Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 23, 2022

Book Giveaway: A CROWDED FARMHOUSE FOLKTALE by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

Today we have Karen Rostoker-Gruber’s picture book, A CROWDED FARMHOUSE FOLKTALE, illustrated by Kristina Swarner and publish by Albert Whitman & Company. Karen has agreed to send a copy 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 Karen and Kristina.

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!


Farmer Earl has had enough―his home is too crowded! So, he visits the wise woman in town for help. She tells him to bring all his ducks in the house. And then all his horses. And all his goats too! How will there be more room with all these animals? This updated folktale uses humor to explore what it takes to gain a new perspective.


After sending countless stories to one editor, and getting rejected, I asked her, “What would you like to see from me in the future?”  She told me to send her a folktale.

So, that day, I went to the library and took out a lot of folktale books–about 20 or so–borrowed more from friends, and bought some on-line.  Then for days, I sat and read folktales from morning to night.  I didn’t skip any–just in case the one I skipped happened to be the perfect one.  I kept looking for a folktale I could simplify–folktales that no one reworked for a while–folktales that Disney didn’t redo.

I had many more books, but these are the three that I wound up buying or borrowing:

I came across two Yiddish folktales that I loved: one of them I had heard back when I was younger and the other one I had never heard of before.

At 3am that night, after going over and over one of the folktales in my head all day long, I wrote this down on a sticky note:

In case you can’t chicken-scratch, it says: 

No room to sit,
     no room to pace,
          no room to rest,
                no extra space! 

That little rhyme was just what I needed as a starting point.  I couldn’t wait to begin working on it in the morning.

I love repeated refrains, bits of rhyme, and lyrical writing.  I’m also a sucker for a good animal pun, if it isn’t forced.  And, most of the time, I add in a touch of adult humor to my books.  (I used to write adult humor books: If Men Had Babies. . .,The Unofficial College Survival Guide, Telephones Are Better Than Men Because. . ., and Remote Controls Are Better Than Women Because. . .

Also, after reading hundreds of folktales, I noticed that not one of them had a wise woman in charge.  So, I put a wise woman in my folktale instead of a wise man. Times have changed.

Once I finished the story, sent it to my critique groups, proofread it until I couldn’t see the words anymore, I sent it to the editor that asked me to write a folktale for her.  But, as luck would have it, by the time I wrote it, and sent it her way, she had already acquired a story that was too similar.  Okay.  I can’t tell you how many times that has happened to me.  Too many to count.

This time though, unlike my previous 14 traditionally-published books, which I sold myself and negotiated with the help of Mary Flower (a book lawyer), I had an agent.  I ran it by her and she loved it.  She sent it out on submission in March and we got a response in April!

During that process, I also reimagined another Yiddish folktale.  It’s simplified, lyrical, and very loosely based on a folktale.  But, I haven’t sold that story yet as I’m waiting to get another agent.  (My agent had to cut back her list.)  I can’t get into the publishing houses that I used to get into without one.  So, right now that other folktale is tucked away in my drawer with all of the other manuscripts waiting to get published, or waiting to be reworked.  (I’ve been writing for years. Don’t be scared at the massive amount of files.)  I’m also very organized and I like my manuscripts in blue folders.  Blue is a soothing color.  🤗

Andrea also chose an amazing illustrator for my story: Kristina Swarner.  Her work has a whimsical, dreamy feel to it.  Kristina even added humor in her illustrations which elevated the story.

Here’s the toilet paper scene, which quacked me up (Check out the duck in the toilet.):

I can’t stop looking at her illustrations. Every time I do, I see something new. Her work is very detailed: the wallpaper, the curtains, the fabric on the wise woman’s dress, the fur on the cats, everything has intricate patterns and beautiful colors.

This book came out during the height of the pandemic (October 1st, 2020), so reviewers weren’t at their offices to get their review copies.  Albert Whitman then re-submitted digital ARCs in place to each reviewer,  but it was so crazy then that I’m not sure everyone got a chance to review it.  So, please, if you LOVE this book, write a review for it on Amazon and Good Reads.  I’d really appreciate it.

It’s probably the most beautiful book that I’ve ever had published and I’ve had 16 traditionally-published books since 1993.  I love the illustrations so much that my husband bought me one of the spreads from the artist, which is now hanging up in our hallway and my daughter bought me book earrings.


Karen Rostoker-Gruber is a multi-award-winning author of many picture books with hundreds of thousands of copies sold. Farmer Kobi’s Hanukkah Match, was named a National Jewish Book Award Finalist and was awarded the 2016 Outstanding Children’s Literature Award from the Church and Synagogue Library Association.

