Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 30, 2021


Ellen Tarlow has two new picture books, PINWHEEL DAYS and FRIENDS AT NIGHT, illustrated by Gretal Parker and publish by Starbright Books. They have agreed to give a copy of each book to the one lucky winner in the US.

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 Ellen and Gretel.

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!


Oh no! Has Pinwheel broken Owl’s tree? Pinwheel and Squirrel can’t stop bunches of small, colorful bits from falling! Perhaps Owl can shed some light on the conundrum. . . . Later, Pinwheel has the most wonderful dream ever and wants to replicate it. But his daytime nap means spending less time with his friends. Join Pinwheel and his friends for two tranquil stories in this new Level 3 Star Readers edition of Friends at Night. Engaging plots and age-appropriate vocabulary will help young readers take a step forward with their literacy skills.


Pinwheel the donkey loves peanut butter sandwiches and playing hide-and-seek. But most of all, he loves his friends. This collection of four stories presents a great lesson in friendship and kindness. Laugh with Pinwheel as he shouts to his own echo until he realizes the voice talking back is really his friend Squirrel. Count falling leaves and name their colors with Owl. Immerse yourself and your child in Pinwheel’s world with this lovely collection of adorable short stories.


I am so pleased that Pinwheel Days (and now its companion volume, Friends at Night) is finding a new life with the Star Reader editions.

My journey with the character of Pinwheel began 30 years ago with a photograph of a baby donkey my father had taken on a trip to Mexico. I couldn’t get that little donkey out of my head and named him Pinwheel. Pinwheel began his literary life in a middle grade novel (unfinished) and then a picture book draft which stayed in the drawer. As much as I loved the character, I couldn’t find the way to write about him. So I let him rest.

A few years passed and I woke up one morning and wrote a story, which is now the last story of the four stories, called Pinwheel’s Dream. The story was written somewhat in the manner of the Frog and Toad books I had always loved. The short simple sentences, plentiful dialogue, and bite sized stories somehow allowed his innocent and open personality to shine. And Pinwheel as an easy-to-read character was born.

I wrote the remaining three stories rather quickly, the stories flowed in a way that had eluded me in the Pinwheel novel and picture book. I built the stories to end up with Pinwheel’s Dream which I had written first. I introduced Squirrel, Rabbit and Owl, Pinwheel’s friends in each of the stories preceding it. And soon I had a manuscript in hand.

This was in 2005. There happened to be an SCBWI presentation on early readers in New York and I went. At the presentation, I learned that early readers were rarely picked up as individual manuscripts, more often commissioned as part of series. I came away feeling rather hopeless that the little donkey I had grown so fond of would ever see the light of day.

But rather than putting him in the drawer again, I gave the manuscript to a children’s book writer friend, Miriam Cohen, who then passed it onto Deborah Shine of Starbright Books. She felt that a smaller publisher would not have the same limitations about publishing an early reader that was not part of a larger series. And lo and behold they wanted to publish it.

The stories of course truly found life with the wonderful illustrations by Gretel Parker, an English illustrator who I found through a card. Because I worked in educational publishing creating picture books, Starbright Books allowed me to be very involved in designing the book. Gretel Parker and I sent pages with sketches and layouts back and forth from her cottage in England to my apartment in New York City. (This was in the days of email but just before there were PDF attachments.) It was a very exciting and rewarding process. As you can see, Gretels illustrations are both joyful and contemplative. Also, I wanted the characters to feel like sentient beings and yet still be cuddly. And miraculously they are! (In fact, Gretel now makes enchanting needle felt animals from her cottage in Shropshire.

The original Pinwheel Days came out in 2006. It remains one of my favorite pieces of writing. I am glad more children will get to know Pinwheel and friends in the new Star Readers editions!


Ellen Tarlow writes stories for very young children. Her published children’s books include PINWHEEL DAYS, FRIENDS AT NIGHT, MOLE CATCHES THE SKY, and LOOKING FOR SMILE.

