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Review & Giveaway: The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise: An International Adoption Story by Julie Gianelloni Connor

  The Baby with Three Families

An International Adoption Story
Illustrated by Saman Chinthaka Weersinghe
Genre: Children’s Fiction / Picture Book / Adoption 
Publisher: Bayou City Press
Date of Publication: December 9, 2020
Number of Pages: 40 pages 
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The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise is a children’s book designed to be read by parents to a child adopted from a foreign country. The story is first recounted from the perspective of the parents in the USA, who are very sad not to be able to have a child. The perspective then switches to that of the biological mother, who realizes that she does not have the wherewithal to raise a child. She makes the difficult decision to give up her baby. Next readers learn about a foreign adoption agency, to which the biological mother surrenders her child. The adoption agency identifies foster parents to take care of the baby temporarily. The foster parents give the baby a temporary name.

The parents in the USA begin researching international adoption possibilities and connect with the foreign adoption agency. The parents begin the adoption process and have to go to a school to learn how to be adoptive parents. When the foreign adoption agency matches the USA parents with the baby, the USA parents fly to the foreign country, where they meet the baby and the foster parents at the adoption agency. They find out that the temporary name given to the baby by his foster parents is one of the names they have selected for the baby. Their last requirement in the foreign country is to secure a visa for the baby from the U.S. Embassy.

With the baby’s visa in hand, the parents and baby return to the United States, where they are joyously greeted by their dog, their friends, and the baby’s new grandparents. When the parents tuck their baby in at night, they tell him his story—that he has three families, two countries, and a promise for the future to visit the country of his birth when he is older.
Children’s Picture Book First Place Winner, 2021 North Texas Book Festival Awards
“Clearly laying out some of the key reasons, factors, and steps in the emotionally complex process of overseas adoption, this book delicately explores the subject, making it a great launching point for conversations between parents and children.” Self-Publishing Review
“International adoption is a complex topic, but under the dual, in-depth focus of author Julie Gianelloni Connor and illustrator Saman Chinthaka Weerasinghe, the story comes to life to teach all ages about the emotional and organizational process involved in joining a child to new parents.” Donovan’s Literary Services

The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise: An International Adoption Story by Julie Gianelloni Connor is both heartwarming and informative about the adoption process. It is the perfect book to share with children who have been adopted or who are part of families that plan to adopt a child one day. The colorful illustrations by Saman Chinthaka Weerasinghe are the perfect cross between cartoon and realistic, which will appeal to readers of all ages.

I read this book with my nine-year-old son who is not adopted, but he was interested to read the book because one of his cousins was adopted from China as a toddler. As we read, he wondered aloud how a baby could have three families, to which I replied, “Well, let’s read on and see.” Throughout the reading of the story, he peppered me with questions about whether his cousin’s experiences matched those of Baby Alejandro’s.

Perhaps because he is an older child, he wanted me to flesh out characters a bit more. He wondered how old the birthmother, Luz, was and who Alejandro’s birthfather was. I explained that the author made a choice not to share those details and maybe she didn’t know them herself. (I later told him that like many similar experiences that people have throughout their lives, it is the details that differ slightly. But at the very core, important things like love and family remain the same.)

Before reading the back of the book, I was a little confused by the choice to not identify the country where Luz was from. While I now understand the author’s intent to allow readers to insert the flag of their own child’s country, I don’t think it works well on one particular illustration since it clearly shows the flightpath between somewhere in the U.S. to Central America. (Imagine putting a Chinese flag on Central America. It’s a little odd!) Or perhaps a family from the U.K. is reading this book to their child who comes from Africa.

My son and I enjoyed the story and when asked what he thought of the illustrations, he said that they were nicely drawn and that he liked the colors that the artist used. I liked the flow of the story and thought that the book was laid out well. I think this is a great book to gift to adoptive families and would make a nice addition to the bookshelf in childcare and education settings as well.

