Interview with Salvatore Barbera, Author of Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow

Sal Barbera photoAlthough born in New York City, Sal was a restless baby. After only a week he moved to New Jersey and stayed there right up until he got married. Then he and his wife Sheri, his artistic and business partner, moved cross country to Arizona. 

Sal grew up on a steep hillside neighborhood in North Bergen with his four older sisters and a dog named Lady.  He fondly remembers the neighborhood as “playing stick ball in the street with friends and sledding down the hill right onto route 9 – when everything was closed due to snow.” 

Sal lives the phrase: “A day without laughter is a wasted day.” To that end, he uses his writing, illustrating and animation skills to create endearing characters and comedic stories. As the creative director for Hartman-Barbera LLC, Sal paints, sculpts, draws, animates and writes. 

When he’s not working, Sal enjoys cooking, watching TV, going to movies and playing golf.  Sal is a member of the SCBWI, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. 

His website is: 

Thank you for joining us today, Sal. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

I loved growing up in New Jersey. There was New York City on the other side of the tunnel, or the beach just a short drive away. I was at the jersey shore a lot, but that was a while back when everybody had regular names. No Snookies or Situations to speak of.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I started writing stories with illustrations about our little dog Max over 15 years ago. He is the inspiration for the character Sweetles, which is one of the names we called him. He is also the muse for the series of books I’m writing now; A Sweetles Dream ®.

My wife and I wondered what he dreamt about when he was running and whooping in his dreams. So I took the liberty of using my imagination to imagine his. And that’s the premise for the book series: a little dog that sees a personal or social situation during the day and dreams up the solution at night while he’s sleeping.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I’ve always done lots of wacky drawings with captions. It was easy to make the transition to books and fun to put my drawings with the stories. Although I never actually decided to write children’s books, my stories seem to be the perfect length and style for picture books.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

Not really. Writing for a young audience is fun. Especially if you inject some humor for adults throughout the tale. It makes it fun for the adults to read the stories along with the kids.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

The questions you don’t see coming.  Kids are hilarious and come up with some very funny remarks. I’ve learned a lot about why I write answering their questions. Another favorite part of writing is when I hear or see a positive response to one of my books. That’s very rewarding.

I was recently at the Orange County Children’s Book Festival and two little girls and their Mom picked up my book. The older daughter read it from cover to cover. As she was reading, her smile got bigger and bigger. At the end, she asked her Mom if she could have the book. It actually made my eyes misty. It’s great when a complete stranger wants to own my books.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about? Book 4a

Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is about a “spotless”cow that arrives at a new farm hoping to find friendship. Instead, because she’s different from all of the other cows, they don’t want anything to do with her. She must find a way to overcome their “Spot discrimination.” The story is about how she accomplishes this in her clever, diplomatic and funny way.

What inspired you to write it?

My mother-in-law is one of my best friends. Awhile back she was going through a rough time with breast cancer, chemotherapy and radiation. She needed cheering up. So I decided to write a funny story to lift her spirits and make her laugh. That story became the tale of Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

During the month of October, Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is a special price of $12.00 for your readers (list $17.99) on the publisher’s website: It’s always available on Amazon.

What is up next for you?

I’ve written and illustrated the second book in the A Sweetles Dream® series. It’s called: Ernie The Dysfunctional Frog.  I’m also working on a web series for kids with the Sweetles™ character along with his fairy tale friends. It’s a mixed media web series that will be educational and wacky too. The tagline is: “Have fun learn and play, that’s a Sweetles Day!” Think: Sesame Street meets Monty Python and that will give you an idea of what’s coming. Check the website for updates, or go to SweetlesTV on youtube.

Do you have anything else to add?

If you’re not afraid to use your imagination, you’ll be surprised at the wonderful things you can come up with.  And try to laugh every day. It’s good for your health.

Thank you for spending time with us today, Sal. We wish you much success.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

All my best,


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Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow by Salvatore Barbera

Book 4a

An adorable story of acceptance and friendship awaits young readers in Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow by Salvatore “Sal” Barbera.

Mary Elizabeth arrives at the farm one day, but the other cows pay her no mind. They don’t want anything to do with a spotless cow. So she comes up with the ingenious idea of making spots out of mud. It’s enough to break the tension and convince the cows to talk and play with her. But what will happen when the spots come off?

Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is a charming story of how one cow gained a new bunch of friends. None of the other cows on the farm want anything to do with Mary Elizabeth because she doesn’t have spots. Suddenly, she has spots and everyone wants to include her. Mary Elizabeth knows, however, that the other cows need to like her for her and not just because she looks like everyone else. This is a fabulous lesson to teach kids. Barbera offers up this message in a lighthearted, fun way. It’s not preachy. It’s not sappy. What I also thought was cute is that the cows played human games and used a certain office product. It’s clever and unexpected. I wasn’t fond of the overabundance of exclamation points in the text, but it didn’t distract from the wonderful story.

Like the story, the illustrations are whimsical and fun. This is a cute book your child will want to read time and again.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Hardcover: 36 pages
Publisher: Sweetles Press; 1st edition (July 7, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0985061111
ISBN-13: 978-0985061111

During the month of October, purchase Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow from the Sweetles website for only $12.00 (List price: $17.99). When you buy this book, 50% of net proceeds go to Phoenix Children’s Hospital Child Life Program. Visit for more information.

I received a free PDF version of this book from the author. I have been paid to promote this book with a virtual book tour through Pump Up Your Book. This fee did not include a review. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.


Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule


October 1st

Interview at Blogcritics

October 2nd

Book spotlight at The Writer’s Life

October 3rd

Book spotlight at As the Pages Turn

October 4th

Book review at Alicia Finn Noack

October 7th

Book spotlight at Literarily Speaking

October 8th

Book spotlight at Between the Covers

October 9th

Book spotlight at The Book Rack

October 10th

Book review at The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection

October 11th

Guest post at Paperback Writer

Book spotlight at Review from Here

October 14th

Interview at Straight from the Author’s Mouth

October 15th

Book spotlight at Broken Teepee

Book spotlight at Beyond the Books

October 16th

Book review at Lynn’s Corner

Book trailer reveal at If Books Could Talk

October 17th

Guest post at The Story Behind the Book

October 18th

Interview at The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection

October 21st

Book review at My Devotional Thoughts

Book spotlight at Deco My Heart

Book spotlight at A Year of Jubilee Book Reviews

October 22nd

Book review at 4 the Love of Books

October 23rd

Guest post at Mayra’s Secret Bookcase

October 25th

Book review at Mary’s Cup of Tea

October 28th

Book review at Thoughts in Progress

October 30th

Book review at Maureen’s Musings

October 31st

Book review at Blooming with Books

Guest post at Lori’s Reading Corner


 Book review at Classic Children’s Books

Book spotlight at 4 the Love of Books

Book review at A Year of Jubilee Book Reviews

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