Her books Bandit (Marshall Cavendish 2008), Bandit’s Surprise (Marshall Cavendish 2010), and Ferret Fun (Marshall Cavendish 2011) all received starred reviews in School Library Journal; Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo (Dial 2004) and Bandit were both International Reading Association Children’s Book Council Children’s Choices Award recipients;  three of her books, Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo (in 2005), Bandit (in 2009), and Ferret Fun (in 2012) were all chosen for the 100 Best Children’s Books in the Bureau of Education and Research’s Best of the Year Handbook.  Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo and Ferret Fun were nominated for the Missouri Show Me Award; Bandit was nominated for the South Carolina Book Award; and Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo was a Dollywood Foundation selection two years in a row (in 2007 the Dollywood Foundation bought 73,579 copies and in 2008 it bought 88,996 copies). Karen’s book, Maddie the Mitzvah Clown, published by Apples and Honey Press, a division of Behrman House, was named a PJ Library book selection in July of 2017 and went out to 21,000 4-year-olds in the US and Canada. Her latest books Happy Birthday, Trees (KarBen), also a PJ Library Selection, which went out to 30,000 children in 2021;  and A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale (Whitman) were both published in 2020.  Her other books are: Food Fright (PSS 2003); Tea Time (Marshall Cavendish 2010); Ferret Fun in the Sun (Marshall Cavendish / Two Lions 2015); and The Family and Frog Haggadah (Behrman House 2017).  She is an active member of SCBWI, and she has twice co-chaired the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature’s One-on-One Conference.  She is also one of the co-founders of The Book Meshuggenahs.


Kristina Swarner created her first illustrated story using crayon on manila paper, at the age of 5, and has been drawing ever since.

Often described as magical and dreamlike, Kristina draws much of her imagery and inspiration from dreams and from memories of exploring  forests, gardens, and old houses when she was a child.

Since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design,  Kristina has illustrated books, greeting cards, magazines, wine labels, CD covers, and theatre posters, and has won numerous awards.

Kristina is a print maker, so it takes her a long time to do each illustration.  First she does a sketch.  Then she transfers that sketch onto a linoleum block.  She then carves out areas that will be white or light colored in the final piece, inks up the block, and makes a black and white print on heavy paper.  And, if that’s not enough, once that’s dry, she works over it with watercolors and colored pencils. You can see her process on her Instagram page and on her feature on Writing and Illustrating’s 2013 Illustrator Saturday.

To see her latest work visit her website:

When not painting, Kristina enjoys music, reading, and trying to grow trees on her balcony. She lives in Chicago.

Karen, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I enjoyed reading you process with the book and how the words came to you while in bed. I guess that is why so many writers have a notepad in or next to their bed. Kids and parents will love the humor and illustrations. Just like you I love Kristina’s illustrations. She did a great job helping you tell the story. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. this is so charming and I love folktales!


  2. Love this book — so well done and such a good message! Good luck to you all!


    • Thanks, Lynne Marie!

      I’m a huge fan of your book “Moldilocks and the Three Scares.”

      And, I can’t wait to read your new book, “The Three Little Pigs and The Rocket Project.”


  3. I’m pretty sure I’m going to love this book! And I can see why you can’t stop looking at Kristina’s illustrations. Neither can I! Perfect!


    • Every time I look I see something different. While I was reading via zoom to a class one kid saw a mouse under the bed.

      I hadn’t even seen that.


  4. I, for one, love a crowded house. Lots of smiles, pecks of kisses, tons of stories, and bushels of love to share. Congratulations on a new take,


  5. What a fun-sounding read. I think we need more folk tales in new picture books. I can’t wait to read this.


    • Thank you!

      I usually write books with animal pubs. This was my first reimagined folktale.


  6. Your book is beautiful! I enjoyed reading the post today and added this book to my Goodreads because I can’t wait to read it. The earrings are perfect! I’m an email subscriber and shared:


    • Thank you for putting on your Goodreads list!

      The illustrator was incredible.

      And, I love my earrings!


  7. Hi, I’m an email follower.

    What a great book–the cover is so great, and then I love the colors and textures of the scenes inside!

    I had a big book of world folktales when I was in grade school, and it might have mainly been aimed at adults or older kids, but it was a really great compilation of storytelling traditions from all over the world!


  8. What a fun looking folktale! Congrats!


  9. So charming! Congrats!!


  10. I love it! The fresh take and the colorful illustrations are wonderful! What sweet gifts from your family. I had to laugh at the toilet paper scene…Congrats!

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


    • The strange thing is that the illustrator designed the toilet paper scene WAY before we even knew about COVID.

      Weird, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh dear! LOL. The world of TP…


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