Q&A with Cheryl Lawton Malone

As calves, Asian elephants Precious and Baba roam the wild together, curious and proud. But when they get captured and are split up, their time together seems like a distant memory. Still, separated by many miles and over many years, their friendship remains, and there’s hope they will once again roam wide open spaces together. Elephants Walk Together by Cheryl Lawton Malone and illustrated by Bistra Masseva (the team that created Dario and the Whale) share this sweet friendship inspired by a true story.


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We were lucky to sit down and chat with Cheryl about finding inspiration, handling sensitive information, and Elephants Walk Together.

Q. What was your inspiration for your title?

A. The story of Precious and Baba is inspired by the amazing lives of two wild Asian elephants. I first heard about Wanda and Gypsy in an HBO documentary narrated by Lily Tomlin titled An Apology to Elephants. The fact that these lovely ladies were able to spend their last years in a safe environment, free and walking together, is what inspired the title.

Q. Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A. To tell a heartfelt story with a beginning, middle and end, populate that story with lovable, unforgettable characters, and entertain a four to eight year old audience plus parents in less than 500 words is a challenge to say the least. Sometimes my stories take years to develop. Typically, I experience an event. In Dario and the Whale, it was seeing the whale myself. In Elephants Walk Together, the HBO documentary opened my eyes to the plight of elephants in captivity. I know I’ve stumbled upon a good story idea when I can’t stop thinking about the event. I think about it at the grocery store. I think about it at night. I think about it until the door to the either the characters or the structure opens. For example, the HBO documentary depicted all kinds of elephants. It wasn’t until I narrowed my focus to Wanda and Gypsy that I knew I’d found my way in. The challenge then is to research the topic well enough so I can write with confidence. If the words don’t come, I know I have to go back and read more. In addition to actual research material, I always work with mentor texts. Once I start the actual writing process, I give myself permission to try multiple POV, multiple main characters, multiple voices until I think I find the tone and combination that works best. Then I show the manuscript to my writing group and start again!


Q. What inspired you to write these specific elephants in captivity?

A. The story of Precious and Baba is inspired by the amazing lives of two wild Asian elephants. Like the majority of elephants in captivity today, Wanda and Gypsy were captured in the wild and sold to a circus. Their story becomes extraordinary when, after decades of separation, they reconnected at the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s (PAWS) elephant refuge in San Andreas, California. The amazing people who run PAWS pieced together the historical facts about the real elephants and published the information on their website. My agent, Clelia Gore, believed the plight of captive elephants could be brought to children in a heartfelt and appropriate way. I couldn’t have agreed more.

Q. How did you tackle such sensitive material?

 A. The HBO documentary highlights the poor treatment and difficult living conditions of captive elephants in North America so intensely that I spent months sifting through different story options before I found a friendship angle that I thought would be appropriate for children. I fictionalized the elephants intentionally in order to distance my young readers from the difficult parts of the story. I was pleased when Kirkus complimented the way the text and the illustrations (kudos to Bistra Masseva) handled sensitive scenes like the elephants’ capture and their treatment in the circus.


Q. What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book

 A The hardiest part of creating a book is finding the story’s emotional core. Once you do that, the rest may take a while but it’s relatively easy.

Q. Why write children’s books?

 A. I was a corporate attorney for 22 years. While I loved the law and had an amazing career, I’d always wanted to write fiction. I made the switch about seven years ago and now write, teach, and consult full-time. Children’s writing, specifically picture books, appeals to my love for poetry and for stories well-told. It doesn’t hurt that I love interacting with kids, too.

Q. Are you working on any other projects?

A. Currently, I’m obsessed with another fascinating, endangered species—wolves!


Thanks so much, Cheryl! Find out more about Elephants Walk Together on our website.

Q&A with Cheryl Lawton Malone

Q&A with Megan E. Bryant and Katherine Locke

At AW Teen, we’re lucky to have two great YA novels—both which put a spin on history—publishing this fall. In Glow uncover the secrets of the Radium Girls one hundred years later with a contemporary teen. In The Girl with the Red Balloon a contemporary teen time travels to 1988 East Berlin and discovers a plot to alter history with dark magic.

We were lucky enough to have Megan and Katherine sit down to chat about writing historical fiction, revising, and being debut YA authors.


Megan E. Bryant: Hi, Katherine! Congratulations on The Girl with the Red Balloon—the best book I’ve read this summer. What a stunning book!

