Debut Review Challenge with Susan Romberg & Laura Dershewitz

For a BONUS ENTRY, please leave a comment on this blog post! (This will apply if you also complete at least one official ENTRY FORM.

I’m so happy to welcome co-authors Susan Romberg & Laura Dershewitz to the Debut Review Challenge Blog to share their fabulous new picture book. Let’s get started!


Number of years writing:

Laura: 19 years writing educational content; 2 years writing creatively

Susan: 17 years writing educational content; 2 years writing creatively

Number of years from contract to published book:

a year and a half

Date your book was released:

September 24, 2019

Number of pages:


Number of launch events:


Number of days per week that writing takes a backseat to marketing & publicity:

We try to balance creative work with other responsibilities, so it depends on the week.

Number of critique partners:

One! We have a built-in critique partner. 

Number of books you hope to publish over the next ten years:

We’re taking it one book at a time!

Number of times you’ve pinched yourself that you really have a book out: 

We lost count!

Current number of reviews:

On Amazon: 21; On Goodreads: 8

A Few Questions

  • Why do you write for children? 

We love the idea of telling children stories they might not otherwise hear. Whether it’s an obscure inventor or an overlooked moment in history, the world is filled with wonderful stories that can’t possibly all fit into a school day. Picture books present a kid-friendly opportunity for sharing those tales.

  • What does your work space look like? Tell us about a typical work session. 

Most Sundays, we get together at Laura’s house for a collaborative meeting that lasts about two hours. We usually sit at the dining room table with our computers and drink some sort of tea, or Susan drinks the remains of her morning coffee she brought with her. After a solid 20 minutes of chit chatting about nothing related to writing, we make a quick agenda and dive into the manuscript. We used to work together at a content developer, so it’s very natural for us to write together and critique one another’s work. At the end of the meeting, we decide on a “homework” assignment for the week. During the week, we might email back and forth about a particular writing issue. Then we email our completed drafts to one another before the next meeting.

Time to Play: STORY SMASH!

Think about all the stories you’ve written that have hit a dead end or are hidden away in a drawer somewhere. For each of the items below, lift an element from a different story to create a weird, unexpected mash-up. Who knows? It may even inspire a new manuscript! 

Character: Professor X

Setting: the local playground

Theme: You can learn something from everyone.

Problem: a bird is tending to a nest of eggs in an inconvenient place

Pitch: Professor X is racing his longtime rival to be the first to build a better swing set. But when he arrives at the playground to do research, he finds a territorial bird has set up shop just below the swings. How will he move the nest out of the way against the protests of two children who insist that the bird and her eggs should not be touched?

Ooh! A mashup with an ecological bent. Fun and timely!

Okay, Challenge Participants! It’s Time to Write Some Reviews!

Leave an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online site. For every five reviews you write for debut Kidlit creators between January 1-February 29, 2020, you can fill out this ENTRY FORM for a chance to win prizes. Susan and Laura have generously donated a signed book and a 15-minute Skype classroom visit. Thank you, Susan and Laura!


  • Support debut authors by suggesting their book titles to your local library.
  • Purchase them as gifts for children in your life, a teacher, or a local school.
  • Share book titles or reviews on social media and tag the author/illustrator.

About Laura and Susan and their Book


Laura Dershewitz would much rather do crosswords—or anything, really—than housework. A former high school English teacher, Laura currently works in educational publishing. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, daughter, and self-cleaning cats.

Susan Romberg is the co-author of The House That Cleaned Itself: The True Story of Frances Gabe’s (Mostly) Marvelous Invention. She writes and edits educational materials and lives outside of Chicago with her family.

Book Title: The House That Cleaned Itself: The True Story of Frances Gabe’s (Mostly) Marvelous Invention

Author/Illustrator: Laura Dershewitz and Susan Romberg/Meghann Rader

Publisher: The Innovation Press

Year: 2019

Synopsis: Like most of us, Frances Gabe detested housework—she found cleaning a “nerve-twangling bore.” Unlike most of us, she invented a contraption to free herself from this tedious task forever: a self-cleaning house! Gabe’s wacky, wonderful home included almost 70 new patented inventions, from a soap-spraying sprinkler in the ceiling to a kitchen cabinet that washed, dried, and stored dishes all in one place. Though Gabe’s invention didn’t catch on, her determination and clever thinking remind us that we don’t have to accept the world as it is; we can improve it using our minds and our own two hands.

#DebutReviewChallenge #ReadReviewRepeat

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