August 9 – Celebrating National Book Lovers Day with Carole Gerber


Poet and author Carole Gerber has written nearly two dozen picture books, early readers, and chapter books as well as more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. She has also worked as a high school and middle school English teacher, an adjunct professor of journalism at Ohio State, a marketing director, editor of a company magazine, a member of creative teams at an ad agency and a hospital, a contributing editor to a computer magazine, and – finally! – as a freelance writer of elementary textbooks, magazine articles, speeches, annual reports, and patient education materials. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and has taught middle school and high school English as well as college news writing and factual writing at OSU. Some of her picture books include When You’re Scary and You Know It, The Gifts of the Animals, A Band of Babies, and 10 Busy Brooms. You can learn more about Carole Gerber, her books, and her work on her website.

Thank you for helping me celebrate Book Lover’s Day, Carole! You have such a beautiful way with words, and your books always reflect your love for children and the way they play, learn, and celebrate all the changes and fun a year brings. You’ve really followed your love of writing throughout your career. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What was your journey to publication?

My high school English teacher, John Engle, inspired me to be a writer. He invited me to join his creative writing class when I was a senior and did his best to help me whip my writing into publishable shape. John was a widely published poet and short story writer and he was what was known back in the day as a stern taskmaster. His favorite comments were: “Your first thought is not your best thought” and “Revise, revise, revise.”

I—and some others in his class—got their poems and stories published (and paid for!) in some magazines for high school students. However, as far as I know, I am the only student he ever had who became a professional writer.

I majored in English in college and followed in his footsteps by becoming an English teacher. I lasted a year in a tough Columbus, Ohio high school. I transferred the following year to an equally tough middle school. Although I liked my students, I found the discipline issues exhausting. I applied to the master’s in journalism program at Ohio State and enrolled the following year. Luckily, I received an assistantship that paid my full tuition and a small salary in return for writing two feature articles a week for their hometown papers about students enrolled in the OSU honors program. I was thrilled to have my first by-lines and got valuable experience in conducting interviews.

 Before beginning a career as a freelancer, I worked as an in-house magazine editor, a marketing director, an adjunct professor of journalism at OSU, and as a copywriter for an advertising agency. As a freelancer, I was a contributing editor to a computer magazine, wrote ad copy for McGraw-Hill texts, and traveled abroad with OSU faculty to cover conferences and write publications. I also wrote dozens of short work-for-hire elementary reading and science books for McGraw-Hill and other publishers.

This spurred me, about 15 years ago, to begin writing picture books that were not done by assignment. Although I have had a couple of dozen manuscripts published, I have dozens more that were not. Here’s the difference:  When I did “work for hire” textbooks, I was paid a flat fee to write on a well-defined topic with frequent feedback to help me produce exactly what was wanted.

No such guidance is given when you choose to write and then submit —or have an agent submit —your manuscript. And it can sometimes take years to get accepted, even for experienced authors. Many of those were sold by agents to “big name publishers” who never accepted another. It is definitely a “buyers’ market.”

I have three bits of advice for writers eager to break into the picture book market:  1. Research publishers to learn what types of picture books they seek; 2. Read dozens, even hundreds, of picture books to figure out pace, plot, and structure; and 3. Revise, revise, revise!

I understand you also have two more picture books coming out in 2022. Can you tell readers a little about them?


How You Came to Be, beautifully illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi, is scheduled for April 2022 from Penguin Random House. It’s about a mother’s love for her unborn child and how the baby develops month-by-month in the womb. It’s a love letter, really, for mothers to share with their young children. 

In November, 2022, I have P Is for Purr, A Cat Alphabet coming from Familius. This gorgeous book, illustrated by Susanna Covelli, is filled with little-known facts about cats – some I didn’t know myself! I dedicated it to my own cat, Simon – a sweet boy who has definitely purred his way into my heart. 


