Independent & Self-Published Features: Featuring Sam Webb and Sarah Rae Gilbert

*Highlighting up and coming illustrators and authors from independent publishing houses and self-publishers*

Please reach out to MaiStoryBook through Instagram, FB, or by commenting on my blog, and *share or tag* books, authors, or illustrators who would fit into this category of independent/self-publishing! I’m excited for the wonders we will find!

Now without further ado~

Featuring this week’s animal adventure read alouds:

The Monkey and the Dragon by Sam Webb

Self-published by Sam Webb

A monkey and a dragon?? Not the first two animals that come to mind when you imagine pairs of animal friends. They may seem like an unlikely pair, but in this featured self-published story, they are the best of friends! An important lesson to teach little ones is to encourage them to embrace and celebrate differences amongst each other. Is it possible for two people, who are seemingly completely different, to get along and be friends? Well, if Monkey and Dragon have anything to say about it, they’ll show you that even two very different creatures can live together happily and have the best of times. Join Monkey and Dragon on an adventure of imagination and soaring skies, as they search the world for the perfect place to play~ gliding through starry skies and golden sunsets~ with Dragon flying Monkey through the air as they search and soon find a serene island for them to explore as friends.

What captured *Mai* eye with this read aloud were the wide spread of colorful pages. With pages of a slightly longer width than standard, covered in bold inks, landscapes of sky, sea, and sand envelop your imagination as you fly and frolic with Dragon and Monkey. Plus, the character sketches of Monkey and Dragon, with their large eyes and soft curves, create adorable characters that charm readers, eliciting that *fuzzy feeling* of cute-ness tickling the brain. Not only is this a wonderful read aloud for encouraging friendships across differences, it also encourages young readers to imagine exploring the world around them~ and all the beautiful, magical places wonders around them.

A bit more about the Author: Sam Webb

Sam Webb is an Australian author. Her passions have always been the ocean and the underwater creatures within it. Sam also collects seashells, and currently has a collection of thousands of shells. She has also always enjoyed writing and poetry, an interest instilled in her by her grandpa who would cheerfully recite poetry aloud. This book is Sam’s first self-published children’s book. She is also the author of *Ocean Whirled*, a novel about saving the ocean from a strange underwater alien race. To learn more, check out her website,, and follow her on Instagram: @samwebb_author.

Check here to find this book for your own home library!


Daisy the Rottie: The Tale of My Tail by Sarah Rae Gilbert

Redwood Publishing, LLC: a digital publishing site offering authors customized support to get published

The most loyal friends ’till the end~ *pets.* A guaranteed way to light up any sad face is a lick of adoration from a puppy ~ or the sight of an ecstatic dog bounding towards you in pure delight *because seeing you is the best thing that could happen for them the whole entire day. One day last year a first grader brought his puppy in for show-n-tell. After a quick chat over what behavior to expect when a puppy was in the classroom, I had never seen the class more calm, quiet, and consciously careful and concerned to make sure the puppy didn’t startle or was overstimulated. The responsibility they took upon themselves was remarkable, using gentle hands to pet and soft, urgent whispers to each other to hush and be gentle. Animals are known to help humans regulate emotions, and the automatic attraction and care little ones seem to have for pets make them the perfect hero/heroine to promote self-confidence and courage in any children’s book! The star of this week’s featured self-published read aloud~ *Daisy the Rottie,* the free-spirited, friendly Rottweiler who will take you on an adventure through the park, encouraging littles to follow their heart, and to love themselves ~*every single part!*

In this puppy tale, told in rhyme, the pictures illustrate a whole story apart from the words. The written message is simple and sweet~ love how and who you are, because everyone is unique in their own special way~ but the pictures add depth to the character, Daisy the Rottie. As the lyrical rhythm of the words keep the pace of the narrative, follow along with the pictures as Daisy’s personality and charming disposition show through in her interactions and play with puppy peers, children, and community around the park. Full spread pictures of lush green grass and friendly faces will capture the attention of young readers as they delight in the whimsical tone of this tale about Daisy learning to love her *tail.* Also, as a teacher~ I couldn’t help but notice this would be a great book for introducing or reinforcing homophones~ *tale vs. tail.* Grammar lesson + life lesson + adorable puppies ?? That equals a spot on *Mai* bookshelf for sure!

A bit more about the Author: Sarah Rae Gilbert

Sarah established her inseparable bond with Daisy, her Rottweiler, while she was studying for her BA at Chapman University. Sarah and Daisy enjoyed playing at beaches, relaxing at parks, traveling, and making friends. Sarah graduated in May 2015 and was brainstorming ways to combine Daisy’s inherent kindness and sweet disposition with her own creative passions and skills. After witnessing Daisy, while out for a walk one day, comfort a crying toddler with friendly lick, Sarah decided to create a series of illustrated children’s book inspired by her best and most loyal friend, Daisy the Rottie. To learn more about Sarah and Daisy, check out her website,, and follow her on Instagram: @imdaisytherottie.

