Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001?

I was at Park Village Elementary School. A co-teacher shared the devastating news with me.

Confusion. Alarm. Bewilderment.

Sharing four excellent children’s book titles to help us remember and help us to hope for a better future with peace.

Written by Ann Magee
Illustrated by Nicole Wong
Penguin Random House, 2021

Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree


Created by Sean Rubin
Henry Holt and Company, 2021

This Very Tree: A Story of 9/11, Resilience, and Regrowth

Created by Maira Kalman
Puffin Books, 2005

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey

Written by Jules Park Rhodes
Little Brown Books, 2016

Towers Falling

#Kids Love Nonfiction

In February 2022 I signed a petition asking the New York Times to add children’s nonfiction bestseller lists that parallel the current children’s fiction lists. Find more information about #KidsLoveNonfiction announcing the campaign on a Nonfiction Ninjas post.

Mary Ann Cappiello, Professor of Language and Literacy at Lesley University, Xenia Hadjioannou, Associate Professor of Language and Literacy Education at Harrisburg campus of Penn State University, and Melissa Stewart, author of children’s nonfiction literature shared studies that many children prefer nonfiction, and many more enjoy fiction and nonfiction equally.

Together I want to support the goal to raise awareness about the importance of quality nonfiction titles for kids of all ages to have access to.

With many schools now in session for the 22-23 school year, I encourage administrators, educators, parents, and writers to share the importance and discovery of reading quality nonfiction books.

Praying for Peace & Healing

One week ago today, the unthinkable happened when two teachers and nineteen precious children were murdered while celebrating the last few days of the 21-22 school year at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.

It was the second deadliest school shooting in U. S. history. The tight-knit community is about 83 miles west of San Antonio. The families of the victims, friends, and the entire community are grieving. So many emotions and feelings. So much suffering.

Shock. Disbelief. Agony. Heartache. Outrage.

The ages of the children are 9, 10, and 11. Their dedicated teachers were 44 and 48 years old. The twenty-one precious lives were ravaged and slaughtered.

Remembering Teachers & Students of Robb Elementary.
Twenty-one precious lives lost.

Too many unanswered questions.

As a nation we must demand stricter gun control.

Uvalde es amor. I am praying for the community of Uvalde.

A memorial at Robb Elementary School

Today I sent the following letter with copies to additional elected officials in Texas and Illinois:

May 31, 2022

Office of the Governor

State Insurance Building

1100 San Jacinto

Austin, Texas 78701

Governor Abbott,

Texas public schools should be a safe, happy place for students to learn, grow, and thrive. All Texas school districts should be able to ensure parents, students, and educators that learning will be achieved without the fear of an intruder with an assault rifle.

As parents of five boys who attended Texas public schools, we voice our thoughts and concerns. Two of our seven grandchildren graduated from Texas high schools and are college students. Five of the grandkids currently attend schools in Texas. As former Texas educators, we are thankful for our careers to serve and educate students.

We are devastated by the loss of lives and stand together with the community of Uvalde. We are praying for peace and healing thoughts for the families who lost children and loved ones as gunshots shattered the physical, mental, and emotional safety and well-being of lives at Robb Elementary. 

Pro-gun officials say they do not want to politicize the horrific atrocities that brought Uvalde citizens to their knees. However, the circumstances of the gun culture of Texas created and allowed for the mass murder of children is inherently political. 

It’s time for changes. It’s time for better gun control in the Lone Star State. 

Elected officials must demonstrate leadership and moral credibility for the lives of Texans. Citizens of Texas do not want to be known as part of the American phenomenon of mass shootings and violence depicted throughout the nation nor for the murderous propensities of our precious children.

Federal and state policymakers must take action to enact gun control laws and regulations that keep firearms out of the hands of mentally unstable individuals who should not own them. Lawmakers must work together across party lines to ensure all Texan families are being heard. 

Our families were livid to hear the first reports of the murder of twenty-one precious lives. Our reaction was unlike the livid response to errors reported in the preliminary information. “The information I was given turned out, in part, to be inaccurate, and I am absolutely livid about that.” 

Gun violence in Chicago, Illinois does not compare to the outrageous act of gun violence on the campus of Robb Elementary. “I hate to say this, there are more people that are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools.” The University of Chicago Crime Lab reported that 60 percent of guns recovered in Chicago were from out-of-state dealers. 

