May 15, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, LAST OF THE NAME and A WOLF CALLED WANDER, by Rosanne Parry

Last of the Name, by Rosanne Parry
It’s time for another Birth Stories for Books post, and today I’m so happy to share an interview with author Rosanne Parry about the path to publication for her two most recent books: LAST OF THE NAME (Carolrhoda Books, 2019) and A WOLF CALLED WANDER (illustrated by Mónica ArmiñoGreenwillow Books, 2019).

Let’s get right to it:

Dawn Prochovnic: Thank you for stopping by to talk with us, Rosanne. If I remember correctly, you and I first met at a week-long writing conference hosted by Linda Zuckerman when we were both in the pre-published stage of our careers. How fun it is to circle back with you now that you have six middle grade novels under your belt. 

Today we’re going to begin by talking about LAST OF THE NAME (Carolrhoda Books, 2019) which just came out in April. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication for this particular story? For example, it’s my understanding that it’s been a long time in the making. I'd love to learn about the process and timeframe between your initial idea for your story and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor.

Rosanne Parry: I got the idea for Last of the Name when I was in Dublin with my son for World Championships of Irish Dance. We visited a reconstruction of a famine ship in the Liffey River. I learned that from the 1840s to the 1870s (the peak famine years) the largest category of emigrating Irish persons was a single girl between the ages of 12 and 25 traveling alone. The rise of abolition and then the civil war had made it unpopular to have black house servants in the north so those wealthy families in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago dismissed their black house servants and hired Irish girls instead.  I also learned that many Irish served in the Union army, even boys as young as 8 or 9, and that the first draft in American history took place during the Civil War. I knew then that a story about a girl and boy traveling to New York would provide all the conflict and excitement I needed to carry the story.

DP: That definitely sounds like exciting fodder for a story! You have me hooked already. 

When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

RP: I researched this story over many years, learning about Irish history, language, and dance. I studied the civil war, the situation of free black workers in the north, and historical newspapers. I learned to play the harp. I visited the Tenement Museum in NY and the Emigration Museum in Dublin. I spent some time with the Irish American Historical Society in New York which had an old manor house just off Central Park which I used as a model for the Treadwell home. I was struck by the grandness of the public rooms contrasting with the cramped and uninsulated servant’s quarter at the top of the house. And the stairs for servants—steep as a ladder and no lights at all! So those details from my research stayed consistent throughout.

Once I had a sense of where the story was going I made a detailed outline (my usual process is looser) in order to make the story events slot in with the progress of the Civil War and the looming draft riots. Once the outline was in place I wrote the whole thing in about six weeks, but only because I’d had a foot surgery and couldn’t walk so I could devote 10-12 hours a day to the writing. I was so bored! I would have gone nuts without the book to write. There weren’t major changes in the revision process. Clarifications. Fleshing out some scenes to give my reader more context. And I added a few extra scenes earlier in the book with the Jewish tailor and the Black carpenter who become more important toward the end of the story.

Oh and I was thrilled that Learner agreed to have newspaper headlines in the chapter headers so that we could round out the context of the novel without leaving the point of view of my 12 year old narrator. That way my reader can track the progress of the civil war battles even though they are happening far away. Also it allowed me to drop in interesting nuggets of information. For example the Black troops that served in the Union Army were served by Black surgeons. And many thousands of poor immigrants in the Five Points neighborhood lived in underground rooms with no light and no air circulation and with standing water on the dirt floor.

DP: Wow, Rosanne. It sounds like you could write dozens of different books on this topic with all of the historical expertise you've developed during your research. How exciting that your readers will continue to benefit from of all of this excellent preparation on your part. 

Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, is there any one moment along the way that you credit with opening the door for this particular story to find its way to publication?

RP: Historical fiction can be hard to sell, so my agent and I looked at publishers with a strong tie to the school and library market who had the vision to make this book the best version of itself that it could be. We found the perfect home in Carolrhoda which is an imprint of Learner.

A Wolf Called Wander, by Rosanne Parry
DP: You also have another new book, A WOLF CALLED WANDER (Greenwillow, 2019). I’ve heard you mention that both books touch on migration, human and animal. What were some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for these two books? 

RP: When we first sent out A Wolf Called Wander most publishers found the writing terrific but felt it was too slim for a MG and too meaty for a chapter book. But Andersen Press in the UK, the originating publisher, looked at it and said, this needs to be a fully illustrated story book that is in print with the same illustrations 50 years from now. I was blown away by the care lavished on this story. The book is gorgeous. It has already sold in 6 translations, including the American version at Greenwillow. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. And the reviews have been comparing it to Jack London and The Incredible Journey so that’s pretty amazing. Really it came down to an amazing editor, Chloe Sakur, and an equally gifted Art Director, Kate Grove, who had a vision for the book and their publisher Klaus Flugg who believed in them and gave them everything they needed to make something extraordinary.
A Wolf Called Wander, UK Edition

I’ve been very lucky. But I also wrote something that inspired this leap of faith.

So if you are in the slog of writing and looking for a publisher, please know, there is no special connection I had to this publishing house prior to this deal. The book came through the same channel every other book comes. The writing sparked something in them and that is the entire game.  Put your whole heart in every page, there’s no other way to gain readers.

DP: Thanks for telling it like it is, Rosanne! 

I recall that your earlier books, (HEART OF A SHEPHERDSECOND FIDDLE, WRITTEN IN STONE, and TURN OF THE TIDE) were all published by Random House, but I noticed that your two latest books are published by Carolrhoda and Greenwillow, respectively. Are you able to share how this came about and/or how you connected with these two new (to you) publishing houses?

RP: Often an imprint within a publishing house shifts its focus or a new editor takes over and brings a new vision to a publisher. I had been with Jim Thomas at Random House—who I met through the Oregon SCBWI Fall Retreat. He left publishing entirely after Written in Stone came out. The editor who took his place moved the imprint from a literary MG and YA focus to a much younger and more commercial chapter book focus. (The A-Z mysteries, the Babymouse books etc.) They finished out the two book contract I had with them by publishing The Turn of the Tide and then I moved on to publishing houses who were focused on the kind of work I really like to write. I have nothing but gratitude for the gang over at Random House and I’m thrilled to have my tenacious and savvy agent, Fiona Kenshole, at my side to negotiate the transitions.

