Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 22, 2021

Book Giveaway: BLUE RIDGE BABIES 1, 2, 3: A Counting Book by Laura Sperry Gardner

Laura Sperry Gardner has written a new picture book, BLUE RIDGE BABIES 1, 2, 3: A Counting Book illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman and published by Page Street Kids  It is available in bookstores nowPSK has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

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 Laura and Stephanie.

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!


Explore the Blue Ridge Mountains, a part of the Appalachian range that teems with fascinating plant and wildlife, through the memorable frame of the engaging folk song “Over in the Meadow.” Amongst budding dogwood trees, crooked creeks, mountains fading to heaven, and other stunning settings, animal mothers and their young all play a part in the great wide wilderness. Count the babies on every page: one fawn hides while two bear cubs forage, three cardinal fledglings fly and four owlets hoot, all the way up to ten salamander efts and one last expansive view of a unique American region.

This traditional tune made new and paired with gorgeous, lushly illustrated creatures and environments will have kids counting, singing, and totally awed by the natural world.


My journey began in preparation for storytime. I’m a Youth Services Librarian in Transylvania County, and it’s a very common thing to rewrite songs to fit a storytime theme. I thought it would be fun to adapt the traditional tune “Over in the Meadow” into a version specific to the Blue Ridge mountains where I live. I enjoyed writing it so much that I thought I’d try to turn it into a book. With it being so regionally focused, I originally intended to self-publish. I approached an artist friend about creating the illustrations, and we had fun with some mock-ups.

I wanted to get as much guidance as possible with making a successful self-published book, so I attended the fall 2018 conference for my regional SCBWI group (SCBWI Carolinas) along with my writing and critique group. I signed up for a conference critique with Donna Earnhardt. After showing her my manuscript, she gave me glowing feedback and asked why I was choosing to self-publish. She encouraged me to submit my work to publishers and seek traditional publication.

Through my writing and critique group, I learned about “Twitter parties”, in particular one called Picture Book Pitch. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a few times a year the organizer hosts a “party” where aspiring writers send out a post, or “tweet” on the social media platform Twitter containing a one sentence pitch of their book along with the hashtag #pbpitch. Throughout the day, agents and editors are scanning the hashtag contributions. A favorite/heart is an invitation to submit an official query via email. I got a favorite from Allison Hunter Hill with Page Street Kids Publishing, and my interaction with a publishing house began.

Allison passed my query along to a colleague who had a long-time manuscript wish list item for a picture book about the Blue Ridge mountains. Charlotte Wenger and I went back and forth with email and revision, and then she accepted my query and offered me a contract! I was elated. My joy was tempered with disappointment that the artist friend I’d wanted to work with was not extended a contract. Although I had submitted her work as a potential illustrator, it is not usual in the publishing world for an author to get to choose their illustrator. The publisher had a certain aesthetic in mind. I did get a say in the illustrators — there were three to choose from and both the publisher and I were in agreement about which one to choose: Stephanie Fizer Coleman. She is from West Virginia (in the Blue Ridge Mountains) and is a prolific and talented digital artist. I’m incredibly pleased with the work she did on the illustrations.

There was still a long process of edits and revisions after the contract was signed. I began with different verses for at least half of the animals, but changed them after receiving the very good advice that the number of baby animals in each verse should match up with how many babies they would actually have in real life. This is why there are nine trout and ten salamanders — by the time the numbers get that high, you’re not talking about mammals anymore! They are a little less fluffy and cute, however, so that is why you see foxes on the front cover.

Charlotte worked with me a great deal, and then left Page Street Kids to become an agent with another agency, and so Courtney Burke took over as my editor. She worked with me more, and suggested the need for a concluding verse to bring all of the animals together (the song just counts one to ten and ends). Although most of the story is in the past tense, I shifted to the present tense for that last verse to indicate that the future goes on with the animals growing up in the mountains.

Along the way, I lost a lot of back matter too. I had done a tremendous amount of research and consultation to come up with paragraphs about each baby animal’s childhood. Most of it was edited out. I had also originally paired a plant with each animal and included facts about the plants at the end as well. The factual information about the plants didn’t stay, but if you look at the illustrations, there is a native plant highlighted in each illustration. I’m planning social media posts around these plants to celebrate them as well.

The head of the publishing house also changed during this time. With the new publisher came the request for a new title. I had originally called the work “Over in the Blue Ridge”, as that is the refrain throughout. He really wanted to highlight it as a counting book, and so I eventually came up with the final title “Blue Ridge Babies 1, 2, 3”.

Once the text was finalized, the illustrator began her work. I was not as actively involved at this time — though I did get to see proofs and offer feedback. I was in awe of what Stephanie created; it far exceeded my expectations. One thing that I did create during this time was the sheet music that is included at the end after the back matter. I felt it was important to recognize the work as a song, and wanted readers to be able to sing and play it too. I married into a musical family, and so my mother-in-law helped me create the sheet music with a software program that she owns.

Somewhere during this time, my editor changed again to Kayla Tostevin (that’s four editors over the course of publishing this book)! Kayla has been very professional, but by the time she signed on, I was mostly working with the publicist, Lizzy Mason, on this project.

Marketing has been another journey. The part of that I have most enjoyed was creating a recording and video of the song/story. I called on my musical husband and talented friends to create it, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. It got a lot of attention when I shared it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Above is the YouTube link if any of your readers are curious:

The greatest thrill was seeing the proof for the first time with my name printed on the cover was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I’ve always wanted to be able to look at the library shelf and see my creation there.

