Q&A With Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer

Nightlights, a lyrical picture book about all the lights at night, is written by a fun collaborating team: uncle and nephew Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer! The rhyming text is pared playfully with bright artwork by Alice Brereton.


We were lucky enough to sit down with Paul and Dan to chat about collaboration, a love of poetry, and Nightlights.

Q: How did you come up with Nightlights?

A: Paul: Years ago, my dad (Dan’s grandfather) planted and pruned his garden according to the phases of the moon. When he passed away we started writing a series of moon poems in his honor. Ultimately that series turned into the poems that make up Nightlights.

Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: Dan: Chewing on a pencil, staring into space, calling a friend, wondering what I’m going to have for dinner…but then eventually the words come and it’s off to the races.

Paul: Writing for me is sort of like a road trip with a destination in mind but no map. I get lost, there are detours and stopovers, joys, frustrations and surprises. When I do arrive I feel happy and proud.

Q: What is your process for collaborating?

A: Dan and Paul: Well, first of all, we are an uncle and nephew team, so luckily any disagreements we have are all kept in the family. Usually one of us comes up with an idea and together we push and pull and massage that idea into something larger. We also live some distance from each other so we spend a lot of time discussing ideas on the phone, and emailing and texting. If those fail us, skywriting is always an option too.

Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?

A: Dan and Paul: It was wonderful. When we wrote our first book [Silver Seeds: A Book of Nature], we had a fantastic illustration team, and the book turned out wonderfully, but we didn’t have any real hand in the final process. Here at [Albert] Whitman, Wendy [McClure], our editor, and Jordan [Kost], the art director, really involved us in the process and the look of Nightlights from beginning to end. I guess you could say we were not kept in the dark at all!

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: Dan and Paul: We really love what Alice [Brereton], our illustrator, has done with our words. The combination of her style, which is unique, quirky and really out-of-the-box and the soothing rhythm of our poems is a perfect match. For an illustrator it must be difficult to try and get into an author’s head and bring their vision to the page. So kudos to Alice!

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: Dan: We both come from the education field. I’m currently a high school English teacher and Paul is a retired school psychologist and family therapist. Our goal has always been to inspire kids to read and write poetry.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: Dan: Paul and I love to write poetry books for children. Recently we have been working on some narrative ideas and a book of non-fiction on the origins of the names for the days of the week. But all writing, if it’s done well, is poetry.

Q: What books did you like to read as a kid?

A: Paul: My very first books were comic books: Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck were my early favorites. Later of course, the super heroes took over: Superman, Batman and Robin. As a teen it was science fiction by the volume: Issac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. Van Vogt and on and on.

Dan:  The Hardy Boys A to Z and then back again!

Thanks so much, Paul and Dan! To find out more about Nightlights on our website. And to hear from the illustrator, Alice, check out her blog post.

Q&A With Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer

Q&A with Lisa Amstutz

Join author Lisa Amstutz and illustrator Talitha Shipman for Applesauce Day! Maria and her family visit an apple orchard and pick apples. Then it’s time to turn the apples into applesauce! Every year they use the special pot that has been in the family for generations to make applesauce. First they wash the apples. Then Grandma cuts them into quarters. Follow each step in the process as everyone helps to make delicious applesauce!


We were lucky enough to sit down with Lisa to chat about family traditions, kid lit, and Applesauce Day.

Q: What was the inspiration for your title?

A: Applesauce Day is based on my family’s applesauce-making tradition. As a child, I loved helping my mother make applesauce each year. It was an exciting day, filled with the scent of apples cooking, the taste of fresh, warm sauce, and the fun of working together. Now my children look forward to making applesauce at Grandma’s house each year. I hope someday they will pass on this tradition to the next generation!

Q: Do you make applesauce using the recipe in the back matter?

