Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 12, 2020

Book Giveaway: HELLO, LITTLE ONE by Zeena M. Pliska

Zeena M. Pliska has a new picture book, HELLO, LITTLE ONE, illustrated by Fiona Halliday and published by Page Street Kids. Zeena has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is 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 Zeena and Fiona, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

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!


Caterpillar crawls from leaf to leaf, eating and waiting, all alone in a big, green world. Then Orange appears―Orange floats, and flits, and flies, graceful and beautiful. In this sweet, moving story of intergenerational friendship, a small caterpillar is befriended by a glorious monarch butterfly, and together they learn to see the world through each other’s eyes.


Three things I have learned since becoming a published author: It never happens like you think it will, rejection is a forever part of the lifestyle, and it only takes one (person to say yes).

When I close my eyes, I am right in that moment when the story of Little One and Orange jumped into my head and heart. I was walking from my kindergarten classroom to the main office, at recess time. The elementary school where I teach in Los Angeles is a monarch butterfly waystation so it’s not unusual to experience monarchs fluttering throughout the campus. I paused momentarily to watch a majestic and fragile monarch flit, flutter, and then soar. In that moment, I was struck by the bittersweet fact that this creature had only a short window of about two weeks to experience life in this form. I paused, absorbed in the wonder and sadness. Contemplating the beauty it must experience for the brief time it had left on earth, the seed of the story was planted. The character of the elder, Orange, was born.

I am always surrounded by the joy of 5-year-olds. The story came to life in my kindergarten world of youthful energy. And being a lover of irony, the story took shape. Originally entitled Orange, it was a story of friendship, love, loss, grief, and renewal. Mostly, it was an ironic story of longing. Youth wanting to catch up with age, and age savoring its memories of youth. Simply put, youth yearning for age and age yearning for youth. The two at different stages of their lives, meeting in that wondrous two week window when both were able to connect, love, appreciate, and admire each other.

One of the first times I shared my story was with a large, public critique group of children’s book authors. I read the manuscript not knowing what to expect. It was both exhilarating and terrifying to reach the end and experience the response. A woman sobbed. She had connected with the grief in the story. It had triggered her own loss and touched her. The room was moved. The story had taken listeners to a place where they had felt big emotions. I thought I had done my job as a writer. But the manuscript had miles to go.

The word count was way too long and suddenly, the manuscript was a play. I was delighted to work with my young students to build the story and present it at a dedication ceremony to unveil a section of our campus, known as The Wildlands. The characters became more fully developed as I co-created with 5-year-olds. However, I clearly did not understand the concept of word count. The word count stretched beyond what was reasonable for a picture book, well over 1500 words. The play was performed 6 years ago by students who are culminating from our school this year. Bittersweet. I can still hear their youthful and poignant delivery of the lines as they flit, fluttered, and flew around the outdoor native garden. My story of a little caterpillar and Orange had come to life.

Not yet close to a book deal, but I knew in my heart that it only takes one to make a picture book happen. One agent. One editor. One acquisitions meeting. One book deal. It only takes one (I still say this to my agent whenever we get a rejection.)

In the beginning, like most writers, my craft was not developed enough to tell the story in a way that was industry worthy. I joined SCBWI in the early spring of 2014. I attended Writer’s Day and the big Summer Conference. At both events, I did what I do best. I schmoozed. I met people and said all the right things (Hollywood and the entertainment world was very present in my life in my earlier years.) I thought I was ready. I had a story that made grownups cry and children flit flutter and fly. I only needed one. I was confident and naïve. I entered the contests but never won. I queried agents and editors who all seemed so accessible at the events I attended but never got past a “thanks but no thanks,” if they answered. I only needed one.

Like so many authors who had gone before me, I queried way too early. It takes time to hone your craft. I joined critique groups and listened to my critique partners. I worked the text over and over again. And when I thought I was ready, I queried again. But, it takes time to learn to query.

Here’s a query I found on an old flash drive:

December 2016

I am submitting a picture book entitled, Orange. Orange is the story of an unlikely friendship between a lonely caterpillar and a Monarch butterfly. It is a story with multiple hooks which include a friendship story, lyrical language, and nonfiction elements about the butterfly life cycle set in a fictional narrative story. It is about love, loss, friendship and transitions. It is written for 4-7 year olds. The word count is 512.

