Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Adventures Of Monkey And Toad Two Remarkable Friends


Author: Donald Lloyd, Jr.

Illustrator: Donald Lloyd, Jr.

Publisher: Halo Publishing International

Released: July 14, 2020

Format: Kindle, Paperback

ISBN: 978-1612448718

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops


The Adventures Of Monkey And Toad Two Remarkable Friends is a great story that couldn’t have come at a better time! Two unlikely friends prove that anyone with an open mind and heart can be friends.


Ever wanted to make a new friend but were not sure how? Have you ever met someone and instantly knew that you would be friends? “The Adventures of Monkey and Toad: Two Remarkable Friends” is a story about finding a friend, learning how to be a friend and realizing that a true friend can be anyone from anywhere!


A cute rhyming story that breaks down preconceptions and teaches us to overcome rigid social patterns.

Monkey wants to be friends, but Toad’s not so sure. What would a monkey and a toad do together, they have nothing in common? Though Toad doesn’t see it, Monkey has the answer.

It takes a little persuasion, but Toad agrees to play with monkey, and the two spend the day learning new things and having the best time.


Classroom Connection:

A great story that teaches young readers about inclusion, tolerance, and diversity. This book would make a nice supplement to a unit on friendship and accepting others. It could be read at any time, but I recommend reading it at the beginning of the school year when relationships are forming.

One way to extend the book is to invite children to read and discuss the book together in pairs. Afterward, they can draw a friendship picture on the same piece of paper or create a friendship chain.

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Black History Month And American Heart Month: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams

Originally appeared on CHW on February 28, 2018.

Since February is Black History Month and American Heart Month, I thought writing an article commemorating both is appropriate.

Daniel Hale Williams, an African American, was born in Hollidaysburg, Pa on January 18, 1856. He died on August 4, 1931, at Idlewild, Michigan, at the age of 75.

Dr. Williams studied medicine at Chicago Medical College via Northwestern University. After earning his medical degree in 1883, he became one of Chicago’s first black physicians. This was a considerable accomplishment for a black man during the post Civil War era.

Dr. Williams is called “the father of black surgery” and is most remembered for the open-heart surgery he performed on July 9, 1893, in Chicago. A man had suffered a serious stab wound close to his heart in an area called the pericardium. The pericardium is multi-layered tissue that surrounds the heart and the adjacent large blood vessels. Using his cardinal skills, Dr. Williams repaired the injury and saved the man’s life. While being a major medical milestone, it was also only the second successful surgery of its kind, performed in the United States.

In 1891, Dr. Williams opened the Provident Hospital and Training School. It was the nation’s first exclusively black-owned and operated hospital in the country. The hospital was extremely progressive for its time, employing an interracial staff and training African American women as nurses.

Dr. Williams made other notable contributions to the medical profession. He worked for a short time in Washington, D.C at Freedmen’s Hospital, where he improved medical practices and began its first nursing school. He helped establish the National Medical Association in Atlanta, Georgia. He conducted yearly, pro-bono visits to Meharry Medical College as a clinical professor of surgery, and he published nine scientific papers.

Despite his outstanding achievements, Dr. Williams’ name cannot be found in many medical history books. This is a shame, not only for the black community but also for the United States as a whole. We should honor every professional who has made exemplary contributions to our society. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was a man with true heart, who overcame adversity to reach his full potential. His story is like so many other successful American’s stories who achieved their dreams. In a time when our country’s cultural identity is being questioned, Dr. Williams’ story reminds us of what the United States stands for, and it deserves to be heard.


Are You Codependent?

Originally appeared on CHW on March 12, 2018

Personal Experience

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve recently learned that I am codependent. It came as quite a shock. I kept thinking how could I be codependent? I’m not a drug addict or an alcoholic. I am certainly not an underachiever; in fact, I am quite the opposite. I have achieved many of the milestones I set for myself in life. I earned a Master’s Degree in Education, I worked in my career for 20 years, I started a family, I own my home, and I am pursuing a writing career. I moved away from the codependent people in my life, keeping them at arm’s length, in order to protect myself from more hurt. I couldn’t stand to watch their constant self-destructive behavior any longer. It was too painful.

