Meet Tracey Zeeck

As you probably know by now, we've been asking the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood books . . . and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids! Meet Tracey Zeeck, author of The Not In Here Storythen and now:

Tracey Zeeck was born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma City, where she currently owns a boutique public relations firm specializing in clients with good business practices and better stories to tell. She and her husband were lucky enough to become parents through adoption in November 2007 and have been on a mission to tell the world their family’s love story ever since. The Not In Here Story is the ever-evolving origin tale of her little family.

Tracey writes of her childhood favorites, "I was a HUGE fan of all Dr. Seuss, and my favorite book of all was Green Eggs and Ham. My mom even made it for breakfast once, but nobody ate it. Anyway, I loved the comforting rhythm. It was so balanced . . . and I still feel that way about it."

Meet Barbara Nye

We asked the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood book . . . and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids! Meet Barbara Nye, author and illustrator of our upcoming fall book, Somewhere a Bell is Ringing, then and now:

Barbara is originally from a farming community in Central Texas called Cyclone. She grew up on a 180-acre farm with her parents and ten siblings. Her travels in many countries and her experiences living in South America and Canada have had a strong influence on her artwork.  She has an honors degree in Spanish and Latin American studies from the University of Texas at Austin and is fluent in Spanish. Barbara has lived in Australia for over 25 years, has been an Australian citizen since 1992, and raised her three children there.

According to Barbara, "I had many beloved childhood books, including Mike Mulligan and his Steam ShovelThe Story About PingThe Little Engine that Could,  and Little Golden Books like Scuffy the Tugboat, The Pokey Little Puppy, and Scupper the Sailor Dog. We used to watch Captain Kangaroo on TV, and I loved it when he read picture books. I read many of these classics to my children as they were growing up.

"Of all the cherished books of that time, if I were to choose a favorite it would have to be The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. I just love that Ferdinand is a peace-loving non-conformist, and the drawings by Lawson are superb!"

Meet Skip Hill

We asked the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood book . . . and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids! Meet Skip, illustrator of A Gift from Greensboro, now and then:

Skip Hill’s body of art is comprised of illustrations, murals, collage paintings, and drawings that weave a rich tapestry of aesthetic styles, languages, and philosophies rooted in cultures around the world. He explores images and forms from cultural sources as diverse as comic books, Folk art, Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, Graffiti, and European Art History to produce an art that embraces the viewer in a visually engaging experience.

Skip’s early inspiration for making art was established in childhood through a love of reading and when his father introduced him to the work of artist Romare Bearden. Beyond his artistic innovations, Bearden’s activism and commitment to the Civil Rights Movement has influenced Skip’s commitment to using art and art education as a vehicle for affirming positive personal and social change. Follow Skip on Instagram: @skiphillart

Skip writes of his favorite childhood books, "The Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary immediately comes to mind. I tore through every new release. Looking back, I realize the boy that was me was drawn to the freedom of the world Henry lived in. I shared his sense of adventure but grew up in a strict, constricting family. The edge of my world was fenced in by my parents’ fear, while Henry and Ribsy could take the bus downtown without a grown-up in sight. I always wanted to do that as a kid.

Looking back, I also considered the idea of identity in children's literature for that time (60's-70's). I don't think I consciously thought of Henry as a "white boy" as much as an avatar for myself. But being the visual art that children's books are, I can't help but consider how this imprinted my personal narrative about Race and my place in this society. There was a sense in the world of my childhood reading that White kids could do so many things we couldn't do. Then Leo & Diane Dillon changed everything."






Meet Mariana Llanos

We asked the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood book...and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids. Meet Mariana!

Mariana, age 3

Mariana, age 3

Mariana Llanos was born in Lima, Peru, to two journalists. She developed an early passion for writing and studied theatre at the prestigious CuatroTablas school in Lima. She has lived in Oklahoma since 2002, where she worked as a teacher in a preschool center. In 2013 Mariana self-published her first book, Tristan Wolf, which was a Finalist in the 2013 Readers’ Favorite Book Award. Since then, she has published seven books independently in English and Spanish and through virtual technology has chatted with students from more than 150 schools around the world to promote literacy. Penny Candy Books will publish Mariana's bilingual picture book, Luca’s Bridge/El Puente de Luca, in Spring 2018. Luca's Bridge/El Puente de Luca is the emotional story of a boy coming to terms with his family’s deportation from America to Mexico. 

