Interview with Kristen Schroeder

If you’re looking for a great story with lots of heart, you should check out the wonderful book FREDDY THE NOT-TEDDY. Find out more in my interview with Kristen Schroeder. Illustrations by Hilary Jean Tapper.

#ChatWithThePBLady 🥳🎉

📚What was your least favorite food as a child? Do you still dislike it?

My least favorite food was liver. For some reason, my mom would serve that up about once/month and I could barely look at it. I even signed a contract with my parents when I was seven years old that I would eat anything EXCEPT liver. I still hate liver.

📚Who has been a mentor in your life? Or if you could have anyone as a mentor who would it be?

I dedicated FREDDY THE NOT-TEDDY to my mom. The dedication says, “To my mother, Marlene, for sharing her love of books with me.” My mom was an English teacher before I was born and she is the biggest book lover I know. She definitely instilled a love of books in me during my childhood. We made weekly visits to the library and I always had a book on my bedside table.

📚What school subjects did you like best? My favorite subject in elementary school was spelling.

I practiced and practiced for our annual spelling bees and even won the Spelling Bee Champ title in fourth and sixth grade. That meant I got to compete at the district-wide spelling bee, but I didn’t win there. I still remember misspelling the word “receipt”.

📚Now, let’s talk about FREDDY THE NOT-TEDDY. What inspired you to write this story?

My son had a favorite stuffed animal named Freddy. He was bright yellow and some kind of duck or chicken; we weren’t sure. One night I referred to him as “Freddy the not-Teddy” and it sparked the idea for this book.

📚Jonah and Freddy have a wonderful friendship. Can you talk about this a little bit?

I had quite a collection of stuffed animals growing up, and I always thought of them as having their own personalities and feelings. I wanted to portray this type of closeness between Jonah and Freddy. I was thrilled to see how Hilary Jean Tapper illustrated the close nature of their friendship through imaginative play and adventure.

📚Freddy is such a unique and lovable stuffed animal. How can Freddy encourage kids to be themselves?

There’s a wonderful quote by Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Freddy is just Freddy, and Jonah loves him. I think Jonah’s role in being a brave and supportive friend reinforces the message of being true to yourself.

📚This book has lots of heart. What advice would you give to writers who are looking to add more heart to their stories?

This is a tough question for me. My first picture book, ALIEN TOMATO, is a humorous, slightly silly tale. Most of my writing tends to be more on the funny side. Similar to humor, I think heart is something that can’t be forced. It naturally appeared in FREDDY THE NOT-TEDDY as I was writing the story. I don’t have a magic formula to share unfortunately.

Interview with Doug Warren.

Welcome to another #ChatWiththePBLady 🥳🎉
Today’s interview is with Doug Warren. We chatted about his book ALBERT, A FROG AND HIS DREAM. Illustrated by Keegan Williams.

📚 What’s a new skill that you’d like to learn?
It’s not really a skill but I would love to go into space and see the Earth from that perspective. I wish every person could really. It would help all of use gain more respect for the world we live on.

📚What’s your favorite thing to do at an amusement park?

Roller coasters! The fast ones with the big drops! Those have always been my favorite. I’m not crazy about the spin you around in a loop over and over over type but the Six Flag amusement park type of roller coasters are the best!

📚 Do you prefer tv shows or movies?

I prefer a good tv series that evolves as it moves along. Bringing in new characters and twists.

📚What’s your favorite ice cream topping?

Chocolate syrup!

📚Let’s talk about ALBERT: A FROG AND HIS DREAM. This is a wonderful story about a frog who wants to fly like a bird. Can you tell us more about the main character Albert?

Albert is a very inventive tree frog. He likes to observe how the other animals he lives with spend their time and becomes very interested in birds and their effortless ability to fly. Albert wants to invent a way he can experience that sensation and sets out to make his own wings. Unfortunately some of his peers think he is completely crazy and end up teasing him. This however doesn’t deter Albert because he is confident and believes in himself.
I really want to get Albert’s second book going where he helps his friends who have a special needs child live a better life.

