Letting Go to Get It Right: Patricia Keeler Discusses Her Motivations For Creating LIZZIE and LOU SEAL.


Several years ago I got a contract for a picture book I had written and illustrated. When I turned in the final images, the book was cancelled.

I had made the editorial and illustration changes my picture book group and then the publisher’s editorial staff suggested. My realistically portrayed main character stayed under the watchful eye of her dad. She never smacked her chewing gum or stamped her feet. I had no idea how my work could be any more appropriate for the children’s book industry.

When attending to the remarks of children’s book groups and the publisher’s editorial guidance didn’t lead to a successful book, I decided to stop listening—to follow my heart—and take artistic chances!

I created a solid little girl with red hair that stuck out in all directions, much like the rock star PINK’s hair does.


I wanted a noisy girl who races around the beach in joyous abandon, while dragging a blow-up seal twice her size. How cool if her home was a retro beach trailer?

Lizzie and her pal Lou Seal were born!

Now sharpen your pencil, swing your hips, and draw Lizzie with me! Be sure not to miss the last 30 seconds!

I began experimenting with mixed media. I created page spreads using photographs of seashells that I collected from the beach. On the back cover I painted partially over a photograph of a sand castle I built.

I tried hand lettering. Then I threw sand across the page!

I wanted Lou Seal to look like she was made of plastic. I tried using an encaustic wax process. That worked for Lou Seal, but I discovered— surprise, surprise—it created dynamic ocean waves!

Now I write about the things I love­—feisty girls, retro trailers and the beach. I boldly experiment with new artistic techniques. I’m having fun!

LIZZIE and LOU SEAL is now available for preorder!

If you preorder LIZZIE and LOU SEAL and email a screen shot receipt to Sky Pony’s logo pony Winston Sparkles (he kicks up his heels when he gets mail!) at:


you will be eligible to win Petal Power, a signed print, by Patricia Keeler.

And that’s not all!

You will be entered into the GRAND PRIZE

of a picture book manuscript critique by the

Sky Pony editor of LIZZIE and LOU SEAL, Kylie Brian.

Next week:  Using Encaustic Wax in a Picture Book

Meet Patricia Keeler at Book Expo America 2017, Booth AM34, this June!









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Your Black Friday Book Shopping Guide

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Need some help? We’ve got you covered for the book lovers in your life! Check out our suggestions below!

Best book for werewolf fans: Earning My Spots by Mark Eastburn

Summary: Sam and his family are the only werehyenas in their town, and he’s often told that he’s inferior to all the other kids of shifters. But as tensions rise between shifters and humans, it becomes clear that Sam is the only one who can stop a war that’s on the brink of erupting.


Best books for fans of Once Upon A Time: Roses: The Tales Trilogy, Book 1 and Feathers: The Tales Trilogy, Book 2 by Rose Mannering

Roses Summary: Her silvery appearance is freakish to the numerous inhabitants of Sago, and she is tauntingly named Beauty by those who torment her. After fleeing town in the wake of a violent uprising that sets out to massacre all Magics, she is captured by State officials who threaten to take her back to war-torn Sago. She manages to escape them during a blizzard by running into a deep, enchanted forest, where she meets a great and terrible beast who will bargain for her life. But can Beauty accept Beast?

Feathers Summary: Outcast from birth for his ability to turn into a swan, Ode was forced to discover how to control his remarkable gift entirely on his own. But even with his gift, he cannot save his family from the oncoming war. The Magical Cleansing is spreading across the realm, and strangers arrive from foreign lands bringing with them bloodshed and fear. With the help of his gift, Ode flees to a distant island where answers, Magic, and a girl with golden hair await him.
Best book for Shakespeare lovers and theater kids: The Taming of the Drew by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Summary: Cass is so excited for her leading role in The Taming of the Shrew at the summer apprentice program of a Shakespeare theater company. But her co-lead in the play, Drew, is a total troll—and Cass’s bunkmate has a huge crush on him. So Cass decides to “tame” Drew and give him a personality makeover. What could possibly go wrong?


Best book for anyone who feels like an outsider: A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

Summary: Ryder has limited vision and a prosthetic eye. His wit and popular made him popular at the school for the blind, but this year for eighth grade he’s going to the mainstream middle school—and fitting in is not as easy as he thought it would be. Can Ryder find his way to a new—and possibly even better— “normal”?


Best book for someone who needs more time in her day: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

In an alternate Victorian London where clock towers control the flow of time and a broken clock can stop time completely, a young clock mechanic races to save his father who is trapped in a Stopped town, and to prevent attacks that could cripple all of England.


Best books for young readers who wish they had a robot to do their chores: Project Droid #1: Science No Fair! and Project Droid #2: Soccer Shocker! by Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser, illustrated by Mike Moran

Logan’s always wanted a kid brother, but when his inventor mom builds him a robot cousin, he realizes he’s gotten a lot more than he bargained for. Java is very literal-minded, and keeping his true identity a secret is going to be loads of trouble.

Science No Fair 9781510710184Soccer Shocker 9781510710191

Best book for a fan of science fiction: Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

For fans of The Girl of Fire and Thorns comes a story of betrayal, love, and loss—all on a technologically advanced alien planet where monarchy reigns, but lies rule.



Best book for the dancer: Spin the Sky by Jill Mackenzie

Summary: Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn’t know how. When a nationwide televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags’s best friend, George, says they have to go and audition. This could be Mags’s chance of a lifetime—a chance to get her and Rose out of Summerland. But will the competition prove too steep? Mags will have to learn that following her dreams may mean changing her life forever.


Best book for the video game addict: It’s a tie! Invasion of the Overworld by Mark Cheverton or Catching the Jigglypuff Thief by Alex Polan

Best book for the teen who’s always prepared: Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca

Best book for the varsity star: Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall


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Books We’re Thankful For

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Sky Pony team members are big fans of books. We love to read and we each have a memorable book in our lives that inspired us. Check out the books we’re thankful for below!

Alison Weiss, Editor

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale


I’m thankful for Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl. If I had to point to one book that jumpstarted me into a career as a children’s book editor, it has to be this one. When I was in college, I had time between classes, but not necessarily enough that it made sense for me to go back to the dorms. I spent a lot of time at the bookstore. (I’d expect that’s true of a lot of people in publishing!) But though I would browse the literature section—I spent a lot of time catching up on my classics, too—one day freshman year, I found myself wandering into the very bright and inviting children’s section. At first, I just took in the books I had read as a kid, the new books from authors who I had loved at ten and eleven and twelve. And then I saw the Goose Girl cover. I loved that cover. I spent weeks going back to the children’s section and that beautiful illustration would inevitably catch my eye. And then, one day, I bought it. And I read it. And then I ran to the bookstore and bought every other book they had by Shannon Hale. And then I started buying other middle grade and YA, too. And signing up for courses like Children’s Fantasy—where I revisited old friends like Michael Bond’s Paddington and A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and made new friends like Alan Garner’s Owl Service and Frances Hardinge’s Fly by Night. And I started writing papers in my English literature classes on topics like the loss of innocence through the window of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and representations of American children in Paris in literature. And then, one day, I was looking for something to do for a summer and read a testimonial for someone who had an internship at Delacorte Books for Young Readers, and I applied, and got a job, and the rest is history. I still pick up every Shannon Hale book I can get. But Goose Girl will probably forever be my favorite.

Becky Herrick, Editor

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle


I’m thankful for A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which was one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I had an old used copy with a weird and ominous cover that my science fiction-loving dad had bought from a library sale and given to me. Because it looked so weird, it took me a while to actually want to read it for the first time, but one rainy day I was finally bored enough to try it. It was like nothing I’d read before, and the afternoon fell away as I got lost in the strange, faraway worlds and transformative experiences of Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace. After that, A Wrinkle in Time became my go-to book for when I was having a bad day—when I was sick in bed or just really upset. Even now I still have my battered copy on my bookshelf, and I return to it when I want to escape.

Cheryl Lew, Publicist

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling


This may be a bit cliché, but the book that I am most thankful for is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. While I had read books for school before (and picture books and chapter books when I was younger to improve my reading skills), Harry Potter was the first series that I read purely for enjoyment. I was definitely more of a Saturday morning cartoon kind of kid (which unfortunately—fortunately?—is still true, even in my old age).

But the second I picked up this first Harry Potter book, I knew it was unlike anything I had ever read before. Rowling’s incredible world building, the relatable characters, and the fact that I was the exact same age as Harry and the gang when the first book came out made it very easy to picture what my life would be like had I grown up in this world. Aging with the characters I loved over the course of 9 years made this series a huge part of my childhood, and one of my favorite series of all time. Every few years or so, I’ll re-read the series in its entirety, and while still incredibly enjoyable, I’ll always be jealous of my 10 to nearly 20-year-old selves for being able to read these books and discover this world for the very first time.


Kat Enright, Editorial Assistant

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling


So I’m going to pull the biggest cliché of girls my age and cite the Harry Potter series as the single most influential book series of my childhood. I was in elementary school when the books were first published in the US, and though I had always been a voracious reader Harry Potter captivated me in a way no other book did, and it’s stuck with me because I was lucky enough to grow up with Harry and his friends. As I’ve grown older and the world has changed around me, I’ve found that these books are even more relevant. Against a backdrop of whimsy and wonder, J.K. Rowling told a tale of finding an inclusive community, of fighting for the good in the world, and learning that part of growing up is learning to choose between what is right and what is easy.

