2nd Annual Halloween sBOOKtacular Giveaway! Books & Crafts for Kids & Handmade Halloween Earrings for Moms!


© Copyright – by Debbie Glade

 Enter for a chance to win one of FOUR fabulous Halloween Giveaways in the 2nd Annual Halloween sBOOKtacular!

Children’s book publishers get just as excited about Halloween as your children do, and they are eager to share their latest Halloween-related titles with you. During this Second Annual Halloween sBOOKtacular you can check out the best Halloween books for children of all ages and then enter for a chance to win one of four fabulous Halloween packages. Each package includes a pile of books plus a pair of Halloween-themed earrings I handmade just for the moms. I’m dazzled by the variety and quality of Halloween books available for kids, and you will be too!

Scroll to the bottom to see official Giveaway Rules for this Halloween Book Giveaway.

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© Copyright – Artwork by Debbie Glade


1 – Preschool Halloween Package


Handmade Witchy Owl Earrings Made from Wool Felt and Glass Beads


I’m a Little Vampire

  • Ages 2-4
  • Genre: Fiction Board Book
  • Author: Sonali Fry
  • Illustrator: Sanja Rescek
  • Publisher: Little Simon, from Simon and Schuster
  • Publication Date: August 5, 2014
  • Length: 16 Pages
  • Retail: $5.99
  • ISBN: 978-1481405041

From a set of two compact Halloween board books  I’m a Little Vampire is a darling story set to the rhyme of the classic, “I’m a Little Teapot.” The child vampire wears a purple costume and carries around a trick-or-treat pumpkin bag while demanding lots of candy from all the monsters who live in the neighborhood. His sweet tooth is insatiable! This book is adorable, funny and the colorful illustrations animate the story beautifully. The youngest trick-or-treaters will love reading the book at bedtime. It will make your little vampire eager to get dressed up in a costume and go trick-or-treating themselves.


The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin

  • Ages 2-4
  • Genre: Fiction Board Book
  • Author: Sonali Fry
  • Illustrator: Sanja Rescek
  • Publisher: Little Simon, from Simon and Schuster
  • Publication Date: August 5, 2014
  • Length: 16 Pages
  • Retail: $5.99
  • ISBN: 978-1481405058

The companion title to I’m a Little Vampire,  The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin is set to the rhyming verse of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” The really cute Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin travels through town down all the spooky Halloween streets, finding his way up a stack of hay bundles, only to bounce, bounce, bounce far away.  When he can’t find his way home, he encounters the cutest little witch on a broom to guide him. The story is charming and original, and you will love the vibrant illustrations. You’ll be asked to read both of these titles over and over again to your child. You can’t be too young – or too old for that matter – to love Halloween stories!


Apples and Pumpkins

  • Ages 3-6
  • Genre: Fiction Board Book
  • Author: Anne Rockwell
  • Illustrator: Lizzy Rockwell
  • Publisher: Little Simon, from Simon and Schuster
  • Publication Date: July, 2014
  • Length: 28 Pages
  • Retail: $5.99
  • ISBN: 978-1442476561

This heartwarming board book will instantly put you in the fall spirit. A little girl, who notices the leaves are changing, ventures out on an apple picking and pumpkin choosing adventure with her parents. Together they travel to a local farm, where they are given baskets to gather the many ripe apples they pick in the orchard. Then it’s time to walk through the pumpkin field to choose the most perfect one to take home to carve. You’ll love the autumn colors in the illustrations and the cozy autumn feeling you’ll get from reading this extra special book with your little one. There’s nothing that represents the glory of this season like an apple and pumpkin picking day with the whole family! Reading this book makes me wish I lived in a northern state where I can pick my own apples and pumpkins! They just don’t grow down here in the Miami tropics.


 Create Your Own Monsters Sticker and Activity Book

  • Ages 3 and Up
  • Genre: Activity Book
  • Author/Illustrator: Chuck Whelon
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication Date: July, 2010
  • Length: 4 Pages
  • Retail: $1.50
  • ISBN: 978-0486475158

Dover sticker books are always awesome. With the Create Your Own Monsters Sticker and Activity Book children can use their imaginations to place 48 reusable stickers with different colorful monster body parts onto the spooky background boards to create the creepiest monsters possible.  And unlike traditional stickers that can be used only once, by repositioning these stickers, the possibilities are almost endless. Your little one will have hours of fun with this tiny, pocket-sized book. What a great activity book for car trips!

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2 – Lower Elementary Halloween Package


Handmade Witch’s Hat Earrings Made from Wool Felt, Glass & Metal Beads


Back to School Picky Little Witch

  • Ages: 5-8
  • Genre: Fiction Picture Book
  • Author: Elizabeth Brokamp
  • Illustrator: Peter J. Welling
  • Publisher: Pelican Publishing
  • Publication Date: January 21, 2014
  • Printing: Full color
  • Length: 32 Pages
  • Retail: $16.99
  • ISBN: 978-1455618873

In this clever hard cover picture book, a young, green witch and her witchy mom are off to “Witches R Us” to buy school supplies for the new school year.  After all, everybody knows a new school year requires a cape, broom, jar of red newt’s eyes and a box of toads – just to name a few quintessential items on the list! While at the store, the Picky Little witch gives her mom and the sales lady a hard time; no matter what items they show that young witch – cape, boots, hat, broom and even a cat – she simply doesn’t like them. She prefers a style of her own that is, well, not witchy enough. What is a mother witch to do? Read the book to find out for yourself. The text is written in catchy rhyme and printed in a quirky font. The beautiful, full-page sized illustrations are bold and cheerful, and your child will love discovering some of the humorous images in the background. Back to School Picky Little Witch is original, witty and fun to read and if you have an opinionated little person living in your house, or one with a distinctive style of his or her own, this is the book for you.



Make Your Own Creepy Castle: Pop-Up Haunted Castle Scene

  • Ages: 5-8
  • Genre: Activity Book
  • Author/Illustrator: Clare Beaton
  • Publisher: B-Small Publishing
  • Publication Date: September 1, 2014
  • Printing: Full color
  • Length: 20 Pages
  • Retail: $7.99
  • ISBN: 978-1902915401

DSC_0002B-Small, a publishing company from the UK, offers numerous titles in their “Make Your Own” series. Make Your Own Creepy Castle is an interactive and artistic paperback book that nurtures the creativity in your child. The book is divided into three parts. 1) The cover and middle pages, printed in color, form the castle. 2) The black and white pages are for coloring and cutting out to make your castle original. 3) Other pages offer facts about castles, glossary of words and a story about a haunted castle. There are directions to help you put it all together to create a glorious pop-up castle.

© Copyright – Image of pop-up haunted castle scene courtesy of b-small publishing.

I’m a big fan of interactive books, and this one is outstanding. Halloween is one of the best times of the year to get busy with arts and crafts. Make Your Own Creepy Castle let’s kids use their imaginations, teaches them to follow directions and provides hours of fun. Plus you get more than you pay for, because it’s surprisingly affordable. What a great idea for an activity/ reading book!


The Tricks and Treats of Halloween (A Ready to Read Book)

  • Ages: 6-8
  • Genre: Non-Fiction Picture Book
  • Author: Angela Murphy
  • Illustrator: Rich Wake
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster
  • Publication Date: August 5, 2014
  • Printing: Full color
  • Length: 48 Pages
  • Retail: $3.99
  • ISBN: 978-1481409780

Simon and Schuster’s “Ready to Read” books are designed to help young readers gain confidence as they rise into higher reading levels. There are four levels 9781481409803_01_interior.480x480-75to choose from, and The Tricks and Treats of Halloween is a Level Three chapter book and part of the “History of Fun Stuff” Series. This compact paperback is teeming with true, fascinating Halloween not-so-scary facts, so you’ll learn as much as your child when he or she reads this book out loud. Readers discover the surprisingly long history of Halloween  – including its ancient Celtic origins, when the Celts wore costumes, offering treats and conducting ceremonies in efforts to protect their crops from spirits during the Festival of Samhain. Did you know that the ancient Romans had a holiday to Honor the dead called, Feralia? And that in the earliest days of trick or treating, biscuits called Soul Cakes were handed out? Or that Halloween wasn’t celebrated in the US until the mid 1800s? My head is spinning from all the facts I’ve learned!

In addition to all this history, there are facts about present day traditions and other festivals in the world, a breakdown of how pumpkins grow, some really interesting tidbits about Halloween animals and a short quiz about what the reader has learned in the book. With a retail price of a mere $3.99 it’s hard to believe there is so much great information in this book. The colorful illustrations keep readers engaged and the book gives them the confidence they need to want to keep challenging themselves to read more; I highly recommend this and other books in the series.


Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies

  • Ages: 4-8
  • Genre: Fiction Picture Book
  • Author/Illustrator: Melanie Watt
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press
  • Publication Date: August 1, 2013
  • Printing: Full color
  • Length: 64 Pages
  • Retail: $17.95
  • ISBN: 978-1894786874

scaredysquirrelbooksCreated by Melanie Watt, Scaredy Squirrel is a beloved character who dislikes danger and unpredictability more than anything; leaving his tree is not an option. He always thinks of the worst possible thing that could happen, though he is prepared in every way possible for every scenario with his lists, safety guides and emergency kits.  In Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween readers are treated to hilarious tips for preparing for Halloween – one of Scaredy Squirrel’s most anxiety-inducing holidays.  First they can take the Scaredy Halloween (multiple choice) Quiz. The correct answer to the question ‘Haunted Houses are…” is “Not-to-code-major-danger-hazards.”

© Copyright – Image of Scaredy Squirrel book covers courtesy of Kids Can Press

By the time readers are done with the book, they know how to: 1) secure their living area with a danger-proof plan; 2) safely carve a pumpkin; 3) decorate in style so it’s inviting (and not scary); 4) get costume ideas along with Scare-O-Meter ratings; 5) properly cross the street when trick-or-treating; 6) properly inspect their Halloween candy 7) know what to do if they MUST go inside a haunted house, and; 8) know what to do if all else fails. By the time your child gets to the end of this adorable book, he or she will be rolling around on the floor and howling with laughter. The cartoon-like illustrations are incredibly entertaining and the overall wit of Scaredy Squirrel is what makes this bestseller. Your child will want to collect every title in the series.



Pocket Activity Fun and Games: Halloween

  • Ages: 6-10
  • Genre: Activity Book
  • Publisher: Barron’s
  • Publication Date: August 1, 2014
  • Printing: Full color
  • Length: 96 Pages
  • Retail: $7.99
  • ISBN: 978-1438005164

Part of Barron’s outstanding Educational Series, Pocket Activity Fun and Games: Halloween is a compact paperback packed with fun, creative and DSC_0002educational activities. There’s so much to do and see in this book, I don’t even know where to start! There are Halloween-themed pictures to draw, puzzles to solve, recipes to make, stickers to place, projects to do, costumes to make, creepy postcards to write and mail, and so much more. There’s even a two-sided cardboard foldout illustration in the back of the book for you to place your stickers. The joy on a child’s face who receives an interactive book like this is priceless, and with the affordable price of this book, you’ve just got to buy it! He or she will be busy for hours and will love every minute.

Check out the long list of other Barron’s Pocket and Activity Fun and Games titles. Barron’s certainly knows how to entertain kids while educating them. You’ll love their books!

© Copyright – Image of cardboard foldout for stickers courtesy of Barron’s

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3- Upper Elementary Halloween Package


Handmade Frankenstein Earrings Made from Wool Felt and Glass Beads



The Biggest Pumpkin

  • Ages: 5-8
  • Genre: Fiction Picture Book
  • Author: Sandra Horning
  • Illustrator: Holly Stone-Barker
  • Publisher: Pelican Publishing
  • Publication Date: September 15, 2014
  • Printing: Full color
  • Length: 32 Pages
  • Retail: $16.99
  • ISBN: 978-1455619252

Gavin is a little boy who wants to grow the biggest pumpkin for the town fair, so he visits Mr. McShay’s Garden Shop and buys a packet of seeds that grow really huge pumpkins. He plants one pumpkin seed in his yard, waters it every day, and after just one week, a seedling sprouts. As he shouts for joy, his neighbor, Mary comes out to help Gavin build a small greenhouse around the seed to help it grow even faster. When the mailman comes, he shows Gavin how to rub pollen from the pumpkin’s male flower inside the female flower to help it grow faster too. Then one day Gavin, Mary, the mailman and Gavin’s buddy, Colby take time to measure all the pumpkins that are growing. They pluck out all but the largest pumpkin, so all the energy in the plant can go to growing that one bigger and stronger. But when the day comes for judging, is Gavin’s pumpkin too big to move? And is it indeed the biggest one in town?

Pg 26 spreadI recognized the work of illustrator Holly Stone-Barker immediately when I opened up this hardcover book, because she illustrated The House That Santa Built (also published by Pelican) and I fell in love with her unique collage illustrations; she collects paper from all over the world.  The collages give the story so much depth and texture, and the fall colors are fabulous! I even noticed she used paper doilies for the curtains in a window. How cool is that? You and your child will thoroughly enjoy the delightful fall feeling you’ll get from looking at the pictures and reading The Biggest Pumpkin. The book introduces kids to cultivating and caring for a garden. There’s a glossary in the back of the book, and your child will definitely want to try growing pumpkins after reading this! Gardening is one of the best ways to expand the mind of a child. This is a special book you’ll read over and over again.

From The Biggest Pumpkin by Sandra Horning, illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker, © 2014 Sandra Horning, illustrations © 2014 Holly Stone-Barker, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company.



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Eyelike Halloween 400 Reusable Stickers

  • Ages: 6-10
  • Genre: Sticker Book
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing
  • Publication Date: November 1, 2011
  • Printing: Full color
  • Length: 12 Pages
  • Retail: $6.95
  • ISBN: 978-0761170891

Simply said, this book is all stickers – 400 glorious, beautiful Halloween stickers! They’re made from the highest quality photographs, printing and paper. There are no limits to a child’s imagination when he or she is presented with a big, colorful book of themed stickers. And the beauty of these is that they are reusable; place them on a window, pull them off and put them on a notebook, lunchbox, in a scrapbook or create a Halloween story and use them as illustrations. Workman publishes many Eyelike Reusable Sticker Books (by PlayBac Publishing). Why not collect a bunch?! They make great gifts and last a long time.


Decorate for Halloween: Coloring, Stickers, Tattoos, Stencils and More!

