I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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Nonfiction picture books have pandemic Book Birthdays too!

September 7, 2020

Illus. /Kelly Pousette, DO NOT RAKE YOUR GARDEN IN A PARTY DRESS by Aimée Bissonette

Have you had a birthday during this pandemic?

Do you know friends or family who have had to scale down

or cancel Birthday parties in the past months?

Wonderful children’s authors

have had to do the same!

Aimée Bissonette: It’s been a wild year, hasn’t it? I have four books out this year…

*ED note: Aimée’s 2020 releases = DO NOT RAKE THE GARDEN IN YOUR PARTY DRESS (illus. above), THE TINAJA TONIGHT, DRAGONFLY, and the upcoming WHEN WINTER COMES. See below.

…so I had scheduled so many events: bookstore gatherings, some story time trolley rides, a day at the Minnesota State Fair. I was lucky to get a couple of events in for my first book in March but then . . . well, we all know what happened! Suddenly, all publicity and promotions went virtual and that WAS a challenge.

 Jenna Grodzicki: This launch was definitely not what I expected when I signed the contract for WILD STYLE back in 2019. I want to be in front of readers, placing my book in the hands of kids, so not being able to do that is hard. But the entire kidlit community has stepped up. So many people celebrated with me by sharing WILD STYLE on social media. 


Q 1. How did you “pivot” for these pandemic Book Birthdays? Any tips?

Aimée Bissonette: Thankfully, as is true of so many things in our industry, people surged forward to help. I am extremely grateful to the other picture book writers in #2020BookLook, illustrator Kelly Pousette who created a beautiful trailer for PARTY DRESS, the team at Albert Whitman who stepped up and organized social media training, Twitter book reviewers. Many hands make light work, right? I love this team approach and hope it continues long after “in person” events return.

Ask others to help. Support each other with reviews, tweets, on Instagram.  Not everyone can buy your books, but they can ask their local libraries to add your books to their collections.

Jenna Grodzicki: Like Aimée,  I’m extremely grateful for the two 2020 release groups I’m a part of. The members of 2020BookLook and 20/20 Vision PBs have helped maintain excitement for all the great picture books coming out this year. If you can join a release group, I highly recommend that. Also, check with your publisher about doing virtual read alouds. If you can’t be in person with children, reading to them online is the next best thing. 


Q 2. Both of you have written fiction and non-fiction picture books. How is your NF process different? Or is your approach the same, no matter the genre? 

Aimée Bissonette: My nonfiction writing is much more structured than my fiction writing. I spend a great deal of time researching and outlining.  Nonfiction picture books like DRAGONFLY and THE TINAJA TONIGHT have additional components, too, such as Author Notes and Back matter.  In one way, though, my nonfiction writing is the same as my fiction writing. With both, I know the tone I want to set and the language I want to use pretty much from the start.

Jenna Grodzicki: My NF process starts out differently than when I write fiction. When I come across a strange or interesting fact that I can’t stop thinking about, I do a little research to see if it is a viable topic for a picture book. From there, I’ll throw myself into researching the topic. Once I’m saturated with new information, I’ll start writing. I usually have to play around with different formats before I find the one that makes the most sense for that particular book. 

Jenna Grodzicki’s   WILD STYLE (Millbrook/ a NF photo book/ preschool – 3 ),  is a VERY COOL book about how animals ”dress” & hide themselves to protect from predators and there are photos to prove it! The amazing facts are explained in simple, fun ways, that had me hooked from the start.

Do you know what bug carries a stack of dead ants in its back–and WHY? What makes flamingo feathers pinker–and waterproofed? Who catches a free ride on the back of a crab–and provides protection too?

The answers are in WILD STYLE.

Wow, this was FASCINATING! Really well-written and organized to make it easy for kids to understand. Huge, bright photos show close-up details. Lots of “gross-out” appeal (a bug that carries a bunch of glued-together ant corpses on its back?? Yikes!). Extra info about each animal at the back. This is definitely a winner. Would easily hold anyone’s attention (kid or grown-up) and inspire a love of biology/science.author Diana Murray

Jenna Grodzicki: I’m so proud of WILD STYLE. It may have been my favorite to research. Crabs who wear hats and wave pom-poms? Insect larvae that wear their own poop? I hope kids will enjoy reading about the wild style some animals have and why that style is necessary for their survival.

THE TINAJA TONIGHT by Aimée Bissonette (Albert Whitman/ an Imagine This! book / NF/ preschool-3 / Illus. Syd Weiler)  offers an intriguing glimpse of desert wildlife and water at night in the Southwest, with stunning graphic art by Syd Weiler. 