A: Yes! We make enough to last all year, which takes about three bushels of apples. The past few years, we’ve been able to harvest our own apple trees. One was just an old stump when we moved here. It kept sprouting, so we let one of the sprouts grow and cut off the rest. Our house is quite old (it was once a log cabin), so I like to think that maybe Johnny Appleseed planted that tree—who knows! We also have two Yellow Transparent trees—my favorite sauce variety. The pig and chickens are happy to eat any apples that are left over, as well as any wormy ones.


Q:  What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on—novels, Reader’s Digest, cereal boxes…. Some favorites were Chronicles of Narnia series, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, and the Lord of the Rings series.

I don’t have as much free time now, but I still read a lot. I like nonfiction books on writing craft, nature, agriculture, and psychology. I also have a particular fondness for mysteries. And of course I read a lot of children’s books…both for research and just for fun.

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: I love the challenge of distilling a story down to its essence—picture books are a lot like poetry in that regard. And they’re just fun! I hope my books inspire kids to appreciate and learn more about the world around them. Kids are smart and funny and optimistic. They give us hope for the future—kids can change the world!

Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: In general, the hardest parts for me are deciding which story ideas are worth pursuing and figuring out the best way to tell them. Once the story is on paper, the editing begins. I revise each story around 20–30 times and run it by my critique partners several times before sending it to my agent. She usually wants a few more revisions, and if the book sells, the editor will ask for more revisions as well. It’s a slow process, but it’s amazing to see it all come together!


Q:  Are you working on any other projects?

A: Yes, I have quite a few manuscripts either out on submission or at various stages of completion. My editor and I are also working on another picture book to be released in 2018, titled Today We Go Birding. It’s about the Christmas Bird Count, a citizen science project sponsored by the National Audubon Society. I can’t wait to see it in print!

For announcements about Today We Go Birding and other upcoming projects, you can follow me on Facebook  or Twitter , or sign up for my newsletter on my website.

Thanks, Lisa! For even more about Applesauce Day check out our website.

Q&A with Lisa Amstutz

Q&A with Joanne Oppenheim

Benny’s family owns a knishery and sells delicious round dumplings. Then the Tisch family opens a store across the street—selling square knishes—and Benny’s papa worries. So he lowers his prices! But Mr. Tisch does too. As each knishery tries to outdo the other, Benny helps his papa realize there’s room on Rivington Street for more than one knishery.


We were lucky enough to sit down with author Joanne Oppenheim and talk about finding inspiration, celebrating shared history, and The Knish War on Rivington Street.

Q. What was your inspiration for The Knish War on Rivington Street?

A. There really was a Knish War on Rivington Street, an event I heard about quite by accident. I was looking up information about the Brooklyn Historical Society and noticed a program by Laura Silver, who called herself the Knish Lady, which struck me funny. The program notes mentioned an article from 1916 in the New York Times about a price war between two knisheries. When I read that article, I knew it was a picture book just waiting to happen.

Q. Does that happen often—finding a ready-made story in the news?

A. You never know where an idea will pop up. You just need to keep your antennae up. But finding a story, even a true story, is not the same as turning it into a book. My first attempt at telling this story was done in verse. I had fun doing that, but one editor who liked the story did not want the story told in rhyme. I did a total rewrite.


Q. Was that hard? Changing it to prose?

A. Well, I insisted on holding on to Tisch’s Knishes, and kept some of the rhymes for the signs—oops, I do find rhymes all the time. The harder part was giving the story more dimension. The real knish war was strictly a price war. But the war in my book needed more of a conflict. So, I added the age-old fight over the virtues of baked vs fried and round vs square. That wasn’t part of the original story, although today, most knish lovers do have a preference.

Q. What kind of knishes do you prefer?

A. No contest—I like mine round, baked, and filled with potato. By the way, you’ll find a recipe for making them (and the fried ones, too) in the back of the book.

