Kid Lit Village Review: When We are Kind

Hello Readers! It’s been a long time since my last Kid Lit Village book review. I’m happy to do a review for WHEN WE ARE KIND by Monique Gray Smith and Nicole Neidhardt. It is published by Orca Books.

As a nature preschool educator in British Columbia, Truth and Reconciliation and connection to land are both important to me. One of my program goals is to weave in more indigenous ways of knowing and being. That makes me go looking for books like this one. I want to help readers connect to land and indigenous people. I want our preschoolers to be grateful for the people in our lives and the world around us. I want to provide inclusive education and books like this can help me do that.

When We Are Kind

This book focuses on kindness between family and friend with an emphasis on indigenous people and people of colour. It is a great starting point for talking about kindness and making connections with family, classmates and friends. The artwork is beautiful and I love how it celebrates sharing of food and activities outdoors, like drumming. I enjoy reading it to my preschool class and talking about ways of being kind and how that makes us feel. I love it that both the author and illustrator are from Victoria, British Columbia.

Thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Village blog. Please support all our Kid Lit Village authors in whatever way you can. Leave a comment here, request their books from the library, or post a review!

If you’re curious about books by Cynthia Mackey and Paula Nasmith, please subscribe to my newsletter.

Cynthia Mackey, author

Kid Lit Village Review: Santiagos Dinosarios

Hello Lovely readers! Welcome to Kid Lit Village; it’s Friday so time for another book review. I’ve been super excited about this book for a looooong time because Mariana Rios is one of my critique partners and I was lucky enough to be able to read and critique this before publication! I’m working on a dinosaur book too, so it was fun to read and Mariana’s story is super insightful as to what it must be like to be the new kid in the class when you don’t speak the same language as everyone else.

Ironically, I could have used this book last year because 60 percent of the students in my nature preschool class spoke a language other than English at home. A few of them were still learning English and couldn’t always make themselves understood easily. It was a challenge getting to know each other in those early days. But each one of those children learned so much over the year and truly became part of the class. We couldn’t have imagined the year without them.

Santiago’s Dinosaurios


Santiago has a dinosaur-sized problem. He just moved to the United States and he doesn’t speak the same language as his friends. He discovers that even when you don’t speak the same language, some interests are universal.

My Review:

Santiago’s emotions about being the new kid and his love for dinosaurs come through from the first pages of the book and the colourful illustrations will capture children’s interest. The question is, how will Santiago make friends if he can’t communicate? The dinosaur references throughout are delightful and the endpapers are complete with pronunciation guides for different types of dinosaurs. Santiago makes friends based on common interests (dinosaurs) which feels totally authentic, the way young children actually make friends at school. This is a story that speaks children’s language; the language of play! It will be a great addition to classrooms across the country.

Congratulations to Mariana and Udayana on a beautiful book that will be enjoyed by many and will help support children going through some big changes in their lives.

Readers, thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Village this week!

Did you know, I’ve written a couple of books too?

Cynthia Mackey

If you’re curious about books by Cynthia Mackey and Paula Nasmith, please subscribe to my newsletter.

Kid Lit Village: The Dog With the Crooked Tail

Hello lovely readers! I’m happy you’re here for another Kid Lit Village interview. On Mondays, I do interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. I love it when I can feature a local author! Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Chelsea Richardson, who is the author of THE DOG WITH THE CROOKED TAIL, a chapter book for young readers. The illustrations are by Meghan Taylor and the book is published by Freisen Press.

The Dog with the Crooked Tail illustrates the power of love to heal: Buddy, the main character, is changed by the love of young students – and by the love of a certain tiny, spotted dog – whom he meets at the end of the story.

Please welcome Chelsea Richardson to the blog. Congratulations on the publication of your book, Chelsea!

Chelsea Richardson

What appeals to you about writing for children?

I consider myself to have a childlike sense of curiosity and a slapstick sense of humour that elementary school children can relate to. I have always enjoyed writing, playing with words, and rhyming – so writing a children’s early chapter book series comes naturally to me. I didn’t set out ahead to write children’s books – but somehow, I am not surprised that I have! I have fond memories of my own first chapter book-reading days. I recall staying in bed late in the mornings around grade 2 or 3 reading all of the Beverly Cleary books. A few other series I enjoyed around that age were Nancy Drew and the Bunnicula series. The Dog with the Crooked Tail is suitable for independent reading at approximately the grade 2 level – I wanted to create a modern short chapter book series with a similar layout and features to the classics I loved, while at the same time creating something fresh and entertaining for primary kids. I commissioned a local artist and personal acquaintance, Meghan Taylor, to illustrate the book and she captured Buddy’s personality perfectly. I didn’t follow any guidelines for the reading level, but I used descriptive language to capture Buddy the dog’s mischievous personality. I feel that when children encounter challenging vocabulary and sentence structures while reading the story, it will enhance their experience as readers and writers. 

