Heather S. Lonczak

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Heather S. Lonczak, PhD, is a Psychologist, Researcher, Poet, and Writer with expertise in youth resilience and socioemotional development. She holds an MA in Clinical Psychology and doctoral degree in Educational Psychology, with emphasis on positive youth development. Dr. Lonczak has published numerous peer-reviewed academic articles and more than 7 children’s books. She is an iParenting Media Award winner and has received glowing reviews from the book industry’s most acclaimed literary reviewers. Each of her kids’ books is designed to inspire and entertain young readers, as well as to teach resilience-promoting qualities, such as empathy, kindness, self-regulation, gratitude, and self-efficacy. With their endearing animal characters, Dr. Lonczak’s books also promote compassion and understanding towards other animal species.



BY Heather S. Lonczak • POSTED ON March 2, 2024

In this novel, a young woman enjoys a perfect life—a wonderful husband, an intriguing job, a new home—but things threaten to fall apart after she starts to suffer psychotic episodes.

Everything’s looking up for Joshua Fitzpatrick and Sylvia “Sunny” Zielinski. The two, who hit it off in college, get married the summer after graduation. They’re absolutely smitten, whispering loving thoughts into each other’s ears on the day of their wedding, ready to build a new life together. But the lively wedding ends in disaster when, after a sudden flight of rage, Sunny throws cake at the crowd and flees the party. The next day, her new husband swiftly forgives her wedding-night tantrum, optimistically looking to the great things ahead: Sunny’s new job in publishing, a pet cat, and a home in San Diego. But when Sunny’s grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, succumb to a stroke and old age, she falls into a grief-stricken depression that ends in a sudden break with reality. Sunny believes that she’s being chased by the Gestapo and thinks her boss is a secret Nazi. Lonczak breaks the novel up into nonlinear chapters—narrated by Sunny, her father (Peter), and Joshua—in order to flesh out the protagonist’s backstory. Early on, Joshua lovingly describes Sunny: “She was like a vibrant sunrise peeking through a cloudy sky. She was warmth, light, comfort, and dazzling beauty.” The tale reveals a history of intergenerational family trauma, with both Sunny’s mom and maternal grandmother experiencing similar psychotic episodes. The book is not an easy read. At several points, Sunny makes perilous choices, starving herself and going on the run. She even seems to endanger her half siblings. But the story delivers a sharply written and startling account of a woman and a family put to the test by mental illness—and how they learn to cope and become resilient. The novel’s one flaw involves its pacing: Much of the first 50 pages deals with the rather mundane lead-up to Sunny and Joshua’s wedding, which could have been woven into the tale as flashbacks after the ominous wedding night. But once the harrowing book picks up speed, readers will find it impossible to put down.

A searing portrait of mental illness and a family trying to stay together.

Pub Date: March 2, 2024

ISBN: 9798989648108

Page count: 446pp

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024



BY Heather S. Lonczak • POSTED ON Feb. 16, 2021

A grumpy girl learns an important lesson from her grandfather about a special tree in this picture book.

After a bad day at school, Lydia joins her grandfather sitting under a fig tree. He describes how he spent his day pruning and caring for the tree. Lydia can’t quite understand putting so much effort into looking after the tree: “Why go to all of that trouble for something that just stands there not doing much of anything?”  But as her grandfather recounts the way the tree has sheltered him over the years, the delicious food made from its fruit, and the beauty it brings to the yard in every season, Lydia realizes how special it is. And as she develops an admiration for the tree, she discovers that she no longer feels grouchy. Lonczak’s meditative text uses a simple enough vocabulary for independent readers to peruse comfortably. The slow pace and focus on appreciation make it a good choice for bedtime or gratitude-centered classroom reading. Varjotie’s soft-edged illustrations, which feature cartoonish animals and light-skinned humans against painterly backgrounds, match the relaxed tone. Lydia’s facial expressions seem to let go of her grumpiness much earlier in the images than the text, but the connection she feels to her grandfather, who helps her learn to really see the tree, comes through clearly. A reference to Lydia’s Spanish-speaking father in the soothing tale pays tribute to mixed-heritage families.

This intergenerational lesson smoothly encourages readers to share a girl’s gratitude for the natural world.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73536-250-2

Page count: 34pp

Publisher: IngramSpark

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2020



BY Heather S. Lonczak • POSTED ON July 16, 2020

A family learns what it takes to be good owners of a pet parrot in this picture book for elementary schoolers.