📚 How can readers relate to Albert?

We can learn so much from observing the world around us. Nature is full of wonder and there are always new things to discover. And I think we all dream of bigger and better things, new ways to do something or new adventures. It is in our DNA as humans. And possibly inside certain frogs as well.

📚 How can this book encourage and inspire children to follow their own dreams?

In todays world so many things can seem out of reach. What I hope this book will do is inspire children to believe in themselves. Even when others tell you something might be impossible.

📚 What advice would you give to children who have dreams that seem unreachable?

The big lesson is that you keep trying. It’s important that you don’t just give up. Every major achievement in science and technology was always first met with doubt. It only takes one person (or frog) to change the world.

Interview with Skylaar Amann.

It’s #ChatWithThePBLady time! 🥳🎉

Today’s chat is with Skylaar Amann. We talked about her wonderful book SMILE, SOPHIA.

📚What’s your favorite snack?

do like snacks, so it’s hard to choose! It would probably be a good cheese and cracker or a couple pieces of really good chocolate…And does coffee count as a snack? 🙂

📚What makes you happy?

I like spending time in nature, especially at Oregon’s intertidal beaches. Anytime I go outside, I’m always on the lookout for hidden wonders, whether that’s fossils and bones, shells, small creatures, or a beautiful leaf. It’s very peaceful and meditative.

📚What quote inspires you?

“You have to be willing to spend time making things for no known reason.” —Lynda Barry

It’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re working on creative ideas with the specific goal of publishing. I often miss the freedom and looseness of drawing and writing I used to have when I did it for fun only, and sometimes I just need to get back to making stuff … just to make stuff.

📚If you were stuck on an island, what items would you want to have with you?

If it’s a tropical island, I would want something to provide shade because I don’t do well in the heat! To keep myself entertained, I would love to have a guidebook to the island’s natural wonders so I could explore and learn. I’d also want fresh water!

📚Let’s talk about SMILE, SOPHIA. Please tell us all about Sophia.

Sophia is a young girl who loves paleontology. She’s happiest when she’s digging for dinosaur bones. But the adults in her life don’t quite understand how important that is to her. Instead, they just want to see her smile. Sophia, though, is undeterred. She only smiles when she wants to!

📚What makes this book so empowering?

A lot of people, especially girls, are told to smile. That can be upsetting to hear. You may feel like you are smiling, for example. Or you might be happy and just not feel like smiling. And sometimes, you might not be happy and don’t want to smile! And all those situations are okay. In Smile, Sophia, Sophia stands up for herself and her priorities—she only smiles when she wants to. I hope this book can help kids (and grown-ups) know that they don’t have to smile if they aren’t feeling it. There are many ways to be strong, smart, happy, and other attributes. With or without a smile.

📚This book features some fantastic backmatter. Can you tell us what readers will find in the backmatter?

Thank you! The back matter in Smile, Sophia features a number of dinosaurs, fossils, and other things related to science that are scattered throughout the story’s illustrations. A few examples are a T. rex skull, a poster of Charles Darwin, and a megalodon tooth. You can learn a few things about each in the back matter, and then go on a treasure hunt for them in the book’s pages. Readers can also hunt for a little worm character on most of the pages!

📚If you could tell your readers one thing, what would it be?

It’s okay to be yourself, with or without a smile. We don’t have to perform emotions to please others. If you’re really into a hobby or area of study and want to focus on that, go for it. Your interests are valid, and the way you want or need to show yourself to the world is just fine the way it is!

Interview with Larissa Fan

Welcome to another #ChatWithThePBLady 🥳🎉 Today’s chat is with the fabulous Larissa Fan. We talked about her book TEN LITTLE DUMPLINGS.

Illustrated by Cindy Wume.

📚Do you have a favorite family recipe?

Dumplings of course! My dad makes great classic pork and cabbage dumplings, along with a secret sauce which involves sautéed green onions and soy sauce.

📚What’s your favorite form of transportation?

Train. I love that I can relax and watch the scenery unfolding, and that I can read without getting motion sick! And there’s an inherent romance to the train.

