Passover book be different from all other Passover Books?”

The answer came when I recalled those many under-the table celebrations.  Perhaps other kids do that too? And of course, as I looked into it, and spoke with other parents—there were quite a lot of kids out there who found sitting at the table for the entire seder meal nearly impossible. Kids who think differently, who are neurodiverse, just don’t have the capacity to sit and sit while the rituals wander by. They can’t focus-so swoop!- under the table they go.

That’s what Miri, my main character is like. She’s having trouble focusing, so she spins in her chair, plays drums with the silverware, and finally slips under the table. There, her imagination leads her to host her own under the sea seder, complete with 3 matzahas, and three colorful seamonsters, too. She creates her own meaning of the holiday, and when she pops back up again, is able to bring that joy with her, and celebrate with her family on dry land, too.

I was inspired by some other adventurous characters who took similar journey’s through their imagination; WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, the classic  by Maurice Sendak and JOURNEY by Aaron Becker both displayed the beautiful landscapes and fertile ground of kid’s imaginations, and I tried to bring that same sense of wonder to UNDER THE SEA SEDER as well.

Thanks for sharing your behind-the-scenes story of UNDER THE SEA SEDER, Ann.

Blog readers, UNDER THE SEA SEDER will be released by Apples & Honey Press later this month, on March 27. Happy Book Birthday, Ann!

Ann D. Koffsky is the award-winning author and illustrator of more than 35 books, including What’s in Tuli’s Box?, Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor, Noah’s Swimathon (a Sydney Taylor Notable book), and the Kayla & Kugel series. She lives in West Hempstead, New York, but you can visit her online at


First, gather ’round your ideas.

Once you have ideas that you like, start fleshing them out. If you’re a Grand Prize winner, you’ll have the opportunity to share your BEST FIVE IDEAS with a kidlit agent. They’ll respond with feedback recommending which ideas may be best to pursue as manuscripts. (Saves time writing stories that won’t be marketable!) To present your ideas in the best light, I recommend writing them out like jacket flap…you know, that marketing copy on the inside cover of a picture book. Here’s jacket flap for my September 2023 release, FLAT CAT:


Flat Cat was born flat. He wasn’t squashed by an out-of-control ice cream truck, or smushed in a waffle iron. He was just flat. This slick, sly cat could stray and roam anywhere he pleased, keen and unseen. And wouldn’t you know it, Flat Cat liked it just like that.

That is until one day, when Flat Cat accidentally fell splish-splosh right in the wash. And when he emerged from the dryer, Flat Cat wasn’t flat at all. He was adorably puffy and downright fluffy!

From Tara Lazar and brought to life by New York Times bestselling illustrator Pete Oswald, this is a hilariously quirky and irreverent story that is sure to appeal to fans of Pete the Cat!


Go to your local library and read as many jacket flaps as you can to get a feel for them. Then start writing your own for your upcoming masterpieces!

Grand Prize Winners will be chosen next week, to be paired with these amazing kidlit agents:

Plus there’s one more special prize from Miranda Paul of Erin Murphy Literary Agency: an “Ask Me Anything” video call to occur before the end of February.

So spend this weekend getting ready! Prize distribution will begin next week!

And remember…

by Jen Fier Jasinski

Thanks, Tara, for hosting the cover reveal for MY PIANO, my debut picture book. You’ve been a steady source of insight, support, and comic relief on my writing journey.

These are the pedals, pressed down to the ground,
under the soundboard where bridges are bound
fixed to the frame enclosed in the case
that lies on the legs with wheels at their base,
to pillar and prop my piano.

I don’t play the piano. I don’t even know how to read music. Honestly, I can’t tell you whether a piece is by Beethoven or Chopin.

So how is it my debut picture book explores the workings of a grand piano through the eyes of a young musician as she prepares for and performs her first recital? Fabulous question.

My husband is a pianist, composer, and piano teacher. Our grand piano replaced our couch and is often called our “fifth family member”. It fills our home with music and joy, occupying a full room and many hours.

