Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 17, 2021

Book Giveaway: LULU & ROCKY in Rocky Mountain National Park by Barbara Koosse

Barbara Joosse has written a new picture book, LULU & ROCKY IN ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, illustrated by Renee Graef and published by Sleeping Bear Press. SBP 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 Barbara and Renee.

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!


Lulu and her cousin Rocky are visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado! There are so many fun things to see and do, like hiking, camping, star-gazing, and even participating in the Junior Ranger program as they learn about the special treasures found in the park. Written by Barbara Joosse and illustrated by Renée Graef, this fifth book in the Lulu & Rocky series explores the Rocky Mountain National Park.


How do you write about a distant park smack in the middle of Covid??

This is a challenge kids face all the time.  They’re asked to write about people, places or things they can’t experience first hand.  During author visits, I often talk to kids about this handicap, always demonstrating the proper amount of sympathy for their plight, always with a bunch of excellent ideas to overcome the problem. . . . only this time, it was me.

Over the past three years, illustrator Renee Graef and I developed a popular adventure travel series—Lulu & Rocky Adventures.  Think Eloise meets Rick Steves.  Although some elements are repeated (always a historic place to stay, always a hotel concierge so the fox cousins don’t ramble alone, and always a unique way to arrive—race car, band tour bus etc.), the books are NOT formula.  I introduce readers to a city the way they’d meet a new friend—layer upon layer, allowing the city to charm them with its unique personality.

To capture the true personality of a city, I could never rely on lists of popular tourist destinations.  Lists and internet sites aren’t a bad place to start, but my pre-visit research also includes conversations with visitors and residents, museum curators, visitor bureaus, etc.  After that—and this part is non-negotiable—I need to visit the destination.  Only a personal visit can reveal a city’s true essence—its diversity, bustle, smell, sound, and color.

Only after visiting Nashville could I write this aha! moment:

“At Bicentennial Mall, we walk to the middle of the carillon bell towers and search for the silver dot.  Then we sing, and our small voices become BIG!

Suddenly, all around us, the bells begin to ring—

bing bang bong,

almost as if they heard our song,

almost as if they’re applauding.

And that’s when we get it!  We may be small,

but music makes our voices loud.”

Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in Nashville

Only after visiting Detroit could I write this aha! moment, so different from Nashville’s:

“And there it is.  The Fist.  Big and strong.

“The Fist” from Lulu & Rocky in Detroit

And then it hits me—POW!

Detroit is everybody’s voice, sounding like one.

It’s music and murals and motors . . .

and never giving up.”

Now it was time for a new adventure.  This time, our publisher, Sleeping Bear Press, wanted a departure from the usual city visit.  This time, the destination would be a national park. Pre-covid, it seemed like a genius plan.

But visiting during Covid was out of the question.  What to do?  My spinning little brain likes to torture me with detailed playbacks of me saying dumb stuff.  So now I was haunted by visions of talking to school kids with overinflated confidence about how to overcome the very problem I was now facing.  Dang.

Mired in a Covid funk, I pored over images and descriptions of dozens of national parks, all tantalizingly out of reach!  Double dang.  But I had to choose one, and quickly.

In the end, I didn’t feel I could write about a place completely unknown to me.  If I couldn’t visit the park with notebook in hand, sniffing out the curious, interesting, gob-smacking vistas, perhaps I could draw on memories.

My husband, Chuck, is a Colorado guy, having spent most of his life in this mountain state.  And for five years, he lead an outlaw lifestyle, living in an Airstream trailer, mostly in Rocky Mountain National Park, each morning fishing for breakfast, each winter night bundled in a sleeping bag with his cats and toothpaste (so the toothpaste wouldn’t freeze).  You just can’t beat someone’s first-hand accounts, especially if you share your breakfast burrito with them.

And over the years, Chuck infected me with a love of the Rockies.  We’d spent many vacations in Colorado, and I could happily recall the smell of ponderosa pine, eye-searing lightening slicing through the sky, the magic of meteor showers, and the “I can fly” feeling you get above the tree line.

Rocky Mountain National Park it was.  I bought a stack of books and maps and surfed the internet.  Then I began my customary phone calls, beginning with the park.  But Rocky Mountain National Park was closed for Covid.  Also closed?  The park’s internet sites that described each venue along with helpful photos.

My publisher helped me track down Katy Sykes, an information officer at the park, now working from home (a friend of a friend of a friend).  Katy was super helpful.  But then came the epic wildfire that burned 22,000 acres of the park and she was overwhelmed.  Communication was understandably slow.

This was a biblical combination of plague, fire and pestilence!

Like most picture books, “Lulu & Rocky in Rocky Mountain National Park” appears deceptively simple.  But the park, itself, with its wide diversity of habitat and complex ecosystems is nothing, if not complex.  So I had to figure out complicated, hard-to-find details before I could write the breezy words that would make readers fall in love with this park.

