Books to Make You Smile

April is National Humor Month so a trip to the library and I found a few books to share. Humor in kids’ books can be the in-your-face laugh-out-loud kind or more subtle. It can be a dance between the pictures and the words as they contradict each other or used to soften the blow of more serious moments in the book. Here’s a few I liked.

Snail Crossing

Written & Illustrated by Corey R. Tabor
Balzer & Bray, HarperCollins 2020

Snail spies a luscious cabbage patch, but he needs to cross the road to get to it. His attempt is not without adventure. He saves some ants from the rain by inviting them into his shell home. We only see dark and eyes until “click” and the home is the wondrous snail home I’d love to crawl into. In his attempt to evade a crow he gets turned around and ends up back where he started. In the end kindness pays off as he sees a head of cabbage coming toward him across the road, carried by-the ants, of course! The illustrations were warm and inviting and showed the world from Snail’s perspective. One of the things I love about picture books is that the vocabulary can be rich as an adult is present to help explain unknown words. Snail was full of wonderful words like ponder, grumbling, antsy, evasive maneuvers and had a lesson in persistence and kindness.

Book’s Big Adventure

Written by Adam Lehrhaupt, Illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell
A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021

Book is brand new. He finds himself on the best shelf in the library where he is sought after and taken on many adventures. In time his newness wears off, his cover fades and he is moved to less and less prominent shelves and has fewer adventures. He is lonely and ignored for new fancier books. Eventually he falls under a shelf and loses hope, but he is found and put in a box of books that are donated. Book is loved again and goes on new adventures. The text is simple with much shown in the inviting illustrations that show diversity of people and communities. The feelings Book is experiencing are perfectly depicted by just two eyes and a mouth. It is a heartwarming story that helps the reader experience sadness, empathy, hope and joy. Bonus-the author included information on where to donate books so they aren’t forgotten. After all, a book’s purpose is not to live in a box, but to share adventures with readers!

We Found a Hat

Written & Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press 2016

This is a story in three parts told with simple text and illustrations. Klassen is a master at dry humor while showing honest emotions. Part 1: two turtles find a hat and decide it looks good on both of them. Since it is not right for only one to have it they decide to leave it. It is made clear one turtle still covets the hat. Part 2: they watch the sunset and one turtle thinks about the sunset and the other is still thinking about the hat but doesn’t share that. Part 3: they are going to sleep. The turtle that wants the hat is trying to confirm that the other turtle is sleeping so he can go get the hat, but when he finds out the other turtle is dreaming about them both have a hat he goes to sleep too and dreams they both have a hat. A lot is packed in a simple story that leads to discussions of sharing, making good decisions and thinking of others.

How to Catch a Clover Thief

Written & Illustrated by Elise Parsley
Little Brown & Company, Hachette Book Group, 2021

A boar named Roy finds and claims a clover patch. His neighbor Jarvis, a gopher, quietly steals the clover while distraction Roy with various books-a clover recipes cookbook, a book about camping and one on aerospace engineering. Roy finally realizes Jarvis has tricked him and he goes to the library where he reads and looks up words. Later we see Jarvis tunneling under to get to Roy’s clover but Roy has built a machine (Rube Goldberg style) that shoots Jarvis to the sky on a rocket. And Roy is seen holding a book, How to Catch a Clover Thief. The full-page illustrations and expressive faces are a great example of how the illustrations tell the story with the words. The story shows ingenuity, that you can find answers and solutions in books, and is very funny.

Thank a Librarian

I have always loved books. When I was young bookstores weren’t plentiful but the library was a place we visited often. I imagined that someday my home would have a library with wall-to-wall books. In reality that wasn’t going to happen, but my home from the first apartment to our present address has always had baskets and bookshelves filled with books. Not book arranged for the aesthetics but books that have been read and shared and loved. Some books have gone with me from New York to Connecticut to Pennsylvania to Ohio to Indiana to Kansas and back to Indiana. And some books were left along the way hoping someone else would pick them up and love them too.


Libraries have changed since I was a girl. They were quiet places holding adventures between the pages. With librarians that shushed, but more importantly always knew just the right book to feed my reading habit. Now libraries and librarians are so much more. The libraries still hold adventures and knowledge between the covers, but they also are hubs of technology, creative arts, community gatherings, a safe haven for some, they provide nourishment for children in need, and resources for those seeking employment. And the amazing librarians still help you find the right book but they always wear many other hats!


When my children came along bookstores were plentiful; they had story time and comfy chairs to sit. I could often be talked into buying a book! But the library was also part of their book experience. Who doesn’t love a magical library card of your own or a reading challenge that ends in you picking a book to keep? And of course, a video to take home and maybe a donut from the café!


