Author Archives: Debbi Michiko Florence

About Debbi Michiko Florence

Author of children's books. Coming in July 2017, JASMINE TOGUCHI, MOCHI QUEEN and JASMINE TOGUCHI, SUPER SLEUTH (FSG).

My New Newsletter


Hello! Thank you for your continued patronage, for allowing me to share buzz reviews and author interviews and give-aways of some of my favorite children’s books. I look forward to continue to do so here. I’ve got some exciting interviews coming up of debut authors!

If you are an educator, parent, or a lover of children’s literature, I’m pleased to announce that I will be offering a monthly newsletter featuring activities, lessons, and crafts for my books, as well as highlighting other authors and books. I hope to integrate tidbits of personal info and Japanese culture and language, too.

If you sign up before October 15, 2016, your name will be entered in a drawing to win the full set of my Dorothy & Toto early reader chapter book series (paperback version). How do you sign up? Just go to my web site, scroll to the bottom, and enter your email address. Easy peasy!


Thank you, as always! Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Betsy Devany and Lucy’s Lovey!


I am beyond thrilled to celebrate the book birthday of this awesome debut picture book, not only because the author is a dear friend, but also because this is a fantastic book with absolutely amazing illustrations. Stay tuned below to enter a drawing for a signed copy of this picture book!


Lucy’s Lovey by Betsy Devany, illust. by Christopher Denise (Christy Ottaviano Books/2016)

Lucy has seventeen dolls, but Smelly Baby is her favorite. Lucy takes her everywhere and Smelly Baby is well-loved; a little raggedy and a little smelly. Lucy’s older sister Ivy complains, but when Smelly Baby is lost, Ivy and the family come together to try to first find Smelly Baby, and then to comfort Lucy. Will Lucy get her favorite lovey back? Sweet story with sweet illustrations!

Spotlight on Betsy Devany:

What was the spark behind the idea for Lucy’s Lovey and how did it grow into a story?

The spark that most likely launched me into first drafting Lucy’s Lovey was a charming, dolly-obsessed girl who visits the Toy Soldier fairly frequently, and with whom I’ve had many dolly conversations. One particular Sunday, her description of a recent dolly party ignited my imagination and led me to writing Lucy’s Lovey.

Beyond working at the toy store, which offers endless inspiration, once I’d completed a few revisions, I realized two life experiences had unknowingly found their way into Lucy’s story: 1) My niece, Sofi, used to line up all of her large collection of stuffies and dollies, calling out each of their personalized names. 2) When I was four, my beloved Little Bear got lost. Like a dog, Little Bear loved to feel the breeze when he’d hang out of the window of a vehicle, and in this case it was a taxicab. The dialogue exchange between my mother and I at the time is mirrored in Lucy’s Lovey. “Be careful with Little Bear,” my mother had warned. “I am,” said my four-year-old self seconds before Little Bear sailed away on the breeze.

Lucy is independent and loving, even when it comes to dealing with her grandma’s doll-snatching dog and an older sister who doesn’t quite love Smelly Baby. I adore Lucy! Is she based on anyone you know?

I see a lot of myself in Lucy, and though I didn’t meet her until after the ms was sold, Christopher’s youngest daughter Esme reminds me of Lucy. She, too, has a rich imagination, a positive sense of self, and a delightfully spunky personality. My two daughters also had special loveys, and they are still as independent and loving today as they were as kids. One carried a sea otter around, the other was obsessed with Figment.

Lucy has many dolls, but one true favorite. Do or did you have a favorite lovey? What was it?

My childhood lovey was Little Bear. After Little Bear left on a long trip, from which he has yet to return, I transitioned to a tinier mohair bear by Steiff, who I also named Little Bear. 12 cm tall and five-way jointed, Little Bear played with other Steiff bears, Cousin Bear and Grandpa Bear. I remember making tiny felt vests and teeny tiny newspaper hats for them to wear. I also loved dolls, mostly baby dolls. I spent hours playing house with them. My brother and I especially enjoyed winter, when we would bundle up our make-believe families and pretend we lived under our front yard pine tree.


Thank you so much for featuring me and Lucy’s Lovey on DEBtastic Reads!

Thank YOU, Betsy!

