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September 22, 2023

In this edition of our monthly roundup of BookLife titles, we feature picture books. Want to see your book featured? Check out the Indie Spotlight calendar at

Casey’s Pet Detective Agency: The Case of the Colorful Cockatiel Camille Brown


Author statement: “On their way to have a picnic in the park, Casey and Jennie hear their school friend and neighbor Abby call for help. Her colorful cockatiel Coco is missing. Abby’s bird has flown the coop. Oh no! Casey and Jennie decide to take the case to help find Coco. Searching place to place, they learn about cockatiels. As a filmmaker, I have always been fascinated by the power of storytelling to create emotional connections and inspire audiences. My six-year-old nephew inspired me to make more family-friendly content. One day, he asked me to write him a story and read it to him. So I did. He enjoyed it so much he wanted to hear more stories with that character. The story took a life of its own, and I have now developed it into a series of children’s picture books.”


Dreaming of the Ocean

Grant Collier, illus. by Stephanie Lowman

ISBN 978-1-935694-68-7

Author statement:Dreaming of the Ocean tells the story of Terra the Turtle, who does not want to go to sleep. When she finally does doze off, she dreams that she is at the bottom of the ocean. She makes an unlikely friendship with a creature called an anglerfish. Together, they brave many dangers and see fascinating ocean animals as Terra tries to get back home. Our goal in creating Dreaming of the Ocean was to tell an adventurous and educational story about the deep sea.”


Fallon Favors Fall

Tiffany Obeng

ISBN 978-1-959075-06-6

Author statement:Fallon Favors Fall is a colorful picture book about autumn that features pumpkins, apples, squirrels, and all the fun things associated with the season. Fallon Favors Fall is the third addition to the diverse children’s book set about seasons. I used to favor summer and spring, but Fallon’s near-poetic ode to fall leaves no doubt in any reader’s mind that fall just might be the best season of the year.”


Hop Lola Hop: A Yummy Market Day Adventure

Kathy Urban

ISBN 978-1-912678-80-8

Author statement: “The Hop Lola Hop series was inspired by my experiences as a parent and my eldest daughter’s favorite comfort toy that we lost many, many times during trips to the supermarket, the local playground, and even on a desert camel ride. Lola’s make-believe adventures used to be our family’s unique way of coping with the temporary loss of the comforter. I first set out to write a sweet bedtime story based on some of the adventures we made up. But Hop Lola Hop has become a lot more than that. It’s a tale about friendship, reminding us to value and preserve the things we hold dear.”


Little Curiosity/Curiosita

Fatima Pimienta

ISBN 978-1-63988-819-1

Author statement: “This short picture book tells the story, through color development page by page, of a black-and-white caterpillar in a black-and-white world that one day discovers gray. She weaves her cocoon out of her discovery and soon sees a rainbow that leads her to create her wings and soar through a new bright world. This book was initially created as a Christmas present for my toddler niece during the pandemic. We often sit down to read with her non-English-speaking grandparents, taking turns. Our other nieces and nephews love showing off that they can read both languages! I cannot wait to share this book with other bilingual, multicultural families and anyone who wishes to explore language, color, and self-growth.”


Meeru’s Multan

Miral Azam Khalil


Author statement: “Saif is unable to sleep. He asks his mother to tell him a story. She recalls life in Lahore, from where her family traveled to her aunt’s town, Multan. Prompted by Saif’s questions, she shares other experiences there: sleeping on a rooftop on a charpai; savoring local spe- specialties, including mangoes; shopping at a bazaar; and attending cricket matches. Later, she promises to take Saif and his sisters to visit Multan too. My oldest son had a speech delay and took no interest in traditional picture books. He always wanted to listen to stories from my childhood. I was baffled at his interest because I considered my childhood extremely simple and not worthy of retelling at all. But he went into a trance and found every detail magical. I was encouraged to pen this story by a friend who guaranteed me that I would have a customer in her. The mainstream media’s singular narrative about Pakistan, combined with a lack of quality bilingual books that serve the Urdu-speaking diaspora and Pakistani immigrants, led me to pen this book.”


My Love for You Is Like a Garden

Laura Smetana

ISBN 978-1-73714-096-2

Author statement: “The inspiration for My Love for You Is Like a Garden has roots in the pandemic. During those early months when we were under stay-at-home orders, I spent a lot of time gardening in my backyard. We couldn’t see family and friends in person, but when I was in my garden, I was reminded of their love—behind each plant, there were stories and shared memories. In June 2021, I began painting the watercolor washes for the book. Little did I know a tornado would rip through our community that night, sending a tree through our roof, and causing severe damage to many of our neighbors’ homes—leaving many uninhabitable. It also swept away many trees in our backyard and a garden that was under them. Over the next year, while working on the collages for the book, and repairing our home, I was so touched when friends, family, and strangers started bringing flowers and plants to help us replant the garden that was wiped away. Now whenever I look at it, I am reminded of the kindness, generosity, and love we experienced in the aftermath of the tornado.”