“Bissonette’s poetic narrative, sprinkled with alliteration, leads readers seamlessly from one desert denizen to another…Clarifying information bites regarding each featured element or animal accompanies the text…this exploration of water’s vital presence in an arid environment is sure to please.” ―Kirkus Reviews

Also out this month, DRAGONFLY by Aimée Bissonette (Albert Whitman/ an Imagine This! book / NF/ preschool-3/  Illus. Catherine Pearson) is full of dragonflies, pond life, entomology, and STEM details for curious young minds!

“Pearson’s illustrations will engage young readers, and Bissonette’s informative text will encourage them to learn more…An excellent resource for students.”

School Library Journal

Aren’t these three nonfiction books captivating?

Q 3. What surprises did you discover while researching these fascinating subjects?

Aimée Bissonette: I am a true nature nerd and love to research, so even though I started with subjects I thought I knew a lot about, I learned so many cool new facts. For instance, dragonflies have been around for 300 million years. And in writing THE TINAJA TONIGHT, I learned desert quail actually prefer running to flying when they need to escape sticky situations.  The plump little birds can run 20 mph!

Jenna Grodzicki: One of my favorite OMG moments in writing WILD STYLE had to do with the pom-pom crab. (above) The pom-pom crab holds one anemone in each claw. The stinging cells in the anemones deter predators. A scientist I spoke with about this crab revealed an incredible fact. The species of anemone that the pom-pom crab holds has NEVER been spotted on its own. Scientists have only ever seen this species in the claws of pom-pom crabs! Isn’t that amazing?

Ideas & Inspirations

Q 4. What inspired you to write these books? Where did the ideas come from?

Aimée Bissonette: I have been fascinated by dragonflies since I was little – especially their flying abilities.  I wanted young readers to learn about and not be afraid of these big, beautiful bugs. The Tinaja story comes straight from my Arizona hiking vacations with my kids. We all love red rock country.

Jenna Grodzicki: In 2018, I came across a National Geographic article entitled “Natural Bling: 6 Amazing Animals That Decorate Themselves.” It was a total OMG moment. Which animals decorate themselves? Why do they do this? Why didn’t I know about this? I needed to know more. And I knew if I found these animals intriguing, kids would, too. 

What’s next?

Q 5. What new projects are you working on now?

Aimée Bissonette: I am working on two nonfiction picture books that will come out Fall 2021. The first is on the “second life” of trees.  Do you know how much work trees do after they die with regard to our forests, wildlife, and environment? The death of trees is critical to nature. The second is a book on artificial reefs – coral reefs that form on sunken ships and other undersea objects, including vessels sunk on purpose.

Jenna Grodzicki: I have a fiction picture book coming out in 2021, HARMONY HUMBOLT: PERFECT PETS QUEEN (Clear Fork Publishing), illustrated by the amazing Mirka Hokkanen. I currently have two manuscripts out on submission. And I just came across another amazing fact that I’m excited to start researching. 

Can you see why these authors deserve a (virtual) party?

SNEAKY SEGUE to this fun picture book, DO NOT RAKE YOUR GARDEN IN A PARTY DRESS –also by Aimée Bissonette

(Cameron Books/ Illus. Kelly Pousette) released last March 2020

–which definitely deserves a party–don’t you think?

“The warning DO NOT RAKE YOUR GARDEN IN A PARTY DRESS precedes a chain of whimsical consequences in this pretty, airy picture book by Aimée Bissonette, illustrated by Kelly Pousette. A doll-like child preparing for an outdoor tea party in the aforementioned dress is caught in a gust of wind and tossed into the clouds, then deposited by a bald eagle into its nest of fuzzy fledglings, from which she free-falls through tall trees filled with chirping bluebirds and cute squirrels into a pond where her dress becomes a parachute and she frolics with otters…” —NYT


And a friendly reminder….

Three easy (and FREE) ways to support authors

publishing in a pandemic: 

  1. Promote their books on social media.
  2. Post positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and help get the word out.
  3. Reach out to your local library and request they add new books to their collection. 

Thank you Aimée Bissonette and Jenna Grodzicki for joining the blog today. 

To learn more about these authors and their books go to

AiméeBissonette.com and JennaGrodzicki.com

HEY–what if we all wish them a Happy Book Birthday on Twitter–right now?



Next week we’ll be celebrating THREE pandemic book birthdays

with #2020BookLook author Diana Murray. 

Stay safe! 

No comments on this post yet.

  1. Erin, thank you for inviting Jenna and me to this week’s blog and for all the work you put in to this piece. You’re the best. 🙂