Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 4, 2022

Book Giveaway: LOOKING FOR SMILE by Ellen Tarlow

Ellen Tarlow has another new picture book, LOOKING FOR SMILE, illustrated by Lauren Stringer and publish by Beach Lane 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 Lauren.

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!


In this sweet and gentle picture book, Bear wakes one day to find his Smile gone and enlists his friends to help him find it.

Bear and Smile are always together. They wake up together, swim by the waterfall together, and eat honey together. But one day, Bear wakes up and Smile is nowhere to be found. With the help of his woodland friends, will Bear be able to find his Smile again?

This tender and special debut picture book explores sadness with a light touch and shows that sometimes a good friend can make all the difference.


LOOKING FOR SMILE tells the story of Bear and Smile who are always together—they wake up together, they splash in waterfalls together, they eat honey together. Then one morning Smile doesn’t come. And without his Smile, Bear feels alone for the first time ever.

The roots of the story go back to a day when I was five years old and just like Bear, I woke up and found my smile gone. While the particulars are (obviously) very different, the feeling of confusion about being in a world that looked and felt different than it ever had before is very much the same.

This experience stuck with me and I had been trying to write about it off and on for many years. A couple of years ago, I was working on a manuscript about a character who had lost their smile– but I felt like I couldn’t get beyond the surface of the experience.

Then one morning, I got the idea of personifying smile. I quickly wrote the sentence: Bear and Smile were always together. That became the first line of the book. I wrote about 75% of the book in one sitting that day. Somehow making Smile a character allowed me to write about Bear before Smile went away which made the loss feel more real. Also, I think the character of Smile gave the story a lift, Smile is fun and a bit of a puzzle and prevented it all from being too sad.

After that burst, I put the story aside for a few months. I’m not sure why other than a natural tendency not to finish things. But also I wanted to get the ending just right. I wanted to make it real and meaningful to kids. I’m not sure when the idea of Bear just sitting and singing with his friend Bird came to me but it seemed like the simplest and truest of all the ways to get Smile back and it was the only version I wrote out.

A few weeks after I finished the manuscript, a former teacher, Dianne White, wrote to say I should attend a picture book intensive at the Writing Barn in Austin, Texas. The weekend featured agent, Rubin Pfeffer, S&S/ Beach Lane editor, Allyn Johnston, and author/illustrator, Lauren Stringer. I had never travelled for anything like that before but for some reason this time I did. To make a short story shorter, Rubin read “Looking for Smile” for my critique and shared it with Allyn and Lauren. By the time I met with him, he said he wanted to represent me. Later that day, all three called me over to a picnic table and told me that Allyn wanted to publish the book and Lauren wanted to illustrate it. (I wobbled my way back to my room and barely slept for the rest of the weekend. )

I couldn’t have been luckier. Allyn is such a caring and brilliant editor and Lauren’s illustrations are just so beautiful and tell the story with such depth of feeling. Here are a few illustrations I particularly love:

The fact that we all spent that first weekend together in Texas felt like a special bond and the creation of the book was a real team experience. LOOKING FOR SMILE came out in Fall 2020. It has been a fun journey (despite the pandemic). As a postscript, it is now more than 2 years since the Writing Barn weekend. Since then Rubin has sold 4 more of my picture books and an early reader series to Allyn Johnston /Beach Lane. They will come out over the next few years. My next book, Becoming Blue, illustrated by Julien Chung, will be published by Beach Lane Books and comes out in 2022.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!


Ellen Tarlow writes stories for very young children. Her published children’s books include PINWHEEL DAYS, MOLE CATCHES THE SKY, and most recently, LOOKING FOR SMILE, illustrated by Lauren Stringer and published by Beach Lane Books.

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 an early reader series coming out with Beach Lane Books over the next few years. You can learn more about her at:


Lauren Stringer is a visual artist, a writer and illustrator of picture books, a set designer, and a public speaker. She was born in Great Falls, Montana, but grew up on the beaches of southern California, the woods outside of Pittsburgh, PA, and the redwoods of northern California.  After graduating with degrees in art and art history, she moved to the east coast, where she lived for a brief time in Washington, DC and Boston, before settling in NYC.