Zoë, a green-cheeked conure, is adopted by a mother with two children, several cats, and a dog. The bird quickly adopts Mama as her soul mate, and although the parrot doesn’t imitate human words, she seemingly answers questions with fervent nods. The family learns about the parrot’s preening behaviors, which include plucking hairs from Mama’s arm, and her tendency to splash around in her water. She also makes “grinding” noises with her beak, bites to warn of danger, and squawks when lonely. Lonczak reveals these actions in a matter-of-fact manner, never criticizing Zoë but instead focusing on the family’s reactions. Clever asides from Zoë’s perspective, such as her defense of spilling popcorn (“How am I supposed to grow the forest if she keeps cleaning up the seeds?!”) offer insight into bird psychology. The humans’ facial expressions in Varjotie’s cartoonlike, full-color illustrations sometimes seem unrealistic; Mama hardly reacts when Zoë bites her on the ear. The charming images of Zoë, though, capture the little bird’s big personality. A reference to Napoleon may puzzle young readers, though.

A pleasant, approachable portrait of a less-common type of pet.

Pub Date: July 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73446-877-9

Page count: 44pp

Publisher: IngramSpark

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021



BY Heather S. Lonczak • POSTED ON Feb. 14, 2020

A screaming tot learns that staying calm helps her win more friends in this picture book.

Penelope has the nickname Windpipes because her voice—when she’s screaming—is so loud the neighbors can hear her “10 blocks away!” Children run from her, and her grandfather turns down his hearing aid while visiting. When Penelope loses her voice in a case of laryngitis, she notices sounds that her screaming had covered up: “Penelope liked these sounds and wondered how long they’d been there.” Following the example of a new friend who remains calm in the face of teasing, Penelope learns to control her temper, giving her a chance to enjoy things she’d missed. Psychologist Lonczak’s previous books, such as Gus Becomes a Big Brother (2019), also have focused messages, but there’s no subtlety in this text-dense tale. Penelope’s tantrums are bad for everyone, and being tranquil instead of boisterous allows others to see how kind she is. The dichotomy leaves no room for behavior in the middle: Even when playing, Penelope accepts that “superheroes never scream and cry.” There’s also an unfortunate correlation between Penelope’s love of princesses and her poor behavior while her “tomboy” friend demonstrates good habits. In addition, Penelope’s brother is never scolded for egging her on. Still, parents with unruly children may find helpful tips here. And Vasconcelos’ kid-friendly cartoon illustrations use plenty of pastels to create detailed backgrounds and depict a diverse neighborhood.

Parents with tantrum-prone youngsters may find a useful tool in this lesson-heavy tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73446-872-4

Page count: 40pp

Publisher: IngramSpark

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2020



BY Heather S. Lonczak • POSTED ON Feb. 1, 2020

A child and a fledgling show off their new skills in this coming-of-age picture book.

It’s Fletcher’s big day: The training wheels are coming off his bike. His light-skinned family has gathered; his parents, aunts, and grandfather have their cameras ready. Nearby, some noisy crows also sound like they are celebrating. When a motorcyclist roars down the street, it almost disrupts the day—and it certainly bothers the crows, who then dive at a neighbor passing too closely beneath their tree. But soon Fletcher is off, and after his father lets go, the boy realizes a small crow is gliding alongside him. “Look at us,” Fletcher calls out. “We’re Flying!!” This slice-of-life story is told simply in a down- to-earth fashion that focuses tightly on Fletcher’s excitement at accomplishing a rite of passage. While psychologist Lonczak acknowledges the boy’s worries (“The bike felt wobbly at first, and Fletcher was a little scared”), the tale puts heavy weight on the support of his relatives and the subtle parallel between their presence and the protectiveness of the crow’s parents. Dimitrovska’s vibrant oil-pastel illustrations are softly lined, sometimes creating an indistinct feel at the borders of people and backgrounds, making details slightly hazy. But the choice of colors for Fletcher’s helmet, eyes, bike, and clothing emphasizes the feeling of flight. In his moment of victory, the boy almost appears to be part of the sky.

An uplifting tale of triumph likely to encourage struggling young bicyclists to take off soaring.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73446-870-0

Page count: 34pp

Publisher: IngramSpark

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021



BY Heather S. Lonczak • POSTED ON Nov. 1, 2019

When a canine family gets ready to adopt, a young dog learns about being a big brother in this picture book.