Mariana Llanos

Mariana Llanos

Mariana writes, "I had so many favorite books when I was growing up, but I'll have to say that The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery had the biggest impact in me. I wanted to be like that boy who lived on a faraway planet and loved a rose. His wisdom and tenderness inspired me to write my own stories when I was just a young girl. Also, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was another book I always came back to. Ah, the humor, the wit! I just had to write my own stories inspired by the wonder-full land of the White Rabbit."

Meet Tiffany McKnight

We asked the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood book...and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids. Meet Tiffany! probably already know Tiffany if you've been paying attention to Penny Candy news! Tiffany is an artist, illustrator, graphic and pattern designer, and the creator of the coloring book, NUVEAU: The Future of Patterns. 

Tiffany, kindergarten

Tiffany, kindergarten

Tiffany McKnight

Tiffany McKnight

Growing up with three older siblings Tiffany learned to develop her imagination early in life by creating hundreds of paper dolls by hand, reading fashion magazines, and creating animations through video games like Mario Paint. From the beginning Tiffany always knew one of her many gifts was to explore the arts.

Born in Miami, Florida and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she moved to Oklahoma City and received her BFA in Studio Art from the University of Oklahoma in 2012. Her art is inspired by her love for color, African textiles, Art Nouveau, and biology, and often pays homage to the vibrancy she experienced growing up in Southern Miami.

She currently resides in Oklahoma City and continues to expand her vivid style through an array of media. You can find her patterns recently published on the labels of certain flavors of San Francisco’s own Clearly Kombucha and on luxury wallpaper produced in collaboration with SixTwelve and Ketch Design Centre. Tiffany was named a 2016 Angel Award recipient that acknowledges unsung heroes that have effected positive change in the lives of others.

About her favorite childhood book, Tiffany writes, "Scrambled Eggs Super! by Dr. Suess was one of most favorite books of all time, so much so I still physically own a copy! My favorite thing about Scrambled Eggs Super! was that it allowed my imagination to run wild by showcasing all the different animals and their patterned eggs in the Seuss world! One of my favorite meals is breakfast, and this book really set the standard for me and inspired me to cook perfect scrambled eggs—assisted by my mother. One of my favorite parts of the book is the very last page when the siblings are in the kitchen looking at the rich bounty of all of the beautifully patterned and different sized eggs. I remember being genuinely excited at the sheer amount of eggs they foraged as well as thinking about all of the different things they could create with so many eggs. This book will always hold a special place in my heart, and I cherish the way Seuss illustrated such colorful whimsical books for children." 

Check out and for more Tiffany!

Chad's favorite book

Join us all month, beginning this week with Children's Book Week, as we feature favorite childhood books from our authors, illustrators, and staff!! 

Clockwise from top left: Chad age 2.5, book cover, Arnold Lobel, Arnold Lobel self portrait as pig

Small Pig (Harper & Row, 1969) by Arnold Lobel is one of my favorite books from childhood. I like it better than his more well-known and more celebrated books, such as Frog and Toad Are Friends, Mouse Soup, and Fables. Those are classics of the genre,  but Small Pig holds special meaning for me because it taught me that sometimes parents could be wrong and kids could be right. Plus I really liked that pig.

Small pig is the hero of the book, and he loves nothing better than sinking into good, soft mud at the end of a long day running around his farm. Farmer and his wife love the small pig and think he’s the best pig in the whole world. This makes small pig very happy.

But one day the farmer’s wife goes on a spring cleaning spree with her new vacuum cleaner and she goes outside and—whoosh!—sucks up small pig’s mud puddle! This makes the farmer’s wife happy but it upsets small pig greatly, and he decides to run away to find good, soft mud somewhere else.

Small pig visits many places but none of them have what he’s looking for. Finally he arrives at a big, polluted city where construction workers are pouring a new sidewalk. Small pig confuses the wet concrete for good, soft mud and sinks in, content at last.