Despite the time and space the instrument takes up, years passed before I did more than listen. Then one day I had a friendly chat with our piano tuner. She opened our piano and I glanced inside. Whoa! What was all that? I was quickly fascinated by her tools, her skill, and how the parts interconnect and together create resounding music. I wondered to myself, “If I can spend so much time around a piano without ever exploring its parts, maybe others are missing out, too?”

I had read manuscript wishlist after wishlist searching for stories with a STEAM connection. I had also experienced plenty of second-hand anxiety for my husband’s students at their recitals (Hello, social-emotional layer). And my critique group happened to be completing a challenge to write in cumulative structure.  I put the three together and just like that (Kidding… 20+ drafts and four versions later,) MY PIANO hit just the right note!

I am thrilled this story found a home with Gnome Road Publishing and I am blown away by the spirit and artistry Anita Bagdi brought to it. Our hope is it will be a musical treat for kids and adults and help at least one child through their first piano recital.

MY PIANO is now available for preorder where most books are sold, for a September 19, 2023 release.

To celebrate her debut cover reveal, Jen is offering a giveaway of one fiction (non-rhyming) picture book critique.

Leave one comment below to enter.

A random winner will be selected next month!

Good luck!

Jen Fier Jasinski grew up outside of Washington, D.C. and spent most of her childhood exploring creeks and reading books. Jen taught special education for more than ten years, where her favorite part of the school day was always Story Time. She enjoys spending time with her spouse and kids, reading, and playing outside. Jen’s favorite days are when she gets to do all three. Her extra-favorite days include cake.

Connect with Jen at and on Twitter and Instagram @jenfierjasinski.

by Colleen Rowan Kosinski

I’ve been waiting for this month for a long time. My new picture book, LOVE MADE ME MORE, released on December 13th.

LOVE MADE ME MORE is a heartfelt tale of a friendship between a boy and an origami crane that continues throughout the boy’s life.

LOVE MADE ME MORE book cover. Little boy holding an orange origami crane.

When a boy’s grandmother shows him how to fold an origami crane, the boy and crane become instant friends. They sail around the room and play, but the crane also watches over the boy and comforts him in a time of loss. The crane is always on the boy’s nightstand―it’s the last thing he sees each night and the first thing he sees each morning.

Over time, the boy grows older, and the crane becomes dusty. But even when the boy becomes a young man, the crane plays a part in the most important moments of his life. And one day, just like his grandmother before him, the man shows his own son how to fold an origami crane as the original crane looks on.

Black mother and Asian father sit at an outdoor table with son. On the porch there are baskets, books and papers. On the table are many colorful, decorative papers, and the father is holding an orange square of paper and showing the son how to fold it. A darker color orange origami crane sits on the table, watching.

When I showed my agent this book I thought it might be a hard sell. After all, we writers often hear that books written about inanimate objects are tough to pull off—and to sell. But I believed in this story and so did my agent. Also, it wasn’t my first rodeo writing and selling a book about an inanimate object.

In 2021, my story A HOME AGAIN came out. This story was told through the eyes of a house whose family had moved away—leaving it sad and depressed, not knowing if it could ever love again. My new story, LOVE MADE ME MORE, is told through the eyes of an origami crane and how it’s life and love changes over time. So why were both these books so successful in attracting an editor? I think perhaps it’s because, while writing, I always kept in mind the idea that these characters were children who were dealing with changes in life.

Boy sits in front of a white lounge chair. In the background is a floor-to-ceiling window and it is night--the sky is dark blue sprinkled with white stars. The stars seem to have come indoors to the room with the boy. He holds an orange origami crane that appears to be glowing with yellow stars and blue/green around it.

One of the things I did with both of these books was to think about emotions and how an object would express that emotion without the use of eyes or a mouth, or whatever attributes that object possessed. For example, how would a paper crane express excitement? Flutter its wings? Sadness? Let its tail droop? And, how about words associated with paper? Crinkle, fold, rip—could they also be incorporated into how the crane expressed itself?

Try it out. Find an object and see if you can think of creative ways the object could show happiness, sadness, anger, etc. It’s a really fun exercise.

