Author Archive

what-in-the-world-9781481400602.in05So happy that Kirkus Reviews–known for its pickiness–gave What in the World? Numbers in Nature a thumbs up! Here’s what the reviewer said:

This more-than-a-counting-book introduces things recognizable in numbered sets.

The compact, rhyming narrative rhetorically asks readers to think about numbers in the world, beginning and ending with eyes on the sky: “What in the world comes one by one? / A nose. A mouth. The moon. / The sun.” Young listeners who comprehend the world through the ways it can be measured will find this gripping and consoling….The counting goes up through 10, looking at birds, insects, sea creatures, and deer in the seaside forest. “Three” invites discussion about the parts of bees—their bodies comprise head, thorax, and abdomen, but they also have wings and antennae. The word—sets—that has been implied all along appears near the end: “And what comes in sets too big to count?” Here…a starry sky bears the faint outlines of each numbered thing that has come before….Textured, visually rich, and gracefully simple, this is a fine blend of informative poetry and illustration.

And School Library Journal had good things to say as well: Day’s simple rhyming text encourages children to count natural phenomena. From one moon and sun to stars in “sets too big to count,” her examples give viewers opportunities to hone their skills. The large format encourages group participation. For the most part, the items to be counted are easily identified. Five arms on five sea stars and eight undulating octopus limbs are exceptionally clear….Cyrus’s thoughtfully composed illustrations will reward repeated viewings, because featured objects recur in several places. For example, the three bees hovering in the lower corner of the spread featuring two bluebirds appear prominently when the page is turned. Sharp-eyed viewers will be rewarded by such discoveries, including the appearance of many plants and animals traced in the night sky among the stars. —Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library


It’s official–my newest book, What in the World? Numbers in Nature, will be out in the world September 1. Click on its glorious cover to see its announcement on the website of Simon & Schuster, parent company of publisher Beach Lane Books. If you sign up for updates, you can even get a free e-book from S&S.

I’m also excited to announce that I’ll be a featured author and presenter at the Savannah Children’s Book Festival November 13-14. More to come!


First signing for my new book at First Friday in Brunswick, GA

First signing for my new book at First Friday in Brunswick, GA

I’m still having a wonderful time sharing Way Down Below Deep!

On Saturday, August 29, 2015, 1-4 p.m., I’ll be signing at the Book Loft, 214 Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach, Fl on Amelia Island. I’m looking forward to sharing my ocean book so near the ocean!

I’ll be adding more dates, so please check back.

I don’t think there’s anything more important than connecting the “new people” in the world with nature. After all, they are the future of this planet of ours! I’m always seeking new ways to do this, both through my books and in my life. So this is the first of a series of blog posts on this theme.

Many bemoan technology for taking away time that children could be spending outdoors. But sometimes it can help kids make those all-important connections.
cover of It's a Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree
For instance, one evening I was in charge of two girls, 2 and 4. We read It’s a Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree, a lovely picture book about a girl catching fireflies–and letting them go–with her father. Since we live where there are no fireflies, at least anymore, I wondered, How can I show them that fireflies are real creatures and what they look like when they flash?

Then I had a flash–and went to youtube. Searching on lightning bugs, I found a home video of a little girl catching fireflies in a jar while her dad filmed her on a summer evening. The girls were transported, mentally putting themselves in the midst of the action. And when Daddy came to claim them, they couldn’t wait to tell him all about fireflies.

Have you got a breakthrough moment when you’ve helped kids connect with nature to share? Please comment! I’d love to hear your stories.

Way Down Below Deep cover
My newest rhyming picture book about the mysterious and elusive creatures of the deep ocean will be swimming its way into bookstores in September. Stay tuned for news and event updates! Meanwhile, you can preview or even pre-order.

Gingerbread nativity scene based on Flamingo's First ChristmasFlamingo’s First Christmas inspired my fellow Southern Breeze SCBWI member Wendy Salter to make a gingerbread nativity scene featuring Flamingo. She entered it in a hotly contested cookie contest, and–lo and behold–took first place. Plus, she made lots of new friends for Flamingo. Way to go, Wendy!

She is working on a play based on Flamingo’s First Christmas to be performed at the middle school where she works in Metter, GA, next Christmas.


Tadpole Rex book coverIt’s official–Kurt Cyrus will be the illustrator of my picture book, What in the World? Sets in Nature, coming from Beach Lane Books in Fall 2015!  He will use the same distinctive style he mastered in Tadpole Rex–a terrific read-aloud he wrote AND illustrated about a tadpole who finds his inner tyrannosaur.  ROARRRR!

Come October 12, I’ll be presenting a workshop at the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Southern Breeze chapter Writing for Kids conference in Birmingham, AL.  In the workshop–“Avoiding Common Picture Book Pitfalls”–I’ll share my more than 10 years experience critiquing picture book manuscripts with beginning writers.

In connection with that, fellow Southern Breeze author Laurel Snyder (Bigger than a Breadbox and more) posted an interview with me on her blog hereNancy Raines Day.


I am excited to now be represented by Tricia Lawrence, newest agent at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. EMLA sells more picture books than almost any other agency. Plus, it fosters networking amongst all its authors and agents–sounds like a win for everyone. I look forward to a long and happy association with Tricia!

This is the first guest blog on my website. I’m happy to present news of Lisa Cocca’s debut YA novel. She is an awesome writer and person, and it’s gonna be a big thing indeed!

lisa coccaMy Next Big Thing is a global blog tour, started in Australia, to showcase authors and illustrators and their current work. I was tagged by Nancy Raines Day, the delightful author of Way Down Below Deep and my gracious hostess on this blog.

After I post answers to the Q & A, I will pass the blog on to authors Lizzie Friend, Beth Fehlbaum, and Elisa Nader, all fellow Merit Press authors, who will pick up the tour on August 1st.

What is the working title of your next book?
Providence, which will be published in March 2014.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Some years ago I saw a piece on the news about a young girl who found an abandoned baby on the roof of her apartment building. She immediately went to her mother, who called the authorities. When they interviewed the little girl, she was disappointed to learn they couldn’t keep the baby. It seemed simple to her – the baby needed a family and a home, and she and her mom were a family with a home.
The news story started me thinking about how many people would instinctively want to care for an infant in need and about how many babies are still being abandoned in unsafe places despite our nation’s safe haven laws. This was the seed from which my story blossomed.

In what genre does your book fall?
It’s contemporary realistic fiction.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A resourceful teenage runaway finds an abandoned newborn in a boxcar and both of their lives are forever changed.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Anyone capable of showing Becky’s unique blend of strength, gentleness, and vulnerability would be fine with me.

Who is publishing your book?
Merit Press Books, a new Young Adult imprint spearheaded by best-selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I honestly don’t remember. I wrote and revised this many times. My first draft of anything often looks like someone else’s outline. I get the main points down and then go back and fill it in.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?The Secret Life of Bees cover This question sent me into a tizzy when my publisher asked this. My agent said it reminds her of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I actually don’t wait for inspiration to hit me over the head. I just sit down and write.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Although most of us will never face the challenges Becky does in the book, I think readers will relate to the big picture situation. Like Becky and the people she meets, our lives interlock with those around us like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The picture would not be complete without our little piece of it.