How to Have a Birthday by Mary Lyn Ray

How to Have a Birthday

Mary Lyn Ray, Author

Cindy Derby, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 14, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Birthday, Traditions, Celebrations, Diversity

Opening“On the morning of your birthday you can tell already that the day is not like others.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

YOUR BIRTHDAY is just one day out of the whole year, but the celebration of you is limitless. On this special day, filled with anticipation and delight, there could be gifts, traditions, or a quiet moment alone to contemplate being one year older.

This is a day to celebrate you and the day you were born. Whatever the day holds, the ordinary will become the extraordinary, so make a wish — it’s your birthday!

Why I like How to Have a Birthday

What a joyful book to read to children a few days before their birthdays to remind them what a miracle they truly are. Mary Lyn Ray’s book is not your traditional birthday book as it encourages children to think more deeply about their day of birth. The very first present is the gift of wonder — what will this day bring? How will you celebrate your day? 

The lyrical text follows follows three diverse families who celebrate with different traditions. Maybe there will be gifts, songs, pictures, balloons, and a cake or pie. Maybe you like to wish upon a shooting star. Or maybe you will want to try something you’ve never done before like visiting a animal rescue center. Some kids may follow family traditions, like measuring their height on the wall.

Cindy Derby’s stunning watercolor and pastel illustrations show children celebrating in different seasons — after all there are 12 birthday months. Her artwork beckons readers to turn the pages and leaves them with a smile on their faces as they think about their special day. This timeless book is for children and individuals of all ages.

Resources:  Ask kids what they would like to do on their birthday. What is their favorite desert? Is it cake, pie or baklava? Do they like to look at birth photos and their baby footprints? Would they like to try something new on their birthday like riding in a hot air balloon, spending a quiet day learning to fly fish or learning to ice skate? Would they like to start a new tradition like donating some of their books and toys to other kids — or asking partygoers to donate to a favorite cause. The possibilities are endless.

Mary Lyn Ray is the author of many acclaimed books for children, including the New York Times bestseller Stars, illustrated by Marla Frazee, as well as The Thank You Book, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, and The House of Grass and Sky, illustrated by E. B. Goodale. Mary Lyn Ray lives in South Danbury, New Hampshire.  Visit Ray at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.


Annie’s Special Day – Author Interview

Annie's Special Day1332073678Annie’s Special Day

Clara Bowman-Jahn, author

Claudia Wolf, illustrator

eTreasures Publishing, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 5 and up

Themes: Birthday, Counting Concepts, Time

Opening/Synopsis: “Already awake and excited, Annie heard the alarm go off.  The clocked showed 7 o’clock in the morning, and the sun painted her bedroom walls and toys with a golden glow.”  It’s Annie’s birthday and she is determined to make the most of each hour.   Follow Annie through her day as every hour is filled with a new activity.  At four o’ clock her brother plays and sings Happy Birthday to Annie.  At 5 o’clock, her mommy is preparing her special birthday meal.  At 7 o’clock  Annie’s friends arrive for a sleep over and surprise her with presents.  At 8 o’clock birthday cake is served.  Her birthday celebration goes well into the night and  ends with sunrise.  Will she manage to mark each hour?

What I Like About this book:  Clara Bowman-Jahn has written a delightful concept book for children learning to tell time.  Each illustration features a clock.   This is a book that kids will want to read over and over.  The story is written with simplicity, so a child could read it on his/her own.  Claudia Wolfe’s illustrations are colorful, lively and expressive.  They really are beautiful and  capture each hour of Annie’s special day.

Author  Interview with Clara Bowman-Jahn

I am so delighted to chat with author Clara Bowman-Jahn on my website today about her very debut book.  It is a treat for me because I feel like I have followed her journey this past year from contract to publication and promotion.   Now it’s here and I’m holding the finished product in my hands.  It will ultimately be a Christmas gift for my six-year-old great-granddaughter.

Clara Bowman-Jahn author photo(1)Welcome Clara!  Tell me a little about Annie’s Special Day?

It is a concept book.  Instead of relying heavily on plot it is primarily teaching a concept about telling time and clocks.  Each page shows a different clock rather than focusing on a story line with a character solving a problem or conflict.   It helps teachers and parents show children how to tel time in digital as well as analog clocks.  It is similar to the old Hickory Dickory Dock book,  but different in that it is a child going through her day with her activities in 24 hours rather than a mouse on a farm.  Most children don’t live on a farm anymore and don’t recognize the activities that take place to keep a farm running like they did 40 years ago.

What did you think when you first saw the cover and illustrations?

I was so impressed with Claudia’s talent.   She captured my vision and did a such a beautiful job.  I was thrilled.

When did it sink in that you are an author?

A month ago my sister attended an author presentation I was giving.  She kept telling me I had done a great job and then contacted my brother’ family and told them.   It brought the author role home to me.  My family didn’t know me as an author — it’s something new for them.  But her telling them instead of me, was a big plus.

Do you have a special interest in writing books in a certain genre?

Well, I actually write memoir as well as picture books.  It just so happened that I finished this particular picture book and had a contract for it first.  I guess I have concentrated on picture books and you can see why in this blog post of mine.  I feel the definite need to set goals and manage my time so I can meet them.  I’ve scheduled time for both genres on my calendar, setting time aside for writing and setting time aside to do the business part of writing.

What is your writing process?

I’m a panster!  I have an idea and jump in and begin to write.

What did you learn about writing Annie’s Special Day?

That I can’t write a book in just one month.  It takes me years.  But, the experience of writing and publishing has definitely been worth it.

Anything special on the horizon?

I have a book I’m prepping for a query.  And I’m writing another picture book.   I’ve just returned from the mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference where a took a class on memoir.   I just can’t turn away from memoir altogether yet.  There’s still a story to be told there.

You may purchase Annie’s Special Day is available from the eTreasures Publishing website and Amazon.  You can also visit Clara Bowman-Jahn on her Facebook author page.


Clara’s blog tour schedule: a post from Annie’s Special Day  illustrator, Claudia Wolf on November 20 the illustrator story of Annie’s Special Day from Clara’s side. on November 14, author Clara Bowman-Jahn’s publishing story of  Annie’s Special Day on November 15  the idea to story by Clara Bowman-Jahn of Annie’s Special Day on November 19

Clara, if Annie’s Special Day is any sign of your writing talent, we can expect to read more books from you in the future!  I enjoyed the book and wish you many happy book sales!  Thank you for being a guest on my blog today. — Patricia