Q. How did you find the voices for Benny and Solly’s fathers?

A. I’m sure I was channeling my grandfather, Nathan Fleischer. I have a photo of him in his bakery, which was probably a lot like Max’s knishery. I can still hear the way he and others of his generation of immigrants spoke and how hard they worked to make a better life in their new country. His English was punctuated with Yiddish, but he rarely spoke of the old country—only of leaving it and how he “ran all the way to America.” His favorite song was God Bless America.   


Q. How did you bring this time-period and setting to life?

A. My mother was born on the Lower East Side in a tenement and sometimes spoke of the crowded, dark, damp tenement where they lived on Orchard Street. Like many immigrant families they left for the Bronx as soon as they could and rarely looked back. Years later, I still like walking on the same streets where her Zaydee, her grandfather, had a pushcart. I’ve seen photos from that time and although the peddlers and their pushcarts are mostly gone now, the narrow streets with little storefronts and buildings are still there. Today they’re art galleries and fancy stores, but it’s not hard to imagine how it must have been when the streets bustled with people that look those in Jon Davis’ drawings. You can still go downtown and even have a knish!

Q. What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A. As a kid I was a devoted fan of Nancy Drew. But as a teenager I liked reading history—especially biographies and autobiographies. I still enjoy reading mysteries for entertainment but for my work as a writer, I love digging in history books and archives for good stories to share, like the Knish War on Rivington Street.

Thanks, Joanne! Find out more about The Knish War on Rivington Street on our website.

Q&A with Joanne Oppenheim

Summer Fun with the Boxcar Children

We’re celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Boxcar Children all year long! As you may know, there are over 140 Boxcar Children books. We’re sharing a list of our favorite mysteries centered on baseball, vacations, camping, and other summertime activities. Plus, be sure to check out the Boxcar Children website for more fun activities to do this summer!


The Boxcar Mysteries #2: Surprise Island

In the second Boxcar Children book the Aldens are on summer vacation. They take a trip to an almost private island, but what happens when they are faced with a challenge? Find out more by clicking here. And be sure to keep an eye out this fall for the newest Boxcar movie based on this book!


The Boxcar Children Special #4: The Mystery at the Ballpark

Join in this summertime sport with a mystery from the Boxcar Children! Jessie and Violet are selected to play on the local baseball team, Henry gets a job assisting the coach, and even Benny gets a role as a bat boy! When a special bat is stolen and Jessie’s favorite glove goes missing, the Aldens know there is a mystery to be solved. Can they save the team and the baseball season? Click here for more.


The Boxcar Mysteries #16: Mystery in the Sand

While living in a seaside mobile home, the Aldens discover the secret of two secluded women. Will their discovery lead them to treasure, or will they find themselves in danger? Follow this link for more about this beachy mystery!


The Boxcar Children Special #14: The Home Run Mystery

On a visit to Pikesville, New York, the Boxcar Children watch the last few games of the season. The games are played at a strange ballpark behind an abandoned factory. The Aldens notice that the opposing team, the Eagles, seem to be hitting too many home runs and one night Violent sees strange lights coming from the factory. Could the two be related? The Boxcar Children on are on the case! Find out more about this baseball mystery by following this link.


The Boxcar Mysteries #25: The Amusement Park Mystery

While visiting the amusement park that’s come to town the Aldens enjoy fun rides and games. But what happens when they begin to investigate antique wooden horses on the merry-go-round near Cousin Joe’s house? Click here for more.


The Boxcar Mysteries #27: The Camp-Out Mystery

Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny set out on a camping trip, but it’s almost spoiled by loud music and the disappearance of a lantern. Things become even more complicated when Grandfather disappears too. How will the Aldens solve this mystery? Find out by following this link.


The Boxcar Mysteries #82: The Summer Camp Mystery

When the Boxcar Children head off to summer camp, they’re excited about making new friends, participating in activities, and, most of all, competing in the annual camp Olympics. However, things go wrong right away—they lose their luggage, the camp flag disappears, and campers from the other team steal one of Jessie’s ideas to score points! What will the Aldens do when they realize some campers are willing to lie and cheat to win? Find out more by clicking here.


The Boxcar Mysteries #94: The Ice Cream Mystery

The Aldens, especially Benny, all love ice cream, so when they find out that someone is trying to shut down the Greenfield Ice Cream Barn, they know they must help before it’s too late. They discover that the owner has two new partners. Could they be behind the plot to shut down the business? Click here for more.


The Boxcar Mysteries #122: The Spy in the Bleachers

Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny are all excited to help out at the ballpark when the Clayton Cogs are playing for the pennant! While watching the game, they notice that the other team’s batters seem to know the pitches a little too well. It becomes clear that someone in the stadium is stealing the Cog’s pitcher’s signals. Can the Boxcar Children find out who is spying for the other team? Find out by following this link.

Have a great summer adventure with The Boxcar Children!

Summer Fun with the Boxcar Children

Illustrator Insight with Alice Brereton

Enter the gentle night with Nightlights by Paul Paolinlli and Dan Brewer. This lyrical picture book explores all the types of light that brighten the evening.


We were lucky enough to chat with the book’s illustrator, Alice Brereton, about being a children’s book illustrator, staying real, and Nightlights.

Q: How did you become a children’s book illustrator?

A: I don’t know. It’s a mixture of many things: working hard, making good choices, pestering your art teachers, problem solving, having a supportive mom, eating burritos and being okay with sitting on your butt for hours on end doodling, etc…I can’t say what sets me apart from other people who want to be a children’s book illustrator? It’s not a closely guarded secret or even a moment of luck, it’s just me being myself professionally… and drawing a lot.

Q: What is your favorite medium to work with?

A: I really enjoy using Photoshop. I love that I never run out of paint or paper. I also like all my art contained in one safe area so my cats can’t walk all over it.

Q: What were your first thoughts when you saw the text for Nightlights?

A: “Ooooooooo!” I was so excited I didn’t have thoughts, just stupid excited noises. I couldn’t believe that this book was being entrusted to me. It was exactly what I wanted to draw.


Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: Sadly no, my routine/process is to write self-deprecating post-it notes that remind me when things are due and to also do a healthy amount of panicking.

Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: The easiest part of the book is following my detailed thumbnails sketches. The hardest part is making the detailed thumbnail sketches.

Nightlights thumbnails

Q: Why illustrate children’s books?

A: Because working in retail sounds like too much fun!

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: I think the use of black and straight lines will make it pop on the book stand.


Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: I am working on two books right now, one is about a little girl scientist and the other is about a tormented bunny.

Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: My favorite thing to read as a kid was poetry, I loved the book SunFlakes, which is a collection of short poems ranging from cheerful to depressing. Right now I am really enjoying the Fairyland series by Catherine M. Valente.

Q: What is your favorite night light and why?

A: As an adult I like to sleep in complete darkness, as a child I liked to leave my window shades open so the moon could light up my room.

Thanks so much, Alice. Find out more about Nightlights on our website and come back to the blog on August 14 to get to know authors Paul and Dan.

Illustrator Insight with Alice Brereton

Q&A with Ann and John Hassett

Bob, from Goodnight Bob by Ann and John Hassett, is back and he’s ready to rock! He’s caught up in a competition with his friend’s dog. Bob’s friend Max has a dog. Bob has a rock. Max’s dog can do tricks. But so can Bob’s rock! Can it do everything the dog does? This funny, minimalist story uses patterns, repetitions, and comparisons to create a satisfying read-aloud experience with a whimsical twist.


We were lucky enough to sit down with the husband-and-wife team to talk about enjoying the creative process, pets, and Bob’s Rock.

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: Honestly, we do it for our own amusement—it’s a lot of fun! At the same time, making picture books gives us the most authentic and discerning audience in the world. Children are definitely not afraid to tell you what they think of your work! Also, their understanding of the world goes far beyond their reading ability, so there is the combination of simple language and sophisticated emotion. We enjoy the challenge of creating with that perspective in mind.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: Throughout our own childhoods, John always had a pet and Ann always wanted a pet but never had one, which is why she identifies with a pet rock especially. Whether it’s a goldfish, a dog, or a rock, a pet is a good friend.


Q: What is your hope for Bob’s Rock?

A: We hope that readers will find Bob’s Rock funny and that they will connect with the relationship between Bob and his friend Max. Bob and Max engage in good-natured, silly one-ups-manship, comparing their pets’ abilities to perform tricks. Subtle competition and conflict go hand-in-hand with children’s friendships, and that is an important part of their daily interactions in the sandbox, on the playground, and at home.

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: The simplicity of Bob’s Rock supports newly independent readers, but we think that the story is worth reading again and again whether the reader is an adult or a child. We think that readers will like Bob and his friends, and that the humorous situations and gentle surprises in both Bob’s Rock and Goodnight Bob make the books engaging and fun stories for children and families to read and reread.


Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: Always! Bob is always having adventures, and we’re hoping to share them soon.

Thanks, Ann and John. Check out Bob’s Rock on our website! To find out more about Goodnight Bob check out this cute video.

Q&A with Ann and John Hassett

AW Teen Summer Reading Challenge 2017

Who: Everyone who loves reading YA!

What: Read any AW Teen title (click here for a full list) and review it anywhere (your blog, Instagram, YouTube—wherever!). Reviews from September 1, 2016 to August 31, 2017 will be accepted. Yep, even older reviews!

When: June 15th—August 31st, 2017

How: Submit the link to your review here.

You will receive one entry for every AW YA book you submit a review for. You can receive extra entries for sharing your review on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Netgalley, Goodreads, and Edelweiss. And if you follow us our Albert Whitman or AW Teen Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube you can get even more extra entries!

One lucky participant will win the GRAND prize:

A beach basket full of summer reading goodies including:

  • Lip balm, nail polish, perfume, water bottle, beach towel, sunhat, and more!
  • 10 AW Teen titles!
  • Advanced Reading Copies of two Fall 2017 titles: The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke and Glow by Megan E. Bryant
  • The first two books in the New York Times bestselling series by Elizabeth Briggs: Future Shock and Future Threat
  • A collection of four Jolene Perry romances: All the Forever Things, Summer I Found You, Has to be Love, and Stronger Than You Know
  • Two more heart-pounding romances: Hurricane Kiss by Deborah Blumenthal and South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf

Four other participants will win the book pack of the same 10 titles!

Winners will be randomly selected on September 1, 2017.

Take a look at the titles below which will be included in the prize!

New Titles

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

On a trip to Germany, sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally travels back in time to 1988 East Berlin via red balloon. Upon arrival, she meets members of a secret guild that meet in an abandoned subway tunnel under the city. The guild uses balloons and magic to help people escape to the other side of the Berlin Wall.  While trying to find her way home, it becomes clear to Ellie and other guild members that someone is using dark magic to change history. Will Ellie find her way back home? What will happen to the friends she makes along the way? Find out in the first book of the Balloonmaker’s series. Click here for more.

Glow by Megan E. Bryant

After giving up her college fund to help save her family’s home, Julie is stuck in her hometown. While scavenging at a thrift store, she finds a series of antique paintings. She takes them home only to realize there are hidden glow-in-the-dark images painted under them. Julie tries to find out more about the artist and ends up discovering a century-old romance and the shocking true story of the Radium Girls—women who worked in factories using paint to make glow-in-the-dark products and ended up becoming radioactive as a result. The truth Julie doesn’t know puts her and everyone she loves at risk. Will she find out before it’s too late? Find out more about Glow by clicking here.