📚If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

Do not approach before noon.

📚What fictional character has a similar personality to yours?

I’m struggling with this one as there aren’t many introverts who are main characters. Maybe Mary Anne from The Babysitter’s Club because she’s shy and a bookworm. And while I’m not as brave or outspoken as Jo March from Little Women, I’d say I was inspired by her because she challenges convention and is determined.

📚Now, let’s talk about TEN LITTLE DUMPLINGS. What five words best describe your book?

Inspiring, feminist, cute, gentle, joyful.

📚What does this book mean to you and why was this story important to tell?

It’s based on the real story of my father’s family. He is one of ten brothers and they were locally famous in his hometown. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized he also had a sister who wasn’t mentioned in family lore. So I wanted to recognize her, and by extension all the women who’ve been left out of history. Sex selection and preference for boys is also something that still goes on, so I hope it might encourage some discussion around that (although it’s a complex issue).

📚There’s a hidden heroine that you don’t see until later on in the book. How can this heroine encourage and inspire young girls who read this story?

I think it’s important for both girls and boys to know that even though you might not be the star of the show, you’re still worthwhile. Kids might feel they’re lacking if they’re shy and quiet. But the heroine in this story finds purpose and success through quiet determination, not through grand gestures. I wanted kids to see this as a possibility.

And in a broader sense, girls and women have traditionally been left out of history. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important and haven’t been doing worthwhile things all along. I hope that idea can inspire young girls.

📚The ending features the little girl all grown up with a little dumpling of her own. Why was it important to you to show the little girl as a grown woman?

It was important for me to show that she breaks the tradition with her own family, that she gives her own daughter the attention she didn’t get herself growing up. So things can change, we don’t have to follow the script that has been given to us. And I wanted to show that girl dumplings can also be treasured.

📚What discussion questions would you encourage parents and teachers to ask readers after reading your book?

What happens when you choose to tell one person’s story? Whose story might be left out? 

If you were to pick another character in one of your favourite books to tell their story, who would it be?

For older children: Why do you think the ten little boy dumplings are so valued in this story but the girl is mostly left out? (This will require some background knowledge from teachers and caregivers. I’m working on an educator’s guide, but this is a start:


Drum roll please! 🥁🥁🥁 #KidlitCritiqueDay is coming up on July 15th! 🎉🥳

Are you ready to learn more about this awesomely exciting day?

Yes? Well, here we go!

#KidlitCritiqueDay is a day where picture book creators can find critique partners and win critiques from authors, illustrators, and industry professionals .

So how do you participate in this awesome day?

1. On July 15th, be on the look out for #KilitCritiqueDay Connection Posts. These posts will help you connect with people who are looking for critique partners. You’ll find several of these posts throughout the day.

2. There will be lots of opportunities to win critiques from some amazingly talented people. Once you find a #KidlitCritiqueDay giveaway post, you must comment, like, and retweet to enter. Doing all three is required. Makes sure to read the details of the critique offer carefully and only enter if you have a story that fits the requirements. You’ll find all the details about the critique giveaways below.

But first I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who is generously offering critiques. Thank you so much! 🥳🥳🥳

* Please note that the critique giveaways are for picture book manuscripts only.

Julia Lyon ( the author of A DINOSAUR NAMED RUTH) is generously offering a critique of 1,000 words or less on a nonfiction picture book.
Rebecca Gardyn Levington (author of the book BRAINSTORM) is generously offering a critique on a rhyming or non rhyming picture book of 500 words or less.

Amber Hendricks (author of AUTUMN LEAVES FALL and more) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming picture book of 1,000 words or less.
Elisa Boxer (author of TURTLE’S LAST STRAW) is generously offering a 30 minute zoom call.
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez (agent at Context Literary) is generously offering an above the slush pile submission.
Charlotte Sullivan Wild (author of LOVE, VIOLET) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming picture book of 750 words or less.
Nancy Viau (author of TODAY IS A BEACH DAY and FIRST SNOW) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming picture book of 500 words or less.
Kirsten W. Larson (author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS and A TRUE WONDER) is generously offering a critique on a non fiction or informational fiction story of 1,800 words or less.
Cindy Wiliams Schrauben (author of THIS COULD BE YOU) is generously offering a critique on a fiction story of 1,000 words or less.
Donna Cangelosi (author of MR. ROGER’S GIFT OF MUSIC) is generously offering a critique on a fiction or non fiction story of 600 words or less.
June Smalls (author of SHE LEADS and HE LEADS) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming story of 1,000 words or less.
Becky Scharnhorst (author of MY SCHOOL STINKS and THIS FIELD TRIP STINKS) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming story.

Norene Paulson (author of BENNY’S TRUE COLORS) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming story,
Benson Shum (author and illustrator of ANZU THE GREAT KAIJU and more) is generously offering a critique on a prose story. It can be fiction or non fiction.
Serena Gingold Allen (author of SUNRISE DANCE and MOONLIGHT PRANCE) is generously offering a critique on a rhyme or prose story of 500 words or less.
Sarah Hovorka (author of HATTIE HATES HUGS) is generously offering a critique on a fiction non rhyming story of 1,000 words or less.
Josh Funk (author of MY PET FEET and more) is generously offering a critique on any story of 1,000 words or less.
Margaret Aitken (author of OLD FRIENDS) is generously offering a critique on a fiction story of 1,000 words or less.

Karen Patricia Nespoli (author of GERTIE SAVES THE DAY) is generously offering a critique on a story of 750 words or less. No rhyming or lyrical please.

Margaret Chiu Greanias (author of MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS and more) is generously offering a critique on a prose story. No rhyme please.
Janet Sumner Johnson (author of HELP WANTED MUST LOVE BOOKS) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming story that’s 1,000 words or less.

Hope Lim (author of MOMMY’S HOMETOWN) is generously offering a critique on a prose story. No rhyme please.
C.K Malone (author of the book A COSTUME FOR CHARLY) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming story under 1,000 words.
Vivian Kirkfield (author of Four OTTERS TOBOGGAN and more) is generously offering a critique on a story that’s 1,000 words or less.)
Kate Allen Fox (author of PANDO) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming story that’s under 1,000 words.
Lindsay Leslie (author of SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A LIBRARY and more) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming story.
Kailei Pew (author of the upcoming book I SEE COLOR) is generously offering a critique on a story that’s 1,000 words or less.
Traci Sorell (author of POW WOW DAY and more) is generously offering a critique on story under 1,000 words by a bipoc writer.
Pat Zietlow Miller (author of SEE YOU SOMEDAY SOON and more) is generously offering a critique on a non rhyming story.
Laura Clement (author of EGG) is generously offering a non rhyming critique to a neuro diverse writer.
Lisa Katzenberger (author of IT WILL BE OK) is generously offering a critique on any picture book story.

Malcolm Newsome. (Author of the upcoming books DEAR STAR BABY and SYDNEY’S BIG SPEECH.) Is offering a critique on any picture book story. As well as 3 follow up questions asked with in a week of the critique.
Dan Cramer (Founder and agent at Page Turner Literary. He represents CK Malone) is offering a critique on a story of 1,000 words or less. Fiction or non fiction. No rhyme please.

Monica Acker (author of Brave Like Mom) is offering a critique on a non rhyming manuscript of 600 words or less. Or a non fiction manuscript of 1000 words or less.

Interview with Laura K. Zimmermann

It’s time for another #ChatWithThePBLady 🥳🎉 Today’s interview is with Laura K. Zimmermann. Read on to find out more about the beautiful book MUSHROOM RAIN.

📚Who inspires you? 

People who spin tales that ignite curiosity.

📚What’s your favorite movie or tv quote?

“Inconceivable! … You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The Princess Bride

📚What are your favorite hot dog toppings?


📚What something you would love to learn more about?

If it is something I want to learn about, I do. I’ve spent a lot of my life down research rabbit holes looking for answers. If I can’t find them there, I branch out. For children’s literature that may mean reaching out to experts, in my work as a researcher I conduct studies. What topics I look at in both parts of my life change regularly. There is so much to learn!

📚Let’s talk about MUSHROOM RAIN. What makes this book such a fantastic non fiction read?

I have to give mushrooms the credit for that. They are bizarre, mysterious and there is so much about them we still don’t know. You don’t have to like eating mushrooms to get caught up in their wonder.

📚The language in this book is beautiful. Was it difficult to combine beautiful lyrical language with such interesting information? What was your writing process like?

Thank you. I wanted the feel of the book to reflect the mystery of a hidden world that reaches out beneath our feet and the bizarre “blooms” that appear suddenly and soon vanish. Lyrical language helped me create that.

My writing process for all of my work involves a lot of revision. Writing was never my strength growing up and I still find it a challenge sometimes to express myself on the page. Mushroom Rain went through many drafts. Creating the right feel and flow with so few words is always a challenge. Having a wonderful agent and critique partners to tell me what is working and what is not has been, and continues to be, an invaluable part of the process.

📚This book is packed with information. What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve learned while writing this book?

Not only do mushroom mycelia help plants communicate, some fungal mycelia may even be able to learn and remember.

📚The back matter in this book is wonderful. What advice do you have for writers who want to add backmatter to their own nonfiction book?

Back matter is where my research side shines through. I love it. When I write a sparse story, I use backmatter to further explain things and fill in the blanks. Fun facts that don’t fit into the story, sometimes find their way there too. It is easier to “kill your [factual] darlings” when you can find another home for them. For people who are new to writing back matter, start by thinking about what information will help support your readers’ understanding. Then consider what else your readers may want to know and what will spark them to discover more on their own.

Interview with Benson Shum

It’s time for #ChatWithThePBLady 🥳🎉 I had the pleasure of chatting with the amazingly talented Benson Shum! Check out our interview below to learn more about his book ANZU THE GREAT KAIJU.

📚If you were the ruler of your own country, what’s the first law that you’d enforce?

Hmm… I would hope that everyone would have access to food, health care and BOOKS!!!

📚Do you have any funny or exciting vacation stories?

When I was a kid and learned about buffets on a cruise. I ate so much that my mom would always tell the story of the ONE time I ate so much on a cruise, A belly grew after the one week trip. And we have photos to prove it. Haha!

📚What’s your favorite restaurant or fast food chain? 

My favorite fast food is Burger King!! I usually order at least two whopper jr. I don’t know what they says about me. 😛

📚What teacher or teachers made a difference in your life? 

My art teacher. He was always encouraging and supportive of my art. When I published my first book, he even came to my launch! I was so happy to see him. My music teacher was another person that made a difference. Learning and playing music taught me how rhythm plays into everything we do. When we read, there is a rhythm to it. And I try to do the same when I write.

📚Now, let’s talk about ANZU THE GREAT KAIJU. This story is so creative. What’s the inspiration behind this wonderful book?

Thank you so much! The inspiration came from my love of giant monsters on the screen. For those that don’t know what a Kaiju is, a kaiju is a Japanese term for giant monster. For example, Godzilla is a Kaiju.  

The expectation of how we need to be or act was another inspiration. Monsters are usually seen as destructive, in this case, like Godzilla, he destroys everything in his path. But what if some kaijus don’t want to create chaos or destruction to their city?  What if their superpowers aren’t like the well-known monster we know?  I wanted to tell and showcase those monsters.

📚This book has so much heart and Anzu is such a loveable main character. What are your thoughts on writing picture books with heart?

Thank you for saying that. When writing, I try to get into the character’s head. What are they thinking, why are they feeling this way? This is something I do when animating as well. To get the performance of the character, we should know how they feel and that will dictate their actions. 

📚I feel like many children will be able to relate to Anzu. Do you agree? How might children relate to him?

Yes, thank you. I believe kids and adults will relate to Anzu. We all feel this way at some point or still do. We have an expectation of us that we hope we can live up to. But what if that expectation isn’t us?  And I hope we can find our courage like Anzu and show the world who we are and be proud of that. And others will see that as well.

📚Let’s talk a little bit about the illustrations. They’re so colorful and inviting. What are the main things you think about and consider before you start the illustration process?

Thank you, I wanted the character’s colors to represent who they are. For Anzu, I chose yellow, which has a bright, sunny, innocent and lively feel. With Mom, she was blue, to represent her superpower of water. Dad’s superpower was earth/boulders, so I went with oranges and browns. Whereas Grandma’s superpower was fire, so she has more red hues.

The overall book is colorful and bright, because I wanted it to showcase how lively and joyful Anzu is on the outside and inside.

Even in the character design, I tried to implement their superpowers. If you look at the designs in the spines of Mom, Dad, Grandma and Anzu, it resembles their superpower. I try to incorporate subtle design elements to enhance the character.

Thank you so much, Jenny, for sharing Anzu the Great Kaiju and having me part of your #ChatWithThePBLady

And I can’t wait to share the second book of Anzu called Anzu the Great Listener, coming out Jan 2023

Interview with Troy Wilson.

It’s time for #ChatWithThePBLady 🥳

If you’re looking for a beautiful and heartwarming book, you should definitely check out HAT CAT by Troy Wilson and Eve Coy. To find out more about this great book read my interview with Troy Wilson below.

What makes you happy? Good health. Good friends. Good family.

If you could interview anyone, who would you choose?


What’s your favorite outdoor activity?


If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

To a mountaintop with (A) my dad, (B) a fire, and (C) a view of city lights. 

Let’s talk about your beautiful book HAT CAT. What makes this book such a comforting read?

It’s comforting because the words and pictures are gentle, despite the dark patches. Plus, it ends happily.

Please tell us about the old man main character and the inspiration behind him.

The old man was inspired by one of my dearly departed grandfathers (who we called Pop). Like the old man in the story, Pop fed squirrels from his hat. Like the old man in the story, Pop was a gentle, welcoming soul who was in touch with nature. Unlike the old man in the story, Pop wasn’t a fan of cats.

What message do you hope this book conveys? What do you hope readers will feel after reading it? 

I hope they feel happy-sad. Or sad-happy. I hope the book conveys that life does not always present us with easy choices. We can only do our best – and sometimes that is enough.

This book has lots of heart. What do you think is the most important thing to remember when writing picture books with heart?

Be honest. Be open. Be concise. Readers can fill in the rest.

Interview with Jennifer Lavallee.

Jennifer Lavallee has an amazing book coming out (May 17th) called NATURE IS AN ARTIST. Read on to find out more about Jennifer and her wonderful art and nature inspired book.

Illustrations by Natalia Colombo.

📚Pancakes or waffles?

Oh, waffles for sure. How can you beat little cups of warm butter and syrup that you get with a waffle breakfast? I will say, however, that the waffle iron clean-up is much more intensive than it is when you make pancakes so perhaps a pancake breakfast does, occasionally, make more sense.

📚Do you like musicals?

No, not really. Though, I was in a production of Grease when I was younger and it was quite fun. 

📚What’s the best way to spend a day off?

I love no pressure days–we don’t have to run off to any appointments or do laundry. School is out and no work. I think a great way to enjoy a day off would be spending time with my family, maybe going to do something we all like to do, like visiting with friends or checking out the museum or the science centre. Then coming home to some good food and curling up on the couch to watch a movie.

📚What’s your favorite place to visit?

My parents live out at the Lake and I love visiting them because it’s always such a relaxed atmosphere. There’s also a golf course where they are and on Saturdays there’s always a cute little farmer’s market set up. I love that the kids have their “lake friends” there and that we can all sit around the fire and visit. I look forward to going out to the Lake every summer.

📚Now, let’s talk about NATURE IS AN ARTIST. This book encourages children to get art inspiration from nature. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this book?

