What are we reading?: The Marvels by Brian Selznick

It’s no secret we love a good book. What we love even more is a book that is SO good we just have to share it with everyone. With September quickly coming to a close, we recommend you kick off your autumn reading list with Brian Selznick’s The Marvels!


Don’t let its massive 600 pages intimidate you – As soon as you flip open the first page, you are whisked off to 1766 where you see Billy Marvel performing a play on a whaling ship. Each page of captivating, black-and-white pencil drawings chronicles years of Billy’s family history as they gain fame in the London theaters.

Transition to Selznick’s written passages, where we find ourselves in 1990 with Joseph, a boy who ran away from boarding school in search of his Uncle in London. While the stories of these two boys are seemingly disconnected, mystery and the search for truth brings them together.


Selznick has found an exceptional way of exploring the nature of storytelling and how we view fact and fiction. As Ranson Riggs explains in his New York Times review, “the book revels in complication, echoes and mirrorings, and peeling back its layers makes for a rich and surprising reading experience.” Selznick is a true literary genius!

The Marvels is a product of 3 years of hard work, plus an additional year of illustrating. Selznick even spent a month building a miniature theater, fully equipped with a dragon, a girl bound to the ship’s mast, and a lightning storm, to film The Marvels book trailer. Grab some snacks and make yourselves comfortable, you won’t want to put this book down!


About the author:

Brian_Selznick_BW_PhotoBrian Selznick is an American illustrator, writer, set designer, and puppeteer. His first long novel as a writer, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2008 and was adapted into Martin Sorsese’s oscar-winning film, Hugo. His second novel, Wonderstruck, reached #1 in the New York Times bestsellers list upon debut. His books have been celebrated around the world and translated into over 35 languages.


by Marianna Yamamoto

“Guess How Much I Love You”: 20th Anniversary Celebration with Sam McBratney


Join us as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Guess How Much I Love You on Sunday, October 4th at Books and Cookies on 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica. The festivities will begin at 11am with our special guest from Northern Ireland–Sam McBratney himself. You won’t want to miss this event filled with story time, book signings, fun crafts courtesy of Seedling, and an endless number of cookies from Bakeology.


Sam McBratney has written over 50 books for children and young adults. His best-selling children’s book, Guess How Much I Love You, has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 53 languages!


RSVP to We look forward to seeing everyone on October 4th for crafts, cookies, and fun!


by Marianna Yamamoto

Author Champion of the Week: Michelle Staubach Grimes

Our Author Champion of the Week is Michelle Staubach Grimes! This author of newly penned children’s book Where is Pidge? is a true lifelong learner! After receiving her B.A. in History and then her J.D. in 1994, Michelle found herself lured back to learning once her children grew older. She enrolled in an SMU Creating Writing program and drafted a women’s fiction novel; on the side, she began “Where is Pidge?”.  She currently lives in Dallas, where she grew up, with her husband and 3 children: Jeffrey, Gracie, and Emma.  We recently had the delightful opportunity to interview Michelle, who offered us insight into creative writing, military families, and affirmatory parenting.



What drew you to study creative writing?

I was drawn into the world of creative writing because I love to journal. Years ago I drafted a non-fiction short book and wanted to move forward with it so I enrolled in the SMU Creative Writing Continuing Education Program.  I fell in love with creative writing and continued taking classes while drafting a fiction novel. On the side, I began writing the story of Pidge, which I started at my kitchen table one evening and couldn’t stop.

Many people have asked since the publication of my book– “Weren’t you writing a novel? How did you end up writing a children’s book?” I tell them, that if I hadn’t studied creative writing for two years, I wouldn’t have been able to write the children’s book. While the story of Pidge is 736 words vs. my 90,000 word novel, both are stories with a beginning, middle, and end. A person must go through something and change for a story to be complete. As Mark Twain said, “A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.


How long did it take for you to see “Where is Pidge?” through to completion?

From the day I put pen to paper, to the day I held the book in my hand, was approximately eighteen months. However, I prefer to say about three years as I began learning the elements of story writing in the SMU Program in August of 2011. I launched my book in March of 2014.

Michelle with her illustrator Bill DeOre

What’s been your favorite part of writing this children’s book?

My favorite parts were finding my voice and core story, and sharing the story of Pidge with children and adults. While it’s a work of fiction, there are many truths in the story. In the beginning of the book, Pidge thinks her family doesn’t care about her. As the story develops, she experiences numerous emotions from mad to angry to scared to happy.

When I talk to children about Pidge’s journey, I tell them that I, too, as an adult have these same feelings. I’m sad and lonely at times. And my all time favorite is when a child’s face lights up and they make the connection between their feelings and Pidge’s feelings. One girl raised her hand one day and said “while I’m not a middle child, I feel like Pidge because my mom is getting remarried and I’m going to have new siblings and I feel left out.” I hope Pidge begins a conversation among kids and adults about emotions, and how we can learn to cope and work through the tough times and enjoy the good times.


How did you get the idea to start #pidgepromise? How has the reception been?

As I prepared for the launch of my book, it was very important that I promote literacy.  I knew I would read my book and talk about the process of writing. However, I wanted my appearances to be more than just about Pidge; we must ensure that children are exposed to books from the minute they are born, and educate adults on the importance of reading aloud to children. When I visit schools, I try to make reading and storytelling fun and encourage children to read more books than they’re assigned in class by making a “Pidge Promise” (#pidgepromise).

I ask the children and even adults to pledge to read more: read more themselves, read to a young child, or someone who can’t read. The reception has been fabulous. Sometimes schools will have their students make a #pidgepromise before I visit the school. When I returned to my grade school Prairie Creek Elementary, where I learned to read, they had the walls covered in #pidgepromise’s.

