Friday, October 20, 2023

Meet Ethan Long, A Children's Book Creative Virtuoso! + Book Giveaway


Once again I shout, “Lucky me!”

I meet The Best People doing what I love and loving what I do, 

here in our singular Children’s Book World.

But now you can, too.

Meet Ethan Long, a veritable Children’s Book Creative Virtuoso 

whose debut middle grade novel The Death and Life of Benny 

Brooks (Christy Ottaviano Books/Little Brown, October, 2023) 

might luckily be yours simply by entering our Book Giveaway.

(See details at the end of this post.)

Fate first connected me to Ethan oh, so long ago, in 2001, 

when Holiday House editor Mary Cash chose him to illustrate my 

debut middle grade novel, The Confe$$ion$ and $ecret$ of 

Howard J. Fingerhut.  Ethan and I met in person at that year’s NY 

SCBWI Conference, his smile every bit as impish as the one he’s 

sprouting in the above photo. His Professionalism, Commitment, 

Passion, Smarts and Joy bowled me over. He was all in when it 

came to creating children’s books, grateful to be illustrating, but 

eager and determined to someday figure out a way to tell his 

story, his “crazy family’s story,” in words.  He’s done just that, 

adding illustrations, of course, in The Death and Life of Benny 

Brooks (Sort of a memoir)I knew he someday would, which is 

just what I’d told him.


Ethan has added all sorts of descriptive nouns in the intervening 

years - author/illustrator, author, graphic novelist, cover artist, 

game designer, animator, just to name a few, creating baby board 

books, picture books, novelty books, chapter books, murals, 

baseball cards, poetry books, joke books, book trailers, 

digital book series, animated shorts, indeed his very own NFT 

collection. His awards include the 2013 Theodor Seuss Geisel 

Award for Up! Tall! And High! and a 2022 Kidscreen Award for 

Scribbles and Ink, an Emmy Award NomineeHis latest noun in 

apposition should be no surprise: AGENT!  He and his wife 

Heather recently joined the Tugeau 2 Art and Literary Agency to 

represent fellow creatives. You can learn more about his artists 

and the story-tellers he seeks here.

Imagine my surprise when Good Ol’ Serendipity arranged a long-

awaited meet-up at ALA this June in Chicago! Ethan’s puckish 

smile was the same, his eyes twinkling behind round horn-rimmed 

glasses just like mine. He was as grateful a human being as ever.  

When he shared his Good News - how he’d finally figured out a way

to tell his “crazy family story,” as an illustrated middle grade novel, 

how The Death and Life of Benny Brooks would release this 

October, I could only thank him for affirming my “I told you so!”


The book’s front flap copy captures Benny perfectly.  “Benny's life 

is slowly unraveling. His parents are newly divorced, his mom 

chooses to move away, and Benny and his brother and sister are 

left with their chain-smoking dad, who has just been diagnosed 

with lung cancer. Benny is lonely, anxious, and very angry. He 

can't sleep at night and spends his days trying to survive fifth 



Numerous starred reviews praised Ethan’s illustrations – 

“dynamic youthful-feeling pencil drawings by the protagonist” - 

but as important, the “bighearted story brimming with hope.”

Janet Tashjian’s testimonial lauded Ethan’s novel as “the perfect

 book for readers trying their best to come to terms with the 

many curve balls life hurls.  It also has the most important 

quality a story can have – honesty.  There’s not a false note in 


I agree, 100%. Benny’s heart reaches out to the Reader and

never lets go from the very first image on page one: Benny 

lying beneath the clouds, wondering what it would be 

like to be dead. “The part of me that used to be happy and 

funny and smiley is gone,” he shares.


After a tortuous school year in which his teacher Mr. Rogers guides 

him to focus, not fight, “YOU,” Mr. Rogers tells Benny, “are going 

places, Sir! Once you realize how much you have to give, which is a 

lot, you’re going to soar.”


Read my interview with Ethan that follows. Click on the links to 

read about his books.  

I know you’ll agree: Ethan Long continues to soar!


Thank you, Ethan, for being who you are and doing what you do - 

for Young Readers, for our Children’s Book World and for gifting 

one lucky TeachingAuthor reader of this post with an autographed 

copy of The Death and Life of Benny Brooks.


Long live Creatives!


Esther Hershenhorn


Thanks to Bridget at WeeWords for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

 You’ve had quite the Children’s Book Creator’s Journey, from illustrating my first middle grade novel in 2001 to writing yours, with a bounty of written and illustrated picture and early chapter books in between. You shared on your website you’ve experienced in the publishing industry both “struggles as well as successes.”  What wisdom did you glean from both that kept you keepin’ on?

Thank you, Esther! Great question. And I love that we have 

known each other for over 20 years! The struggles: They 

teach you about yourself and your limits — what you will 

put up with and what you won’t put up with. When I am 

struggling or have struggled, sometimes it is so hard that I 

want to give up, and sometimes do (temporarily), then 

realize I HAVE to keep going because of the commitment 

made to myself as a creator and also the commitments I 

have to my family. It is not fun, but knowing my family, 

friends, and other artists have seen me struggle and succeed 

lets them know they can do it, too. At least, that is my hope.


·       Channeling Richard Peck’s Dear Reader letter for The Best Man (Dial, 2016), what does Benny’s story mean to you and what do you hope it means to your Readers?

Benny’s story is about struggle and hope. The goal was just 

to get the book out of my head and down on paper, but now 

that it’s out, it makes sense to me that people are thanking 

me for writing it and how it has inspired them to reach out 

to estranged family members or deal with a lingering issue. 

