9 Questions + TWO #Birthday Picture Books = a Double #BookBirthday Celebration on National Library Workers Day + National School Bus Drivers’ Day + National Zucchini Bread Day!

Today we’re celebrating TWO #BookBirthdays for TWO #Birthday picture books! What?

EVERY DAY’S A HOLIDAY: Winnie’s Birthday Countdown by Stef Wade, Illus. by Husna Aghniya (Running Press Kids) follows Winnie, who can’t wait for her next birthday, as she counts down the days by celebrating other special days throughout the year.

“A great read-aloud picture book for opening discussions of traditional holidays, more recently created ones, and ideas for new ones.”


In THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK by Erin Dealey, Illus. by Germán Blanco (Genius Cat Books), the Half Birthday Buddies, Big, Best, Blinger and Bright, share some crazy DIY ways to celebrate a HALF birthday.

Interior art by Germán Blanco from THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK written by Erin Dealey (Genius Cat Books)

I can see teachers using both these books in their classrooms!

Time for some Questions!

Today we’re mixing things up with questions for award-winning author Stef Wade (EVERY DAY’S A HOLIDAY) and THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK illustrator Germán Blanco!

 Photo cred: David Nunley

Three Qs for Stef Wade

Q 1. Welcome back to the blog, Stef! What was the inspiration for EVERY DAY’S A HOLIDAY?

Stef Wade: The inspiration for EVERY DAY’S A HOLIDAY is a mash-up of three different life experiences! For years, my family and I purchased a day-by-day calendar with all the national holidays. I certainly never went to the lengths of Winnie’s mom – to celebrate a holiday every day – but we would make root beer floats or send a letter to a friend if the day called for it! Each summer, we also make a summer bucket list and place it on our kitchen cabinets with the top sign reading, “MAKE EVERY DAY FUN” – a life motto for me! Lastly, my youngest son always has a difficult time waiting for his birthday and used the actual line “That’s too many days,” when he was 5 years old. So, I put them all together and EVERY DAY’S A HOLIDAY was born!

Q 2. What surprises did illustrator Husna Aghniya bring to the book?

Stef Wade: Winnie is my absolute favorite! This is my fifth picture book, but first featuring humans! I couldn’t be happier with Winnie’s look – a bit of an homage to my favorite TV character as a kid, Punky Brewster. Also, as a resident of Wisconsin, the National Cheese Lover’s Day spread is one of my favorites. I may not be a Green Bay Packers fan, but I can still appreciate a good cheese head! (GO BEARS!)

Interior art by Illus. by Husna Aghniya from EVERY DAY’S A HOLIDAY: Winnie’s Birthday Countdown written by Stef Wade. (Running Press Kids)

Q 3. Can you share some of your favorite reactions and comments you’ve gotten as you celebrate this fun book?

Stef Wade: For school visits, I created a charades-type game where I have a giant bin full of objects and a volunteer comes up and tries to make the group guess the different holidays using the props. The giggles from the fact that there is a Measure Your Feet Day and Poop Day are my favorite!

Three Qs for Germán Blanco

Q 1. Welcome back to the blog Germán! What is your favorite –or most challenging—spread in The Half Birthday Book?

Germán Blanco: I think perhaps it was the cover, trying to find a fun and creative way to represent the half birthday idea splitting the cover in half. I went through a lot of iterations.

Q 2. What medium did you use for The Half Birthday Book?

Germán Blanco: Mainly digital (Photoshop)

Interior art by Germán Blanco from THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK written by Erin Dealey (Genius Cat Books)

Q 3. They say each book is a tiny bit autobiographical. Which of the Half Birthday
Buddies is most like you:

a. Big Buddy: (red) Loves to bake for friends and family–and hosts the Big
Buddy Baking Show.
b. Best Buddy: (blue) Loves surprises and random acts of kindness.
c. Blinger: (purple) Loves to sing and wear sparkly things.
d. Bright: (green) Loves to write stories, poems, jokes, and create 1/2 Birthday

Germán Blanco: Maybe a combination of Best Buddy (blue) and Bright (green).

Three Qs for BOTH of you:

Q 1. When is your birthday? What is your favorite childhood birthday memory?

Stef Wade: My birthday is on National Taco Day (October 4)! As a child, I always looked forward to having a family party with all my cousins and the special yearly “shopping spree” with my grandma!