I was also very fortunate to be paired with a talented illustrator named Sonia Sanchez. Being an illustrator myself, I know that endowing an inanimate object with emotion and making it a character that children will care about is not an easy task. But, Sonia pulls this off wonderfully creating graceful movement on the pages with her loose line work and bright colors.

So, now my little crane is soaring its way into bookstores and hopefully into the hands of many young readers. I think my little crane would flutter its wings, and swish its tail from side to side at that idea.

I think so, too, Colleen! Congratulations on your newest book!

Blog readers, Colleen is giving away a copy of LOVE MADE ME MORE. Just leave one comment below to enter. A random winner will be chosen…next year! (I mean next month.)

Colleen Kosinski writes picture books and middle grade novels. Her picture books include LILLA’S SUNFLOWERS, A HOME AGAIN, and LOVE MADE ME MORE (2022). Her middle grade novel is titled, A Promise Stitched In Time. She works as an editor at and teaches classes on picture book writing. She is also involved in her local chapter of the SCBWI, and the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. Colleen is a graduate of Rutgers University, as are her husband and sons. Her daughter followed the bright lights to work in the film industry in LA. Colleen works from her Cherry Hill, NJ studio with her canine assistant, Sage.

If you’d like to learn more about her or any of her other books, visit her at

by Phyllis Harris

I may be 60, but I am just getting started! C.S. Lewis said, “It is never too late to dream new dreams!”

Over the past 25 years, I have illustrated over 30 books for children for lots of different genres, but I have always dreamed of writing and illustrating my own books. It wasn’t until I took a sabbatical from the illustration side to really hone my craft of writing and give it the time it needed, before I was able to truly pursue my goal of becoming a published author of children’s picture books. Once I did that, I was able to create some stories I loved and eventually sign with an amazing literary agent, Adria Goetz. A year after that, my lifelong dream came true with the publication of my Christmas picture book, THE GIFT SHOP BEAR. It was published by WorthyKids, The Hachette Book Group, last year.

I also wanted to share a fun backstory of the inspiration behind THE GIFT SHOP BEAR. I was babysitting my granddaughter when she was 3 or 4 years old and we were going through her mama’s toy chest. We came across her mother’s old teddy bear, who had been tucked away in that dark box for many years, and she was very sad to think that old bear had not been loved or cared for so long. It was at that moment, the story idea for THE GIFT SHOP BEAR was born!

All year long, Bear watches from his spot in the attic as the seasons change, waiting for the first snowflakes that signify Christmas is coming. You see, at Christmastime, Bear gets to join his special friend, Annie, in the festivities in her grandma’s gift shop. But this year is different––the gift shop is closing and Bear’s future seems uncertain. Will Bear see Annie and Nana again? The heartwarming conclusion will make this story a family favorite at Christmastime each year. Author-illustrator Phyllis Harris brings a warmth and coziness to her art and storytelling that give the book the timeless feel of a Christmas classic.

I truly believe that no matter our age, if we persevere, it will happen. Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House series, was first published at 65 years old and I kept that in the back of my mind as I went after my goal of being published as an author.

If I can do it, so can all of you!

You can find THE GIFT SHOP BEAR wherever books are sold.

Here is a photo of me seeing THE GIFT SHOP BEAR on the shelves of Barnes and Noble for the first time. What an incredible feeling that was!

Thank you, Phyllis! It is a dream come true to see your own creation on bookstore shelves! And blog readers, you can see THE GIFT SHOP BEAR on your own shelves.

Just leave one comment below to be entered into a random drawing next week.

A winner will receive a copy of THE GIFT SHOP BEAR!

Good luck!

Phyllis Harris first started her career in graphic design at a newspaper while also freelancing at Hallmark Cards. She then shifted to illustration full time where she has happily continued for the past 20 years, creating the art for over 30 children’s books. In recent years, she has focused more on her writing as well as illustrating picture books. Her debut author/illustrator picture book, THE GIFT SHOP BEAR which released on October 26, 2021.