Betsy Devany has been writing for all ages of kids for over twenty years. Aside from being a first-time author, she loves reading, photography, birding, acting silly with her grandkids, and working at an old-fashioned toy store in Mystic, where she delights in meeting rag-tag (sometimes smelly) loveys.

For more about Betsy and her books, check out her web site, friend her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.


To win a signed copy of Lucy’s Lovey for yourself, a child, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Sunday, Oct. 2nd, by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, Oct. 4th (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading!

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Valarie Giogas who won the signed copy of LUCY’S LOVEY! Thank you to everyone for stopping by! Stayed tuned for more interviews and give-aways!




I just finished reading the ARC of A CRACK IN THE SEA by Heather Bouwman (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/January 2017). I loved this amazing MG novel so much I want one of you to be able to read it well in advance of the pub date. What’s it about? Hmmm….there are three stories interwoven: a boy with a gift for speaking with the fish is kidnapped from his island home by the Raft King, a slave ship full of sick slaves including the heroic and courageous Venus, and a boy and his make-shift family escape war-torn Vietnam – and a crack in the sea. Oh…and did I mention a Kraken love story? Leave your name in the comments section and I’ll draw one name at random tomorrow morning and send the ARC to a lucky winner. (I’m also posting this on my personal FB page so you’ll have some additional competition.) You must have a U.S. mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading!

EDITED TO ADD: The winner is Kristen W. Nitz! (Names were also drawn from comments made on my personal Facebook page. I normally don’t do that, and in the future will revert back to only choosing names from this blog.)

My Book Birthday!


Hi! I’m throwing myself a book birthday party to celebrate the release of the early reader chapter book series I wrote for Capstone, and one lucky winner will receive the birthday gift!

There are four books in total: Dorothy & Toto: What’s Your Name?, Dorothy & Toto: The Hunt for the Perfect Present, Dorothy & Toto: The Disappearing Picnic, and Dorothy & Toto: Little Dog Lost. For story summaries, click here. The paperback versions are currently available for pre-order (although some people have said they have received their pre-orders already). If you’d like to buy these books, order them at your favorite indie bookstore, or order online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound.

For more information and to enter to win a set of the hardcover library edition for yourself, a child, or a school or library, click here to enter by commenting on the post of my web site.

Next time, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled Spotlight interviews and giveaways!

Welcome to the Spotlight Nancy Tupper Ling and The Story I’ll Tell


A warm wonderful welcome to picture book author Nancy Tupper Ling and her newest book baby! Stay tuned below on how to enter for a chance to win a signed by the author copy of this sweet book.


The Story I’ll Tell by Nancy Tupper Ling, illus. by Jessica Lanan (Lee & Low/2016)

A mother imagines the story she’ll tell her son about how he came to be a part of the family — from a branch on a tree to snagged from a dragon queen. But by the story’s end, the mother tells the true story of how he was brought home on a plane, to be loved and cared for as their son. Touching and sweet with lovely illustrations.

Spotlight on Nancy Tupper Ling:

Please tell us the story of how THE STORY I’LL TELL came to be.

The idea for The Story I’ll Tell was one of those rare gifts that come out of the thin air. The inspiration happened as I was driving home from a trip to Connecticut (plug for my home state). As I was day dreaming, this image popped into my head—a baby arriving on a couple’s doorstep. Then I envisioned the father telling his toddler all these fantastical stories about how she came to be in their lives. (I’m always on the lookout for “good father” stories). The one line that kept repeating in my head was “Still, there are times when I think I will tell you the truth, for the truth is a beautiful story too.” In 2013 my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, sent my manuscript out into the world, and we waited. Ironically I was in the middle of a writers’ conference when I received the “Happy Dance” phone call. The Story I’ll Tell had been accepted by my dream publisher, Lee & Low. Of course, there are always more stories to tell.

What was the biggest challenge to writing this story? Did it change much from your original draft?

