Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 13, 2020

Book Giveaway: LILLYBELLE: A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS by Joanna Pastro

Joana Pastro has written a new picture book, LILLYBELLE: A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz. Boyds Mills & Kane is the publisher and the book will hit bookstores on October 20th.  Joana 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 other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Joana and Jhon.

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 faced with the danger of giants, ogres, and witches, other damsels might quake with fear…

but not LillyBelle!

At the School for Damsels, LillyBelle enjoys many damsel-in-training classes, like cake baking and vocal training, but the rule that a damsel must be in distress . . . not so much. When she’s captured by one villain after another, LillyBelle will need to use her charm and her wit to save herself and prove once and for all that damsels don’t have to be in distress–all in time for tea!


In September/2015, I was disheartened by the realization that the novel I had been laboring on for three years needed a total and complete overhaul. Around the same time, I saw a call for submissions from Cricket magazine for a short story. The theme was knights and castles. I figured writing a short story would give me a much-needed break from the novel. I brainstormed for a few days and landed on the term: “damsel in distress”. Soon an idea came to me: a School for Damsels where little girls learned damsel-y traits and how to behave while in distress (simply wait for rescue). What if my main character loved being a damsel but loathed the idea of waiting for rescue? I took pen to paper, and LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS was born.

The first versions had LillyBelle defying the headmaster and enrolling at next door’s Knights Academy to prove her point—a damsel doesn’t need to wait for rescue, she can very well save herself. After failing miserably at the knights’ classwork mostly due to wardrobe malfunction, she figures out she can use her damsel-y skills to her advantage. She uses her sewing kit—something a damsel must always carry–to make a more practical outfit, and her needlework skills, and the footwork from ballet to shine at fencing. At the end, when the school for damsels is under attack, she resorts to teamwork by joining forces with knights and damsels, and catapults the villain away.

That November, I took it to my critique group — by then I had already missed the magazine’s deadline — and to my surprise, everyone was enthusiastic about it. Some of them suggested I make it into a chapter book. Others thought the picture book form would suit the story well. They also suggested I joined the next ReFoReMo*, which turned out to be the starting point of my transition to picture book writing. I spent the following months trying to write LillyBelle as both a picture book and a chapter book, and eventually chose to invest my time on the picture book version.

In June 2017, I participated in #PBPitch and caught the eye of BookEnds’ agent Natascha Morris with a manuscript about a little Viking. When she asked to see more of my work, I sent three manuscripts. One of them was LillyBelle. She enjoyed my stories, praised the voice and commercial qualities of the manuscripts and offered representation. Two months later we went out on submission with the little Viking story. Meanwhile, I revised the other stories. Natascha noted that LillyBelle should prove her point by using her damsel-y skills in a damsel-y way, instead of changing and adopting a more “masculine” behavior. At first, I was puzzled, how would she fight villains and save herself by embroidering, dancing or cooking? The answer was simple: she didn’t need to fight! She needed to solve her problems by being diplomatic and friendly. I realized this was also a much better message for kids!

Fast forward to Summer of 2018–Natascha started submitting to editors, and soon LillyBelle found a home with Jes Negrón at Kane Press (now BM&K). I was absolutely thrilled to hear Jhon Ortiz agreed to illustrate.

Today, almost two years after selling the book, I get to share her with the world! I hope you love her as much as I do!

*ReFoReMo is Read for Research Month, a picture book challenge held every March by Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call.


For as long as Joana Pastro can remember, she wanted to be an artist of some kind. She became an architect, but once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana dream of becoming a children’s book author. She chased that dream and now her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NEVER IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, will be published by Kane Press in September/2020. Her second picture book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa, will be published by Scholastic in Spring/2021.
Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her amazing husband, her three extremely creative children and a rambunctious Morkie.

Visit her at, on Instagram @joanapastro, and on twitter @jopastro.


Jhon Ortiz, I am a 3D character animator and illustrator represented by Lemonade Illustration Agency. My main goal in animation is to create credible, funny and memorable characters, and to achieve that I work every day to improve my skills.

I like rigging and modeling too, but there´s something in animation that makes me very happy. I am a curious person so I’m always in search of knowledge.

If you want to ask me something, talk about a project, a job opportunity or if you just want to say hello, feel free, I would love to be in touch, thanks for stopping by.

Thank you Joana for sharing your book and journey with us. I love how you turned a damsel in distress into a damsel NOT in distress. Lillybelle sound like such a fun character. That fun really shows up in Jhon’s illustrations. He did a great job. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. What a fun book about female empowerment! Congrats!


    • Thank you, Danielle!


  2. Been looking forward to this PB release!


    • Thanks, Melissa. Me too! 😉


  3. Love the premise! What a cute way to stand up and be counted.


    • Thank you, Peggy!


  4. What a great book! Can’t wait to read it. Sharing!


    • Thank you so much, Ellen!


  5. Congrats, Joanna and Jhon! (I’m signed up for the emails.)


    • Thank you, Susan!


  6. I love that LillyBelle is a character that can totally use her know-how to solve her problems! Congratulations, Joana!

    Kathy, I shared on twitter on get your blog daily.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Joana, congratulations! This book looks great! I love the idea of using diplomacy and other “soft skills” instead of fighting.


  8. I’m *always* on the hunt for feminist picture books for my daughters and nephews! I cannot wait to read this beautiful story to my kids!

    As an aspiring PB author, I LOVED reading the birth story for Lillybelle: Damsel Not in Distress! Thank you so much!


  9. Love, love, love this! Congratulations, Joana


  10. Cannot wait for this book!


  11. Congrats on this aDORable book, Joana and Jhon! 😀 ❤


  12. Thanks for sharing how you met your agent. What a great story. And your book sounds just as good. Congratulations!


  13. This looks like a great book! Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂 Best wishes!

    Follow by email and will Tweet this.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: