Book Review!!

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Written by Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Published by Little Bee Books (January 28, 2020)

Ages 4-8

Themes: Friendship, overcoming hardships, diversity

From the back of the book:  

Ella and Marilyn: On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside, they were alike –  full of hopes and dreams, and plans of what might be.

MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE is not only a rags-to-riches story of how these two iconic women were discovered, but how they helped one another find their voices  at a time when both faced discrimination. It’s a tale of how two of the most iconic women of the 20th century forged a friendship that broke barriers and lasted a lifetime.

My favorite line:  “On the outside,these two stars couldn’t have looked more different. But on the inside, they both understood that sometimes even stars need a little help to shine.” 

This book is not only good for ages 4-8, but it should be read by people of ANY age.  I read this book to both my 7th and 8th graders. We discussed discrimination in the 50’s and 60’s, how women were viewed, friendship and helping others.  The discussions were deep and thoughtful. Books like MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD make it easier for older students to open up. They don’t feel like they are being talked AT. Instead the format of a picture book puts them at ease and they are more likely to respond, even those who are reluctant to find their voice.

Classroom Activity:  I had my students cut out stars (to go with my favorite line!) and write a kind note to someone who is different than they are..  For example, my classroom is close to the structured learning classroom. Several of my students wrote stars to a child with Down Syndrome, telling her that they look forward to seeing her everyday because she gives them high fives as they come to my room. Others wrote to students in another grade, and a few wrote to teachers.  This exercise let them see the light that shines inside others. I hope that they continue to search for that light in everyone they meet.


I wanted to share a wonderful surprise I got in the mail…


Watch for a review of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD and an interview with Vivian Kirkfield!

Where to find Vivian Kirkfield and 2020 Vision Picture Books:

Vivian Kirkfield:




2020 Vision Picture Books:




Free Resource for Researching Mentor Texts!!!

If you write for children and are not participating in ReFoReMo (Reading For Research Month) you should be!  Registration closed yesterday, but you can still follow along, you just won’t be eligible for prizes.

ReFoReMo was founded in 2015 by Carrie Charley Brown . Carrie is a children’s writer, teacher and offers critique services.  Carrie started ReFoReMo with a mission: to help picture book writers transform their writing by reading and researching mentor texts.

For writers to truly understand the craft of writing, the “nuts & bolts” of picture books and the children’s book market, one must read a wide variety of picture books. By participating, you can build a library of knowledge from studying the texts.

I’ve participated in ReFoReMo for the last 3 years.  I use a composition notebook to keep a list of the recommended l texts with notes on layout, the writing style, opening lines, plot, etc.  Over the years, I’ve refered to my trusty notebook when looking for a mentor text.

I strongly recommend you participate in the blog posts and readings to help your writing!

Free Course in Writing Nonfiction!

NF Social MediaFebruary brings cold temperatures, thoughts of love and nonfiction fest.  I’m looking forward to the NF Chicks’ nonfiction fest the most.

The nonfiction fest is a month-long crash course in writing nonfiction for children.  They have lined up 29 award winning nonfiction authors and people in the publishing industry to help us learn the craft of writing NF.  There will be daily posts that include activities to get you writing and researching.

The best part…it’s FREE and there will be prizes!!!

Registration begins January 15 and ends January 31.  Join the Facebook group and visit their website for directions to register.  Now you have plenty of time to get a fresh new notebook to take notes in!

According to their website,  this is the all-star line-up:

Karen Blumenthal/Candace Fleming
Beth Anderson
Carla McClafferty
Melissa Stewart
Heidi Stemple
Barb Kramer
Sophia Gholz
Nancy Turminelly
Donna Bowman
Mary Kay Carson
Traci Sorrell
Cynthia Levinson
Jen Bryant
Jill Esbaum
Kerry McManus, Marketing Director
Don Tate
Meeg Pincus
Lisa Schnell
Susannah Deevers
Vivian Kirkfield
Kelly Halls
Stacey Graham, agent
Bethany Hegedus
Alice Duncan
Rob Sanders
Lesa Cline-Ransome
Chris Mihaly
Steve Swinburne

Make sure you go follow all of these awesome, generous people on Twitter & Facebook.

How can you pass up an opportunity to learn (for free!) from these incredible talents? Go to their Facebook for all of the details and to sign up.

Let me know if you sign up so I can say HI!

Top 10 (or more) Awesome Resources for Writers

“On my desk is a stack of books. Some people call them mentor texts; I call them guardian angels. These are the books that guide me with a whisper of words, inspiring me to find my own voice as I write. They give me the knowledge and wisdom of what good-quality writing sounds and feels like.”

– Georgia Heard,

Finding the Heart of Nonfiction


There is a plethora of books on the craft of writing, but these are my guardian angels. The books I go to time and time again.

WRITING PICTURE BOOKS-A HANDS-ON GUIDE FROM STORY CREATION TO PUBLICATION, by Ann Whitford Paul is the bible of writing for children.  The author writing for childrenhelps you to develop the skills needed to create a well written picture book.  Ms.Paul walks your through generating ideas, creating characters, identifying your point of view, crafting attention grabbing beginnings, plot, word count and tackling rhyme.  At the end of each chapter, you have an assignment that will help build your story layer by layer.  This is a MUST HAVE if you want to write picture books.


Anatomy of NFThese two books are my nonfiction go to advisors.  ANATOMY OF NONFICTION delves into the nuts and bolts of research, and finding the voice of your story (Extremely important!). The authors also walk you step-by-step through submission and different avenues to pursue for publication.

NF nutshellLike the Georgia Heard quote above, FINDING THE HEART teaches you how to use mentor texts as a “guardian angel” to guide your writing so that your topic reads like a traditional story book, not a dry emotionless book report.


Several other books that guide me are Martha Alderson’s WRITING BLOCKBUSTER PLOTS and SAVE THE CAT , Blake Snyder, and SAVE THE CAT WRITES A NOVEL by Jessica Brody.

Next topic? How about my favorite websites?  One thing about the kidlit community is that they are the most generous and kindest people around.  Most of these author/writer websites or blogs offer contests, advice, and writing challenges.  If you find anything helpful on these sites, please let them know by either writing a review or purchase their books.

In no particular order-

  1.  If you want to be a kidlit author, joining SCBWI is the best money you will ever spend.
  2. Kidlit411  your one stop information shop for children’s writers and illustrators. They also list upcoming contests, information of writing query letters, marketing, courses, and the list goes on.  You’ve got to visit to see everything!
  3. Susanna Hill – offers fun contests, critiques and the Art of Arc courses
  4. Manuscripts & Magnolias – great interviews with debut authors a year after their books are released.  You get some great insight from newly published authors.
  5. Vivian Kirkfield  #50precious words contest, critique services, author interviews, giveaways
  6. Julie Hedlund founder of the 12X12 Challenge (awesome writing community!), Complete Picture Book System and Picture Book Summit

There are hundreds of other great websites out there.  The more you connect with the kidlit community, the more you find!

I want to leave you with one more resources that has helped my writing tremendously.  The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas, offers on-site and online courses.  I completed a course in the fall with award winning, nonfiction author Nancy Churnin. The course was about breathing life into your nonfiction work.  The classes were small and we met online once a week.  It was almost like having a one -on-one mentorship with her.  It was, hands down, THE best writing course I have taken.

I hope that these resources will help you as much as they have helped me.  I’d love to hear your favorite resources, so please leave me a comment and share my blog so that it may help others on their journey to publication. Also, Don’t forget to subscribe so that you can be notified of my next post which is  all about a really fun, free and informational crash course in writing nonfiction!


“An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift.”

-Anne Lamont, Bird by Bird


Community & Education

How’d the goal setting go?

Got your steps mapped out and deadlines set?


One of my goals this year is to further my writing education.  Whether it be from online webinars or classes, to reading about the craft.

I plan to participate in something monthly.

Today I’ve got a list of challenges, education opportunities and writing communities I find helpful. If you know of other writing related groups or courses, please drop me a note so I can add it to the list.

StoryStorm A month long challenge created by Author Tara Lazar. There are daily posts of inspiration from published authors who also offer prizes for participation. Registrations closes January 9, 2018 for this year, so RUN over and register! (free)

12X12 Challenge – A yearlong writing challenge where members aim to write 12 complete picture book drafts. (paid membership)

Picture Book Blueprint – program that breaks the writing of books down into small chunks.  It includes an interactive private Facebook group. (paid membership)

Making Picture Book Magic – Author Susanna Leonard Hill’s picture book writing course (paid membership)

Art of the Arc – Author Alayne Kay Christian’s independent study picture book course ( paid membership)

Mentors for Rent – Author Laura Purdie Salas’s inexpensive video writing courses.

KidLit 411 – your one stop information shop for children’s writers and illustrators.

Storyteller Academy – Picture book writing workshops offered by author Arree Chung (paid)

Institute of Children’s Literature – offers training, podcasts, and critique services.

KidLit College – offers webinars, contests and Crit-n-chats(paid)


These are a few of my favorites.  Next week, I’ll be featuring a few of my favorite blogs and their contests.