Future Shock Trilogy

Future Shock and Future Threat by Elizabeth Briggs

In the first book of this best-selling trilogy, Elena is recruited by the Aether Corporation for a top-secret project. Elena, and four other teens, including Adam, a science prodigy, are sent to the future to recover data. Something goes wrong and they break the only rule they were given: do not look into their own future. In order to save herself and her new friends, Elena must rely on her eidetic memory, street smarts, and growing trust in her teammates. To see more about this first novel in the trilogy click here.


In the second book, Elena is sure she’s done with the Aether Corporation forever, but when travelers on the latest mission go missing, Elena, Adam, and Chris are pulled into the rescue effort. The future they see this time is amazingly advanced, thanks to their last mission, but their return to the future alters the course of events yet again. In every trip more lives are lost—or never born. Elena and Adam must risk everything to save their friends. For more about this sequel, follow this link.

Look for the third title, Future Lost, in Spring 2018!

Jolene Perry Romance Novels

All the Forever Things

Gabriella, Gabe for short, grew up around her family’s funeral business, so she knows that nothing lasts forever. However, her best friend Bree has always been a constant. But Bree starts dating one of the “popular” guys—a guy Gabe can’t stand—and suddenly stops having time to hang out with Gabe. The only person at school that does want to spend time with her is Hartman, a new guy at school. Gabe holds back, not wanting to be as boy-crazy as Bree. The tension in Gabe’s new romance and her friendship trouble with Bree build leading up to prom night. Will Gabe be there when Bree needs her most? Can they ever rebuild their friendship? Find out more by following this link.

The Summer I Found You

While she’s still coming to terms with her recent diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, Kate’s relationship falls apart. Aiden’s plans to serve in the army for life are cut short—he’s now a disabled young veteran. As he struggles to accept his new life, he finds Kate, but neither of them wants to get attached. Will they discover that they’re right for each other after all? Click here for more.

Has to be Love

When she was younger, Clara survived a vicious bear attack. She’s comfortable in her small Alaskan hometown, but her dreams reach much farther. An acceptance letter to Columbia University offers her a thrilling and terrifying new opportunity, but with her boyfriend pressing her for a forever commitment and the feelings she’s developing for the new student teacher in her English class, things keep getting more confusing. Will she make her own choices? And which is the right choice to make? Find out more by following this link.

Stronger Than You Know

Fifteen-year-old Joy has finally escaped the trailer she lived in with her mother after surviving years of confinement and abuse. She moves in with her aunt, uncle, and cousins, but she’s never sure that she’ll belong. As she begins to adjust to her new life, Joy begins to grow closer to her new family, and even a boy she meets. Just as things seem to be looking up, Joy finds out that must testify against her mother during the trial. How can she confront her old life while moving forward into her new one? Follow this link for more.

More Summer Romances

South of Sunshine by Dana Elemdorf

Kaycee’s southern roots shine through her “yes ma’ams” and love of sweet tea, but not everything about her Tennessee hometown is easy to accept. Kaycee knows that being gay in Sunshine is unacceptable and she’s decided to fit in rather than start trouble—even if it means letting Dave Bradford kiss her on occasion. But when a new girl, Bren Dawson moves into town, Kaycee gets swept up with her emotions and lets her guard down. One night, Kaycee’s best friend catches Bren and Kaycee kissing. With her world flipped upside down, what will Kaycee risk for love? And what will she risk for acceptance? Click here for more.

Hurricane Kiss by Deborah Blumenthal

When a hurricane threatens Jillian McKay’s home town, she’s forced to evacuate with her neighbors—including River Daughtry, the former high school football star who disappeared to a West Texas juvenile detention center last year. Realizing their evacuation route is blocked, the two seek shelter in their abandoned high school and learn what it really means to survive. Find out more about this suspenseful romance by following this link.

Happy Summer Reading, and don’t forget to submit your reviews here!

AW Teen Summer Reading Challenge 2017