Katherine Locke: Hi, Megan! I am obsessed with Glow and I’m excited to reread it—my mom read my ARC after me and now she’s obsessed too! What made you decide to write about the Radium Girls and specifically using two timelines?

Megan: Thanks so much for your kind words, Katherine. I stumbled across an article about the Radium Girls in the summer of 2010, and was immediately captivated by their story. I was also shocked, and even horrified, that I’d never heard of them before—especially because I adore history and science, and I’m even married to a history professor. It seemed so terribly unjust that their story had been largely forgotten, when they sacrificed so much—truly, they were just as much casualties of World War I as the soldiers who fought on the front lines. At the same time, the Radium Girls’ determination to learn the truth behind their illnesses, and to make sure no one else would suffer as they did, has impacted many generations, including our own. So I felt called to tell their story and to help bring wider recognition to this remarkable group of young women. However, their stories were so heartbreaking, and so distressing, that it felt too hopeless, almost, for YA novel. A dual perspective with a modern-day narrator brings in some relief from the relentless suffering of the Radium Girls and allows for some hope (at least, I hope it does!).


Katherine: I think it worked! It was definitely a tearjerker, but it was also hopeful. And interesting, and complicated. I really loved the relationship between Julie and her mother and how that developed. Job well done.

Megan: Thank you! Tell me where the idea for The Girl With the Red Balloon came from. What inspired you?

Katherine: Is it cheating to say 99 Red Balloons on the radio and driving alongside a median on my way to work? I feel like it should be more inspiring than that, but that’s what happened. I’d been wanting to write a book about forgiveness, and then when I heard that song, I had a mental image of a girl floating over a wall, holding onto a red balloon. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. What wall? Why a balloon? What’s she leaving?’ And when I got to work, I sat down and quickly wrote the first chapter of the first draft. That’s now the second chapter, and from a different point of view than the first draft, but the heart of it is still there. Did Glow change a lot in revisions?

Megan: I love that the song was part of your inspiration. It’s basically been in my head since I first held my ARC! Yes, Glow definitely changed a great deal during revisions. There was an entire supporting character who was chopped—along with the 10,000 words he occupied! —just last summer. My writing process is very revision-based because I like to layer my work, and for me, the layering mainly happens once a working draft is in place. In fact, the layering for Glow was one of the most challenging aspects, because there was so much to keep track of: when Julie found the paintings, and what Lydia wrote in particular letters that related to them, and the related artifacts that Julie finds during her search for paintings. I have several notebooks and charts from the years of revision—fond memories now, thankfully!

I’m curious if you have any particular writing rituals or routines.

Katherine: I almost always write out of my house. If my couch or my bed is within reach, I’ll probably take a nap instead. So I usually work out of my house, with a chai latte, and headphones on, even if I’m not listening to any music. And like you, I think that my books are born in revisions. I really like tinkering with them, layering on different aspects, pulling one plot thread through and tugging at another. If it wasn’t for deadlines, I’d tinker with a book forever.

I think the other thing about writing historical fiction is that it’s very easy to fall into a black hole of research. I usually start by reading a few books that give me a broad overview, and then doing some research on the internet before I begin writing. But I also research as I write, check street names and maps, making sure I had the Berlin Wall on the correct side of the river and the right distance of the death zone or the correct spelling of a subway stop. I layer in things like slang, dialect, clothing, and food of the time in revisions. Is that how you did research?

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Megan: Yes. I was slowly plotting and processing, writing bits here and there—sometimes actual scenes, sometimes just notes for scenes—while I researched. I read several secondary sources to get a better understanding of the time period, and of course many primary sources, including newspaper articles chronicling the Radium Girls’ struggles, as well as a wonderful book of World War I-era letters called Letters from a Lost Generation. I also conducted several in-person interviews as part of my research and managed to get myself kicked out of a hospital when I investigated their radiation-exposure protocols and viewed their decontamination room (one of the lines in the book—“She shouldn’t even be here!”—was actually spoken about me! I had to use it.). My favorite part of the research is the fascinating little tidbits that are uncovered—searching for recipe cards and restaurant menus from a hundred years ago; period valentines and typical holiday gifts. All the tiny ways in which we express our humanity from generation to generation.

And while we’re on the topic of research, I can tell how exhaustive yours was just from reading your book. Are there any fascinating things you discovered that didn’t make it into the final draft?

