May is our month to recognize mothers.
What children’s book mothers go above and beyond?

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: KidLit Gems for Mom

Text © 2014, Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrations © 2014, Christian Robinson



Age Range:
4-8 years

Grade Level:

Antheneum Books
Young Readers

An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division


Kirkus, Starred Review
Horn Book Magazine, Starred Review
Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
Publisher’s Weekly, Best Summer Books 2014

Mrs. Poodle admired her new puppies, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston. ~ Gaston

Gaston is a story about a delivery room mix-up that goes right. What’s not to love? It has humor. Fi-Fi? Foo-Foo? Ooh-La-La? I bet Kelly DiPucchio’s critique group spit cappuccino out of their noses when they first read these names out loud.

It has smarts. Alliterations please the ears: “There was much to see. Daffodils. Ducklings. Dogs.” Attention-getting cues engage: “Would you like to see them again?”

It has heart. Despite parenting alone and discovering a post-delivery mix-up, the canine supermoms, Mrs. Poodle and Mrs. Bulldog, raise well-adjusted,  thriving offspring. This is the perfect book for those who question their place in the world. While researching Gaston, I was surprised by nature vs. nurture debates.  My take: While every family situation is different, one element remains the same. Belonging isn’t about similarities. It’s about love.

Christian Robinson’s retro illustrations, including the Poodle and Bulldog family pictures; make me miss my sentimental supermom; and my fairly normal, but unique gold, orange, and green childhood.

~ Anna

From that day forward the families met in the park every afternoon to play. Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette taught the poodle puppies a thing or two about being tough.

Likewise, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston taught the bulldog puppies a thing or two about being tender. ~ Gaston

Gaston reminds me of Romeo & Juliet, two families from opposite sides of the tracks, circling their territory. This age appropriate picture book’s delightful alliteration, rhymes and Matisse-esque illustrations contribute to the age-old adage, “opposites attract”.  Children will delight as the “brutish or brawny” and the “proper or precious” unite. Three cheers for the mothers in this story that wisely, stand-by as Gaston and Antoinette explore their true identities. And unlike Romeo & Juliet, where the families are meddling, there is a happy ending to this love story.

~ Kristi


GEM Ruby

Watch for Kristi’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s book moms excel in the motherhood department?

Cutting Words

Editing is an excruciating process, especially when it involves the extraction of beloved words. For writers, words are our progeny. It’s painful to part with them. Yet, we remove favored words all of the time, as an act of sacrificial love for our manuscripts and mercy for readers everywhere.

Fortunately, I just thought of a way to save my words AND make incomplete manuscripts happy. I opened a home for orphaned words, lines, and scenes today. I’m making excess words available for adoption!

This is my first foundling, cut from my children’s chapter book manuscript:

While Gramma helped Papa catch the tumbling toys, I chased a crazy ping pong ball–ping, ping, ping–until it plopped into the kitty litter–plip. I decided to leave it. Maybe Papa and Gramma would think the cat laid an egg.

Disclaimer: I didn’t say all word orphans were appealing. But I’m holding onto the hope that there’s a manuscript out there that’ll think this is the cutest word baby ever.

My Favoritist Charity

Our 1983 family Christmas photo.  We celebrated Advent anticipating the birth of Jesus and our third child.

As much of the world prepares to celebrate the birth of THE  Most Special  Baby,  we’re reminded  that  God saw fit to have His only begotten Son  raised on earth by an adoptive father (St. Joseph) so that the rest of us could become His (God’s) adopted sons and daughters.  Maybe this is why I’m so  psyched about a  charitable institution called Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency (HFCAA). HFCAA  gives hope to women in  crisis pregnancy situations by offering loving homes for their babies.

Last year HFCAA hosted a ten-year anniversary celebration where I met and fell in love with some of the delightful children and their adoptive parents.  One little girl with bouncy curls hugged me as I stood in line for lunch.  Her affectionate nature seemed unusually bold — especially since I’d never met her before. Then she twirled, curtsied, and asked if I liked her dress. Once convinced of my — and everyone else’s — adulation, she pulled over her shy older sister (also adopted) and asked if I liked her dress, too.   “Our mom made them,” she said, pointing from the dresses to her adoptive mother, who waved, embarrassed but charmed by her precious, precocious child.

