Reading with Your Kids Podcast featuring NITA’S FIRST SIGNS

I was delighted to be interviewed by Jedlie for his podcast, Reading with Your Kids. We discussed the benefits of signing with all children, the power of bilingualism, and how Nita’s First Signs came to be.

Click here to listen to a recording of the podcast.

Click here to read a transcript.

Jedlie's Reading with Your Kids     Nita's First Signs final cover

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Read This!: CITY OF ISLANDS by Kali Wallace

City of IslandsCity of Islands by Kali Wallace

Summary: In a foggy archipelago called the City of Islands, magic drifts on the air as songs. Twelve-year-old Mara has always been fascinated by the spell-songs and dreams of becoming a great mage. Orphaned as a little girl, Mara was taken in by a bone-mage called Bindy. But when Bindy was killed by a rival, Mara lost both her home and her best chance to learn magic. Now Mara is a servant for the powerful Lady of the Tides. She earns her keep by diving in the murky ocean, searching for magical treasures that might please the Lady. Mara still yearns to learn magic, but it’s hard for a poor, orphaned servant to dream when the path to becoming a mage is open to only an elite few. Then one day, while diving for the Lady, Mara finds the skeletons of strange hybrid creatures: a lizard with wings, a horse with horns, and many more, the likes of which have not existed in the city for centuries. The entire trove of bones is humming with a powerful spell-song. Mara is convinced the bones will earn her the opportunity to study magic. But rather than rewarding her discovery, the Lady gives Mara a challenge: to learn where the magical bones came from by sneaking into the Winter Blade, an island fortress ruled by the very same sorcerer who killed Bindy years ago. What Mara finds will reveal chilling truths about her own past, as well as secrets about the history of her beloved city that are more dangerous–and magical–than she had ever imagined.

Kali Wallace creates a stunning and unusual world in this fantasy that is at once bound up in myth and legend and grounded in the gritty reality of fish markets and hardscrabble village life. Mara is a brave, determined, and ultimately thoughtful heroine who both yearns for and fears magic, and is willing to ask difficult questions about the responsibilities that come with power. The people that she cares about – loyal Fish Hook, caring Izzy, even the stately and distant Lady of the Tides – are fully drawn characters, some with their own surprisingly motivations. Underlying each of Mara’s discoveries is the yearning for family and grief for the loss of her parents and Bindy, the bone mage who took her in as a child. In uncovering secrets about the long-gone founders of the City of Islands, she also uncovers parts of her own past she might have preferred to stay hidden, and must come to understand a new definition of family.

CITY OF ISLANDS is out now.

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Reviews and News

I’m heading off to the woods for one of my favorite weeks of the year – Deaf Camp. But before I go, here’s a roundup of some recent excitement and upcoming events.


Earlier this week, Dagger and Coin received its first trade review – and it’s a great one! Kirkus Review calls it a “riveting fantasy sequel…Soraya’s compelling narration makes the minutiae of management as thrilling as the betrayals, murders, and desperate gambits propelling the plot…A fine balance of political intrigue, relationship drama, and thoughtful characterization.” Read the full review.


Nita’s First Signs also got a great review from Vicki at Babies to Bookworms, which said that “the descriptions and the illustrations on the instructions are really easy to understand, making it easy for parents to perform the signs right away and teach them to their children. The ending to the story is absolutely adorable and will resonate with parents and kids alike!”  Check out the full review along with Vicki’s post offering great suggestions for following up the book with other signing activities.


Upcoming Event: Once Upon a Sign

Saturday, July 28, 2019 1pm – 2pm at Barnes & Noble, 4300 Montgomery Rd, Ellicott City, MD 21043

Join us for a lively event with two great authors! Kathy MacMillan, author of Nita’s First Signs, shares American Sign Language stories, songs, and rhymes for the whole family, followed fractured fairy tale fun with Veronica Bartles, author of The Princess and the Frogs. Free event, for all ages. Books will be available for purchase and signing.






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ASL Poetry and a NITA’S FIRST SIGNS Giveaway at

I’m so excited to share a guest post at Laura Shovan’s Poetry Friday blog post! Laura is a poet and the author of Takedown and The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, and she matches books with great poems when she posts about them on her blog. (Check out the post she did about Sword and Verse here.)

For Nita’s First Signs, I was thrilled to introduce readers to a classic of American Sign Language poetry: “Dandelion” by Clayton S. Valli. ASL poetry is composed in ASL and created to be understood in a visual medium, with meter, alliteration, and rhyme expressed in an entirely visual way.  Learn more about the poem and enter to win a signed copy of Nita’s First Signs at Laura’s blog.

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Giveaway Time!

My co-author for the Storytime Magic series, Christine Kirker, and I each have new solo books out, so we’ve teamed up for a giveaway! Read about both books below, and enter a giveaway for a prize pack featuring signed copies of both books here. Giveaway ends July 27, 2018.