What a varied and fascinating career you’ve had! I love the support and inspiration you received from your high school English teacher. That must have been an amazing class and experience. I’m sure readers will agree when I say I’m so glad your writing journey has brought you to picture books and other books for children! 

Two Holiday Picture Books by Carole Gerber

Little book lovers can’t wait to celebrate all the special occasions during the year with stories. Here are two books by Carole Gerber that will get your kids excited about upcoming holidays.


If You’re Scary and You Know It!

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Noël Ill


As the warm days of summer cool into the crisp days of fall, can Halloween be far behind? Kids will have a blast preparing for the big night of chills and thrills while they decide on the most pressing question: What will I be? Carole Gerber and Noël Ill know exactly how that feels and their book, a rollicking adaptation of the participatory favorite “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” will keep readers moving and giggling all month long—and beyond.


Image copyright Noël Ill, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Kids and adults alike will fully get into the spirit of Halloween with Carole Gerber’s clever and enticingly impish rhymes that will have them moving their feet, yowling ghoulishly, and laughing together. Gerber’s rich language and detailed action-packed storytelling are a joy to sing or read aloud and give kids plenty to imitate as they listen. Children will love joining in on the repeated phrases, and older kids will learn the jaunty verses in no time.

In her delightful, spritely illustrations, Noël Ill replicates the eerie autumn atmosphere that adds to the thrill of Halloween while also clearly depicting motions that children can perform with each verse. Ill’s diverse kids float, dance, growl, screech, and shake with the same enthusiasm as little readers. The final two-page spreads invite children to that nighttime world of magic and treats.

Ages 3 – 6

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701464

You can buy If You’re Scary and You Know It! on the Familius website.


You can also find If You’re Scary and You Know It! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound


The Gifts of the Animals

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara


The wonder of that first Christmas night glows in Carole Gerber’s beautiful story that follows the animals in the stable as they make a warm and soft bed for Jesus to sleep in. Young readers will be mesmerized by the gentle generosity of the ox, cow, sheep, birds, and mice as they all work together to provide for the baby to come. As the shepherds are visited by the angels and go to worship Jesus, Gerber uses the lyrical language and flowing cadence of the King James version of the biblical story to create a tender and glorious read aloud for the whole family. 


Image Yumi Shimokawara, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Yumi Shimokawara’s gorgeous, soft-hued illustrations are breathtaking in their detail and inspiration. Pride, fellowship, and diligence shine on the animals’ faces as they create a manger bed worthy of the baby Jesus. Realistic and traditional images of the stone stable, the shepherds and their flock blend poignantly with the depiction of the singing angels that could come from any diverse modern choir. The final illustration in which the animals and the shepherds gather around Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in adoration reveals the promise and hope of the true meaning of Christmas.

Ages 3 – 8

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701594

You can buy The Gifts of the Animals on the Familius website.


You can also find The Gifts of the Animals at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound


This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure statement here.

Picture Book Review

September 13 – National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day


About the Holiday

Sponsored by The Young Chefs Academy, today’s holiday encourages kids and teens to become more involved in planning and cooking meals. When children and teens have more of a stake in what they’re eating, they become more experimental in food choices, more knowledgeable about food issues, and more invested in eating healthy. Being part of the preparation of meals can even contribute to better understanding in science and math as they measure and weigh ingredients, cut fruit and veggies, and serve portions. To celebrate today, have your kids participate in cooking and/or baking. They may just find another activity to love!


By Ethan Long


The monsters were all gathering for their Thanksgiving feast. It was a real neighborhood affair. Virginia the werewolf brought the sweet potato casserole, Sandy the witch had made stuffing, and Mumford the mummy supplied the cranberry sauce. Vladimir the vampire always roasted the turkey because “he knew how to cook it just right.”


Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Just as he was basting the bird, he heard an unfamiliar HONK! HONK! It was his Uncle Gus, Aunt Bessy, and the twins Joey and Shmoey. Even their dog Spike had come along for the ride. “Vladdy” was thrilled to see his family and brought them inside to meet his friends. Sandy was excited to show Aunt Bessy the “mashed potatoes…with garlic,” but Bessy just hisssssed and “whipped up another batch. This time with eyeballs and earwax.”


Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

When Uncle Gus saw Vladimir roasting the turkey over an open fire, he had a better idea. Gus hooked it up to an electric machine and gave it a good jolt. And thanks to Joey and Shmoey, Fran Frankenstein’s pumpkin pie “turned into lump-kin pie” with the addition of maggot meatballs. Although Vladimir loved his family, he didn’t love what they were doing to the annual feast. They even had to close the window and sit in the dark because Vlad’s family was sensitive to the rising sun.


Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

“Maybe the food will taste better if we can’t see it!” someone said. But then they all heard a crunching sound. They turned on the light to discover that “Spike had devoured everything!” Vladimir exploded. His family looked at him with sad eyes. They couldn’t understand how they had “ruined Thanksgiving.” After all, they were family. Seeing their hurt expressions, Vladimir realized they were right. It was time for a dinner re-do. Everyone cooked all day, creatively using whatever ingredients they had left. And if the turkey looked a bit corn(dog)y, it was still delicious. “So on that fourth Friday in November” Vladimir’s family and friends all gave thanks for such delicious food “to die for.”


Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mixing the frightfully funny ghastliness of Halloween with the family-embracing gratitude of Thanksgiving, Ethan Long cooks up a hilarious “Ewww-inspiring” story for sweet little monsters everywhere. As the neighborhood Thanksgiving feast goes awry with the arrival of Vladimir’s family, readers will revel in images of kid-pleasingly repulsive additions to traditional treats. As Vladimir, his friends, and family learn to cooperate in making a meal everyone can enjoy, readers learn that the holidays (and any day) really are more about family, friends, and feelings than about food or other fleeting things. 

A laugh-out-loud complement to the autumn holidays and beyond, Fangsgiving would be a fun addition to home and classroom bookshelves, especially if paired with fun cooking, drawing, or writing activities.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681198255

To learn more about Ethan Long, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day Activity


Vampire Goodie Box


Would you like your gift of homemade or store-bought cookies, candy, or other treats to have a little bite to it? Deliver them in this vampire box you can make yourself!


  • Recycled pasta box (or any box with a cellophane window in it)
  • Black Paint
  • Silver Paint
  • Black felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Red felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Black paper, heavy stock or construction paper
  • Fabric glue
  • Regular glue or double stick tape
  • Hot glue gun (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vampire-treat-box-side-view (2)


  1. Paint the entire box silver, leaving the window unpainted, let dry
  2. With the black paint create the pointy hairstyle, with the point descending about 1 inch from the top of the box and the curves ending about 1 ½ – 1 ¾ inches from the side of the box (see picture).
  3. Paint around the sides and back of the box in line with the ends of the curves
  4. From the black paper make eyebrows—these can be pointy or rounded
  5. From the index card make the nose and teeth
  6. I painted the nose darker silver by combining silver and a little black paint
  7. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the eyebrows and nose to the box
  8. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the teeth to the window, fitting them slightly up into the rim of the window.
  9. Attach the googly eyes

To make the cape

  1. Holding the black felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece about 4/5 as tall as the box
  2. Holding the red felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece of red felt so that there will be a ½-inch border of black along the top and sides
  3. With the fabric glue attach the red felt to the black felt. Use craft glue on paper. Let dry
  4. With the hot glue gun, fabric glue, craft glue, or double stick tape, attach the felt or paper to the back of the box
  5. Fold the felt or paper around the sides of the box and attach along the bottom edge with tape or glue
  6. Fold the top of the felt or paper back to make the collar
  7. Attach the bottom portion of the collar to the box near the front edge with the tape or glue.

Fill with your favorite treat!


You can find Fangsgiving at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound


Picture Book Review