Tuesday, November 12, 2019

6 Free Library Books About Thanksgiving

Photo courtesy of: GraphicMama-team; courtesy of: Pixabay

Handprint turkeys, feathered headbands, tall black hats and cornucopias. Happy November, Everyone!

During this time of year, we pause to reflect on all the things we’re thankful for in life: our families, our friends, the food on our table, the clothes on our back.

For Pre-K/Kindergarten teachers it’s the perfect time to instruct students on the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday and what it means to be thankful.

As always, I believe a good book is an excellent way to present or reinforce an important idea that holds a valuable lesson. Once again, I’ve harvested the shelves at my local free library for books focusing on one topic.

This month’s theme is Thanksgiving books followed by a mini-review of each one to aid you in finding quality literature to read to your children.

1. I’m A Turkey

Author: Jim Arnosky

Illustrator: Jim Arnosky

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: September 1, 2009

ISBN: 978439903646

Rating: 3 Lemon Drops

Book Summary:

Through rhyme, Tom the Turkey describes what life is like among his large flock, from looking out for predators to communicating through turkey talk.


An amusing spoken-word song with fun turkey facts mixed in. As readers sing along, they will learn that turkeys weigh fifteen pounds and fly fifty miles per hour.

Arnosky’s illustrations are a nice complement to his witty verses. However, the rhymes don’t flow consistently which makes them a little harsh on the listener’s ear.

2. Thanksgiving Day

Author: Anne Rockwell

Illustrator: Lizzy Rockwell

Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers

Release Date: September 3, 2002

ISBN: 9780060283889

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

Book Summary:

Mrs. Madoff’s class performs a play that details the events that led to the first Thanksgiving between the Wampanoag people and the Pilgrims.

Garbed in handmade costumes, each student is given a specific role (Squanto, Samoset, Pilgrim) and recites a related fact about them. On the page opposite of each student is a picture of the historical figure they represent.

Throughout the story, one of the students explains how some of the original traditions still endure today.


Adorable illustrations and simple text filled with easy to understand facts for young children. The characters are diverse, warm and sweet.

This was one of my favorite Thanksgiving books to read to my Pre-K/Kindergarten class. 

3. The Perfect Thanksgiving 

Author: Eileen Spinelli

Illustrator: Joann Adinolfi

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, LLC

Release Date: October 2, 2007

ISBN: 9780805065312

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops         

Book Review:

A hilarious, heartfelt story of how two very different families celebrate Thanksgiving. The Archer’s family celebration is prim and proper with a golden turkey, lace napkins and homemade pie; the main character’s is entirely different: Mom’s burnt the turkey, family members are burping, and the Jell-O mold is so wiggly it quivers to the floor.


The story is a great introduction to how each family is unique and, despite their flaws, perfect in their own way.


4. The Mayflower

Author: Mark Greenwood

Illustrator: Frane Lessac

Publisher: Holiday House

Release Date: August 31, 2014

ISBN: 9780832429431

Rating: 3 Lemon Drops

Book Summary: 

A non-fiction book that tells of the Pilgrim’s harrowing journey to the New World in 1620.


The book is well written with many interesting facts but there is one glaring error that must be addressed. The Pilgrims are referred to as Puritans which is incorrect.

At one time, the Pilgrims were Puritans, but they separated from this group because of discontentment with the Puritan reforms. After that, the Pilgrims were known as Separatists.

The Pilgrims arrived in 1620 aboard one ship, The Mayflower; whereas the Puritans came in many ships in 1630.

Click the links to read more about the differences between Pilgrims and Puritans.

The book references a group known as Strangers being aboard the Mayflower also. Here’s a link about them. I think it’s so interesting.

The illustrations are rich, colorful and capture the seriousness the Separatists must have been feeling during this difficult time.

5. Thanksgiving Is…

Author: Gail Gibbons

Publisher: Holiday House

Released: 2004

ISBN: 9780823418479

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

Book Summary:

A non-fiction book that introduces young children to the history and traditions of America’s national Thanksgiving holiday as well as the ways ancient cultures celebrated the end of the harvest season.


A fine introduction to America’s early history and the traditions of Thanksgiving that have evolved over time. The book is loaded with interesting facts about various cultures, but they’re presented in a way that won’t overwhelm young students.   