Phyllis has illustrated many different types of children’s products such as trade and mass-market books, religious and educational books, children’s games, and even rubber stamp designs. A couple of her favorites include a best-selling celebrity children’s book and a never-before-published Margaret Wise Brown book. She launched her online shop in 2012 and now has thousands of customers and collectors all over the world. Her art prints are also licensed and sold at many online retail stores.

Phyllis is represented by Adria Goetz at P.S. Literary.



We have been showered with gorgeous picture book covers lately and the latest one is truly a gift! It’s RIVKA’S PRESENTS, written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Adelina Lirius.

It’s 1918 on the Lower East Side of New York City, and Rivka is excited to start school. But when her father gets sick with the flu, her mama has to go to work at the shirtwaist factory and Rivka needs to stay home and take care of her little sister. But Rivka figures out a way to learn anyway: she trades chores with the grocer, the tailor, and an elderly neighbor for lessons. As the seasons change, Rivka finds she can count pennies for the iceman and read the labels on jars of preserve. And one day, papa is no longer sick, and Rivka can finally start school! Full kindness and love for your neighbors, here is a story that introduces life on the Lower East side for a Jewish family during the flu pandemic of 1918.

RIVKA’S PRESENTS releases July 11, 2023 from Random House Studio.

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark writes picture book biographies of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) as well as fiction. Her books have earned multiple starred trade reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Best STEM Book, Crystal Kite Award, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’ Choice Gold Medal. Her titles include ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE, GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE, HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE, NUMBERS IN MOTION, and CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER. Laurie has an MFA in Writing from VCFA and frequently presents at schools as well as national professional conferences (NSTA, NCTE, ALA, TLA, etc.). She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. You can find Laurie at and Twitter @lauriewallmark.

by Chana Stiefel

Back in February 2020, I was sick in bed with a bad cough. In retrospect, the timing was right for a mysterious early case of Covid, but we’ll never know. In the meantime, I received an email from my awesome agent, Miranda Paul at Erin Murphy Literary, asking if I had a manuscript about an avocado.

In my feverish state, I grabbed a notebook and started brainstorming avocado puns: Holy guacamole. Guac and roll. Avocado had a pit in her stomach.

That last one got me thinking: Was Avocado anxious? And if so, why?

I wrote several drafts about an avocado who wants to make friends with other fruits and veggies. But they all seem to have plans. No wonder Avocado had a pit in her stomach! Garlic, who never minces words, suggests that Avocado is bland. Avocado sheds lots of tears (well, Onion is nearby). But then Avocado pulls herself together and decides to meet up with other bland friends.

“Wanna play?” she asks.

“Sounds nice!” says Rice.

“Yes, please!” say Black-eyed Peas.

“Let’s go!” says Potato.

When the veggies who rejected her want to join the fun, Avocado says, “We might seem bland, but…WE CAN BLEND!”

To top off this work of genius, I included a recipe for guacamole in the backmatter.



Editor Tamar Mays at HarperCollins liked my writing, but the story? Not so much. Would kids connect to the bland/blend theme? And the marketing team was dead set against eating the protagonist at the end. (I sometimes like to go dark.) Luckily, Tamar was willing to give me another shot!

By then spring had sprung. I brainstormed new settings and situations for my little green character. I thought about my favorite trips to the Farmers’ Market with my critique partner Donna Cangelosi And voila! BRAVO, AVOCADO was born.

This new story is about an avocado at the Farmers’ Market who wants to be Today’s Special. Strolling through the aisles, Avocado asks her veggie friends what makes her stand out. Tomato offers to teach her salsa. Pumpkin proposes funny faces. Garlic suggests she add some zing! Nothing seems to work until—Ding ding!—the bright and shiny Toaster inspires Avocado to “reflect” more deeply. Avocado discovers that she was special all along.

Many of the funny puns remain from the earlier version, but only the ones that serve the story. And the social-emotional themes of developing self-awareness, discovering what’s inside us that makes us special, and uplifting our friends struck a chord. Tamar loved it! And illustrator Anna Sussbauer’s eye-popping colors and vibrant textures bring the story to life. Best of all, no fruits or veggies were harmed in the making of this book.

