Aren’t they cute?
I first met Laurie through SCBWI, when we were both co-regional advisors –Laurie for the SCBWI Western Washington region, while I was Co-RA with Patricia Newman for SCBWI NorCal. You may remember Thompson’s fabulous TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE series, co-written with Ammi-Joan Paquette and illustrated by Lisa K. Weber (Walden Pond Press).
Today, I’m thrilled to share her NEW series of adorable, interactive, STEM nonfiction picture books that encourage very young readers to learn-through-play about the animals who share their world.
But don’t take my word for it:
Let’s ask some questions!
Q 1. Welcome, Laurie. What fun books. How did you decide which animals you would feature?
LAT: Thank you for having me on the blog, Erin!
I really wanted the animals featured to be familiar to as many children as possible (within the United States), so I chose common animals with a wide geographic distribution that might be found in rural, suburban, or even urban environments. I also wanted to represent different classes, so I have an insect and a mammal here in the first two books, and a bird and a reptile coming in the next two (April 2024).
Q 2. What surprises did you discover while doing research for these books?
LAT: So many!
- Did you know honey bees squeeze royal jelly out of glands in their head and pull scales of beeswax from between cracks in their abdomens?
- Did you know raccoons are born without any stripes or mask, that they climb down trees head first, and that they’re probably not washing their food so much as sensitizing their paws to be able to feel it better?
I’ve always been interested in nature, so I thought I knew a lot about these “ordinary” creatures, but the more I learned, the more fascinated I became. There is so much wonder all around us! We just need to take the time to learn about it.
Q. 3 I love how YOU ARE A RACCOON shows us baby raccoon’s perseverance. Was there ever a time in your Kidlit journey where you felt like giving up? Times you felt you “missed” the goal? What kept you going?
LAT: Oh, I think we all feel that way sometimes, don’t we? And I’m not sure we ever really get over it. It feels almost cyclical.
I think two things keep me going when I hit those doldrums. First, most of my friends are kidlit authors, so I have to keep going so I can hang out with the cool kids!
Seriously, though, I think having a support system of writer friends is so important. They understand the ups and downs of the creative life like few people outside the industry can. It’s wonderful how caring and uplifting the kidlit community is.
The second thing that keeps me going is the kids. There’s nothing like a fan letter or a school visit to bring me back to why I’m doing this. In the end, it’s not about advances, auctions, reviews, or followers (though those things are nice too!). It’s about connecting with readers and helping them make their way in the world. There’s no better feeling than knowing I’ve done that.
Q 4. Which of the highlighted words from YOU ARE A HONEY BEE might apply to your writing process? Please explain.
- Chew and Pull
- Scritch and Scratch
- Swoop, Swerve, Dive
- Search and Dance
LAT: What a great question! I’m definitely more of a CHEW and PULL type. I probably spend most of my “writing” time in my head, chewing on ideas, ruminating on structure, mulling over titles and phrases, etc. Then, when I sit down to write, I can usually pull that all together and draft something fairly quickly.
I used to beat myself up for procrastinating or wasting time “in my head,” but eventually, I realized this is just what my process looks like. All that time when it looks like I’m not doing anything is when most of the work happens. Maybe I should think about including more DANCE, though!
Q 5. What inspired you to write these books in the second person point of view?
LAT: The idea was originally given to me by someone else. She had read a newspaper article about what it’s like to actually be a honey bee, and she thought that would be an interesting angle for a children’s book. I agreed!
Not only were there loads of fun facts to learn about, but putting the reader in the bee’s perspective gives it an immediacy that I really like. As a naturalist, I also hope the 2nd person PoV will help readers feel more connected to nature and, thus, be inspired to protect it.
You can help too!
Q 6. What surprises did the illustrator Jay Fleck, or the book designer bring to your projects?
LAT: These books have been such a wonderfully collaborative effort, and I feel so lucky to be a part of such a talented team. Not only do I adore Jay’s delightful illustrations and beautiful color palettes for these books, but it was his idea to add the insets with the kids imitating the actions of the animals. Genius! I love the interactive element that brings in, which I hadn’t even considered until I saw his sketches.
I’m also forever grateful to the designers, Jennifer Kelly and Sylvia Bi, for their attention to detail and for making all my backmatter fit just right and look cute, too. Dream team!
Q 7. What new projects are you working on now?
LAT: I recently got to see the final art for the third book in the series, YOU ARE A ROBIN!, and give feedback on sketches for the fourth, YOU ARE A GARTER SNAKE! I’m so excited about them!
The contract but hasn’t yet been announced, but I also just turned in revisions for an informational fiction picture book. And I have three picture book projects in progress: a nonfiction picture book about bird migration and light pollution, as well as two informational fiction picture books—one about physics and the other about statistics. I’m also revising my first middle-grade fantasy novel!
Learn more about Laurie Ann Thompson and her books:
You can find more amazing GreenPB2023 books
Next up on the blog:
Betsy Ellor shares her debut picture book,
My Dog Is NOT A Scientist (Yeehoo Press).