Among other honors, LOOKING FOR SMILE was named one of Kirkus’s Best Books and one of Bank Street College’s Best Books for 2020. For many years, she worked as an editor of early childhood classroom materials. In that job, she got to write hundreds of stories for young children. Now that she is working less, she is excited to focus on her own stories. After spending her entire adult life in New York City, she just moved to the Hudson Valley with her husband David, a painter. She has four new picture books and a new early reader series coming out with Beach Lane Books over the next few years.


In 2011, I worked with Templar Publishing UK to produce two early reading pop up books, combining my artwork with my needle felted characters.

I am a professional artist and designer living in a little cream cottage in rural Shropshire, England. Previously a children’s illustrator, I became a full time needle felt artist in 2008 when I also opened my Etsy shop. I’ve sold my work to collectors all over the world and expanded into selling my own kits and high quality supplies. I believe that supplies should be presented beautifully, to enhance the creative experience.
I am now selling all of my creative work in this shop, so if you are looking for quirky, affordable art and cards, please browse the shop sections.
If you like my needle felt designs, you will love my book ‘Little Needle Felt Animals, published in the UK by Harper Collins and in the USA by Harper books – you will find it on Amazon and in most major book stores.

I have written over 60 patterns to date and have been featured in many well known craft magazines, including ‘Mollie Makes’ where my work has been the cover project on three issues. To read more about me and to check for UK needle felt workshops please visit my website


Ellen, thank you for sharing your books and journeys with us. This is the first time I have featured Star Bright Books on Writing and Illustrating. It’s nice to show off their newly launched early readers program, Star Readers™, designed to help children take a guided approach to reading independence and success. Star Readers, has five unique reading levels to help youngsters gain confidence and develop essential skills in vocabulary, speech, pronunciation, and critical thinking. They can be read at any pace, and in any order, to meet the individual needs of each reader. I am excited for you, Donkey, Pinwheel and his merry friends being part of Star Bright Books inaugural Star Readers™ kick off. Gretel did a wonderful job creating the illustrations to help you tell the stories. Good luck with the books!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Greetings Kathy–

    I just discovered your blog courtesy of Amy Leskowski who touted your First Page contest, so I subscribed via email yesterday.

    I also tweeted about the Book Giveaway (@mowrex on Twitter//Melisa Wrex), not to mention, tagged one of my book friends who also needle felts. She’ll go bananas for Gretel’s talent.

    Thanks for the valuable content, looking forward to more in 2022.



    • Thanks, Kathy!! Gretel’s needle felt animals (and illustrations) are so special!


  2. So adorable! I’m glad you finally found the right story for Pinwheel! Congrats to both of you!

    I follow by email and I tweeted this post, Kathy. 🙂


  3. Thanks for sharing Pinwheel’s history, Ellen! (I have a character who’s waiting : ) I’m glad he made into several books. They look adorable! I shared this on Twitter and get your posts daily, Kathy.


    • Thank you, Kim! Good luck with your character-in-waiting!


  4. Your books do look adorable and friendship stories are the best. The illustrations are so much fun to look at and I just want to snuggle Pinwheel. I’m an email subscriber and shared:


  5. Congratulations, Ellen and Gretel! Both books look adorable.


  6. This book looks perfectly enchanting. The art work is so cute. Thanks for the post. I subscribe to your blog by email.


  7. This is a completely delightful book! I think a lot of these early reader series have some of the best illustrations–I’d love to see editions that are in larger formats where you can really appreciate all that beautiful art!


    • Thanks, John! I agree about larger formats…


  8. Shared on Pinterest, FB, and Twitter. I’d love to give this book to my grandkids.


  9. Love that Pinwheel’s journey began 30 years ago! I’ve got books, characters, ideas like that, too!


    • Thank you, Lizzie! Good luck with your own long-loved characters!


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