Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 24, 2019

Book Giveaway: BACK ROADS, COUNTRY TOADS by Devin Scillian

Devin Scillian has written a new picture book titled, BACK ROADS, COUNTRY TOADS, Illustrated by Tim Bowers and published by Sleeping Bear Press. Sleeping Bear Press has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Devin and Tim!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


When country toads, Hank and Buckeroo, hear some folks talking about going “fly-fishing,” they know they have to tag along. What could be better than fishing for flies?! So they stow away in a picnic basket and prepare for the feast of their lives. But what will happen when they realize fly-fishing isn’t exactly what they expected? This knee-slapping story is from Devin Scillian and Tim Bowers, the same team that brought you Memoirs of a Goldfish and the rest of the hysterical Memoirs series.


It’s kind of funny, but of my 20 books, I imagine 16 or 17 started not with a story idea but with a title. For some reason, when the right title comes along it seems to really set fire to my imagination. But in the case of Back Roads Country Toads, the inspiration came from illustrator Tim Bowers with whom I’ve partnered on five books now. Tim had been tinkering with his two toad characters, Hank and Buckaroo. Tim loved his characters but hadn’t really come up with a story to his liking and he sent me a few sketches and asked me to take a whack at it. Seeing the two toads was a little like being presented with a great title – and whoosh – my imagination was off and running.

A reading of my books I think exposes a love of words and wordplay, and as I toyed with what toads like and how they might spend their time, I thought about toads eating flies. I wish I could tell you exactly how I connected that with the idea of “fly fishing” – but it came very quickly and I think I actually laughed a little out loud at the notion of confusing “fly fishing” with “fishing for flies”.

I think it’s probably a sign of a good partnership when a writer and illustrator inspire each other. And just as Tim’s creations inspired me, he seemed to feel newly inspired about his own characters by my story. And when the first sketches came in, I was again laughing out loud. Tim is just so gifted –and we seem to have matching funny bones. It’s a partnership that I deeply treasure. (Our next book together, “Memoirs of a Tortoise,” will be out next year.)


Devin is equally at home on your television, on your bookshelf, and on your iTunes.  School children, teachers and parents know him as the writer behind the Memoirs series including Memoirs of a Goldfish, winner of the Wanda Gag Award as the nation’s best read aloud book. Television viewers in Michigan and Ontario know him as their evening news anchor on WDIV-TV, NBC in Detroit. And music lovers know him as the winner of the prestigious Detroit Music Award for Best Country Performer.

Devin is the author of over 20 children’s books.  His book A is for America became a national bestseller that even found its way beneath the White House Christmas tree.  In 2004, First Lady Laura Bush invited him to read at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.  His book, Memoirs of a Goldfish” was chosen as the Michigan Reads book, and has won a slew of children’s choice awards including New York, Maryland and New Hampshire.  His other books include Fibblestax, Cosmo’s Moon, and H Is For Honor.  His newest title is Back Roads Country Toads.  In 2017, he was honored with the Gwen Frostic Award from the Michigan Reading Association for his contributions to literacy in Michigan.

Devin joined WDIV-TV in August, 1995 as a reporter and moved into the anchor position in 1996.  He’s been honored for his work both at home and abroad.  His assignments have taken him from the Forbidden City in Beijing to St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, from the Red Sea to Moscow, from Jerusalem to Siberia. His well-worn passport has taken him to six Olympiads. Four times he has won the Edward R. Murrow Award, one of the highest honors in broadcast journalism. After graduating from the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas in 1985, Devin began his career at WIBW-TV in Topeka.  His job path took him to WAND in Decatur, Illinois, KLTV in Tyler, Texas, and KFOR in Oklahoma City where his around the clock coverage of the bombing at the Murrah Federal Building in 1995 helped the station win a Peabody Award.  Nurturing a long love of politics, he created Flashpoint which quickly became required viewing for those in the know in both Oklahoma City and now in Detroit.

An accomplished musician and songwriter, Devin has released four albums of his original songs.  He and his band Arizona Son make frequent appearances on the summer concert circuit.  He’s opened for the likes of Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, and LeAnn Rimes.

