Friday, August 17, 2018


Dear Friends,

Thank you each and every one who stopped by the blog this week to leave a comment for Author/Librarian Jen Nails. Your support of authors and good books is always a great boost for writers. We really do appreciate everything you do for us!

MG is one of my sweet spots and as many of you probably know FOOD is a passion of mine as well. I love recipes and talking about food and researching ways to create healthy meals which are also tasty, so that bit about 20 recipes included in the book was very tempting, but I did not add my name for a chance to win. I also know that Jen has a wonderful gift for voice, so if you weren’t the lucky winner, you’ll want to order this book for your favorite young reader, for yourself, your school library or classroom.

Thanks, Jen Nails, for the gift of your time and your delicious book, One Hundred Spaghetti Strings. 

We have a great line-up for fall with more chances to win some terrific books by favorite authors!

The LUCKY WINNER of the Comment Contest is: SIOUX ROSLAWSKI

          ****CONGRATULATIONS, SIOUX****

(Sioux, Please email me with your mailing address and include to whom you’d like the book personalized. Jen will send it off to you asap) claragillowclark(at)gmail(DOT)com. 

If you haven’t already, please stop by Jen’s website or follow her on social media:


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Author-Librarian Jen Nails Talks about Process + #Giveaway

Dear Friends,

Please join me in welcoming Author-Librarian Jen Nails for the Back-to-School giveaway. Jen talks about inspiration and process as well as sharing a little about what she’s working on now. She’s generously donating a copy of her middle grade novel One Hundred Spaghetti Strings (published by HarperCollins spring 2017) for the comment contest. All you have to do for a chance to win an autographed copy is leave a comment for Jen. Let me know in your comment if you share on Twitter, FB, Google+ or follow this blog, and you’ll get more chances to win. Winner will be announced on Friday, August 17th, so hurry!

Author/Librarian JEN NAILS
Born and raised in Las Vegas, NV, Jen Nails has lived in Boulder, CO and New York, NY. She's taught English, theater, and creative writing, and is now a K-12 Librarian/Media Specialist (the best job she's ever had). Jen is the author of two novels for middle grade readers.

Writing from the Inside Out. . . by Jen Nails

I remember hearing Jacqueline Woodson speak at the New York SCBWI conference a few years ago and someone asked her if she experienced writer’s block and if so, what did she do? She said that she didn’t believe in writer’s block. She said if she ever sat down to write something in particular and wasn’t feeling it, she started writing something else, until she found the thing that she needed to be writing. If she came back to the first thing, great, if not, great. This has helped me over the years to recognize that it’s okay to put something on hold if you really, really, really have to write about something else in that moment. 
My novel-in-progress about three 7th graders who try and prevent the implosion of a Las Vegas casino has been through at least nine or ten drafts and I’m totally full steam ahead about it, but over the summer, there was something kind of tugging at me. 
I got divorced three years ago, and since then I’ve become addicted to national parks. Somehow, bringing my sons to the parks has become both an addiction and an antidote. I’ve been keeping little diaries that kind of chronicle each of our visits and I am using them to create a guidebook for heartbreak, an “off the beat and path” travel guide to healing and becoming whole again. 
The thing is, there are so many threads and themes that I had begun to follow in the novel that are actually more relevant to this nonfiction book. In fact, one of the poems from the novel is now a part of the travel guide. In keeping with Clara’s theme of Writing from the Inside Out, I wanted to share that I think it's so important to honor that thing that is eating at you, that is begging to be put on paper to get it out of your system, even if it isn’t the thing that you are “supposed to be writing right now.”  

Here’s Jen’s latest book for middle grade readers! Review below.