It was so easy to judge the people around me who were codependent and ‘know’ that I was completely different. Or was I?

As someone who is now learning the full meaning of codependency, I wanted to share what I’ve discovered. Like many others, I knew it was a symptom of a dysfunctional relationship, where one person enabled another’s addictive or underachieving behavior. What I didn’t know is there are other symptoms to this maladjusted relationship that involve an unwitting enabler like me. Behaviors I learned as a child has carried over into my adult life. Some of these behaviors I may have unknowingly passed onto my children. This fact was the hardest one to face. Like every parent, when I brought my children into the world, I wanted the best for them. I didn’t want them to have to deal with my issues like I did with my parents.

Before I had my children, I swore that I would take the lessons of my parents’ mistakes and never repeat them. I used my education and child development classes to nurture and guide my children through childhood, adolescence, and now young adulthood. In my arrogance, I never realized that there were inherent traits within me that I wasn’t aware of –traits that my children might naturally adopt.

In order to understand this cyclical relationship, we need to know the proper definition, all of its symptoms, as well as its causes.


On, Ross Rosenberg, M. Ed, LCPC, CADC, CSAT defines codependency as, “a problematic relationship orientation that involves the relinquishing of power and control to individuals who are either addicted or who are pathologically narcissistic.  Codependents are habitually attracted to people who neither seem interested nor motivated to participate in mutual or reciprocal relationships.  Hence, the partners of codependents are often egotistical, self-centered and/or selfish.  Typically, codependents feel unfulfilled, disrespected and undervalued by their relationship partner.  As much as they resent and complain about the inequity in their relationships, codependents feel powerless to change them.”


*The term codependent was introduced in the 1980’s.

*It has its roots in the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, which began in 1936.

*It has developed negative connotations such as, weak and emotionally sick.

*Codependents become immoderately attached to another out of need.

*Codependents blame themselves for the problems in their relationships.

*Codependents derive from dysfunctional families or from taking care of a sick family member at a young age.

*Most families in America are dysfunctional.

*You don’t have to have every symptom to qualify.

*It’s reversible with proper therapy.


(Comprehensive list by Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT)

*Low Self-Esteem

*Constantly trying to please others

*Inadequate personal boundaries




*Dysfunctional Communication




*Problems with Intimacy

*Painful emotions

This information is a lot to take in, especially when you’re hearing that you’re codependent for the first time. Like many others, I envision the satirical depictions of codependent people, which makes it embarrassing for me to admit that I have been diagnosed with it. Now that I’m aware that I have this personality flaw, I’m working on correcting the negative behaviors I’ve adopted over the years. One of the hardest things for me is telling people no because I have a problem with setting boundaries for myself. But, I’m learning.

If you found yourself identifying with some of the symptoms listed above, don’t fret, you’re not alone. If you’d like to be proactive and take charge of your life here is a list of organizations that can help:

National Underwear Day

On August 5, 2020, National Under Wear Day will celebrate its 17th anniversary. Hurray!

The e-commerce retailer Fresh Pair started this call to recognize our undergarments. Fresh Pair believes that everyone should feel confident and comfortable when wearing their skivvies. After all, as any Victoria’s Secret model will attest to, these small clothes are a big deal. They are a wardrobe necessity. Think of how uncomfortable denim jeans and woolen sweaters would be without them. Unbearable chafing!

To pay tribute to this awareness of underclothes, I have dug through the proverbial laundry basket and scrounged up a bit of history on the subject. Let’s begin our brief overview regarding briefs, starting with the ancients. Before fruit was spun on the loom, the undergarment of choice worn by our forebears was the loincloth; a piece of fabric fashioned around the hips and groin.