When small pig realizes his mistake, he’s stuck fast in the sidewalk and a crowd of city dwellers have gathered around. How embarrassing for him! But to his surprise (and ours!) the farmer and his wife have been searching frantically for their beloved pig and driving through the city they stop to see what the crowd is gawking at. It’s their beloved small pig! They rescue him with the help of firemen with jackhammers and take him back to the farm where they give him all the good, soft mud he could ever want.

I loved and related to small pig. I remember feeling intense pleasure that he got to sink into his mud at night. To me, it felt like crawling in bed. I recall the anger I felt when the farmer and his wife cleaned away his mud. How unfair! How misunderstood he was! How at the mercy and whim of his unpredictable owners he was! I remember the fear and excitement I felt along with small pig, the sense of adventure and independence, as he made his way from farm to bog to junkyard to city. And of course I remember the relief I felt at his rescue. The love and understanding. The comfort of returning home and to having a little place to sink into at the end of a long day. I remember remembering all these feelings as I snuggled into my bed, falling asleep while my parents read this book.

Looking back at it, this book taught me that parents (or farmers) aren’t always perfect and that they make mistakes. It taught me that these mistakes can be honest ones. It taught me that kids (or small pigs) have legitimate complaints when they are misunderstood or taken for granted. That sometimes kids might want or need to run away (even if running away if just having some quiet time in your room). That running away is sometimes the only way to learn the true value of home. That parents (or farmers) can’t micromanage their young wards. That sometimes it’s best to compromise. And that home is the place that makes you feel good at the end of the day, like a warm bed or good, soft mud, or the sound of your parent’s voice softly reading you book after book until you fall asleep.

May 1-7, 2017: Children's Book Week!

Happy Children's Book Week from Penny Candy Books! Did you know that this is the 98th straight year that Children's Book Week has been celebrated in the US? It was founded in 1919 and predates the Newbery Medal (1922) and Caldecott Medal (1933). 

We have a lot in store for Children's Book Week this year, including blog posts about our favorite childhood books and what they've meant to us over the years. We have a super secret something on deck for Friday, too.

What will you do to celebrate CBW? Head over to to see how you can celebrate children's books this week! 



Our newest title! NUVEAU: The Future of Patterns

We're so excited for this coloring book to hit the shelves. We've tested it on kids and adults, to rave reviews by both. Working with Tiffany (the artist) and Amy (director of SixTwelve with whom we teamed up to make this book possible), has been and continues to be a joy. The book is on its way as we speak and will be available to ship in early January. You can pre-order one (or five or ten) on our website now, or go to the party tomorrow night (in OKC) to grab one of our 100-or-so early copies, which Tiffany will sign! Check out this rad video for more:

On Mni Wiconi, Blood Run, and The Power (and Necessity) of Youth-Led Movements

photo credit: Travis Hedge Coke

photo credit: Travis Hedge Coke

photo credit: Redhawk from Standing Rock Rising Facebook Page

photo credit: Redhawk from Standing Rock Rising Facebook Page

by Allison Adele Hedge Coke

We are proud to introduce Allison Adele Hedge Coke as a member of our Advisory Council at Penny Candy Books. Hedge Coke grew up in North Carolina, Texas, Canada, and the Great Plains region and is of Huron, Metis, French Canadian, Portuguese, English, Irish, Scot and mixed Southeastern Native heritage. She is an award-winning poet, teacher, and activist whose work the US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera recently honored with a Witter Bynner Fellowship.

Our Advisory Council members contribute their important voices to our conversations about race, diversity, and cultural awareness with the goal of helping us accomplish our mission—to create children's literature that reflects the diverse realities of the world we live in both at home and abroad—every single day.

We’re honored that Hedge Coke has raised her voice and shared this piece with us.

This Mni Wiconi movement at Standing Rock (Sacred Stone, Red Warrior, Oceti Sakowin camps), on the Cannonball, is a youth-led movement in complete step with Black Elk's prophesy, where the youth will lead in the direst times. We are in those dire times, and they are leading. For those who aren’t familiar with the Mni Wiconi movement at Standing Rock, this short animated video by native filmmaker Joseph Erb is a great introduction.