My local bookstore and library patrons have all been incredibly supportive. It’s strange to launch a book without in-person events, but I have been involved in a few virtual events that have been fun. I’m very grateful for the experience I’ve had, and I hope that I’ll have more success in the future with publishing children’s books. Thank you for asking me to contribute to your website, Kathy!


Laura Sperry Gardner works as a youth services librarian just a short drive away from the Blue Ridge Parkway. She also teaches classes on traditional plant medicines, leads plant walks, and demonstrates folk medicine making. After earning her BS in English education and German education from Western Carolina University, she went on take master’s creative writing classes there. She lives in Mills River, North Carolina. This is her debut picture book.

Laura was born and raised in Brevard, North Carolina. She attended Western Carolina University, where she graduated from the Honors College with a double major in German and English Education. She later earned her Masters of Library Science degree from North Carolina Central University. She currently lives in western North Carolina with her husband, daughter, cat and dog. She is a youth services librarian at the very library where she got her first job as a teen. She also enjoys playing the ukulele, travel, creating costumes, and going on hikes where she can share her knowledge of edible and medicinal plants.


Laura’s writing style is infused with a reverence for the natural world, an appreciation for the magic of the mundane, and poetic lyricism. The regional focus of her work shows the lifelong connection she’s developed with the mountains of Southern Appalachia. She studied creative writing at the master’s level, and this combined with her studies in English language and literature, as well as all that she’s learned providing musical, imaginative, and interactive storytimes for children have helped to shape her as a writer.


From a young age, Stephanie Fizer Coleman dreamed of a creative career, although she imagined being a dancer or a choreographer, and couldn’t have fathomed the twisty path that would lead her to be an illustrator. These days she can’t imagine working at anything other than illustration. Steph works in Photoshop and thrives on creating beautiful, textural illustrations of her furry and feathered friends. Having grown up in a rural area, she is inspired by nature in all its grandeur. Steph loves illustrating lovely, informative nonfiction as well as picture books, greeting cards, puzzles, and other products. She lives in West Virginia with her husband and two dogs.”

I’m an illustrator, designer and generally curious girl living in lovely but misunderstood West Virgina. I was lucky to grow up in a rural area, with a babbling brook and lush forest just a few feet from my back door; I find that the love of nature I developed as a child still influences my work today.

After seriously studying ballet and getting my BA in History, I found my true passion in illustrating and have been working as a freelance illustrator since 2008.

I work in Photoshop and Procreate and have developed a style of working that blends both digital and traditional elements.  I enjoy playing around with patterns, textures and brilliant colors in my work.  Animals are my favorite subjects to illustrate and I’m thrilled to be illustrating the kinds of books I would have loved when I was a little library-goer.

Laura thank you for sharing your book and your journey with us. Your book truly is an educational love letter to the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains teaming with life. I love how you put music to your lyrical text. I hope everyone takes a minute to click on the YouTube video after the book description to hear the music. Stephanie’s illustrations are stunning and add to the richness of your book. All this and it helps children learn to count. Get job! Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This book is adorable! I love the title, it just works well. And foxes! I love how the animals and plants are so important to the “piggyback” song. That’s what I’ve always called common songs that are re-written with a new subject. Very cute! Congratulations! Perfect post for Earth Day!

    I follow by email and I will tweet this, Kathy. 🙂


  2. This looks so fun! Congratulations!

    Kathy, I’m on your blog, and have reposted to Twitter and Facebook.


  3. Love the idea of including the song!


  4. What a great idea for a book! Love it!
    Kathy–signed up for your blog.


  5. Such a delightful story, Laura! And Stephanie’s illustrations are wonderful!


  6. This looks wonderful and what a great publication journey. I shared on FB, Twitter, and Pinterest. GO SCBWI CAROLINAS!!


  7. As a musician, I appreciate the lyrics set to music and enjoyed the YouTube video. I am an email subscriber and shared to social:


  8. Congrats, Laura and Stephanie! I’m signed up for the emails.


  9. This looks like so much fun. I love the little animals too. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted:, and shared on Pinterest:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have a great day.


  10. I love the setting of this story. And it’s fascinating to see that editors can sometimes be looking for such specific things. You never know when or where a story will strike a—ah—chord. LOL. Congrats!


  11. It’s great that you were so careful about getting the nature details right, even if everything didn’t make it into the final text. I bet most readers would be surprised to learn how much research goes into creating a “fiction” picture book. (And wow, those illustrations! I especially like the groundhog spread.)
    Kathy, I subscribe to your blog.


  12. What a beautiful and lyrical book that teaches counting as well as about the animals in the Appalachian mountains. I loved the YouTube video!
    Congratulations, Laura and Stephanie.

    I shared on Twitter and I subscribe to the blog.


  13. As a NC native and graduate of a university set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this book is definitely a hat have for my elementary classroom! What a wonderful idea for a picture book! Sharing on twitter and crossing all my fingers and toes to get a copy!


  14. I used to sing “Over in the Meadow” with my children and students. I’m including the link in my Creative Juice feature on my blog,, tomorrow.


  15. This looks perfectly adorable. Thanks for telling me about it. I get your blog by email and I tweeted about the giveaway.


  16. What a sweet counting book. Good luck.


  17. This looks fantastic. I can’t wait to read it.


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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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: