But soft! What light in yonder fridge…
Hear ye, Hear ye— Happy #BookBirthday to Katelyn Aronson‘s clever picture book, WHEN PB MET J, a hilarious wink to Romeo & Juliet, or perhaps a kitchen condiment retelling of West Side Story…
“A friendship story with a heaping helping of puns.”–Kirkus Reviews
You may remember Katelyn (top l. — with Sarah Rebar top r. ) from her previous visits celebrating
No matter how you slice it <–(food puns, of course), an interview with Katelyn Aronson is always a feast!
Let’s dig in!
Q. 1 What was the creative spark for this book? (Growing up, did you ever experience a Fridgers vs. Cupboard Crew situation on the playground, or at school, or was your inspiration found elsewhere?)
Katelyn Aronson: As a kid, I loved collecting play food and serving it up at make-believe restaurants with my sister. I also loved watching an animated short on Sesame Street called Teeny Little Super Guy. It was all kinds of kitchen utensils and glassware having adventures in a kitchen.
(Of course it’s pretty ancient of me to reference that so click the link above or –> here’s a pic for those who have no idea what I’m talking about!):
K.A. — So those two childhood loves must have fused together in my imagination: play food + kitchen utensils coming to life when humans aren’t watching. Then I mixed in a little Romeo & Juliet / West Side Story tale of feuding families and out came When PB Met J. It’s an origin story about how “the best friendship since sliced bread” came to be.
The fact that Sesame Street artist Sarah Rebar agreed to do the illustrations brought this project full circle and made my childhood dreams come true!
Q. 2 The story arc and the clever solution to PB & J’s problem (NO spoilers, doggone it!) are delicious! Did you know from the start that this was how the story would go?
Katelyn Aronson: Well thank you, Erin! Honestly, that solution happened organically. At least in my mind, it seemed to be the one practical way the jar community could “save” itself—by creating a noisy distraction!
Q 3. Since you live in France and teach in Switzerland, I have to ask—WHERE do you even find peanut butter? (I’m sorry, but Nutella is not the same.) Also—Extra Crunchy, Crunchy, or Smooth?
Katelyn Aronson: Oh, we have many American things in France and Switzerland now. That wasn’t true 15 to 20 years ago, mind you, but now one can find peanut butter at the regular grocery store! I have yet to meet a French person who actually likes the stuff, though (while Switzerland is full of internationals). I certainly never have to worry about my French husband dipping into ANY of my nut butters, be they peanut, almond, or cashew!
I grew up loving crunchy peanut butter, but since adulthood I’ve crossed over to smooth. I’m sure there’s a philosophical explanation behind that… I’ve come to appreciate life running smoothly. I’ve had enough of crunchy resistance, HA!
Q. 4 What surprises did illustrator Sarah Rebar bring to the book?
Katelyn Aronson: The best surprise was the delicious cover art she designed! I just fell in love with it when my editor revealed it to me. PB and J are so colorful, wide-eyed and endearing, and I love how the backdrop behind them is a piece of toast. I hope it appeals to kids as much as it does to me!
Q. 5 Can you share any new projects you’re working on?
Katelyn Aronson: What I’m most excited about is my first book starring humans (and mermaids), Orpheline, to be illustrated by Dow Phumiruk, which sold to Candlewick in 2021 yet won’t release until summer 2025(!)
The story follows lonely Cora, who finds a merbaby washed up on the shores of her home and becomes convinced that the merbaby is hers to keep. It’s very different from my other books—quite serious and poignant—as it’s a story about being lost and also being found.
I can’t wait to see Dow Phumiruk’s illustrations for Orpheline. Her mermaid illustration (above) is what prompted my editor and I to ask Dow if she’d take on our project in the first place. Aren’t we so lucky she said yes? I love the mysterious, glow-y ambiance here.
Thank you for joining the blog today, Kate!
To learn more about Katelyn Aronson and her books, follow her on
and check out her website: katelynaronson.com.
We’re taking next week off here on the blog because it’s #WRAD
–and we’re zooming with students around the world!
(also, I might have to go make myself a PB &J…)