Debut Review Challenge with Cathy Ballou Mealey

The Debut Review Challenge for Jan/Feb 2020 is half over! But there is still plenty of time to get those FIVE reviews completed. You could even start with Cathy Ballou Mealey’s book WHEN A TREE GROWS. Welcome, Cathy!

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.)

Debut By-the-Numbers: WHEN A TREE GROWS

Number of years writing: 


Number of years from contract to published book: 


Date your book was released: 

April 2, 2019

Number of pages: 


Number of launch events: 


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


Number of critique partners: 


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


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


Current number of reviews:

On Amazon: 25; On Goodreads: 34

A Few Questions

  • What inspires you?  

My writing inspiration typically comes from keeping my eyes and ears open, mixing in a little bit of research, and leaning on mentor texts to light the way. I rely on walks in nature to trigger story ideas, then I head to the library to research non-fiction sources and find mentor texts. WHEN A TREE GROWS was pitched with If You Give A Mouse A Cookie as a comp title, but One-Dog Canoe was the mentor text that helped boost my story structure. I loved the wacky ‘what could happen next?’ twists with each page turn!

  • What is up next for you?  

A super silly picture book featuring a sloth and a squirrel who team up for a special mission is coming from the fabulous Kids Can Press in 2021. PICKLE PACKERS will be edited by Yasemin Uçar and illustrated by the talented Kelly Collier (A Horse Named Steve) and I couldn’t be more excited!

Time to Play: STORY SMASH!

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My Story Smash! idea is borrowed from a post I wrote for the wonderful blog Celebrate Picture Books which pairs reading and reviews with traditional and weird wacky holidays. Imagining a holiday setting for WHEN A TREE GROWS as a Halloween sequel led to: 

When an Owl hoots in the forest on Halloween, two things could happen. Warthog blows out the candle in her pumpkin. Trick or treat is over.


Eek! Warthog is startled and tosses her candy into the air. When Warthog tosses her candy into the air, two things could happen. 

What do YOU think should happen next?

A holiday sequel with your either/or structure would be a winner!

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. Cathy has generously donated a signed book (U.S. addresses only) and a picture book manuscript critique. Thank you, Cathy!


  • 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 Cathy and her Book

Bio: Debut author Cathy Ballou Mealey lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a moose to appear. Her favorite nut is the hazelnut and her favorite cupcake is cardamom crème. 


Author/Illustrator:  Cathy Ballou Mealey (author), Kasia Nowowiejska (illustrator)

Publisher:  Sterling Children’s Books

Year:  2019

Synopsis:   WHEN A TREE GROWS is a rollicking read-aloud that follows a zany chain of events triggered by a broken tree, a cranky Bear, a nut-loving Squirrel and his loyal friend Moose.

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