And this Thanksgiving, more than any before, I am thankful that I grew up knowing what power hope and love held.



Kylie Brien, Assistant Editor

Margaret Peterson Haddix


I’m thankful for Margaret Peterson Haddix and all of the amazing books she’s written. I remember sitting in a circle and reading Among the Hidden with my sixth grade class . . . sneakily reading ahead because I was so captivated by the story. Of course, at eleven, I didn’t understand the complexities of the world that the characters lived in. I was compelled to keep turning the pages because of her fleshed out characters and gripping storyline that ultimately came down to life and death. I read every book available in the Shadow Children series and then started working on all of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s other books. I moved on to Running Out of Time, Just Ella, Escape From Memory, and Turnabout. I fell in love with all of her books and they helped shape me as a reader, a writer, and editor, and even as a person.


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Jasper the Dog is Betrayed, Again


Author Beth Vrabel’s lovable dog Jasper wrote a guest blog post for us earlier this year. Now that he’s had a chance to read Beth’s newest novel, A Blind Guide to Normal, he’s back with another guest post! Check out his thoughts below!


Jasper the Dog is Betrayed, Again

I am betrayed once more.blind-guide-to-normal-9781510702288

Not only does my human’s latest book have guinea pigs on the cover—guinea pigs!—the story also features a…

No, I can’t bring myself to say it.

But I must.

Deep breath.

It features a cat.

Not just any cat, either, as despicable as that might be. No, it features a cat based on one she actually once knew. Her latest book, A Blind Guide to Normal, includes a cat named General MacCathur II. And it’s based on Goldie, a cat her grandparents had when she was a pup (or whatever humans call puppy versions o9781510703827-frontcoverf themselves).

Goldie even gets a shout out on the dedication page, which I know because I heard the Littlest Human ask why it wasn’t dedicated to him.

Great question, Littlest Human, but you got the dedication in my human’s book Pack of Dorks. Did I? No, of course not. I’ve simply dedicated my life to keeping her warm and cozy while she writes, defending her from Vacuum, adding my personal musk to our favorite chair and bringing her the toy she so loves to throw again and again.

Yet I’ve never gotten a dedication. The closest acknowledgment to my influence is the golden version of me on the cover of her book A Blind Guide to Stinkville. She told me that Tooter, the dog in that book, is based on me, but her description of him (a fat, farting dog who goes where he shouldn’t) sounds pretty far off from me.

Yet this Goldie gets a whole dedication.

Okay. If she likes cats, fine.

I, Jasper the Dog, will become a cat.


Day One

I consult with Winn-Dixie and Pippin the Guinea Pigs, who lived in a pet store among other animals, including cats, when they were guinea piglets.

“What do you know about cats?” I ask.

“They’re horrid,” they squeak.

“That’s what you say about humans.”

“Yes,” they squeak.

“And dogs.”

“Yes.” Pippin scurries into their hut and away from me. Winn-Dixie darts in and flips the hut. Pippin screeches and chases Winn-Dixie. They do this all day.

“But what do cats do?” I call above their screeches. “How do they cat?”

The pigs pause. Winn-Dixie says, “They sit high on top of things.”

Pippin adds, “Aloof! They’re aloof!”

Winn-Dixie pipes in. “They have beautiful singing voices!”

“They have no need for the humans. They can take ’em or leave ’em,” Pippin adds.

“Take,” I say.

“No, take ’em or leave ’em,” Winn-Dixie says. “Both.”

“I choose take. I’ll take humans. Humans are my favorite.”

The pigs sigh. “Cats are cats’ favorite,” Winn-Dixie says, and resumes their chase.

I’m sure the pigs are wrong. Humans are always favorite. Even so, I can do this, I tell myself. I can cat.

I assume my position atop my human’s favorite chair.


“Get down, you silly pup,” she says. “You are not a cat.”

Not yet, Human.

Two hours later, I’ve become wedged between the cushion and the chair and cannot move. I am, however, extremely comfortable.

Twenty minutes later, my human yells, “What have you done to my chair? You’re ruining the cushion!” When she notices that I’m stuck, she pulls me free and gives me some pepperoni. Do cats get pepperoni?

This thought troubles me.

I will resume efforts tomorrow.


Day Two

I shall be aloof.

I’m going aloof all the way over here, away from the Littlest Human and his even littler friend, away from the Monopoly game and all of its interestingly smelling pieces and their deliciously smelly toes.




Hold up. They’re leaving the game! They’re going to the OUTSIDE! I love that place! I love The Outside!

We’re going to Play!

This is awesome! This is fantastic!


I chase leaves and shred them to bits! I bounce through snow and make it splash and splash! I chase the basketball!

This is… not what cats do.

I’ll try again tomorrow.


Day Three

I try this singing of which the guinea pigs have spoken.

The humans tell me to Be Quiet and Go Lay Down.

I sing louder.

The humans say Stop It and No.

Soon after, my human leaves for a long time. I am not worried. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.

I’ll just sit here on top of her chair and look out the window.

Still looking.

I’ll take a small nap. I’m sure she’ll be here when I wake up.

She’s still not here! I am not long for this world without her!

I run from room to room to make sure she isn’t just hiding. I even jump up onto her bed, which is a No, Jasper!, and pull back the blankets but no human! I roll around a little on her pillow, just to remember her scent.

I hear the door open but I’m too exhausted from my hunt to find her.

“What are you doing on the bed, Jasper the Dog?” she asks.


I just roll over.

I’m getting better at catting.


Day Four

I smell pupcakes! Is today birthday?

Every other month or so, it’s my birthday. Poor Little Humans only have one birthday a year. I don’t think the big humans have any birthdays. But Jasper the Dog? Seven birthdays every year.

I bet today is birthday.



Troubling thought: Do cats have birthdays?

I run to the kitchen. The Little Human asks, “Can I have one of the cupcakes?”

My human says no. “These are for the party we’re going to later.”

I wait for my pupcake and my pupcake hat and my birthday song. The little human puts dog food in my bowl. Dog food? The injustice!

The biggest human comes home and puts a box on the table. “I’ve got the hot wings!” he says.

Then all the humans shuffle on coats and grab bags—including the cupcakes—and leave without Jasper the Dog.

But then I smell something even better than pupcakes. Hot wings.

“Don’t you eat those!” Winn-Dixie the Guinea Pig squeaks. “Cats don’t eat hot wings.”

I sniff. Somehow I find myself up on a chair.

I sniff again. Somehow my nose has opened the box. I’ll just grab one little hot wing. Nom, nom, nom.

Nom, nom.


The garage door is opening! My human runs inside!

I jump from the chair!

I hide behind the couch as my human opens the lid of the box.

“Jasper!” my human yells. “Why are six hot wings missing?”

He calls me Bad Dog. He never calls me Bad Dog.

I am worse than Bad Dog. I am also Bad Cat.

And my belly is on fire.


Day Five

The vet says dogs aren’t supposed to eat hot wings.

He gives me medicine.

The only perk is my humans are now properly interested in the gifts I leave for them in the yard.

My human claps for me to sit with her on her chair.

I jump up and think about jumping further to sit above her head like a proper cat.

Instead, I sit across her lap. She puts away her laptop and rubs my ears and pats my belly. “Silly, pup. You know you might be the best dog ever?” she says. “Love you so much.”


I sigh and press my head against her shoulder. Best Dog Ever.

That’s me.


A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.


A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel

9781510703827-frontcoverBefore Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville.

For the first time in her life, Alice feels different—like she’s at a disadvantage. Back in her old neighborhood in Seattle, everyone knew Alice, and Alice knew her way around. In Stinkville, Alice finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.

pack-of-dorks-9781629146232Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel

Lucy knows that kissing Tom Lemmings behind the ball shed will make her a legend. But she doesn’t count on that quick clap of lips propelling her from coolest to lamest fourth grader overnight. Suddenly Lucy finds herself trapped in Dorkdom, where a diamond ring turns your finger green, where the boy you kiss hates you three days later, where your best friend laughs as you cry, where parents seem to stop liking you, and where baby sisters are born different.

Now Lucy has a choice: she can be like her former best friend, Becky, who would do anything to claim her seat at the cafeteria’s cool table, or she can pull up a chair beside the dorks. But can she really be seen with the likes of dinosaur-obsessed Sheldon and nose-picking April? And how will she survive doing a research project on wolves with the super-quiet Sam Righter? Lucy’s about to find out what being a dork is really about—and it might just surprise her.


Camp Dork by Beth Vrabelcamp-dork-9781634501811

Lucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at Camp Paleo. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air-conditioning, and they’ll dig for fossils during the day. And Grandma’s coming too—as lunch lady for the camp next door.

But Sam backs out at the last minute to attend a gymnastics camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend. And why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush? She needs a distraction.

Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.

One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. But when the wrong campers pair up, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.


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Five Things Needed in Every Backpack

Deirdre Sullivan, author of Ming Goes to School shares her thoughts on the back-to-school season and a list of the top five things kids must have in their backpack for school!

Going back to school means different things for different families. I am a stay at home mom of four girls, so this time of year can pack in lots of emotions.  Marking the passage of time is always gut wrenching for me.  How is it possible they grow up so fast? And saying good-bye to the unscheduled lazy days of summer is never easy, but looking forward to the new school year can be full of excitement.

What has been successful for me over the last ten years is starting the school bedtime and wake-up routine a few weeks before the first day of school.  Getting the kids on school time seems to alleviate a lot of stress for them and they are well rested for the first day. We spend a good deal of time talking about the start of school and what my kids are looking forward to and what they are less excited about. This dialog uncovers fears or concerns they have and we address them far in advance of the first day.

The five things all kids must have in their backpacks is

  1. A Ming Goes to School picture book
  2. A little note of encouragement from me or their dad
  3. A lunchbox that they have helped pack to make sure it’s stuff they are guaranteed to eat and no one will be hungry
  4. School supplies
  5. Extra set of clothes, especially socks for their cubbies

As much as I cherish the summer days of sun-kissed cheeks and sprinkled ice cream cones, the first day of school has become one of my personal favorites. I’ve survived another summer, and I soak up every bit of silence in the house just before the school bell rings.

Here’s a picture of Deirdre at Ming’s age!


Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Maja Löfdahl

Ming Goes to School_coverMing goes to school, where she learns to say hello and good-bye. She meets new friends and introduces them to old friends (including her favorite teddy). She builds sandcastles and makes snow angels; she traces, glitters, and glues. She is so fearless that when held at sword point, she even walks the plank! And when she’s playing in the mud, she reaches out and touches the worms with her bare hands. But despite those brave deeds, she isn’t quite ready for the big red slide—not yet.

This is a very sweet story with soft, evocative watercolor illustrations that will help kids to grow comfortable with the idea of starting preschool. Ming is curious and playful and ready for adventure, but even she gets scared of new things sometimes. Kids will relate to her desires and fears and will be excited to see Ming at the top of the slide by the story’s end.

A quiet and reassuring picture book for preschoolers (3-5), this is a wonderful going-to-school story that can be read both at home and in the classroom or childcare center. The illustrations provide a lot of diversity of characters, making this feel like any classroom in any school in the country.

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Which Bella Donna Character Are You?

Which Bella Donna character are you?


1. What’s your favorite color?

A. Black

B. Green

C. Pink

D. Red


2. What spell would you most like to be able to do?

A. A memory-erasing spell

B. A spell to turn people into animals

C. A spell to turn everything pink

D. A spell to make yourself the center of attention


3. What animal would you want as a pet?

A. Cat

B. Do I have to just pick one?

C. A fluffy white dog with a pink bow

D. A snake


4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you most want to live?

A. Anywhere my family is

B. Where I can study animals

C. In a big pink house

D. In my own place


5. What is your favorite type of cookie?

A. Snickerdoodle

B. Chocolate chip

C. Sugar

D. Oatmeal raisin


Mostly A’s: You are Bella Donna! You are a caring individual with a devotion to your pet and your family!

Mostly B’s: You are Sam! You love animals and exploring nature!

Mostly C’s: You are Angela! You love everything pink and you are very loyal to your friends!

Mostly D’s: You are Verity! You have a mischievous side but your ultimate interest lies in doing the right thing

Enter to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bella Donna Too Many Spells 9781634501552Bella Donna Too Many Spells 97816345015529781634501552-frontcoverBella Donna: Too Many Spells by Ruth Symes, illustrated by Marion Lindsay

Bella Donna seems just like any other student at her school, but she has a secret: she’s really a witch! The other witches who live on Coven Road are having a spell casting contest, and Bella is determined to win. She’s trying to learn as many spells as she can, and that’s no small thing! It’s not easy to complete secret magic training while trying to live a normal-kid life. When strange things start to happen at school and begin to spin out of control, Bella wonders if she can really do it. Maybe there are just too many spells!

This second installment in the sweet, spooky Bella Donna series will captivate young readers. Bella Donna: Too Many Spells is a combination of magic, adventure, and staying true to yourself. Marion Lindsay’s adorably simple spot illustrations bring even more magic to author Ruth Symes’s delightful tale. Fall in love with Bella Donna and her road to witchdom! And be prepared for her next big adventure!

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Lilla’s Sunflowers Book Trailer!

Have you seen the beautiful book trailer for Lilla’s Sunflowers by Colleen Rowan Kosinski? Lilla’s Sunflowers hit bookshelves July 5th! Check out the trailer!

Lilla’s Sunflowers by Colleen Rowan Kosinski

Lilla's Sunflowers_coverLilla and Papa enjoy spending magical times in Lilla’s sunflower patch. Before Papa leaves for a trip that will take him far away from home for a long time, Lilla gives him a sunflower seed. “To remember me, Papa,” Lilla whispers.

Seasons pass, and Lilla’s mood falls like autumn leaves. Finally, news comes that her papa is coming home! The following summer, to her surprise, she receives letters from families with photos of their loved ones pictured with sunflowers. She learns that her gift to her father brightened the dark days for many people, and that her one small seed continued spreading sunshine across the country.

Colleen Rowan Kosinki’s lyrical style and whimsical artwork bring this story of love to life. Lilla’s Sunflowers will resonate not only with military families but also with any child missing a loved one. This is a wonderful gift for holidays celebrating our country’s military heroes as well as a quiet story for bedtime read-alouds.

For kids aged 3 to 6, this is a must-have for military families or for families where one parent does a lot of traveling and is away from the home for extended periods of time. It also serves as a charming story about sharing what you have and the benefits that can reap.

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Booth This June, a couple of our Skyhorsers attended the ALA (American Library Association) Annual Summer Conference in Orlando, Florida!

ALA Annual is one of the world’s largest yearly gatherings for publishing industry professionals, librarians, teachers, bloggers, and book lovers! Here, attendees are able to talk to publishers and media, learn about upcoming books, and pick up a WHOLE lot of books and swag! We had a great booth in the middle of the exhibition hall that we filled with our adult fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, Autism, and of course, Sky Pony titles.

A few of our coworkers (three seasoned professionals and one who had never attended) gave their thoughts on this yearly conference. Although it was swelteringly hot in Florida in the middle of summer, it didn’t dampen our spirits!

Jaidree Braddix, Assistant Publicist, Cooking & Lifestyle

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of learning that there is no happier being on earth than a librarian or book blogger who has just received a free book. And boy, did we give out a lot of free books. At ALA Orlando, children’s and YA books ruled the day, with free copies of the adorable picture book Gorillas in Our Midst and the timeline-bending YA thriller Timekeeper being the fastest to fly of our tables.

Timekeeper LineIt should be no surprise then, that one of my favorite memories from my three days at the Skyhorse booth was the moment two small boys rushed in, eyes locked on our “Books for Minecrafters Library” at the back of the booth. Our Books for Minecrafters were hugely popular with children’s librarians and teachers throughout the day, and I had gotten used to answering questions about reading levels and age groups in a more detached sort of way, but seeing the genuine excitement in an 8-year-old boy’s eyes when he asked me, “Is that GameKnight999?!” reminded me who our real audience is. He was beyond disappointed that he could not walk out of there with the entire collection, but was thrilled to come back for our giveaway the following day and to pester his poor mother into taking a handout listing all of our Minecrafter titles, so that she could “buy them all later.”

That 8-year-old’s excitement was mirrored in the eyes of book bloggers in their 20s, standing in a fifty ft. line waiting for Tara Sim to start signing Timekeeper; in a teacher, new to her school, who was desperately seeking picture books with diverse main characters when we showed her Ming Goes to School; and in a costumed young superhero receiving his signed advance copies of Science No Fair!: Project Droid #1 and Soccer Shocker: Project Droid #2.

Even though we were there to self-promote on a broader scale, the individual interactions and happy new-book-owners are really what makes conferences like ALA special.

Cheryl Lew, Associate Publicist, Children’s and YA

This was my second time at ALA Annual (I attended last year’s in San Francisco), and it was still just as fun, exciting, and slightly overwhelming as my first time. We had an awesome team attending this year, and that really made it a memorable experience.

Everything in the booth went smoothly: Our giveaway books flew off the shelves (especially Just One Damned Thing After AnotherThe Hamilton Affair, and Gorillas In Our Midst), and people loved all of the bookmarks, Winston Sparkes buttons, Project Droid temporary tattoos, and other swag that we were giving out. It was so much find to have librarians and other attendees approach us to  learn more about our company, excited that some of our books would fit perfectly with their collections. People were especially excited about our diversity titles, as well as, of course, our books for Minecrafters.

ALA DinnerThe most exciting part of ALA for me was meeting a lot of my authors, including Tara Sim (Timekeeper), Taryn Souders (Dead Possums Are Fair Game), Tamera Will Wissinger (There Was An Old Lady Who Gobbled A Skink), and mother/daughter duo Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser (the Project Droid series). Since ALA is geared mostly toward librarians, we decided that all of our signings would be children’s authors. . . Which was amazing for me since they were all mine! I had corresponded with all of them via email, but it was wonderful to finally put faces to names.  Not only were all of their signings huge successes, we were joined by the authors for dinner at Todd English’s Blue Zoo at Disney/Epcot. The meal was great, but getting to know each other was even better.

Most importantly, ALA was a great opportunity to get to know my coworkers. In addition to making attendees aware of our books, we also bonded as well. . . And a few of us even went to Harry Potter World after!

Jenn Chan, Marketing ManagerHP World

We had a great show this year.  We did targeted advertising leading up to ALA Annual and offered a daily schedule of key title giveaways and in-booth signings which kept foot traffic coming to our booth throughout.

Our author signings were scheduled on the two main days and featured a nice mix of out-of-towners & locals, seasoned & first time children’s book authors.

One of my favorite parts of the show was meeting and getting to know them (we had a fun “family dinner” at Disney on Saturday night) and hosting their signings.  It was also exciting to see firsthand such energetic attention and support from all the fans/readers.

Booth 2Bethany Buck, Editorial Director for Sky Pony Press

It was a particularly poignant show, being in Orlando just two weeks after the nightclub shooting.  There was a feeling a healing and pride, lots of t-shirts, buttons, and rainbows in support of the community.

That’s why it was really meaningful that we had invited three Florida authors to come sign their Sky Pony books in our booth: Taryn Sounders signed her middle grade novel Dead Possums are Fair Game; Tamera Will Wissinger signed her picture book The Was an Old Lady Who Gobbled a Skink; and Kerry O’Malley Cerra, who unfortunately couldn’t attend, but we gave away her novel Just a Drop of Water.

Because there were a lot of local librarians in attendance, the was a lot of recognition and excitement and pride for these for these Florida authors and their great books.

What was your experience at ALA like? Tell us in the comments!

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Q&A with Kristina McBride

Kristina McBride, author of A Million Times Goodnight, joins us to answer some questions!

A Million Times Goodnight explores the power we all have to alter our own future.” Gwendolyn Heasley, author of Don’t Call A Million Times Goodnight_cover-REVISEDMe Baby and Where I Belong

“The novel is a fast-paced thriller with plot twists, intrigue, and revelations practically on every page. . . . Clever, taut storytelling.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This is a wild ride . . . Readers who are looking for a fast-paced thriller of a touch of romance may enjoy this title.” School Library Journal


Why did you gravitate to writing young adult fiction?

Before I began writing full-time, I spent eight years teaching high school English. This helped me to relate to the teen voice and mindset. My first attempt at a novel was an adult suspense/thriller, which didn’t garner any agent interest during the query phase. After completing the manuscript, I realized that the teenaged son of the main character seemed to jump off the page. This is the moment I realized I needed to write about teens for teens. The teenage years are such a compelling time of life with so much at stake, offering an endless supply of story ideas.

What are you reading right now?

I recently finished Wandering Wild by Jessica Taylor, which was a beautiful read for so many reasons. I highly recommend. I’m currently reading Asylum by Madeleine Roux. I love creepy.

If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

Oh my God, seriously? A character—as in ONE? Not fair. Today, I would have to go with Max from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Because King of All Wild Things? And wild rumpus? Just cool.

Where’s your favorite place to write?

My home, IMG_0017preferably in the kitchen because I can spread my writing materials (notebooks and outlines and edit notes) on the table around me. When the family is home, I sneak to the master bedroom hideaway, where I set up an ironing board and drag in a kitchen chair, then turn the fan on HIGH for white noise. (Super glam, I know.) It’s the only way to have peace and quiet for an extended period.

Yes, that is an ironing board.




What’s your favorite classic movie?

Does The Goonies count? Or Pretty In Pink? Sixteen Candles? Or maybe The Breakfast Club? Because I love all of those. I’m a huge fan of The Princess Bride. Oh! And Dazed and Confused. That’s a classic, right? (More evidence that YA is the best genre for me.)


If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

Falkor the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story because he’s a kind, funny, protective type. He’s also cute. And he flies. Not to mention that I always said my puppy, Gertie, looked just like him.


Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

I don’t understand. Is this an error in punctuation? Or a real question? Because yes, yes, and yes. (Although I gravitate to white chocolate least of the three.)

What’s your favorite holiday?DSC05480

The Fourth of July. Hands down. It’s summer, which means sticky, hot, must-be-at-the-pool weather. It’s a family day and a friends-who-feel-like-family day. There are parades and cookouts and fireflies. There’s music and laughter and almost always a little dancing. And then the evening ends with a touch of magic as kids of all sizes and ages watch fireworks blast through the night sky. Nothing better.

What’s your favorite GIF?

Currently? (This changes often.)


What did you want to grow up to be when you were eighteen years old?

When I was eighteen years old, I wanted to be exactly who and what I am today:

  • married to my best friend
  • mother to a couple of amazing kids
  • part of an kick-ass group of sister friends
  • an author with several books out in the world, and several more percolating in that dreamy phase of almost-ready-to-begin-drafting

I’m so thankful that I am living my dream life. How did this all work out? It wasn’t luck. (At least not all of it.) Key Factor: I made some really hard decisions along the way—break-ups with “friends” and guys and even a wonderful job teaching high school English—to make sure I stayed the course. I also didn’t take no for an answer (hello, 2.5 years of rejection before my first published novel). Keep your focus on your goals, honor your truest desires with no apologies, strive for them as you move through the stages of life, and there’s no telling what you can accomplish.

One night. Two paths. Infinite danger.A Million Times Goodnight_cover-REVISED

On the night of the big spring break party, seventeen-year-old Hadley “borrows” her boyfriend Ben’s car without telling him. As payback, he posts a naked picture of her online for the entire senior class to see.

