Happy Book Birthday
to TWO new Little Animal Friends board books with Amicus Ink / March 2021 / Illus. Suzie Mason by Julie Abery:
Review: Delightfully heartwarming. LITTLE PENGUIN is the latest addition to the lovely board book series, Little Animals. The story journeys with Little Penguin as he explores the frosty world around him with his mama always close at hand. Abery’s lovely lyrical text along with Mason’s adorable and engaging illustrations introduce little ones to a penguin’s world with warmth and kindness. LITTLE PENGUIN is a perfect read-aloud for young ones everywhere!
—author E. G. Bedia
Review: LITTLE ZEBRA continues Julie Abery’s adorable Little Animal Friends board book series. Written in rhyme to engage young listeners, LITTLE ZEBRA transports us to Africa, where we follow the littlest one in the dazzle through her day. Starting off unsteady on her feet, she dances and prances, kicks and flicks, flops and slops. It’s a lively story, delightfully illustrated, that is sure to charm!
—author Sandra Nickel
I met Julie Abery through our #2020BookLook group and interviewed her about her picture book, THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN (which I love!). I’m thrilled to help her celebrate these two adorable new 2021 titles.
We have six questions for you today:
Julie Abery: Hello Erin–Thank you so much for welcoming me back to your blog!
Q 1. How does writing for a series differ from writing a stand-alone children’s book?
Julie Abery: The Little Animal Friends series has an established format, so I have a specific story arc and layout to work to, but it has all the elements you would expect in a story:
problem, conflict, and resolution, just in very few words! The rhyming also has a structure that doesn’t change, but I try to ensure that I use as many unique action verbs for each animal, while also being true to their nature.
Q 2. Did you pitch these board books as a series, or did they grow into one?
Julie Abery: The Little Animal Friends series started life as one picture book text – Little Tiger. It was the first story that my agent submitted to editors, and although it received lots of lovely comments, but most said that they didn’t think there was quite enough to the story for a picture book. Little Tiger only has 78 words. Then one editor mentioned that she thought this format would make a great structure for a board book series, and asked if I was working on any other animals. I had been making notes on pandas who are playful and terribly cute, so I set to work to create book two! She loved them both and although in the end the company she was working for passed, they shared the manuscripts with their sister company, Amicus Ink, and the Little Animal Friends board book series was born.
Q 3. Does your former career as an early years’ teacher influence your writing?
Julie Abery: It does! Having taught preschool for many years, my experience has been that nearly all children love rhyming books! I love the three Rs – rhyme, rhythm, and repetition, and that was my focus for these titles. Rhyming words are predictive and allow children to guess what is coming next, rhythm gives a song-like quality which they quickly remember, and repetition allows everyone to participate on every page turn.
Q 4. As a rhymer myself, I appreciate your excellent rhyme, rhythm, and word choice. Where did your hone your rhyming skills?
ED note: I tend to credit all the song lyrics I memorized as a teen, the bad puns my friends and I made up on the way home from school, and all those scansion/ Shakespeare courses in college.
Julie Abery: Thank you so much Erin, that means a lot!
Growing up I always loved poetry, drama, and singing at school. The first poem I ever recited was Macavity The Mystery Cat from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Elliot (1939) when I was 11 years old! It grew from there really. My mom wrote poems about the world around her too, and as I mentioned above, I loved reading rhyming picture books both to my own children and in my classroom.
Q 5. What projects are you
currently working on?
Julie Abery: A magical winter destination, an adventure on the sea, and a book about some of our favorite pets.
Q 6. Are there any more Little Animal Friends books in the works? Any further news about Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory?
Julie Abery: At the moment I think the Little Animal family is complete, but who knows what the future might bring. 😉
I am delighted that Sakamoto’s Swim Club has been chosen as a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection and has received a starred review:
“A vibrant, original picture book.” Booklist
I am still waiting for my copies to arrive, so am watching for the postman every day!
It has been lovely chatting to you again, Erin.
Thank YOU, Julie!
To learn more about her books, here’s where you can connect with Julie Abery:
Coming soon: We’ll be sharing a little KINDNESS for Michelle Schaub’s Book Birthday!