Book Summary from amazon:
   This brave and heartwarming middle grade novel will leave your belly rumbling and your heart full. Because when life hands you lemons, it’s time to get cooking! Perfect for fans of Sarah Weeks, Leslie Connor, and Lynda Mullaly Hunt. 
    Since Steffy was little, she and her older sister, Nina, have lived with their beloved Auntie Gina. But when the girls’ dad comes home to live with them, everything changes. So Steffy does what she does best: She cooks her way through the hardest year of her life.
    Sometimes it feels like everything but the kitchen sink is being thrown at her—too many ingredients that don't quite work. And all Steffy wants is for her family to be whole again. Can her recipes help bring them back together?
One Hundred Spaghetti Strings also includes over twenty recipes—which Steffy cooks throughout the book—so aspiring young chefs can try them out when they’re done reading!" AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

To learn more about Jen and her books or to follow her on social media, check out the links below:
Publisher's Weekly review, February 2017 

Thank you, dear readers, for joining us at this busy end-of-summer time. Don’t forget to visit Jen's website or follow her on FB and Twitter.

And thank you, Jen, for sharing insights into your creative process. I loved your line, “Honor the thing that is eating at you.”

I’ll be back in a few days to announce the winner. ~Clara

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Announcing the Lucky Winner of FOOD FIGHT FIESTA

Dear Friends,

Thank you each and everyone who stopped by the Book Birthday Celebration for FOOD FIGHT FIESTA by Tracey Kyle. And THANK YOU, TRACEY for being our guest and for your generous donation of a personalized copy of your new picture book! The winner picked by did such a great job of spreading the word by commenting on the post, sharing on twitter, FaceBook, and Pinterest. AND the lucky winner of FOOD FIGHT FIESTA is Carol Baldwin! CONGRATULATIONS, CAROL!!!! (Please send me your mailing address and to whom you’d like the book personalized and Tracey will have it on its way to you asap.) 

We’ll have several more picture books and some novels to giveaway between now and the end of the year. If all goes as planned, I’ll be back next week! If not. . . Well, you know, I’ll be in touch! ~Clara

Food Fight Fiesta: A Tale about La Tomatina.

Kyle, Tracey (author).

Illustrated by Ana Gomez. 
July 2018. 32p. Skyhorse/Sky Pony, $16.99  (9781510732155). K-Grade 2. 
REVIEW. First published June 22, 2018 (Booklist Online).
One of the world’s more unique and messy festivals happens every August in Buñol, in the Spanish province of Valencia, when tens of thousands of people honor the town’s patron saints by throwing tomatoes at one another. Introducing this exciting-sounding event is an American eighth-grade Spanish teacher writing in a singsong style: “The crowd is soon covered in bright, crimson juice. / ¡Caramba! Tomatoes are still on the loose!” Rather than cloying, these rhymes are a good fit for a hectic food fight, which is accompanied by accordingly frenetic illustrations by a Madrid-based artist. There are a few questionable choices—a confusing map highlighting Portugal, not depicting the required goggles on all of the kids, and allowing the final couplet to depend on a boy “cuddling a tomato” in his sleep, which doesn’t seem like the wisest thing to do. All that aside—and barring any attempts at a cafeteria reenactment—this is a good time, and an author’s note, glossary, and bibliography anchor this fun and widely unknown romp in fact.— Andrew Medlar

Tracey Kyle published her first bilingual picture book, GAZPACHO FOR NACHO (Two Lions) in 2014. She is also the author of A PAINTBRUSH FOR PACO (little bee) and the forthcoming ALPACA PATI (Running Press, 2019) and PEPE’S SPECIAL DAY. OLE! (little bee, 2019). She spends most of her day as “Señora Kyle,” teaching Spanish to an energetic group of 8th graders, and when she’s not writing she likes to cook, read and practice yoga. Be sure to stop by Tracey’s website to learn more about her wonderful books:

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Dear Friends,

Summer has been especially busy this year, but a Picture Book Birthday for a friend who lights up a room with her smile could not be passed up! And now, presenting the one, the only, Tracey Kyle and her new picture book, FOOD FIGHT FIESTA! I just know you’ll love the vivid colors of the unusual La Tomatina Festival. (learn more about it in Tracey’s post.) You may even decide to have one of your own. La Tomatina is perfect for tomato season, si? AND Tracey is generously donating an autographed copy of FOOD FIGHT FIESTA! to one lucky winner who leaves a comment about the post. More details about that at the end.

