The best children’s books you wish you had written, and quite possibly, still can

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote Billy Balloon in fourth grade for a writing exercise. I remember the teacher reading it to the whole class. I was filled with pride. Then through the years I’d revisit the story and think about getting it published. Many years later, with the support and encouragement from my family, I finally decided to go through with it. We then went from wanting to publish one book to building a brand similar to Curious George and Thomas the Train. We had such a great experience and fun time we also decided to share the adventure with others. We invite readers to submit ideas for other books in the Billy Balloon series through our website


I wrote...

Billy Balloon

By Jack Payton,

Book cover of Billy Balloon

What is my book about?

Billy Balloon was born in a little balloon factory on a little hill, with hundreds of his brothers and sisters and friends. The Big Balloon Race starts on the first sunny day of Spring. The children tie pen pal notes to their balloons. The balloon traveling the furthest for other children to find, wins the race. Come find out what happens.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids

Jack Payton Why did I love this book?

A co-worker had introduced me to this book when I mentioned my daughter was having trouble in school.

It’s a wonderful book that made a lasting impression. I would reference the book whenever she would get down or needed extra motivation.

My daughter even wrote about the lessons she learned from How Full Is Your Bucket in her college entrance essay.

By Mary Reckmeyer, Tom Rath, Maurie J. Manning (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Every moment matters.
Each of us has an invisible bucket. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it's empty, we feel awful. Yet most children (and many adults) don't realize the importance of having a full bucket throughout the day.
In How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids, Felix begins to see how every interaction in a day either fills or empties his bucket. Felix then realizes that everything he says or does to other people fills or empties their buckets as well.
Follow along with Felix as he learns how easy it can be to fill the…


Book cover of Daddy Kisses

Jack Payton Why did I love this book?

The baby store where I bought this book closed long ago, but I still remember the day.

My wife was halfway through her pregnancy and we were getting the room ready. The title caught my attention and I picked it up and started to read it. I got teary-eyed.

I imagined reading it and giving my daddy kisses to our soon-to-be baby. For both of my kids, this became a special and exclusive book that only I read to them while giving daddy kisses. 

By Anne Gutman, Georg Hallensleben,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Daddy Kisses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What could be sweeter than adorable baby animals snuggling with their daddies? This simple board book with warm illustrations feature a variety of animals and celebrate the affection between fathers and children. Cuddles and kisses will surely abound when reading this aloud!


Book cover of Curious George

Jack Payton Why did I love this book?

The fun thing about George was reading all the different books with my kids, and discovering what he was up to next.

He is curious about everything around him, and isn’t always able to express himself. Very much like little kids. George’s childlike innocence and sense of adventure is contagious.

I was also in awe of the author's productivity. There were so many different stories! It was an inspiration to my book series, to invite readers to help co-author additional books.

By H. A. Rey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Curious George as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Curious little ones will love to cuddle up at bedtime with this padded story collection with sturdy pages. The perfect ending to a long day of play!

Includes six stories:
Curious George: Are You Curious
Curious George and the Firefighters
Curious George's Day at the Farm
Curious George Goes to a Bookstore
Curious George Loves to Ride
Good Night, Curious George


Book cover of Thomas the Tank Engine's Hidden Surprises

Jack Payton Why did I love this book?

This is another impressive and prolific book series.

The magic here is how trains on set tracks on an island can have such big and diverse personalities. Thomas was the little engine trying to do big things.

In a way he is like a little kid growing up and exploring their independence. He tries to show he can do things the bigger trains (or kids) can.

My kids and I had a great time growing up alongside Thomas. My son always carried a small Thomas toy in his pocket.

I would notice he would pat his pocket whenever he needed extra encouragement, for example, at the park among the bigger kids.

By Rev. W. Awdry, Josie Yee (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thomas the Tank Engine's Hidden Surprises as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thomas is going on a special trip to the circus, and there are lots of wonderful things to discover along the way--a beautiful hot air balloon, a playful dolphin, and a barrel of monkeys, just to name a few! Lift and peek behind the many flaps and see the hidden surprises. Preschoolers will want to climb on board with this fun transportation shaped flap book, bursting with treasures on every page!


Book cover of Nova the Robot Builds a Friend

Jack Payton Why did I love this book?

This one is part of a small group of books I’m going to keep and one day read to my grandchildren.

I hope printed books will still be around. This board book holds a special place. My kids learned names of colors and shapes with this book.

This is the book I remember sitting my kids on my lap, watching them turn pages with their chubby little hands, while I read to them.

By David Kirk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nova the Robot Builds a Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 2, 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

Youngsters can learn their colors and shapes as they help Nova the Robot build himself a friend, in a robot-shaped board book which features the author's popular eight-year-old robot boy, Nova.


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Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

By Ralph Hickok,

Book cover of Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

Ralph Hickok Author Of Vagabond Halfback: The Saga of Johnny Blood McNally

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Green Bay and my dad was the official scorer for the Packers, so I was immersed in pro football history even as a child. During my careers as a newspaper feature writer and editor and as an advertising copywriter, I also became a sports historian. My magnum opus was “The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History,” 650,000 words. But my favorite by far is my biography of Johnny Blood. I was 12 or 13 when I decided I wanted to write it, 33 when I began working on it, 38 when I finished it, and 78 when it was finally published.

Ralph's book list on the history of pro football

What is my book about?

From Kirkus Reviews: "This debut short-story collection paints the wistful life of a newspaper journalist as seen through his sexual and romantic encounters...

Throughout, Hickok writes in an assured style, pulling readers along. The narrow sexual focus results in a distorted picture, yet other aspects of Art's life emerge at the edges—his intelligence, his career as a journalist, and even the sincerity with which he gives in to his male urges and construes sex as love... 

Subdued yet alluring; a pensive reflection on the male psyche."

Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

By Ralph Hickok,

What is this book about?

A man arrives in a new city, hoping to start a new life, but he’s still haunted by memories of past loves…
A 12-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl have a brief romantic encounter when their families are vacationing in neighboring lakeside cottages…
Two teenagers enjoy sexual experimentation when she babysits for her little brother while her parents are out drinking…
A high school boy has a crush on an older woman who identifies with Molly Bloom…
A college freshman falls in love with a high school freshman and is amazed at the depths of her passion…
A guy wins…


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