The watercolor illustrations are colorful and add extra historical details to the book that are sure to spark conversations about how the Pilgrims and Native Americans lived.

A must read for all classrooms learning about the origins and traditions of America’s Thanksgiving Day.



6. Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Illustrator: Matt Faulkner

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Released: 2002

ISBN: 9780689847875

Rating: 5 Lemon Drop

Book Summary

In a humorous and bold fashion, Thank You, Sarah, tells the true story of author and editor, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale: a remarkable woman who used her pen to start a movement that saved Thanksgiving from obscurity and convinced Abraham Lincoln to declare it a national American holiday.


A delightful and informative read that children will enjoy. The story and illustrations are often comical without compromising the complexities of American history and the universal message of unity, perseverance, and activism.


I have a Pinterest Page for Thanksgiving In The Classroom loaded with resources for lessons, books and more!


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Snowflakes With Sugar Book Review


Author: Amelia Griggs

Illustrator: Winda Mulyasari

Publisher: Amelia Griggs

Released: November 8, 2019 

Format: Kindle, Paper back, Hardcover

ISBN: 9781700572981

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

There are snowflakes in Bella and Mia’s holiday kitchen! A sweet treat for the holiday season.


Just in time for the holidays, Bella and Mia, have returned to their kitchen once more to share a special Italian treat with us. 

Similar to the other books in the series, Griggs and Mulyasari have created another sugary sweet rhyming story for their readers complete with adorable illustrations.

In true form, Bella, continues to encapsulate the enthusiasm children possess when given the opportunity to help with an adult task. Her mother, Mia also perpetuates that love and attention from a parent are the best ingredients for a happy and well-adjusted child.  

There was one addition to this story that will resonate with readers, the importance of sharing. In this installment friends and family arrive at Bella and Mia’s house for a surprise visit. The impromptu visit prompts the mother and daughter duo to happily share their sugary waffle cookies. Thank goodness they made so many.  

Griggs carefully incorporated health and safety messages both in the story and the recipe. As with Silly Willy Apple Cake and Squishy Wishy Meatballs, she also included another of her family’s favorite recipes. The recipe is a surprise treat. You'll have to read the book to find out what it is.

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

Snowflakes With Sugar would be a wonderful way to acquaint children with family holiday traditions. After a reading, children could be encouraged to share how their families prepare and celebrate the various holidays.

I could easily see this book displayed in various Pre-Kindergraten/Kindergarten classroom centers: Dramatic Play, Library, Art; and as a segue for introducing students to a tasty snack.

It would make a great addition to any Dramatic Play book bin or as the focus for a Bakery. Along with the book, spoons, bowls, aprons, empty vanilla extract bottles, etc., clipboards, pencils and paper could be added to supplement the learning fun.

In the Art Center, children could use dough, glitter and snowflake cookie cutters to create their own snowflakes with sugar. To enhance the fun and learning, youngsters could also paint a fancy snowflake and sprinkle on glitter (sugar).


Clutter Free Classroom has resources for decorating a cooking themed classroom. Some of these materials could be adapted for a Baking/Cooking theme and used in the Dramatic Play area. Another wonderful addition would be to create a classroom cookbook by having children dictate how to make their favorite snack.


I’ve also created a Baking Theme In Pre-K/K board on Pinterest. It’s loaded with tons of engaging ideas. Songs, printables, dramatic play center ideas, books, and more.

EllwynAutumn Baking Theme Board

Monday, October 21, 2019

Book Review Squishy Wishy Meatballs

Author: Amelia Griggs

Illustrator: Winda Mulyasari

Publisher: Amelia Griggs

Released: July 9, 2019

Format: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover

ISBN: 9781076516527

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

Goodness, gracious meatballs on the fryer! Squishy Wishy Meatballs has fun and love ground into every rhyme and picture.


Bella and Mia are back in the kitchen and this time they’re cooking up some meatball fun. Through simple rhyme and charming illustrations, Griggs and Mulyasari show us once again how familial relationships are strengthened through the timeless tradition of preparing a meal together.

The character, Bella, captures the enthusiasm of a child eager to help with a grown-up task. Her mother, Mia demonstrates how patience and an open heart foster the independence and potential all children possess. She makes the most of this time to nurture Bella’s self-esteem and curiosity.