Here’s a little bit about Tracey:

Tracey Kyle published her first bilingual picture book, GAZPACHO FOR NACHO (Two Lions) in 2014. She is also the author of A PAINTBRUSH FOR PACO (little bee) and the forthcoming ALPACA PATI (Running Press, 2019) and PEPE’S SPECIAL DAY. OLE! (little bee, 2019). She spends most of her day as “Señora Kyle,” teaching Spanish to an energetic group of 8th graders, and when she’s not writing she likes to cook, read and practice yoga. 

Be sure to stop by Tracey’s website to learn more about her wonderful books:

Writing from the Inside Out by Tracey Kyle

If you’ve ever wanted to have a food fight, then book a flight to Valencia, Spain right now.  On August 29th, in the tiny town of Buñol, about 20,000 people will show up to throw tomatoes for a few hours. 


The last Wednesday in August each year is the celebration of LA TOMATINA, the world’s largest food fight. Tons of tomatoes are grown just for this festival, which has grown in size so much that you now need to buy a ticket to participate. It’s quite the fiesta: after the food fight (la guerra de comida…doesn’t that sound so much better in Spanish?) there’s a paella cooking contest, music, parades and fireworks. 

I’ve lived in Spain twice, but I’ve never been to LA TOMATINA. I did, however, learn about it when I was teaching AP Spanish.  Other than the article in the textbook or some online sites, there was nothing about this unusual festival.   
At the time, my first book was about to be published, but I didn’t have an agent and I was so busy teaching that the idea of a Tomatina picture book  marinated for a while. I kept hearing that editors wanted “character-driven stories” and I knew this story, if I ever wrote it, would be a concept picture book. 

I began to study concept picture books, sitting in Barnes and Noble reading on the floor of the kid section. This helped me with structure. On Monday mornings I would return to my crazy, stressful, busy job as a teacher and forget about the book. I love teaching, but the intensity of the day does not afford me the time to get lost in creative thought. 

It was at a weekend writer’s retreat nearly a year and a half later that the TOMATINA story finally blossomed. Our mentor, Candice Ransom, showed us how cutting out pictures and words from magazines could spark ideas. For hours, I pasted scenes in a notebook. When the session was over, I realized I had a lot of tomatoes! I wrote the first lines I thought of in that notebook: “Whoosh! Tomatoes are filling the air / SPLAT! Tomatoes are stuck to my hair.” Once I had the voice and the narrator’s point of view, I wrote the first draft in a few hours. I let it sit for a month, came back to it for revisions, and then worked on a different story. I wasn’t sure it would get published, but that goes through my head with everything I write. 

I also needed an agent, and I’d spent two years submitting work to people without any luck. Then, at an SCBWI conference, I bumped into the Jennifer Unter of The Unter Agency. I say “bumped into” because Jen and I had attended the same high school and ironically we were in Spanish class together, but that’s another blog post! I knew she was going to be there and I only wanted to say hi and find out how she was doing after all these years.  But in the course of our conversation, she told me to send her some stories. About eight months later, she’d sold three books of mine. FOOD FIGHT FIESTA was one of them. 

This book was a happy journey for me. It was one of the first manuscripts Jennifer sold, and we have a very comfortable relationship. I tell everyone it was fate to run into her thirty years after graduating! Also, I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful editor at Sky Pony named Allison Weiss. She was not the editor who originally bought the story, but she championed it from the minute she took over and was so enthusiastic. (I secretly think Allison would love a good food fight!) Lastly, I knew the minute I saw Ana Gomez’s illustrations that her style was perfect: whimsical, engaging, energetic and authentic.
This experience also showed me that sometimes an idea needs time to grow. I’m not a patient person, and as a teacher I’m used to doing everything immediately! because there’s so little time to think. As an author, however, I’ve had to slow down. I still keep an idea notebook and cut out pictures. When a rhyme or a phrase pops into my head, I make a note of it. And eventually…SPLAT! Like a crushed tomato landing at your feet, the idea bursts open and becomes a story.  