He has played a journalist in several films including “The Double” starring Richard Gere and Topher Grace, and “Scream 4” directed by Wes Craven. Fans of The Ellen Show will recognize Devin from his special reports on everything from Facebook postings to the parking habits of SUV drivers.

Devin’s wife Corey is a ceramic artist. They have been together since high school in Junction City, Kansas.  They reside in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan.  They have four children, Griffin, Quinn, Madison and Christian.

In addition to Back Roads, Country Toads, is also the author of numerous book for Sleeping Bear Press inlcuding the national bestseller, A is for America: An American Alphabet, Memoirs of a Goldfish, Memoirs of a Hamster, Memoirs of an Elf, and Memoirs of a Parrot. Devin lives in Michigan with his family. Find out more about Devin at


The idea for Backroads, Country Toads began several years ago, when I started thinking about two toad characters.  I imagined that they were country toads, pickin’ and grinnin’, fishing and living the country life in stories that included country themes, culture and other characters.  I grew up to the sounds of country music, always playing on the family’s stereo record player, including Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Buck Owens and the Buckeroos.  I had a Hank Williams guitar songbook and a new Gibson J-45 guitar that I received as a Christmas gift, so these toads were coming from a special place in my childhood.  My grandpa, John Stevens, was a musician.  He played guitar, mandolin, fiddle and harmonica.  For years, he and his buddies supplied the country music for weekend barn dances in the area.  These Country Toad characters felt like extended family to me.

Hank (named after the great Hank Williams) and Buckeroo (named after Buck Owen’s band, The Buckeroos) were set to become a true country duo.  I saw them as a couple of best buddies sharing some good times that didn’t always go as planned.  I even had a few ideas for stories featuring the two toads, but they turned out to be better idea starters than actual stories.  After having no luck pitching them to several publishers, I reached out to someone who could give the toads some good stories, who would share that country vibe and add the humor that these two toads needed to land on the pages of a picture book.

The guy who quickly came to mind was author, Devin Scillian.  He has a great sense of humor and is an excellent storyteller.  He’s a pro with words and even writes country music songs he performs with his guitar.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  A Toad-ally awesome guy!  Devin and I talked about the toads and the chance to work together to bring them to life.  We have worked together on several other books, including Memoirs of a Goldfish, Memoirs of a Hamster and our newest collaboration, Memoirs of a Tortoise (coming in 2020).  He came up with the fly-fishing story and as usual, hit the ball out of the park!  He had just what we needed to launch the Country Toads.  Devin’s ability to craft a good story was exactly the break these two toads were looking for.  The good people at Sleeping Bear Press agreed and the Country Toads recently hopped into their first book.


Bowers was born in Troy, Ohio where he lived with his parents and younger sister. Both sets of his grandparents lived nearby. His maternal grandparents had a house full of animals, including dogs, cats, an African Grey parrot  and a Squirrel monkey named Joe. Their property was also home to a few ponies and many chickens. This early exposure to animals helped to instill a keen interest, and a familiarity with them, that is reflected in Tim’s artwork. During his high school years, Bowers worked for American long distance runner and Olympic gold medalist, Bob Shul, as a salesperson in Shul’s local sporting goods store in Troy.  Shul used Tim’s artistic skills to create custom design embroidery logos and character drawings for award plaques when he discovered Bowers to be a much better artist than salesperson.  As a high school senior, Bowers received a top award in the Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition. Troy was where Tim Bowers fed his imagination until receiving a scholarship to The Columbus College of Art & Design. For the next four years he studied the art of illustration, during which time he created three paintings that were juried into the Society of Illustrators student scholarship competition. After his third year of college, Bowers was offered a summer internship at the Wanamaker Advertising Art studio in Kettering, Ohio.

The studio job became a full time position for Bowers after graduating from CCAD. Bowers created artwork for companies including: Procter and GambleHuffy (bicycles), Wendy’sNCRThe Cincinnati Enquirer and others. A year later, he left the advertising studio, assembled a portfolio and traveled to New York City. With a list of publisher contacts from The Children’s Book Council, Bowers spent several days showing his artwork to some of the major children’s book publishers in the city. After receiving a lot of encouragement and some suggestions but no actual book assignment, he returned to Ohio.