It may not sound like much to us, but at one time, this little scrap of material was an international sensation. Ancient people all over the world wore them, including: the Egyptians, Japanese, Romans, Europeans, African tribe members, the Incas of South America and the Icemen of the Tyrolean Alps in Austria. In many tribes across the globe, the loincloth tradition still exists today.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the loincloth lost its appeal in Western society. Many people accepted that during the Middle Ages men in Europe wore a shirt and braies (underpants similar to modern-day shorts) and women wore a smock and no pants. Although, some believe women had to make modifications to their wardrobe for their menstrual cycles each month. A recent discovery at a castle in Austria in 2012 suggests that some women may have worn a bra and underpants during the 15th century that resembles the modern day versions worn today.

As the decades passed, women wore various types of corsets and pantalets. It wasn’t until the 1930s the contemporary pattern of women’s underwear was created, praise the panty gods!

Men experimented with different styles of undergarments as well. Nether stockings were common for a time among the male aristocracy. Many others practiced the art of tucking their shirts under their genitalia. In the 1700s, it became customary for most men to wear knee-length drawers that were a tight fit. By the mid-1920s, things improved when men donned boxers designed by Jacob Golomb from the Everlast company. Everlast we salute you!

No matter what your undergarment preference is, on August 5 going commando is not an option. (But, for all you panty haters who like to go all naturel, click here and here for information on National Go Commando Day.)  So slip into a comfy pair of boxers, bikinis, boy shorts, or briefs and celebrate the evolution of the underwear!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Alphabet Summer Scrapbook

I've created two new Summer Books for children. Both are FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers.

The first is an Alphabet Book written by me with pictures and captions related to the Summer Season.

The second is the same book with blank alphabet pages for children to draw, write, or apply their own Summer Pictures.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Fairy-Tailed Wish Book Review

Author: Megan Pighetti 
Illustrator: Tamara Piper
Publisher: Megan Mighetti
Released: March 26, 2020
Format: Kindle, paperback
ISBN: 978-1734805505
Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn
Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

A fanciful story full of birthday wishes, fairies, and toilet paper.


What do birthdays, fairies, and toilet paper have in common? Children asking for a Fairy-Tailed Birthday Wish, of course.

The night before her birthday, young Bri makes a wish to be fairy-tailed and three fairies answer the call. Suzie, Lily, and Dax are the fairy trio assigned to grant Bri’s birthday wish— a unique tradition where fairies string toilet paper all over the birthday child’s bedroom.

As the leader of the mission, Suzie guides Lily and Dax through their very first fairy-tail wish. The covert mission has one aim, to grant the birthday wish without being seen by the child.

After a smooth entry into Bri’s house, the three fairies get to work locating the toilet paper and stringing it around Bri’s bedroom.

There are a few mishaps from the beginners that threaten their exposure, but not to worry, they are easily overcome. The fairies leave a toilet tissue maze of fairy-tails for Bri to work her way through and cherish.


A delightful story! It introduces a whimsical and hopeful tradition comparable to the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. Youngsters will enjoy Piper’s cute pictures. They add amusement and visually supplement the story.

I enjoyed the movement suggestions on how to get through the fairy-tails at the end of the book. What a marvelous way to get youngsters moving creatively.

One tiny criticism: The author should have introduced Bri’s name earlier in the story for clarity. When her name is introduced, it seems abrupt and adds a slight discordance to the narrative.

Bri’s name could have been mentioned at the very beginning when she’s making her Fairy-Tailed Birthday Wish, and when Suzie is reading her Fairy-Tailed Birthday Wish List. This would have also added a more personal connection between the fairies and the birthday child.

Classroom Connection:

Fairy-Tailed Wish is a wonderful addition to a fairytale unit or a discussion on imagination. It would also be a memorable way to celebrate a student’s birthday. After reading the book, children could complete an obstacle course, or better yet, make one of their own to do.

