Fall Books from Midwest Authors & Illustrators

in the foreground, the words " Fall 2019 Books From Midwest Authors", in background a collage of book covers


Welcome to my new Midwest authors & illustrators series on my blog! Seasonally, I'll highlight books from Midwest authors and illustrators that your family might enjoy, both new books and books you might have missed or forgotten. Some of the books featured are books I've received free from publishers or authors for review purposes, and links may be affiliate links.


Fall in the Midwest wouldn't be complete without some time spent curling up on the couch to read a great book, and I'm excited to share some wonderful books with you from Midwest authors that you'll want to check out. This edition features authors from Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, and Iowa, including Sioux City's own Cory Kruse, with books for every age group about apples, horses, pumpkin patches, friendship, love, death, bravery, and freedom. I hope it inspires you to find a great fall read!


Paloma Wants to Be Lady Freedom by Rachel Campos-Duffy


front cover of picture book Paloma Wants to Be Lady Freedom by Rachel Campos-Duffy, featuring an illustration of a hispanic girl dressed as lady freedom and standing on top of the US Capitol Dome

About the Author: Rachel Campos-Duffy is a Wisconsin mom of 9, but you may recognize her from Real World and Road Rules, or as a FoxNews analyst, and/or as the wife of Wisconsin congressman Sean Duffy (who recently resigned to help her care for their 9th baby, who was just born with Down syndrome and serious heart abnormalities that will require heart surgery within the next few months). You can find out more about Rachel Campos-Duffy on her website.
About the Illustrator: Paloma Wants to Be Lady Freedom is illustrated by UK based artist Richard Johnson.
Publisher: Paloma Wants to Be Lady Freedom was published by Regnery Kids in Sept. 2019.
What's it about? Paloma Wants to Be Lady Freedom is about a little girl named Paloma who is inspired by the sights and symbols of the American capitol, especially the statue of Lady Freedom atop the Capitol Dome. Paloma Wants to Be Lady Freedom is inspired by Rachel Campos-Duffy's childhood with a first generation immigrant parent, and by her daughter Paloma's first visit to D.C. when she was 5 years old.
Our favorite part:
an illustration from Paloma Wants to Be Lady Freedom by Rachel Campos-Duffy. Illustration depicts Paloma, a young hispanic girl, and an african-american security guard who is gesturing to Lady Freedom, who is facing the ocean

My kids all loved seeing the pictures of monuments from Washington D.C. and my oldest enjoyed the factual section as a back. My favorite part was just learning more about Lady Freedom. I didn't actually realize there was a statue of Lady Freedom on the U.S. Capitol Dome and didn't really know anything about her. I think this book would be especially great to read when planning a trip to D.C. or learning about the U.S. Capitol because of its unique focus. It definitely makes me want to plan a trip to D.C.!
Who's it best for? I'd recommend it for kids 3-10, especially early elementary age.
How to get a copy: You can buy Paloma Wants to Be Lady Freedom from national retailers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon:


An Apple for Dapple by Leah Peterson

cover of the book "An Apple for Dapple" shows a light gray dappled horse standing in grass next to a white fence and a tree with red apples on it

*I received a free digital copy of An Apple for Dapple for review purposes*
About the Author: An Apple for Dapple was written by Leah Peterson.  Leah is a 5th generation farmer/rancher along Clear Creek in Custer County, Nebraska. She and her husband Matt work along side other members of her family and raise cattle and row crops. When not working on the place, Leah keeps busy with raising three girls, blogging at Clear Creek Ranch Mom and cheering for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. 
She has been writing professionally for over 10 years and is a graduate of the University of Nebraska. Check out her work on FB, Instagram or ClearCreekRanchMom.com
About the Illustrator: An Apple for Dapple was illustrated by Swapan Debnath.
Publisher: An Apple for Dapple was published by Mirror Publishing in 2011.
What's it About: An Apple for Dapple is about a horse named Dapple, a girl named Maggie, and the delicious apples--and fun--they share. It's inspired by Leah's daughter Maggie and their horse Dapple!
Our favorite parts:
The real Maggie and Dapple! Picture used with permission from Leah Peterson.