I wrote The Story I’ll Tell as a poem first. I often start my stories that way. Surprisingly I didn’t have to revise too much along the way (miracles happen) but plot is always my weakness. Making sure the various stories flowed smoothly from one to another and that there was a momentum was what took the most finagling. Still, it was definitely the manuscript that required the least amount of revisions (so far, shh). My book Double Happiness took ten years and those revisions fill a 3-inch binder. The biggest change suggested by Lee and Low was to make the main characters a mother and son, which isn’t typical when it comes to Chinese adoptions. I think it works nicely in The Story I’ll Tell, though. To think that my wee daydream become a reality in between the covers of book still seems pretty unreal.

The illustrations are so lovely, such a perfect compliment to this sweet story. What surprised you most about the illustrations? Do you have a favorite?

It’s always such a surprise when an author sees the final illustrations. Jessica Lanan’s work blew me away. The spreads are dreamy, like my original inspiration. My favorite page is the one where the parents are walking on the beach at night and the child floats in on a wave. Knowing this, my parents surprised me with the original piece for my 50th birthday this year. How cool is that?

About Nancy: Nancy Tupper Ling is the winner of the prestigious Writer’s Digest Grand Prize and the Pat Parnell Poetry Award.  She draws her inspiration from the multicultural background of her family and the interwoven fabric of familial culture which is, on the surface, seemingly everyday.  She is the author of My Sister, Alicia May (Pleasant Street Press), Double Happiness (Chronicle Books), The Story I’ll Tell (Lee & Low Books) and the founder of Fine Line Poets (, Currently she resides in Walpole, Massachusetts with her husband, Vincent, and their two girls.

For more about Nancy and her books, check out her web site, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

The author has generously offered to send a signed copy to a lucky winner. To win a copy of The Story I’ll Tell for yourself, a child, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, July 30th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, August 2nd (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Rachael who is the winner of this drawing! Please contact me at just kid ink at yahoo (no spaces) with your signing instructions and US mailing address.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!



Welcome to the Spotlight Maria Gianferrari and COYOTE MOON


I’m over the moon (get it?) happy to shine the spotlight (or maybe the moonlight) on children’s author Maria Gianferrari and her nonfiction picture book:


Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Begram Ibatoulline (Roaring Brook Press/2016)

Coyote hunts at night – stalking mice, rabbit, geese, but not until the night is almost over does she successfully capture prey, food for her hungry pups, waiting for her in the den. Gorgeous illustrations capture this sleek predator on the prowl in a suburban town.

Those of you who know me know I am very fond of all animals. I have a degree in zoology and was an educator at a zoo, and volunteered as a raptor rehabilitator when I was in college. So, it is no surprise that I absolutely love this book! Stay tuned below for a chance to enter to win a copy of this book from the publisher!

Spotlight on Maria:

What was the spark that inspired you to write about a coyote?

I had a close encounter with a coywolf (also known as an eastern coyote) when I lived in Massachusetts in January 2007, and the seed of a story was born. It was such a majestic and beautiful creature. I became obsessed with learning more about them. At the time, I didn’t even know I had seen a coywolf until I had begun my research.

You do a lovely job – showing the natural balance of predator-prey relationships – how hard it can be for a predator to capture food, and how necessary it is in order for it to feed its young and survive. What were the challenges you faced in telling the story of a coyote hunting? What were some of the highlights of researching/writing this book?

I’d have to say the biggest challenge was trying to find balance between telling the story of a predator to young readers while remaining authentic about the coyote’s ferocity. By making the main character a mother coyote, hunting for her pups, kids can see that she’s hunting to feed her family, so her ferocity has meaning. It’s all part of maintaining balance in an ecosystem.

I loved doing hands-on research, walking in the woods with purpose, searching for signs of the elusive coyote—for scat, bedding sites, kill sites (I once found a bunch of turkey feathers, hence the turkey in the story).

The highlight was interviewing Dr. Jon Way, a noted eastern coyote/coywolf researcher, for what initially began as an article and evolved into a book. I read his book, Suburban Howls, and his scientific papers, and first learned about eastern coyotes/coywolves. I also visited the Stone Zoo where the orphaned coywolves that he rescued then lived. This is a photo of one of them named Lupe, who looked very much like the coywolf of my encounter.


Do you have a favorite animal? What is it and why?

