Celebrating 75 Years of Little Golden Books

This is a year of great celebration! It’s the 75th anniversary of Little Golden Books.

When I flip through the pages of a Little Golden Book, I travel back to a time when the Poky Little Puppy nosed through my childhood bedroom, the Fuzzy Duckling swam across my bookshelf, and Scuffy the Tugboat tried with all his might to make it across my carpet.

But none was more beloved than Grover. Despite his brick wall and ropes, I always made it to the end of the book, only to discover that the titular “Monster” was none other than lovable Grover himself.

Take time today to pay homage to a literary staple. I know I will.

Books Take Us Somewhere When We Have Nowhere to Go

You don’t have to look far to be troubled. Turn on the television. Scroll through your social media feed. People are angry and frustrated. People are so angry and frustrated that they can’t sympathize with the angry and frustrated people on the opposite side of the fence.

Sadly, I’m becoming one of those people.

So last night I made an executive decision to clock out of the world and read Peter Pan.

Full disclosure: I have never read Peter Pan. I’ve never wanted to read Peter Pan. I didn’t like the Disney version of Peter Pan because I thought he was cocky, arrogant, and annoying. Yes, I know this was purposeful. But I didn’t have to like it.

But now I’m reading the book, and I am hooked. (No pun intended).

I’m not finished yet. But I have to say, clocking out and going to Neverland was the smartest decision I’ve made in a while. This book has all the ingredients of perfect escapism. It’s nonsensical and hilarious. It goes to another world, which is full of utter ridiculousness. Perhaps best of all: Grown-ups are not allowed.

If you’re overwhelmed, anxious, sad, or angry—whether it’s about your personal life, what’s happening in the world, or all of the above—I highly recommend falling headfirst into a book.

Make it something good.

Related: Reading Doesn’t Just Make You Literate

Why Do I Write Middle-Grade?

Because we’re all 12.


Were you bullied at 12? I bet you remember that bully’s name. I bet you could tell me what his face looked like, or the color of her hair.

Did you ever feel awkward? I bet you remember where you were and what that felt like. You can still feel the sweat on your palms and the weight on your chest.

Were you ever left out? You can describe what that was like. The party you weren’t invited to, the lunchtable with no chairs.

Did you ever feel alone? Like the world moved around everyone but you, and you couldn’t tell anyone because you didn’t really understand it? You just felt … incomplete, maybe. Or different, even if you didn’t seem different. And you weren’t sure what made you different, only that everyone else seemed to know a secret and someone forgot to tell you.

Did you ever want to disappear? Maybe for a day, maybe for a lifetime, because life felt too complicated, too awkward, too lonely. And grown-ups told you that you still weren’t in the “real world,” and you had to wonder: If this isn’t real, what is?

Does it make your heart sink, even now, to remember 12?

When you felt bullied, awkward, left out, or alone, did you ever disappear into a book? And for that page or that chapter, you were in another world—one that made more sense, or felt more genuine, or invited you in, warts and all?


That’s why I write middle grade.

Celebrate #ChildrensBookWeek

The Apple Yengko Playlist

‘Readers will be scurrying to find the music on Apple’s list of favorite songs, many of them by the Beatles. Those titles are included in all the chapter titles as well, giving readers a tantalizing hint of events about to unfold.’ – Booklist

There’s a lotta music in BLACKBIRD FLY. You probably figured that out. Twelve-year-old Apple Yengko loves music. She listens to the Beatles so often that she considers them the soundtrack to her life (and let’s face it, her life isn’t going very well). Perhaps you’re a Beatles novice, or you only recognized a few songs in the book, or you didn’t recognize any. Whatever the case, below are some of the songs referenced throughout #blackbirdfly. I hope you follow the links, take a listen, and love them as much as Apple does.

1. Blackbird, The Beatles

2. Sunshine Life for Me, Ringo Starr

3. Let it Be, The Beatles

4. For No One, The Beatles

5. Across the Universe, The Beatles

6. Hello, Goodbye, The Beatles

7. Act Naturally, The Beatles

8. Money (That’s What I Want), The Beatles

9. I Will, The Beatles

10. Not Guilty, The Beatles

11. From Me to You, The Beatles

12. Elephant Shoes, Eleisha Eagle

13. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, The Beatles

14. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles

15. Yesterday, The Beatles

16. While My Guitar Gently Weeps, The Beatles

17. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, The Beatles

18. Penny Lane, The Beatles

19. Don’t Let Me Down, The Beatles

20. The Long and Winding Road, The Beatles

21. I am the Walrus, The Beatles

22. The Ballad of John and Yoko, The Beatles

23. Sunshine, Matt Costa

24. Mr. Pitiful, Matt Costa

25. Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, The Beatles

26. A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles

27. Get Back, The Beatles

28. Eight Days a Week, The Beatles

29. Dear Prudence, The Beatles

30. Getting Better, The Beatles

31. I’ll Follow the Sun, The Beatles

32. Oh! Darling, The Beatles

33. Here Comes the Sun, The Beatles

New Book Spine Flash Fiction!

Time for another installment of Book Spine Flash Fiction, crafted especially for you from Erin’s Bookshelf. Here goes:

book spine short story

Her magical thinking spit back a boy, burning down the house, world and town. Rosemary’s baby was falling into place, wrestling the angel. Her parched son, on the road —— a pagan’s crusade. We swim that rock, seeing red, down the long valley to the invisible city. We were liars getting over the rainbow.


Found Treasure: Taro and the Tofu (1962)

In the early 1800s, a five-story milking house and barn was built in West Chester, Pa., packed with cozy nooks, creaking stairways and stone walls. Today, it’s known as Baldwin’s Book Barn, a used and rare bookstore that carries thousands of old titles, maps and prints.

Baldwin’s is the best kind of used bookstore. You have to duck your head from low walls, slide narrowly between towering stacks, and patiently tilt your head to siphon through the spines. It was here that I found a true treasure: Masako Matsuno’s Taro and the Tofu, published in 1962.

In engaging direct-address, Matsuno introduces us to young Taro, who mistakenly gets too much change from the tofu vendor and must decide whether he should return the extra money or have a feast at the candy store.

Matsuno’s story is illustrated by Kazue Mizumura‘s amazing watercolors. These are two of my favorites.

TaroSo much story in the prose and the watercolors!

Spoiler alert: Taro decides to give the money back, and he gets a chocolate for his honesty, “which tasted good, you know.”

photo 4


10-Book Challenge: Accepted!

There’s a semi-regular Facebook game that asks people to list ten books that have stayed with them in some way. The rules: Don’t think too much about it and don’t worry about being “un-literary.” Just list books that left a lasting impression.

[As a sidenote: You should never worry about being “un-literary”].

I decided to turn my list of ten books into a blog post instead of a Facebook post, because I have a booknerdy blog and it’s the perfect place to release such a list in all its glory.

1. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

Is it the best book in the English language? No. But I have an unhealthy obsession with it that includes a growing collection of illustrated versions and several supplemental books. I might be the only person in the Western world who bought and read Wuthering Heights: Character Case Studies for fun.

2. The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt

You can read about my gushing love for this book here, in my interview with Appelt, a Newbery Honoree.

3. A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn

That’s right. I not only read novels, I also read fat non-fiction books.

4. In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien

I got this book on a whim from my local library last month and read it in two sittings. I picked it up because the premise reminded me of Gone Girl (and because Tim O’Brien, duh). It was one of the best books I’d read since Bel Canto.

In the Lake of the Woods predates both of those.

5. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

This is the kind of book that makes a writer want to give up writing. I recommend it like a maniac. Another of my favorite books to recommend is Chris Cleave’s Little Bee.

6. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

Be prepared to ugly-cry. It will clench your soul from its first line: Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.

7. Oh! The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss

Does this really need an explanation?

8. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret


9. Halfway Down Paddy Lane, by Jean Marzollo

This was my favorite book in elementary school. I checked it out of the library about 10,000 times. (Okay, maybe not that many. But a lot).

10. Freight, by Mel Bosworth

A total fave and nothing like any of the books above. Read more about it in my interview with Bosworth here.

Also: Check out Erin’s Awesome Bookshelf for more booknerdy fun.

Which books are on YOUR list?


Stephanie Kuehn, author of CHARM & STRANGE

ImageIt’s not often that I pick up a book without really knowing what it’s about. I have a fairly standard ritual before I make a purchase: I read the jacket and/or back cover. If I’m compelled, I read the first page. If I’m further compelled, I buy it and read the whole thing. You probably have a similar routine of your own.

But there are times when you pick up a book whose jacket and/or back cover don’t really tell you anything substantive, because such early reveals would ruin the reading experience. Chris Cleave’s Little Bee is the last book I bought without knowing the heart of its plot. (If I recall, the book jacket said something like “We can’t tell you what this book’s about. But trust me, you want to read it.”) I read Little Bee in two sittings. When I finished, I sat and stared at a wall (yes, seriously), churning it all in my head. It was that good.

So was Charm & Strange.

Continue reading “Stephanie Kuehn, author of CHARM & STRANGE”