DP: That's great info. Were there notable differences in the path to publication for your earlier books as compared to your latest books?

RP: The big difference was that I had a body of finished work for my agent to look at which gave us the room to think strategically about what to try to sell first. Because one of my long-term goals was to have work in translation, Fiona suggested that we start with the wolf story because animal stories translate more readily than American-based school stories. And then the immigration story Last of the Name felt very timely so we decided to go out with that one next. Interesting that the immigration story ended up with a launch date a month before A Wolf Called Wander because we sent it out almost a year after the wolf book. To be fair, the wolf book is fully illustrated by the incredibly talented Spanish artist Mónica Armiño which took quite a bit of time.

DP: I can't wait to see the illustrations. The book sounds fabulous! 

I know you are a part-time bookseller at the legendary independent bookstore, Annie Bloom's Books. What advice would you give to fellow authors (and aspiring authors) from your perspective as a bookseller?

RP: Two things: Care about what you are writing about. Your work will automatically be better if you have a passion for your subject/characters/story world. And your book has to live somewhere on our shelves. A sci-fi mystery with fantasy elements, historical footnotes, and a collection of recipes which appeals to teens and adults and toddlers equally? No. Please don’t write that. Think about where you want to your book to be. Imagine your shelf neighbors. Hold your ideal reader in your heart always. 

DP: Such sage advice! (Have I told you about my herbal recipe book for teens to toddlers? Kidding!) 

One of my favorite parts of being an author is connecting with young readers at schools, libraries, and bookstore visits. I’m always looking for new pro tips. Wearing the hats of both bookseller and author, I know you’ve presented and/or read to many young readers over the years, too. What advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters?

RP: School visits and bookstore events are not a required part of the job. If you dread the thought of them or find it overwhelming to both create new work and do events, set the public stuff aside and just focus on the writing. Nobody else can do that part for you. On the other hand if you find public events energizing, go for it! Think about what you have to offer a classroom or a bookstore and then look at it as an exercise in serving the literary community rather than a book selling event. Serve your community well and the sales will take care of themselves.

And if you are an aspiring author, the best way to get free mentoring is to attend as many bookstore events as possible by authors writing in your genre. I host book events almost every week and I learn a lot even from folks writing far outside my genre.

DP: I couldn't agree more, Rosanne! I love attending book events for other authors. It's professional development, socializing, and "buying local" all wrapped up into one occasion! 

I also know that you coordinate the League of Exceptional Writers, which is described in your bio as "a free mentoring workshop for young avid readers and writers, sponsored by the Oregon SCBWI and Powell's Bookstore.” Similar to my earlier question above, based on your experience and observations at these events, what advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters?

RP: If you are an author with a book published in a format that Powell's can sell, or if you are a professional working in the book industry, think about a 10-15 minute nugget of content you can convey to avid writers ages 10-14. (We accept kids 8-18 but most fall into the middle range).  For example Hannah Holt talked about how to use your family tree for story ideas. Barry Deutsch showed kids how to tell a joke in 4 comic book panels. Nevin Mays showed the kids audio book recording equipment and gave them some passages to try recording. My League members love to practice what you are teaching, so have an idea of something concrete they can do in 10-20 minutes—write a joke, write a passage of dialog using a new skill, draw a face with 3 different expressions

I will be looking for next year's mentors in June. Please email me if you are interested.

DP: Great tips. Thanks! 

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-published self? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier?

RP: I wish I had known that it would be possible for my children to go to college without the support of my regular teaching salary. I worried so much that I wouldn’t be able to help them with college, when in fact it has worked out just fine.

DP: Oh, that's a wonderful answer, Rosanne. You've worked so hard for so many years. I'm so glad to see that effort pay off. 

Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on?

RP: I am positively brimming over with exciting news that I can’t tell you. Sorry! Stay tuned. I’ll post things on my website as I go.

DP: Nothing like a cliff hanger to keep us waiting on the edge of our seats (and refreshing our screens)! 

One more question: How is that you started writing in a treehouse, and how is it possible that your  treehouse is a comfortable place to write?!

Rosanne's Weather-Dependent Writing Spot
RP: I started writing in a treehouse because my children were 4, 7, 10 and 13 and I didn’t want to open every jar of peanut butter. When I was up there, they were more self sufficient, but if they were in trouble or just needed my company I wasn’t far away. My youngest used to come up and propose a popsicle date on the regular which I miss very much now that she’s in college.  My treehouse as you can see is not exactly weather proof. It works for me spring summer and fall because there are no books, no chores, no phone, no food, and no internet if I turn off my connection. Plenty of fresh air, birds, trees, squirrels and a zip line for quick escapes—I’m very lucky!

DP: Love it! (And I can especially relate to missing those sweet popsicle dates, given that my oldest is now in college, too).

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for your two latest books, Rosanne! My readers have learned so much from you, and we look forward to following your career to new heights!

Rosanne Parry is the author of the many award winning novels including Heart of a Shepherd, and The Turn of the Tide. Her newest novels are Last of the Name and A Wolf Called Wander both on sale in the spring of 2019. She and her family live in an old farmhouse in Portland, Oregon. She writes in a tree house in her back yard.


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at

May 8, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, TO LIVE ON AN ISLAND, by Emma Bland Smith

by Emma Bland Smith and Elizabeth Person
There are times when I read a Birth Stories for Books submission, and I think to myself, I want a book birth story just like this one! Today's birth story, from Emma Bland Smith, about her new book, To Live on an Island, (illustrated by Elizabeth Person, Little Bigfoot, May 2019), is one of those times.