Another reason that writing for children appeals to me is that I had many fun experiences introducing my oldest niece (now 12) to writing stories when she was very young. She is one of the six year-old characters in this story and her enjoyment of writing and listening to stories definitely encouraged me to publish this book. I also have two nephews and a younger niece who also join in on writing silly stories when I visit. It was my older niece, Chloe, who suggested that The Dog with the Crooked Tail should be a chapter book rather than a picture book!

Tell us about your path to publication.

I started writing The Dog with the Crooked Tail around 2016 – and left it sitting unfinished, without knowing where the story would lead. Several years later, a close friend encouraged me to finish the draft and create a book. After completing the draft in 2019, I didn’t have a clue about publication – but I did know that I wanted creative control over the illustrations, as I specifically wanted  to capture Buddy’s real personality and appearance. So, I made notes on each illustration and shared the story with the illustrator, Meghan Taylor. Meghan and I collaborated back and forth by email with the book’s illustrator. She was the only illustrator I considered for the project: her sample first illustration demonstrated the exact feel of Buddy’s wacky personality.

I did significant research over time and I considered self-publishing via Amazon or hiring various freelancers to create the book. In the end, I decided to self-publish with Friesen Press, as they are Canadian (supporting local/Canadian business matters to me), and they would do the whole process, including professional editing – which the bookstores assured me was the most important aspect from a sales perspective. I may submit the book to other publishers in future and I did submit it to more conventional publishers while it was still in draft form; however, self-publishing is important to me, since I could share the story and ensure it was not just left sitting on an editor’s desk.

Processed with VSCO with au5 prese

Tell us about the inspiration for your books.

Buddy, The Dog with the Crooked Tail – plus my small, spotted chihuahua cross, Ladybug, and family chihuahuas Ruby and Pico, are the inspiration for Book One and the upcoming three books. In 2016, my sister Kait and I co-adopted Buddy, who was a very funny 10 pound rescue dog originally from the streets of California. Buddy struck me as a real-life book character, so I wrote his story in between double-checking that the bathroom doors were shut to his persistent toilet paper-munching habits and attempting to dog-proof the kitchen from his snack-attacking prowess. 

On daily walks with Buddy and best pal Ladybug, I imagined what the world looked like from Buddy’s perspective. One word stood out – FOOD! The second most important word for Buddy was love. I took Ladybug to visit a local elementary school on a few occasions – and she was dainty and polite when interacting with young students. On the other hand,  I couldn’t imagine actually taking Buddy to school: being a rough-and-tumble little street dog, he would have growled at students and stolen their lunches.

Despite all this, my nieces and nephews loved Buddy and fed him carrots when he ran in the forest for walks. He was the sort of character who stole your heart after he snarled at you. I wanted to share Buddy’s love and character in a way students could appreciate him – so I imagined what would happen if Buddy went to school without permission. Every single shenanigan in the book is based on his real-life actions – from snarfing up roadside garbage to sticking himself face-first in a little girl’s backpack to devour her lunch.

Buddy had eight breaks in his little crooked tail, and in the series, there’s an element of magic as two breaks per book click back into place when Buddy feels love from children and from other dogs. For this reason, I opened the book with the following question: “Was he a dachshund or a chihuahua? No one could be quite sure, but they did know he was the dog with the crooked tail. Why was his tail crooked? Perhaps he needed a little more love.” The real-life Buddy character reminds me of a cross between Curious George and Winnie the Pooh. 

Chelsea, thanks for stopping by Kid Lit village today! It was fun to learn about ‘the dog with the crooked tail.’

Thank you readers! I hope you’ll stop by again soon. Have a wonderful day. And don’t forget to leave book reviews and make library requests for all your favourite books.

Kid Lit Village Review: The Hike

Hello Readers! I’m happy to have the chance to do another Kid Lit Village book review. Today I am reviewing THE HIKE by Alison Farrell, published by Chronicle Books.


This book follows three friends who enthusiastically embark on a hike. I love the speech bubbles and the way each of their personalities come through during the hike. Hattie collects feathers, Wren keeps adding to her sketchbook, and El teaches everyone to make leaf baskets. The details allow for lots of re-readability. This is a great addition to our nature preschool library!

Kid Lit Village: LET’S BE FRIENDS

Hello and welcome to Kid Lit Village blog. I’m delighted to feature this adorable board book, LET’S BE FRIENDS by Violet Lemay, published by Harper Collins.

Synopsis: This lift-the-flap board book filled with warm and lively illustrations by Violet Lemay teaches toddlers all about friendship.

We’re different! We’re the same! Can we be friends? Of course we can! 

Friends can come from anywhere. Friends can live in any kind of house. Friends can be different ages. Friends can look different. And friends can have different faiths. 

This sweet board book celebrates friendship and the importance of embracing our differences. It joyfully shows diverse children from all over the world and teaches a valuable lesson: we are all just people and we are all worthy of friendship.

Welcome to the Kid Lit Village blog, Violet!

Tell us about the inspiration for your book or the story of how your book came to be.
My family and I moved from the US to New Zealand in 2015, where we lived for five years. This gorgeous, diverse, peaceful country was devastated by a mass shooting in a mosque in 2019. Guns are not an issue in New Zealand, it’s nothing like the US in this regard. There is no gun violence, at all. Mass shootings are unheard of. The event was so horrible and shocking that it sent the entire nation reeling. 
I couldn’t stop wondering why our differences matter. Does it really matter that people look different, come from different places, worship differently? Aren’t we all ultimately the same? This swirl of questions became the inspiration for a proposed lift-the-flap board book, What Matters?, in which every spread showed people with different opinions, different life-styes, physical differences etc, and asked the question “Does it matter?”. Under the flap, the answer was always some form of “No!”. My agent pitched the idea to HarperCollins, where an amazing editor took an interest. She shared the proposal (which included a PDF dummy with complete color sketches) in a meeting, and apparently the project sparked conversation. My agent relayed their feedback: A person’s ethnicity, color, and religion do matter—they shape each person’s worldview! The agent asked me to pivot and send a revision. After a month of thinking and hand-wringing, I rewrote (and redrew) the book. The question changed from “Does it matter?” to “Can they be friends?”. I was very happy with the change. Not only did it make more sense, but the answer under the flap was always some version of YES, adding to what I hope is a loving, joyful, positive message. 

I must share with you that as an educator of young children, I’ve had many classes with diverse make-ups. The differences are more obvious some years but they are always there, whether it is based on skin colour or favourite foods, temperament or family composition or something else. This book will be valuable to teachers everywhere!

Tell us how you build yourself up in the face of rejection.
I was lucky enough to work as an art director for a small independent publisher for five years (during which I was also writing and illustrating), which gave me an insider’s look at how manuscripts are selected. I learned that there are a million reasons why an idea can be rejected that have nothing to do with the book proposal or the skill of the author. This experience helps me keep some emotional distance from the success or failure of my projects. I try to think of rejection as redirection. If my book doesn’t fit the list of Publisher A for whatever reason, great! I can cross that one off the list and move on to Publisher B. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit, like dating. I also think it’s tremendously important to always be searching for new ideas to develop, so that you’re always busy pitching more than one idea. Perpetual idea development is part of my lifestyle. The more ideas you put out there, the greater the odds that one will get picked up! If I’m feeling particularly discouraged about a rejection, I focus my attention on a new idea, which generally cheers me right up. I think it’s very important to stay positive. If you’re feeling down about a particular rejection, focus on whatever makes you happy. Later, when you’re feeling more removed from the rejected project, you can look at it with fresh eyes and see if it needs some tinkering before sending it off to the next publisher on your list.

Picking up on your comment of looking at it with fresh eyes, I’ve been using that in my querying strategy. When I receive a rejection, I make sure I review it before sending out the next query. I do think it helps to do that at a time when you’re feeling less disappointed about the rejection.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
I hope that parents and children who read Let’s Be Friends will learn not to fear people or avoid people who are different to them, but will instead embrace and celebrate diversity. My hope for all of my books is that the children who interact with them will feel loved & accepted. 

I think this could become a well-loved book in may preschool/kindergarten classrooms well and a great way of celebrating diversity!

Twitter Link:

Violet Lemay

Readers, thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Village this week!

Did you know, I’ve written a couple of books too?

Cynthia Mackey

If you’re curious about books by Cynthia Mackey and Paula Nasmith, please subscribe to my newsletter.

Kid Lit Village Review: Everything You Need for a Treehouse

Hello Readers! I’m happy to have another book review for you. Thanks for visiting the Kid Lit Village blog! This picture book is by Carter Higgins and Emily Hughes: Everything You Need for a Treehouse. The title has such childhood appeal, I couldn’t resist this book! This book is published by Chronicle Books.

Everything You Need for a Treehouse

Treehouses are for wonder.
Treehouses are for snacks.
Treehouses are for whispers and snickers and echoes.
Treehouses are for everyone.
This magical work of art from acclaimed picture book creators Carter Higgins and Emily Hughes celebrates the universal wonder of treehouses and all the adventure that live among branches.

My Review:

Reminds me of my childhood!

This picture book is written in a lyrical style which I find so appealing. I love the way the book begins and ends with looking up at the trees, trying to find the ‘just right’ one for a treehouse. From tire swings to blankets to stargazing to construction tools, this book has a little something for every child. The detailed illustrations make for excellent re-readability.


I’m working with the people at CookiePitch on a way to encourage more picture book reviews posted on Amazon. Why? Because Amazon reviews help sell books and we want to support our fellow authors, that’s why! That being said, we continue to support Indie book stores and suggest you buy your books there or find them at your public library. If the library doesn’t have a book you want, you can request it.

One of my critique partners, Karyn Curtis, will be co-hosting Amazon Review Parties with me. So, bring your own books, sip your favourite beverage, share picture books you love, AND get ready for review writing sprints! Our first review party is scheduled for September 28th, 7:30 Eastern time. Join us!

Buy Indie! Review on Amazon!

Thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Village blog. Please support all our Kid Lit Village authors in whatever way you can. Leave a comment here, request their books from the library, or post a review!

If you’re curious about books by Cynthia Mackey and Paula Nasmith, please subscribe to my newsletter.

Cynthia Mackey