Now Hadley has a choice. She can go back to the party and force Ben to delete the picture. Or she can raise the stakes and take his beloved car on a road trip as far away from their hometown of Oak Grove, Ohio, as she can get.

Each storyline plays out in alternating chapters. In one strand, Hadley embarks on a reckless adventure with her best friends, spinning the perfect plan for revenge. In the other, stuck in a car with her ex-boyfriend, Josh, she’s forced to revisit the mistakes they each made, including whether they should ever have broken up at all. As events of a wild night race toward an explosive conclusion, old feelings are rekindled, friendships are tested, and secrets uncovered that are so much worse than a scandalous photo.

A Million Times Goodnight is a fast-paced romantic contemporary thriller ripped right from the headlines.

Kristina McBride is a former English teacher and yearbook advisor. She dreamed of being a published author since she lived across the street from a library as a kid. She is the author of two previous novels, The Tension of Opposites and One Moment. She lives in  Ohio with her husband and two young children.


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Q&A with Michele Bacon

Life Before Converse

Michele Bacon—author of Life Before—takes on the Sky Pony Q & A. Life Before is on sale now!


“A riveting story told in a voice that will resonate with teens. . . . Bacon weaves a captivating narrative of a boy who is able to journey into adulthood by overcoming a childhood filled with abuse. Though dark in nature, the work does not delve too deep into the horrors of abuse, making it appropriate for younger teens. A great read-alike for teens who enjoyed Alex Flinn’s Breathing Underwater, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, or Sharon Draper’s “Hazelwood High Trilogy.” —School Library Journal

Q: Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

I love the teen years, when opportunity, energy, and idealism intersect. I used to write solely for adults, but I find teen ideas and risks very compelling. Writing for teens is fun.


Q: What are you reading right now?

Seattle Public Library is hosting Book Bingo this summer, so I’m working diligently on my bingo card. Right now, I’m reading A.R. Kahler’s Shades of Darkness for my “local author” square, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me for the “prize winner” square. I’m torn about what my summer “re-read” will be!Minerva


Q: If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

Minerva McGonagall. I love the magical world of Harry Potter, but the young wizards eventually grow into different lives. Minerva spends her life among young, vibrant minds learning magic and discovering who they are meant to be. I could hardly wish for better.


Q: Where’s your favorite place to write? 

I would love to have a private office, replete with whiteboard walls and bulletin boards for all my notes and plots. The desk corner should support an electric kettle and tiny fridge for milk and fruit and, out the window, a view of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains would be divine! But I write on my sofa with my computer in my lap.


Q: What’s your favorite classic movie?

“It’s a Wonderful Life”, but I also loved “The Godfather, Part II.” In new classics, if there is such a thing, I love “The Big Chill.” Yes, it’s campy, but I’ve always wanted that circle of friends in a big house for a long weekend, cooking and dancing and loving together. The mourning is necessary in the movie, but my perfect weekend would go without.

Woolly Mammoth


Q: If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

Had you said imaginary, I would have chosen a dragon, no contest. With real animals, I narrowed it to a half dozen and will choose at random: a woolly mammoth.


Q: Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

Milk chocolate.


Q: What’s your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving has been my favorite for many years. It unites us as a nation, and doesn’t involve mindless consumerism.


Q: What’s your favorite emoji? 

The heart. When I really love something, I express it like this:  hearts


Q: What did you want to grow up to be when you were your character’s age?

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be an author and a mother.

Life BeforeSeventeen years is a long time to keep secrets, and Xander Fife has gotten very good at it.

Everyone believes Xander has a normal life and a normal family. If he can just get through this summer, he’ll start his real life in college with a clean slate—no risk, no drama, no fear.

Even better, his plans for summer are awesome: lots of pick-up soccer, relaxing afternoons with friends, and an epic road trip. Xander is banking on some long-overdue nights with his ideal girlfriend, the amazing Gretchen Taylor.

Instead of kicking off what had promised to be an amazing summer, however, graduation day brings terror. His family’s secrets are thrust out into the open, and Xander must confront his greatest fear. And survive doing so.

Armed with a fake ID, cash, and a knife, Xander skips town and assumes a new identity. Hundreds of miles from home and in danger, one thing is clear: Xander’s real life is already in progress and just getting through it isn’t enough.

Michele Bacon Headshot


Michele Bacon writes contemporary fiction for adults and young adults. She often writes about family, friendship, and the blurred line between those two ideas. Michele geeks out over many things, but especially board games, skiing, and international travel. She recently spent a year on sabbatical in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she may have left her heart at Ilam School. Wherever Michele is in the world, she is drawn to people’s stories, so she wants to hear how you met your best friend or fell in love with your partner. She lives in Seattle, WA with her husband and three young children.


**Credit for header image: Instagram user @benbrody09

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