We heard you have also been popular amongst military families on bases – what commonalities do you think can be drawn between Pidge’s experience and those of children in military families?

First, I must say I’m very proud to have been born on the military base in Pensacola, Florida during my father’s service. However, my father’s military service ended when I was a little over one-year old. While I didn’t grow up as a military child, I can only imagine how tough at times it can be for military children as they move often, which requires them to adjust to new schools and cities more than many of us. In addition, they are physically separated from their mom or dad for extended periods of time. I know they must feel unloved, unimportant at times, or just “lost” like Pidge feels in her own home.

I visited Barksdale Air force Base recently and I’m looking forward to spending September 12th at Fort Hood. I’ll be travelling to military bases in San Antonio and California this fall to share the story of Pidge with military families. These families make the ultimate sacrifice for our country and I want to give back to them. If I can put a smile on the children’s faces, especially a child who is missing his or her parent, I can’t think of a better way to spend my day.

We love that your book emphasizes the importance of affirming children in our lives-what do you think are ways that both parents or siblings can demonstrate gratitude towards children who may not feel valued?

Affirming children and validating their emotions is crucial to developing a child’s confidence and sense of being. As parents, we may not agree or understand their emotions, but to our child, it’s their “truth.” One of my kids may say – “So and so is so mean. She hates me. I don’t want to go to school.” As a parent, it’s easier for me to respond, “It’ll get better. Of course she doesn’t hate you and school is fun.” But I try to listen to their concerns, affirm their feelings, and help them work through the problem. Sometimes it is best not to say anything at all, but to assure them that I understand they are hurting. Kids must be able to express their emotions, and we as parents must listen; and just because we validate their emotions doesn’t mean we’re in total agreement with their position. I tell them their voice matters, they are loved, and that they are an important member of the family.

I grew up with four siblings so I know firsthand that siblings fight and don’t always treat each other with respect. But I also know it’s important to talk to children about how they treat their siblings. It’s hard to know when to intervene or let your children work it out themselves; when I hear screaming and slamming doors, I want to walk upstairs right away and punish all of them. Sometimes I let them work it out, but when they’ve crossed the line, I pull them aside individually and let them know how I believe they’ve really hurt their sibling’s feelings. I hope my children see the love I have for my siblings today, and how important they are to me.

My oldest is a boy (age 16) and then I have two girls (ages 14 and 12). I’ve told my son as the oldest and as a boy, his sisters will be heavily influenced by how he treats them and how my husband treats me. While I know his sisters drive him crazy at times, he must give them the respect he’d give any other girl or woman. And, that I believe he learned from how my husband treats me. A few years ago, my youngest daughter travelled alone with my husband. They had a great time, but she said to me after the trip – “mom, you know Gracie (her older sister) drives me crazy at times, but it’s just not fun without her.” 

 Can you share a favorite memory with Maverick?

Maverick gives unconditional love. He’s a big dog so he can’t crawl up in your lap. My favorite memory of Maverick is more than one memory. It’s the memories of every time I lie on the floor next to him. He takes his leg and paw, places them over my body and gives me a big bear hug. When I take him to school visits, the kids can’t get enough of him.


Thank you Michelle for not only sharing your story with us, but also teaching us how children and parents both can benefit from emotional awareness in “Where is Pidge?”

Get your copy of “Where is Pidge?” here and make a #pidgepromise today!


by Betty Fang

Book-Raiser Spotlight: North Side Elementary School

This week’s book-raiser spotlight goes to the students of North Side Elementary school in Johnson City, Tennessee! After reading books like My Librarian is a Camel and Because of BookEnds, they were inspired to make a difference in their community. The students of North Side set up their own Milk + Bookies book drive and raised hundreds of books for their local hospital!

the children!

Total Kids Involved In Event: 47

Total Books Raised: 500

Donated To: Niswonger Children’s Hospital!


Niswonger Children’s Hospital now has books for the beautiful children in their emergency room and can take the books home and read the sweet notes North Side students left for them! Along the way, the students discovered just how much joy it brings to give back to others!

We are so thrilled to hear about the success of these #futurephilanthropists and can’t wait to see where their love of reading and giving takes them!

To find out how you can Host Your Own Book-Raiser and start making a difference to children in your community, click here.

And don’t forget to purchase your Bookies Box full of all the materials you will need to make your Book-Raiser a success!!


by Monica Arellano

Book-Raiser Spotlight: Ms. Ashley Miller’s 3rd Grade Students

In May, 3rd grade teacher Ashley Miller hosted a large Milk+Bookies Book-Raiser with her students at Mary Evelyn Castle Elementary School in Indianapolis, Indiana! The students came together to raise hundreds of books at their elementary school and along the way, learned lessons on giving and their abilities to be leaders in their own communities!




DONATED TO:  The Dayspring Center!

The Dayspring Center provides “emergency shelter, clothing, and three nourishing meals-a-day for homeless families with children in central Indiana. What’s more, eighty percent of residents who complete the program at Dayspring Center move directly into permanent housing.” What a fantastic organization to donate books to!

Teacher Testimonial

This was a great opportunity to really show our students what it means to give. Many students were donating some of their absolute favorite books and for them to be able to explain why they love the book and how they hoped the recipient would as well was great! This also brought along conversations about what else we could do to help others! 


We are so thrilled to hear about the success of these #futurephilanthropists and can’t wait to see where their love of reading and giving takes them!


To find out how you can Host Your Own Book-Raiser and start making a difference to children in your community, click here.

And don’t forget to purchase your Bookies Box full of all the materials you will need to make your Book-Raiser a success!!


by Betty Fang