Events · Ramblings

17 Books to Prepare for Upcoming Conference

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I had the pleasure of attending the SCBWI Iowa Adventures in Nonfiction Conference earlier this year, which I really enjoyed. I read multiple nonfiction children’s books written and/or published by the speakers before attending the conference. Obviously, this is not a requirement, but it made me feel more prepared and gave me an idea of the various writing styles of the speakers.

Well, I have been busy doing some preconference research again in preparation for the SCBWI Iowa Grow Your Picture Book Garden Conference, which is already less than a week away! More information about the upcoming conference can be found on the SCBWI Iowa’s website here.

To prepare, I went to my local library and checked out all the fiction children’s books I could find written by the speakers. I was disappointed I didn’t find Chicken Wants a Nap by Tracy Marchini at my local library, but I did enjoy reading through Tracy Marchini’s blog posts on her website. I even signed up for The Quacktory.

Below is a list of the books written by the upcoming speakers I was able to check out and enjoy from the library.

I added a short summary of each of the books below their cover and title for you to have a little more information. Unfortunately, my summaries aren’t nearly as creative or interesting as the descriptions you will find listed within each of the books. For that reason, I have added links to Amazon for each of the books where you can read their descriptions and reviews.

Just so you know, these are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you if you choose to click on them and make a purchase. With that being said, you may be able to find them at your local library to read for free.

I dare you to read all of these books without laughing out loud at least once!

Fiction Children’s Books by Jill Esbaum 

How to Grow a Dinosaur

An older dinosaur sibling learns all about welcoming a new baby dinosaur to the family. Baby dino eats, burps, sleeps, and even poops, but she needs help learning how to do a variety of activities such as playing peek-a-boo and roaring.

If a T.Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party

This book will help you be prepared in the event a T. Rex decides to show up at your birthday party. A T. Rex may not be very good at some of the games such as water balloon toss and swinging at a pinata thanks to those little arms, but he does do a great job creating a mess and scaring away some guests.

I am Cow, Hear Me Moo! 

Nadine is a fearless cow, or so she tells her friends. She even offers to prove it, which leads to some unexpected adventures through the woods. Is she really as fearless as she claims to be?

I Hatched!

A baby killdeer hatches and discovers its new surroundings while learning more about itself. It runs, examines itself in a pond, sings, admires its feathers, attempts to get lunch, and plans to teach its newly hatched sister all it had learned on its first day in the world.

Elwood Bigfoot Wanted: Birdie Friends!

Elwood Bigfoot does many things alone, but he wants to be friends with the birdies. He attempts to befriend the birdies, but he does not have any success no matter how hard he tries. Being a large creature can be scary for little birdies. Finally Elwood Bigfoot and the birdies become friends, and he is no longer alone.

Tom’s Tweet

Tom the cat thinks he sees a treat in the grass, but he decides the little bird is too small to eat. Thus begins Tom’s adventure of trying to rescue the poor little creature, much to the dismay of the little bird’s protective momma. Doesn’t the momma know a cat must carry a bird in its mouth while climbing a tree?

Teeny Tiny Toady

Teeny watches helplessly as her momma is caught and placed in a bucket by a young human boy. She hops, flops, plops, and slops as fast as she can to tell her big brothers the news. They go to rescue mom but also end up in trouble. Teeny realizes even though she is a tiny toad, she doesn’t need to be big or muscular to come up with a great idea to rescue her entire family.

Fiction Children’s books by Tammi Sauer

Chicken Dance 

Marge and Lola are two chickens determined to win the barnyard talent show which offers the coveted grand prize of tickets to Elvis Poultry. Unfortunately, Marge and Lola don’t know what their talent should be. That doesn’t stop them from trying and failing many not-so-well thought out ideas. Finally, they decide they will have to “wing it” at the talent show. Thankfully, they are not too “chicken” to “bawk and roll” onstage. Even though they don’t officially win the talent show, they earn something even better.

Mr. Duck Means Business 

Mr. Duck enjoys a schedule and his time alone. He gets bothered when all the other barn animals want to jump, splash, and be noisy in his peaceful pond. After a while, though, he realizes being alone all the time can get really lonely. Schedules are good but so is time spent having fun with friends.

Princess in Training 

Princess Viola is not like all the other princesses. She splashes, karate-chops, and skateboards, but that is not how a proper princess should act. Princess Viola enters Camp Princess to learn proper princess etiquette. Being prim and proper doesn’t seem to work for Princess Viola, and she worries she is a “royal failure”. That is until her skills come in handy and save the day.

I Love Cake! 

Moose and his friends love cake. Unfortunately, Moose loves cake so much he eats it all by himself without sharing. This, of course, does not make his friends happy especially since the cake was a birthday cake for a friend (not him). Will Moose be able to restore his friendship with his cake-loving friends?

Your Alien

What would you do if an alien landed in your yard? You would want to keep him, wouldn’t you? This would lead to some fun adventures (after you tell your parents, of course) along with a few messes. Once you are all tucked in to bed with your little alien, you will realize he is homesick. Thankfully, you are brilliant (just like your lights), and you are able to get his parent’s attention for an “out of this world” family reunion.