Fun Fact: Stef’s Half Birthday is April 4th!

Germán Blanco: My birthday is Dec 30, so I always remember having to share my birthday with my brother in January because everyone else was on vacation or spending time with their own families for the holidays 

Fun Fact: Germán’s birthday, Dec. 30th is also Bacon Day!

His Half Birthday is June 30th.

Interior art by Germán Blanco from THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK written by Erin Dealey (Genius Cat Books)

Q 2. What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

Interior art by Illus. by Husna Aghniya from EVERY DAY’S A HOLIDAY: Winnie’s Birthday Countdown written by Stef Wade. (Running Press Kids)

Stef Wade: To learn how to celebrate the small things in life. Waiting can be hard – as an author, I know this firsthand! But being grateful for the small things (like donuts!) can make every day easier and everyday fun! And as always, I like to throw sneaky learning into my books, so I hope kids learn who Shakespeare is and more about cultures, food, those who have or continue to sacrifice for us every day.

Germán Blanco: I hope kids know that it’s ok to be different and celebrate and do things your own way

Interior art by Germán Blanco from THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK written by Erin Dealey (Genius Cat Books)

Q 3. What new projects are you working on?

Stef Wade: I recently completed a middle grade eco-mystery novel and am crossing all the fingers that it will hit the shelves some day! I’ve also got a few more sneaky learning picture books on sub and that I’m working on writing as well. But I’m always keeping my eyes, ears, and mind open to new ideas.

Germán Blanco: I’m working on “Moose on the Loose” a children’s book based on the hit song by the band Ozomatli

Bonus Celebrations & Endless THANKS!

Since (according to sources) April 25th is also–among other things:

  • National Library Workers Day
  • National Zucchini Bread Day
  • National School Bus Drivers’ Day

Stef Wade sends A HUGE THANK YOU to all the library workers and volunteers out there – I am one myself! Public and school libraries are such special and important places and certainly played a role in growing my love of books a child. And while I’ve only ever ridden a school bus for field trips (and same with my own kids!), another HUGE shout out to bus drivers for keeping our kids safe and able to learn every day!

Mmmm…zucchini bread.

Germán Blanco & Erin Dealey say EVERY DAY should be National Library – Zucchini – School Bus Driver Day! You are true heroes! THANK YOU dear Librarians and Bus Drivers for transporting students to adventures near and far–and seeing that they arrive safely.

Interior art by Germán Blanco from THE SCHOOL OF GREATNESS
written by Karen Kilpatrick
(Genius Cat Books)

Also…zucchini bread–> YUM!

Find Stef Wade & Germán Blanco on social media:

www.stefwade.com germanblan.co

IG: stef.wade germanbl_nco

Twitter: stef_wade

Sleeping Bear Press

Next up on the blog: We’re celebrating Lori Degman & Jocelyn Watkinson’s

Travel Guide for Monsters, Part Deux –a Canadian Adventure

(Illus. Marcus Cutler/Sleeping Bear) which released April 15th !

Meet the GreenPB23 author/illustrator team behind LIGHT SPEAKS = Happy #BookBirthday!

I’m very excited to celebrate this gorgeous GreenPB23 picture book, LIGHT SPEAKS, written by Christine Layton, and illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell (Tilbury House).

But don’t take my word for it:

Boy, do we have Questions!

Meet the Author

Q 1. Welcome to the blog, Christine. What was the inspiration for LIGHT SPEAKS?

CL: Thank you so much for having us! I started thinking about the concept for LIGHT SPEAKS during a visit to an elementary science class. The kids were learning about light and sound. The teacher talked about technology that uses light, like ambulances and traffic lights. The kids had ideas about fireflies and other lights in nature. It turns out humans aren’t the only ones using light to send messages!

Writing Literary Nonfiction

Q 2. How do you approach a lyrical nonfiction project like LIGHT SPEAKS? Which comes first—the text, the title, or the research?

CL: Since the idea for the book came from an elementary science class, I knew I had to start with research. I looked at the Next Generation Science Standards to find the key words and concepts that would be useful to include in the book.

In the margins, I scribbled some ideas like “talking with lights,” “speak with light,” and “light speaks” and the last scribble became the title! Then I dove into the thesaurus to make lists of all the words related to light and communication. The book grew from those messy lists.

