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I remember when I was 8 years old and I learned there was a children’s author who was just 12 (Ally Sheedy). That meant I could be a kid-author, too! Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. But look who did: Sammie Vance!

Sammie Vance is a 12-year-old dynamo who saw both a need and a solution, to not one issue, but a few. She’s the wunderkind behind recycled Buddy Benches, installed in schools, parks, and wherever anyone might need a friend.

You see, to make Buddy Benches, Sammie found a recycling company who could mold them out of plastic bottle caps and tops. When Sammie realized she needed help collecting enough caps, she asked for it. It became not only a school project, but a community one…but it didn’t stop there…

Sammie’s kindness, generosity and innovation has made an impact around the world. Her new book, releasing this Tuesday, is both the story of her journey and an illustrated how-to guide for kids who want to inspire social action in their own schools and communities…and even on the global stage.

Sammie, what’s the most surprising result to come from the Sammie’s Buddy Benches project?

In all honesty, how much my Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project had spread throughout the world, was and still is unexpected. I never expected it to get as big as it is today. Another surprising factor is the fact that I have gotten to meet so many amazing people through my project. I have been inspired by so many people, and I hope I am doing the same to them.

But, another surprise element is the other projects that have sprouted from my main project, Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project. I have started my own podcast and other small projects as well such as Sending Smiles and Cap Art Murals.

Can you tell us a little about those two projects?

I started Sending Smiles during quarantine, seeing that everyone needed a smile. So I would send an encouraging letter to someone everyday in hopes to make them smile. I also included a laminated smile. Sammie Smiles podcast is similar to Sending Smiles. It is basically where I interview people who make me smile, in hopes to make others smile as well.

For The Cap Murals, I helped the parks department lead a class on making art murals out of recycled caps. We created the art and then they were turned into murals with help of recycling and the community. A major help to this local project was when I was on the TV show Operation Awesome and they helped me create multiple Murals.

Wow, “Operation Awesome” sounds like it could be your middle name! You’ve already accomplished so much, so what do you see ahead in your future? Do you have any long-term plans for yourself?

Since I am only 12 I am not sure what I see for my future. Right now I am focusing on school and getting to do some neat things with spreading kindness.  I do know whatever I choose it will involve helping people. I have gotten to have an inside look at a lot of neat professions over the past few years and there are some really neat aspects to lots of jobs.  An astronaut once gave me the call sign “Prez” saying I should run for President someday. Who knows?!

Indeed, who knows?! You have enthusiastic support from your mom, who helped coordinate this interview. With family guidance and love, plus your gusto and determination, the world is your Buddy Bench!

Thanks for the interview, Sammie!

Blog readers! I’ve got a copy of INSPIRE THE WORLD for you! Just leave one comment below to enter. I’ll pick a winner on the book’s release date, August 24th!

Good luck!


by Nancy Viau

Hey there, readers of this wonderful blog!

Betcha can’t wait for hot, hot summer days, right? I know I’m looking forward to lots of sunshine and NO SNOW!




I canNOT say that because I am all about snow these days. The reason? In September, my fourth picture book makes its way into the world, and it’s called FIRST SNOW (Albert Whitman & Co.). So, put on your clunky boots and funky hats, think chilly thoughts … instead of OMG, it’s summer and it’s ridiculously hot, and please check out:

What does this cover reveal about the book? Simple. Snow. Is. Fun! If you’re an adult, do you remember the hours spent building igloos, having snowball fights, sledding, and that feeling of cozy warmth from a cup of hot chocolate? (Yeah, I know, dear grown-ups, you’ve gotta put aside the snow shoveling, buried cars, bad roads, etc. for a minute. I haven’t forgotten about you. When the book comes out, look at my funny dedication!)

As with my other picture books, this story is written in rhyme. Before I even thought about being a writer, I loved to read rhyming books. The words seemed to roll off my tongue, yet I never really understood why until I tried my hand at rhyme. It was much harder than I ever imagined! With rhyme, there is so much to consider—the rhyming words, internal rhyme, meter, length of phrases, length of stanzas, vocabulary, and more. Still, I love it. I love that every single word counts. It often takes me weeks to find that perfect word—the one that fits for all the right reasons. When that happens, it’s magical, trust me. If you write in rhyme, you know exactly what I’m talking about!

As far as finding a topic for a rhyming picture book, nature has always been my inspiration. I enjoy every season and the weather that comes with each one—warm, breezy, rainy, super-hot and humid, or freezing cold. While some may grumble, growl, and complain about a pending snowstorm, I’m a little kid again. There is something about the crunch of snow under my feet; its clean smell; that blanket of white; the cheery voices of children playing; and at night, the quiet peacefulness it brings.

Puffy jackets. Scarves in place.

Extra mittens, just in case.

In FIRST SNOW, you’ll see the kids scramble to see those first snowflakes, then head outside for adventure. Illustrator Talitha Shipman has done an amazing job of showing how beautiful snow is. (It’s not easy to paint white snow on white paper, right?) The colors she has chosen are varied and bright, and the expressions on the kids’ faces are priceless. Seeing how an illustrator works with my words is one of my favorite things about writing picture books.

So, next winter when meteorologists predict a big winter storm, I hope you’ll curl up with a copy of FIRST SNOW and think back to a time when snow meant serious, crazy fun. Then bundle up and go out and play!

Nancy Viau is the author of five picture books: PRUETT AND SOO (Two Lions, TBA), FIRST SNOW (Albert Whitman), CITY STREET BEAT (Albert Whitman), LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! (Abrams Books), and STORM SONG (Two Lions). She also writes middle grade and has several published with more forthcoming. Look for her latest, BEAUTY AND BERNICE, at the end of August! During the summer Nancy works as a librarian assistant at a public library and is the first to check out the travel books, searching for adventures out-of-state and out of the country. It’s in nature where she finds inspiration and whether it’s navigating mountain trails or riding her bike, she’s always writing stories in her head. Visit her at

Nancy is giving away a signed copy of FIRST SNOW in September. Comment now to be entered into the random drawing. A winner will be selected…on the first day of summer…? (Oh, the irony.)

Good luck!





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