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Happy Thursday friends!

I'm so excited to have fellow Texan Ellen Leventhal on the blog today, discussing her book "A Flood of Kindness".

Ellen Leventhal is an educator and writer in Houston, TX. Aside from A Flood of Kindness, she is the author of Lola Can’t Leap and the upcoming Debbie’s Song: The Story of Debbie Friedman. Ellen is also the co-author of Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets. Her work has appeared in various poetry and short story anthologies. Ellen’s best days are when she can interact directly with students and spread her love of literacy, compassion, and kindness.

Perfect for all children experiencing loss or grief, A Flood of Kindness gracefully confronts difficult feelings and celebrates the healing power of kindness.

Written in spare prose and told from an intimate first-person point of view, the story follows Charlotte, a young girl who watches floodwaters rise in her home and is forced to evacuate to a shelter with her parents. Kind people she doesn't know give her food, socks and shoes to keep her feet warm, and a place to sleep. As Charlotte adjusts to the shelter--a strange, crowded place that is not home--she grapples with feelings of anger and sadness. But as the days go by, Charlotte starts to realize how grateful she is for the things that she does have--her parents, a cot to sleep on, food to eat--and starts looking for ways to help others in the shelter. All children deal with sadness and loss in some way, whether it stems from a natural disaster, the death of a pet, or moving to a new place. A Flood of Kindness acknowledges those difficult feelings and helps readers process them in a healthy way. Children will be encouraged to be kind to those who need a friend and to help others in whatever way they can, no matter how small.

I first read A Flood of Kindness a few months ago and it really stuck with me. As a child, I remember seeing an influx of children come to my area of Texas after Katrina, so a lot of this story resonated with the experiences of those children I knew. Even in a big event like that, so much of how we process it comes down to our own personal experiences, and our interactions with others.

Ellen, thank you so much for joining me this week. What inspired you to write A Flood of Kindness?

In May, 2015 my house flooded, and I thought of Mr. Rogers’s call to “Look for the helpers.” I didn’t need to look far. We were surrounded by kindness. I wrote a lot during that time, but I wasn’t ready to write a children’s book for some reason. We then flooded again in 2016, and then Hurricane Harvey decimated the city in 2017. There was no fixing up and moving back for us that time. As a teacher, I knew a lot of children who went through these floods, and I wanted to find a way to help them without being too didactic. I knew I had to do something they could relate to, so the brainstorming began.

I can't even imagine going through a floor two times around. And seeing it happen with so many of your students, being able to relate to that really emotional time for them.

There's a lot of personal experiences in this book for you then. What was the process like, seeing the book go from inspiration, to illustration, to published?

Wow! I think seeing any idea go from inspiration to publication is amazing. After more revisions that I can count, I got my nerve up and entered it into Mindy Alyse Weiss’s PB Party. Shockingly, I was in the finals, and even more surprising was that agent, Mary Cummings wanted to rep it. After that, there were more revisions, and it actually didn’t take very long for Peggy Schaefer of WorthyKids (Hachette Book Group) to pick it up. Then, of course, more revisions. Although illustrator, Blythe Russo and I didn’t communicate until the book was done, I was sent rough sketches and fell in love with them. I especially love where the beginning is dark and the sun comes out in the end. When I got the book in my hands, I was thrilled. Because this book is so personal, I literally got goose bumps.

Do you have a scene in A Flood of Kindness that was your favorite to write?

One of my favorite scenes to write was where my main character stamped her feet and wanted her things back. This got to the crux of the problem for children. Children aren’t worried about insurance, rebuilding, and money. They just want their things and their old life back. It’s a scene where I try to let children know that their feelings are valid... But I also loved writing the end because I wanted to leave readers with hope.

I love the way you really got down on a child's level to process something so big, giving those details about their lost things.

Why do you think this book is important for kids to have on the shelves?

I think that kids need to know that feeling whatever way they feel is ok. But I also want them to understand the power that small acts of kindness can have. On top of that, I think it’s important for children to understand that even at a young age, they are each capable of helping their friends, family, and community in small or large ways. Small things make a huge difference, and they shouldn’t be discounted.

How do you think parents, teachers, or counselors could use A Flood of Kindness to engage in deeper conversations with kids?

