Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 27, 2020

Book Giveaway: ALL EXCEPT AXLE by Sue Lowell Gallion

Sue Lowell Gallion has a new picture book, ALL EXCEPT AXLE, Illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley and published by Aladdin. It came out earlier this week and Sue 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, talk about it on Facebook with a link, or if you follow my blog and have it delivered everyday, 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 Sue and Lisa!


Perfect for fans of John Cena’s Elbow Grease and The Little Engine that Could, this winning, playfully illustrated tale shows that even the new car on the block can accomplish incredible things if he believes in himself!

Axle is a brand-new car, fresh off of the assembly line. It feels like his tires have barely hit the pavement when it’s time for all the newbies to move out! Axle watches the other cars zoom onto Earlene, their transport truck, but can’t quite seem to put himself in drive. What will happen at the car dealership? What if he’s not ready for his road test?

Axle tells Earlene he feels funny…maybe he’s out of alignment. She should probably just go without him. Even after Earlene gets him moving, Axle still stalls and crawls. But when the crew hits an unexpected roadblock, it may just be Axle who sparks his plugs, revs his engine, and saves the day!

The new cars at the assembly plant are ready to rev their engines and put their pedals to the metal! All except Axle. He coughs and tells Earlene the auto hauler he’s out of alignment. “I think you’re stalling,” says Earlene, and she encourages scared Axle to hit the road. When Earlene gets a flat tire and needs help, can Axle get in gear to save the day? Sue Lowell Gallion’s heartwarming tale of the little-red-car-that-could, illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley, will give young readers courage and confidence the next time they hit a bump in the road.


Who doesn’t want to write and sell a vehicle picture book? This evergreen subject appeals to just about every child, especially so if there are car fanatics in the family. My husband’s first car, a red 1974 Camaro, still sits in our garage. (And he never let our kids play with his vintage Matchbox cars. They’re safely boxed in the basement.) Does that tell you anything about my family?

I’d played with vehicle story ideas since I started writing for kids, but I hadn’t come up with much. One of the challenges of writing an evergreen topic is finding a fresh approach. For example, I love WHAT KIND OF CAR DOES A T REX DRIVE? by Mark Lee, illustrated by Brian Briggs, which released in 2019. Dinosaurs, kids, and car dealers? What a brilliant mash-up.

The spark for this book came in fall 2013, as we drove south on Interstate 35 through the cornfields of Iowa from Minnesota to Kansas City. I kept zig zagging around an auto hauler truck loaded with new cars. I wondered what it would feel like to be a car riding on the top rack of the truck, feeling the wind and getting splattered with bugs. I mentioned that to my daughter-in-law, who was dozing in the passenger seat. She gave me that look that writers often get. But I had a feeling that I was onto something.

I brainstormed characters, possible plots (what if …) and settings. I printed lists of car and truck words. I was intrigued with the contrast between the interior of an auto assembly plant and the open road, similar to the safety of home and the nervousness that can surround going somewhere new. Dealing with change and having empathy for others are themes I explore often in my work. The anxiety that can come with anticipating change or a new challenge is familiar to everyone, both kids and adults, in different degrees depending on the individual, the age or developmental stage, or the circumstance. As I revised, the emotional story arc remained the same – starting with insecurity and ending with courage.

A mentor text for this book certainly was THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD, which was read to me countless times in my childhood. I love the newer edition illustrated by Loren Long, also. Axle has to climb a mountain, too, but that’s more from my own experiences with countless road trips from flat Kansas to the Rocky Mountains. I’m thrilled with Lisa Manuzak Wiley’s illustrations and especially her color palette. She wonderfully captures the changing scenery and the dramatic moment when Axle’s mentor, Earlene, careens up the emergency truck ramp in the mountains. I’ve always been intrigued by those ramps, but I’ve never seen one in use!

Various versions of AXLE went out on submission, and I also used it in an agent search. I was thrilled for it to find a home with Karen Nagel and the team at Aladdin/S&S.  I loved Lisa Manuzak Wiley’s work, and I’m so taken with the jaunty characters and the bright colors of the cars and the landscape. I hope kids feel the same way.

I had no idea that the themes of ALL EXCEPT AXLE would be so appropriate for a fall 2020 release, six months into the COVID pandemic. Blue Slip Media developed a storytime kit for me this spring that includes a “Stop and Go” coping strategy sheet for kids, and discussion questions that are particularly applicable to this time. I hope it’s a resource that will be helpful for families and teachers.