  • Ages: 6 and Up
  • Genre: Activity Kit
  • Publisher: Dover Publishing
  • Publication Date: September, 2008
  • Printing: Full color
  • Length: 12 Pages
  • Retail: $16.95
  • ISBN: 978-0486467924

yhst-137970348157658_2333_296053254This all-in-one decorating kit contains all you need for this year’s Halloween arts and crafts! There’s a stained glass coloring book, 35 stickers, 21 tattoos (including some that glow in the dark), decals for your jack-o-lantern, six different Halloween Stencils, eight sheets of origami paper with directions for different projects, a 24′ x 36′ Halloween-themed poster to color and a set of crayons. Now what child wouldn’t love to dive into this incredible mega Halloween Art Kit?!?!? When it comes to creativity, you just can’t go wrong with Dover.

© Copyright – Image courtesy of Dover Publications


  • Ages: 8 and Up
  • Genre: Activity  Book
  • Author/Editor: Lauren Farnsworth
  • Illustrator: Paul Moran
  • Designer: Barbara Ward
  • Publisher: Barron’s
  • Publication Date: August 1, 2014
  • Length: 64 Pages
  • Retail: $5.99
  • ISBN: 978-1438004495

Zombies rule in this ultimate activity book. There’s Squeak, the rat, who is hidden on five pages and needs to be found before the zombies get to him first, a variety of puzzles to solve, games to play, connect the dots, a lesson on doing the “Zombie Shuffle,” pages to draw and color, hidden objects to find, recipes to make, stories to complete, zombie crafts to make and much more. There’s even a couple of pages to read about real “zombie” animals that truly exist on planet earth. Awesome and intricate zombie illustrations with vibrant colors cover the matte paper pages of this beautiful book. In addition to offering hours of endless fun, this is a zombie activity book that really uses your brain. (Pun intended.)


Build-a-Window Halloween Stained Glass Coloring Books

  • Ages 8 and Up
  • Genre: Coloring Book
  • Author/Illustrator: Arkady Roytman
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication Date: July, 2011
  • Length: 32 Pages
  • Retail: $6.99
  • ISBN:978-0486483917

Dover’s stained glass coloring books are extraordinarily entertaining, creating beautiful illustrations when colored.  Build-a-Window Halloween Stained Glass Coloring Books includes 16 unique Halloween-themed illustrations (ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, a haunted house and more) that can be assembled to create four 15″ x 21″ stained glass window posters. The paper is sturdy, yet transparent, giving you a stained glass effect. The images are perfect for decorating the house for Halloween. They’re fun to color and display and will keep your child busy creating something extra special he or she can be proud of for Halloween. Like all Dover books, this one is super affordable too.

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4 – Middle Reader Halloween Package


Handmade Pumpkin Earrings Made from Wool Felt and Glass Beads


Desmond Pucket: Makes Monster Magic

  • Ages: 7-12
  • Genre: Fiction Chapter/Comic Book
  • Author/Illustrator: Mark Tatulli
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
  • Publication Date: October 1, 2013
  • Length: 240 Pages
  • Retail: $13.99
  • ISBN: 978-1449435486

Desmond Pucket is a boy who is a master at monster magic. He lives for creeping people out with special effects, and he is a boy who often finds himself in 9781449435486_insidepage_8trouble. When he decides to scare the heck out of the girls at his older sister’s slumber party, his dad decides to punish him by making him participate in extracurricular activities. Anything but that! But if Desmond doesn’t do what dad says, he can’t go on the class field trip. His ultimate goal is to create the scariest amusement park rides to freak out his classmates during the fall field trip to Crab Shell Amusement Pier. So he sucks it up by joining a variety of clubs and even starts dressing differently. He lands a part in the school play, but can he behave enough to please his dad and his teachers -including Mr. Needles – and be allowed to participate in class trips again? The book includes a section of “Desmond‘s Notes”: instructions for making monster magic (think scary noises, or fake blood) at home! Desmond Pucket: Makes Monster Magic is the first of two books in the series.

© Copyright – Courtesy of Andrews McMeel

Author Mark Ttulli combines a hardcover chapter book with comic illustrations for a full humorous effect and an incredibly fun reading experience. Everyone can relate to the boy in the class who pulls pranks and creates a lot of commotion. There isn’t a middle reader out there who wouldn’t be entertained by Desmond. Visit the Desmond Pucket website for activities and you can even subscribe and get a special discount on books.




Desmond Pucket Mountain Full of Monsters

  • Ages: 7-12
  • Genre: Fiction Chapter/Comic Book
  • Author/Illustrator: Mark Tatulli
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
  • Publication Date: August 5, 2014
  • Length: 240 Pages
  • Retail: $13.99
  • ISBN: 978-1449435493

9781449435486_insidepage_8In this second book in the series, Desmond Pucket is up to his same old antics – scaring people and getting into trouble. As a follow-up to Desmond Pucket: Makes Monster Magic,  in this book, the day has finally arrived for Desmond’s sixth grade field trip to the Crab Shell pier Amusement Park. Desmond creates a master plan to scare the pants off his classmate and school bully, Scott Seltzer. Once at the amusement park, Desmond and his best friend, Ricky can’t seem to ditch Mr. Needles, the teacher who is always in their face. Plus Desmond has a huge crush on Tina, and he’s trying to get a note to her so she can help him with his plan to put that bully in his place. But one thing after another goes wrong, and to make matters worse, Desmond hears that the Crab Shell Amusement Park will soon be torn down. Will Desmond ever get Tina’s attention? Will his master plan ever work? And can he save his favorite amusement park from destruction?