I also appreciated the health and safety messages woven into the story. Bella is told to wash her hands before touching food and is always monitored by her mother when standing near the stove.

As with Silly Willy Apple Cake, Griggs has included another of her family’s favorite recipes called Mama’s Meatball Recipe. 

Classroom Connection:

I could easily see this book displayed in various Pre-Kindergraten/Kindergarten classroom centers: Dramatic Play, Library, Art.

It would make a great addition to any Dramatic Play book bin or as the focus for an Italian Restaurant. Along with the book, brown pom-poms, yellow yarn, spoons, bowls, aprons, empty pasta containers, clipboards, pencils, paper, and menus could be added to supplement the learning fun.

In the Art Center, children could use brown dough to roll out their own squishy-wishy meatballs. To enhance the fun and learning, youngsters could be encouraged to count the number of meatballs they made.

They could also roll out different sized meatballs and line them up from smallest to largest. What a great way to support fine motor and math skills at the same time.

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!











Tuesday, October 15, 2019

If There Never Was A You Book Review

Author: Amanda Rowe

Illustrator: Olga Skomorokhova

ISBN: 9781641701112

Publisher: Familius

Released: March 1, 2019

Format: Board Book, Kindle

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

Reminiscent of Rainstorm Publishing’s Tender Moments Collection, If There Never Was A You is an adorable rhyming story of a mother bunny telling her son how much she loves having him in her life. 

Youngsters will reach for this memorable book again and again.

If There Never Was A You is a lovely tribute to a mother’s unconditional love for her children. The rhyme and accompanying illustrations are colorful, glossy and vibrant; a delightful treat for the ears and eyes.

Rowe has written a timeless story that is simple and bursting with joyful love. Skomorokhova’s bubbly, doe-eyed characters will endear parents, teachers and children. 

I’m sure that after several readings, youngsters will enjoy viewing the illustrations to discuss the colors, shapes, patterns and lively actions of the characters. 

I give it 5 Sugary Sweet Lemon Drops!   

5 Lemon Drops!

10 World Wonders Book Review On Whispering Stories

Click here to read my review of the book on Whispering Stories.

Friday, October 11, 2019

International Day Of The Girl

"Her soul is fierce, her heart is brave, her mind is strong." -r.h. Sin ❤️🌎

The Kamyla Chung Series is written to inspire both girls and boys to be self-advocates, problem solvers and responsible citizens.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Interview With Teacher/Author Anthony Manna

Anthony Manna is a retired professor of literacy development-reading, writing, drama and other language arts. He is also an author of picture books and a collection of twenty fairy tales and folk tales.

He loves all kinds of books, whether paper or electronic. He also loves writing and helping other writers.

Now that I’ve introduced you to Anthony, let’s get to know him a little better.

Hello, Anthony, 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 was drawn to teaching as a profession because of instructors I had the pleasure of working with when I was in a Catholic seminary.

From them I learned just how valuable a teacher can be in helping young people grow mentally and spiritually while learning how to make sense of human experience—mine and others.

In the seminary and later in a monastery, I gained my first awareness of the value of embracing human diversity, civil rights, and social justice.

What grade did you teach?

Teaching hooked me when I was an aide in a Head Start classroom many years ago.

Following my seminary experience, I became an English literature major, then onto a master’s degree in English Education a.k.a. the language arts. After a three-year teaching gig in Istanbul, Turkey, I worked on a Ph.D., again with a focus on English language arts teaching and learning and drama as a learning medium.

Along the way, I taught language arts in a preschool, middle school, and high school. And I loved the interactions, the connections with students, and all the learning I was doing about reaching our to students to motivate them to become confident, skilled readers and writers.

When I moved into the university, in addition to teaching children’s, tween, and teen literature, and courses in writing—always with future and veteran teachers and their students as my primary audiences—I developed research projects that brought me into classrooms where I collaborated with teachers to explore activities that encouraged kids and teens to love reading and writing as they gained their proficiency.

Eventually, I totally lucked out and was invited to teach teachers in Greece and Albania. Those were life-changing experiences that awakened me to cultural experiences outside my comfort zone.

How has your teaching experience influenced your writing?

As a writer, I draw on many life experiences. As I continued teaching and researching at the university, I got deeper and deeper into the styles and manners of many literary texts, particularly texts that explored cultural diversity. Literature of many genres consumed me.