 Bowers continued to work on his portfolio and various free-lance assignments. Tim married and in 1983 moved to Kansas City, Missouri where he accepted a position as a greeting card artist for Hallmark. Bowers spent five years in K.C. and was selected as one of the original artists to work on Hallmark’s Shoebox Greetings, the biggest product line in the company’s history. Also during the five years, Bowers was chosen to participate in an illustration workshop with Thomas B. Allen. In addition to his day job, he worked nights and weekends to complete the illustrations for his first children’s book, The Toy Circus.

 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich published the first three books illustrated by Bowers. Since then, he has illustrated over fifty books and received numerous honors and state awards. The Toy Circus, written by Jan Wahl was the first picture book, illustrated by Bowers. His second book, Pajamas was based on lyrics written by singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor and his wife, Maggie.  Bowers would go on to illustrate a series of books about a guinea pig named Little Whistle, written by Newbery Medal winner, Cynthia Rylant and great stories by authors, including Laura NumeroffDan GutmanAndrew Clements, J. Patrick Lewis and others. Two titles have landed on The New York Times Best Seller lists: Dream Big, Little Pig! by U.S. figure skater and Olympic Gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi and Dinosaur Pet* written by multi-Grammy winner Neil Sedaka and his son, Marc Sedaka. In 2010, Bowers illustrated Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian, which won the Wanda Gag Award as the nation’s best “read aloud” book. Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band written by Newbery Medal winner, Kwame Alexander was a NAACP Image Award nominee/finalist. A wobbly baseball character was created for Knuckleball Ned, written by baseball’s Cy Young Award winner, R. A. Dickey and Michael Karounos. With his typical humor and fun, Bowers illustrated Not Your Typical Dragon written by Dan Bar-El, which won the 2014-2015 Chocolate Lily Book Award, British Columbia’s readers’ choice selection. That title was also selected to be included in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program. Bowers collaborated with Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins on a children’s book, titled: Footloose*, based on Loggins’ iconic song which was re-written to include a zoo full of dancing animals. (* These books include a music CD in the back cover).

Tim Bowers is currently focused on licensing artwork to companies for a variety of products and he continues to write and illustrate children’s books. He visits school and libraries when his schedule permits and is spending free time, writing lyrics and playing his guitars and ukulele.

Thank you Devin and Tim for sharing your journey with Back Roads, Country Toads. I have a copy of the book. What a fun, cute story. I love the characters and the twist. Tim did a fabulous job with the illustrations. The two of you make a great team and sleeping Bear Press did an excellent job wrapping it all up in a high-quality book. I know kids will love it. Heck, I loved it. Tim was featured on Illustrator Saturday with an interview and process and showed off more of his process a few years later. You can also visit him on

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thank you both for sharing your journey ❤️Love the title and illustrations


  2. I love a good toad story! Looks ribbiting!


  3. I love the voices of the two frogs! This looks very humorous! Congratulations!

    Kathy, I receive your blog every day.


  4. That title is croaking, er, cracking me up with laughter–these characters have big personalities!


  5. This looks like a delightfully fun picture book. I love that the toads misunderstood the meaning of fly fishing.

    Kathy, I receive your blog every day and I am sharing this on facebook.


  6. This is such a cute book. No need to put me in the drawing. I have a copy.


  7. What a hoppy, er, happy story! From the backstory to the published book! Congratulations Devin and Tim – I look forward to sharing with this with my grandchildren!


  8. I’ve read this book and it’s such a fun book.


  9. For me, it’s a great title that will incite me to pick up a book. I love country roads and toads, so this title is a winner. Looking forward to it!


  10. How fun! Love the back roads idea. Looks like a great book to share with young readers. Congrats! I follow your blog by email and will tweet this post. 🙂


  11. What a FUN book. Love both of their work!


  12. Congratulations, you literally wrote one of the best posts I’ve seen in forever. If your blog isn’t already taking off, it definitely will if you keep sharing posts like this one.


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