© Copyright – Courtesy of Andrews McMeel

Every middle reader can relate to Desmond’s frustrations, even if they themselves have never schemed up anything like this. Something tells me that author Mark Tatulli was a troublemaker – with an incredible sense of humor – when he was a boy, because how else could he come up with this stuff? Using illustrations and notes adds so much to the humor of this story that kids will be eager to read Desmond’s next adventure. Visit the Desmond Pucket website for activities and you can even subscribe and get a special discount on books.


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The Elevator Ghost

  • Ages: 8-11
  • Genre: Fiction Chapter Book
  • Author: Glen Huser
  • Publisher: Groundwood Books
  • Publication Date: August 5, 2014
  • Length: 128 Pages
  • Retail: $14.95
  • ISBN: 978-1554984251

Carolina Giddle is a teenage girl who moves into the Blanchford Arms apartment complex with her family and gets hired by various neighbors to babysit. Little do these parents know just how excellent a storyteller Carolina really is. On her first babysitting night, trouble-making twin boys, Dwight and Dwayne hot sauce her soup, but Carolina lures them to better behavior by telling a really creepy ghost story about two mischievous boys who steel the foot off a skeleton and really pay the price. Then Carolina babysits Herbert and Hetty, taking them on a picnic, where shadows are lurking. She tells them a ghost story about a boy named, Jack Scramble and a mountain king and his wife, with shadows so scary in the pasture that the boy can barely make his way home. Luba, Elsa and Galina are treated to a ghost story about a boy who learns to paint dragons and monsters for the movie industry, but they become too real for the boy to handle. There are more children to babysit and more ghost stories to tell. But the best one is the day Carolina invites all the children to a Halloween party, where she tells the story of the ghost who still haunts the elevator in the building where they live.

Glen Huser really masters ghost storytelling in this Halloween book for middle readers. The stories are so well written, readers – whether avid, reluctant or somewhere in between – won’t be able to put the book down. I myself was eager to read even more after the story ended. And the stories are appropriately creepy for the age of the audience – just in case you were wondering.



Blood Diaries: Tales of a 6th Grade Vampire

•    Ages 8-12
•    Genre: Fiction  Middle Reader
•    Author: Marissa Moss
•    Publisher: Creston Books
•    Publication Date: May 13, 2014
•    Length: 136 Pages
•    Retail: $13.00
•    ISBN: 978-1939547057

This hilarious hardcover chapter book about a 6th grade vampire for middle readers is a must-read this Halloween!.Read my full review here.


What to Doodle? Happy Halloween!

  • Ages: Up to Age 11
  • Genre: Activity Art Book
  • Author/illustrator: Chuck Whelon
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication Date: August 17, 2011
  • Length: 64 Pages
  • Retail: $5.99
  • ISBN: 978-0486485317

Incomplete Halloween drawings set the stage for kids to get creative and fill in the missing details. What’s inside the haunted houses or behind the skeleton? You decide! This meaty book has 64 pages, providing hours of doodling and coloring fun. Your child will surely want to display his or her creations on the walls or on your fridge. Middle readers love to doodle, and what a perfect place to do so. Dover activity books stir the imagination in the most creative of ways, providing hours of fun at incredibly affordable prices.

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For more great Halloween books, check out last year’s titles here.

Please take a moment to visit the websites of the outstanding children’s book publishers who make this gigantic giveaway possible!

Andrews McMeel

B Small Publishing


Creston Books

Dover Publications

Groundwood Books

Pelican Publications

Simon and Schuster

Workman Publishing

Enter for a Chance to Win One of Four Terrific Halloween Themed Packages

  1. Enter the giveaway by Liking our Facebook Page (if you haven’t already) and sending us an email to smartbooks (at) comcast.net with your name and mailing address. In the subject line of the email write Halloween Package and the Number of the package you’d like to win – 1, 2 3 OR 4.  You may enter to win only one package. We will not share your email or address or use it for any other purpose than this giveaway. PLEASE NOTE: If you do not include your mailing address in your email your entry will be discarded.
  2. Optional: You will receive one extra entry for leaving a valid comment on this post on this website.
  3. Optional: You will receive three extra entries for sharing this giveaway from our Facebook Page. Go to the Facebook page and from there, click share on the link to this giveaway.
  4. There will be four separate winners for this giveaway – one for each package — selected at random, residing in the USA. No books will be mailed outside the USA.
  5. This giveaway starts on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 and ends on Friday October 10, 2014 at noon.
  6. The winner will be notified via email on Friday October 10, 2014.
  7. Books will be mailed by Monday October 13, 2014.
  8. Follow us on our Facebook Page to learn about more giveaways and read reviews and interviews.