The book has inspired them to ACT. It has also inspired

 other writers to go emotionally deeper into their stories. 

That is satisfying.


·       Congratulations on your newest endeavor, partnering with your wife, Heather – Heather and Ethan Long Art & Literary Agents with the Tugeau Art & Literary Agency! You’ve already signed 13 creators you’ve deemed “amazing.” How would you describe the creatives you seek? How can interested writers and illustrators contact you?

Oh my gosh, our time with Nicole Tugeau and Lillian 

Mazeika at Tugeau 2 has been an amazing experience. Both 

struggle and success have been intertwined since we started 

in November of 2022. The creatives we seek have to be 

technically skilled in what they do, have the content and 

expression to make us go WHOA, but also have the 

inclination to write stories. They need to be prepared for 

that kind of hard work. We will have 17 artists by the end 

of 2023 and although not everyone has gotten work yet or 

sold a story to a publisher, everyone is working and 

growing. It’s amazing to watch and be a part of.


·       I once heard an editor share that as writers and illustrators, each of us has a story to tell, a Truth, of sorts, we wish to leave behind. We tell that story again and again, in various formats and genres, for a variety of Readers. What might be your story?

You are a pro at asking great questions, Esther! Hmmm. My story 

is multi-faceted in that I came to this earth with a lot of gifts, but

 also a lot of baggage that I had to sift through over the years to 

let my gifts shine through. It has taught me to continually clean 

myself out by talking through things and letting them go. That 

process keeps me as in-the-moment as possible and allows my 

creativity to flow effortlessly and without boundaries to others.

It gives me the mindset to work on many projects at a time and

not feel weighed down. Is it a perfect process? No. But I work 

at it every day of my life.


Y   You write on your website you “can’t wait to see what comes next.” Either can I and now, I’m sure, the Readers of this interview. Can you give us a clue or a hint? Might something new be in the works (I hope)?

You know me by now…there is ALWAYS something in the 

works. :) Two middle grade novels, some easy readers, two 

“non-fictiony” picture books with a writing partner and friend, 

some animation development, and of course, the artists at the 

agency, which are always a work in progress, like the rest of us.

. . .  . . . . . .


To enter the giveaway drawing for The Death and Life of Benny 

Brooks, use the Rafflecopter widget below. (Note: if the widget 

doesn’t appear, click on the link at the end of this post that says 

“a Rafflecopter giveaway” to enter.)


You may enter via up to 4 options.  The more options you 

choose, the better your odds! If you choose option 3, you 

MUST leave a comment on TODAY’S blog post or on our 

TeachingAuthors Facebook page.  If you haven’t already 

“liked” our Facebook page, please do so today!

If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: 


Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, 


RAFFLECOPTER BELOW.  The giveaway ends 

November 1, 2023 and is open to U.S. Residents only.


If you’ve never entered a Rafflecopter giveaways, here’s info 

on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway.  And a second article 

explains thedifference between signing in with Facebook vs. 

with an email address.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 6, 2023

The End ... of This Series

Happy Poetry Friday! I share a draft of an original poem at the end of this post, along with the link to this week's Poetry Friday roundup. But first, I'm going to wrap up our series on the topic of Endings.

I originally suggested this topic to the TeachingAuthors team for three main reasons:

  1. I was inspired to think about Endings after reading the book The End written by John Bray and illustrated by Josh Cleland (Starry Forest Books, 2022).
  2. In the past, the TeachingAuthors have discussed Beginnings and Middles, but we'd never done a series on Endings before.
  3. I was hoping that reading my fellow TeachingAuthors' posts would help me find a satisfying ending for a humorous picture book I've been struggling to finish for years.

The last reason may seem a bit selfish, but from the comments this series has received, I can see I'm not the only one who struggles with endings. In fact, in the first post in this series, April discussed her problem finding an ending for her poem "How to End ..." . When she turned to her friend, Bruce Balan, for help, he sent her some suggestions, but said, also: "My real question is, what are you trying to say?"

Rereading that post today, I realized this is THE question I have to answer for my humorous work-in-progress. I've gone through several variations of the story, each with a different theme or throughline. Yet I still don't know what I'm trying to say. Until I can answer that question, I won't be able to discover the satisfying ending I yearn for. Finding the answer to this one question has given me a new sense of direction in how to tackle revising my WIP. Many thanks to April, and the other TeachingAuthors, for all your terrific insights on endings!

This week, I've been tinkering with a poem related to the recent end of summer and the disappearance of the hummingbirds I already miss. It's been only in the last few years that we've found ways to attract hummers to our backyard. I never saw one as a child growing up in Chicago, but they have become frequent summer visitors to our suburban home. The key has been growing hummingbird mint plants, which they seem to love. 

I haven't been able to capture a decent photo of a hummingbird in our yard. But I do have a very brief video below that I took in late August. I hope you can make out the ruby-throated hummer drinking from our hummingbird mint blossoms. The video sets the scene for the poem that follows. (If you're an email subscriber and the video isn't available in the email, you can watch it online here.)    

Video of ruby-throated hummingbird flitting among hummingbird mint blossoms in our backyard.

            The Last Hummingbird

    flits from blossom to blossom to blossom,
    from salvia to petunia to its namesake mint,
    fueling up for its migratory flight.

    I can hardly believe this hummer is still here.
    We hadn’t seen one for days.
    Many more days will have to pass

    before I can say this was truly the last.

       ©2023 draft Carmela A. Martino. All rights reserved.


I'd love to know what you think of this poem. And don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup hosted by Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.