More rejections.

And then I stopped querying. Maybe I hadn’t progressed past the level of novice. I was working in a vacuum. How do I know what level I am? How do I know if I’m ready? I ended up paying for a 10 minute meeting with Manuscript Academy and asking, “Where am I in terms of craft development?” The answer was, “somewhere in the middle. Not a beginner but not an expert.” One of the agents stated that I should be querying. So, I tentatively stepped back into the game.

As a kindergarten teacher, I read picture books every day. I’m lucky. It’s part of my job. In addition to reading constantly, I wrote more stories. Different stories. I moved on and didn’t put all my eggs in that one basket. I attended a class at Otis College of Art and Design and was mentored by an amazing children’s book author, Deborah Norse Lattimore. Who knew I had so many stories to tell? And with each story, my craft improved.

Orange, was in the distant past. A bit forgotten.

A different story poured out of me in January 2018. It had what it took to get noticed. It caught the eye of that one yes I needed. An agent, a friend of my fabulous teacher, agreed to represent the manuscript.

My fantasy had been to procure an agent. Check. Announce it to the world immediately. Check. Sell a book. Check. Announce it to the world immediately. Check. Join the ranks of other published authors and bask in the glory. Check. It never happens like you think it will, and for good reason. The unpredictable ride is so much better and makes for such a richer journey than checking boxes on an ego-driven bucket list.

I spent months not really knowing if I could announce to the world that I had “gotten an agent.” The manuscript wound its way through many editors who expressed interest and then passed. Finally, an editor was interested but there were developmental edits to make before an offer would be considered. So close, but no book deal to announce to the world yet. And then, suddenly a curve ball. Someone else was also interested. I had to make a choice and ultimately placed that manuscript with a home I felt was the most appropriate for the subject matter. In making the difficult choice, there was expressed disappointment. I wondered if the manuscript of Orange had some of the same elements that the manuscript I had just sold elsewhere had. I wondered if the editor would be interested in it. I felt like it was a much better fit. And it was! After more developmental edits on the manuscript of Orange, I now had two book deals. Two years later, it is not the first book that sold, but rather a renamed Orange that I will debut with. It’s not how I wrote my fantasy story of publishing in my head. It is the real, journey of my publishing debut with all the twists and turns.


In the end it only took one yes to sell the story (after many noes). Now, I can proudly say my agent is really my agent (although the window has long passed to announce the milestone). And, rejection continues to be an ever present part of my author lifestyle (which only means I’m in the game!)

So many people along the way. So many hands held me up. So much support. So much gratitude. Such a magical journey!


Zeena Pliska is an author, educator, and blogger. She is a progressive, child-centered educator who strives to create a culture of listening to children in her classroom. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Zeena spends her days immersed in the joy of 5-year-olds. She is a kindergarten teacher by day and a children’s book author by night.

A progressive educator, she believes that the most important aspect of teaching is listening to children. She teaches using a Reggio-Inspired Approach for the Los Angeles Unified District in the Venice/Mar Vista area. She believes in the power of stories. Building the conditions for children’s voices to emerge and be heard is her primary teaching goal.

A lifetime storyteller, she has facilitated stories as a theater director, visual artist, photographer and journalist. Life is a series of stories and is really the only thing you leave behind. Stories can connect, change, provoke, and transform, creating new meanings and realities.

She is proud to have found a new way to facilitate story as a children’s book author. Her debut picture book, Hello Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story comes out May 12, 2020. Her second picture book Egyptian Lullaby is due out in 2021. When she is not traveling with her daughter to near and distant places, she is finding stories in Los Angeles. Zeena is half Egyptian and half Filipino.


Fiona Halliday loves all things finned, furred, feathered and fantastical. She was born in North West Scotland where she studied at Edinburgh University, earning a First Degree in English Literature in 2004 and a Master in Photojournalism in 2006. Early in her career, Fiona traveled extensively as a journalist and photographer. Her work was published in a variety of British publications: Wild Travel, Heritage Magazine, Birdwatching Monthly, the Independent on Sunday, Country Walking, amongst others. Fiona especially enjoyed the wildlife shoots that took her to remote landscapes: The great gannet colonies of Shetland, the threatened birdlife in the Faroes, whale watching in Iceland and the great crane migration across the Hungarian steppes.  Fiona was also a contributing photographer to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ photo library. Her love of wildlife, and of the outdoors, is ever present in her unique and beautiful illustrations.

