Meet Hassan Manasrah

As part of our ongoing series introducing readers to Penny Candy authors and illustrators, we're happy to present Hassan Manasrah, award-winning illustrator of The Blue Pool of Questions (English-language version to hit the shelves in September!). Meet Hassan, then and now:

Hassan is a visual artist, illustrator, and comic creator. He studied interior design at al Balqa Applied University and painting at The Jordanian Fine Art Center. He also studied printmaking at the Jordanian Fine Art Museum where he concentrated on lithography, etching zinc and copper, and lino- and mono-prints. From 2008 to 2010, he worked as Assistant Art Director for the animated cartoon series Pink Panther & Pals. Since 2010, he has illustrated 25 children books. In 2014, the book Why Not? was shortlisted for the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature for best illustration and made the White Ravens list. In 2016, he won an Etisalat Award for best illustration for the Palestinian edition of The Blue Pool of Questions.


"Regarding my favorite book," Hassan writes, "it was Bahbahan Is Playing. Bahabahan is the name of a chubby blue elephant with a big red cheeks. I think it's my choice for favorite book because it was the only one I owned for a long period of time. As an adult, I did a little research and discovered that it is a book of poetry, published in 1981. But I only remember that blue elephant—and the large size of the book itself."



Meet Amy Losak

As part of our ongoing series introducing readers to Penny Candy authors and illustrators, we're happy to present Amy Losak. Amy's mother, Syd, as you'll read below, is the author of H is for Haiku, scheduled for release next April. It is with Amy's help and blessing that we're publishing her mom's work, as Syd is no longer alive. Here's a great photo of mother and daughter back in the day:

Amy Losak is a New Yorker (Queens) who now lives in Bergen County, NJ. A seasoned public relations professional (healthcare, corporate, nonprofit, arts/education, etc.), Amy has been on a mission for several years to revive some of her late mother’s literary works—especially her poetry, and most especially, her haiku and senryu for kids. Sydell Rosenberg (1929-1996) was a public school teacher, ESL instructor, and a published writer. She was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, established in NY in 1968, and her short poems were anthologized in journals, books, and other media over the years. Syd’s alphabet picture book, H Is For Haiku, will be published in April of 2018 (National Poetry Month). Inspired by Syd, Amy dabbles in short-form poetry too now. Some of her work has been published in print and online journals.

Two books had a transformative influence on Amy as she was growing up: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith and the Anne of Green Gables series, by L.M. Montgomery. According to Amy, “Francie and Anne are from vastly different worlds, each one with its own set of challenges. But they are, I think, 'kindred spirits' despite the disparities in their external circumstances. These amazing young women possess a singular vision, compassion, and imagination. They have a deep desire to learn and carve out their own place, their own destiny. Francie and Anne are strong, even indomitable—made of 'thin invisible steel'."

Amy continued, “I wanted to be like them—perhaps Anne, especially, with her feistiness, romantic views about life, and her love of language and nature—and yes, even her 'carrot'-red hair (though she yearned for 'handsome auburn' tresses!). I loved their grit and creative ideas and hopes. These great books (and others by Smith and Montgomery) had a profound impact on my life when I was a girl. My parents even took my brother Nathan and me on a 'pilgrimage' to Anne’s home when she came to live with the Cuthberts: Prince Edward Island. I think I was around 13 or 14 then. It was a wonderful adventure—a dream come true.”

An added bonus: one of Amy's own haiku:

sun clock . . .

my day unwinds

with low-flying sparrows

Meet Quraysh Ali Lansana

Another addition to our series! 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! Reacquaint yourself with Quraysh, then and now (with his best friend, Russ, in a 6th grade photo):

Quraysh has taught in elementary schools, high schools, and universities in Chicago, where he lives, and across the country. Known by many as Q, he has written eight poetry books, three textbooks, three children's books, and has co-written a book designed to help teachers teach poetry. Q has also edited eight anthologies of literature, most recently The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop (2015). He has several books forthcoming, two of which center around the poet Gwendolyn Brooks, who was his mentor. Check out a more in-depth profile at

About his favorite childhood books, Q writes, “I am the youngest of six, with 12 years between my oldest sibling and me, and four years separating the sibling closest in age. I spent much time in aloneness, a silence only tainted by television, the low hum of domestic violence, or Mama calling from work to check on me. I read a great deal of books.

The Enid Public Library was refuge and dream space.

My best friend Russ Hutchison and I spent every Saturday in the library for six years. All day, from opening to closing time. We loved The Great Brain series by John Dennis Fitzgerald. The escapades of T.D., the conniving and brilliant middle brother in the Fitzgerald family, always set our minds on fire. We likely even tried a 'Great Brain' trick or two on my unsuspecting younger cousins.”

Meet Maya Abu-Alhayyat

Another addition to our series! 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 Maya Abu-Alhayyat, author of the upcoming book, The Blue Pool of Questionsthen and now:

Maya is an award-winning Palestinian novelist, poet, and children’s book writer. She has published three collections of poetry: Home Dresses and Wars (Dar Alahlyah, 2016), This Smile, That Heart (Dar Raya, 2012), What She Said about Him (House of Poetry & Qattan Foundation, 2007); and three novels: Bloodtype (Dar el-Adab, 2013), Grains of Sugar (House of Poetry, 2004), and Threshold of Heavy Spirit (Ogarit, 2011); as well as several children’s books. Her writing has been featured in international journals and magazines and has been translated into English, French, German, Swedish, and Korean. Since 2013 Maya has worked as the director of the Palestinian Writing Workshop in Birzeit, West Bank, Palestine. She currently lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children.

Maya has provided a list of her favorite children's books, but not ones from her childhood because, she writes, "I didn't have access to children's books when I was a kid." Maya goes on to explain, "I was raised in the diaspora without my father or mother, who were separated when I was one year old. I lived with my aunt, who was poor, and reading was not a priority. Later, I lived with my father in Tunis. He was afraid that books and reading would make me who I am today :-)." Maya's novel, Bloodtype, explains her complex story and is currently looking for a home with an English-language publisher. 

Maya's favorite children's books: 

Haltabis Haltabis حلتبيس حلتبيس  by Rani Sghair 

The Story of The Squash قصة الكوسا by Samah Idress

Is this a Photo  هل هذه صورة شمسية by Nadin Touma

Hazzur Umm Fazoura حزورة أم فزورة by Rula Sadeh

really really  حقاً حقاُ by K.Gray

Boulqash بولقش by Yara Bamieh

Unimportant Tips for The Young Reader نصائح غير مهمة للقارئ الصغير  by Anas Abu Rahmeh

Author photo by Salim Abu Jabal

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."