I think that reading and discussing this book can spark deep conversations about not just kindness, but about the opposite. In my experience, I noticed that after we read the book, some kids wanted to talk about kindness while others discussed feelings of hurt because of bullying, being ignored, or feeling othered. I think letting the child take the conversation where they need go is helpful. But more than all that, I’d love to see this book being used to highlight the healing power of kindness and empower children and let them know they are not helpless. I often start my discussions with “Have you ever felt out of control, like there is nothing you can do?”

Do you have any advice for authors who want to write about tough topics for kids?

I’d say that they shouldn’t be scared to tackle tough topics. But they also need to be aware of the audience and remember that while you’re writing, you need to always be thinking about how kids will relate. It’s important to take your adult hat off and figuratively get down on a child’s level. Perhaps thinking about yourself as a child and your reactions in difficult situations is the best way to relate to kids as you write.

Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share?

I do have a picture book biography coming out next year. I’m pretty excited about it, and more details will be coming soon.

Ellen, thank you so much again for joining us on the blog! To find out more about Ellen’s books and writing projects, please go to

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We are nearing the end of Child Abuse Awareness Month, but please don't think that this issue ever goes away! Children and families are always in need of support so that we can stop needing to raise awareness for child abuse at all.

Today Dimity Powell has graciously agreed to share with us on the blog. She discusses her poignant, beautiful book "At the End of Holyrood Lane".

Award winning children’s author, Dimity Powell, loves filling every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews exclusively for children with over 30 published stories and is the Managing Editor for Kids' Book Review . Picture books are her jam. Her latest titles include, This is My Dad (2022), Oswald Messweather (2021), Pippa (2019), the SCBWI Crystal Kite 2019 award-winning At the End of Holyrood Lane (2018), and critically acclaimed, The Fix-It Man (2017). Dimity is a useless tweeter, sensational pasta maker, semi-professional chook wrangler, Border collie lover and seasoned presenter who can’t surf despite living on the Gold Coast, Australia. Drop in and meet her any time at:

What inspired you to write At the End of Holyrood Lane?

Authors love to collect: names, ideas, inspo, reasons. Our ubiquitous gatherings never

cease, so one day when I was meeting with the then founder of Paradise Kids (an

organisation dedicated to helping kids heal on every emotional level) here on the Gold Coast and she mentioned the need for a mainstream picture book addressing domestic violence, I couldn’t let it go. While DV was as prevalent then as it is now (some seven years ago), it was far less commonplace in the media and therefore our collective social consciences.

Books like yours are definitely making a big difference in helping bring these issues into our collective social consciences.

What was the process like from inspiration to publication? 

Like a lot of my picture book developments: dubious yet impassioned at first, tentative and raw, stumbling but determined and then, with this book in particular, exhilarating when I finally hit the sweet spot. The original tale was initially deemed too raw and niche by most of the publishers I first sent it to. It was poignant and gentle but the injustice made you cry. Notably, each of them took the time to comment on the manuscript saying it was a much needed topic to share but too difficult to take on. It wasn’t until I altered my perspective and made the story more metaphorically meaningful to appeal to a global audience that I realised the power behind Flick’s tale and what it could mean for people. Fortunately, EK Books understood this too and immediately took us on.

Do you have a scene or sentence in the finished book that is your favorite?

The sentence I have a love hate relationship with occurs in the first Act. ‘Whenever angry

clouds muscle in and wild winds bully the curtains, she hopes with all her heart they will just blow over. But sometimes, no matter how hard she hopes … it pours and pours.’ It’s wieldy but subtly implies impeding physical and emotional threat by a violator or terrifying threat such as a thunderstorm that really resonates with people no matter what their frame of reference. We are all afraid of something after all. I often use phrases like this to demonstrate figurative language and personification to students.

My favourite scene(s) are the blue page toward the end when Flick finally stops running,

turns around and decisively faces her fear – the crux of the whole story. Nicky Johnston’s

dramatic use of altered light and colour and change of direction is a stunning backdrop for the three simple words that appear on that spread, ‘She seeks help.’

The scene I have framed on my wall is the last spread of Flick joyfully rejoicing with her ribbon wand and little Uni after the passing of the storm. It’s a scene of pure warmth and elation.

