Growing Season BOOK BIRTH-DAY Giveaway!

To Celebrate the Publishing of Growing Season I'm giving away 10 Autographed Books

It's here! It's Growing Season! People who know me, know that I love to watch things grow…I carefully nurture my indoor plants all year long, start flowers from seed in my bright porch, and when the warm weather arrives in New England, flowers will bloom in my yard all summer long.

Yes- Growing Season is about GROWING, but not only about growing flowers…
it’s about growing friendships, growing patience…and growing up.

Like the variety of flowers I feature in my illustrations, I purposely created a beautifully diverse garden of children; different colors, sizes, shapes and personalities. And like flowers, children will bloom at their own rate and at the perfect time.

Happy SPRING! It really is Growing Season. Plant some flowers…but sprinkle your garden with patience, because all things take time to grow…even kids.

Books have been mailed to winners- Thank you.
Josh- Washington DC
Dianna- Columbia, SC
Cathy - Lynnfield MA
Liz- Lawrenceville, GA
Gina- Troy, MI
Michelle- Pittstown, NJ
Anna- Cape Eliz, ME
Jill- Mont Vernon, NH
Karen- Plymouth, NH
Kirsten- Portland, ME

Growing Season is Published by Sterling Books;   or order on Amazon

“Cocca-Leffler draws an easy metaphor between growing children and growing potted plants in this relatable story. El and Jo are the smallest students in their class, and they do everything together (“Even their names were short”). One spring, though, Jo starts to grow, just like the plants that the students will care for at home over the summer; neither El nor her plant, though, grow any taller. While Jo is away all summer, the girls exchange letters and El plants both of the flowers in the garden. Finally, Jo arrives home to find that both of the plants have bloomed—and she and El are the same height. Cocca-Leffler proffers a reassuring message to readers: no two growing up experiences are alike, and one develops at one’s own pace. A note on plant life cycles concludes.” —Publishers Weekly

“Best friends and their flowers grow on different timelines, but patience cures all fears of being left behind. The commonalities that El and Jo share seem to make it only natural that they are best friends—their short names, their small size, their small desks. But after Jo experiences a growth spurt in the spring, El is the only tiny person in class, and she feels smaller every day. At the end of the school year, each student picks a plant to take home and care for over the summer. Everyone reaches over El, who gets the last pot. Jo sees her friend's small, flowerless aster, and she offers her zinnias; she is going to her grandma's for the summer anyway. El plants the two side by side and waters them all summer, as she and Jo exchange letters. When Jo returns, the friends find, to their delight, that the aster isn't the only small thing that has grown. The illustrations use gouache, colored pencil, and collage with delightful detail, most scenes on ample white space, with a few busy spreads that reflect El's feelings. El, with tightly curled brown hair and tan skin, appears racially ambiguous, and Jo appears Asian. Their diverse classroom includes black, brown, and Asian children and a girl who uses a wheelchair. An endnote on plant life cycles differentiates annuals from perennials and biennials. A sweet story with emotional depth.” —Kirkus

Visiting places of inspiration...

Through the years, my young 'California Cousin' connected to her Cocca family through my books. Recently she made the trip East and visited the places that inspired two of my family stories. 

Here she is standing in front of my parents' house, (my childhood home) in Everett, MA. She's opened to the page which depicts the exact house. It's still on a bus route......The Book- BUS ROUTE TO BOSTON: 


Below she's standing in front of our family home in Hull, MA...
the setting for CLAMS ALL YEAR. 
Since I wrote and illustrated these books, the family has grown and aged and many members, including my mom, are no longer with us. These books are the stories of our lives, growing up in a big Italian family. From bus trips to Filene's Basement...visits to the North End to buy cannoli, Summer days clam-digging with my grandfather and sharing the feast that followed...this is our family history, which, hopefully, will be passed down through the generations.

(Thank you for embracing the memories and the stories. 
Why didn't I ever think of doing this!?)

Have a wonderful Summer everyone and enjoy making your own family memories!