I still love the library. The card catalog is gone, but searching for books online does yield lots of books with less effort. I still love to hold a book, but the library has eBooks when I need to use my e-reader. And when my first book was going to be published my son remarked that I would have a book in the library of congress! What an amazing thought for that little girl who always loved the library.

How do you feel about self-promotion?

When I started writing for children I naively thought if I write it the readers will come. But in today’s world there are so many things competing for our time and our children’s time that self-promotion is necessary for survival as an author.

Self-promotion makes me uncomfortable. For me it feels like selling. To sell something you are saying my thing deserves your attention and money over someone else’s thing. But what if the other thing is better? I wouldn’t want to steer you wrong😉. That’s why I couldn’t sell Amway eons ago, but instead watched as friends made a fortune! And I wasn’t very good at encouraging my kids to sell stuff for school fundraisers.

When I started writing for children I naively thought if I write it the readers will come. But in today’s world there are so many things competing for our time and our children’s time that self-promotion is necessary for survival as an author. And so authors seek followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. We are pushing our books and our expertise, hoping to connect with readers, writers, publishers, teachers, bloggers… We both support and compete with each other. I find it much easier to say something wonderful about a fellow author’s book than my own. I’d rather review someone else’s book than ask for someone to review mine.

BUT my books are worth promoting. They do offer something to readers, parents, teachers.

So here it goes! (although I am going to let the reviews speak for me!)

“I have a son 9 years old diagnosed with OCD 6 months ago. We have had a terrible time to get him to even go to therapy much less open up and participate. He has had much embarrassment and shame. I got him this book and at first he would not let me read it to him. Finally after much thought he decided to go for it. After reading this book he totally opened up to me and we talked for over a hour about his OCD. He said for the first time he didn’t feel alone. He read this book 6 times the first day and even slept with it. He couldn’t quit talking about how it is the best book he ever read. We were able to use this little boys struggles and compare them to my sons. It was like the first time that someone actually understood what he was going through. I was hesitant to buy it because it seemed to be for younger kids, but I sure am glad now!!”

“Reading this book for the first time with my son, was like reading his own story. We are fresh on this path of understanding, and for us, it is important he knows he is not alone. This book made me realize just how much he does that is not under his control. He also recognized himself in the story. Very good first step.”

“AND It changed my life. I might have my husband read this to me before bed. If I had this as a kid I probably would have turned out normal.”

“My son has PANDAS, which is an autoimmune response to strep throat. When he acquires strep he present OCD symptoms. Our lives were hell for 3 months until we bought this book. Mr. Worry helped my son overcome his compulsions and obsessions. I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone who has a child with OCD or anxiety issues.”

This book is a must for anyone who has or knows of a child with Tourette’s Syndrome. My 8 yr old son, who has Tourette’s, brought in the book to his 2nd grade class. His teacher read it aloud and then the class asked my son questions. The book went a long way in helping overcome the social obstacles that a child with Tourette’s will surely face, and clearly explains that some behaviors are truely out of the child’s control and why. I would recommend this book highly for children, parents and teachers alike!

“We love this book. It has helped my son to relate to a character in a book and realize that he isn’t the only one who has tics. It’s also helped his brothers to stop teasing him and get so aggravated when his tics become annoying.”

“I am a social worker as well as a mother of a child just diagnosed with Tourette’s. This book was wonderful! My son has been trying to understand what is going on with him and this book was very useful. It explains Tourette’s to the child as well as the adult. One thing I loved about the book is it shows the boy in the story having new tics. This allows for readers to understand that tics change as well as showing many types of tics. One example was the boy in the story began to spit, a tic my son has and gets made fun of for. My son’s face lit up and he felt less “weird”. My son and I are going to do a presentation at his summer camp so others understand why he does what he does, I will be including this book.”

“Youngsters will enjoy this tale because Grace’s kid-sized sass does not erode their family’s underlying strengths. Actually, caregiver trainers or parenting instructors can use this title to launch discussion on how active listening and flexible parameters underscore accountability in a kid-friendly way.”

“We enjoyed this book for many reasons! We read it to our grandchildren and they had a lot of questions which was exactly why you read great books. We had great discussions about why children may want to run away, getting mad, and communication being the key to not always getting your way! Also, the art work was spectacular!”

“What a charming book! I absolutely love the chat between the girl and her dad. He listens attentively to her, validates her feelings, and encourages her. Adding the yoga poses throughout the book is a major bonus. Thanks to the authors for incorporating yoga in an accessible and fun way. A gem of a book for young children!”

“I can see a variety of purposes for using The Day I Ran Away in the classroom, beyond just enjoying the book. Helping kids handle angry feelings is a good first logical choice. Everyone has moments when they’d just like to run away from the person or situation that is making them mad. Teaching how to write dialogue is another possible teaching point.  The Day I Ran Away is a great example of crafting a backstory, two sides of a physical space, and passage of time.”