My kids loved the whole book, but especially the parts where Dapple was enjoying apples! My 2 and 6 year-olds loved Dapple and his interactions with Maggie. We recently went to the apple orchard and I think they found it especially relatable because of that! 
Who's it best for: An Apple for Dapple will be most enjoyed by toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary age students. I'd recommend it most for 2-6 year olds. It would be especially perfect for before or after a visit to an apple orchard, or during an apple themed unit study. 
How to get a copy: You can buy a copy of An Apple for Dapple on Amazon. When Leah has time, she also offers signed copies directly through her Clear Creek Ranch Mom Facebook page.


The Many Colors of Harpeet Singh by Supriya Kelkar

Cover of The Many Colors of Harpeet Singh, shows a picture of a boy with brown skin wearing red pajamas with white polka dots and a red patka, while sitting on a blue bed surrounded by many other colors of patkas

*I received a free copy of this book from Sterling Books*
About the author: Screenwriter and author Supriya Kelkar is Midwest born and raised and now lives in Michigan. She's well known for her screenplays and books sharing her Hindi culture with her audiences and readers. You can find out more about Supriya Kelkar and her works by visiting her website.
About the Illustrator: Alea Marley is a UK based illustrator who is known for her brightly colored, simple illustrations. You can find out more about Alea Marley and her illustrations on her website.
Publisher: The Many Colors of Harpeet Singh is published by Sterling Books.
What's it about? The Many Colors of Harpeet Singh is a picture book about a boy named Harpeet Singh who shows his emotions through the colors he wears. As a Sikh, he chooses to share these colors with his special head coverings called a patka.  And when Harpeet and his family move to a new city and adjust to their new life there, he has lots of emotions to show!
a boy in a red patka looks down sadly, standing in front of his parents. his father is wearing a white turban and his mother is wearing a pink sweater. browning grass  and falling leaves are visible behind them.

Our favorite part: My kids loved the brightly colored illustrations and seeing Harpeet make a new friend. As a mom, I loved the message about finding joy in new situations, and I liked introducing my kids to a culture they didn't know about--there aren't a lot of children's books about Sikhs! I also really appreciated that the author included some information at the end about patkas so I could be sure I was answering my kids' questions about them correctly and respectfully.
Who's it best for? Preschoolers and early elementary students.
How to get a copy: You can buy The Many Colors of Harpeet Singh from Barnes & Noble at the Southern Hills Mall, or from online retailers like Amazon:



Tawanda's Tales: Best Friends Forever by Jennifer K. Schmitt

Cover of Tawanda's Tales: Best Friends Forever, with an illustration depicting two girls on a light brown horse. Both girls have brown hair, one very curly and one straight and in a ponytail.

Author: Tawanda's Tales: Best Friends Forever is written by Jennifer K. Schmitt from Rockford, Iowa (near Mason City!) Schmitt works as a special education consultant and lives on a small family-owned farm with her husband and two daughters.
Illustrator: Tawanda's Tales: Best Friends Forever is illustrated by Maryland based graphic artist C.J. Love
Publisher: Self-Published in March 2019
What's it about? Tawanda's Tales: Best Friends Forever is about a girl named Tawanda, her best friend Tate, and the horse they love to ride together, Honey!
Our favorite parts:
an illustration from Tawanda's Tales: Best Friends Forever depicts two girls laughing on the ground. One girl has short curly hair and yellow shirt and cowboy boots, while the other has straight hair in a ponytail and pink shirt and cowboy boots.

My kids loved seeing the girls riding Honey around the fields, and the girls laughing together.  I liked the portrayal of modern rural life, and the cute details like that the parents' date was to a fictionalized version of Mason City's Birdsall's ice cream! And we all learned a new expression--apparently "horse buttin' around" is just another fun way of saying "horsin' around!"
Who's it best for? Tawanda's Tales: Best Friends Forever is best for elementary age students. I'd most recommend it for 5-9 year olds.
How to get a copy: You can get a copy of Tawanda's Tales: Best Friends Forever from Amazon!