Teenage volunteers took the adoptive children to another area to make art projects as fathers and mothers shared stories of the priceless gifts they had received in their adoptive children. They wept with thankfulness — I wept — we all wept. It was a profitable day for Kleenex on Wall Street.

In this year’s HFCAA Christmas update, Mary L. Ball, Executive Director, shares, “One of our adoptive couples who opened their loving arms to a special needs baby is so happy to be blessed with this precious child.  This baby was a twin in the womb.  Now that the baby is with this adoptive couple the baby is a “twin again” so to speak because last year the couple adopted another baby born in the same month.”

Typically, when it comes to adoption, the most extraordinary act of sacrificial love comes from the birth mothers. Through HFCAA birth mothers receive the non-judgmental care and guidance they need. You can hear about two birth mothers’ journeys on the HFCAA website. One, Cesili, shared, “When I placed my baby for adoption I never considered myself any less a mother than raising my own child.  I feel like being a mother you need to set aside your own feelings and your actions and what you want to do in life, put those aside and put your child’s needs and feelings first.  I knew I could be a good mom and give my son all the love in the world, but I knew that I couldn’t give him everything I wanted him to have.  I was not going to settle for anything less.  The best option for my child was adoption.  I realized that there are good, loving families out there who would welcome my child in and love him as their own.  I found Holy Family Adoption Agency…I feel he is loved twice as much.”

Holy Family Adoption Agency is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. Gifts can be sent to:
525 Thomas Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55103
(651) 298-0133

Room For More

I love having children in our home. Our children and grandchildren bless us abundantly, but there will always be room in my heart for more.  Therein lies my motivation to author picture books. I can write more children into the world and introduce them to our grandchildren.  I can name, incorporate family traits and idiosyncrasies, and hit the backspace when they get too sassy or unmanageable.

The other morning I awoke to a dream that my husband and I had adopted a little boy.  Before I was coherent I murmured to my husband, who was in the bathroom, out of earshot, “Thank you so much.  I LOVE him.”

Now I realize the boy I’d “adopted” is the protagonist in my latest picture book manuscript.  Like my own kids — the more I nurture him, the more I know and love him.

To add flesh to my picture book characters and story, I’ve made a dummy for each manuscript.  (A dummy is a 32-page mock book to assist in structuring a story.) Since I’m artistically-challenged, I use Microsoft Publisher to incorporate clipart.  This serves me well to create reader-friendly  stories for “test drives” with my grandchildren and others.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately — depending upon the day), there’s no clipart that truly depicts my family – even those adopted in my dreams.  Ironically, the clipart protagonist I chose (from has red hair.  No one in our immediate family has red hair. Perhaps I chose a red-head because I didn’t want anyone to recognize who he might be in real life.  Or, maybe I’m subconsiously fashioning him after a young Napolean Dynamite NapoleonDynamiteor my red-headed cousin that I haven’t seen since childhood: Bobby Bill.  Hmmm…come to think of it…

Just yesterday I tried changing the color of my protagonist’s skin and hair because I thought potential agents might be looking for a more exotic approach.  Then I realized how silly that was.  When the “real” illustrator gets ahold of my stories, the characters will look exactly as they are meant to look.  It’s like giving birth.  Initially, I won’t know who’ll come out, but I’ll trust the one/One fashioning them for life in the world.  After all, I already love my “children” before I behold their faces, because I’ve already held them in my heart.

Sometimes a character is really mini me (an older, female Napoleon Dynamite). One manuscript is about terminal tardiness.  The story line came to me after pulling on two locked doors minutes after closing time.  First, I stood at the post office door with a time-sensitive document, then at the optical office across town with old, worn contacts in my eyes.  All of the fruitless running made me late for a dinner date with my husband. I hated the feeling of disappointing him with my carelessness.

Interestingly, our daughter thinks the story’s about her brother, our oldest son.  (Sorry son – it’s in the genes.)

Our granddaughters point at the characters in a story and argue, “I’m her.”

“No, I’m her!”


“How ‘bout all of us be her?”

It’s fun to see the character(s) they most identify with – and to learn why. (Usually it’s whoever’s wearing pink.)

I’m excited by the opportunity to create new possibilities, relive lessons learned, investigate ones not learned, and ensure happy endings where they’re missing.  The best thing about writing children’s books?  The children we create can stay children forever.  And, they can live on — long after we’re gone — so our children’s children can enjoy them, too.