Check here to find this book for your own home library!


*~Support these independent/self-published authors and illustrators and check out what they’ve been writing and creating.  Please share any books, authors, or illustrators that fit into this category by tagging me on Instagram @MaiStoryBookLibrary,  posting on MaiStoryBook’s FaceBook page, or commenting on the blog below! I’m always looking for new treasures to read, support, and share with all of you!~*

*Plus, checkout out one of *mai* favorite winter, animal adventure interactive read alouds  here. *

*~Until Next Time, Happy Reading~*

MaiStoryBook Library: Dreamers + *Dream Weaver Catcher* Craft

Introducing a story about refugees, immigration, family, and keeping hope alive through dreams ~ featured in MaiStoryBook Library Collection:

“Dreamers” by Yuyi Morales

*~Click here to purchase your own copy of *Dreamers* to start on your own reading adventure! (This is an affiliate link~ 5% of your purchase will go to MaiStoryBook to help create Reading Resources for your littles)~*

Book Synopsis and Review

This is a story about family~ about resilience, grit, and hope in the face of uncertainty and vulnerability. It is about home~ about finding a safe harbor of refuge and love in a new place that is foreign, daunting, and at times -unwelcoming-. *Dreamers* is a poetic, colorful portrait of migrantes~ refugees and immigrants who, although may be forced to leave behind everything they own in search of a better place to live, never leave their homeland empty handed. Instead of material possessions, they bear gifts of passion, strength, determination, and deep bonds of love that give them the courage to find and create a new home. This tale follows the journey of a mama and her young child as they leave their home, becoming caminantes, walking endless miles to reach a new place where the language is “different than that of our ancestors,” and the landscape and community are guarded and recluse. Solitary in this foreign land, it was an *unbelievable* place that finally allowed them to feel welcome to their new home: *~The public library~* a magical place where books allow anyone and everyone to embark on endless adventures, learn beyond their imaginations, and to find a place where they belong. *~And it is through books, that the little family finds their voice in this strange, new land~ and when you find your voice~ you can share your dreams with the world.

As Martin Luther King Jr. day approaches, we are reminded not only of the power of having *a dream*~ , but also of the power of having a voice to share it. MLK Jr. had a dream of a better world, and while there has been progress made since the times he lived in, our world today is still in need of more dreams~ more dreams to inspire the hope needed to fuel change for a better world~ where those seeking safety, and those determined to start a new life, who understand the value of passion, the necessity of sacrifice, and the urgency of labor to create a safe home for the ones they love, are welcomed with open arms across borders. Currently, in the United States, bias and hate have fueled a humanitarian crisis at our own borders. As I’ve mentioned previously, books are one of the best ways to help little ones process events and experiences that may be difficult for them to understand. One way to to discuss with your own littles what is happening at our own borders, and to help them understand the experiences of the migrantes, is to share with them this topical, bilingual story, *Dreamers.* It is a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, and to encourage us to use our voice to share our dreams for a better world.


  • Resplendent (p. 2) impressive, beautiful, very colorful
  • Bundled (p. 3) tightly rolled up
  • Immigrants (p.6) people who leave their homeland to find a new place to love
  • Improbable (p. 14) unexpected
  • Resilience (p. 27) strength to keep on going and trying even when it’s hard and difficult

Themes/Main Ideas

  • The Power of Dreams: Dreams give us hope, and hope gives us the strength and courage to create change.
  • The Power of Voice: When you can read, write, and speak, you have the power to make your dreams and hopes heard. You have the power to make change.

YouTube Video: Guided Shared-Reading Read Aloud Example

Example of a shared-reading, interactive Read Aloud of “Dreamers” – how to subtly introduce the vocabulary list words within the text, ask guided questions, and spark conversation!

*~Check it Out~*

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*Dream Weaver Catcher* Craft

*~Dreams~* There are two types of dreams: dreams that you can have at night while sleeping~ your subconscious thoughts and hopes seeping through your mind as you shut your eyes and drift through sleep / or the dreams you harbor safely in your heart~ your conscious hopes and dreams for yourself, for your loved ones, for the future~* When you have a dream, you have something worth striving for, you have a spark within you work fighting for to keep ignited, you have the hope you need to fuel action and change. As we start this new calendar year, I will revisit *hopes and dreams* with mai first graders this first week back to school after winter break. We will discuss, think about, share, and write down our hopes and dreams for the year. This is an exercise I had them do at the beginning of the school year, so it’ll be interesting to see if their dreams have changed. It is important to be able to voice and acknowledge your dreams so that they can become something real and attainable. In this week’s craft, we will be creating a special dream weaver catcher to catch all of your dreams and remind you to continue to voice them, share them, and make them come true!