Now, go buy your ticket to Valencia. LA TOMATINA is only a few weeks away!

KIRKUS REVIEW: An American child travels to Buñol, Spain, to take part in the town’s annual raucous celebration of the tomato. La Tomatina is a large organized food fight in which residents wear goggles and spend the day throwing crushed ripe tomatoes until the streets are covered in one ruby red, pulpy mess. In an easy flowing rhyme, the narrator describes their enthusiastic participation. “ ‘Tomate, tomate,’ we hear the crowd sing. // We’re ready to squash the tomatoes and fling! / The truck moves in closer. ¡Ole?! Here we go! / Grab a tomato. Get ready…now THROW!” Cartoon illustrations depict the rowdy, frenzied event as everyone and everything is splattered and splashed in the fruit’s squishy juices. And when the loud “BOOM!” of the cannon signals the end of the fun, everyone cleans up, happy to have enjoyed another festival of the tomato. Adults and children alike may notice that despite the glee with which the text describes the mess, characters’ clothes are remarkably unstained by the end. The narrator presents white, as does much of the crowd, though it is definitely a multiethnic affair. An author’s note explains the increasingly popular event, where tourists and locals alike enjoy parades, music, fireworks, and paella, the saffron-based dish of rice and seafood. A high-spirited celebration of a unique experience. (Picture book. 5-8)

The winner of FOOD FIGHT FIESTA will be announced in one week. As always, thank you so much, dear readers, for stopping by to leave a comment for Tracey. We truly appreciate your support of authors and good books! Spread the word for more chances to win. Winner chosen by Leave a comment and don’t forget to visit Tracey here:  


Thursday, May 24, 2018


Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for stopping by last week’s post to congratulate Jackie Azua Kramer on her new book, IF YOU WANT TO FALL ASLEEP!

The lucky winner is: Tara Luebbe! Congratulations, TARA! Please email me: claragillowclark (at) gmail (dot) com. Be sure to include your mailing address and let me know if you’d like Jackie to send you a signed bookplate.

Coming up in July are two Picture Book Birthdays for the fabulous Tracey Metzger Kyle. Tracey is donating autographed books for the comment contest!

In case you missed it, here’s the cover art and a couple of great reviews of Jackie’s book:

"Especially notable." -- Booklist, Spring Preview
"Lulling language, key bedtime trigger words, and gentle repetition are sure to help tiny eyes close. Children will enjoy witnessing Little Mouse's mischief and that of his many toys….A common nighttime predicament with a few not-so-common solutions.” ― Kirkus Reviews

Learn more about Jackie and her books:
Follow her on: Twitter @jackiekramer422 

See you in July! ~Clara

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Book Birthday Blog Tour + Giveaway with Jackie Azua Kramer

Dear Friends,

Please welcome back, Jackie Azua Kramer, who has a wonderful new picture book just released this May. Enchanting illustrations coupled with Jackie’s lyrical text will make this book a treasured bedtime read aloud with your little ones. 

AND, there’s a comment contest giveaway. This time the book will be sent direct from the publisher, Clavis Books. Jackie will send a personalized bookplate to the winner on request. Simply leave a comment below and your name will be entered for a chance to win.

Writing from the Inside Out. . .   with  Jackie Azua Kramer

In sharing parenthood with friends, inevitably we end up laughing and/or crying about the nights spent trying to get our kids to bed. 
Just when you want to snuggle in with a good book and a cup of tea your little darling has a hundred and one excuses for why they can’t sleep. 
1: I’m not sleepy
2: I’m thirsty or hungry or both.
3: I’m scared.
4: There’s a bug in my room.
5: There’s a bug in my water.

You get the picture...

