Today, I am privileged to be here with two amazing picture book authors who are no strangers to the blog: Sarah Aronson and Kate Hosford. Sarah is here to talk about Brand-New Bubbe, which was published by Charlesbridge.
Kate is here to talk about A Songbird Dreams of Singing: Poems about Sleeping Animals, which was published by Running Press Kids/Hachette.
Sarah is represented by Andrea Cascardi and Kate is represented by Victoria Wells Arms. (Click on the book titles above to learn more about each book.)
El Space: What inspired this book?
Sarah: Becoming a brand new bubbe! Hi Sylvie, Alice, and Emmett! When my stepson announced that he and his wife were expecting, my husband and I were delighted! I couldn’t wait to be a bubbe! I immediately found a dark lipstick! When I shared the good news with friends, someone said, “Does it feel odd, since technically, you aren’t related?” Not related? I couldn’t believe my ears. Our blended family IS family! I began thinking about our family and how family really is more than blood. It’s made with love. That was all the inspiration I needed! I sat back and thought about all the changes in Jillian’s life, and how change is hard for kids. And then I thought about how family, like soup, is made of love . . . Just like writing, right? I’m so grateful to my editor, Yolanda Scott, for seeing the potential in this story, and for finding Ariel Landy to create the illustrations. Now, when I read this book, I invite kids to make their “family constellation,” and include all the people that bring light into their lives. It’s amazing!
Kate: My original inspiration for this story came from reading The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by the naturalist, Sy Montgomery. After finishing this amazing book, I was sure that I wanted to write a poetry collection about octopuses for children. Although I did not know the author, I reached out to her to see if I could write to some of her contacts at the New England Aquarium. To my delight, Sy invited me to go to the aquarium with her and a group of friends. During our visit, I met her namesake, Sy the Octopus, along with many wonderful aquarium employees and volunteers.
But somehow, the poetry collection for octopuses never happened. My poems either seemed too serious or too trite, and I felt that I could not do justice to these incredibly intelligent and complex creatures. However, somewhere in the midst of my research, I discovered that some scientists believe that octopuses can dream. This led me to research the sleep habits of many different animals. After I found out that otters hold hands while sleeping, zebra finches rehearse their songs while dreaming, and frigate birds can sleep while flying, I knew I had found a new topic for my book. In 2019, A Songbird Dreams of Singing: Poems about Sleeping Animals was published with Running Press Kids.
El Space: The joy of writing always comes through in each of your books. I know there had to be challenges, because every great book has those. But what was the most delightful aspect of writing this book?
Sarah: Always the most fun is getting the illustrations! I LOVE how Ariel Landy depicted Jillian and Bubbe—and their pets. I love a great subtext! Like every book I write, this one took lots of revision, tinkering, and reimagination. The turning point in this story came after I made a dummy. Writers, I know it can be hard, but it is such an important step. That dummy showed me where the pacing was working . . . and where it wasn’t.
Kate: Thank you for saying that! The most delightful part of writing these poems was twofold: I loved the challenge of translating the science into accessible poetry for children, using many different poetic forms. I also loved corresponding with animal scientists who are probably one of the most generous communities I’ve ever encountered. I reached out to experts from all over the world and almost all of them took the time to write me back, edit my research, and generally educate me on the sleep habits of animals.
One of my poems was about a snail who had been found in Egypt and added to the collection at the British Museum in 1846. The museum conchologists glued the shell to a label, assuming the snail was dead. In 1850, the conchologists noticed a slimy mucus plug underneath the shell and realized that he still might be alive. After the shell was bathed in warm water, and the snail emerged, no worse for wear. It became so famous for its long nap that its portrait was drawn by a prominent artist at the time. The snail is now housed at the Natural History Museum in London.
I had been corresponding with Jonathan Ablett, the senior curator of Mollusca at the Natural History Museum, who said he could show me the famous snail’s shell if I came to London. We were planning a vacation there anyway, so my husband and I were able to see the shell along with many invertebrate specimens collected by Darwin, and all sorts of other fascinating creatures housed in the floors beneath the museum’s exhibition halls. Jon also kindly added my book to the museum’s library of mollusca and cephalopods. This was, beyond a doubt, one of the highlights of my career.
Kate’s book, with a very orange octupus.
El Space: What will you work on next?
Sarah: I am finishing up work on my next picture book biography, Abzuglutely: Battling Bellowing Bella Abzug (Calkins Creek, Astra Publishing). I just got a peek at the illustrations, and WOW. It is going to be gorgeous. Bella was one of my childhood heroes, and I am SO HONORED to be writing about her. I also just finished an adult novel and I’ve got a couple of projects in other genres, too. Anyone that knows me knows that I can’t say no to any idea, or a new genre! Creativity should not come with a brand. It’s all about joy! And reaching for more. And thinking and dreaming big, always with wonder and appreciation.
Kate: I usually work on many different things at once. My picture book, You’ll Always Be My Chickadee will come out with Chronicle in the spring of 2024. I wrote it during the summer of 2020, which we spent in Vermont where I grew up. I thought a lot that summer about all the time I had spent with my family exploring the forest, river, meadow, and other natural wonders around my childhood home, and bonds that nature can create between parent and child. I have also sold another book and will be happy to reveal more about that soon!
In terms of other projects, I am working on a book about animal mothers, a collection of poems about things that shed, a story about a day spent wearing pajamas, an early reader series, and a book about the moon.
Thank you both for being my guests!
Kate: Thank you for having me and Sarah on El Space today!
Looking for Sarah? You can find her at her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Looking for Kate? You can find her at her website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Brand-New Bubbe: Bookshop, Indiebound, Booked, Amazon, Barnes and Noble
A Songbird Dreams of Singing: Poems about Sleeping Animals: Bookshop, Amazon, Barnes and Noble
A copy of each book will be given away, Kate’s to one winner and Sarah’s to another. (Happy Holidays, y’all.) Comment below on your favorite seasonal cookie to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced next week.
Other books by Sarah and Kate (click on each book to learn where to purchase)
Book covers from Goodreads. Sarah Aronson author photo courtesy of Sarah Aronson. Kate Hosford author photo and museum photo courtesy of Kate Hosford. Sleeping otters photo from Reddit.