Presenting the cover of BRAVO, AVOCADO, illustrated by Anna Sussbauer! Coming March 28, 2023 from HarperCollins!

Hungry for a copy? You can win one upon release. Just leave a comment below (avocado recipes welcomed).

A random winner (US only) will be selected when the book becomes available.

Good luck! 

Chana Stiefel is the award-winning author of more than 30 punny and poignant books for children. Her nonfiction books include THE TOWER OF LIFE, the true story of Holocaust survivor and historian Yaffa Eliach (a Junior Libary Guild Gold Medal Selection, Scholastic); LET LIBERTY RISE: How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty (a Bank Street Best Book of the Year, Scholastic, 2021), and ANIMAL ZOMBIES & OTHER REAL-LIFE MONSTERS (a Top 10 YALSA Quick Pick, NatGeoKids). Chana’s funny fictional picture books include MENDEL’S HANUKKAH MESS UP (Kalaniot), MY NAME IS WAKAWAKALOCH (HMH), and DADDY DEPOT (Feiwel & Friends). Follow her @chanastiefel on FB, Twitter, and Instagram. To hear Chana pronounce her name, click here.


One of my favorite things to do is watch food shows, especially those that travel the world in search of good eats. Have you ever noticed that every country has its own special bread? And a signature dessert? Or a hand-held goodie, wrapped up and portable? Yes? Well, this is the concept behind Susan Hughes’ delightful SAME HERE! THE DIFFERENCES WE SHARE, illustrated by Sophie Casson.

We may be different, but we share the same values. We all need to feel loved, we all need to learn, and we all need to dream. Susan uses these categories to travel the world in search of the specific things that are special to one culture, but are really things we have in common.

Susan, this is a gorgeous book. Where did you get the idea for SAME HERE!?

I first began this project 15 or more years ago (yes, soooo long ago!), so my memory of how it all began is actually a bit vague!

But I do remember researching online for another children’s book project I was working on—and coming across a fascinating brief mention of a specific type of fried dough treat loved by kids in a specific country. (I can’t remember which one!) I hadn’t heard of the food before but it definitely made me think of a doughnut.

On a whim, I began hunting around to find other mentions of “doughnut-like” treats eaten by kids in other countries. There were many! I loved the idea that kids in disparate countries all around the world all shared a love for a similar treat.

I filed the idea away and over time kept coming back to the powerful notion that, although kids around the world are significantly different in various ways, experiencing different geographies, educational opportunities and teachings, economic situations, and so on, there are fundamental things they share, including the need for love, safety, food, and so on. They might share the same basic needs which might be expressed in different ways and yet still share an enjoyment of these fried batter treats!

I decided to try to somehow find a way to write a book to share this idea with young kids!

Did you initially have the idea to separate the book into sections? Or did that come about as you collected various items?

I always knew the book would be split into sections simply because I knew I had a big topic to cover and it would be easier for young readers if it were in “bite-size” chapters.

But initially, I wasn’t sure what would be in each section! It wasn’t until after the book was contracted that, with the editor’s help, we arrived at the idea to divide the book into sections representing the different “needs.”

Do you have a favorite section?

Ah, that’s a tough question! Must I choose?

If so, I’d say my favorite section is the last one: We all need to dream. The other sections describe more straightforward needs: the need to communicate, the need to feel loved and protected, the need to learn, to help our families, to play, and so on. But this one—the need to dream—seems such a beautiful concept and so perfect with which to end this book.

Thank you for sharing SAME HERE! with us, Susan. 

Blog readers, Susan is also sharing a picture book critique or Zoom session with a blog reader. Just leave one comment below about your favorite food specific to your heritage. (And I may ask you for the recipe!)

A random winner will be selected next month. Good luck!

SAME HERE! THE DIFFERENCES WE SHARE is available now from Owlkids.

Susan Hughes is an award-winning writer of many books for children, both fiction and non-fiction, including HOORAY FOR TRUCKS!, WALKING FOR WATER: How One Boy Stood Up for Gender Equality, and Off to Class. Also a freelance writer, editor, and story coach, Susan lives in Toronto, Canada. Find out more about her at

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