Katherine: I love that hospital story! I definitely have a tendency to over-research, so I can go down some really fun rabbit holes. Because of food shortages, East Germans almost always carried a shopping bag with them so they could jump into line as soon as they heard about the availability of a rare product. And they used shopping bags made out of Dederon, which was the East German equivalent of nylon. This was just a way of life. And I learned a lot about feminine hygiene product availability in the GDR (spoiler alert: they were hard to get). But I also learned a ton I didn’t know prior to the book, like the ghost stations. The subway trains in Berlin used tracks that went through East German, but after the wall went up, they couldn’t stop at those East German subway stations. They were patrolled by soldiers and remained empty for years. I used one of those for the magical underground guild’s hideout. I love finding gems like that in history, something that I can share with others that they might not know.

What surprised you the most about writing Glow?

Megan: Those are wonderful pieces of knowledge! You did a great job subtly incorporating the history so that it’s an organic part of the story and never a distraction. As for Glow, I was stunned to learn that the Radium Girls were put in deliberate danger. Even after the (male) managers and company owners were aware of how deadly exposure to radiation can be—and even after the men issued themselves protective gear—they took no steps to protect the women who were using powdered radium every day. And there were no legal protections at that time, either. One of the reasons I find the story of the Radium Girls to be so compelling is because one hundred years before “Nevertheless, she persisted” became a rallying cry for women, the words could just as easily apply to them. No one wanted to acknowledge what was happening to the girls; no one wanted to help them—even doctors and dentists turned them away; in some cases, their own communities shunned them—and yet they didn’t give up until the whole world knew about the dangers of radium, which led to safer practices and protocols, including workplace safety requirements that we all benefit from today. The Radium Girls didn’t have to die, but they used their activism to save countless lives. In fact, one of the most heart-wrenching facts I learned in my research is that radium dials were used during World War II as well, but no one died, and no one got sick, because of basic safety protocols that were enforced thanks to the Radium Girls and their fight.

I’d like to talk a little about the ways in which you combine historical fiction and fantasy. How do you manage to bring two distinct genres together without, say, disrespecting the real experiences and tremendous suffering of those who experienced persecution and genocide? This was really beautifully nuanced in your book and I’m curious about what led you to this approach and how you executed it so successfully.

Katherine: I don’t know what made me decide there’d be magic in the book, but my first love has always been fantasy books. And specifically, I think I’ve always loved books that felt like one genre, with splashes of magic (I’m thinking of A Wrinkle in Time, which felt contemporary—for its time—with a fantastical element, and Bridge to Terabithia, which was contemporary, with a fantastical element). I think it provides a gateway to looking at difficult times in our history, especially times we might not learn about in school. I didn’t learn about East Germany until I was in college, and I know many people who didn’t grow up in Jewish communities don’t learn about the Holocaust until middle school. Those are big events, big ideas, and sometimes it’s easier to get access to them through magic. I wasn’t a huge fan of history in school and I really fell in love with it later when I started learning individual stories and how they fit into a bigger picture. There’s a line in the book where Kai says, “The people never mentioned in history books still made history.” And I think that’s what guides the historical fiction I write, magic or no magic.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

Megan: Yes, I have a series for younger readers coming out from Scholastic next year; it’s called Pocket Geniuses and it’s about a boy who is struggling in school and makes a wish for extra help only to have his miniature set of “Heroes of History” action figures come to life to help him, with unexpected consequences! So it blends some history and some magic in a modern-day context, and has been just tremendous fun to write—a lot more light-hearted than Glow, that’s for sure! I’m also starting work on a new YA, but it all feels so early and fragile that I’m too superstitious to say anything else.

What have you been working on lately?

Katherine: I’m about to start edits on the second book in the Balloonmakers series! It’s a companion novel, set in the same universe (Ballooniverse? My friend Paul Krueger, also an author, came up with that) but with a whole new cast of characters. It’s about a sister and a brother who are both recruited to use magic on different facets of the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was the super top-secret project to build a nuclear bomb during WWII before anyone else did. It was so top secret that the Vice President didn’t know about it. When Roosevelt died, Truman was sworn in and had to be told about this enormous moral, financial, and political power he’d inherited. All from splitting an atom. It has a big, dynamic cast and I am really excited for it! It’ll be out Fall 2018.

This was fun, Megan. Let’s do it again sometime.

Megan: Yes, absolutely! You’re an incredible writer, Katherine, and a fantastic person to explore Chicago with during the ALA Annual conference. I’m so glad that our books brought us together. Best of luck with the release of The Girl with the Red Balloon and all your upcoming books!

Katherine: Same with you! I’m so excited for people to meet Julie and Lydia.


Thanks, Megan and Katherine! To find more about Glow and The Girl with the Red Balloon check out our website.

Q&A with Megan E. Bryant and Katherine Locke

AW Teen Twitter Chat

Want to win this fun prize pack? Participate in our #AWTeen Twitter chat on Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. CDT!

Have you ever wondered what being an author is really like? Do you have a burning question about our young adult novels?

On Tuesday, September 12 at 8 p.m. CDT, you will have a chance to ask ten of our authors questions during our Fall ’17 #AWTeen Twitter chat, moderated by Stacey from Page Turners! One participant will be randomly selected to win a set of AW Teen novels along with a special prize pack!

Time: 8-9 p.m. CDT

Hashtag: #AWTeen


Authors participating:


One participant will be randomly selected to receive our two brand-new young adult historical fiction novels along with a prize pack, which includes a candle, phone case, speakers, lights, nail polish, and more!

AW Teen Twitter Chat Prize Pack



AW Teen Twitter Chat

Welcome Back to School

It’s always tough to say goodbye to lazy summer days, but by the time the end of August rolls around we often find ourselves excited for the start of school. This time of year is full of dreams and promise, new and old friendships, fun classes and activities. What do you want to accomplish this year? Who will you become? What will you learn?



To welcome you back to a fun, rewarding, and educational school year we wanted to share a few fun activities for kids based on our titles—and discussion guides for their dedicated teachers and librarians.


For Kids

Keep the back to school fun going with fun downloadable activities starring Chloe Zoe, the adorable yellow elephant. There are activities like word searches, mazes, and spot the difference to go along with both preschool- and kindergarten-aged titles.



Take out the new boxes of crayons and markers! Have fun coloring dogs from The Buddy Files series, dinosaurs (plus many other craft projects!) from One More Dino on the Floor, kids from Janine and the My Emotions and Me series, or plants from First Peas to the Table, and In the Garden with Dr. Carver.

For older students learning to read independently, there is no better series than The Boxcar Children series, a classic that is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Read about the adventures of the Alden children—and once you’ve finished a book, you can take a quiz to see which kid you’re most like or even get in touch with them to ask a question!

Our website also has a slew of activities that keeps the fun going from classroom to home to backyard. Try your skill at word puzzles, your hand at crafts, or even bake up a delicious treat inspired by the books!

For Teachers and Librarians

Teachers get to have fun going back to school, too: meeting new students, sharing favorite books, and opening up a world of possibilities.


General Info:

Did you know all of Albert Whitman’s books are leveled with Accelerated Reader, Guided Reading, Scholastic Reading Counts, and Reading Recovery? We also provide Common Core Curriculum Connections for our most recent titles. All this information can be downloaded on our School and Libraries page.

Picture Books:

Bring history alive with books about notable historical figures. Start with guides on Dorothea Lange, Swimming with Sharks, and The William Hoy Story.

Plus, continue discussions about the natural world, science, and math with creative classroom activities based on the Wells of Knowledge or These Things Count series or the books Dig Those Dinosaurs, First Peas to the Table, and In the Garden with Dr. Carver.

For harder-to-discuss topics like bullying, abuse, and learning disabilities we’ve created a guide to go along with Nobody Knew What to DoNot in Room 204, and The Alphabet War, all titles soon to be available paperback for the first time.

Early Readers and Chapter Books:

Start classroom discussions for titles included in The Buddy Files series, Lulu series, and Zapato Power series with these engaging guides.

The Boxcar Children series:

The Boxcar Children have been a teacher-favorite since the very first book, which Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote for her students. She knew the vocabulary and content were appropriate for young readers—and that they would relish the Boxcar Children’s independence and opportunities for adventure. Today, teachers and librarians love the series for the message of teamwork and empathy, because even when the Boxcar Children uncover the villain of the mystery they’re solving, it’s more than just that: they care about the person and situation, and they work hard to set things right again. It’s easy to tie The Boxcar Children into your classroom with a Common Core-aligned guide. Plus, the same Boxcar activities mentioned above for kids are also available in easy-to-download themed packets.

AW Teen:

Bolster dialogues about young adult titles including Being Henry David, Down From the Mountain, Guantanamo Boy, Promise Me Something, and This Is How I Find Her.


As the months of the year fly by, don’t forget to check our site frequently for more fun activities and helpful guides.

Happy school year from the Albert Whitman & Company team!

Welcome Back to School

Q&A with Lori Haskins Houran

Warts and All: A Book of Unconditional Love celebrates love in all shapes and sizes! Love isn’t just for the cute, the sweet, and the cuddly. Whether you’re awkward as a baby ostrich, prickly as a tiny hedgehog, or drool like a puppy pug, someone loves you no matter what! This new story from the team that created Next To You features an irresistible array of adorably stinky, grouchy, burpy, and warty animals to drive the point home.

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We were lucky enough to sit down with author Lori Haskins Houran to chat about a parent’s love, second books, and Warts and All.

Q: What was the inspiration for your title?

A: My younger son, Michael, will be appalled that I’m sharing this, but a few years ago he got a big, gnarly patch of warts on his elbow. I assured him that I loved him, warts and all, and as I did, I chuckled to myself at using the expression so literally. Then I thought—Hey, that would make a good book title! I could picture a homely little toad on the cover. And I knew just what the book would be about: the unconditional love that parents have for our children. We really do love them no matter what. Even if they get warts and cradle cap and funky rashes. Even if they keep us up all night and pee straight into our faces when we’re changing their diapers. (That last one was my older son, Jameson. Now both kids get to be embarrassed!)

Q: How was the process of writing this book different than writing Next to You?

A: Next to You was all about baby animals at their most adorable and irresistible. It was fun thinking up the cutest possible critters to include. This book celebrates baby animals at their most awkward, and I have to say, it was even more fun coming up with clumsy, quirky candidates!


Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: Not necessarily. If I have an idea percolating, I’ll think about it on and off all day. Those are the days that I burn the toast in the morning and let the pasta boil over at night! I do most of the actual writing while my kids are at school. I tell myself that I’ll write more after they go to bed, but it rarely happens, because I end up falling asleep, too!

Q: What are the hardest and easiest parts of writing a book?

A: I have a tough time with first drafts. It’s hard not to lose faith in my ideas as I’m trying to get them down on paper. Each time I hit a point where I think, “This is a terrible idea. And it’s probably been done a million times before!” If I push through that stage and get the basic story structure in place, then I can relax. I enjoy revising. It’s a treat to play with words.


Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: As a kid, I was the reading equivalent of a hungry omnivore. I read all the time, and I read everything. Fiction. Nonfiction. The back of the cereal box. (Seriously. I loved to read while I ate, and if I was out of books, I’d resort to perusing the packages on the table.) Some of my favorites were Frog and Toad Together, The Trumpet of the Swan, Harriet the Spy, Eight Cousins, and the Trixie Belden mysteries. I was also obsessed with a musty old biographical series called The Childhood of Famous Americans. I’m still open to lots of different genres. My top fiction pick of the past few years is Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, and for nonfiction, I don’t think you can beat Erik Larson.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: I have a couple of picture books in the works, and an easy-to-read biography of Thomas Edison. My sons, who are now in middle school, have been encouraging me to try middle-grade fiction. I just might give it a whirl!


Thanks so much, Lori! Find out more about Warts and All on our website and both of Lori’s adorable titles in this video.

Q&A with Lori Haskins Houran

Q&A With Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer

Nightlights, a lyrical picture book about all the lights at night, is written by a fun collaborating team: uncle and nephew Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer! The rhyming text is pared playfully with bright artwork by Alice Brereton.


We were lucky enough to sit down with Paul and Dan to chat about collaboration, a love of poetry, and Nightlights.

Q: How did you come up with Nightlights?

A: Paul: Years ago, my dad (Dan’s grandfather) planted and pruned his garden according to the phases of the moon. When he passed away we started writing a series of moon poems in his honor. Ultimately that series turned into the poems that make up Nightlights.

Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: Dan: Chewing on a pencil, staring into space, calling a friend, wondering what I’m going to have for dinner…but then eventually the words come and it’s off to the races.

Paul: Writing for me is sort of like a road trip with a destination in mind but no map. I get lost, there are detours and stopovers, joys, frustrations and surprises. When I do arrive I feel happy and proud.

Q: What is your process for collaborating?

A: Dan and Paul: Well, first of all, we are an uncle and nephew team, so luckily any disagreements we have are all kept in the family. Usually one of us comes up with an idea and together we push and pull and massage that idea into something larger. We also live some distance from each other so we spend a lot of time discussing ideas on the phone, and emailing and texting. If those fail us, skywriting is always an option too.

Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?