Although the Barker family—Buford, Winnie, and 3-year-old Gus—is a happy one, something is missing. Gus would love a puppy to cavort with, and his parents would like an addition to the family. So when Mr. and Mrs. Barker tell Gus they’re adopting, he exults: “I’m going to be a big brother!” As his parents go through the process, they tell Gus what to expect. After his new brother, Pacco, arrives, Gus has more changes to navigate, such as sharing toys and attention. But he loves playing with Pacco. When others think that Pacco is a friend, Gus replies proudly: “Nope, I’m his big brother!” Lonczak, in her latest children’s book focused on teaching resilience, does an admirable job of helping prepare kids for a family adoption. Adults, too, can benefit from how the work thinks through possible problems and offers effective solutions; for example, while Gus will give some of his toys to Pacco, he can keep his favorite ones. Warmth and affection underlie the story, as when Gus is reassured that “your parents have oodles of love for you. And when we add a new pup to a family…the love just grows even bigger.” Varjotie creates a friendly, relaxed atmosphere with her soft colors, rounded edges, and animals that combine realistic and anthropomorphic features.

Sensitive, thorough, loving guidance that helps smooth the adoption process for siblings-to-be.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9786093-8-2

Page count: 44pp

Publisher: IngramSpark

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020



BY Heather S. Lonczak • POSTED ON Aug. 1, 2019

A girl realizes her new pet frog belongs in a pond in this picture book.

Six-year-old Becky is thrilled when her parents finally allow her to get a pet. On a family trip to the mountains, Becky enjoys visiting a pond where she sees and hears various critters (“Bzzzzzzzzz; Ribbit; Quack, Quack!”). Becky decides to bring a frog home. She thinks: “He’ll be such a cool pet…better than a dog!” Becky names him Gideon and keeps him in a box. But Gideon doesn’t acclimate and becomes listless and sad. Becky is perplexed until her dad explains that the frog is an amphibian and “should be in his pond, free to leap high and swim!” Though disappointed, Becky realizes Gideon probably misses his home. She returns him to the pond and watches as he is embraced by fellow frogs. Becky will miss Gideon, but she knows she did the right thing. With her relatable protagonist, Lonczak delivers an essential lesson, emphasizing the importance of leaving animals in their natural habitats where they can thrive. The author also includes a note about “Frog Endangerment.” Dimitrovska’s illustrations are colorful with a hand-drawn quality, offering shadows and textures. The light-skinned Becky is shown in a variety of circumstances, including spending time outside and with Gideon. The images of nature are serene and detailed, and the depictions of critters, mainly frogs, are friendly. Some pages feature a pattern of greenery, bubbles, tadpoles, and frogs.

A thoughtful, educational lesson for animal lovers.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-51549-6

Page count: 44pp

Publisher: IngramSpark

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021



BY Heather S. Lonczak • POSTED ON June 12, 2019

The sounds of a mother running lull a toddler to sleep in this rhyming picture book.

Baby Henry’s mother loves to run. She straps Henry into his stroller and off they go, through the neighborhood, downtown, and to a park. Henry eventually dozes off; when he wakes, they’re almost home. Now, Henry’s mom feels like she needs a nap, but he is ready to be off and running. With the exception of the first page, the verse scans beautifully, always rhyming with the same “pitterpat, pitterpat” sound of the mother’s running feet, encouraging lap readers to chime in on the refrain. The sights and sounds of this stroller run are described in a lovingly familiar way that suburban readers will immediately recognize. Mack’s watercolor illustrations add details unmentioned in the text—over the course of the run, Henry loses both his hat and a sock—that are sure to entertain children and resonate with parents. Mack ably captures both Henry’s energy and his sleepy demeanor. Although the cast is predominantly light-skinned, the people along Henry’s run come in different sizes, shapes, and ages, all friendly to a tyke in a moving stroller. Psychologist Lonczak offers no heavy-handed message in this celebration of togetherness: Henry loves being with his mom and seeing the world from his stroller, where he feels comfortable and safe enough to snooze.

For kids and parents who run, in strollers or otherwise, this hits the right notes.

Pub Date: June 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9786093-2-0

Page count: 28pp

Publisher: IngramSpark

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2020

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