In the back of my mind I wondered if I would ever try my hand—and mind—at crafting a story. You see, as a university educator I was obliged to either publish or perish, so I kept my job and did a lot of academic publishing.

But writing stories or poems or plays? That seemed the kind of writing reserved for folks with special talent and skills. Ones, I imagined, I didn’t possess.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I ventured into writing stories because of my experience in a kindergarten in Greece. I had gone to Greece on a grant from my university. The grant directed me to teach and conduct research in the education department at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki.

What better way to learn about Greek culture than in a school. Into a kindergarten I went to collaborate with two very fine Greek teachers whose English language skills allowed them to help me navigate life in their classroom.

When story time rolled around each day, these kids stepped into the worlds of myths I was very familiar with. Worlds inhabited by Zeus, Demester, Atlas, Helios, Athena, Artemis, Icarus and other personages in that population of intriguing characters.

But then I found myself in a fascinating story world filled with giants, rival step-parents, charming princes and princesses, struggling brothers, nasty goblins, mysterious asking spirits, and the like. These stories were Greek folk and fairy tales.

With a Greek colleague, I researched these stories, translated them into English, and reimagined them for English speakers. That launched the Greek Folklore Project and my debut as a story writer. 

Which genres do you write?

So far, my books are reimagined folk and fairy tales. Notice, please, how I avoid the more common term when it comes to working with these tales, the word, “retelling.”

I soon learned that the process of writing involved so much more than a mere “retelling.” It involves shaping a narrative just the way any story writer does it. 

The labor of developing authentic characters in space and time conflicting, struggling, losing, winning—whatever characters do to live a life and survive—or not.

With my most recent book, Loukas and the Game of Chance, I reimagined a Greek tale of loss, struggle, and the search for redemption into a middle grade/middle school fantasy, which draws on some characteristics of the source tale, but moves into story territory far beyond the source’s economic narrative.

I invented characters and situations that turn the tale into a full-bodied fantasy driven by suspense.

What do you find most challenging writing for your genre?

This is a question kids like to ask when I visit them in their schools. I tell them my challenge is to sustain trust in myself as a writer once I’m engaged.

I struggle to step away from those pesky inner voices which tell me the writing is bad or too simple or utterly uninteresting. Whenever these voices talk to me, I tell them, “Don’t disturb me. You’re not my business anymore. Leave me alone.”

Then I move on, staying with the process and always reminding myself that writing is rewriting, that drafts are rough, and that if I keep working at it, something satisfying may emerge. Writing is a discipline. I need to discipline myself to keep writing. And it can be a labor of love.

What are you working on now?

These days, I’m working with a book marketer as I move toward the release of Loukas and the Game of Chance on October 1, 2019.

Folks—kids included—are surprised when they hear about the social media outreach authors must engage in these days if they want to make their books and themselves known.

With a book marketer, I’m learning to be active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and other social media platforms. I’m learning about the best content I can come up with to draw attention to myself and my new book.

You’ll hear a lot of writers—myself included—complain about the time social media activity takes, and that means the writing must be set aside temporarily. Complain and then accept outreach as a reality of a writer’s life these days. In the little time that remains to write, I am working on two stories. Anthousa Xanthousa Chrisomalousa (a young female character’s name) is a variation of Rapunzel. 

The Imposter is a tale of deception, intrigue, and the struggle the main character engages in as he tries to salvage his true identity from his enemy who stole it.

How many books have you written?

As an academic writer, I published several books—and many articles— about multicultural literature, teaching strategies, educational drama, and approaches to teaching writing.

As a story writer, I have co-authored Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale (Anne Schwartz/Atheneum), The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece (Schwarts & Wade/Random House), and Folktales from Greece: A Treasury of Delights (CLIO/Libraries Unlimited).

My solo book is Loukas and the Game of Chance which will be released October 1, 2019.

Have you won any awards?

My book awards:

Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale (Anne Schwartz/Atheneum, 1997), co-authored with Soula Mitakidou, illustrated by Giselle Potter~

American Library Association Notable Children’s Book

Selected among one hundred best books of the year by the New York Public Library

Recipient of the 1997 Marion Vannett Ridgway Award for first-time authors and illustrators. 

The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2011)co-authored with Soula Mitakidou, illustrated by Giselle Potter~ is a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of 2012.

