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!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Book Review: Snack Attack By Marsha Casper Cook

Author: Marsha Casper Cook

Illustrator: Mikey Brooks

Publisher: Fideli Publishing Inc.

Released: November 30, 2018

Format: Kindle, Paperback, Audio

ISBN: 978-1948638609

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

A cautionary tale of a picky eater who learns to trust his gut!


Addison Apple is frustrated. He doesn’t like oatmeal; he doesn’t like to eat anything his mother makes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One day, his mother agrees to let him eat whatever he wants.

For three days Addison gladly eats as much candy, ice-cream, cake and potato chips as he can. Then, something unexpected happens, he starts to feel sick and learns the valuable lesson that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

In Snack Attack, Addison encapsulates the typical picky eater who frowns at anything without an ounce of sugar, saccharine or high-fructose corn syrup.

Like all good parents, his mother, hoping to teach her son the value of good nutrition, gives him the leeway he needs to learn from making poor food choices.

Snack Attack is a terrific story to introduce children to the benefits of healthy eating and the consequences of not doing so. I also appreciated the health and safety messages woven into the story. 

Through Addison, children learn what happens when you eat too much junk food and how the body craves nutritious food to maintain proper health.

Brooks’ illustrations are bright, colorful and add a simple cheerfulness to the story that readers will enjoy. Together, Cook and Brooks, have created a story with meaningful lessons that unfold naturally without sounding too preachy.

Classroom Connection

I could easily see this book used as a supplement to a Nutrition themed lesson and displayed in various Pre-Kindergraten/Kindergarten classroom centers: Science, Library, Art, Writing

After an intentional read aloud and discussion of the book, students could sort healthy/unhealthy foods, write a list of their favorite healthy snacks and sample fruit and vegetables.

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Deputy Paws And The Puppy Mill Cause Book Review

Author: Peggy Race

Illustrator: Mike Motz

Publisher: Createspace

Released: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-17243555522

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

A “woof” of information packed into one educational and informative read for children, parents and prospective dog owners.


Deputy Paws and the Puppy Mill Cause tells the story of one puppy who starts his life in a puppy mill, is rescued, and finally adopted by a loving family who gives him a forever home.

Told from the main character’s point-of-view, the rhyming story draws inspiration from the true account of Race’s own rescue dog, Deputy.

In a non-threatening and age-appropriate way the story brings to light the harsh reality and cruel conditions puppy mill dogs endure: life in wire cages, premature separation from their mothers, proper medical treatment overlooked for breeder profit, and lack of adequate food and water.   

Now that Deputy has found the happiness and love he deserves, he advocates for all mistreated dogs and their rights to a clean bed and a safe space where they can romp, run and roll until their heart’s content.

He encourages people to help make this happen by adopting a rescue dog instead of buying from a pet store or puppy mill.

The author has also included a responsible breeder checklist, suggestions on how to get involved and break the connection from the breeder to the store, resources, and animal rescue websites.

Mike Motz’s illustrations are colorful, appealing and add a visual aid to the important information presented. One of my favorite things about the pictures is that children are featured alongside Deputy Paws advocating for dogs.

This is a subtle and powerful way to include children and let them know they’re an integral part of the solution too.  

Overall, a wonderful resource to teach children empathy and respect toward animals while spreading the word about animal cruelty and how to stop it.

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

Deputy Paws and the Puppy Mill Cause would make a great social studies lesson on animal rights, the laws that protect them and the actions still needed to ensure their safety.

In order to be responsible global citizens, children need concrete examples of how this is accomplished.

Concurrent with focused questions and activities, an intentional read aloud of the book will foster students’ awareness of their community and show them how to take a proactive role in it.

After the reading, the Dramatic Play center could be transformed into an animal shelter, a shelter worker could be invited to speak to students and the children could donate to a classroom animal shelter fund.

Resources: With a little creativity, these can be modified for the classroom.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

2019 Lemon Drop Literary Book Award

I’ve taken all the Independently Published books I’ve reviewed from 2019 and awarded one a Certificate Of Excellence In Literature for its educational value.

When I review a children’s picture book, I strive to keep students, teachers and the rigors of lesson planning in mind.