There are too many unanswered questions. Texans must value the lives of all citizens, especially our innocent children whose smiles, dreams, and hopes are forever lost.

The chosen response cannot continue to be more shams of public displays that include moments of silence, more prayer, and more guns. 


Perry and Susan Leopold

C: Ted Cruz, Texas State Senator, R

Rolando Gutierrez, Texas State Senator, D

Beto O’Rourke, Former United States Representative; Running Governor of Texas, D

J. B. Pritzker, Governor of Illinois, D

June 1st Update:

The following auto replies were received from:

Abbott: ”Thank you for contacting the Office of the Governor. Your request for assistance will be reviewed by the appropriate staff member.”

Gutierrez: ”Thank you for contacting my office. I appreciate suggestions, comments and suggestions from my constituents. Due to the large volume of email I receive, my staff and I are unable to respond to every one. … “

O’Rourke: ”Thanks so much for reaching out. We appreciate you sharing your thoughts and concerns with us. We will make sure to pass this along. Best, Amanda”

Cruz: ”Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding the important issues facing our nation. Hearing from constituents helps inform the the decisions congressmen and senators make on behalf of those they represent back home and is indispensable to the democratic process. To that end, I encourage you to contact your home-state senators on this issue. You can find the senators who represent you by visiting


A beautiful fiction picture book arrived in the mail this week!

I am grateful to receive a copy of ALL GOD’S CRITTERS SING ALLELU.

All God’s Critters Sing Allelu

Written by pjlyons; illustrated by Carol Herring, Beaming Books, 2022.

This rhyming picture book uses all the English phonemes. I am grateful for the many critters Our Lord created.

A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in speech. For example the word cat has three phonemes /c/ /a/ and /t/. Understanding phonemes supports language acquisition and reading readiness for ages 0-4. This rhyming picture book encourages kids to sing praises for God’s creations as the cats and dogs; crickets and frogs; cows and sheep sing praises too through a literary element of onomatopoeia.

“Frogs add rhythm, baroo, baroo,

All God’s critters sing allelu.

Bow-wow, meow, cocka-doodle-doo!

Cheep cheep, tweet tweet, coo-coo-coo.”

The words and the bright, colorful, and whimsical illustrations will engage the reader and wanting to turn the page.

Thank you, Pj for writing a book that kids love to read. Thank you for gifting this book to me that I will love to read to kids.

For more information about author Pj lyons read her web site where she states, “Celebrating life with a chuckle and a hug.”

Remembering Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola was an acclaimed American writer and illustrator. He wrote and/or illustrated over 250 books for children.

Thomas Anthony was born in Meriden, Connecticut to Joseph and Florence dePaola on September 15, 1934. To readers and admirers, he is known as Tomie.

One of the best known and best-loved authors, Tomie signed his name with a heart–a symbol of love.

Tomie dePaola’s Signature

Tomie is best known for the book Strega Nona. Considered a folk tale, this story includes the character of Big Anthony. There are eleven books about Strega Nona and Big Anthony. Here’s the original book published in 1975.

Strega Nona
Written & Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Tomie’s newest book is: When Everyone is Fast Asleep, published by Holiday House, May 14, 2019. The 32 page book was written and illustrated by Tomie for ages 3-6.

When Everyone Was Fast Asleep
Written & Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

About the Book from Holiday House:

“Float along with the Fog Maiden as she takes two children on an enchanted bedtime adventure in this classic from the bestselling author of Strega Nona, Quiet, and more— now back in print!

When everyone was fast asleep, two children were awakened by Token, the Fog Maiden’s mysterious cat, and sent into the magical night.

Gentle and lyrical, this forgotten classic bedtime story from the author of Quiet and Strega Nona is back to enchant a new generation of fans. Soft illustrations paired with an imaginative text take readers on a dreamlike journey— sharing milk and honey with the trolls, watching the peacocks waltz, and attending a palace ball— before tucking them safely back into bed.

Cozy, quiet, and sure to delight, the Fog Maiden’s sweet dream is made to be shared.”

Tomie’s very first illustrated book: Sound, written by Lisa Miller. The 48 page picture book was published by Whiting & Wheaton, 1965. Written for ages 4-8.