Fiona is currently based in Austria where she works as a photographer and graphic designer. Her journey  to illustration came later in her career, coinciding with her move to Austria where she struggled to master the  German language. Suddenly the idea of communicating through pictures became very appealing!

Fiona remembers the first book she shared with her sister as a child,  ‘Hiawatha’s Childhood,’ illustrated by Errol Le Cain.

“By the shores of the Gitche Gummee, By the Shining Big Sea Water, Stood the Wigwam of Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon.” 

She can still feel the magical power of that book, particularly the illustrations. The combined power of words and illustrations, continue to motivate Fiona. Fiona’s favorite color is a crackly, luminous Old Master yellow.  She loves birds and has an extremely handsome bilingual cat with a perfectly symmetrical striped tail!

Thank you Zeena for sharing your book and it’s journey with us. It seems everyone is fascinated with Butterflies. I love watching them. One year atd our retreat in Avalon, there were hundreds of them who stopped for a rest on their way south. I expect this book with Fiona’s art will be a big success. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. So excited for this book, and in truth, I’ve pre-ordered it already, but I loved hearing Zeena’s story which is a reminder to me that it only takes ‘one’. How easily I can forget this and crawl under my little rock before I gain the energy to come out again. But hooray to Zeena, who is an amazing person as well as a writer!


  2. glad she didn’t give up, it is an inspiration and a beautiful book


  3. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing the story of your journey , Zeena. I am excited to read, “Hello, Little One” to my Preschool class next year when we return to school. It will be a lovely addition to my lessons on the life cycle of a butterfly.


  4. Congrats, Zeena! This looks like a book kids will love. (I’m also signed up for email.s)


  5. Thanks, and congratulations to Zeena and Fiona! I loved reading about the process of getting this book published, and it appears to be a beauty.


  6. Glad you persevered, Zeena–this looks/sounds like a marvelous book! (I follow your blog)


  7. Time to spread your wings now! Congratulations.


  8. I would love to win this on behalf of my brand new grandson (to be enjoyed by his siblings first.) I shared on FB, Twitter, and PInterest and I follow this blog.


  9. Loving the concept and execution of this new book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post:, and pinned an image on Pinterest as well:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com.
    Thanks again have a safe and happy day!


  10. I love that Zeena talks about the importance of listening to children. So important. This looks like a lovely picture book. I look forward to reading it.


  11. Congratulations, Zeena and Fiona! Your book will certainly brighten the world of young readers, especially now when people most need the flitter and flutter of what occurs during that special, near-magical, two-week ‘window’. How fortunate are the children who have you to truly listen to what they have to say. Kathy, I follow WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING daily…and love it!


  12. What a wonderful story of perseverance. Thanks yo Zeena for sharing your book journey with us. I am glad Hello Little One is finally out in the world.


  13. I love butterflies! What a beautiful book! Congratulations and much success.

    Kathy, I will tweet this. I follow your blog by email. Thanks!


  14. Monarch butterflies have a special meaning to me (and five friends since 6th grade). I will have to share this with them (and others). The illustrations are gorgeous! Thank goodness our library now has pick up.


    • Lucky you. My library is still closed and does not know when they will open. I think that is a whole state thing in NJ.


  15. Congratulations! I love that your kindergartners helped inspire this book. I, too, teach kinder & write.


  16. Thanks for sharing your journey. And an even bigger thank you for reminding me that a rejection means you are in the game! Your book, and Fiona’s illustrations are beautiful!


  17. Congratulations Zeena! I love your journey of writing and how you remind us who write that rejection will always be a part of our experiences. But, like you say, it only takes “one” to lead your life towards publication. Thanks for the chance to enter the giveaway.


  18. Really thankful that you are doing this for our kids during such a stressful time. I wish you great success with your book.


  19. What a gorgeous book! I’m glad that it’s flying out into the world. (Kathy, I subscribe to your blog.)


  20. Congratulations on a beautiful book kids and adults will love!


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