A: Dan and Paul: It was wonderful. When we wrote our first book [Silver Seeds: A Book of Nature], we had a fantastic illustration team, and the book turned out wonderfully, but we didn’t have any real hand in the final process. Here at [Albert] Whitman, Wendy [McClure], our editor, and Jordan [Kost], the art director, really involved us in the process and the look of Nightlights from beginning to end. I guess you could say we were not kept in the dark at all!

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: Dan and Paul: We really love what Alice [Brereton], our illustrator, has done with our words. The combination of her style, which is unique, quirky and really out-of-the-box and the soothing rhythm of our poems is a perfect match. For an illustrator it must be difficult to try and get into an author’s head and bring their vision to the page. So kudos to Alice!

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: Dan: We both come from the education field. I’m currently a high school English teacher and Paul is a retired school psychologist and family therapist. Our goal has always been to inspire kids to read and write poetry.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: Dan: Paul and I love to write poetry books for children. Recently we have been working on some narrative ideas and a book of non-fiction on the origins of the names for the days of the week. But all writing, if it’s done well, is poetry.

Q: What books did you like to read as a kid?

A: Paul: My very first books were comic books: Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck were my early favorites. Later of course, the super heroes took over: Superman, Batman and Robin. As a teen it was science fiction by the volume: Issac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. Van Vogt and on and on.

Dan:  The Hardy Boys A to Z and then back again!

Thanks so much, Paul and Dan! To find out more about Nightlights on our website. And to hear from the illustrator, Alice, check out her blog post.

Q&A With Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer

Q&A with Lisa Amstutz

Join author Lisa Amstutz and illustrator Talitha Shipman for Applesauce Day! Maria and her family visit an apple orchard and pick apples. Then it’s time to turn the apples into applesauce! Every year they use the special pot that has been in the family for generations to make applesauce. First they wash the apples. Then Grandma cuts them into quarters. Follow each step in the process as everyone helps to make delicious applesauce!


We were lucky enough to sit down with Lisa to chat about family traditions, kid lit, and Applesauce Day.

Q: What was the inspiration for your title?

A: Applesauce Day is based on my family’s applesauce-making tradition. As a child, I loved helping my mother make applesauce each year. It was an exciting day, filled with the scent of apples cooking, the taste of fresh, warm sauce, and the fun of working together. Now my children look forward to making applesauce at Grandma’s house each year. I hope someday they will pass on this tradition to the next generation!

Q: Do you make applesauce using the recipe in the back matter?

A: Yes! We make enough to last all year, which takes about three bushels of apples. The past few years, we’ve been able to harvest our own apple trees. One was just an old stump when we moved here. It kept sprouting, so we let one of the sprouts grow and cut off the rest. Our house is quite old (it was once a log cabin), so I like to think that maybe Johnny Appleseed planted that tree—who knows! We also have two Yellow Transparent trees—my favorite sauce variety. The pig and chickens are happy to eat any apples that are left over, as well as any wormy ones.


Q:  What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on—novels, Reader’s Digest, cereal boxes…. Some favorites were Chronicles of Narnia series, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, and the Lord of the Rings series.

I don’t have as much free time now, but I still read a lot. I like nonfiction books on writing craft, nature, agriculture, and psychology. I also have a particular fondness for mysteries. And of course I read a lot of children’s books…both for research and just for fun.

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: I love the challenge of distilling a story down to its essence—picture books are a lot like poetry in that regard. And they’re just fun! I hope my books inspire kids to appreciate and learn more about the world around them. Kids are smart and funny and optimistic. They give us hope for the future—kids can change the world!

Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: In general, the hardest parts for me are deciding which story ideas are worth pursuing and figuring out the best way to tell them. Once the story is on paper, the editing begins. I revise each story around 20–30 times and run it by my critique partners several times before sending it to my agent. She usually wants a few more revisions, and if the book sells, the editor will ask for more revisions as well. It’s a slow process, but it’s amazing to see it all come together!


Q:  Are you working on any other projects?

A: Yes, I have quite a few manuscripts either out on submission or at various stages of completion. My editor and I are also working on another picture book to be released in 2018, titled Today We Go Birding. It’s about the Christmas Bird Count, a citizen science project sponsored by the National Audubon Society. I can’t wait to see it in print!

For announcements about Today We Go Birding and other upcoming projects, you can follow me on Facebook  or Twitter , or sign up for my newsletter on my website.

Thanks, Lisa! For even more about Applesauce Day check out our website.

Q&A with Lisa Amstutz