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The Green House on the Prairie: An In-Depth Interview with Children’s Book Illustrator Cathy Morrison

Morrison1408-011 copyI recently reviewed The Prairie That Nature Built (Dawn Publications), written by Marybeth Lorbiecki and illustrated by Cathy Morrison. Cathy’s digital illustrations are so incredibly detailed and her beautiful depictions of the prairie are so authentic, I asked her if she’d share some insights into her enviable artistic talents. After reading what Cathy has to say about her work and her idyllic studio in the mountains of Colorado, you’re sure to be inspired.

© Copyright – Image of Children’s Book Illustrator Cathy Morrison

Can you tell us a bit about where you live in Colorado? You must find the scenery incredibly inspiring.

I live in an area called Glacier View Meadows in the foothills northwest of Fort Collins  – elevation is about 7,600 ft. My husband, Andy Brown and I both work from home so we are able to live almost any place as long as we have access to the Internet. When our kids were young we’d come camping and hiking in this area and always enjoyed it. And being close to Ft. Collins, a college town was attractive as well.

view of sunset at cabin

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – A view of the Colorado sunset, one of Cathy’s many inspirations

I understand you built a green home too.

When we decided to buy land and build we knew sustainability and energy efficiency were important to us. We wanted to leave a small footprint and keep the land as natural as possible because the building process can really decimate the land. Our home is built from SIPs (Structurally Insulated Panels) and is passive solar with radiant heating. Living here is very comfortable and fits our lifestyle. Here are some photos of the building of our home on our contractor’s website. And since I spend so much of my time working I really wanted a well functioning and comfy studio with an amazing view.

Studio with my view (and mess on my desk)

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – The mountain view from Cathy’s studio near Fort Collins, CO.

Do you ever draw or paint outside your amazing studio?

I love to travel and have a small drawing tablet I bring with me on trips. A couple of years ago I went to the Lake District in England for a Kindling Words writing/illustrator retreat. After that I went to Bangkok where my husband was freelancing for a start-up television company. While I was there I was illustrating Nature Recycles and got to see and touch Asian elephants. Most of my research was done online but there’s nothing like being up close and personal and seeing the real thing. My daughter who was a recent film graduate from CU in Boulder went along as well and actually got a full time job with the company.

“I got a great art education, developed a strong work ethic and tough skin as well. All that comes in handy as a freelance artist because you can get a lot of rejections before landing a contract.”

That was certainly a bonus for your daughter! How old were you when you realized you had a talent for art?

I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing. My family and teachers always encouraged me and nobody tried to tell me I couldn’t or shouldn’t be an artist. I went to East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas (now Texas A&M) and earned a double major in fine arts and education along with a teaching certificate for K-12. We had an amazing staff of teachers, Lee Baxter Davis, Jack Unruh, Gerard Huber, Charles McGough, others as well. They pushed hard and demanded a lot from their students. I got a great art education, developed a strong work ethic and tough skin as well. All that comes in handy as a freelance artist because you can get a lot of rejections before landing a contract.

TLIYL spread 8LR

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – Inside spread from This Land is Your Land by Catherine Ciocchi (Arbordale Publishing)  

Do you think a person has to have natural talent to become an artist?

I have a lot of friends who are artists and I see them enjoying the process of creating, being very hard working and focused. It’s like anything else, the more you do something, the better you get over time. Nobody starts out being great, but you do develop, grow and find your niche. So I think that it’s really important to expose kids when they’re young to a lot of different experiences. Encourage them when they find that creative spark or whatever that “thing” is they like to do, whether it’s art, music, science, math or sports for that matter.

I like your philosophy, because many people are under the impression that you can’t develop into a good artist if you don’t have the natural ability. You started your career in animation, so what happened to change your focus on illustrating children’s books?

Right out of college I got a job with K&H Productions, an animation studio in Dallas, Texas, as an in-betweener. I interviewed with Tom Young, the head of the art department and showed him my big fine arts portfolio. I knew absolutely nothing about animation. He said as long as I could draw he could teach me everything I needed to know. I was there for five years and still stay in touch with many friends from those days. The animation field is a pretty tight knit community.

 DT spread 13 LR(flopped)© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – Inside spread from Dino Tracks written by Rhonda Lucas Donald (Sylvan Dell Publishing)

While working at K&H I took a trip to Colorado Springs and fell in love with the state. That was around Thanksgiving and by the end of that year I had quit my job and moved to Colorado and started freelancing as an editorial/advertising illustrator. Looking back, I must have been very naïve but that leap of faith worked out for me. I met my husband there and eventually we moved from Colorado Springs to Denver and I started Big Chief Graphics, a small graphics design and illustration studio working with cable companies, hospitals, restaurants, advertising agencies, etc. I kept that business until I had my two children, downsized and began working from home, and became interested in illustrating children’s books.

