Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 30, 2022

Book Giveaway: MARY HAD A LITTLE PLAN by Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer has a new picture book, MARY HAD A LITTLE PLAN, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton and published by Union Square on September 6th. Union Square Kids has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US or Canada.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did 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 Tammi and Vanessa.

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. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments by Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!


Mary had a little plan
that sprouted on the spot.
It all began the day she passed
a drab, abandoned lot. 

Fashion-forward Mary is known for adding flair everywhere she goes. When she spots an abandoned lot in her neighborhood, Mary knows she can use her stylish talent to spruce it up. Soon she’s rallying neighborhood shops and calling on her friends to help. With Mary leading the way, this group carries out her little plan that has a big impact on her community!


The journey to write Mary Had a Little Plan actually started with another book.

I was inspired to write Mary Had a Little Glam while reading Linda Ashman’s The Nuts & Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. This resource is an absolute gold mine of information, interviews, and exercises. One of the exercises suggested writing a fresh take on a familiar song or rhyme such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Soon Bo Peep’s sheep went in knee deep.

Out of nowhere, the words MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM popped into my head. I knew I had to write Mary’s story. And, of course, since “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is written in rhyme, I knew my manuscript needed to follow suit.

But, first and foremost, I had to give Mary a story. That’s key. The manuscript couldn’t just be one cute and bouncy stanza after another. Each stanza needed to serve a purpose in pushing the story forward.

Once I uncovered Mary’s story, I did a lot of research on writing in rhyme. I analyzed many, many, many rhyming picture books. In addition, I shared the manuscript with my critique group, some of my other author friends who write in rhyme, and my agent. I knew that if I was going to send a rhymer Out There, I wanted every word, phrase, and stanza to be as strong as possible and the rhythm had to be juuuuuuust right.


Sterling Publishing (this publisher now goes by Union Square & Co.) bought the manuscript, and the oh-so-fabulous Vanessa Brantley-Newton(!!!) signed on to illustrate the book.

About a year after Mary Had a Little Glam debuted, Vanessa and I were on faculty at the 2017 Summer SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles. We got to chatting about our MARY and decided the world just might need more of her. Happily, our editor agreed!

That fall, I brainstormed other title possibilities. My friend Sue Fliess suggested Mary Had a Little Plan which is further evidence that Sue is a genius. Right away, I knew Mary’s plan had to be the perfect fit for this character. In Mary Had a Little Glam, Mary adds flair to her school. In Mary Had a Little Plan, Mary shares her flair with her neighborhood.

In this second book, Mary discovers a drab, abandoned lot in her neighborhood and does her best to turn the situation around. She soon realizes, however, that she can’t tackle it all on her own. Mary then enlists the help of her nursery rhyme friends to make this neighborhood spot a fun and inviting place for everyone to enjoy.

One of my favorite parts in writing this book was figuring out how her friends could contribute in ways that ring true to their nursery rhyme characters. For instance, this is the stanza that includes Little Bo Peep:

            They chomped the weeds away.

            A clean-up crew knew what to do

            to fix the disarray.

Oh, and I have some bonus good news! Vanessa and I have a third MARY book coming out next year. This time around, Mary strums up some new fun with her nursery rhyme friends in Mary Had a Little Jam.


Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children’s book author. She has 30 picture books with more on the way. In addition to winning awards and earning starred reviews, Tammi’s books have gone on to do great things. Chicken Dance, Your Alien, and Nugget & Fang were made into musicals that toured the nation. Wordy Birdy was named a Kids’ Indie Next List book, the 2021 Book Choice for Read Across Oklahoma, and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. And Your Alien, an NPR Best Book of the Year, was released in Italian, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and French which makes her feel extra fancy.

Tammi graduated from Kansas State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education and married my high school sweetheart, Ron Sauer. We did not return to Victoria, causing the town’s population to plummet to 1,206. Ron and I have a daughter, Julia, and a son, Mason.

I loved being a teacher and library media specialist, but I am currently a full-time picture book author. I have visited hundreds of schools and spoken at various conferences across the nation. I even gave presentations at Disney World! Woo-woo!

Writing is one of my absolute favorite things to do, but I also love to read, ski, spend time with my family and friends, go to movies, and eat out as often as possible. What is more, I am hopelessly addicted to checking my e-mail.

My family and I live in Edmond, Oklahoma, with one dog, two geckos, and a tank full of random fish.


Vanessa Brantley Newton attended both SVA and FIT of New York, where she studied fashion and children’s illustration. An artist swathed in retro chic, she loves all things vintage – especially books and clothes from the 40s through the 60’s – and it shines through in her designs, which run the gamut of fun and whimsical to stylish and sophisticated. She loves to add unique touches to her work, including mixed media accents, collage, and hand lettering.

Vanessa was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. Being part of a diverse, tight-knit community during such turbulent times, Vanessa learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment in shaping a young person’s life. When she read Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, it was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, she includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants all children to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.


Tammi, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love books in ryhme and it is wonderful to see a spunky brown-skinned talented little girl take charge and help her community. I know children will love Mary and be inspired by her when the read this book. Love Vanessa’s illustrations. They really show off Mary. I look forward to seeing Mary again next year in MARY HAS A LITTLE JAM. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. very cute!


  2. Who wouldn’t love a nursery rhyme turned picture book with the Tammi/Vanessa duo? I smiled at the mention of their names and chuckled out loud while reading the first stanza. Such talent! Book love right here!


  3. This book is perfect for introducing the need for a plan! I can use it right now in an agricultural group I am a member of. Wow!


  4. Wonderful backstory. A talented actor and illustrator–you can’t go wrong. Shared on FB, Pinterest, and Twitter. Thanks.


  5. I enjoy this author’s books and her rhyming texts. I’m an email follower and shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and tumblr.


  6. So many good nuggets in here! (Like Linda’s PB guide). And Mary! Cute, adorable, and ready to change the world! Love the theme of this one! Congrats to both of you! Yay!

    I follow by email and tweeted this post. 🙂


  7. YAY, another ‘Mary Had a Little…’ book! I am a Tammi Sauer ❤ er! And Vanessa Brantley Newton too! Congratulations to you both 🙂


  8. So cute!! Love this behind the scenes look and congrats to Mary on continuing her journey for a 3rd book!
    I’m tweeting & am an email subscriber.


  9. Yay!! More Mary! This book looks great. Congrats, Tammi & Vanessa!!


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