Writing + Teaching

Q 3. How do your thirteen years of teaching influence your picture book process?

CL: I think about the teachers like me who use picture books with learners of all ages (K-12 and adults!) to open the door for conversation and exploration. I am so glad to see classroom libraries in science, math, and history rooms, not just language arts classes. These are the books I want to write— books with creative, positive, and educational value for kids, teachers, caretakers, and librarians. As an educator, I want to make sure my writing accesses what kids already know, supports what they’re learning now, and guides them to think creatively to expand their understanding of a topic.

Surprises & Discoveries

Q 4. What was one of the most surprising discoveries you made in creating this book?

CL: Oh my gosh, I learned so many cool facts about the nature of light! One of the most surprising facts was about light pollution. I knew artificial lights could be harmful to wildlife, but I didn’t know light pollution can be dangerous to humans, too. Just like animals, humans need a dark night to maintain a healthy sleep cycle. The book has more information at the end to guide readers to kid-friendly resources for fighting light pollution.

Interior art by Luciana Navarro Powell
written by Christine Layton (Tilbury House).

Q 5. What surprises did Luciana bring to the project?

CL: Wow! The illustrations add incredible layers to the book! I mean, there is an entire story told through Luciana’s illustrations that isn’t present in the text. Luciana brought fun, real characters, a theme of exploration, and a cohesive journey that continues across the pages. I have no idea how she makes each page practically glow as if the paper is infused with light! What could be more perfect for this book? I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to collaborate with Luciana, and I treasure our friendship that’s grown through this book.

Q 6. Which spread is your favorite?

CL: I have to choose… the rainbow spread! The first time I read through the book with illustrations, I actually choked up when I turned the page to that spread. It’s a celebration of light, nature, beauty— I’m getting emotional just talking about it! Kids will come to the book with their own ideas and associations about light and dark. I love that the book ends on this page that moves us to a joyous moment with a brilliant, radiant rainbow!

Interior art by Luciana Navarro Powell from LIGHT SPEAKS,
written by Christine Layton (Tilbury House).
Speaking of Luciana…

Meet the Illustrator

Q 1. Welcome to the blog, Luciana. What medium / process did you use in this gorgeous book?

LNP: Thank you, so much Erin.

For Light Speaks I used a mixed media technique to try to capture visually the mood of what our editor Jonathan called “light mysterious messages.” I used acrylic paints with stencils, some watercolor washes, and the most fun of all, real light from sun rays!

To capture “real stars” I perforated a grocery bag and photographed a myriad of little stars projected on the other side, then manipulated it all on Photoshop. You can check out a bit of the process in this “peek behind the scenes” image I prepared. I also photographed the reflection of the sun going through some crystal pieces and hitting a wall – to create the Big Bang image, for example.

See more Illustration Tips below!

Q 2. Which lines of Christine’s text are your favorite, or were the most fun to illustrate?

LNP: What really drew me into this project was the lyrical nature of the manuscript by Christine. I loved the poetic approach to non-fiction she does in this book.

I have several favorite lines, that were challenging but fun to illustrate because of their open nature, for example: “From suns burned out long ago, still, light whispers the answer to a mystery: the start of time” It’s a 2 page spread crescendo that leads to the image of the Big Bang I mentioned.

Another favorite, because in a few sentences it builds up a simple, subtle but incredibly dramatic spread – baby turtles hatching and being misled by artificial light to their potential demise: “Once in a while, without meaning to, and without words, light tells lies”. This example also captures perfectly the alchemy of the picture book melding words and images to tell a story.

Q 3. You mentioned on Instagram that the NASA folks were an inspiration to your illustrations. Could you explain further?

LNP: Blake Marie Bullock read and endorsed our book – she is an astrophysicist and vice-president at Northrop Grumman who was part of the team that built NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which has been bringing us wondrous new images of outer space in the last few years!

When they released the Cartwheel Galaxy images about a year ago, I added it to our Big Bang spread right away. Perhaps it’s the first appearance of Cartwheel Galaxy in a PB!

Q 4. I love that the Kirkus review noticed that your art adds a secondary storyline (Which you do so well in the books you have illustrated!) Does this extra layer occur to you right away or does it evolve through your preliminary sketches?

LNP: Thank you for noticing it. I find that infusing a secondary story line, a “sprinkle of fiction” even in a Non-fiction book, helps me to dive deeper into the manuscript, it’s like my way into it. It usually comes to me during thumbnailing.