What traditional media did you use before switching to digital illustrations?

I worked with black and white pencil and colored pencil for a lot of my early work. While living in Pennsylvania I took a watercolor class in botanical illustrations from Anna B. Francis at Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square. I mainly switched to watercolor at that point.

How long have you been creating digital illustrations?

I’ve been working digitally for about 8 years now.

Can you briefly explain how your digital illustrations are made?

I illustrate on a Wacom Cintiq, which is a graphic monitor that I draw directly on with a pressure-sensitive pen. It’s actually the same process as drawing on paper, but I use a couple of software programs, Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop which allow me to work in oils, pastel, watercolor, any art medium. It’s great because I can work in layers (actually it’s a similar process to how we worked in the animation studio with a main character isolated on an acetate cell and that would be positioned on top of a background painting. Most publishers need certain characters pulled out of the background and used for game apps, teaching guides, or marketing materials, things like that. Plus it’s much easier for revisions.

Crowley on ARCs & publishing promos copy

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – Cathy’s dog, Crowly, at home in her studio

What did you use for perspective to create your illustrations? Did you go out into the prairie, use photos, etc?Prairie spread 26&27LR

I use the Internet a lot for research, plus go to the library as well. For Prairie, I needed to give my art director and editor at Dawn Publishing the names of all of the plants and animals that are in the illustrations to make sure that I was accurately showing life on the prairie. They have researchers who fact check things if there are questions. Also, I walk my dog, Crowley, twice a day and as I worked on the book I noticed things that I usually wouldn’t pay attention to during our walks; These were things like little details about the birds, wildlife, rocks, flowers, drifts of grasses and rolling hills, vistas. I just became more aware of my environment in general. So both my local surroundings and my dog, Crowley are in the book.

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison- Cathy used her own dog for inspiration for this inside spread, from The Prairie That Nature Built (Dawn Publications)

Prairie spread 20-21LRI was extremely impressed with your depictions of fire, rain and lightning in The Prairie That Nature Built. How did you achieve that level of depth?

Showing fire and lightning is difficult for me. I basically just kept working at it until I liked how it looked. I looked at a lot of reference and realized there wasn’t a right or wrong way to show fire and lightning; it’s always a different experience. I wanted to portray the feeling you get more than concern myself with realism.

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison-  Inside spread, from The Prairie That Nature Built (Dawn Publications)

“I knew absolutely nothing about prairies before seeing the manuscript. I didn’t even realize I lived on a short grass prairie before researching this book.”

The imagery is really amazing! Did you learn anything you didn’t know about prairies while illustrating the book?

I knew absolutely nothing about prairies before seeing the manuscript. I didn’t even realize I lived on a short grass prairie before researching this book. There’s a Prairie Primer in the back section of the book that goes into a lot of detail. It says that prairies are crucial habitats for the health of the planet. I hate to admit it but this was a new concept for me and a real light bulb moment.

I felt the same way when reading the book. There’s a wealth of information there not often discussed.

Think of all the attention that we’ve given to disappearing rainforests and I am seeing signs of our prairies getting that same recognition now. Only 4% of North America’s original grasslands still exist, which is shocking but I realize how easily this happens. The beauty of the prairie and the mountain views are mainly why I chose to live here, so I realize I’m also part of the problem. At least I’m aware now and can hopefully do something to help.

What was the process like making the app for the book?PRAIR_COVER

Malachi Bazan with Dawn Publications creates the app. In the artwork I tried keeping certain elements on separate layers to make his life a little easier when he needed to make an animal move. But Malachi is the one who brings the art to life, integrating animation and interactivity. This will be the first time one of my books has included a game app so I’m excited about it.

Apps are certainly becoming an important part of publishing. What advice do you have for another artist who is thinking about illustrating digitally?

So many illustrators work digitally now and personally I love it, and even in the beginning it was pretty intuitive for me. If you want to work in publishing I think that working digitally is a huge benefit; it saves time, money and potential frustrations for the illustrator and publisher.


DL spread 13 LR

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – Inside spread from Daisylocks, written  by Marianne Berkes (Arbordale Publishing)

When you’re not illustrating what do you most like to do?

I have many hobbies. I love to garden and walk with my dog. Gardening is really cathartic and lots of artists are gardeners. I’ve always grown flowers – mostly drought-tolerant perennials and native wildflowers. And this summer I had my first vegetable garden as well.

I’m in a book group, “Text in the City” that is made up of all women artists. We meet approximately every six weeks and our book selections vary but should be related to art in one form or another. The group has been going strong for almost twelve years now. There are photographers, teachers, sculptors, painters, graphic artists, writers, etc. It’s a very fun group and we’re very supportive of each other.

P&P spread 14 & 15LR

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison- Inside spread from Pitter and Patter, written  by Martha Sullivan (to be published by Dawn Publishing)

Your lifestyle seems very conducive to the creative process.