Another cute idea would be to string toilet paper (or streamers) around the classroom for a student’s birthday before they arrive at school and ask them to guess who did it. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

4 Elements Good Picture Books Need

Photo by Tumisu via Pixabay

So, you’re on a quest, excellent! Many fine stories open with the virtuous protagonist embarking on a noble journey that is assured to shape their life forever.

As any keen reader will corroborate, whether you’re a knight in pursuit of the Holy Grail or a parent on the lookout for a memorable children’s tale, it’s the lessons learned along the way that leave an everlasting impact; they help mold our opinions about people and the world in which we live.

If you’re here, you’ve been tasked with unearthing the ultimate bedtime story, the read-aloud of the century, or more simply, you just wish to find the perfect book to read to your kids.

Like any worthy champion—I mean parent, you’ve scouted the local library, the neighborhood bookshop and, of course perused Amazon. 

After all this seek-and-maybe-I’ll-find-it, you’re still not certain what qualities make up an exceptional children’s picture book.

Depending on which expert you consult, the list could be long and varied. In this article, we will concentrate on four key elements. As a mother, Early Childhood Teacher, children’s author, and picture book reviewer, I will share with you my criteria.

In my modest opinion, there are four elements every picture book must have: relatable and lovable characters, a solid and consistent plot, playful and enriching language, and appealing illustrations that match the text.

As I define each element, I’ll include the definitions I taught to my students, this way you’ll have the child-friendly explanations to use for your children.


First, let’s explore characters. Characters are the people and animals in the story. The main character is who the story is mostly about.

Characters should be genuine, relatable and elicit emotion. They need to make children laugh, empathize, and learn something new without being too preachy about it.

A few wonderful examples of well developed characters in children’s literature are No, David! By David Shannon, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Through many examples, the characters in each of these books exhibit the wide array of emotions and predicaments children find themselves in with insight on how to solve a problem or learn from a mistake.


Next, let’s move onto plot. The plot is what happens at the beginning, middle and end of a story. The three books we reviewed above have complete plot lines that show each character’s growth throughout the story.

As with all story elements, discuss with children a story’s plot to emphasize the concept and help them comprehend its meaning.

Photo by 990609 via Pixabay


Alrighty then, let’s talk about the language in a story. Children’s authors have up to 32 pages to fit an entire story, so each word must count.

Young children love to learn language through finger plays, nursery rhymes, action songs and stories. Children who are read to consistently have a broader vocabulary and gain foundational skills like phonemic awareness (the ability to identify and manipulate the smallest sounds in words).

A youngster is exposed to phonemic awareness through rhyme and repetition. Dr. Seuss’ use of rhyme and alliteration in his books accomplishes these literary devices masterfully.

Eric Carle’s charming books also introduce the concept of repetition through repetitive text (words or phrases that are repeated and predictable). Two of my favorites are The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Busy Spider. Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle is another perfect example.

Photo by wixin_56K via Pixabay


Last but not least, we come to the pictures in a story. You can’t have a picture book without pictures, am I right?

Picture books make the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” so immediate and relevant. One-way children learn to read is by “reading” the pictures in the book. Often, the illustrations provide clues and additional information the words alone could not achieve.

The author writes the words in the story and the illustrator draws the pictures. For these two separate people to create a single comprehensive story the words and pictures must match. If the words state, the character is eating a cookie there better not be a lollipop in his hand.

Photo by Kidaha via Pixabay

The End

And there you have it!

So go on, you fearless paladin of parents, you lover of literacy, get out there and find the finest children’s picture books ever!

Just in case you require a starting point, here are a few links to books I’ve reviewed.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Book Review: It Is Okay To Cry

Author: Ansaba Gavor

Illustrator: Rice Maria Garcia

Publisher: Pen & Pad Publishing LLC

Released: October 1, 2018

Format: Kindle, Paperback

ISBN: 978-09833134

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

It Is Okay To Cry addresses various emotions and the socially acceptable way to express them through crying. Whether you’re a boy or a girl, young or old, we all cry and feel better afterwards. 


A charming story that teaches children it’s okay for anyone and everyone to cry.