PumpkinHeads by Rainbow Rowell

The cover of PumpkinHeads by Rainbow Rowel shows a black girl and a blonde boy wearing matching denim overalls and plaid shirts, and laying on their backs in a pumpkin patch as if gazing at stars

About the Author: Rainbow Rowell is a prolific author from Omaha (I have some guesses about which pumpkin patch she may have been inspired by!)
Illustrator: Faith Erin Hicks is an illustrator from Vancouver, British Columbia. Her first published book was about zombies, so it seems fitting that she did a (albeit much cheerier) Halloween book!
Publisher: PumpkinHeads was published by First Second Books in August 2019.
What's it about? PumpkinHeads is a graphic novel about two teen best friends who work together at a pumpkin patch and decide to make their last night working there the best night ever. The two navigate work, friendship, and teen romance with a sense of humor that will captivate readers, and the illustrations from Hicks exude the coziness of fall pumpkin season!
a page from Rainbow Rowell's PumpkinHeads shows two teens and a goat in a corn maze

My favorite part: My favorite part was the artwork and a very satisfying romantic end. I won't spoil it by saying who it was between!
Who's it for? Teens who like romantic stories--it's basically like a graphic novel version of a fun Hallmark holiday movie, in all the best ways. There is nothing more explicit than a kiss. One character is portrayed as having dated both women and men. There is no foul language.
How to get a copy: You can buy PumpkinHeads from Book People or from Barnes & Noble at the Southern Hills Mall. PumpkinHeads is not yet available at the Sioux City Public Library. PumpkinHeads is also available from online retailers like Amazon:


A Dream of Darkness by Cory Kruse

Cover of the Book A Dream of Darkness by Cory Kruse, with title in white and author name in yellow, both in an all- caps serif font, and black tree branches reaching towards a starry blue sky in the background
Cover Art used with permission from Cory Kruse

*I received a free copy of A Dream of Darkness from Cory Kruse*
About the author: Cory Kruse from Sioux City, Iowa! Kruse grew up in Sioux City and went to the University of Nebraska. He's worked at several jobs since graduation, including as a language arts teacher, and now works in institutional advancement at his alma mater, Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools, and this is his debut novel. Kruse has hinted that a football themed novel and a sequel to A Dream of Darkness may be coming in the years to come.
Publisher: A Dream of Darkness is published by Fire's Edge Publishing and will release on October 22nd, 2019
What's it about? A Dream of Darkness is a suspenseful, supernatural horror thriller. It's set in a world that seems not so different from our own a few centuries ago, at least not at first. But as the darkness falls on the frontier colony of Norick's 100th birthday celebration, the townspeople find their worst nightmares coming true. The book has a similar point-of-view structure to the Game of Thrones series--each chapter focuses on a different character, with some characters only featured in one or two chapters, and a few characters featured many times, which is occasionally confusing.
My favorite part: I should start by confessing that horror isn't really my favorite genre--I'm more of a fantasy & sci-fi kind of girl. So it's not super surprising that my favorite parts were the character development, world-building, and action.
My favorite individual moments were probably when one character I liked finally stepped up, and another where a character I initially didn't like heroically tried to do what she could to make up for her previous actions. The book is well written and I thought the tone was good--mostly very suspenseful, but with an appropriate self-awareness and some humor as well.
Who's it for? This book is recommended for horror fans ages 16+ due to violence, both actual and threatened (including against children), a few instances of foul language, and brief sexuality.
How to get a copy: You can buy A Dream of Darkness directly from Cory at his book signing and launch party at P's Pizza on Sat. 10/20 from 2-4pm, or from his author website (coming soon!) Copies of A Dream of Darkness are also available for pre-order from Amazon:






The Midwest is full of talented writers and illustrators, and I can't wait to share more of them with you. I'll be back with a winter & Christmas book guide from Midwest authors by early December! If you know of a book I should include, please e-mail me!

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