Her picture books: Winter is the Warmest Season, When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky, and Yellow Time. My story, The Dark Was Done will be published as a picture book in Fall 2022. She has  illustrated many award-winning picture books including Scarecrow and Snow written by Cynthia Rylant, Tell Me About Your Day Today written by Mem Fox, Mud, Red Rubber Boot Day and Deer Dancer written by Mary Lyn Ray, Fold Me a Poem written by Kristine O’Connell George, The Princess and Her Panther written by Wendy Orr, and the nonfiction picture books, Our Family Tree, An Evolution Story, written by Lisa Westberg Peters and The Shape of the World, A Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright, written by K.L. Going. Her newest illustrated picture book, Looking for Smile, written by Ellen Tarlow, was published in Fall 2020. Lauren was awarded the McKnight Fellowship for Artists in 1991 and the McKnight Fellowship for Writers in 2012 and 2020. Her illustrations for Castles, Caves and Honeycombs won the SCBWI Golden Kite Honor Award in 2002. Her paintings and illustrations have been exhibited in museums and galleries all over the country, including The Bronx Museum in NY, the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, ND, the Society of Illustrators in New York, and the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in Abilene, TX. I have  presented nationally and internationally at schools, libraries and conferences.

Lauren now lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and shares her home, located on Dakota land, with her writer-composer-painter husband and a very old cat. Whenever possible, she travels to visit her daughter, a dance artist living in Morocco, and to Canada to visit her son, a composer and circus artist. When she was very young her favorite books were Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág, Veronica by Roger Duvoisin, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. At the age of six she decided to become an artist.

Ellen, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love that the theme of this book is the importance of having a good friend, since that is something that follows all of us throughout life. Lauren’s illustrations are wonderful. They are a perfect fit with your story. Good  luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. What a sweet book with equally sweet illustrations. Thanks so much for sharing! [Newsletter Subscriber].


  2. Oh, so lovely! The flowing words and perfect illustrations make this book one I want to read! Congrats to both of you!

    I follow by email and tweeted this post.


  3. Who couldn’t use an extra big smile? Can’t wait to read this one (and shout-out from a fellow kidlit writer in the Hudson Valley)! I follow your blog, Kathy.


    • Thanks Nancy! And neighborly shout out to you too! I am new to the area where are you?


      • Thank you, Pathaap!


  4. What a tender story, Ellen. And I love the illustrations, Lauren. Congratulations to you both!


  5. What a sweet idea for a book. I can’t wait to read it. The illustrations are charming. I subscribe to your blog and I tweeted about the giveaway.


  6. Thanks for sharing Ellen. I love this book! I used it in one of my advanced HS drawing classes as we discussed character development, but more importantly because the subject seemed so fitting for a hybrid- pandemic classroom. Thank you!


    • Thank you, Mary! I absolutely love how Lauren Stringer caught Bear’s shifts in mood. I will send your comment to her! (if that’s ok)


  7. What a great looking book! I’d love to have a copy. I’ve shared:, and tweeted: I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com. Thanks again for the chance to win a copy of this sweet book. All best wishes to everyone for a wonderful 2022!!


  8. LOOKING FOR SMILE is such a beautiful book! I would recommend it to anyone.


  9. This is such sweet book! I love the story and the art. Thanks for sharing your journey–what an incredible weekend you had at the Writing Barn! Kathy I get your blog every day.


  10. My girls and I LOVE this story! I hold it up on a pedestal. It is definitely one of the warmest, most lovely stories ever written. I tweeted about it!
    ~Lindsey Aduskevich


    • Thank you so much, Lindsey, It is so nice to hear about you and your girls enjoying the book together!


  11. I love the story behind the making and sale of this book. It’s such a sweet story. I’ve tweeted and subscribe. Thanks!


  12. ❤️❤️❤️thank you for a beautiful story


  13. First of all, WOW to the story of this book’s publication–it was a match meant to be for all. I enjoyed learning about how this author struggled to find the best way to tell her story–this is something I am struggling with myself and now have hope. I’m an email subscriber and shared:


  14. Oh, I can’t wait to read this one – just looking at the cover makes me smile! Congrats!


    • Thanks, Danielle! I love the cover too..


  15. I loved reading about this books journey. I’ve read this wonderful book. Congratulations, Ellen and Lauren! I shared this on Twitter and get your blogs daily, Kathy. Thanks!


  16. Ellen and Lauren, what a lovely book. I can’t wait to read it. Ellen, your journey to finding your agent and publisher sounds so serendipitous and exciting! Congrats on all your success!

    Kathy I follow your blog and shared on Twitter.


  17. This is such a sweet book and so relatable! I can’t wait to read it, ordering from my library now.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I love this book so much. thank you for sharing it with the world! All the best to you!
    Rebecca Gardyn Levington

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thank you for sharing your inspiring journey! I love how you personified Smile in this story – can’t wait to read it with my kiddos. Beautiful illustrations! Congratulations to you both! [blog subscriber]

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh my goodness! I love to hear stories like this! Congratulations!!!


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