Q 5. They say it “takes a village”—and I feel like this is true with children’s books. Who’s in your village?
LNP: I love this question! It’s so true. Publishing kids books can be so hard but I am so grateful for the connections I have been making in this journey. To name just a few – you, of course! and also my agent Deborah Warren [East West Literary Agency]; Patti Newman, the entire art critique group from our agency, other author/illustrators I have connected with like Ana Siqueira, Amber Hendricks, Tory Christie, Steve Bjorkman, Joanna Pastro, Craig Shuttlewood, Lynnor Bontigao, and every editor I have ever worked with!

Q 6. What projects are you working on now?
LNP: I am waiting on contracts for about 2 new books – Yay! And also working on 3 of what I call “back burner” projects that come to the front when I finish art for contracted books. All picture books.

Illustration Tips

Q. 7 Are there any tips you can give new illustrators?
LNP: Keep your eyes on your own paper, avoid comparing yourself to others, and when you feel discouraged by the publishing industry focus on the joy of the work itself, and you will right your ship!

Take Aways

8. What do you hope readers will take away from LIGHT SPEAKS?
As I mentioned earlier, I loved how Christine texts approached a non-fiction concept with a poetic lens – so I hope that kids can pause and think that science can also contain an element of wonder and can be viewed differently than how we read it in textbooks.

Thank you for having us on your blog, Erin, and for being such a great part of our village!

My pleasure!

Follow Christine and Luciana on social media:

website www.lucianaillustration.com https://christinemarielayton.com/ 
Instagram lucianaillustration Layton_author
Twitter lucianaillustra @Layton_author
Facebook Luciana Illustration Christine Layton, Children’s Author

Next up on the blog: We celebrate the Book Birthdays of TWO Birthday Books!

Happy #BookBirthday to My Dog Is *NOT* A Scientist = 7 Qs with debut author Betsy Ellor

Congratulations to Betsy Ellor on her debut picture book, My Dog Is NOT a Scientist! (Illus. Luisa Vera / YeeHoo Press) which releases next week!

Winning the science fair would be easy if it wasn’t for Renzo. This playful dog turns the scientific method on its ear ruining Yara’s experiments. Or are they ruined? With a never-give-up attitude, the young scientist learns maybe play is science after all.

Let’s ask some questions!

Q 1. What was the inspiration for My Dog Is NOT a Scientist? (I’m going to guess there’s a dog in your life?)

Betsy Ellor: Yes! My dog, River, has been sticking her nose in the projects my son and I do for years.  I’m not sure I know how to do a science experiment without keeping one eye on my dog. Just like Yara in the book, I noticed one day that River was an expert at observing with her senses, asking questions, and testing her guesses. The rest of the story grew organically from there. I also layered emotional resilience into the story after watching my son fail and try again and realizing how critical that is to science. I made a little video about the inspiration for the story. It’s here if you want to check it out.


Q 2. Is it true that this is your debut picture book, and you wrote the draft of this book in one session, with only TWO revisions? Did the story marinate in your imagination for many months before, or is writing picture books your superpower?

Betsy Ellor: I wish I had that superpower! I write novels as well and I honestly think writing a truly good picture book is harder. But yes, it is true that I wrote the story in one session and only did a couple of revisions before I sent it out.

I wrote My Dog Is NOT A Scientist simply because it made me laugh and I stopped after only two revisions because it just felt done. A year later Yeehoo reached out to acquire it. I’m not saying that’s a path to publication that I’d recommend and I did do many more revisions after it was acquired, but I think my joy in the storytelling was palpable in the manuscript and that joy is what sold it. It’s so important to learn good writing techniques and study the market and all the other things we strive to do as writers, but joy is critical to good picture books. This book is proof of that. 

It takes a (global) village!

Q 3. Can you explain how this book became an around-the-world project?  

Betsy Ellor: The story originated in my home in Massachusetts. Then I submitted it to Yeehoo Press based in California. Yeehoo hired the amazing Luisa Vera who lives in Spain to do the illustrations. (Funny sidenote: The author’s photo I used for the book was taken on a trip to Valencia so both of our photos on the flap were taken in Spain). Then when it was done the book was printed in China.

Yeehoo sent me videos of them setting up the press for printing. It made me stop for a moment to really take in all the people around the world that came together on this one little book going to print on the other side of the globe from me.

Interior illustration by Luisa Vera from My Dog Is NOT a Scientist! written by Betsy Ellor (YeeHoo Press).

Q 4. I LOVE Luisa Vera’s illustrations. What surprises did Luisa bring to the project?

Betsy Ellor: Her illustrations are a delight, but I’ll admit that everything about them surprised me. For some reason, I had in my head a more watercolor-type illustration. When I saw the proofs I was shocked at first. Then I saw how much fun was going on on every page. It’s impossible not to get sucked in.

When I did World Read Aloud Day with a 1st-grade class, I truly appreciated Yeehoo’s wisdom in choosing Luisa for the project. Covering the whole scientific method makes the book on the long side to read out loud to a younger audience. Fortunately, there’s so much to look at on every page it keeps little eyes busy so their ears are listening and their minds aren’t wandering.

“All the world’s a stage…”

Interior illustration by Luisa Vera from My Dog Is NOT a Scientist! written by Betsy Ellor (YeeHoo Press).

Q 5. I read that you are also a playwright. (Yes! Theater geeks unite!) How does this influence your approach to writing picture books? Which comes first—the title, concept, character(s), story arc, or voice?

Betsy Ellor: Theater is my first love even now when I write almost exclusively prose. My first published work was a family musical called Sara Crewe that i wrote with the composer Miriam Raiken-Kolb. It is an adaptation of The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Writing lyrics was good practice for moving a story forward with few words which definitely helps with picture book writing. Writing with a composer is a lot like working with an illustrator – two people coming at a story with different mediums who need to trust each other.

Also, having written plays I always write with half a brain thinking about the visual. On stage, people can’t just stand still and feel they need to be doing something for the audience to watch. Because playwriting is what I learned first my writing tends to be visual and active.

Take aways

Q 6. What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Betsy Ellor: I want readers to know that anyone can be a scientist if they follow their curiosity. The story shows that anyone, anywhere can ask questions and seek answers – even a crazy dog. Science doesn’t have to be neat and perfect. Go explore! Have fun! The scientific method is a tool. Use it, but don’t be afraid to fail and fail and fail. Sometimes through failing you discover something unexpected and even more amazing. 

Art by Luisa Vera from My Dog Is NOT a Scientist! written by Betsy Ellor (YeeHoo Press).

Q 7. What projects are you working on now? 

Betsy Ellor: Unfortunately nothing I can share right now. Fingers crossed I’ll have more good news soon. Right now I just finished two new picture books that I’m starting to submit, and I’m diving into writing my second middle-grade novel. I’m definitely keeping busy.   

Thanks for joining us on the blog. Betsy–and

Happy Happy picture book DEBUT!!!!!

And cheers to River and your son!

To learn more about Betsy Ellor, see linktr.ee/betsyellor for signed copies, blog, and social media links.

Next up on the blog:

It’s the #BookBirthday of LIGHT SPEAKS, a gorgeous #STEM picture book

illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell / written by Christine Layton (Tilbury House).

Happy #GreenPB2023 #BookBirthday x 2 = 7 Qs with #nonfiction author Laurie Ann Thompson

It’s a double #GreenPB2023 #BookBirthday today, with #Kidlit author Laurie Ann Thompson talking about her new books, YOU ARE A HONEY BEE & YOU ARE A RACCOON (Illus. Jay Fleck / Dial Books).

Aren’t they cute?

I first met Laurie through SCBWI, when we were both co-regional advisors –Laurie for the SCBWI Western Washington region, while I was Co-RA with Patricia Newman for SCBWI NorCal. You may remember Thompson’s fabulous TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE series, co-written with Ammi-Joan Paquette and illustrated by Lisa K. Weber (Walden Pond Press).

Today, I’m thrilled to share her NEW series of adorable, interactive, STEM nonfiction picture books that encourage very young readers to learn-through-play about the animals who share their world.

But don’t take my word for it:

Art by Jay Fleck from YOU ARE A HONEY BEE written by Laurie Ann Thompson (Meet Your World/ Dial BFYR).

Let’s ask some questions!

Q 1. Welcome, Laurie. What fun books. How did you decide which animals you would feature?  

LAT: Thank you for having me on the blog, Erin!