Not only that, here is a fun fact about Emma that I didn't know until we connected for this post: We are double publishing house siblings. Like me, Emma has books published by ABDO and something forthcoming from West Margin Press. Maybe I'll have to inquire with Little Bigfoot to see if we can keep this theme going!

But for now, let's hear from Emma about her latest book:

To Live on an Island
by Emma Bland Smith

There’s an industry standard for getting a picture book acquired by a publisher. You write the manuscript. You revise it a gazillion times based on feedback from your critique partners. You send it to your agent. More revising ensues. At last, the manuscript goes out on submission to multiple editors. You hope and pray that one of them will fall in love with it and acquire it. (After which happy event even more revising will take place.)

I veered from the script for my second picture book, which comes out on May 14. After Little Bigfoot (the children’s imprint of Sasquatch Books) published my first picture book, Journey, in 2016, I hoped I could work with them again. I’d really clicked with my wonderful editor and was impressed with the quality and professionalism of everything about the publishing house, from editing to marketing.

Happily, my editor also wanted to work with me again. But because Little Bigfoot is a regional publisher, their titles generally focus on the Pacific Northwest. Most of my other manuscripts just wouldn’t work.

My editor suggested I send her some ideas first, rather than spending months researching and writing something that was all wrong to begin with. My agent gave me the green light, too.

What an opportunity! I perused guide books, scoured maps, and read tourist websites. I immersed myself in everything PNW (shorthand for Pacific Northwest, as I learned). Although I was open to many topics, I still had to feel passionate about my subject. If it worked out, I’d be living with this for the next several years, or longer.

It was while staring at a map of the Seattle area that I had my inspiration. Look at all those islands! I remember thinking. The area reminded me of the New England coast—rocky and varied, with islands big and small dotting the waters just off the coast. How was it that I’d barely even heard of the San Juan Islands before?

I’d always thought living on an island would be incredibly romantic. Their isolation—the fact that they are accessible only by boat or plane. The symbolism of leaving your troubles behind as you step off the ferry dock. The way they often seem to be frozen in a previous era, like something from, well, a book.

But what exactly would it be like to grow up on one? Right there, the seed of the book was planted in my mind. I started to think out the structure and voice. I decided my story would be in second person (I’d always thought second person was so lyrical!) and that it would follow a child across one full day living on one of these lovely San Juan Islands. I wanted the main text to be sweet and spare, but I’d give each spread some layered text or a sidebar with additional nonfiction information about the islands. It would be a book that residents could enjoy, and that tourists would buy to bring home.

I pitched the idea to my editor. She liked it—tentatively. There was actually no other picture book out there about the San Juans, so book sellers would be enthusiastic, in theory. But she and her team were a little worried about how locals would respond to a non-local writing about their lifestyle.

She had a point. I’d never even set foot there! But ultimately, she gave me the benefit of the doubt. I pledged that I would visit the islands to get the authentic feel of the lifestyle, I would connect with and interview residents, and I would do my utmost to capture the magic of island life without overly romanticizing it.

Author Emma Bland Smith Visiting the San Juan Islands

Writing To Live on an Island was a pleasure from start to finish—from my blissful week exploring them with my family, to seeing the beautiful illustrations by Elizabeth Person.

Illustrations by Elizabeth Person

Since then, I have signed several more picture book contracts with other publishers, which all came about in the regular way: write, revise, submit-- although each of these birth stories has its own particular quirks and twists. I guess no picture book beginning is the same!

I threw my whole heart into To Live on an Island, and will always be grateful for the opportunity to get to know this truly special corner of the world. I can’t wait to share the book!

What a fabulous birth story, Emma. Thank you for sharing it with us. Having grown up and raised a family in the Pacific NW, I have many fond memories of the San Juan Islands. My husband and I have traveled to many places together (last summer we celebrated our 30th anniversary, and I wrote him a song about our lifetime of shared travels). Traveling to the San Juan Islands was one of the first trips we took together, back when I was 19. It was the first time I saw whales breaching, and it is something I will never forget. Sweet memories indeed. I can't wait to read your book. 

Emma Bland Smith is a children’s librarian and professional writer. Her first picture book, Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West, won Bank Street College’s Cook Prize and Northland College’s SONWA award. She is also the author of To Live on an Island and the Maddy McGuire, CEO, chapter book series, as well as several more forthcoming nonfiction picture books. Many of her books feature real-life animals—wolves, dogs, pigs, even alligators. She lives with her husband, their two kids, one cat, and one dog in San Francisco, California. Visit her at


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at

April 24, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, by Laura Sassi

Diva Delores by Laura Sassi & Rebecca Gerlings
Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you the birth story for Laura Sassi’s picture book, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings, Sterling Children's Books, 2018).

Laura may not know this, but I cannot see her name without thinking of sunflowers. I first discovered Laura’s work when I read an interview with her on the Writer’s Rumpus. The lead photo used for that post was a picture of Laura in a patch of sunflowers. I adore sunflowers (in fact, “Sunflower” is the camp name I’ve used when I’ve volunteered at girl scout and/or outdoor school types of camps over the years). I remember seeing that picture and thinking, “I hope I get to know this author some day.” That day has come. Please join me in welcoming Laura and Diva Delores to the blog!

Birth of a DIVA!
by Laura Sassi

I was participating in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (now Storytstorm) several years ago and one morning I was short on ideas so I took out one of my writer’s notebooks and started paging through.  That’s where I found him - a little mouse.  This mouse had previously inspired me to write a rhyming rebus called “Mouse House” (Highlights for Children, May 2013) where I imagined what it might be like for a mouse to fall asleep in a house in the woods. This  time, I imagined where else a mouse might live - and that imagining led me to the opera house and the new story idea that eventually became DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling Children's Books, 2018)!

I knew from the start that I wanted the story to have a rich rhyming rhythm because that felt very “opera” to me, but finding just the right structure took many rounds of revision. At first I went with a simple quatrain that went like this:

It was opening week 
At the Opera House
When Diva Delores
a mouse!

With a tip of his cap,
He said, “How do you do?
I’ve been sent to assist
With your opera debut.”