For example, I wanted to include the double-meaning of this line:  “We fish for trout . . . and catch a rainbow,” capturing the twin delights of fishing and magical weather.  But the fishing stream had to be near the Moraine Park Campground.  And rainbow trout don’t populate most RMNP streams.  And finding one was a moving target because a recent fish count revealed shifting patterns.  After lots of digging, I settled on Glacier Creek.

Catching a rainbow from “Lulu & Rocky in Rocky Mountain National Park.”


I wanted to include a spread with a vista of bobbing wildflowers, bees and butterflies, sunshine and big horn sheep—a quintessential RMNP experience.  But which vista would include this sublime combination?  And once I chose Horseshoe Park, my publisher wanted me to name the wildflowers . . . but which wildflowers bloom at the same time?

Horseshoe Park from “Lulu & Rocky in Rocky Mountain National Park”

We sit down—close and all together—and let the sun melt on our faces. “We’re in the middle of awesome.” Lulu says.

I’m not complaining, but it would have been easy to figure this out with one teensy weensy visit.

But I’m a stubborn, stubborn woman, so I muscled through.  It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t nearly as good as being there.  But after finally gathering the details and impressions I needed, I wrote like a smoking hot she-devil.  And in the end, “Lulu & Rocky in Rocky Mountain National Park” is my favorite in the series.  Go figure.


Barbara M. Joosse is an American children’s writer. She has been writing for children for over thirty years. She has published fifty-five books in 29 different languages for children, both picture books and chapter books. Her book titled, Mama, Do You Love Me? has sold over 3 million copies. Through her writing, she aspires to find the things that are the same, and the things that are different, between us all.

She has toured worldwide to promote her books, which have been translated into twenty-eight languages and attended college in Wisconsin, first at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and received her B.A. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She attended University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee from 1977-80, taking creative writing classes. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Council for Wisconsin Writers.


Renée Graef is an award-winning illustrator who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in art. She has illustrated over 80 books for children, including the Kirsten series in the American Girl collection and many of the My First Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Renée worked as a creative director for the Little House program at Harper Collins for five years and enjoyed traveling to the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites.

Renée has also illustrated classics such as The Nutcracker and My Favorite Things, as well as books about American icons: Mount Rushmore and Paul Bunyan. She has worked on books/cookbooks for Lidia Bastianich (of PBS’s Lidia’s Italy). Renée’s most recent alphabet books are on timekeeping and on lighthouses of the Great Lakes. Renée worked with the Getty Museum in Los Angeles on Thèrése Makes a Tapestry, a historical fiction highlighting the weaving of tapestries during the 1670’s in Paris.

Ms. Graef’s accomplishments have been honored by the Society of Illustrators-Los Angeles and the State of Wisconsin’s House of Representatives, among other groups and her work has been exhibited in numerous solo shows. Renée splits her time between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Los Angeles, California.

Barbara, thank you for sharing your journey and book with us. I LOVE these books. This one makes me want to drop everything and rush out the door to explore Rocky Mountain State Park. You and Renee are perfect together. The book is filled with stunning illustrations. What a great way for kids to learn about the wonders of the United States. I am sure families will have the same reaction as I had when I read the book and will add Rocky Mountain National Park to places they want to travel with the kids. Good luck with the book. Hope you continue to bring us more LuLu & Rocky adventures.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. What a fun series! So happy to discover it! [Newsletter subscriber.]


  2. Congrats, Barbara and Renee! This looks adorable. (I’m subscribed to the emails as well.)


  3. Such cute and wonderful books! (I’m subscribed to the emails too)


  4. Shared on Twitter


  5. I love to travel through books and this series is incredible! I’m from Michigan, so I can’t wait to read your Detroit book and see what you included besides Joe Louis’ fist. I’m an email subscriber and shared on social:


  6. That’s the park we go to since we live in Colorado!


  7. This whole series looks like a lot of fun. The illustrations are lovely. Thanks for the post. I follow your blog by email.


  8. I already love this book!!! I’m a huge fan of national parks 🙂


  9. The illustrations are fantastic!


  10. This looks like such a great book! Great idea.


  11. ❤️Rocky Mountain nat’l park. Can’t wait to read your book❤️


  12. Love this series!! And think this one may be my favorite as well!!


  13. Beautiful illustrations! Would love to read this with my goddaughter. We both love road trip adventures.


  14. Shared


  15. Wow, I really enjoyed reading the article. You are right, finding ‘breezing’ words that make writing seem effortless is a big challenge. LULU & ROCKY IN ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK will be a perfect gift for families with wanderlust. I know it would be loved in my family. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Best wishes.


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