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News & Reviews




Calkins Creek

(Astra Books for Young Readers)

(pub.11.1.2022) 40 pages

Author: Emma Bland Smth

Illustrator: Becca Stadtlander

Character: Robert McCloskey


" While writing and illustrating the beloved picture book Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McCloskey brings a flock of ducklings into his tiny New York City apartment. But an artist + a bunch of ducklings in his apartment = chaos! There are ducklings in the bathtub and ducklings in the kitchen, quacking at dawn and sitting on his desk. Can he learn to draw them just right before they grow too big?"

Tantalizing taste:

" For the next few months, the ducklings lived in Mr. McCloskey's studio. It wasn't easy using them as models - they did not cooperate! They wouldn't stay still, and they clumped together instead of walking in a row ...

But Mr. McCloskey was determined. He crawled around studying the ducklings. He sketched then waddling and running, plopping down and jumping up. He crawled around after them so much, his knees just about gave out on him!

His sketches were getting there. But they still weren't good enough - not for his editor, and not for him. Even the ducks didn't seem to think much of them.

I can do better, he thought. I have to do better!

He was willing to do whatever it took to make these drawings perfect. So he thought a bit and then - he did what any reasonable person would do: He went out and bought more ducks. Grown ones, this time."

And something more: Emma Bland Smith, in the Author's Note explains that "only when I was an adult did I make the connection that the girl in Blueberries for Sal was the very same little girl as the main character in One Morning in Maine. And I never thought about the two books the same way again. Later, I learned that the people and settings in both books were directly inspired by Robert McCloskey's real life on an island in Maine... I was enchanted. (Perhaps it's not a coincidence that four of my own books are set on islands!

...Robert McCloskey's dedication, persistence, and insistence on research and accuracy combine with the charms of his characters and settings to create some of the most beloved books in children's literature."

And yes, speaking of well researched, charming books with island settings, I recently featured on this blog another of Emma Bland Smith's books ... The Gardener of Alcatraz - A True Story.

The Story of Madeleine L'Engle and

the Making of A Wrinkle in Time



Farrar Straus Giroux

(pub. 10.4.2022) 40 pages

Authors: Charlotte Jones Voiklis

& Jennifer Adams

Illustrator: Adelina Lirius

Characters: Madeleine L'Engle


" When Madeleine L'Engle was very small, she often found herself awake at night, marveling at the stars. They guided her throughout her life, making her feel part of a big and exciting world, even when she felt alone. They made her want to ask big questions―Why are we here? What is my place in the universe?―and let her imagination take flight. Books, too, were like stars―asking questions and proposing answers. Books kept Madeleine company, and soon, she began to write and share her own. But would other people see the wonder she found in the world?"

Tantalizing taste:

" In a place called the Painted Desert, with its strange shapes and colors and its big skies scattered with stars, Madeleine had an idea for a new kind of book. It was inspired by sonnets and science and her sense of belonging when she looked at the night sky and listened to the stars sing. She began to write, and by the time the family arrived in New York City, she had finished this new book.

At first, publishers rejected it. They said it would be too hard for children to understand and that no grown-up wanted to read a book where children are the heroes.

But they were wrong.

Children and grown-ups loved the book, A Wrinkle in Time."

And something more: I loved learning about this book's connection to the wonderful children's bookstore, Once Upon A Time. I had the pleasure to be hosted by the bookstore for an event during my book signing tour for DRESSING UP THE STARS - The Story of Costume Designer Edith Head last Fall. I so enjoyed meeting the dedicated and delightful owner, Maureen Palacios, and booksellers.

"Once Upon a Time, or How This Book Came To Be" explains that Charlotte Jones Voiklis (granddaughter of Madeleine L'Engle) and her sister, Lena Roy, first wrote a middle grade book, Becoming Madeleine. But Charlotte always wanted to write a picture book about Madeleine also. Charlotte visited Once Upon A Time in Glendale, California, on their book signing tour. She admired signed copies of Jennifer Adam's BabyLit series "for their elegance and simplicity, and she was struck by the thought that perhaps Jennifer... would be the perfect writer to help her with a picture book of her grandmother. She told the owner, Maureen Palacios, of her idea."

Fastforward... Jennifer visited Once Upon a time and admired the new Becoming Madeleine. Maureen told Jennifer about her conversation with Charlotte. And that was the beginning of this book! Serendipity! Yet another reason to love Once Upon A Time and all our indie bookstores where magic happens.

The Roots and Rise of

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez



Harper Collins

(pub.9.6.2022) 40 pages

Author: Anika Aldamuy Denise

Illustrator: Loris Lora

Character: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


" In 2019, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest congresswoman in America. How did this young Puertoriqueña become an unstoppable force in politics? Find out in this accessible and engaging book for young readers.

AOC’s remarkable story begins in her childhood Bronx home and comes full circle the moment AOC became America's youngest Congresswoman. Ocasio-Cortez’s empowering journey reminds us that everyone, regardless of their age, race, creed, wealth, or zip code, is capable of being a voice for change."

Tantalizing taste:

" When BNC called, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, cum laude college graduate, bartender, organizer, activist, proud Puerto Rican daughter from the Bronx ... said YES."

And something more: The back of the book includes this quote from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "Justice is about making sure that being polite is not the same thing as being quiet. In fact, oftentimes, the most righteous thing you can do is shake the table."

Where to find Jeanne Walker Harvey books

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