These illustrations are so beautiful! The scene you have framed is so sweet and joyous.

Why do you think this book is important for kids to have on the shelves?

Well for starters, Flick’s unicorn is super cute. I love him! Plus it speaks to kids everywhere who may have a nemesis or fear that makes them want to just run away and hide. For some of us (like me as a kid) it was loud booming tropical thunderstorms. But sadly for others, the threat of family or domestic violence whether as a witness or victim is just as terrifying. If standing up to a raging storm is hard imagine how formidable it would be facing a clever aggressor.

One little story can’t address all the complexities of DV but my hope is that it helps children and their carers who may be in difficult fear driven situations understand that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed and scared but that by acknowledging their fears, they diminish the power they have over them. That be choosing not to be scared is the first mighty step towards bravery. I want kids to know that after every storm, there is always sunshine. It’s important to not give up on yourselves or those you love and not give in to your fears. These are important messages in anyone’s language and ironically, as relevant today as ever whether from a DV, facing fears, coping with natural disasters or mental wellness point of view.

How do you think parents, teachers, or counselors could use At the End of Holyrood Lane to engage in deeper conversations with kids?

By focusing on a number of different elements used throughout the book, including the use of a silent (sub) character such as Uni the unicorn. He’s Flick’s constant companion through thick and thin and thus relatable to kids. The use of metaphors and symbolism could be explored in depth as well. The deliberate use of certain numbers - five beech woods for instance - the meaning of Flick’s name and the lane she lives on all allude to deeper meaning. The visual clues suggesting impending dread and conflict are shown in the illustrations – an ominous face in the black storm clouds allow children to tie the words with the concept of being yelled at, berated, anxious about the outcome.

By focusing on the emotion of fear as I do when presenting to early primary aged children, and encouraging a forum on what frightens us using Flick as a starting point, we can brainstorm ways to overcome our fears. In this way, Flick’s story allows for discussions about whom to turn to in times of need, when to ask for help and how.

Do you have any advice for authors who want to write about tough topics for kids?

Be brave and bold and stick to your intentions. The key though must always be the story. No matter how driven you are to tackle a certain subject, it should always be cached within a great storyline and feature relatable characters. Avoid didactic overtones; no one likes being told what to do especially kids. Memorable characters in recognisable situations will stick with kids much longer than overt moralistic observations.

Ideally issue based (picture book) storylines should have some degree of adult appeal too which ensures better understanding and invites those ‘deeper conversations’ with kids. I’ve had adults and grandparents sob after reading Holyrood Lane; it resonated so fiercely with them either because they themselves had been victims of DV, knew children who were suffering those experiences or simply had a grand kiddie they knew would benefit from the storm scenario. So in other words, be aware of your audience as well and don’t be afraid to relinquish some integrity in the name of saleability if you really want to get your story published and shared. It’s not selling yourself short. It’s finding that delicate right balance – the sweet spot.

Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share?

My latest picture book, This Is My Dad also illustrated by Nicky Johnston and published by EK Books, has just dropped and is a beautiful look at Leo, an only child who is faced with a dilemma when asked to celebrate a parent he has never known or had. Leo’s story is a tender acknowledgment of families of all shapes and sizes with a sprinkling of space aliens and dragons.

Aside from that, there are other picture book scripts in the works which I’d love to see in the wild one day plus edits and illustrations have just begun on a follow up picture book to, Pippa, which I know many kids have been hanging out for!

Dimity, thank you for joining us today and sharing your work! Where can we connect with you online to learn more about your work?

Visit me anytime at from there you’ll reach me on all the Socials (except Tik Tok coz I just haven’t got my head around that one yet!). I am also represented by some terrific agents if you’d like to engage me to engage your audience.

Instagram: @dimityspowell

Twitter: @dimitypowell

LinkedIn: dimity-powell

Youtube: Dimity Powell

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For Child Abuse Prevention month, I am running a Kickstarter for my book "Lena & the Dragon", which focuses on childhood trauma and resiliency. We are currently running a Flash Sale on donated books- $6 donates a book to a foster/adoption agency, mental health center, children's advocacy center, or other nonprofit. Please consider donating here!