But I didn’t care for this because, in my estimation, it lacked the richness of an opera house - think plush velvet curtains and ornate woodwork.

So, I started over with longer, more elegant sounding lines, so that it read like this:

Mouse adored chocolate, and cheese on dry toast,
And popcorn and gumdrops, but what he liked most
Was feasting on Mozart, Puccini and Strauss
And lending a paw at the Olde Opera House.

Diva Delores loved glamour and glitz.
She liked to be pampered. She liked to be spritzed.
But lights made her nervous. How would she succeed?
“I’ll help her!” chirped Mouse. “She’s a Diva in need!”

But as I kept revising, I decided that this versification with its long lines felt cumbersome and almost too velvety - like those curtains were smothering. I also decided that if Delores had a name then so should her sidekick - FERNANDO! So…

I rewrote it again, splicing the lines so they looked shorter on the page, but still retained a richer feel. To achieve this, I had to really streamline the story so that I could retain a manageable word count, but I succeeded.  And I liked it!   Here it is, getting closer to the final (though still a little clunky in spots):

Fernando loved chocolate
and cheese on dry toast,
and popcorn and gumdrops,
but what he liked most…

was feasting on Mozart,
Puccini and Strauss,
and lending a paw
at the Old Opera House.

Diva Delores loved
glamour and glitz.
She liked to be pampered.
She liked to be spritzed.

She wanted attention
and spotlights and praise.
She longed to be showered
With fragrant bouquets.

However, something was still missing. Delores, my agent noted, was having a rocky debut, and was there some way, she wondered, that I could infuse a little of Delores’ awkwardness into the text?

I trusted that there must be a way, but I was stumped so I set the story aside for almost a year.  But that year was important because when I returned to the manuscript, I was looking at with truly new eyes.  And with relative ease, I smoothed out some of the lines that had perplexed me before and most amazingly (to me) I came up with a way to infuse Delores’ off-kilter voice into the story. That’s how the little sing-along lines such as “Me - me- me- me!” that appear on some spreads in special font were born. The minute I added those I knew I’d solved the problem and the manuscript was singing on a whole new level.

Text © 2018 by Laura Sassi. Illustrations © 2018 by Rebecca Gerlings
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Sterling Children’s Books

My agent agreed and submitted the story to a small group of publishers. Meredith Mundy, then at Sterling Children’s Books, acquired it!  From that point, it took approximately two more years until the book came out. Each step of that process was exciting, involving first the selection of an illustrator - the fabulous Rebecca Gerlings - followed her sketches and dummy and finally final art.  I found that stage fascinating and was grateful to be included in review of each step. The most interesting development during this process was the transformation of Delores from hippo in the earliest sketches to an opera-singing seal! Here are some before and after sketches to give you a sense of the charm and delight and excitement of watching Delores emerge:

Sketch by Rebecca Gerlings

Sketch by Rebecca Gerlings

Then, just a little over a year ago - in March 2018 - DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE was finally born!  It took a long time, but not a moment was wasted.  Each step was important in creating the final product. And I’m so pleased with the way it turned out. Perseverance and patience win the day!

Thank you, Laura! This is such a fun behind-the-scenes peek at a super fun book! I have to admit, I enjoyed ALL of the different versions of your text ... I would have signed on earlier than others! Readers, if you would like to get a closer peek at DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, you can view the book trailer here. 

Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of four picture books: GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014), GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) which was featured on BBC’s Cbeebies Bedtime Stories and won First Honors in the 2019 Best in Rhyme Award, and her newest release is LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018).

Find Laura on the web:

Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, and Laura's Blog.

Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at

April 17, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, H IS FOR HAIKU, by Sydell Rosenberg's Daughter, Amy Losak

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you'll know that in addition to my two humorous picture books coming out later this year, I also have a love story that has been acquired for publication. LUCY'S BLOOMS is picture book about the magic of childhood firmly rooted in unconditional love.

Sydell "Syd" Rosenberg and Amy Losak,
Photo Likely Taken by Sam Rosenberg
Today's Birth Story for Books post about H IS FOR HAIKU (written by Sydell Rosenberg, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi, Penny Candy Books, 2018) is also a love story. It's about the late Sydell "Syd" Rosenberg's love for poetry, and it's about Amy Losak's love for her mother. Please join me in welcoming Amy Losak to the blog today:

Dawn Prochovnic: Thank you for stopping by to talk with me about your mother’s book of haiku poetry, Amy. It’s a lovely book, and I’d welcome the opportunity to hear from you about how it came to be. I’ve read in other interviews that your mother, Sydell “Syd” Rosenberg, had long wanted to publish a children’s alphabet book of her haiku poems, but that she was unable to accomplish this goal before her sudden passing in 1996. When did you decide that you would work to fulfill this goal of your mother's on her behalf?

Amy Losak: The idea itself – to try and publish mom’s poetry for children – was first voiced at her funeral in October of 1996. If I remember correctly, it was my sister-in-law, Debbie Rosenberg (my younger brother’s name is Nathan), who brought this up, as we were leaving the cemetery in Queens, NY. But nothing happened for a long time, for many reasons – some valid, others due to procrastination based on fear, grief, and my lack of confidence in my abilities to undertake such a serious task. It wasn’t until roughly 2011 that I started making some headway to “revive” some of mom’s creative writings, most notably her haiku. I moved forward with baby steps.

DP: I'm so glad you took those baby steps, Amy. The end result is a very special book on so many levels. Can you tell us a little bit about the haiku poetry form, and why it was of particular interest to your mother?

AL: As a latecomer to this form myself, I consider myself an eternal beginner, one eager to learn and improve over time. Haiku is the briefest form of poetry, but arguably the most expansive. Much is conveyed with few words, and yet room should be left for the reader to “complete” the poem, as well. As I say in my introduction in H Is For Haiku, haiku poetry helps make (so-called) small moments in our daily lives “big.” Mom’s own intro in H Is For Haiku, first published in a journal called Wind Chimes in 1981, is more expressive. I think she says it better: “Haiku is that fledgling moment, when the wing strokes become sure – when the bird has staying power in the air.”