There are hectic times too, but volunteering helps keep me sane. I volunteer at the Science and Discovery Museum in Ft Collins. Mostly I work with the education department, with school groups on field trips. Sometimes I’ll create a poster or some illustrations or activity sheets for kids. Last year I helped out coordinating with the museum and Read Aloud Colorado to develop an event for Children’s Book Week. This year I also started volunteering for Tavelli Elementary school in Ft Collins where my grandson attends kindergarten. They are a STEAM school, (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Being around these kids is very energizing.

Cathy all those children whose lives have been touched by  your awe-inspiring talents are so fortunate. Thank you so much for taking us inside your artistic mind and sharing with us your passions for art and nature. Your work is sure to move many who see it and inspire children to learn to draw and want to read more. I can’t wait to see your next book!

Thank you so much Debbie for reviewing The Prairie That Nature Built and doing this interview. I love your blog, Smart Books for Smart Kids and appreciate all you’re doing to bring attention to the world of children’s books.

Readers, I highly recommend you follow Cathy’s Studio With A View blog. Whether you are an artist yourself, wish to be one or just appreciate outstanding work, you’ll be inspired there. Buy a copy of The Prairie That Nature Built.

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Way Down Below Deep, Where the Sun Doesn’t Shine


Way Down Below Deep

  • Targeted Audience: Lower Elementary (Ages 5-8)
  • Genre: Fiction, Picture Book
  • Author: Nancy Raines Day
  • Illustrator: David Sheldon
  • Publisher: Pelican Publishing
  • Publication Date: September 15, 2014
  • Binding: Hard Cover
  • Dimensions: 8.5″ x 11″
  • Printing: Full color
  • Length: 32 Pages
  • Retail: $16.99
  • ISBN: 978-1455619450



From Way Down Below Deep by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by David Sheldon, © 2014 Nancy Raines Day, illustrations © 2014 David Sheldon, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company.

A Voyage Far, Far Below the Surface of the Sea

The most unexplored space on planet earth is perhaps the bottom of the vast sea, land of complete darkness and unbearably cold or boiling hot temperatures. Readers of Way Down Below Deep embark upon a sea floor voyage in a submersible vehicle along with a scientist and his daughter, the latter of whom creates journal pages of all the creatures she sees in this unfamiliar place. The text is written in rhyming verse and educates us about the unusual sea lifeforms that few humans have ever seen, often comparing their sizes to objects we are familiar with. The offset journal entries include some amusing comments and sketches that were actually made by illustrator David Sheldon’s fourteen-year-old daughter.

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From Way Down Below Deep by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by David Sheldon, © 2014 Nancy Raines Day, illustrations © 2014 David Sheldon, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company.

Marvelous depictions of Sea Life and Fascinating Facts

The animal facts featured in Way Down Below Deep are unlike any readers have ever discovered before. Did you know the giant squid has eyes the size of hubcaps? And the lanternfish has headlights to help him see? Or that fish feed on dead whale meat for ten years before whale worms can get to the bones? Or did you know that a siphonophore has many parts and each has its own job – catching prey, eating, swimming? Have you ever even heard of a siphonophore before? To help readers take in all the fascinating facts are eye-catching, big and bold, beautifully colored illustrations depicting the life at the bottom of the sea. In the back of the book is a terrific page that lists more facts about the animals featured in the book.

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From Way Down Below Deep by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by David Sheldon, © 2014 Nancy Raines Day, illustrations © 2014 David Sheldon, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company.

What This Book Teaches

Way Down Below Deep introduces readers to a sector of animal science they may not have known about before. It shows them that we do not know all there is to know about our planet, and that there’s always more to learn and more species to discover. In addition to being wowed by the unusual sea creatures that live in such challenging environments, this book also teaches children about ecology and the ecosystem of our oceans. It opens the door to possibilities of exciting science careers down the road.

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From Way Down Below Deep by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by David Sheldon, © 2014 Nancy Raines Day, illustrations © 2014 David Sheldon, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company.

About the Author

Day-N.-R.-2258x31762Nancy Raines Day is a freelance editor and picture-book consultant for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. After earning her BA in journalism from the University of Michigan, she earned an MA in literacy journalism from Syracuse University. She has written numerous picture books for children including A is for Alligator and On a Windy Night. Day is a member of the Authors Guild and lives in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

About the Illustrator

sheldonDavid Sheldon is a painter, sculptor, illustrator, and author who has illustrated numerous books, including several that he wrote himself. Sheldon graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA and went on to earn his MFA from the University of Maryland. He typically uses watercolors, acrylic paints, India inks and colored pencils for his illustrations. Sheldon’s daughter, Sarah created the journal entries in the book. David lives with his family in Asheville, North Carolina.

Further LearningImage 3

  1. Visit an aquarium.
  2. Watch the 3D IMAX movie, Under the Sea.
  3. Learn more about science careers.

From Way Down Below Deep by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by David Sheldon, © 2014 Nancy Raines Day, illustrations © 2014 David Sheldon, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company.