I really wanted the animals featured to be familiar to as many children as possible (within the United States), so I chose common animals with a wide geographic distribution that might be found in rural, suburban, or even urban environments. I also wanted to represent different classes, so I have an insect and a mammal here in the first two books, and a bird and a reptile coming in the next two (April 2024).


Q 2. What surprises did you discover while doing research for these books?

LAT: So many!

  • Did you know honey bees squeeze royal jelly out of glands in their head and pull scales of beeswax from between cracks in their abdomens?
  • Did you know raccoons are born without any stripes or mask, that they climb down trees head first, and that they’re probably not washing their food so much as sensitizing their paws to be able to feel it better?

I’ve always been interested in nature, so I thought I knew a lot about these “ordinary” creatures, but the more I learned, the more fascinated I became. There is so much wonder all around us! We just need to take the time to learn about it.

Interior art by Jay Fleck from YOU ARE A HONEY BEE written by Laurie Ann Thompson ( Meet Your World/ Dial BFYR).

Q. 3  I love how YOU ARE A RACCOON shows us baby raccoon’s perseverance. Was there ever a time in your Kidlit journey where you felt like giving up? Times you felt you “missed” the goal? What kept you going?

LAT: Oh, I think we all feel that way sometimes, don’t we? And I’m not sure we ever really get over it. It feels almost cyclical.

Keep Going

I think two things keep me going when I hit those doldrums. First, most of my friends are kidlit authors, so I have to keep going so I can hang out with the cool kids!

Seriously, though, I think having a support system of writer friends is so important. They understand the ups and downs of the creative life like few people outside the industry can. It’s wonderful how caring and uplifting the kidlit community is.

The second thing that keeps me going is the kids. There’s nothing like a fan letter or a school visit to bring me back to why I’m doing this. In the end, it’s not about advances, auctions, reviews, or followers (though those things are nice too!). It’s about connecting with readers and helping them make their way in the world. There’s no better feeling than knowing I’ve done that. 

Interior art by Jay Fleck from YOU ARE A RACCOON written by Laurie Ann Thompson (Meet Your World / Dial BFYR).


Q 4. Which of the highlighted words from YOU ARE A HONEY BEE might apply to your writing process?  Please explain.

  • Chew and Pull
  • Scritch and Scratch
  • Swoop, Swerve, Dive
  • Search and Dance

LAT: What a great question! I’m definitely more of a CHEW and PULL type. I probably spend most of my “writing” time in my head, chewing on ideas, ruminating on structure, mulling over titles and phrases, etc. Then, when I sit down to write, I can usually pull that all together and draft something fairly quickly.

I used to beat myself up for procrastinating or wasting time “in my head,” but eventually, I realized this is just what my process looks like. All that time when it looks like I’m not doing anything is when most of the work happens. Maybe I should think about including more DANCE, though! 

Interior art by Jay Fleck from YOU ARE A HONEY BEE written by Laurie Ann Thompson (Meet Your World/ Dial BFYR).

Q 5. What inspired you to write these books in the second person point of view?

LAT: The idea was originally given to me by someone else. She had read a newspaper article about what it’s like to actually be a honey bee, and she thought that would be an interesting angle for a children’s book. I agreed!

Not only were there loads of fun facts to learn about, but putting the reader in the bee’s perspective gives it an immediacy that I really like. As a naturalist, I also hope the 2nd person PoV will help readers feel more connected to nature and, thus, be inspired to protect it. 

You can help too!

YOU ARE A HONEY BEE by Laurie Ann Thompson & Jay Fleck (Meet Your World / Dial BFYR).
YOU ARE A RACCOON by Laurie Ann Thompson & Jay Fleck (Meet your World/ Dial BFYR).

Dream Team!

Q 6. What surprises did the illustrator Jay Fleck, or the book designer bring to your projects?

LAT: These books have been such a wonderfully collaborative effort, and I feel so lucky to be a part of such a talented team. Not only do I adore Jay’s delightful illustrations and beautiful color palettes for these books, but it was his idea to add the insets with the kids imitating the actions of the animals. Genius! I love the interactive element that brings in, which I hadn’t even considered until I saw his sketches.

I’m also forever grateful to the designers, Jennifer Kelly and Sylvia Bi, for their attention to detail and for making all my backmatter fit just right and look cute, too. Dream team!

Interior art by Jay Fleck from YOU ARE A RACCOON written by Laurie Ann Thompson (Meet Your World/ Dial BFYR).

Q 7. What new projects are you working on now? 

LAT: I recently got to see the final art for the third book in the series, YOU ARE A ROBIN!, and give feedback on sketches for the fourth, YOU ARE A GARTER SNAKE! I’m so excited about them!

There’s more!

The contract but hasn’t yet been announced, but I also just turned in revisions for an informational fiction picture book. And I have three picture book projects in progress: a nonfiction picture book about bird migration and light pollution, as well as two informational fiction picture books—one about physics and the other about statistics. I’m also revising my first middle-grade fantasy novel! 


Learn more about Laurie Ann Thompson and her books:

Website: LaurieThompson.com

Twitter: @LaurieThompson

Insta: laurieannthompson

FB: LaurieThompsonAuthor

You can find more amazing GreenPB2023 books

on Twitter and Instagram.

Next up on the blog:

Betsy Ellor shares her debut picture book,

My Dog Is NOT A Scientist (Yeehoo Press).

Three amazing #kidlit authors celebrate four Happy GreenPB2023 #BookBirthdays with 7 Qs !

It’s a quadruple celebration today, an interview with #kidlit authors

Aimee Isaac, Susan Johnston Taylor, and Laura Purdie Salas,

who have joined us to share their

FOUR new picture books about nature and our environment:

Each of these four GreenPB23 titles, told in lyrical language, share the wonders of planet Earth. Two highlight fascinating animals and behaviors, one creates a thunderstorm, and one shows how we are all a part of this amazing planet. 

Let’s get started!

Q 1. What inspired you to write these wonderful books? Where did the ideas come from? 

Aimee Isaac: Thank you so much for having us! My inspiration for THE PLANET WE CALL HOME (Illus. Jaime Kim, Philomel) was a mishmash of reflecting on my work as an environmental advocate, my father’s work and dreams as an environmentalist, and beach clean ups I was doing with my daughter. What emerged was this idea that our planet is interconnected and our behavior (positive and negative) can have an impact near and far. If we appreciate our “home,” maybe we will change our behavior to care for it!

Laura Purdie Salas: ZAP! CLAP! BOOM! (Illus. Ellie MacKay, Bloomsbury) grew out of my love of thunderstorms. I was born in Florida, where spectacular thunderstorms were a common thing in my childhood. It was fun to really delve into the science of storms and to share the storm life cycle in beautiful rhyme.

The idea for my other book, FINDING FAMILY: THE DUCKLING RAISED BY LOONS (Illus Alexandria Neonakis, Millbrook /Lerner) actually came from Editor Carol Hinz at Lerner. She had read about the unusual family and seen adorable photos on social media. She knew I’d written another loon picture book (SECRETS OF THE LOON), and she wondered if I’d be interested in writing the true story of this interspecies family. Yes, please!

Lyrical Language

Q 2. All of these books are written in lyrical, poetic language. Where did you hone these skills?

Susan Johnston Taylor : Outside of writing, I’m a classically trained singer, so I think that’s really helped me develop an awareness of meter and how words sound. Not all of the poems in ANIMALS IN SURPRISING SHADES (Illus. Annie Bakst, Gnome Road) rhyme, but the rhyming ones really seem to resonate! 

Interior art by Annie Bakst from ANIMALS IN SURPRISING SHADES written by Susan Johnston Taylor (Gnome Road)

Aimee: When I first started writing, I didn’t think of myself as poetic, but one day I found a journal of poems I had written as a teenager and it shifted my mindset. (I’ll credit the mixed tapes I made when I was younger for fueling my teenage creativity!) I’m drawn to the power language holds and spent many revisions perfecting my diction and meter. After writing PLANET, I signed up for Renee LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab to further hone my skills.

Laura: Poetry is my first love, and it informs all of my writing. Reading poetry and song lyrics by the hundreds (or thousands) over many years has been my main course of study. I also love using mentor texts. Candace Fleming’s GIANT SQUID was a mentor text for FINDING FAMILY. Her lyrical, rhythmic text that acknowledged and even celebrated what we *don’t* know about a topic was a guiding light for me in FINDING FAMILY.

Interior art by Alexandria Neonakis from FINDING FAMILY: THE DUCKLING RAISED BY LOONS written by Laura Purdie Salas (Millbrook /Lerner)


Q 3. What surprises did the illustrators bring to your projects?