DP: Oh, that is beautiful. 

AL: There are some excellent online resources to learn about this rich and layered form: the Haiku Society of America and The Haiku Foundation are two, among many. And there are a number of fine Facebook groups, as well.

I don’t know how mom found haiku in the early 1960s. It may be more accurate to say that haiku “found” her. Mom had a restless intellectual and creative sensibility. She “saw” into things with all her senses, in a way which is difficult for me to describe -- and which I truly appreciate today. I think haiku – because of its brevity – paradoxically gave her both the structure and freedom she needed to explore and “explain” her views about the world around her. She called haiku “unfussy” but “demanding” in the 1974 anthology, The Haiku Anthology (edited by Cor van den Heuvel; Doubleday Anchor). In 1968, she became a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in New York City. In the early 1970s, for a term, she served as the organization’s secretary.

DP: Thank you for all of those resources, Amy. That's really helpful. I hope folks who are interested in learning more about haiku will check them out. 

Am I correct in my understanding that your mother had written and organized a collection of her haiku poems into an alphabet book manuscript that she had started submitting to publishers before she passed?

AL: Yes, correct. Long ago, Syd prepared at least one haiku manuscript for kids, and submitted it to a few publishers (I have some of her rejection letters). She also had other kids’ poetry manuscripts, and I believe she submitted at least one of these to publishers, as well. Mom also wanted children to illustrate her book for a time, if I remember correctly.

DP: I think it's wonderful that you've kept some of the rejection letters Syd received related to this work. The thread of persistence that started with your mom and continues with you is really empowering, and the existence of those earlier rejection letters really punctuates that! Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Is there anything special that you’d like to share with us about how you came upon the unpublished manuscript(s)?

AL: I knew that these manuscripts existed among her papers and other materials I "inherited." About two years before she died, I asked her what she wanted done with her work when she was gone. I asked her to organize her materials for me – I needed her help, so I could help her (if this is what she wanted). I didn’t realize it then, but I was planning to be, in a sense, her literary executor. But mom didn’t answer me, and I dropped the issue. She was overwhelmed with caring for my father, Sam, who was much older and suffered from dementia and other ills. She couldn’t focus on this matter. Maybe she thought she would have more time to determine how she wanted her writing legacy to be handled … or maybe it wasn’t that important to her, in the scheme of things. I don’t know what she thought or ultimately wanted, really.

After her death, most of her “stuff” was deposited into bins, bags, and baskets, and brought over to our tiny apartment in Queens. Her stuff then made the trip with my husband, Cliff, and me when we moved into a small house in New Jersey. Shortly after her death, I sorted through and got rid of some materials I thought were duplicative or not worth saving. In retrospect, this may have been a mistake. I was so gripped by grief – not to mention overwhelmed with caring for dad and other issues – I probably disposed of materials I should have kept. But there is no going back, and it doesn’t help to have regrets over past decisions. She had so much stuff packed into their apartment. I used the best judgment I could muster at the time.

Then, for many years, I could barely look through her things. The pain I felt was almost physical. My continuing grief and fear held me back. But over time, these feelings became their own burden. It’s thanks to the encouragement and support of many people in my life that I was finally able to shake off this weight and start to sort through and review some of her writings, as well as take decisive measures to revive some of them– especially her haiku.

DP: I really appreciated the book the first few times I read it, Amy, but it's even more meaningful now that I've learned more about the emotional journey that accompanied you on your path to publication. I'm so glad there were people who provided encouragement and support to help you bring Syd's collection of poems to the pages of a children's book. Thank you so much for sharing this powerful backstory.

I am curious if you edited or revised Syd's poems before sending her manuscript out on submission? When you compare your mother’s original manuscript(s) to the finished book, how similar or different are they?

AL: Yes, I edited a few poems in the manuscript, and if I remember correctly, I also swapped out a couple of haiku for others she had written that I preferred. I also changed the title. But most of the poems in the book are intact as she had written them – and in some cases, published in journals – decades ago.

DP: So, putting it all together, can you recap the timeframe between the initial idea to publish your mother’s work, and the finalized collection of poems that you submitted to publishers and that eventually made their way into the book?

AL: As I mentioned above, the idea to fulfill her old dream of publishing a children’s book was broached around the time of her sudden death in 1996. But nothing moved forward for a long time. My own inertia eventually weighed on me terribly. I finally started to mobilize in 2011, but it wasn’t until April of 2015 (which I only realized later is National Poetry Month!) that I finally started to submit H Is For Haiku to publishers.

DP: I think it's fabulous that you started submitting this project to publishers during National Poetry Month without even knowing it at the time! I also think it's incredibly inspiring that you found a path through the inertia and were able to bring this longstanding idea to fruition.  

How did you go about finding a publisher for this project?

AL: I took some time to research publishers that are open to unsolicited manuscripts. The KidLit community is generous, gracious, and knowledgeable, and I learned a great deal from it. And it was a poetry teacher and editor, Aubrie Cox Warner, who told me about Penny Candy Books. I checked into Penny Candy Books in 2016. I was delighted by the passionate dedication of the principals, Chad Reynolds and Alexis Orgera, and their willingness to take risks with their titles, as well as present opportunities to new and various talents.

DP: I couldn't agree more about the KidLit community being generous, gracious, and knowledgeable. I don't know what I'd do without my writing community.

Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, is there any one moment along the way that you credit with opening the door for this collection of poems to find its way to publication?

AL: There really have been many moments. I wish to repeat that I’ve been fortunate indeed to have the unfailing support and encouragement of just about everyone around me. This has made all the difference! Aubrie’s suggestion about Penny Candy Books was certainly key, however.

DP: It definitely sounds like Aubrie's suggestion led you to the perfect match publisher for this project, Amy. That's so great. 

Let's shift gears just a bit. What was it like to see your mother’s poems paired with illustrations for the first time?

