Barbara grew up in a neighborhood full of children, where her grandfather “Pa” passed on to her a love for children, animals and gardening. “Pa” also taught all the neighborhood kids how to count in Italian. She spent her childhood summers in Cape Cod, which has made the ocean an important part of her life.

   After graduating from Lasell college with a degree in early childhood education, she opened a preschool where she taught 4-5 year olds for sixteen years. The educational philosophy of making learning as exciting as playing gave her experience with what she now does in her books. She used this philosophy to teach the kids counting, numbers and letters, and hands-on art and science. Today, her hobbies include surfcasting and scuba diving with her daughter, worrying about her son driving a Jeep that needs “work,” and reading. Barbara believes she has the largest collection of “sea-pottery” (not to be confused with “sea-glass” ) on the east coast.

   Barbara’s award winning books apply innovative teaching methods, using popular items to keep the children’s interest while they learn the fundamentals of a succesful intellectual life. She brings this same engaging method to her school visits. With an interactive and visual presentation, she always makes it fun for the kids to participate, learn about how books are made and even see humorous slides of her family, hobbies and pets. Just a few of the many honors her books have won include the Teacher’s Choice Award from Learning Magazine for her book The M & M’s Brand Counting Book and the Storytelling Honor from Storytelling World for her book The Little Green Witch.

Selected Reviews of Barbara’s Books

The Storm: Students of Biloxi, Mississippi Remember Hurricane Katrina
Barbara Barbieri McGrath
   Eleventh-grade Melissa Woodruff writes, “Everything in life is a privilege, not a right. And I never believed that until I lost it all.” Melissa’s is one of the many insights readers will glean from some of the youngest survivors of Hurricane Katrina from the Biloxi, Mississippi, area. As Barbara McGrath watched the devastation of the hurricane on television, she wanted to help. She organized Books for Biloxi to help restock the Biloxi school libraries, but she also edited this collection of prose, poetry, and artwork created by Katrina survivors. Readers will be moved by the story of sixth grader Katie Varnado, whose father had to lock her mother in the bedroom to keep her from leaving the house to look for Katie’s sister in Hattiesburg during the storm, and by the narrative of fifth grader Andy Latimer, whose mother still regrets not having been able to take her friend’s dog out during the evacuation as she had promised; the dog died. McGrath has included third grader Hoang Pham’s blue and gray illustration of the family’s house underwater, and kindergartner Adarius McCormick’s sketch of the roof flying off of his home. Most readers will find this emotionally taxing reading. It is difficult to fathom the losses that some of these young people have experienced, but these reflections will also remind readers of how resilient children are and may also remind us never to take life for granted. No library ought to be without this volume, especially since a portion of its proceeds go back to the Biloxi Public Schools. 2006, Charlesbridge, $18.95. Ages 5 up. Reviewer: Michelle H. Martin, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).

The Cheerios Counting Book
Barbara Barbieri McGrath
   Dr. Beverly Kobrin (Children’s Literature)
Extra kudos are due to Barbara McGrath for her excellent counting book. It all begins with zero, the decimal system’s sine qua non. From “nothing” on, children can tally familiar foods in this colorful book. Counting books can be more than simply clusters of things for toddlers to tally. They can be aesthetic/intellectual experiences for readers of all ages. Use counting books to inspire reports, art projects, or lessons for cross-grade tutoring; display them as fine art; and most importantly, help youngsters discover that there is always something to learn from good nonfiction. 1998, Scholastic, $10.95. Ages 2 to 5.

The Little Green Witch
Barbara Barbieri McGrath
   The little green witch lives in a hollow tree with a ghost, a bat, and a gremlin. She does all the unhousework while her friends do nothing to help. When the little green witch finds pumpkin seeds, she takes care of planting them, watering them, and picking the pumpkins. She then carves them and bakes them into a pie, all without help. When it comes time to eat the pie, however, the ghost, bat, and gremlin all want to help. The little green witch has other plans, though. This charming story is made all the more delicious by the little green witch doing what most people want to do in such a situation, rather than what they should do. Martha Alexander’s illustrations are simply wonderful, from the vivid colors of the pumpkin patch to her detail of the interior of a hollow tree. 2005, Charlesbridge, $14.95. Ages 3 up. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

   Barbara’s presentation to children is very visual, showing her books in stages, mistakes that were made and how a book is put together. There is a slide show reviewing favorite pages of her books, while discussing some math concepts. There are humorous slides of her family, hobbies and pets. The program is interactive, fun and sometimes LOUD… so it’s okay if the children join in!

Barbara is happy to speak to children K-6. Barbara can speak to a grade level at a time or a combination of grade levels that are consecutive.

The length of the presentation is tailored to the grade level, the longest being about 40-45 minutes, not including questions.

Audience Size
Ideally, groups under one hundred for K-1. Grade levels 2 and up can be up to two hundred.

Presentation Set-up/Equipment:

  • Table, chair.
  • A slide projector (carousel-type), with remote; if the school can not provide a slide projector, please let her know so that other arrangements can be made.
  • A room that can be darkened preferably a library or media center. Gyms are usually difficult to darken and acoustically difficult.
  • Microphone (if presentation must be in a gym).

Barbara is happy to autograph any of her books to children and teachers. This may be done between and after presentations or any scheduled time. If there is a large number of books to sign, the school might find it more efficient to have them signed before the day begins. Barbara will gladly sign them at the hotel and bring them to the school in the morning.

Barbara is located in Massachusetts. A local school visit including four 50-minute presentations is $800, and an out of state visit is $1200 plus expenses.

Additional Information

To learn more about Barbara and her publications please visit