Told through the main character’s point of view, we learn that people cry for many different reasons to express various emotions: anger, sadness, happiness, fear and pain.

Gavor has written another first-rate story that is instructional for unimpaired social/emotional development and illustrates the positive effects of heartfelt compassion.

One of my favorite parts is the analogy Gavor draws between the character and a rain cloud. “Crying makes me think of the clouds in the sky bursting with rain just like my eyes sometimes burst with tears…” 

A straightforward image children will relate to and easily understand.

Garcia’s illustrations capture the mood of the characters and the tone of the story. The colors match the characters feelings and the rainbows scattered throughout the book give promise of better days to come.

I give it 5 Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

It Is Okay To Cry is a must read for any lesson focused on social/emotional learning. The coping skills modeled by the main character can easily translate into meaningful conversations that enable children to problem solve real life situations.

After a reading of the book, children could list reasons why they cry on water drop templates or make a rainbow to cheer them up when they’re sad.

It would make a great addition to the classroom library or the dramatic play area.


Friday, March 6, 2020

Children Are Like Cupcakes Book Review

Author: Ansaba Gavor

Illustrator: Rice Maria Garcia

Publisher: Pen & Pad Publishing LLC

Released: January 14, 2014

Format: Kindle, Paperback

ISBN: 978-0983313434

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

A sweet story that addresses an important social issue all children must understand as global citizens.

Children Are Like Cupcakes is a multicultural story that embraces diversity and inclusivity among all people.

Told from the point of view of one little girl who is wise beyond her years, readers are shown how, just like cupcakes, children come in a wide variety of colors and flavors.


First of all, the title is just downright adorable. I love the analogy drawn between children and cupcakes: such a simple, creative and concrete way to introduce the complexities of diversity to youngsters.

Through the eyes of a child, we learn that everyone’s similarities and differences should be honored and celebrated. So guileless, yet so very powerful.

Garcia’s illustrations are straightforward, vibrant and eye-catching. If Gavor’s story is the cupcake then Garcia’s pictures are the colorful sprinkles on top.

They enhance the story and reinforce the valuable lessons brought forth in the text. I especially love how each child has their very own matching cupcake.

I give it 5 Super Sweet Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

After a reading of the book, I could easily see children decorating their own cupcake and adding edible flourishes that personalize it.

Along with baking props, it would make a great addition to the dramatic play area as well as supplementing the dough materials in the art center.


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Review of Prompt Me Novel Workbook and Journal By: Robin Woods

Author: Robin Woods
ISBN: 978-1941077160
Publisher: Epic Books Publishing
Released: February 14, 2019
Format: Paperback
Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn
Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

Robin Woods has composed another workbook sure to prompt a few excellent novels from writers!

I had the pleasure of reviewing Prompt Me Again! And gladly accepted Robin’s invitation to examine another of her workbooks for writers.

Prompt Me Novel is the sixth installment in her Prompt Me Series. She created the series for beginner and veteran writers serious about improving their technique. Through carefully thought out and scaffolded activities, writers will lay a solid foundation for their manuscript they can be proud of.

Like its predecessors, Robin arranged Prompt me Novel into sections chock full of resources appropriate for an aspiring or experienced writer. In this version, the chapters are laid out by story element: plot, conflict, setting, point of view, character, and emotions. 

Each segment has insightful tips and resources that will push your storytelling to the next level. The final chapter, Reference, is packed with recommendations to stay on task, frequent writing errors, and alternative word choices to pump up your writing.    

The workbook would make a wonderful addition to a writer’s group or as a supplement to any English or Creative Writing classroom. (FYI: Robin Woods is a high school and university English and literature instructor, so she knows how to design a rigorous writing module.)

There are also diagrams to outline detailed story maps, lists of plot and character archetypes, character building worksheets, examples from master writers, and so much more.

As a creative writer and a former teacher, I very much recommend this book for any classroom and aspiring author.

I give it 5 Lemon Drops!