“This book was a game changer for my foster son who had night terrors. Going to sleep was daunting and scary every night. We struggled for months before we found this book. After reading this book he was able to make a plan for when he woke up scared. He memorized the words and was able to help himself calm down before bedtime. Holly Niner writes such great books with the emotional health of kids in mind. I am so thankful that we found this book!”

“Super cute book and I love that a fellow speech language pathologist wrote it! Beautiful illustrations with an engaging story! Great for language lessons!”

“Lovely story that teaches how to approach the unknown with a spirit of problem solving & thoughtfulness instead of fear.”

 “LOVE this book and so do my grandkids. The story has so many things that kids love in literature. A very cute and smart mole, silly haunting monsters, repetition and a lot of humor. In addition, it has great problem solving and predicting components that teachers will love. Great addition to any teachers or children’s library.”

“This book is a great one to get students thinking about problem solving when things aren’t going well among classmates. How can you keep everyone happy when you are all so different and you all like different things? And if you are a parent who wants a new bedtime read, No More Noisy Nights certainly lends itself to that… put qualms about noises that go bump in the night to bed with the friends in this book.”

Now ONE more thing that makes me uncomfortable!

If you’ve read any of my books I’d be grateful if you found the time to write a review. Reviews do help new readers find their way to my books!

National Words Matter Week-March 7-13, 20201

Words do matter, so how many words does the average speaker use in a day?

A quick Google search did not give me a definitive answer with some studies saying around 7000 and others closer to 16,000. I think I probably fall on the higher end if there is a listening ear in my vicinity! Apparently, I’ve always liked to talk.  My mother tells stories about me standing (pre car seats and seatbelts) behind her in the car and talking nonstop!

I am also a reader of words. I always have a book (mostly fiction) in progress. I read the newspaper and I love the daily comics.

I work with words too. By education I am a speech therapist. Our business is communication. It’s all about words. You truly understand how much words matter when you have a client or patient that can’t speak, can’t communicate basic wants and needs, can’t use words to have meaningful relationships.

And I am a writer. The ideas that grow in my head want to be read by the picture book crowd.  And the words matter.  There are so few in a picture book, you need to make each one count. I love seeing the illustrations my words inspire and how they work with the words to tell the story.

With the written word we take the time to choose the right word. But when we talk words fly out of our mouths before our brain vets them.  Many words are loaded with emotions. However, the same word can be loaded with different emotions for each of us. Just like we all have a refrigerator, but if you opened the door different things would be inside. So, as writers and as people, we have to think about this as we choose our words in conversation, writing and on social media. We have to know our audience. Even a word that seems benign might not be. For me the word HOME brings warm feelings of family, love, acceptance, but someone who lives in a house without love and acceptance will react to the word HOME differently than I do.

Words don’t exist in a pure state, but in context. Not just the context of the words around them but in the context of the speaker and the listener. That’s why a book, a tweet, a news article can be liked by one person and rejected by another. Yet words are how we communicate, so we have to remember that  the words and what is behind them matter when we share them and when we listen to others.

Words matter; words are powerful. Use them wisely.

Every Word Counts

In all writing, but especially picture books, each word counts so you try to pick the best. Thanks you Vivian Kirkfield for presenting an opportunity for authors to hone their skills and write a story using 50 words. The #50PRECIOUSWORDS contest. Vivian know that every word counts as you can see if you read the wonderful picture books she’s written. Take a look at them here.

So without further ado, here are my 50 precious words!

The Rules and The What Ifs

Mom says-

No fish in the toilet.

  What if Fish wants to swim?

Make your bed.

What if Kitty is asleep?

Eat your vegetables.

What if Dog is hungry?  

Don’t wake Baby.

What if she wants a story?

Mom?

Don’t interrupt!

What if I want to say I love you?

Thanks for reading!

Speaking of Brains…


March 15-21 is Brain Awareness Week. The idea is to “foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science.” Brains are AMAZING! Working 24/7 to keep us breathing, walking, talking, learning and living. Science has learned so much about how our brains work.


As a speech therapist and an author that writes for children, I am fascinated by how a child learns language. For example, did you know that babies throughout the world babble the same sounds. Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl calls them “citizens of the world”. At that point they could learn any language. Over time they weed out the sounds they don’t hear when their care takers speak.  Dr. Kuhl has done some fascinating research which you can hear about in this TED talk.

Her research suggests that babies learn language best from a speaker that is present with them. Not from audio only. Not from a person they are watching on a screen. Listening to language helps an infant learn the sounds of their native language. And the words, sentence construction, prosody and intonation. So, it follows that the more language a child hears the better they will be at using it. And what better way to provide an environment filled with language than to read, read, read to your children.