Loukas and the Game of Chance, illustrated by Donald Babisch—2019 Book Excellence Award Finalist.

What has been your most rewarding experience since publishing your work?

School visits are exciting and rewarding. I enjoy introducing kids and teens to my drafts while I’m in the process of composing, revising, and revising again.

I do this with PowerPoint slides. During these presentations, I like to dramatize my characters, using the voices I hear them speaking as I write.

Each presentation ends with a writing activity that I often assign to the groups I work with, giving them a few days to complete the assignment with their teacher’s assistance, of course.

When I return to the school, it’s time for the students to share their writing in small groups and also as solo presentations.

One successful writing prompt I’ve been using lately asks them to write a story based on this idea: ...And they lived happily ever after...or did they?...What might happen when “happily ever after” turns into “...and they lived happily ever after until... ...something really bad or strange happened?”

What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

Read, read, read books in the types of literature you like—mystery, suspense, realism, poetry, short stories, humorous stories, plays, fantasy, science fiction—whatever interests you.

Then, reach out and read beyond your comfort zone. Talk to teachers, parents, librarians and friends and ask them for recommendations.

Learn the craft of writing from good teachers, workshop presenters in local libraries, and in summer writing camps.

There are also many good books that help writers to develop their craft. Books like Leap Write In: Adventures in Creative Writing (Roost Books, 2013) and Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing (Roost 2010)—both wonderfully interactive guides by Karen Benke.

What message are you sharing in your books?

Sooner or later, we all make mistakes, fail, and experience tough times, but we all can find the courage to face our struggles, persevere, survive, and turn our life around. 

When you’re not writing where can we find you?

In the summer, in my garden. I also spend a lot of time at the local gym in spinning, pilates, aerobic classes.

And I love all kinds of theatrical presentations—local and in New York, one of favorite cities. Theater is about life. Theater teaches me a lot about how to live and also how not to live.

I’m glad that I once pursued a career in acting—it was like living in stories that I presented to audiences with other characters in the stories.

What are your favorite books?

Oh, my favorites could fill a notebook or two.

Right now my favorites are Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson, Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners by Naomi Shihab Nye, Crossover by Kwame Alexander, The Day the Universe Exploded My Head: Poems to Take You into Space and Back Again by Allan Wolf, and Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Classics I love to read and reread are the Harry Potter books, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine Engle, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and all the tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

On your website you have educational materials for teachers. Can you tell us a little about them?

My website @ www.anthonymannabooks.com is filled with supportive resources for parents, teachers, kids, tweens, and teens.

They’ll find word games and activities that encourage active participation in reading and writing.

They’ll also find videos; lists of recommended books, including award-winning graphic novels for kids, tweens, and teen; links to websites for readers and writers; lots of printable and downloadable teaching and learning aids; and kids’ written responses to my school visits.

I also like to recommend Reading With Your Kids  
(www.readingwithyourskids.com). It’s a lively interactive website that features award-winning podcast interviews with authors and illustrators—mine will be available mid-September—book-buying programs, truly interesting blogs about reading and reading with kids, and fun activities.

What social media platforms do you frequent?

I am active on the following platforms:


Where can we find your books?

While Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale (Anne Schwartz/Atheneum) and The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece (Schwarts & Wade/Random House) are out of print, copies are available on amazon.com and in libraries. 

Folktales from Greece: A Treasury of Delights (CLIO/Libraries Unlimited)—a collection of twenty stories and information about Greece’s history, storytelling, and foolklore— is available wherever books are sold and from the publisher at www.abc-clio.com.


Thank you, Anthony, for spending time with us and sharing your story. We wish you continued success and lots of luck.

Loukas and the Game of Chance by Anthony L. Manna, Illustrated by Donald Babisch (Mascot Books, 2019). Synopsis:

A reimagined Greek folktale, Loukas and the Game of Chance is the story of  a flute-playing boy who befriends a magical talking, dancing snake. The snake bestows fortune and favor upon Loukas, but some years later, tempted by greed and pride, Loukas loses all his riches and even his family. He now must embark on a treacherous journey filled with suspense and intrigue to find Destiny, the Sun, and the Moon. They’ll surely allow him to reverse his misfortune, restore his honor, and win back all that he loves and treasures, won’t they?

The story is illuminated by ten pen and ink drawings.