Growing Season

It's Spring and flowers are starting to POP. 
It's Perfect Timing for inspiration and research.
I'm just beginning the sketches for my upcoming picture book, 
"Growing Season" which is about El, a late bloomer and her 
friend, Jo, as they discover patience and friendship.
"El- character sketch"

"Jo- Character sketch"
(Growing Season will be published by Sterling Books.)
Happy Spring!
(All illustrations Copyright 2017- Maryann Cocca-Leffler)

Sing JOY! Happy Holidays!

Sterling Books 2016
Written & Illustration by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Mr. Tanen’s Ties- Creating Patterns & Designers in First Grade

I love hearing from teachers to learn how they creatively use my books in their classroom curriculum.  Mrs. Cora Turner, a first grade teacher from Evergreen Elementary School in Drayton, Valley Alberta Canada, used my books Mr. Tanen’s Ties, Mr Tanen’s Tie Trouble and Mr. Tanen’s Ties Rule to introduce the students to patterns and designing.
Mrs.Turner reading Mrs. Tanen's Ties to her first graders

Over the course of several weeks, students in her class became clothing designers and designed a tie with a repeating simple pattern for Mr. Greg Wedman, their Deputy Superintendent. The unit began with a study of different kinds of patterns with 3-4 attributes.  After reading Mr. Tanen's Ties, Mr. Wedman came to the classroom to share his magnificent tie collection. The students began studying and sharing patterns, (including keeping a pattern design book). They then interviewed Mr. Wedman to find out personal information to help them design him THE perfect tie. Finally they designed and colored a one-of-a-kind tie. The project culminated with a “Tie Celebration” where the students got to share their ties with the class. Mr. Wedman capped off the project by reading another Mr. Tanen Tie Book.

Mr. Wedman surrounded by students, all with ties!

Thanks to all the students for sharing their awesome ties! A big thank you to Mrs. Cora Turner and Mr. Wedman for developing this creative project and encouraging important skills including; pattern design, critical thinking, communication skills and problem solving. You may even have encouraged your students to seek careers in art and design....(and maybe writing too!)

Much Thanks- Maryann

(All photos used by permission of Evergreen Elementary. All rights reserved.)

Cats In Hats

This is my illustration which is included in the "Cats In Hats" Exhibit at the 
Springfield Museums to honor Dr. Seuss and celebrate the soon to be opened
My piece, along with 45 other amazing works by talented 
Children's Book Illustrators are on view NOW. 
The Exhibit runs until April 2017- Springfield Museums, Springfield, MA

New Janine Book- Give Away!

Being a Winner is not always about being Number One 
is the message in Janine and the Field Day Finishwhich publishes on Oct 10.  
It’s another inspirational story based on the childhood experiences 
of the REAL Janine, my daughter, Janine Leffler.
The event that inspired the book was actually not on a field BUT in a pool. It went like this…because of CP (cerebral palsy) Janine had difficulty with all sports. When she was about 8 yrs old, after years of physical therapy and private swimming lessons, she finally learned to swim. At the local pool “Swim Meet” she was determined to swim one length of the pool. It was a relay race. Janine was dead last and soon the only child left in the pool. Most people cheered her on…but I heard several negative comments…”Who let her on the team?” “Now they‘re going to lose”. As a parent, I was saddened by these remarks. When Janine touched the end of the pool, we were all thrilled, especially Janine. She did it!  I then noticed that several kids were crying because they didn’t win. That was the moment that stuck with me. For Janine and for many children, it is not about winning…it’s about finishing… it’s about good sportsmanship and supporting each other…it’s about trying your best. In Janine and the Field Day Finish you’ll discover the true meaning of a WINNER. 
We hope you like it!
Review from Booklist:
"With a heartening lesson about friendship, competition, and what constitutes winning, this encouraging picture book nicely demonstrates the value of confidence and generosity."  

      BOOK GIVEAWAY      
To celebrate the publishing of Janine and the Field Day Finish we are sponsoring Book Giveaways in October through this blog and soon on Goodreads.

(signed copies of BOTH Janine Books: Janine & Janine and the Field Day Finish.)

HOW TO ENTER:   Send an email to
DRAWING DATE:   OCT 10, 2016 
HELP US SPREAD THE WORD! -  We would love it if you’d help us spread the word about our books and our message by sharing this blog on Facebook, tweet about it, write a review or just tell a friend! 

Be Spectacular!
Maryann & Janine