Me Want Pet!

Cave boy really wants a pet. No matter how hard he tries to find the perfect pet, there is always some excuse for him to not be able to keep it. That is until all of his past attempts prove worthy of being a part of the family.

Ginny Louise and the School Showdown

Truman Elementary has a bunch of troublemakers who wreak havoc on the school. They are destructive critters who do not know what to do when little Ginny Louise becomes a new student. She is nothing like them. She doesn’t scowl or growl. She paints, sings, learns, and hears things in her own way. Her kindness and actions turn the bad bunch into a pretty good bunch of students and friends.


A young boy claims to be a fierce dragon, but a couple of real dragons inform him he isn’t really a scary dragon. They even go as far as to say he is “really cute”, which makes the young boy upset. He wants to be toothy, fierce, and fire-breathing. The dragons comfort him by telling him all of the things he is able do. Unfortunately, the dragons realize all of those things are things they can’t do because they are dragons, which makes them upset. Thankfully, the boy is able to figure out some activities all three of them can do together as more than just a boy and two dragons.

Fiction Children’s Books by Charlotte Gunnufson


Halloween Hustle

A rhyming story of a clumsy skeleton dancing the Halloween Hustle as he travels to a Halloween party. He is joined by all the other monsters along the way. The skeleton’s clumsiness leads to many falls, repairs, and a new friend.

Prince and Pirate

Prince and Pirate are two fish completely content in their own fishbowls until “the dreadful journey”. They are plopped into the same fishtank. Prince and Pirate each have their own lingo, and they don’t get along with each other at all. That is until a dogfish enters the tank.

Reading through all of these books made me even more excited for the upcoming conference. These ladies are all very talented and creative. I am really looking forward to learning something from each of them.

Have you ever been to a writing conference? If so, what is one tip you learned?



Summer Reading Programs Ending for the Summer

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase after clicking on a link. Thank you!

My daughters absolutely love reading! In the past, they have been a part of a library summer reading program. This year, they decided to take part in the library’s summer reading program, Barnes and Noble’s summer reading program, and Half Price Books’ summer reading program. Now that the summer is coming to an end, the summer reading programs are also coming to an end. We have turned in all of their reading logs and tracking sheets, and they were able to get a lot of wonderful prizes due to their love of reading.

They each chose a free new book from a selection of books through Barnes and Noble’s summer reading program.

Barnes and Noble summer reading program prizes

Half Price Books offered a $5 coupon to each of them for completing their summer reading program. Since the coupons were not allowed to be combined and required a minimum of a $5 purchase before tax (no $4.99 book), we spent well over an hour searching through Half Price Books for them to choose which books they wanted. They also wanted to make sure that the books they brought home weren’t books that they could easily get from the library, so we spent quite a bit of time on my phone searching the library’s book catalog online to see what books were/weren’t available. I told them that I would pay up to $1 each beyond the $5 for any books that they chose, and they would have to pay for anything beyond that. It turned out to be a fun math lesson. They were excited to find a stack of clearance books for only $0.50 each that they were interested in. They ended up coming home with a total of 12 books, and I only had to pay $0.52 for one and $0.49 for the other (so they both kept it under the $1 each over the $5 coupon).

Half Price Books summer reading program prizes

The library summer reading program was a lot of fun! In addition to two free books, they received free tickets to a zoo, free tickets to a children’s museum, free tickets to a baseball game, free tickets to a local pool, free kids meals at various restaurants, and a few small activity packs. We won’t be able to use all of the tickets since some of the activities are hours away and only on certain dates, but we will definitely enjoy many of them.

summer reading program prize

We were also entertained during numerous programs that the library offered for free throughout the summer. We learned about places to visit, science experiments, bubbles, various animals (even touched a snake, a lizard, and a guinea pig), and more.

Did you know that if you put Pyrex glass inside of vegetable oil in a clear container, the glass is practically invisible? This reminded me of my book Jobs of a Preschooler when the preschooler is a magician trying to make things disappear.

The biggest problem with all of these wonderful summer reading programs is that I need to find a place to put all of these great books! We have become rather creative in our house using half walls and random places as book shelves (in addition to the books cases that we do have). With all of the books that we already have in our house, it amazes me that we still end up at the library at least once a week!

Now that the summer reading programs are coming to an end, we may sign up for the Pizza Hut reading program that they offer throughout the school year. (If you are interested, you can find more information here.) We did this last year, and my daughters were each able to get a free slice of pizza each month during the school year.

It seemed as though yesterday was “book day” because after we visited Barnes and Noble and Half Price Books (to collect my daughters’ books from the summer reading programs), we stopped at a book signing event with multiple authors in various genres. It was a free event open to the public nearby, so I really wanted to check it out. I didn’t go as an author to sell any of my books (they did pay a fee to be there), but we went simply to walk around the various tables, talk to authors, and see the books that they had to offer.  All of the authors that I met were very friendly, and I was able to ask a lot of questions. I received a lot of information and came home with a few new ideas.

Have a wonderful day!