Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 27, 2021

Book Giveaway: SASSAFRAS AND HER TINY TAIL by Candice Marley Conner

Candice Marley Conner has a new  picture book titled, SASSAFRAS AND HER TINY TAIL, illustrated by Heath Gray and published by Maclaren-Cochrane Publishing. They have agreed to send a book with one lucky winner living in the US. All you have to do to get in the running is to 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 Candice, and Heath!


Sometimes your differences make you a hero.

Squirrels need their tails for balance and to communicate so with her stubby, bristly tail, Sassafras is the laughingstock of the oak tree. Always falling, tripping, tumbling, and it feels like no one understands her. She tries everything she can think of to make her tail look as fluffy and long as all the other squirrels’. But when danger strikes, the thing that makes her different might just save the day.

CATEGORY: Self-esteem & Self-reliance | Social Themes | Animals & Nature

AGE: Picture book, ages 4-8


Around nine years ago, my daughter and I took one of many stroller-rides around our neighborhood. We sang our ABCs, hearty renditions of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and mainly just enjoyed the shade of oak trees over the road, the distant, muted swishing of traffic, birdsong, and each other’s company.

Then a squirrel scampered down, looked at us, grabbed an acorn with its tiny paws, and scampered back up the nearest tree.

“Did you see its tail? I’ve never seen one so scrawny!”

“Gggggh-mmftph” (Because she was one and probably chewing on something)

Being present in the moment and taking the time to really look at the world around us are values I’ve tried to instill in my children since birth, as well as help in my own writing, so the rest of the stroll was all about that little squirrel with the bristly tail:

  • Squirrels use their tails to communicate, so do other squirrels have a hard time reading the tail-flicks?
  • They use their tails for balance, so does this one fall a lot?
  • Do squirrels even care? Is it a thing? Do they spend extra time grooming their tails?
  • How many toes do squirrels have?
  • Squirrels use their tails for umbrellas, so does this poor squirrel get rained on all the time?
  • mmmmffftpphhh (probably imagining what a squirrel tail feels like)

And then I thought from the other side of the equation: would this squirrel have any advantages by having a shorter tail?

By the time we got back home, an entire story about a squirrel with a tail as bristly as a chewed-up pine cone was born.

But like all things that are born, it has to grow. I had recently started writing a YA novel (which debuts June 15th!) but picture books are a totally different sort of creature. No long sentences, I had to focus on brevity as picture books are notoriously low on the word count, and because of this, choose which words paint the clearest picture, decide what is the most concise way to get my story across in a way both children and the parents that read this to them will enjoy, when to show and when to tell, and the hardest for me, when to leave room for the illustrator.

I didn’t have the picture book critique group I do now, but my YA critique group members are all moms who have read their fair share of picture books and helped me get SASSAFRAS the best she could be. I queried off and on for about five years, writing other picture book manuscripts, finishing that YA, then starting on a new one that is currently residing in a cob-webbed computer file in the meantime, until an author in a Facebook writing group shared his new release and great experience with his publisher. I liked the cover and the purpose of his publisher—using dyslexie font to make their picture books more accessible—gathered up my nerve, and messaged him. He was very kind to answer all my questions so I submitted SASSAFRAS to MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing in 2017. And was ecstatic to hear back from the publisher within the week with an acceptance! A month later the contract was finalized and signed, and now, four years later, my brave little bristle-tailed squirrel is out in the world! The illustrator, Heath Gray, did a great job bringing the squirrels to life with his colorful, energetic artwork. I very much appreciate Tannya Derby, MCP’s president, for believing in Sassafras’ message of how differences can make you a hero and choosing to publish her story!

(And for those curious, our species of squirrels have four toes on their front paws, and five on their hind legs.)

Thank you for having me on your blog, Kathy!


Growing up between swamps, a river, and the Gulf Coast, Candice Marley Conner’s stories emerge from gnarled cypress knees, muddy water, and salty air. She is the kidlit haint at a haunted indie bookstore (but not haunted how you’re thinking), a Local Liaison for SCBWI, and an officer for her local writer’s guild. Her short stories and poems are in various anthologies and magazines including Smarty Pants Magazine for KidsHighlights Hello, Cabinet of Curiosities, Under the Full Moon’s Light, Babybug, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and more. Her picture book, SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL releases June 8th, 2021 with MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, and her YA Southern mystery, THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL, comes out June 15th, 2021 with Owl Hollow Press. She lives in Alabama with her husband and two children (one of whom is possibly feral).

Candice is represented by Katelyn Detweiler at Jill Grinberg Literary Management. She can be found online at, and on social media Instagram: @candice_marleyconner, Facebook: @cmarleyconnerauthor & Twitter: @candice_marleyc


Heath James Gray was born in West Auckland, New Zealand. Heath Gray has always had a great passion for illustration from the time he could pick up a pencil. He started out as a sign writer from the age of fifteen. Attended a graphic design course at Auckland University of Technology, AUT. Heath worked as a 2d character animator for eight years, where he trained under a Disney animator, John Ewing. Here he worked on television shows for Disney and Warner Bros.

Heath Gray also worked on many New Zealand TV series and commercials. And directed two of these TV commercials. Heath has dedicated his life to illustration and specializes in children’s book and cartoon illustrations. There is nothing else Heath Gray would rather do than illustration, except perhaps to travel around the world in a hot air balloon.

To view more of Heath’s illustration work, feel free to visit DeviantART where he goes under the alias, verbarlin.

Candice, thank you for sharing your book with us. I love the theme of the book. children worry about their differences and this fun book will help them realize differences can be a good thing. Heath’s illustrations add to the fun aspect of the story. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. so cute

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats, Candace and Heath! Sounds like a fun read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Susan! It was fun to write about Sassafras realizing her potential!


  3. Reblogged this on candice marley conner.


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