Julie Gianelloni Connor is an award-winning author and retired senior Foreign Service Officer. Her first book, Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, not the Hike, garnered no. 1 status on Amazon in both the category for new books on hiking and walking and the category for Spain and Portugal. It subsequently went on to win a silver medal in the eLit national competition as well as being selected as a finalist by Self-Publishing Review (SPR). She released her second title, a children’s book, in 2021. It has just won first place in the children’s book category at the North Texas Book Festival. The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise tells an international adoption story. Her short stories have appeared in four anthologies. 

Julie is the owner and publisher of Bayou City Press (BCP) in Houston, Texas, which focuses on travel writing, Houston, history, and international affairs. Julie writes a weekly newsletter for BCP updating subscribers about activities. She founded BCP after spending 33 years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, first with the U.S. Information Agency and later with the U.S. Department of State. She had nine overseas assignments in seven different countries: Israel (twice), Paraguay, Guatemala, Indonesia, Colombia (twice), Malaysia, and Chile. In Washington, DC, Julie worked on a variety of matters, ranging from nuclear non-proliferation to narcotics control to women’s issues. She has one son and two cats, Halloween and Charles Augustus V. 

(US only, ends midnight, CT, 3/28/2022)

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Review & Giveaway: Cleo Can Tie a Bow by Sybrina Durant

A Rabbit and Fox Story
Sybrina Durant
Category: Children’s Activity Book / Picture Book
Date of Publication: September 25, 2020
Number of Pages: 39 pages
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Cleo loves bows. She wears her hair in a bow and decorates her room with bows. Cleo is bow crazy. Learning to tie a bow is very difficult for some people but Cleo remembers how to do it from a cute story she once heard. It is about a little rabbit with very long ears and a very helpful fox who shows her what to do to keep them clean. This is the story of how Cleo learns to tie a “bunny ear” bow. Exercises in manual dexterity build self-esteem in children. Knowing how to tie shoestrings, scarves and more into a bow is a useful and rewarding skill. Teach a child a useful skill. Build confidence and self-esteem that lasts a lifetime. Other books in the Learn To Tie With The Rabbit and the Fox series are the book with that name in English, Spanish, and Tagalog plus Nellie Knows How To Knot A Neck Scarf and Ned Knows How To Knot A Necktie.
I have enjoyed reading children’s literature long before I became a mother, but I am especially excited when I find a book that I can share with my elementary school-aged child. At 8 years old, he might be a little outside the intended audience for this story, but he gave me his full attention nonetheless. Also, since he hasn’t worn shoes with laces for almost a year now, he’s completely forgotten how to tie a bow, so this book couldn’t have come at a better time.
The illustrations are soothing to look at and the style is quite unique. The color palette is lovely and the drawings are so cute that my little boy paid close attention to the story. He even surprised me by pointing out some things that ended up being mentioned a page or two later! Given the amount of pink and bows splashed across the pages, I was amazed that he never scoffed at me and said something like, “This book is for girls!” Instead, he would make observations like, “Oh look, she has bows there too,” or “Butterflies kinda look like bows, huh?” Like me, I think he enjoyed the conversational tone that Durant writes with, instead of the wooden style that many children’s authors use when limiting their vocabulary choice.
Our story time was enjoyable until the kiddo couldn’t master tying a bow using the book’s instructions. To be fair, his method of choice is a modified bunny ears method that we learned on YouTube. Speaking of bunny ears, I think that using the rabbit and the fox method (also known as the loop, swoop, and pull method) was an odd choice when the bunny ears method is a quite popular (and arguably easier method) with this age group. I also thought it was a little confusing that if the fox never intended to harm the rabbit, why did he aggressively track him for three pages and then lick his lips right before speaking to him?
Overall, we both found the book very enjoyable to read and it will take a prime spot on our children’s bookshelf at home. This is a great book for that preschool- or kindergarten-aged child in your life.

Sybrina Durant is the author of some fanciful and some factual books. Her writings have inspired several online entrepreneurial ventures. Two of those are the Rabbit and Fox Bookstore and the Girls Love Bows Gift Shop. Spend some time browsing both for some interesting and surprising gift ideas for yourself and others.

Hardcover Autographed Book, $25 Amazon Gift Card,
& Long Sleeve Tee Shirt
Giveaway ends Midnight, CST, December 17, 2020
(US only)

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or visit the blogs directly:
12/7/2020 Book Trailer The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
12/7/2020 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
12/8/2020 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
12/9/2020 Author Interview Jennie Reads
12/10/2020 Review Forgotten Winds
12/11/2020 Review Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
12/12/2020 Top Ten StoreyBook Reviews
12/13/2020 Guest Post Book Fidelity
12/14/2020 Review The Page Unbound
12/15/2020 Guest Post All the Ups and Downs
12/16/2020 Review Missus Gonzo
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Top Ten & Giveaway: Nacho’s Nachos by Sandra Nickel

The Story Behind the 
World’s Favorite Snack
Sandra Nickel
Illustrated by 
Oliver Dominguez

Genre: Picture Book / Nonfiction / Food History / Latinx Interest 
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
Number of Pages: 32
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NACHO’S NACHOS is the deliciously true story about how nachos were invented—about what happened when a regular customer asked Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya for something new, and there were no chefs in the kitchen. 

2020 is the eightieth anniversary of the invention, and Oliver Dominguez’s illustrations transport us back to the border of the Rio Grande in 1940, when Nacho’s quick thinking resulted in a snack now eaten everywhere from Texas to Paris to Hong Kong!

Nachos! Nachos! Nachos!
By Sandra Nickel, author of Nacho’s Nachos

Nachos are everywhere! Ignacio Anaya’s original three-ingredient recipe is my favorite, but I’m constantly running across nacho ideas that I would love to try. At least one bite.

Some of the nachos on my list . . .

• Fried Chicken Nachos https://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/ct-eat-this-2017-honey-butter-20170611-story.html

• Greek Salad Nachos http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/261440/greek-salad-nachos/

• Kung Pao Chicken Nachos https://healthynibblesandbits.com/kung-pao-chicken-nachos/

• Pizza Nachos https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a55664/pizza-nachos-recipe/

• Reuben Nachos https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/278282/reuben-nachos/

• Hot Dog Nachos https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/hot-dog-nachos

• 50-Ingredient Nachos https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/epis-50-ingredient-super-bowl-nacho

• Apple Pie Nachos https://www.food.com/recipe/apple-pie-nachos-243293#activity-feed

• S’mores Nachos https://www.thedailymeal.com/coors-field-smores-nachos-recipe

• And last but not least, Tex-Mex Breakfast Waffle Nachos https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/tex-mex-breakfast-waffle-nachos

Are you tempted? If you’d rather stay with the original, you can find the recipe I put together for Nacho’s Nachos HERE.

And, if I’ve missed a must-try nacho, please let me know!

Sandra Nickel writes books and poetry for young readers. In 2020 and 2021, she has three books coming out: Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack (Lee & Low), The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe (Abrams), and Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson (Abrams). Sandra’s poetry can be found in SCOOP magazine. 

Sandra holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has presented workshops on writing for children and young adults throughout Europe and the United States. Sandra has twice won the Katherine Paterson Prize for picture books.
  Website Blog  Facebook Instagram Twitter  Amazon  Goodreads 
3 Winners: Print Copy + Recipe Card; 2 Winners: Recipe Card. 
AUGUST 20-30, 2020 
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Guest Post
Author Interview
Scrapbook Page
Guest Post
Top Ten
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Promo & Giveaway: Almost a Minyan by Lori S. Kline


  Genre: Picture Book / Jewish Traditions
Date of Publication: April 5, 2017
Number of Pages: 40
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Will she be the one to take Grandfather’s place?
According to Jewish tradition, a quorum of ten adults is required for public worship. Almost a Minyan traces the story of a young girl whose father and grandfather are regular participants in the town’s minyan – until her beloved Zayde passes on.
Without him, it is even harder for her father to find enough people to make a minyan. Then one day, he brings Zayde’s tefillin to his eldest daughter. A striking new addition to the diverse books movement, Almost a Minyan shares important Hebrew terms and religious concepts through a compelling and beautifully illustrated story for children.



* * *


“A warmhearted introduction to coming-of-age in a worship community.”


Kirkus Reviews
“A story of inclusion, belonging and equality. I loved the modern, egalitarian, and traditional values shared in this meaningful story. This is a wonderful modern story for our children and grandchildren!”
Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray
Congregation Shir Shalom, CT
Founder of the Women Cantors’ Network
“A delightful read for girls and boys alike, this poetic family tale brings a wonderful sentimentality to daily Jewish prayers. Moreover, the beauty of the illustrations contributes additional warmth to this snapshot of Jewish life. A nice addition for all libraries and all ages.”
Rabbi Jimmy Kessler, DHL, DD
Congregation B’nai Israel, Galveston


Lori Sales Kline heralds from Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, PA, which hosts a wonderfully rich Jewish community that fueled her love for Jewish tradition, ritual and practice at home and at, “the shul.”  Following her undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Texas in Austin, Lori chose to make Austin her home, largely due to the spiritual connection she felt in the close-knit Austin Jewish community.  In her spare time, Lori enjoys camping, celebrating Judaism with her husband and son, and friends. She previously authored the children’s picture book,  Josiah’s Dreams.


One Signed Copy of Almost A Minyan
March 24-April 7, 2017
(U.S. Only)
Illustration Preview 1
Author Interview 1
Guest Post
Illustration Preview 2
Author Interview 2
Illustration Preview 3
Author Interview 3



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Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car by Cathey Graham Nickell

by Cathey Graham Nickell
illustrated by Bill Megenhardt
Genre: Children’s Picture Book/Outsider Art
Publisher: Twenty-Eight Creative
Date of Publication: November, 2015
# of pages: 40


Arthur Zarr is a quiet man with few friends. His life is rather plain, and his car is plain, too. But not for long! When Arthur gets a creative idea to add everyday objects to his car’s plain exterior, he’s noticed for the first time. Neighbors and other bystanders add their own artistic flair to the car, too. What happens when he enters his bedazzled vehicle in the town’s art car parade? Mr. Zarr finds happiness and makes friends by building an amazing art car. In this whimsical story, children learn about recycling, community, friendship building, and the power of imagination. The book includes a “History of Art Cars” page for readers who’ve never heard of this creative form of artistic expression. It also has a subtle ABC theme, as Arthur Zarr adds objects to his art car in alphabetical order! This is the first—and so far, the only—children’s book published about an art car. Suitable for all ages but especially ages 4-8. Illustrated by Houston graphic artist, Bill Megenhardt.
 Praise for Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car:

“Nickell’s book is a treat for sight, sound, and sense, for readers and artcarfans (no, you won’t find the word in your dictionary just yet, anyway) of all levels.”
Lone Star Literary Life.


“A wonderful story of art, opening up to the joys of life, and celebrating the artist in everyone.”—Lynette Wallace, Executive Director, Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, Houston, Texas.


“Cathey Nickell’s book will help fuel the desire to make positive changes in our world through artistic endeavor.”—Alicia Duplan, Assistant Director, Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas.


“Cathey’s story. . . is both engaging and warm. By the end, I found myself rooting for Mr. Zarr. I even felt a small twinge of disappointment when he didn’t win the trophy. Artcar Nation highly recommends this book. Give it to all the children you know.”— Paul McRae, Artcar Nation.


ReviewI had the privilege of getting my hands on a signed copy of this wonderful picture book. And since this one is especially for children, I read it for the first time ever with my 3 year old son. Beside the occasional Eric Carle book, this is the longest book I’ve ever read to him. So I wasn’t expecting his attention span to keep up with me, but I definitely wanted to get his reaction.

The kiddo was super psyched about the new book I was going to read to him and loved the cover already. In the first few pages, Arthur Zarr’s solitude is emphasized by the colorless world around him. At first, only Arthur is in color. But the color spreads to his groceries from the Farmers Market to the first objects that he glues to his plain car. My son kept touching the colored illustrations, but he occasionally pointed at things that were still in black and white. I thought it was interesting how the uncolored drawings seemed so simple (like a talented child artist’s rendering) but then the addition of color added so much depth and maturity. Unfortunately, my son’s attention drifted before the color started to take over the story and Arthur made more connections with people in his community. I powered through and read aloud, even though he was jumping on the bed. I knew he was paying some attention though because he would randomly repeat words that I read in sing song.

I was so distracted by the kiddo’s shenanigans that I didn’t even notice that the objects Arthur Zarr put on his car were in alphabetical order. DOH! But I loved loved LOVED the alphabet at the end of the story comprised of the objects that they stand for. I also enjoyed reading about the history of art cars, since I didn’t know their origin story.

I read the book a second time around on my own so that I could write a proper review. I liked the ratio of text to illustration, since some books seem to have too little or too much of one or the other. I liked the repetitive aspect of the “plain car” and “quiet man”, and how the descriptions changed, as he changed. I loved how his world grew larger and brighter with each new interaction. And the ending was wonderful, too, because it didn’t end in a way that most children’s books do. I’m not going to ruin it for you. But trust me, it gets you right in the feels.

The publishing information in the back of the book says the audience is ages 3-9, but I have to agree with the recommended ages 4-8 provided on this tour. I know my son is still immature when it comes to story time, but the amount of text in this book is more appropriate for a school-aged story time.


BEER CAN HOUSE, 222 Malone St., Houston, Texas (weekends only). 
BERINGS Baby and Kids Dept., 3900 Bissonnet St. and 6102 Westheimer Rd., Houston, Texas.
BETWEEN THE COVERS BOOKSTORE, 224 W. Colorado Ave., Telluride, Colorado.
BLUE WILLOW BOOKSHOP, 14532 Memorial Dr., Houston, Texas.
BRAZOS BOOKSTORE, 2421 Bissonnet St., Houston, Texas.
CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM, 5216 Montrose Blvd., Houston, Texas.
THE JUNG CENTER BOOKSTORE, 5200 Montrose Blvd., Houston, Texas.
TOY FAIR at Pierremont Mall, 4801 Line Ave., Shreveport, Louisiana.

Cathey Graham Nickell is an author, mother, and wife living in Houston, Texas. She is best known as the seeing-eye-person for her little blind dog named Cricket. Cathey launched her first children’s picture book, Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car, in November 2015. She doesn’t drive an art car herself, but she has a habit of covering the back of her SUV with bumper stickers! Cathey also snaps pictures of art cars—which are plentiful in Houston—when she sees them. Her all-time favorite car was the bright-yellow Volkswagen Beetle that her grandmother drove in the 1970s. 

Cathey draws from her experience as a former newspaper reporter and public relations professional. After taking a few years off to raise four children, Cathey started freelance writing again in 2012 when a non-profit organization called the Institute for Spirituality and Health hired her to research and write its six-decade history. Uniting Faith, Medicine and Healthcare: A 60-Year History of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center was published in 2015. The book is used as a marketing and communications tool, and all financial proceeds benefit the Institute (not Cathey). Cathey graduated from Baylor University with a BA in Journalism in 1985. She earned a Master of Arts from Louisiana State University-Shreveport in 2013. Find her online where she blogs about her writing and publishing adventures.

GIVEAWAY!!  Three winners will each win 
$20 CASH & an Author and Illustrator 
Signed Copy of the Book!



Check out these other great blog stops on the tour!

3/7     Hall Ways Blog  – Review
3/8     Because This is My Life Y’all – Author Interview
3/10   Books and Broomsticks — Review
3/11   The Librarian Talks – Excerpt
3/12   The Page Unbound – Review
3/13   Texas Book Lover – Guest Post
3/14   The Crazy Booksellers – Promo
3/15   Missus Gonzo  — Review
3/16   A Novel Reality  — Author Interview
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