On a personal note, it is so bittersweet releasing this book without my husband, Terry, here to celebrate it with me. Terry was supportive of my dream to write books for kids from the beginning, including trips to SCBWI conferences and Highlights. Of course, he was my technical advisor on this manuscript, and we had long discussions about transmissions and brakes and engine noises. My agent, Liza Voges of Eden Street Literary, told me about the offer from Aladdin in February 2018. Terry was thrilled to know that the manuscript would turn into a book. He died of colorectal cancer that summer.

Karen Nagel, the editor, asked me if I had any thoughts to share with her about the illustrations early on. I asked if Axle could possibly be red, because that was Terry’s favorite color for cars and just about anything. Thank you, Lisa, for working with my request. Axle is a very fine red indeed.


When Sue Lowell Gallion was growing up in Kansas City, vacation always meant a car trip. Her family traveled from coast to coast and never missed a stop at a scenic overlook or a historical marker. She and her husband, Terry, continued the tradition with their two kids, although they didn’t stop quite as often.

Sue released three books in 2020: ALL EXCEPT AXLE; OUR WORLD, A FIRST BOOK OF GEOGRAPHY, a nonfiction board book from Phaidon Press, and TIP AND TUCKER PAW PAINTERS, the third book in the Tip and Tucker series co-authored with Ann Ingalls, from Sleeping Bear Press.


Lisa Wiley (formerly Lisa Manuzak) is an illustrator, storyteller, and former concept artist.

She works in children’s books and used to work in the video game industry; making people smile and feel good is what she love to do. Lisa has a passion for storytelling and creating characters for people to connect with and love. She enjoys bright colors, happy atmospheres, and magic, but she is also partial to a bit of darkness and spookiness.

Lisa was born and raised in Hawaii and have lived in many different places including Southern California, Australia, Seattle, and upstate New York. Currently, she lives in Southern California with her husband, their corgi, two fluffy kitties, and a lot of plants.

Bachelor of Studio Art – UC Irvine 2009
Master of Digital Design – Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia 2010

Sue, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. This is such a fun book. Kids love cars and trucks, especially little boys. I am constantly y seeing little boys holding and pushing cars in the supermarket. This could be a way to get them interested in reading more books. Lisa’s illustrations are perfect for this book. She did a great job showing their emotions. Good luck with the book. It is sure to be a winner.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This one is racing to the top of my to read list best of luck to Sue and Lisa. Kathy, I am a newsletter subscriber, as well.


  2. Sue, I enjoyed hearing about your book journey and I appreciated your reference to “the look” your daughter in law gave you. It made me smile and nod. Best of luck to you and to Lisa. All Except Axel is a book that will give miles of smiles to children and parents who read it. I’ll share news of your book via twitter.


  3. Congrats, Sue & Lisa! (I RTed this and I’m signed up for emails.)


  4. I’m so excited to read this book! Congratulations Sue and Lisa.


  5. Looking forward to seeing more of Axle and his adventures. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post:, and shared an image with a link on Pinterest too:
    I also follow your blog daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have a great day everyone!


  6. Can’t wait to read Sue’s new book!


  7. Wow, looks like a cute story with great illustrations. Congrats, Sue & Lisa!


  8. Love the backstory for Axle and the reason he’s such an outstanding red! Looking forward to reading this one! Congratulations Sue and Lisa!!


  9. What an inspiring story and a great interview! I’m going to share this with my picture book critique partners because we’re all excited to leave the assembly line, but we’re unsure if we’re gonna make it to the showroom! :o)


  10. What a cute book. Thanks for an informative post.


  11. I can’t wait to read this adorable picture book! I know of several young readers who will love it! Thanks so much for sharing the story of how you came up with the idea, researched, collected ideas, and brainstormed. I’m so glad your guy knew it was going to become a picture book before he passed away. Sorry to hear that!! Hugs and congratulations!

    Sharing on Twitter.


  12. Oh my goodness. This looks adorable! Thank you for sharing, Sue and Lisa and congrats! I retweeted this post on Twitter @amandadavisart. Thanks!


  13. This look really sweet! Looking forward to reading this!

    I retweeted this on Twitter @BlairOrtman, and I subscribe to this newsletter.


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