Gift Ideas from Texan Authors and Illustrators

It’s December and the holiday season is upon us whether we like it or not. Here’s an easy way to knock some of those items off your “To-Do” list. Celebrate the wealth of artistic talent in Texas by buying books created by Texan authors and illustrators. You’ll find something perfect for both the kids and grown-ups on your list. Here is a small sampling of books that are available in your local bookstores or favorite online bookseller.


Books for Children 4-8 years

Merry Christmas, Merry Crow by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jon Goodell
Celebrate the holidays with an industrious crow as it flies through a small town gathering bits and pieces to decorate its own outdoor Christmas tree.


Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman
Every younger brother or sister will enjoy this original tale of a nasty older brother who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and is proven wrong in the end. Sibling revenge fantasies aside, parents will also be relieved to discover a few “scientific” facts to support the existence of Santa Claus.


Three Bears’ Christmas by Kathy Duval, illustrated by Paul Meisel
In this twist on the Goldilocks tale, Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear go on a walk at Christmastime through the snowy woods in order to pass the time until their gingerbread has cooled off enough to eat. When the Bear family returns, they are surprised to find the gingerbread eaten, chairs broken and bed covers rumbled. Kids will love discovering the clues the Bears’ mysterious guest leaves behind.

 Gingerbread Man Superhero! by Dotti Enderle, illustrated by Joe Kulka
Another traditional tale with a holiday twist! As the oven door opens, Gingerbread Man leaps out, shouting "Flour Power"! Then the cookie crusader takes off to save the world and sweet adventures commence!

Moose and Magpie by Bettina Restrepo, illustrated by Sherry Rodgers

It isn’t easy growing-up – even for a moose. Luckily Moose has his good friend Magpie to help. Kids will love the jokes while learning interesting animal facts.

Books for Tweens and Teens

Front Page Face-Off by Jo Whittemore
Twelve-year-old Delilah James is a top reporter at Brighton Junior Academy. Her biggest ambition is to become a Junior Global Journalist. But when a new girl moves in, steals her crush and takes over in the newsroom, Delilah must turn to an unlikely ally for help.


Trudy by Jessica Lee Anderson
Trudy hates math, doesn’t understand her best friend anymore and then suddenly her dad starts acting strange. In this heart-wrenching drama, Trudy discovers her own strength by working through the seemingly insurmountable troubles in her life.

The Emerald Tablet by P.J. Hoover
In this first book of the trilogy, Benjamin and his best friend Andy adore their unique psychic gifts. But when Benjamin’s mirror starts talking, they realize their abilities are more than just tricks and games.

My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson
When scholarship student Rhonda is forced to tutor beautiful and popular Sarah in trigonometry, she discovers Sarah has a secret that for Rhonda is all too familiar


Shadow by Jenny Moss
If you are tired of vampires, don’t miss this fairy tale/ fantasy /romance that will leave you wanting more!

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
Anne’s life is turned upside down when she discovers her dreams of Baba Yaga and the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov are true.

Books for All Ages


A Christmas Carol Pop Up, illustrated by Chuck Fischer, paper engineering by Bruce Foster
Charles Dickens’s timeless fable, A Christmas Carol: A Pop-Up Book features artist Chuck Fischer’s richly painted depictions of the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, brought to life in intricate pop-up scenes by paper engineer Bruce Foster.

 Our Shadow Garden by Cherie Foster Colburn
A heart warming story illustrated by children who are battling cancer. When ordered through www.childrensart.org, 100% of the profit goes to M. D. Anderson Hospital.

Voices of the Alamo by Sherry Garland, illustrated by Ronald Himler
Through prose and paintings, this book captures the many cultures–Spanish, Tejano, Texan, Mexican, and American–of the people who lived on the land that became Texas.

Art From Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead, illustrated by Shane Evans
The story of Clementine Hunter, who overcame prejudice, poverty, and hard times to create art that is celebrated around the world.


 Happy Holiday’s everyone! Wishing you and your family the most peaceful of new years!


Interview with Author Bettina Restrepo

Bettina Restrepo has splashed onto the literary scene this summer with the picture book Moose and Magpie, an entertaining and humorous book about the life of a moose. A reformed business woman turned author, Bettina has also written a young adult novel entitled Illegal that is soon to be published by Harper Collins. Recently we caught up with Bettina to talk about books, writing and inspiration.


Describe your path to writing.


I wanted to win a creative writing contest, but came in 2nd place to a girl who had great penmanship. It was straight up and down with pretty loops at the end of the sentences. I don’t know what her story was about – but mine was completely inappropriate.


“The Teacher Compactor” was a sad tale about a machine that came to life and ate teachers when they weren’t looking. No wonder I got second place – I thought it wasn’t fair! I quit writing for many years because I hated to lose.  


But, I have always loved telling stories. The more convoluted, the better. My husband, an engineer, says I never get to the point. I meander through the fields, describing each flower, the sunset, and the taste of the toast in the inn before I would ever tell you there was a murder. I like to observe and then explain.


Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere and in every day life!


Describe a normal “writing” workday.

I take my little boy to school and find a workspace. This space might be a library, coffee shop, empty classroom at the school. Sometimes I might even go back home (which is a long drive since my son attends a special school for children with speech and hearing disorders).


It doesn’t have to be quiet, but sometimes it helps, because I listen to the characters in my head. They talk and I listen (I am merely the typist). My mind is always listening, so I can’t say that the 2-3 hours that I sit in the chair and rearrange words are my “working” time. I’m always working. Looking. Seeing. Listening. Absorbing.


So, I sit in a chair and editing and rearrange words about 15 hours a week. I market myself another 5-10 hours a week (communications with editors, PR, agent, website, bookstores, etc). Then, there is the book keeping part of it. I also nap daily – which is part of my work routine. I need time to dream and recharge – otherwise the people in my head can’t talk. They will just beat their hands against the glass like prisoners without the telephone. I won’t be able to hear them. They will riot. I will be frustrated. All will suffer. Then, school will be over, and I will start my other job. Mommy, chauffeur, wife. I’m lucky my husband hasn’t fired me, yet. Neither has the dog. Both are very forgiving.


Who are your favorite writers and why?

I love new writers. Their hearts are big and new, like toddlers. Their words are bright and shiny. They have fought hard to get into the world. 


What advice would you give aspiring writers and why?

Be a rat. Rats are savvy. They learn from their mistakes. 


Humans can be very determined, but they expect if they do the same thing over and over again, they will yield a different result. This is also the definition of insanity. If I continued to submit the same story I started with in 2002 and never changed or edited it, I would be in the same place – the rejection pile.


A rat in a maze that is fed a piece a cheese at one door will learn to visit that door. But, when the cheese is moved, the rat will learn to move.


Aspiring writers may have the talent, but you will need the ability to edit and receive criticism to succeed.



To learn more about Bettina, her books and her life, check out her website at http://www.bettinarestrepo.com. Her picture book Moose and Magpie is available at your local bookstore or at your favorite online book provider.

This interview orginally appeared in the July 2009 edition of the Houston Banner