Naked Butt Busts Out!

Jane Smith


Author statement: “Cheeky bunny Naked Butt just wants to be himself, but when being yourself literally means baring it all, Naked Butt finds everyone wants him to cover up his tail again. Especially his momma! So Naked Butt tries his best to keep his true self tucked under shirts and shorts. But when Naked Butt’s clothes start feeling itchier and scratchier and tighter and tighter, he can’t keep himself covered up anymore—Naked Butt busts out! To everyone’s surprise, Naked Butt’s hilarious city streak shows momma that standing out in the crowd isn’t just a good thing, it’s a lifesaver, and that being yourself can inspire others to uncover a whole new view of the world, too. Naked Butt Busts Out! was inspired by the universal experience of kiddos just not wanting to get dressed!”


Mama, Why do Babies Cry?

Amy Winfield

ISBN 978-0-9861703-8-6

Author statement: “As a mother tucks in her young daughter for the night, the girl looks up and asks, ‘Mama, why do babies cry?’ What follows is the colorful, adorable journey of the many answers why. This easy-to-read story is the perfect book for many occasions, from reading to your baby before bedtime to teaching young ones to read. I wrote this book specifically as a way to assist parents, grandparents, and all caretakers in their efforts to explain why babies cry. I hope that the beautiful imagery of this multicultural book will not only entertain your child but will also help them grow socially and intellectually.”


Truffle Cat

Zack Helminiak, illus. by Cristina Dan


Author statement: “In Truffle Cat, a learning adventure unfolds as a city cat, Luka, endeavors to learn the trade of his best friend, a heroic truffle pig, and become the first Truffle Cat. Luka leads the life of an ordinary city cat. One day his insatiable curiosity is piqued by tourists traveling from all over the world to eat truffles. Despite the warnings of failure from other cats, Luka practices his smells, and studies under his friend the pig. One day, Luka unexpectedly finds himself on a real truffle hunt, searching for his missing friend, and on a path to finding the largest white truffle of the year. The town rallies around him, and he demonstrates that anything is possible with hard work.”


You Can’t Kiss a Bubble

Karen A. Wyle, illus. by Siski Kalla

ISBN 978-1-73555-860-8

Author statement: “Many children—and adults—find bubbles fascinating, even enchanting. And yet they’re so different from most things we enjoy, lasting only a few moments. This little book, with its lovely and whimsical illustrations, looks at both the charm and the transitory nature of bubbles, and reminds us that we can take joy even in the impermanent. This was my first picture book, and thus my introduction to the thrill of working with an illustrator. Getting an email with a sketch or illustration in progress attached was like opening a Christmas present—and since we had no regular schedule for when Siski would send new art, every day held the possibility of being Christmas morning.”


You Come from Love

Adam Motz

ISBN 978-1-66293-623-4

Author statement:You Come from Love is a picture book written as a parent’s answer to the inevitable questions that his children— born through IVF/surrogacy—will have about their origin. I wrote this book for my twin daughters shortly after my husband and I found out that our gestational carrier was pregnant. We had a long fertility journey, with highs and lows—our best friends agreed to be our egg donor and surrogate; our health insurance company denied us coverage on the basis of sexual orientation and gender. This book came about as I was thinking about our future children. It was a beautiful experience to write this book, and so rewarding to be able to share it with my daughters now that they’re here. I am grateful to know that they can carry this message of love with them as they grow. And it’s even more special to be able to share this story with other families.”


Young Grandmaster Choi

Shequeta L. Smith


Author statement: “After losing both parents, Rayven Johnson, a six-year-old African American army brat, is relocated to Seoul, South Korea, where she’s adopted by the Choi family. On her first day at Seoul Elementary School, Rayven has a run-in with a bully, but with neither of them knowing how to fight, they end up in hap- kido classes. Young Grandmaster Choi is a fun and lighthearted manga and a prequel to my graphic novel, Rayven Choi. The Rayven Choi character and book series was inspired by a study abroad trip I took to South Korea two decades ago while I was an undergrad at NC State University. When I returned from South Korea, I knew I was destined to be a storyteller.”