Interior art by Ellie MacKay from ZAP! CLAP! BOOM! written by Laura Purdie Salas (Bloomsbury)

Laura: People and goats! I knew from an editor’s early comment that people might appear in ZAP! CLAP! BOOM! As I wrote it, I didn’t picture human characters at all. I’m honestly not usually drawn to illustrations of kids. But Elly MacKay’s artwork not only astonished me with its beauty–which I fully did expect, but it also surprised me with how appealing and dynamic the kids are. They give readers kids to connect to. The goats (a really huge surprise) showcase the drama of the storm, since they stay out in it, while the children scurry to safety inside.

Interior art by Ellie MacKay from ZAP! CLAP! BOOM! written by Laura Purdie Salas (Bloomsbury)

Aimee: I originally envisioned a piece of trash landing on a mountain and traveling by water to the ocean. I was struck by this possibility that the infamous straw pulled from the sea turtle’s nose could have been dropped anywhere. My editor wasn’t keen on specific art notes so it was in Jaime’s masterful hands to tie the spreads together. She did so by illustrating children and families enjoying nature and it was absolute perfection.

Interior art by Jaime Kim from THE PLANET WE CALL HOME written by Aimee Isaac (Philomel)

Q 4. What surprises or roadblocks did you encounter while researching these fascinating subjects? 

Laura: The loon researchers who discovered the loon-duckling family gave the wrong lake name to the press. They did this for totally ethical reasons–to keep hordes of social media folks from flocking to the correct lake and disrupting the waterbird family. However, it meant my research into the weather, trees, and fish of that incorrect lake was a waste of time. Then again research always involves some wrong turns and dead ends, so nothing new there!

Writing Nonfiction

Q 5. How have your careers as teachers (Laura, Aimee ) and journalist (Susan) influenced your path as a children’s author?

Susan: My experiences as a journalist helped me get published in children’s magazines like Scout Life and Highlights, because I already knew how to pitch stories, conduct interviews, and synthesize information. Although I have research skills and I’m pretty good at wordplay, there was still a pretty steep learning curve when it comes to writing and publishing books for kids. The structure of a nonfiction picture book is very different from a nonfiction magazine article, so I’ve read over 2,500 picture books and really studied the craft and business. 

Aimee: My teacher hat never came off so I tend to consider how my manuscripts could be used in the classroom. I once had a first grader who told me he hated reading. I had to figure out a way to bring some joy to reading for him and that came in the form of nonfiction. Once he picked up nonfiction, he was hooked. I’m drawn to writing informational fiction and nonfiction because of that experience and I’m thrilled to see so much more being published.

Author #tips

Q 6. What tips would you give pre-published you that you wish you’d known then?

Laura: For me, becoming a better writer and building a career is about both quitting and persevering. I regularly quit projects that I’ve lost interest in or that I can’t make better. I think letting go of what’s not working is important, so that I can make room for new ideas and manuscripts. But I’ll stay with a project for an awfully long time if I still feel passionate about it. (I wrote ZAP! CLAP! BOOM! in 2008, which gives you an idea of how long I spent trying to place it with a publisher.)

What’s next?

Q 7. What new projects are you working on now? 

Susan: I’m shopping around another animal-related poetry collection (if there are any agents or editors reading this, let’s chat!), working on two picture book biographies of unsung women, and I have several more projects in various stages of submission or revision. 

Laura: Besides various books already in the pipeline, I’m working on a couple of Christmas board books and a rhyming, lyrical board book or picture book–not sure what it is yet! Next month, I might have a totally different answer :>)

Aimee: I’m working on a lyrically-written picture book about a mysterious animal with a fascinating history as well as a fictional picture book about an animal-loving boy. Every now and then I plug away at a novel in verse and I hope to be able to announce my 2024 project soon! 

Happy #BookBirthday(s) to these fabulous GreenPB23 books!

And thanks to ALL of you for joining us today.

To learn more about these authors, checks out their

Websites: Aimee Isaac Susan Johnston Taylor Laura Purdie Salas

And follow them on

Twitter: @IsaacAimee @UrbanMuseWriter @LauraPSalas

Instagram: aimeeisaacwrites urbanmusewriter laurapsalas

Up next on the blog:

Laurie Ann Thompson celebrates TWO #GreenPB23 #BookBirthdays