A few of the questions I ask are: How will this book translate into the classroom? How will it help teachers meet their lesson plan objectives? Is it engaging and fun? Did I enjoy reading it and most importantly do I want to read it again?

Congratulations, Judy Martialay! In my humble opinion, Bonjour! Let’s Learn French, has met all of the criteria to earn a place on my virtual classroom bookshelf!

Available on Amazon

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Interview With Teacher/Podcaster Victoria Wang

Victoria Wang is a retired kindergarten teacher who enjoys an open and honest conversation.

Throughout her teaching career, she learned that a single, authentic conversation can have a huge impact on a person’s mental well-being. She’s made it her mission to have these open, honest conversations with more and more educators.

One day, in her ideal world, she hopes teachers feel supported, sustained, and heard in their profession.

Now that you’ve been introduced to Victoria, let’s get to know her a little better.

Hello, Victoria, welcome to Lemon Drop Literary. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

Thank you for having me.

Why did you become a teacher?

I became a teacher because of a student I worked with during an internship in high school.

I volunteered at a school for children with neurological differences, and the next summer, when I went back to visit, one of my favorite students was aging out of the program and didn’t really have any other programs that could support his needs.

After spending that last day with him, I went back to college, switched my major from chemistry to comparative human development, and I began taking all the classes I could on education, child development and dis/abilities.

I went into the classroom because I wanted to eventually work in policy, and I didn’t feel qualified to make any broader decisions within education without having been a teacher. I ended up falling in love with teaching, and I still miss it so much to this day.

What grades did you teach?

I taught at various preschools during the year I was in graduate school, and I taught kindergarten for two years after that.

What were your responsibilities as a teacher?

I guess this question varies depending on who you ask. According to my school and contract, my responsibilities were to educate my students and give them the academic tools to be “successful” in the future - the eventual goal was for them to go to college.

In my mind, however, since kindergarten was their first official year in school, my responsibility was to make them feel loved, respected and valued in my classroom. I wanted them to leave my classroom knowing that school was a safe space, and that their teachers would always be one of their biggest supporters and cheerleaders.

Why did you leave the profession?

I really struggled with mental health during my two years teaching kindergarten. It was a mixture of personal and professional stress, and halfway through my second year of teaching, I was having mental breakdowns and panic attacks about going to work.

I realized one of my biggest struggles was not being able to support all my students. Both years, I had students come through my classroom with exceptionally challenging needs, and because my school was really understaffed and under-resourced in special education, I spent most of my planning and lunch times providing academic and social minutes for my students with IEPs.

The constant decision to either prioritize my students with special needs over the rest of the class, or vice versa, really weighed on me mentally.

I originally made the decision to leave my position as a general kindergarten teacher because of this, but after I started struggling mentally, I decided teaching wasn’t the best environment for me.

What was one of your favorite books to read to your class?

The Book With No Pictures! I loved teaching kindergarten because my sense of humor is pretty immature - they always love my fart jokes :)

I could read this book over and over, and my students would never get sick of it. Some might say it doesn’t necessarily have much academic benefit for students, but what’s wrong with telling them my best friend’s name is “Boo Boo Butt” and just letting them laugh and have fun?

What are your concerns regarding the mental health of young children?

Students don’t have enough time to play. They don’t. My kindergarteners had an extended school day, which meant they were in school from 7:15 to 3:45, with only 25 minutes of recess.

I could see the mental exhaustion on their faces halfway through the day, and so often, academics were prioritized over their social-emotional needs.

Schools and districts say they have social-emotional learning initiatives in place, but there’s nothing that can be improved unless they make time in teachers’ schedules for SEL.

Students’ imaginations are being suppressed, creativity is being stunted, and their emotions are silenced by the heavy emphasis on academics and testing. It’s time for our educational system to redefine what “success” looks like for our students.

Did cuts to education effect you and your students?

I worked at a charter school, and honestly, I don’t think I worked in education long enough to feel any changes due to budget cuts. I’d say the main way I was affected by poor funding was our lack of support staff, specifically within special education.

Do you have any concerns for the health and welfare of teachers?

Oh, I have so many. So, so many. It’s hard to even know where to begin.