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Singing and Signing Fun in Libraries This Summer

I’m looking forward to sharing stories, songs, and signs with kids and families this summer at Maryland libraries! Join me for these FREE programs, where you can also purchase a signed copy of Nita’s First Signs! I’ll also be offering book bundles featuring Nita’s First Signs and Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together, along with an adorable rubber ducky signing I-LOVE-YOU, for just $28. Makes a great baby shower or new baby gift!

Nita's First Signs final cover   Little Hands and Big Hands cover   

Saturday, July 7, 10 AM at the Eldersburg Library (Eldersburg, MD)Little Hands Signing: Summer Signs (for ages birth to 8 with caregiver)

Sunday, July 8, 2 PM at the Rosedale Library (Rosedale, MD): The SIGN-a-long Sing-a-long (for all ages)

Wednesday, July 11, 1:30 PM at the White Marsh Library (White Marsh, MD): The SIGN-a-long Sing-a-long (for all ages)

Thursday, July 12, 11 AM at the Central Library (Denton, MD): The SIGN-a-long Sing-a-long (for all ages)

Sunday, July 15, 2 PM at the Hereford Library (Hereford, MD): The SIGN-a-long Sing-a-long (for all ages)

Friday, July 20, 3 PM at the Towson Library (Towson, MD): The SIGN-a-long Sing-a-long (for all ages)

Monday, July 30, 10:30 AM at the Hyatttsville Library (Hyattsville, MD)Little Hands Signing: Summer Signs (for ages birth to 8 with caregiver)

Saturday, August 11, 10 AM at the Eldersburg Library (Eldersburg, MD)Little Hands Signing: Transportation Signs (for ages birth to 8 with caregiver)





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Take the #ReadLocalSummerChallenge!

I’ve had a blast being a part of the Read Local Challenge, which features traditionally published authors and illustrators living in Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. Now we’ve got a great way to extend the fun: the Read Local Summer Challenge!

Read any of our 2017-18 or 2018-19 Read Local Challenge books this summer and enter to win a prize pack of signed books and special Read Local swag! – Each book that you read & share gives you another opportunity to win. If you read all 90 books and share each one on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, that gives you 270 entries!!

1. Read any of the books from our 2017-18 MD/DE/VA/DC Read Local Challenge or get a head start on reading our upcoming 2018-19 Read Local Challenge books.

2. Tell us what you are reading! Each time you finish a book, share it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #ReadLocalSummerChallenge (and be sure to tag us: @SCBWI_MD_DE_WV on Twitter, or @Read.Local.MD.DE.VA.DC on Facebook and Instagram). It’s super easy to enter: after reading, simply click on the book cover at the Read Local Summer Challenge site to access a pre-written tweet!

3. Each separate tweet or post gives you another entry, so share your reading journey widely, across all of your social media accounts! All entries must be received by 11:59pm on September 21, 2018. Anyone with a US or APO shipping address is eligible to enter.

4. A winner will be chosen in a random drawing from entries received across all platforms on or around September 25, 2018.

Learn more at 

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Read This!: THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST by Samantha M. Clark

The Boy, the Boat, and the BeastThe Boy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha M. Clark

Summary: A boy washes up on a mysterious, seemingly uninhabited beach. Who is he? How did he get there? The boy can’t remember. When he sees a light shining over the foreboding wall of trees that surrounds the shore, he decides to follow it, in the hopes that it will lead him to answers. The boy’s journey is a struggle for survival and a search for the truth—a terrifying truth that once uncovered, will force him to face his greatest fear of all if he is to go home.

This is book is so heartfelt, so immediate that readers can’t help but get drawn into the tale of the boy who wakes up on a beach not knowing who he is or where he came from. Though we don’t know his name – yet – we feel his pain and grief and anxiety as he tries to piece together his past and faces the sometimes terrifying challenges of the present. And hanging over everything is the mystery of what it all means, where his parents are, and why he can’t remember. This book is perfect for fans of The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari – both are workouts for the heart.


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NITA’S FIRST SIGNS Launch Event This Sunday at The Ivy Bookshop!

Sunday, July 1, 2018 at 10 AM

The Ivy Bookshop, 6080 Falls Rd, Baltimore, Maryland 21209

To preorder your copies (or order signed copies if you can’t attend the event), call (410) 377-2966

Nita's First Signs final coverI’m looking forward to celebrating the launch of Nita’s First Signs with stories, songs, crafts, snacks, and more! This event will be appropriate for all ages and accessible in American Sign Language and spoken English.

RSVP here.

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The Prince and the DressmakerThe Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Summary: Paris, at the dawn of the modern age: Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion! 
Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? 

I am not generally a huge fan of graphic novels. (I’m not snobbish about them, I swear! They just aren’t generally my thing.) But I tore through this sweet tale in one sitting. There’s so much to love about this story – two intensely likable characters making discoveries about their world and their place in it, a tender friendship/romance that blooms alongside conflict but never takes over the story, a historical setting that brings to life parts of the past that have been hidden for too long. There are no easy answers to either Sebastian’s or Frances’s dilemmas, but both find happiness anyway when they learn to be true to themselves. A compelling, unique, funny, and touching story.


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