AL: It’s hard to express the magic of that special moment. But I was overjoyed! Sawsan Chalabi is an extraordinary illustrator. The book’s vivid interplay of mom’s poetic text and Sawsan’s art is a decades-old dream come true.

DP: The artwork and poems really are a delightful pairing. I'm so happy for you. 

H is For Haiku
by Sydell Rosenberg and Sawsan Chalabi
If you were to use haiku to express the experience of holding your mother’s book in your hands, fulfilling her longtime dream, how might that go?

AL: This is rough, but here you are:

old dream fulfilled …
a child turns the pages
of mom’s haiku book


lost in the pages
of my mom’s haiku book …
a young child

DP: Those are gorgeous, Amy. I find myself reflecting back on Syd's description of haiku from the introduction that you mentioned before: “Haiku is that fledgling moment, when the wing strokes become sure – when the bird has staying power in the air.” How beautiful that you could be the wing strokes that gave your mom's poems staying power in the air. 

If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself before embarking on this project? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier?

AL: I would tell myself that it’s OK to be nervous and even to have doubts about embarking on a creative project that’s challenging, novel, and perhaps even strange. This is normal, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. These feelings need not overwhelm to the point of paralysis and panic. I wish I had known sooner to make these feelings work for me, as motivators – rather than against me, as deterrents or barriers. I wish I could go back in time and give myself a pep talk, and maybe a dose of tough love!

DP: I think we could all use a little pep talk now and then! 

What do you think your mother would most like about the finished book?

AL: I think Syd would be thrilled about the way her words are interwoven with the art and lettering. This was such an ideal and terrific design choice! Her laughs of joy would reach the moon!

DP: That's a beautiful image, Amy. 

They say a mother’s work is never done…is there anything you learned from your mother, or about your mother, as a result of taking on this project and seeing it through that you’d like to share with us?

AP: Thanks to this project, I’ve learned to “see” more deeply and clearly into things. That’s a hallmark of haiku – or any creative endeavor that calls both for focus and flow, of course. I’m a New Yorker, so I’m always in a rush, it seems. Reading my mom’s haiku, other poets’ haiku, and writing my own short poems impel me to slow down and pay attention. It’s a rewarding way to be. And I feel more connected to Syd, as a result. She was a seeker of small adventures …mindful, curious, off-beat. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more captivated by her engagement with little slices of life.

DP: Thank you for such heartfelt responses throughout this interview, Amy. I've found myself reflecting deeply on what you've shared--as a writer, but also as a daughter, and a mother.  

Before we wrap up, do you have any new projects in the works that you’d like to tell us about?

AP: I have a second haiku picture book manuscript in the works. I’m still “playing” with it, but this one may feature both our haiku! I am daunted (in a good way, this time), but excited. Let’s see where this muse leads!

DP: That's great news. I'll be excited to hear more about that project as it develops!

Readers, H IS FOR HAIKU is a 2019 Notable Poetry Book (selected by the National Council for Teachers of English), and it was also a 2018 Cybils finalist for a poetry award.

So what are you waiting for? Go get your hands on a copy of H IS FOR HAIKU. I can't think of a better way to celebrate National Poetry Month (April), International Haiku Poetry Day (April 17), and/or Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 18)! And, if you feel inspired, maybe leave a haiku (or any little poem) of your own for all to enjoy in the comments section below!

Photo of Sydell "Syd" Rosenberg,
Likely taken by Jean Niles
Sydell Rosenberg (1929-1996) lived, wrote and taught in New York City. Syd was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 and served as HSA’s Secretary in 1975. Her short poems – notably haiku and senryu – as well as other poetry, were published in various magazines and anthologies. Syd received her M.A. in English as a Second Language from Hunter College in 1972. It was Syd’s dream to publish a book of haiku for children.

Amy Losak, Syd's daughter, is a New Yorker (Queens) who now lives in Teaneck, New Jersey. A seasoned public relations professional (healthcare, corporate, nonprofit, arts/education, etc.), Amy spent several years on a mission to revive some of her late mother's literary works--especially her poetry, and most especially, her haiku for kids. Inspired by Syd, Amy now writes short-form poetry, too. Some of her work has been published in print and online journals.

Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at

April 15, 2019

Start to Finish Story Time (Expanded), Summary Post

One of my most popular series of blog posts is the "Start to Finish Story Time” series that provides ”start to finish" lesson plans for sign language story time programs incorporating themes from my "Story Time with Signs & Rhymes" books.

With new books coming out, I decided to create a new, expanded version of this series to provide links to lesson plans and resources for cowgirl, pirate, and potty-themed story time/event plans, and to provide links to story time/event plans written by other authors who have contributed guest posts to my blog.

Over time, I will develop a variety of themed story time lesson plans and resources that tie into my latest books and interests.

You’ll want to bookmark this post, as new lesson plans and resources will be added regularly.

Now Available for Pre-Order
Cowgirl-Themed Lesson Plans/Event Plans/Resources

From Dawn:

Cowgirl-Themed Pinterest Page

Cowgirl-Themed Sign Language Story Time Lesson Plan (Coming Soon!)

Sign Language Story Time: Cowgirls Don't Wear Diapers (a guest post on the Rain City Librarian's Blog, Coming Soon!)

Study/Activity Guide for Educators, Curriculum Aligned (Coming Soon!)

Cowgirl-Themed Lesson Plans/Event Plans/ResourcesFrom Others:

Giddy-up Cowboy! Story Time Lesson Plan from Sunflower Storytime Blog

One Little Librarian's Cowboy (Cowgirl) Lesson Plan

Now Available for Pre-Order
Pirate-Themed Lesson Plans/Event Plans/Resources

From Dawn:

Pirate-Themed Sign Language Story Time Lesson Plan (Coming Soon!)

Pirate-Themed Pinterest Page (includes pirate-themed novelty items, games, and activity ideas)

Study/Activity Guide for Educators, Curriculum Aligned (Coming Soon!)

