TWO Happy Book Birthdays: ONE BLUE GNU + WAKE UP FREIGHT TRAIN = 6 Qs with award-winning #kidlit author Danna Smith

Danna = rhymes with banana. : )

All aboard! I’m doubly excited to celebrate TWO Book Birthdays with Danna Smith on the blog today:


(Illustrated by Ana Zurita/ Amicus Ink / March 8th)


(Review from author Charlotte Offsay)


(illustrated by Jon Andersen/  Little Simon / board book / March 29th!) *

Hop aboard this train-shaped board book that introduces

each car of a freight train during a nighttime adventure!

Blow the train whistle, shovel more coal.
Here we go, freight train! Get ready to roll!
Toot-toot goes the horn, Blink-blink go the lights,
Clang-clang goes the bell, all through the night.

Featuring all the cars of a freight train, this board book is perfect for young readers who love trains! And since freight trains ride at night, there are adorable sleepy animals throughout for little ones to find. 

–Little Simon

Aren’t these adorable?

And we have questions for Danna Smith!

ONE BLUE GNU by Danna Smith; interior art by Ana Zurita/ Amicus Ink.

Q 1. If ONE BLUE GNU planned her own book launch party, what would it look like? How do you plan to celebrate—your TWO upcoming launches?

Danna Smith: If One Blue Gnu planned her own book launch party, there would be pizza of course! And lots of pictures taken with her “gnu” new cell phone. As for my plans, I am going to double the fun! I will be celebrating with a double book launch party at Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills, CA on April 9, 2022! Little readers can join me from 11 am-1pm.

ONE BLUE GNU by Danna Smith; interior art by Ana Zurita/ Amicus Ink.

Q 2. In your bio you say: “I wrote my first poem when I was eight, my first short story when I was ten, and my first picture book when I was seventeen.” Now that we know the “when” –HOW did your love of word play and rhyme begin?

 Danna Smith: My maternal grandmother was a writer and poet. Had she not dedicated her life to her 12 children, she would have, no doubt, pursued her dreams of becoming a journalist. She shared her love of writing with me at an early age. She could weave words like magic. My uncle was a big influence as well. He’d gather his nieces and nephews around and entertain us with off-the-cuff silly poems and         songs. We’d clap and giggle—I have no doubt that his joy of rhyme and rhythm sparked mine.

Q 3. What surprises did illustrator Ana Zurita bring to ONE BLUE GNU? How about Jon Andersen (WAKE UP, FREIGHT TRAIN) ?

Danna Smith: As an author, it’s an exciting time when you learn which illustrator will be bringing your words to life! With her quirky, colorful style, Ana Zurita captured ONE BLUE GNU’s character right away and filled the book with laugh-out-loud humor. 

ONE BLUE GNU by Danna Smith; interior art by Ana Zurita/ Amicus Ink.

Danna Smith: With his soft, warm illustrations, Jon Andersen is the perfect illustrator for my bedtime board book, WAKE UP, FREIGHT TRAIN! I expected a beautiful introduction to freight cars in his signature style, but he surprised me (and our little readers will be thrilled) with sweet, sleepy animals to spy and seek   throughout this nighttime journey.

WAKE UP, FREIGHT TRAIN! by Danna Smith; interior art by Jon Andersen/  Little Simon.

Q 4. I never realized –until I read  WAKE UP, FREIGHT TRAIN that the crew rides in the caboose! Who are your #kidlit crew—the ones that keep you on track and moooving full speed ahead?  

WAKE UP, FREIGHT TRAIN! by Danna Smith; interior art by Jon Andersen/  Little Simon.

Danna Smith: Good question! We’ll need to hook a few more cars to the train —I have a large crew!  I belong to two critique groups full of amazingly talented authors and illustrators, my agent, Tracy Marchini at Bookends Literary, and the many editors I’ve worked with on my books throughout the years. They all keep me on track! Each member brings a different perspective and experience. I could never take this journey without my crew!

WAKE UP, FREIGHT TRAIN! by Danna Smith; interior art by Jon Andersen/  Little Simon.

Danna Smith: I also belong to launch group #bookcrew2022. We will be celebrating and sharing my five 2022 books along with the books of eight other authors and illustrators on all social media platforms. Come follow us!

Q 5. Congratulations on the publication(s) of your 15th and 16th books! And I see that ROOFTOP GARDEN will release in May. What’s next in the queue?

Danna Smith: My debut Young Adult novel THE COMPLETE BOOK OF ASPEN releases in Spring 2022. And I have two new board books in the works, THE THANK YOU BOOK (fall 2022) and a lift-the-flap board book (Title to be announced SOON!). You can find all my books at

Q 6. Besides reading your rhyming picture books and board books, how else can we put a pop of poetry in our day? 

Danna Smith: Thanks for asking! You can join me on my poetry blog I created this space for adults who love to read, write, and share poetry for all ages. I’d love for you to pop in!

Thank you for joining us today, Danna!

To learn even more about Danna Smith, you can follow her on Twitter: @DannaSmith8

Instagram: dannasmithbooks

And check out her books & more links here.