Books provide rich vocabulary, varied sentence structure and opportunities to engage in conversations about the books. Some find it difficult to talk to a baby since they don’t talk back, so books help immerse your child in language so they can begin to babble, then jargon and finally talk back to you!

Now, as promised, a recipe! Oatmeal is brain food and who doesn’t love a Butterscotch Bar! These are a favorite at our house!

Long time no blog😕

I need to gather some words, mix them together, and hope people will want to read them.

It’s been brought to my attention that I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. Since the last post was June 4, 2019 that is an understatement. My first thought is to make excuses, I have lots of them, but that would be a waste of words. Instead, I need to begin again. I need to gather some words, mix them together, and hope people will want to read them. That is the twitter length version of what a writer does. A writer is always beginning again. Always hoping their words matter, that they connect with someone. Always saying to a reader, here is something I made for you. I hope you like it.

Food is another way to connect with people. I like to cook and bake. I like looking at recipes, gathering ingredients and creating something to share. I say, Here. I took the time to make this for you. You are important to me. I hope you like it.

Just like writing sometimes the food is good and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s appreciated and sometimes it’s not. In most things we only get better by doing. So the trick with writing and baking is to not get discouraged, to keep practicing. To keep beginning again!

So I’ll start again. Reaching out through this blog hoping to connect with parents, teachers, grandparents, and writers. Offering thoughts on writing, the power of words and the importance of reading.  There will be some shameless promotion of my books and reviews of other books. I’m sure Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang will pop up from time to time because I find his take on life insightful.

And occasionally, like today, a recipe in case you like to connect with people over food too!

It’s February, but I am one of those people who collects cans of pumpkin. I love to use it year-round. So it wasn’t odd for me to make The Best Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls You’ll Ever Eat from Ambitious Kitchen for my husband for Valentine’s Day this year. They were delicious!

Holly

Time flies

My last blog post was before Thanksgiving. I can’t believe how many months have passed since then. I’m not always as disciplined in my writing endeavors as I’d like to be. While I was working on stories and other things authors do, I failed to continue weekly blog posts.

Sometimes life gets in the way! There were highs and lows, but the biggest high came on December 24th when our first grandchild, Noah David was born!

Noah was born into a family of readers. Before he was born his bookshelf was full because books were a requested baby shower gift.

BOOKS are a part of his everyday life!

READING to children from birth ( or even in the womb) has been shown to have a positive impact on so much of a child’s development.  A recent study from Rutgers University has shown that reading to your child has a positive impact on their behavior. Reading to a child boosts vocabulary and reading skills . But keep in mind that print books get the nod over ebooks in this study out of the University of Michigan. 

So when you finish this find a good book and read to a child!

Happy Thanksgiving

snoopyThis week will see many of us take to the road so we can spend time with those we love. my husband and I will be traveling to see our children and their spouses and give thanks for them and our first grandchild that is just weeks away from making an appearance.

This time of year I think of all the friends I’ve had in all the places I’ve lived and wish I could gather them in one place to thank them for touching my life in positive ways.

Since this blog is about writing I thought I’d give thanks for some writers I’ve had the good fortune to know.

First, though now disbanded, my critique group.  It was instrumental in helping me become a better writer.  Thank you Kristan Donk, Marcia Gabet, Carol Zook, Tony Stump, Natacha Sanz-Cabllero and Julie Stiegemeyer.

My Flashlight Press Family: Shari Dash Greenspan, Jodi Moore, Jason Lefebvre, Donna Earnardt, Lois Brandt and Richard MacFarland.

Authors I’ve met along the way: Kirby Larson, Cat Jordan, Shelley Kinder, Bryan Ballinger, Robin Newman, Aileen Stewart, Helen Frost, Claire Ewart, Mary Quiqley, Beth Behrendt , Jacob Devline

I’m sure I’m forgetting others-I’ll blame it on old age!

So on your travels bring a good book and give thanks for authors and illustrators and editors and publishers and bookstores and IDEAS because that’s where it all begins!

Picture book month

0716181154_HDRNovember is a month when we think of family, friends and giving thanks. It is also picture book month.  So I thought it was a good opportunity to highlight some authors that are part of my Flashlight Press family.  Writers mostly work alone, but we cherish the relationships, even if they are only in cyberspace, we have with other authors.

When I became a Flashlight Press author my wonderful editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, suggested I contact some the other authors to gain insight into marketing etc. They welcomed me into the family with great advice.

When I see their books at a story or library I smile. Check out their books and you’ll smile too! Click on the links to learn more about each book and find free activity pages too!

Jodi Moore

When a Dragon moves in          When a Dragon moves in Again

Jason Lefebvre

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Too Much Glue

Donna Earnhardt

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Being Frank

Lois Brandt

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Maddi’s Fridge

Richard McFarland

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Grandfather’s Wrinkles