  • Paper plate
  • Scissors
  • Markers
  • Different color ribbons (approx. 2ft each)
  • Hole Puncher
  • 3 leaves or feathers
  • Tape


  • Cut out the middle of the plate so that you are left with the rim intact. (Tip: To cut out the middle without cutting through the rim, poke a hole in the middle and stick one blade of the scissors through the hole. Start cutting from the middle)
  • Use the hole puncher to make holes around the rim (I make at least 8 holes)
  • Start with one color string and begin weaving it though the holes. After weaving it through the first hole, tape the end to the back of the plate so that it doesn’t unravel. ** While weaving your strings, think about to whisper your dreams so that they are captured and woven into your dream weaver catcher.
  • Choose a “bottom” of your dream weaver catcher and weave the string through a bottom hole, letting the excess hang down. If there is no excess, tape a longer piece to the bottom.
  • Repeat with different color string, making sure to leave at least 3 excess strings hanging down form the bottom.
  • Tape your leaves or feathers to the bottom of the excess strings (You can find leaves by going on a nature walk)
  • Use markers to decorate the plate rim of your dream catcher weaver.
  • Weave a shorter strong though two holes at the top and tape the ends to the plate to create a handle to hang your dream weaver catcher from.
  • Hang it above where you sleep~ or where you can see it daily to remind you of your dreams.

Enjoy your *Dream Weaver Catcher* Craft and Activity

  • Share your dream weaver catcher with family and friends and tell them about your dreams.
  • Hang your dream weaver catcher above where you sleep so your nighttime dreams can be woven into your dream weaver catcher.
  • Whisper new daytime dreams to your dream weaver catcher to weave them into the ribbons.
  • Use your dream weaver catcher to remind you of your dreams and to give you the hope and passion to make your dreams come true!
  • Use the dream weave catcher as a reading buddy as you re-read *Dreamers* and think about the dreams of the *migrantes*

*~Overall, have fun creating and sharing  your  *Dream Weaver Catcher* Craft,  and I hope you and your little ones begin your own discussions about current events!  – tag me on Instagram @MaiStoryBookLibrary  – or post on FaceBook to share your photos of your own *Dream Weaver Catcher* Craft, and your own reading adventures! I’d love to hear from you!~*

*~Until next time, Happy Reading~*

Independent & Self-Published Features: Featuring Vincent Chen + J. R. Becker

*~ It’s been awhile Mai friends, but I’m excited to kick off the year blogging and sharing our indie/self-published authors to celebrate the work they’ve been creating!~*

*Highlighting up and coming illustrators and authors from independent publishing houses and self-publishers*

Please reach out to MaiStoryBook through Instagram, FB, or by commenting on my blog, and *share or tag* books, authors, or illustrators who would fit into this category of independent/self-publishing! I’m excited for the wonders we will find!

Now without further ado~

Featuring this week’s perfect read alouds for kicking off a year of inquiry, curiosity, and STEM exploration:

99 Bitcoins and an Elephant by Vincent Chen

Self-published by Vincent Chen

As a first grade teacher, I contemplate how to balance the use of technology in the classroom. Technology has many helpful benefits within the room, helping to provide differentiated instruction and innovative learning opportunities, but I also believe in limited screen time for the littles and in peer interaction/ “old-school” pencil and paper + handwritten charts. However, today’s firsties live in a world saturated with technology, and learning to navigate this tech will be vital as they grow up. Furthermore, as an advocate of STEM, I want to give mai students all the tools and opportunities to stimulate their budding engineering minds. If you are looking to challenge them to imagine~ what will the future with technology look like~ *99 Bitcoins and an Elephant* is a perfect read aloud to get their minds revving with ideas!

In this self-published read aloud, flash forward to the future: where augmented reality glasses are worn daily to play games, watch cartoons, and access your digital wallet where money is exchanged by voice command using a new currency~ bitcoins. Meet Lisa, a young girl in this futuristic world. One day, after a quick stop at a quirky repair shop, Lisa’s glasses begin acting a little strange. Later that afternoon, at the MegaMart, Lisa realizes 2 things: her glasses have suddenly bestowed her with 99 bitcoins *aka she’s rich!* and… she’s Lost! *mom has disappeared from sight!* Join Lisa as she shares her good fortune with others, embarking on a generous shopping spree to help those around her, and enlisting a digital dancing elephant to cheer her and join her along the way. Will Lisa reunite with her mom before the MegaMArt closes? Throughout this adventure, young readers will delve into this futuristic world of technology~ proving to them the endless possibilities of technology mixed with *imagination* to create something amazing!

A bit more about the Author: Vincent Chen

Vincent Chen is a father to two young children and former kindergarten teacher. Currently, he works for a company that is adopting cutting-edge technologies. Vincent explores how parents today deal with raising young children in a world increasingly flooded with technology. His goal is to introduce young children to topics of augmented reality and artificial intelligence through children’s books. To learn more, check out his site:, and follow him on Instagram: @vinsightful.

Check here to find this book for your own home library!


Annabelle and Aiden: What Happens When We Die? by J. R. Becker, Illustrated by Max Rambaldi

Published by Imaginarium Press: publishing pro-science children’s book series  dedicated to inspiring a new generation of scientists, thinkers, and all-around adventurers

As a first-year-teacher, one of *mai* goals of the year is to implement inquiry-based learning~ to prompt the firsties’ curiosity and encourage them to ask their own questions to align their learning with their interests. Throughout the year, we post questions on our *Wonder Wall* around a particular theme we are studying. Other times~ during our community morning meeting, I give them the opportunity to share any wondering they may have about any topic of interest. As I listen to their inquiries, I marvel at the channels their brains navigate and wander through as they share their most sincere curiosities and wonderings about the world around them~ From *Can plants talk and have feelings?* to *Is it possible for one guy to eat all the bananas in the world?* But a question that seems to bubble up across all generations, no matter what age or grade level you may be in~ is *What happens when we die?* The thought-provoking questions of what happens to me after this life-time, am I gone forever~ or is there more~ is there a *next?* And this is where children’s books once again become the bearer of answers~ the perfect avenue to engage and discuss with children their curiosities about the world around them. In this week’s featured story, Annabelle and Aiden return in this life-affirming tale to answer the question *What happens when we die?*

You may remember Annabelle and Aiden from a previous MaiStoryBook Indie Post featuring **Annabelle and Aiden: Worlds Within Us.** In this children’s book~ the duo return once again to share a story grounded in science and philosophy. This read aloud explores the smallest unit of matter composing our human bodies~ the atoms that make us up, and how our atoms rejoin the universe so that a part of us is forever woven into the fabric of the world around us. The energy that is *our life* stays in the world forever, once again melding into the universe providing energy in a new form. As for the memories and personalities that made us unique and individual~ that part of us stays alive through stories passed down by our loved ones. Sound complicated, perhaps beyond the grasp of a little one? Here is where the talents of author J. R. Becker and illustrator Max Rambaldi shine through~ their ability to take a complex concept, and break it down into simple rhyme, creating a narrative of rhythm combined with layers of mixed media illustrations and images that allow young minds to understand and wonder about the ideas presented to them. This is a read aloud that answers *the big questions*, prompts inquiry learning, and inspires us to appreciate the incredible gift of life we are given each day. 

A bit more about the Author: J. R. Becker

You may recognize the author as he was previously featured for his book *Annabelle and Aiden: Worlds Within Us.* J. R. Becker lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children, Annabelle and Aiden. He has a B.A. in Philosophy and a Juris Doctorate from Emory University School of Law.  When he’s not practicing entertainment law, J. R. enjoys playing drums, exploring the great outdoors, and reading and listening to all of the science and philosophy books and podcasts he possibly can. J. R. is constantly pondering the bigger questions and dreaming up ideas for future children stories. After publishing his first  novel The Spider & the Ant, Joseph was inspired to found the Annabelle & Aiden series to foster curiosity and scientific awareness in the next generation. To learn more, follow the series on Instagram: @annabelleandaiden , and check out their website:

A bit more about the Illustrator: Max Rambaldi

One of my favorite indie illustrators~ Max Rambaldi has been featured several times on MaiStoryBook- illustrating *I Didn’t Ask to Be Creative* , and *Annabelle and Aiden: Worlds Within Us*. Max lives just outside Venice, Italy. She creates both physical and digital art, and dabbles in multiple styles of drawing and artwork. Max’s passions, other than art, include cats, Game of Thrones, and Linsey Stirling. Learn more about Max by checking out her site:, and follow her on Instagram @maxrambaldi.

Check here to find this book for your own home library!


*~Support these independent/self-published authors and illustrators and check out what they’ve been writing and creating.  Please share any books, authors, or illustrators that fit into this category by tagging me on Instagram @MaiStoryBookLibrary,  posting on MaiStoryBook’s FaceBook page, or commenting on the blog below! I’m always looking for new treasures to read, support, and share with all of you!~*

*Plus, checkout out a *growth mindset* interactive  read aloud of one of my current inspiring read alouds  here. *

*~Until Next Time, Happy Reading~*