I’m really excited about NATURE IS AN ARTIST, it turned out so lovely and I want to acknowledge the vibrant work of Natalia Colombo, who illustrated the book. 
My inspiration for the story comes from a few places but firstly, it’s a bit of a nod to both my parents. My dad loves to be outdoors and, growing up, he trekked us all over western Canada. So, the nature part of the book is inspired by the time we spent camping in Northern Alberta and in the Rockies. We travelled throughout Saskatchewan and into BC quite a bit as well. For the art side of the story, I drew inspiration from my mom who I think has tried every craft and art form you can think of. It was really fun to think back to being young and about what types of crafts I used to make when I was little. I also think of the crafts and art I make now with my own kids and it’s been such a joy to reminisce on all that.
I also drew inspiration for the initial idea of the book from a trip I took to Hawaii and few years ago. We visited the Napali Coast and it was simply breathtaking–you couldn’t tell where the ocean ended and the sky began, it was amazing. I remember thinking how this amazing view was like a painting.

📚There are so many wonderful art ideas featured in this book. Can you give us a sneak peek into what art projects we might find, and maybe share one of your favorites?

There are five different art forms explored in NATURE IS AN ARTIST. Within each art form there is an example of how that art form can be found in nature and then how the group of children can recreate it for themselves. There are ideas on crafts related to painting, collage, sculpting, stained glass art, and printmaking in the book. I’m really excited because there will also be two (free) downloadable companion guides for NATURE IS AN ARTIST that provides even more crafting ideas and additional content related to the five art forms (one guide for our youngest readers and one for elementary aged readers).
I think my favourite crafting idea from the book is the one related to stained glass art. On a very colourful page, the kids tear brightly coloured tissue paper into smaller pieces and paste them down inside a glass jar. “Inside we put a tealight / that twinkles like a star.” I love it because I feel like kids are so proud with the outcome of that particular craft. Visually, those little crafts always turn out so beautiful with the (battery powered) tealight inside.

📚How would you describe the writing style used for this book?

I describe NATURE IS AN ARTIST to be written in a gently rhythmic style. I tried to use words that sound really pleasing to the ear in a repetitive nature. In a review of the book from Booklist! the reviewer (Kit Ballenger) picked out some of the language she liked, saying NATURE IS AN ARTIST uses “compelling action verbs like dab, etches, and splashed.”

📚Do you have any words of encouragement for the young artists and nature lovers out there?I would say to young artists and nature lovers, take your time. Being in nature is magical and so refreshing, take it all in and look for the small, beautiful surprises out there just waiting to be found. I think so much in nature can inspire art of all kinds.

📚Is there anything else you’d like to share about your book?I want to say a very sincere thank you to everybody who is interested in NATURE IS AN ARTIST. Your support truly means so much to me and I hope you enjoy reading my (and Natalia’s) book. I would like to also gush, for one minute, about the vibrant illustrations of NATURE IS AN ARTIST. Natalia knocked it out of the park with her bright, inviting pictures. Her work is what makes picture books so special, there’s little rich details hidden throughout the pages, and I just love that.
I also invite anyone interested to reach out–I love to talk about kidlit (obviously, picture books but MGlit too!), nature and art, and writing. I’m easily found on twitter at @acutelyjen or on my website at

Interview with Abigail Rayner and Molly Ruttan

Are you ready for some gluten free fun?! Check out this special author and illustrator #ChatWithThePBLady

📚Do you like gameshows?

Abigail: I really don’t enjoy gameshows—they stress me out! TV is escapism for me, and game shows don’t do it. The only gameshow I have ever enjoyed was the spoof one called Numberwang, which makes no sense at all. I encourage everyone to check it out, especially Olivia Colman fans:

Molly: I’m not a gameshow fan, but I love playing table games! I do the crossword almost every day with my husband and I have been known to carry around a book of sudoku or ken-ken. I also love playing Bananagrams and Skip-Bo.

📚What’s the perfect way to spend a weekend?

Abigail: A perfect weekend involves walking my dogs, and any others I happen to have hanging around (I recently started a dog-sitting side gig, which is great fun). Usually, my husband and son will come along. Then it’s all about the coffee and writing, playing with kids and dogs, maybe a spot of baking. The sun shines, the birds sing…

Molly: My favorite activity right now is going to the zoo or the park with my daughter and new grandbaby! But I also love hearing live music, and going on road trips, especially if they end up somewhere very green with lots of trees, near a body of water, or both! The occasional weekend in the recording studio with my good friend Phideaux (who is continually composing amazing music) and other band-mates is also a lot of fun. (I sing and play drums.)