Pirate-Themed Lesson Plans/Event Plans/Resources, From Others:

Jane McManus's Pirate-Themed Story Time Pinterest Page (includes pirate-themed flannel boards, songs, rhymes, and craft ideas)

Pirate-Themed Story Time Lesson Plan, from the Biblio Files Blog

Pirate-Themed Story Time Lesson Plan, from Lady Librarian Life Blog (includes book ideas, songs, rhymes, and flannelboards)

Pirate-Themed Story Time Lesson Plans from One Little Librarian Blog

Shiver Me Timbers Story Time Resources, from the Monroe County Library System's Wiki (includes many songs, fingerplays, jokes, activities and craft ideas compiled by Amber Creger)

Talk Like a Pirate Day Story Time Event Plan, by Danielle Gowen, Library Assistant, Haverford Township Free Library

Potty-Themed Lesson Plans/Event Plans/Resources

From Dawn:

Potty-Humor-Themed Sign Language Story Time Lesson Plan (Coming Soon!)

Potty-Themed Book List (Brief)

Potty/Underwear Themed Book List (Expanded)

Potty-Themed Pinterest Page

Sign Language Story Time: Cowgirls Don't Wear Diapers (a guest post on the Rain City Librarian's Blog, Coming Soon!)

Potty-Themed Lesson Plans/Event Plans/ResourcesFrom Others:

"Potty Power" Story Time Event Plan Interview with Ivy Coleman, Youth Librarian, Tippecanoe County Public Library

Potty Storytime, by Keren Joshi, Youth Librarian

Potty-Themed Event (Open-Ended/Self-Directed Event and/or Party Activities), Marta, Moline Public Library

Potty-Training "Parenting Pack/Book Bundle" Resources, from Storytime Katie's Blog

Underwear-Themed Story Time Lesson Plan, from the Storytime Station Blog

Start to Finish Story Time Guest Posts:

Rice From Heaven, by Tina Cho (Illustrated by Keum Jin Song, little bee books, 2018)

If you like this series, you might also like the Ideas for Incorporating Alphabet Signs into Your Story Time series, and the original Start to Finish Story Time series (an oldie, but a goodie).

And, if you’d like to contribute a post to this series, or a link to a cowgirl, pirate, or potty-themed post from another blog, please get in touch via the comments or the contact form.

April 10, 2019

Potty Talk: Potty-Themed Storytime and Event Plans, "Potty Power," by Ivy Coleman

Link to Image Source
If you follow this blog, you know I have two new books coming out later this year: "Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?" and "Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?" (West Margin Press, October, 2019). This means I'm currently in the planning stages for future storytimes and themed book events for these new books.

Most of my prior books incorporate sign language, and as such, I have a deep supply of reader resources related to early literacy/ASL that I share here on my blog as a way to support my current readers (and the adults who support those readers, i.e. teachers, librarians, parents, professional caregivers, etc). I would like to begin to develop a similar depth of resources for readers of my new books, and the adults that support them.

To this end, a few months ago I put out a call for guest contributors for a new blog series featuring story time event/activity ideas for three themes: "Cowgirls" (including "Western" and/or "Cowboys") "Pirates," and "Potty" (Potty Humor, Potty Training, Potty Science...)

Today's post, the first in the "Potty-Talk: Potty-Themed Storytime and Event Plans" series, features an interview with Ivy Coleman, a youth librarian at the Tippecanoe County Public Library in Lafayette, Indiana.

Dawn Prochovnic: Welcome, Ivy! Thanks so much for your willingness to share your time and expertise. I came upon your name while searching for Potty-Themed Storytime and Event ideas in the Storytime Underground Facebook group.You mentioned that you have facilitated a potty-themed storytime that you call “Potty Power.” Can you share the highlights of this program with us, or any elements/activities that stand out that the kids (and/or their caregivers) seemed to enjoy the most? 

Ivy Coleman: They liked the "no diaper" chant, and throwing the diaper into the garbage.

Photos provided by Ivy Coleman

IC: The parents also enjoyed sharing their potty training concerns with the group. The kids liked decorating their "underpants" (link here for paper cutout/template).

Photos provided by Ivy Coleman

IC: We also danced the "Potty Dance available on the internet."

DP: This sounds like it was loads of fun! Do you have any event mishaps or cautionary tales that other storytime/event planners might benefit from knowing about (or simply get a kick out of)?

IC: The only thing I remember is that our communications dept. put a naked baby on a potty on the poster. I felt uncomfortable with that graphic, so I had them change it.

DP: Good call on that one! Any suggestions for novelty items / swag that would be a good fit for potty-themed storytimes or events?  

IC: I borrowed potty dolls - dolls that came with their own potties. I set them on the tables.

Photo provided by Ivy Coleman

DP: I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to potty-related items, and I'd not yet seen the potty dolls. Thanks for this idea--I've updated my board!

Thanks so much for sharing your "Potty Power" event experience with us, Ivy!

Readers: Do YOU have a favorite activity or idea related to this post, or an interest in being a guest contributor for a future post about your experience facilitating a Cowgirl / Pirate / or Potty - themed story time program? Your post could be original, slightly revised from a prior post you've done for another purpose, or a Q and A interview format. I would also welcome links to an existing blog post you might have written (and/or other web-based resources you have compiled that you are willing to share) summarizing past events related to one or more of these themes. Please get in touch via the contact form on the left side of this page, via social media, or by commenting below.


Potty Talk and Start to Finish Story Time are occasional features of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at

April 3, 2019

Start to Finish Story Time: RICE FROM HEAVEN, by Tina Cho

One of the most popular features on my blog is the Start to Finish Story Time series, where I share lesson plans for story time programs related to my sign language books. I also have a series of lesson plans for alphabet-related story time programs, and I'm in the process of developing and gathering story time lesson plans related to pirates, cowgirls, and potty-humor to align with my forthcoming humorous picture books, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? (NOTE: I'm still seeking contributors for this series, so please reach out to me via email, social media or the contact form at the left if you are interested in participating as a contributor).