I LOVE dogs. They’re so affectionate and expressive and full of unconditional love. My dog, Becca, is the best writing companion🙂

Maria Gianferrari was inspired to write Coyote Moon after her first coywolf sighting on a moonlit night in her own Massachusetts backyard. Maria now lives in Northern Virginia with her scientist husband, artist daughter, and rescue dog, Becca. This is her first book for Roaring Brook Press. Visit her at, on Facebook or Instagram.

Roaring Brook has generously offered to send a copy to a lucky winner. To win a copy of Coyote Moon for yourself, a child, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, July 23rd by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, July 26th (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Katz who won a copy of COYOTE MOON! I’ve sent you an email – please respond with your mailing address. Thank you to everyone for stopping by and entering! Stay tuned for more spotlights, reading buzz, and giveaways!



Welcome to the Spotlight Eric Luper and The Mysterious Moonstone


Hooray and happy book birthday to author Eric Luper! This fabulous book is the first in the Key Hunters chapter book series. A secret library? Mysterious keys? I’m there! Stay tuned below to win a copy!


Key Hunters: The Mysterious Moonstone by Eric Luper (Scholastic/April 2016)

When their beloved school librarian disappears, Evan and Cleo are stuck with a new mean librarian, Ms. Crowley. Evan and Cleo discover a secret library hidden under their school library and follow clues left by their previous librarian- and end up inside a book! Evan and Cleo must solve the mystery and find a key in order to return to their world. Will they make it out of the book? And what other mysteries are locked in the secret library? A fun adventure that had me trying to solve the mystery along with Evan and Cleo. I’m excited to read the rest of the series!

Spotlight on Eric Luper:

You’ve written several novels for older readers prior to this. How did this chapter book series come about? It sounds like such fun to write, with each book taking readers into a different genre.

I had been working on a middle-grade adventure that took place in the New York Public Library and had to do with real life puzzles, almost like National Treasure but in a library. I spent a lot of time learning about libraries and traveling to various libraries for ideas (NYPL, Chicago, Morgan Library, Library of Congress). I was having trouble envisioning how the story would come together until my editor from Scholastic, Jenne Abramowitz, mentioned an idea about a library with magical books that could only be opened with special keys. All it took was thinking about my idea for slightly younger readers with a magical twist and KEY HUNTERS was born!

Evan and Cleo are fun to follow – Evan with his jokes and knowledge and Cleo with her bravery and gumption. How did you develop these two characters? What are the challenges and joys to writing a book about their adventures?

I needed Evan and Cleo to sort of be opposites of one another. That way, there would be lots of opportunity for fun conflict between the two. They have very different ways of approaching problems, and neither is afraid of voicing their opinions. As I moved from book to book, I learned more about the characters in the same way I hope my readers do. And sometimes one or the other surprises me with a thought or action that makes me step back and ask why they did that! It’s part of what makes writing this series exciting for me.

As far as what challenges I’ve faced, I worried about writing a series. Most series have very similar plots from book to book and, quite frankly, that would bore me a little. When I get bored, I grow disinterested and interest is what motivates me as a writer. Since each book of KEY HUNTERS takes place in a different genre of fiction, every one becomes new and exciting for me and that has kept the writing coming fast and fresh.

I love the idea of having to find a key in order for Evan and Cleo to make it home. Do keys have any special significance for you?

Keys are fascinating to me. When I was little, I thought the more keys you had on your keyring the more important you were. Keys open up possibilities in the same way books do, so the two go hand in hand in my mind. The idea that a key would open a book that the characters would be drawn into just seemed to gel perfectly. And the idea that the worlds inside these books are as real as their own world felt exciting too.

Eric Luper grew up in New Jersey and attended Rutgers University. He writes fiction for young people and is proud to have moved from starving artist to not-so-starving artist. Eric loves excitement and is always looking for his next adventure. He’s fibbed his way into a tour of the ultra-secret Pez headquarters, rebuilt a castle in France, explored the creepy tunnels under Paris and Istanbul, escaped hungry crocodiles in Costa Rica, and rafted down the Colorado River. When he’s catching his breath, Eric lives in New York where he splits his time between Albany and Lake George.

For more about Eric and his books, check out his web site!

To win a copy of The Mysterious Moonstone for yourself, a child, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, April 30th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, May 3rd (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!