📚What superhero would make a great best friend?

Abigail: Superman because he’s so dependable and sweet. I would never have to stress about driving over bridges. Plus, he can fly, something which I haven’t managed to pull off yet, so maybe he could teach me.

Molly: Dr Strange! It would be incredible to be able to step through his portals and instantly visit my far-flung family & friends, and visit different parts of the world.

📚What does teamwork mean to you?

Abigail:It’s an equal exchange of ideas and sharing of work, where everyone feels seen and heard–the opposite of working in a team at school where the bossy kids override everything you say and then tell the teacher they had to do all the work!

Molly: I have an identical twin sister, so I grew up as a two-person team. I never played team sports, but I was born and raised with a partner. It is a natural state of being for me!

📚Now, let’s talk about VIOLET AND THE CRUMBS. Abigail can you tell us about this book and why it was important to write this story?

Abigail: Yes, this book is based on my daughter’s struggles with social isolation after she was diagnosed with celiac disease at age eight. Friendships get a little dicey around that age anyway, but celiac creates an extra complication. The first year was incredibly hard, and no one seemed to understand. My way of handling that was to write down what she was going through in little fragments, which later served as the basis for the book. Molly’s pictures do an amazing job of showing how Violet feels, and I can really see that kids are “getting it” when I read the book to them.

📚There’s lots of great humor woven into the story. Abigail, why was adding humor important? Do you have any advice for writers who want to add humor to their books?

Humor is the way I deal with most hard things! Rare is the moment when a laugh is out of place—at least for me. I think it’s a very English way of coping. I think we need to laugh to get us through, and it is a wonderful way of connecting with people. I don’t know what advice to give on writing humor except to say, don’t be afraid to tell the truth and don’t try too hard!

📚Molly, can you tell us about your illustration style? What are your favorite mediums to use?

I create my illustrations through a collaboration of traditional and digital media. I love working traditionally, so I work primarily with charcoal and pastel on watercolor and other papers. Then I scan everything into Photoshop and finish by compositing and painting digitally. I love the blends of texture and color I can create this way.

📚Molly, can you describe how you made Abigail’s words come to life? What were your first thoughts after reading the story?

It is a bit hard to describe! But as my former teacher Marla Frazee has said, “illustrators and writers don’t collaborate—words and pictures do!” So as my illustration enhances Abigail’s words, Abigail’s words enhance my illustration.
The first time I read Violet and the Crumbs: A Gluten-free Adventure, I couldn’t believe it!! I wish it had existed when my kids were little. My family has struggled with gluten intolerance for a long time, and it would have been SO helpful for us. I knew right away that it was an important book and I was thrilled to be a part of it!

📚Do either of you have any yummy gluten free snack ideas you’d like to share?

Abigail: I have millions, but I make a pretty bang-up gf Victoria sponge, which goes perfectly with whipped cream and berries.

Molly: My favorite gluten-free snack is a bowl of frozen grapes! I find them very refreshing.

📚What else would you like to say about your book?

Abigail: Although it is about celiac disease, it has universal appeal because we all feel different, or left out, sometimes and we all need to learn to advocate for ourselves and take care of each other. On the other hand, I love how the book reaches out a hand to kids with celiac specifically. I saw a picture of a child holding the book on Instagram the other day. They had recently been diagnosed with celiac and looked so thrilled to be holding it. The book will make celiac kids feel seen. Every time a classroom of kids reads Violet and the Crumbs they will have more knowledge and empathy about this disease than most adults. That’s pretty amazing.

Molly: My family love bunnies, and my house has been filled with both plushie and live bunnies for many years. I always love to include a bunny or two in every book I make! Also appearing in this book is a visual reference to my previous book with Abigail, I Am A Thief! Can you find the bunnies and the thief?