If this is true for you and your pesky night owl, in If You Want to Fall Asleep you might discover you’re not alone.
The sweet bedtime battle between Little Mouse’s endless reasons for why he can’t sleep and his mother’s loving and imaginative suggestions was inspired from personal experience. I spent more nights then I care to remember, opening dresser drawers, toy chests and closets, shooing monsters from my daughter’s room. 

I treasure the bedtimes I once had snuggled together reading books with my children. I hope you and your little one will smile seeing yourselves in Mama Mouse and Little Mouse. A night filled with daring pirates, mountains of pancakes, floating among the stars…and wait for yawning. And stretching. And sleepy thoughts. And drowsy eyes. Fingers crossed. 

Meet the author:

Jackie Azúa Kramer was born in Manhattan, NY. She has worked as an actor, singer, and school counselor. Jackie’s work with children presented her with an opportunity to address their concerns, secrets and hopes through storytelling. Her award-winning picture book, The Green Umbrella (North South Books) won the Parents’ Choice Silver Medal and chosen 2017 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year. It’s been translated into German, Slovenian, Chinese and Russian.
Out soon--The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, 2020); That’s for Babies and Miles Won’t Smile (Clavis Books, TBD). Jackie lives with her family and writes under a canopy of trees in Long Island, NY.
Learn more about Jackie and her books:

"Especially notable." -- Booklist, Spring Preview
"Lulling language, key bedtime trigger words, and gentle repetition are sure to help tiny eyes close. Children will enjoy witnessing Little Mouse's mischief and that of his many toys….A common nighttime predicament with a few not-so-common solutions.” ― Kirkus Reviews

You may recall Jackie’s debut picture book, The Green Umbrella, featured here a year ago!

Illustrated in spreads that alternate the rainy-day narrative in vignettes with full-bleed spreads that allow the flight-of-fancy retellings to render a deeper mood, the animals' stories are delightfully descriptive...The lesson about sharing and generosity is elegantly wrapped around lovely language. (Kirkus Reviews)

THANK YOU, Dear Friends, for joining the BOOK BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION with Jackie Azua Kramer and for leaving a comment below. The winner of If You Want to Fall Asleep will be announced on May 23rd.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


Dear Friends,

It feels like ages since I last posted, but finally, TODAY is the day to announce the lucky winners of the two book giveaway to celebrate NOVEL BEGINNINGS, K.L. Going’s and my upcoming workshop at Highlights Foundation. It’s nearly the Eleventh hour, but there’s still time to register for the workshop. Click anywhere on the large blue type directly below to learn more:

JUNE 21-24, 2018

Faculty: K.L. Going, Clara Gillow Clark  (If you don’t already know what we look like, you’ll find photos of us over at the Highlights Foundation webpage.)

The winner of KING OF THE SCREWUPS by K.L. Going: Theresa Milstein - Congratulations!!! (Theresa, please email me, claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com, with your mailing address and to whom you’d like you book personalized.)

Liam is a multifaceted and resilient character who ultimately learns how to be comfortable in his own skin with the help of his new, makeshift family. Going’s knack for defying stereotypes and creating memorable characters will not disappoint fans of Fat Kid Rules the World (Putnam, 2003) and Saint Iggy (Harcourt, 2006).--School Library Journal, starred review

The winner of Hill Hawk Hattie + discussion guide and dolls is:  Judie Offerdahl - Congratulations!!! (Judie, please email me, claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com, with your mailing address and to whom you’d like you book personalized.)
Hill Hawk Hattie (Candlewick Press)

"The simple first-person narrative captures Hattie's rustic innocence, the thrilling rafting adventure, and the heartfelt struggle of a tough girl who feels useful to her father only in the role of a boy." — BOOKLIST (starred review)

Dear readers, We so appreciated each and every one of your comments for our giveaway! Thank you so much for your support. May is a busy month for us, but well do our best to have your books in the mail within a week.  ~Clara and Kelly

P.S. In store for you on MAY 17th, is a brand new picture book! See you soon. ~Clara