Written by Lisa Miller; Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

About the book from Tomie’s website:

“The world is full of sounds. The song of a bird. The noise of a jet. The music of a parade. But what is sound?’ By using everyday, familiar happenings, Lisa Miller introduces boys and girls to a complicated but fascinating scientific concept – sound.”

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Tomie at an International Reading Conference, now called the International Literacy Association. I purchased some of his books which he happily signed. The mission statement for ILA is: The International Literacy Association (ILA) is a professional organization with a mission of connecting research and practice to continuously improve the quality of literacy instruction across the globe.

Over the years, Tomie received many awards, honors, and recognitions for his work for children, including the Caldecott Award for Strega Nona and a Newberry Honor Award for 26 Fairmount Avenue. Tomie even received many honorary degrees from various colleges and universities.

Tomie dePaola passed away on March 30, 2020.

Do you want to know what Tomie’s favorite color is? Can you guess what his favorite snack might be? To learn more about Tomie visit his website.

If you are a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) discover and learn in a Masterclass with Tomie dePaola.

March On With Mentor Texts

March On With Mentor Texts

The month of March was filled with new picture book titles an and new learning.

lynne Marie, Editor and Owner of Rate Your Story, hosted the event. Guest authors and illustrators shared picture book titles and discussions of the mentor texts. The challenge included reading daily posts to discover how these published books are successful which supports writers on a path to publication.

Good Trick, Giant Walking Sticks!

Good Trick, Giant Walking Sticks!

By Suzy Leopold

The snow melts and spring blooms.

It’s springtime on the Midwest Prairie.

Tiny eggs move.

Wriggle! Wiggle! Pop!

Out crawl insects. Giant walking sticks.

Good trick, walking sticks!

The nymphs are hungry.

Slow walkers. Searching for food.

Discover green leaves to munch.

Munch! Crunch!

Good trick, walking sticks!

A master of camouflage.

Blending into surroundings. Changing colors.

Posing as twigs and branches.

Disguised to fool enemies and predators.

Good trick, walking sticks!

Curious, bulging, compound eyes,

With side-to-side head and body movements.

The insects hide in plain sight,

 Swaying back and forth like a twig in the wind.

Good trick, walking sticks!

A hungry Robin spies a walking stick. 

Watch out! Uh, oh! 

The insect is missing a leg. It’s okay. 

Young walkingsticks can grow a new one!

Good trick, walking sticks!

The best trick of all when all else fails,

Play dead, Giant Walking Sticks!

Wildlife Biology GIF by PBS Digital Studios

The Spring Fling 2022 Writing Contest is hosted by Kaitlyn Sanchez and Ciara O’ Neal.

It’s time to write a 150-word story based on a Spring gif. The contest officially opens on April 1st. All entries must be posted by April 3rd, 11:59 CST. For more information, examples, rules, and prizes read this post:

Best wishes to my writerly friends!


Welcome to Through the Prairie Garden Gate Hope Lim! It is my pleasure to share your upcoming book Mommy’s Hometown with my readers.

Mommy’s Hometown
Written by Hope Lim
Illustrated by Jaime Kim
April 12, 2022

Share your inspiration for Mommy’s Hometown.

MOMMY’S HOMETOWN was inspired by real-life experiences. Since moving to America, I have periodically visited my parents in Korea, and am struck by the continual changes that have slowly altered my hometown. When I became a mother, I took my kids and husband to the river where I used to play as a child. While watching them play and catch minnows and crawfish in the river, I was overtaken by a sense of nostalgia for the time and scenes from my childhood, for everything around the river had changed so much. In the distance, glimpses of mountains brought me back to a time that is long gone. At that moment, I wanted to write something that captured the passage of time and changes that took place. That became the seed for MOMMY’S HOMETOWN.

On our way home from the river, my husband asked if I would still come back to the river or my hometown if my parents weren’t here anymore. I thought about the question and realized that the presence of my parents and their love, which have stayed the same throughout the years of change, are what makes my hometown so special. Like the old river that runs through the city unchanged, my parents’ presence and love are steadfast. So that sentiment became the theme of MOMMY’S HOMETOWN.

Did you have a critique group (literary agent or editor) who helped and supported your vision for this story?