I am a grandmother. A grandmother with the strong girl heart, maybe. When I fought for protection of Blood Run on the Big Sioux River in South Dakota, I was the only adult, the only citizen, who showed up at any of the hearings to testify. I was the only person still actively lobbying for that site's protection. No matter how I tried, my well-experienced lobbying peers believed it "a lost cause."

My Sioux Falls School District Office of Indian Ed students did not. They held hope, and they sent me with their stacks of letters wanting action, justice, truth, dignity, protection, respect. They/we wanted this site to be loved and honored. I was already a grandmother during the final successful phase of hearings, and my oldest granddaughters were born ten minutes from that site.

There was nothing in the curriculum, nor in the general public spectrum to designate any of the world heritage there, nor nothing of the many peoples who had millennia of experience and lives in that place, the very large ceremonial mound city nearly destroyed by the invaders in the territorial and railroad era and continued by settler-colonist descendants there still sadly looting the ancestral graves.

There was nothing for my granddaughters and nothing for my students. There had been decades and decades of intentional destruction of the place and its significance there. It was criminal erasure.

I performed testimony in the way of my own family, through the cadence of the song, and poetry of place, the prayers left there by so many generations of Indigenous people, the rhythm of memory and the cadence of truth.

In the traditional method of laying down symbolic proof in my testimony, the letters from my students upon the bench carried their truth, their hope, their histories, their love of this place, their call for its protection, and for truthful re-education of world significance in their curriculum, in the contemporary community, and protection for the graves still there, for returning those who had been illegally taken, and for the earthworks, the river, and all living creatures there and beyond that watershed, for the rare skipper butterfly only found there, for life, and especially for the very-much-living builder nation descendants and other nations who traded there pre-invasion.

We won. South Dakota State Game, Fish, and Parks officials hearing the final testimony in the case were in tears when they were brought to understanding. They acted immediately, without hesitation. Taken to truth and powerful within it, they acted. Though it has taken years, and tenacity by the department and surrounding community, the site is now protected, and the builder nations are returning to advise and re-engage with the traditional sacred site on the river there (now preserved as Good Earth State Park), also within the watershed of the Missouri and, I must note, downstream from Standing Rock.

Who knows what madness would have occurred if DAPL, Keystone, or any other resource mongerer would have done to me, to my students (or how they may have bought off, or infiltrated the state and surrounding community), if they had eyes on whatever is left to syphon from the earth in this climate calamity we find ourselves immersed within.

Had I listened to my own peers (who were already grandparents as well then), I would have not held the hope and cherished the power of truth within me to speak authoritatively to the significance of the place and all its many people and creatures dependent upon its preservation. I would have walked away and been disgruntled, and that would have been that.

Though lifelong and historical stress, abuse, trauma, and unending disappointment would have excused me, my inaction would have been criminal as well. Because I have that youthful heart and was capable of making a difference and needed to for all the younger generation coming, for the people coming, for my grandchildren, my students, and all the creatures still living there. And, truly, for my own elders, and those before me who gave what they could when they were young enough to do so, and for those elders who are now joining the youth, supporting the youth-led movement to protect the water from this pipeline, a pipeline only proposed to run through here after mostly white communities refused it near where they live away from the waters.

Shame on the media for the virtual blackout. When media outlets like CNN and The Washington Times do cover the DAPL onslaught, rather than taking this rich opportunity to learn and to report with integrity, they instead look for a sensational and divisional angle to publicly employ divide-and-conquer tactics on the small and vulnerable community at Standing Rock.

Both outlets ignored the many elders from whom the youth have sought advice and the many other elders who stand with them and by them; instead focusing on a few older people they could use to make their public, agenda-based points with. It is shameful to make a spectacle of older people willing to be disgruntled with the youth and supportive of incoming area foreigners. Older people who can, at times, be misled, be more complacent when put upon, obviously because of never-ending decades of putting up with what appears to be inevitable oppression experienced in this and in all Indigenous communities of Turtle Island, now dubbed the United States, in all its remarkably genocidal history.

The seventh generation is here. They are protecting all of us. It’s time that we listen.