I’ve talked to a lot of teachers at this point, and every single teacher I’ve spoken to has touched on burnout, exhaustion, and honestly, feeling pretty hopeless. A lot of it comes from the immense amount of responsibility we put on teachers and our educational systems.

Our social support systems within our society are broken, and teachers are expected to make up for decades of multi-generational trauma, centuries of racially and socio-economically biased societal structures - all in one year, for 25+ students.

It’s not possible, and furthermore, teachers are expected and pressured to do all this on barely a living wage, with media portraying them as lazy and ineffective, and absolutely no autonomy in their own classrooms.

There is so much more to say, and I could go on for hours, but I don’t want this to turn into a novel.

You’ve started a blog for teachers called Teacher Life Podcast. Can you tell us a little about the program and what led you to create it?

It’s a podcast! Blog part is…not very up to date, haha.

#TeacherLife is a podcast dedicated to sharing teachers’ stories and empowering teachers to speak up in their communities. I wanted to create a safe space for teachers to feel heard, validated, and connected with one another.

I love listening to podcasts, and one day, during one of my (many) mental breakdowns of my last year of teaching, I was looking through teacher podcasts to find one where I could just feel validated in how I was feeling - to just be told that I wasn’t the only one struggling.

At the time, all I had found were podcasts giving me tips on how to improve my classroom or instruction. They are, of course, really great podcasts, but at the time, that was the last thing I needed. That planted the seed for #TeacherLife.

I didn’t fully commit to the podcast until I started speaking up and sharing how much I was struggling, and I was surprised to see so many other teachers reaching out and saying they felt the same way.

There’s so much power in a single, honest conversation, and I realized that simply having an outlet to share my stories and struggles improved my mental health immensely.

So many teachers internalize their struggles in the classroom and blame themselves for it, so just hearing that you’re not the only one struggling takes a lot of that weight and responsibility away.

I hope that my podcast pushes teachers to have more of these open conversations within their own communities, and that my guests walk away from #TeacherLife empowered, knowing that they ARE experts on education and that their voices do matter.

What has been your most rewarding experience since starting your Teacher Life Podcast?

Honestly, it’s been in the small moments. This has happened with multiple teachers, but the surprised yet excited look on a teacher’s face when they realize that someone else wants to listen to what they have to say - that’s what makes this worth it.

Just knowing that another teacher feels valued and heard. And to have people who don’t work in education get excited about empowering teachers - it gives me a lot of hope that someday teachers can feel supported.

What advice would you give to teachers just starting out?

I would tell them to understand their limits and be kind to themselves. So many new teachers (and I’m guilty of this too) go into the classroom with a savior complex, hoping to make a difference in students’ lives and have a lasting impact on them.

It’s why we do it, and it’s what keeps us motivated, but that mindset can also lead to a very toxic relationship with work, as well as an unattainable standard for success.

Caring and loving your students can make you a great teacher but doing so at your own expense will burn you out.

Do you have any suggestions for people who want to start a podcast as well?

Do it! It’s so much easier than you expect, and there will be people out there who want to listen to what you have to say.

Don’t get caught up in the downloads, subscribers, reviews, etc. Always keep your mission close by to pull you back from feeling like your success and value lies within numbers and stats.

When you're not podcasting where can we find you?

Probably outside! Or road-tripping in Bernie, my Prius. I love hiking, backpacking and rock climbing, so on the weekends, I’m usually at a park somewhere.

What is your opinion on teachers carrying guns in schools? Why?

I think the question we need to be asking everyone is, why is there a demand for teachers to carry guns in school? How far from center has our society gone when we expect educators to also serve as police, when bringing a gun into a classroom full of children equates “safety”?

As a teacher, I absolutely would not want to carry a gun in school. That doesn’t stop gun violence though. There’s a deeper-rooted issue that needs to be addressed.

Is there anything else you’d like your listeners to know about you?

That I’m nowhere near perfect, and I’m struggling just like them! And that the mental health issues I’ve struggled with have only made me stronger and better at what I do.

Do you have any social media links you’d like to share?

Yes! Please say hi - I’d love to meet all of you!


IG: @teacherlifepod


My personal travel website:

My personal IG: @unclevickie

Thank you, Victoria, for spending time with us and sharing your story. We wish you and Teacher Life Podcast continued success and lots of luck!