Rice from Heaven, by Tina Cho and Keum Jin Song
This week's post expands on the Start to Finish Story Time series, providing a story time lesson plan by guest author, Tina Cho, for her book, RICE FROM HEAVEN: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (illustrated by Keum Jin Song, little bee books, 2018).

RICE FROM HEAVEN is a beautiful book about compassion and kindness. If you are a classroom teacher, youth librarian, after school activities coordinator, parent that home schools, or a parent or caregiver looking for opportunities to extend and enrich learning experiences through books, then this post is for you. This would be an ideal book to share in observance of "Good Deeds Day," which falls on April 7th this year.

Start to Finish Story Time: Rice From Heaven
by Tina Cho

Thank you, Dawn, for inviting me to your blog. You have some interesting series here.

My picture book Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans came out last August 2018 published by little bee books/Bonnier Publishing. Since then, I’ve been able to do some school visits and Skype/Google Hangout visits with classes around the world. My picture book is based on a true event which I helped with; however, I fictionalized the story to protect North Korean refugees involved and to adapt it more for kids. Rice from Heaven can be used with many age levels. One mom told me she read it to her two-year-old son who loved the unique balloons. Middle school teachers have told me they have read it to their classes. And of course, elementary aged children have read and interacted with the book. Throughout this post, I’ll share how you can differentiate the book and activities for different age groups.


-map of North and South Korea
-large clear plastic bags (NOT Ziploc)
-yarn precut, about 18 inches long for each child
-note cards with a hole punched in the corner for each child
-an item that weighs 6 pounds, preferably rice
-black construction paper, one for each child
-photo of a rice field


Before reading the book, it’s helpful to share the book’s back story plus information on North Korea. I like to begin by showing the kids a close-up photo of a rice field. You can google one. I’m lucky as we have rice fields right across the street from my school. Many kids don’t know what this rice plant is and will more likely say wheat. Then I tell them that in South Korea and other countries of Asia, the main crop or staple food is rice. Share the map of North and South Korea. Have them locate each. Depending on the age level, I briefly state that long ago there was a war that separated the two countries. North Korea is communist with a mean leader, and South Korea is a free country like the U.S. and has a president. Again, depending on the age group, you can go into more detail of some atrocities of North Korea. It might be suffice to say that people, children, in North Korea are starving because of famine, their poor living conditions, and a communist state of government. I show them the river that separates North Korea from China. I tell them some North Koreans hear about freedom in the rest of the world. They want food. They want freedom and cross the river into China and then on to safe places. If they are caught, they are returned to North Korea where they will be put into a prison camp/concentration camp.

In the city of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is a church for North Korean refugees. The pastor is North Korean and escaped many years ago. These refugees still have family living in North Korea. They save money and buy rice to send up in huge hydrogen balloons. They wait for a rainy day because a stormy day brings winds to carry the balloons over the mountains to North Korea. They hope families will find the rice and eat it. If soldiers shoot the balloons down, they will most likely keep the rice for themselves.

On May 2, 2016, I participated in this rice balloon event. A week later I wrote the first draft of Rice from Heaven. Two years later, it was published.

Read the book Rice from Heaven:

Author, Tina Cho
At the end or throughout the book, you can take questions and answers from the kids.
I also like to demonstrate how heavy six pounds of rice feels. I tell them it’s equivalent to a six-pound bowling ball. I bring a six-pound bag of rice and let them feel it. If you have an Asian grocery store, you might be able to do the same or just find something that weighs six pounds.


The following craft was developed by my good friend Laura Baker Moon. Children can make a little model of the balloon and write their wish or prayer for North Korean children.

I pass out the bags, yarn, and paper to each child. Then I show them how to “swish” the bag in the air and close it tightly real fast to “catch the air.” We twist the end and tie it with the yarn. (I feel this is safer to do than having them blow into the bag.) Kindergartners through 5th graders have done this activity with me.

Next you can have them write a wish or prayer for North Korean children. After reading the book, children usually feel compassion as they learn some North Korean children eat once a day, have eaten grass and bark, or nothing at all. For those who can’t write, they can draw and color a picture of something they wish to send to North Korean children. I also give a prompt on the board like “I wish … or I pray…” Then using the same yarn, tie the card onto the balloon. If you want to be creative, you can prepare heart-shaped note cards or pretty stationery/cutouts.

Two schools I spoke at hung these balloons from the hallway ceiling. It’s an awesome reminder to think about North Korean children and others less fortunate.

Author, Tina Cho

If you don’t want to hang them from the ceiling, you can tape the balloons to a black piece of construction paper. Have the kids draw white clouds and rain to show the rainy night. At the bottom of the paper, they can write the title of the book, or you can print labels and attach. You can hang these up in the room or send them home to share with parents.


If you want a snack to go with the book, how about something made from rice? Rice Krispy bars, rice cakes, Korean kimbap (looks like sushi rolls but no fish), or simply steamed rice?


Students and parents have told me they loved my book and couldn’t stop talking about what they learned about North Korea. Teachers said it really opened their students’ eyes. I tell students that they, too, can write about their experiences of being kind and caring for others. If I can do it, so can they. I also have two different teacher guides on my website. If you’d like me to do a Google Hangout with your class, please email me. I show slides and a short clip of the real event and tell real stories from North Korean refugees I’ve met.

Thank you, Tina! This is a such a helpful resource for parents, teachers, librarians and other community educators who want to enrich the learning experience when they share your meaningful book with the children in their lives.

Readers, you can find more Start to Finish Story Time lesson plans at this link. 

Author, Tina Cho
Tina Cho is the author of four picture books-- Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (little bee books/Bonnier Publishing August 2018), Korean Celebrations (forthcoming Tuttle August 2019), Breakfast with Jesus (forthcoming Harvest House 2020), and The Ocean Calls: A Mermaid Haenyeo Story (forthcoming from Kokila summer 2020). Although she grew up and taught in the United States, she currently lives in South Korea with her husband and two children while teaching at an international school.

Start to Finish Story Time and Start to Finish Story Time, Expanded are occasional features of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at