Do you remember the Fifth Dimension singing, “Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon?” I always thought this uplifting—pun intended—song was about setting goals and dreaming of a better future. The lyrics inspired my imagination. How did you interpret the lyrics?

How important is imagination? Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I don’t think he was saying knowledge was unimportant but rather that it was limited to what we currently know and understand. Imagination is unlimited and allows us to explore new ideas and discover more knowledge.
Thus, it’s not surprising that child development experts stress the importance of encouraging the imagination of kids. Jean Piaget, probably the most famous child psychologist, thought imaginative play was necessary for a child’s emotional and intellectual development. For example, children using stones, leaves, and dirt found in the garden as they pretend to cook like Mom is an example of imagination and problem-solving in children.

Books can encourage imagination and problem-solving skills in children. In essence, a good children’s book should resemble the song lyrics— “Up, up, and away in my beautiful balloon.” It should spark a child’s imagination and encourage a child to think about goals.
A book can’t meet its goal if it’s not fun. That means successful books for two-to-eight-year-old kids must:

• be colorful,
• have an engaging plot with some humor,
• have pretty or exciting illustrations and
• Perhaps it contains several repeatable phrases. Think of lines from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. “And then something went BUMP! How that bump made us jump!”

Children get an added benefit from books. Adults must read the book to children under five at least the first couple of times.

Books are perfect gifts for the kids in your life. The holidays—Halloween, Christmas, Hannukah—are coming. Books are perfect gifts. Books don’t need to be assembled like complex mechanical toys. They won’t let kids destroy teeth like candy. They don’t make obnoxious noises that drive adults crazy. They don’t break or stop functioning before the holiday is over. Books are easy to wrap and ship. Books are the perfect gift for the kids in your life.

Writers of novels get an added benefit when they buy a book for a child. They’re building a potential future audience.

Come Fly with Elf is a new picture book for children. In this book, Elf is a tiny, energetic dog with big ears who dreams of flying in a hot air balloon. The protagonist of Come Fly with Elf is based on my naughty, five-pound Papillon named Elf.

Why does Elf have this dream? Elf and I live near Albuquerque, and every year, the city sponsors a Balloon Fiesta. In 2023, it was from October 7 to October 15. Some dogs are afraid of hot air balloons when they sail overhead. The real Elf watches them without barking.

Children will identify with Elf. He pouts when he doesn’t get what he wants and complains, “I’m on a shelf – all by myself.” Elf is sassy and manipulates his mom by barking, as shown in the illustration. Eventually, in the book, Elf gets to ride in a hot air balloon. During the process, he and the child reading the book learn about hot air balloons. They also learn an important life lesson. Elf says hear the end, “I want to be free. I want to be me. But I want Mom to be happy.”

The illustrations were done by someone who loves dogs and hot air balloons. She gave Elf different expressions to match his moods. The real dog can move his ears to match his feelings. The illustrations not only show Elf but also various aspects of ballooning. The illustrator and I also tried to introduce humor in the book with Elf’s sassy comments.

I think you’ll find Come Fly with Elf appeals to kids-at-heart (whether three or eighty years old) who have impossible dreams and love dogs.

COME FLY WITH ELF is available at https://www.amazon.com/Come-Fly-Elf-J-Greger/dp/1735421472/

My website is: https://www.jlgreger.com
My Amazon author page is:
I can be reached at: janet.greger@comcast.net


  1. J. L. Greger

    Mike, Thanks for the kind comment.

    George, thanks for letting me appear on this blog.

    Unfortunately the real Elf has been very ill. He has an autoimmune disease that’s destroying his muscles. He’s distracted me from writing. Sorry I’m so slow in responding.

  2. Michael A. Black

    Janet is one of those rare authors who can write books fro both children and adults. She’s also one of the smartest people I know. I’m glad to see her getting the exposure on George’s fabulous blog. She’s also scheduled to be one of he featured speakers at the next PSWA Conference.


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MARILYN LEVINSON – Teacher – Author – Agatha Nominee

A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson, writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. Her books have received many accolades. As Allison Brook, she writes the Haunted Library series. The first in the series, DEATH OVERDUE, was an Agatha nominee for Best Contemporary Novel in 2018. Other mysteries include the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series and the Twin Lakes series.

DEATH ON THE SHELF: Clover Ridge librarian Carrie Singleton is thrilled to attend her best friend Angela’s wedding, but Angela’s family can be a bit…much. Angela’s wealthy cousin Donna hosts an extravagant bridal shower at her resplendent home, but the celebrations turn to gossip as the guests notice Donna’s surgeon husband, Aiden, spending a bit too much time with Donna’s cousin Roxy. At the wedding reception, the sweet occasion turns darkly bitter when Aiden topples into the chocolate fountain–dead.

Her juvenile novel, RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK, was an International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice. AND DON’T BRING JEREMY was a nominee for six state awards.

Marilyn lives on Long Island, where many of her books take place. She loves traveling, reading, doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and chatting with her grandkids on FaceTime.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I outline, usually following two storylines in each book. But I find myself more of a pantser with each book that I write in this series.

Do you write in more than one genre? My first published books were novels for kids. Now I mainly write mysteries and the occasional romantic suspense.

What brought you to writing? I wrote stories when I was in elementary school then stopped. I took up writing again when my two sons were very young.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I often have two storylines that I bring together at the end of the novel. I also have subplots that weave in and out of the novel. This is easy to do because I write a series, and many of the characters travel from one book to the other.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Would you believe, sitting down and starting to write each day? Once I get going, I’m fine.

What is the best book you have ever read? I don’t know if I could name the best book I’ve ever read, but I will give the titles of my two favorite books: THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton and A SUITABLE BOY by Vikram Seth.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? DEWEY DECIMATED, the sixth book in the Haunted Library series, will be published in September, 2022. I just signed a contract to write the seventh book.

Where can our readers buy your books and contact you?

Buy link: https://bit.ly/36OkDrG

Website where you can sign up for my newsletter: http://www.marilynlevinson.com

Amazon page: http://amzn.to/K6Md1O

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.levinson.10?ref=ts&fref=ts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/161602.Marilyn_Levinson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarilynLevinson


  1. Pat Hernandez

    Great interview. I can understand that the most challenging part of your writing is just sitting down and doing it. But thank goodness, you do it.

  2. Michael A, Black

    Saludos. Escrita suyas novelas en espanol tambien? Buena suerte, senora.

  3. Marilyn Levinson

    Thank you for having me as your guest today.


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