I have to say all of them, critique groups, my agent, and my editor helped me with each revision.

My editor, Kate Fletcher, really helped me to focus on the mother-child connection in this story. At first, I was too ambitious trying to weave a different layer into the story, such as Grandma’s steady presence in parallel with the old river. Then following my editor’s advice and focusing on the mother and child connection flushed out the extra elements and made the story as it is now. I am very thankful for Kate for her vision and support. 

What are some activities and events you are doing (or plan to do) to launch and promote your book?

I am doing lots of blog tours for Mommy’s Hometown, and my writing group, Soaring20s, is supporting all the writers and their books coming out this year. 

When did you become interested in writing children’s literature? 

Two things came together. First, I kept a daily journal of my children when they were younger. It was filled with my observations of their daily activities, funny things they said, and my thoughts on parenting. Second, I was constantly reading to my children, all different types of books. I was drawn to the power of picture books, where a single word or illustration can convey deep emotions. The power of picture books and my observations on my kids came together to inspire me to write my own books and share them with the world.

Author Hope Lim

Time for eight fun rapid-fire questions.

Describe yourself in five words.

Optimistic, creative, thoughtful, sensitive, and idealistic. 

What item displayed on your desk gives you inspiration?

Stacks of books I want to read.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Climbing the mountains behind my parent’s house and catching dragonflies. 

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunset. Only because I see it more often and I love the colors. 

When are you most productive?

At night when the house is quiet, and I am the only one who is awake. 

Riding bikes or jogging?

Jogging. I run every day! 

What surprises you?

People who are not kind. 

Favorite place to be.

A place with people who have known me for years.

And now for some writing advice from Hope:

My general advice is read and write and read and write. Reading nourishes your mind and writing strengthens your ability and helps you find your own voice. Writing is hard but we all know what it is like to experience that rare Ah Ha moment that makes our story sing. That blissful moment makes us feel alive and can come to us when we spend lots of time with our stories by writing and reading and thinking about them. 

One specific piece of advice is to make a dummy to see the pacing of your story and how the page turns will work. Making a dummy is my favorite stage because I can envision it as a final product and often draw rough sketches along with text. 

Thank you, Hope. The kidlit community looks forward to celebrating the release of Mommy’s Hometown on April 12th. It’s always a pleasure to feature you and your writing.

For more information about Hope and her books visit her website.

Kids’ Choice KidLit Writing Contest

Honorable Mention 2022

Today the finalists and the honorable mentions for the 1st Annual Kids’ Choice Kidlit Writing Contest are announced by Kailei Pew.

Such an amazing contest judged by kids!

I am thankful and honored to be selected for honorable mention for my two-character picture book entry BOOKWORM AND ROBIN.

Congratulations and best wishes to all who were selected. Thank you, Kailei Pew and kid lit judges.

Read more on Kailei Pew Books!

New York Times Bestseller Lists

The following post is a Petition to Add Children’s Nonfiction Lists to the NYT Bestseller Lists.

February 14, 2022

As part of the #KidsLoveNonfiction campaign, Mary Ann Cappiello, Professor of Language and Literacy at Lesley University and Xenia Hadjioannou, Associate Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the Harrisburg campus of Penn State University, sent a letter to The New York Times requesting that the paper add three children’s nonfiction bestseller lists to parallel the existing picture book, middle grade, and young adult lists, which focus on fiction. The letter was also shared on more than 20 blogs that serve the literacy and children’s literature communities.

This change will align the children’s lists with the adult bestseller lists, which separate nonfiction and fiction. It will also acknowledge the incredible vibrancy of children’s nonfiction available today and support the substantial body of research showing that many children prefer nonfiction and still others enjoy fiction and nonfiction equally.

The submitted letter included the signatures of more than 500 educators and librarians as well as the institutional signatures of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Children’s Literature Assembly of NCTE. Thank you ALL for your support!

We now welcome everyone–parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers, authors, illustrators, agents, book publishers, and booksellers–to sign the letter.

Please review the letter sent to the NYT through the link below. The information of all who have signed the letter so far is appended at the end of the document.

If you support this request, please add your information below and submit the form. Your email address will not be made public.

Feel free to pass this on to other individuals who you think would also be interested in signing. Please share widely on social media using the #KidsLoveNonfiction hashtag.