This week we continue our series on Child Abuse Prevention and related issues. War can cause collective child abuse experiences of abuse, neglect, and trauma. Many children in Ukraine are living out this reality right now.

With that in mind, and with the plethora of tough topics on the news these past two years, we invited Sarah Lynne Real to discuss her book "The Breaking News" on the blog this week.

Sarah Lynne Reul is an author, illustrator and award-winning animator who likes science, tiny things and drawing on photos.

After years in science museum education, she was lured back to school by the magic of making drawings come to life. Armed with an MFA in 2D animation, she now strives to pack the energy of animation into each illustration.


Sarah, thank you for joining me this week! What inspired you to write The Breaking News?

There are so many awful things going on in the news all the time, and those are compounded by the past traumas we’ve all been through. Around the time I started writing this book, I was feeling particularly upset by a recent piece of the awful news, when I came across this quote by Fred Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,

"Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

As much as we try to shield our children from the worst of reality, they can often feel it anyway.

I know that so many kids want to find a way to help. I wrote this book because I want to be one of the helpers too. I hope this story might, in some small way, counter sadness and fear with a little bit of hope and humanity.

I love that motivation, wanting to be one of the helpers. I think as authors and illustrators we may not realize that we can be one of those helpers!

As you are both author and illustrator, what was the process like for you? Did you start with an image or text?

My process of writing & illustration goes back and forth quite a bit. I’ll often start with a rough draft of the words, will attempt to figure out the page breaks, and then will make super rough thumbnail sketches of how I’d like to communicate each spread. Often I’ll find that I need to change some of the language, or shift the page breaks to heighten the impact of each scene. I’ll go back and forth, refining each side, and when I think it’s starting to make sense, I’ll share it with family members, critique partners & my agent for feedback.

Do you have a scene in the finished book that is your favorite?

The bedtime scene is one of my favorites - the glow of the lamp, the dad exhausted, collapsed on the bed, the little girl trying to figure out what she can do, the mom preoccupied with the baby in the background. At the time that I drew this, it felt like a scene right out of my own life. I also liked putting in all of the details in the background - a suggestion for a pink bunny came from one of my daughters, and I put a cow made of glass as a nod to one of my favorite books when I was growing up, SARAH’S ROOM written by Doris Orgel & illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

There have been so many big, difficult things on the news the past few years and especially now. Why do you think this book is important for kids to have on the shelves?

Kids are always asking me “What is the actual ‘news’ that happens in THE BREAKING NEWS?”

I usually answer them with another question: “Why do you think I decided not to focus on what the news was in the book?”

It was important to me that we never quite understand the nature of the actual news that is reported within the story. I wanted to leave it open ended, and to leave that question unanswered so that each reader could interpret, drawing from their own experiences. I also wanted the focus to be on the helpers, rather than on the news itself, which gets plenty of airtime in our media channels.

THE BREAKING NEWS is ultimately about our reactions to the worst things that we can’t control - and how we don’t need to give up hope just because there is so much fear, doubt & despair in the world.

How do you think parents, teachers, or counselors could use The Breaking News to engage in deeper conversations with kids?

I feel very lucky that the Anti-Defamation League put together Educator & Family Discussion Guide PDFs that can help encourage deeper conversations about the themes in the book

There are also more resources on THE BREAKING NEWS page of my website, including a video read-aloud and to help kids draw and write how they might help make things better.

Do you have any advice for authors who want to write about tough topics for kids?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of being didactic and trying to make everything tie up neatly. It helps to zoom in on details, rather than zoom out to a more generalized, lesson-y overview. Try to stay true to the legitimate feelings that you & your loved ones go through in difficult times, even if they’re messy.

Sarah, thank you again for taking the time so share your work and story with us. Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share?

My book BUBBIE & RIVKA’S BEST-EVER CHALLAH (SO FAR!) will be coming out from Abrams in the fall. It’s a story about a little girl and her grandma trying to make the best of (many) not-so-successful attempts to bake bread. It’s available for pre-order now from Abrams or wherever you like to buy books!

Thank you all for joining us for Picture Book Therapy Thursday! Don't forget to visit us next week for a chat with Dimity Powell!

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