Extra! Extra! Meet The Baby Scientists!


So I know last week I said that this week we’d be back to normal.

But something came up, and I had to add an extra post.  When friends ask me to share their excitement I can’t say no! 🙂

I think it’s something you’ll enjoy, though, because it is a Surprise Book Cover Reveal and you guys are the very first to get to see it!!!

I hope you all feel stupendously special! 🙂

Laura Gehl and Daniel Wiseman, (whose illustrations you might have seen on this blog once or twice before 🙂 )

lion_needs_a_bath_cover elephant_has_sniffles_cover  llama_needs_haircut_cover monkey_bed_cover

have a brand new series of board books coming out in 2019!  The series is called Baby Scientist, and will begin with the release of

BABY OCEANOGRAPHER (HarperFestival April 30, 2019)

BabyOceanographer c

and BABY ASTRONAUT (HarperFestival May 7, 2019)!


Don’t they look fabulous?

And YOU get to see them first!!!

Not only do you get to see the covers first, but Laura and Daniel were kind enough to share Five Fun Facts each about the creation of this new series! (Since we over here are always curious about the writing/illustrating process and where books come from 🙂 )

Let’s hear from Laura first!

SUSANNA: Hi Laura.  Thanks for joining us! Where did you get the idea for these books?

LAURA: I’ve loved both science and writing since I was a kid, but as an adult I can see that many other adults I meet are intimidated by science. When people talk to me about my writing, they often say, “I hope to write a book one day too.” But when people talk to me about my science background (I have a PhD in neuroscience), they say, “Wow, I could never do that.” The prevailing belief is that writing is much easier than science (false!). The idea of this series is to show kids that scientific careers are fun, approachable, interesting, and relevant. Instead of wondering, “Could I be a scientist?” I want kids to wonder, “Which type of scientist should I be?” I want kids who read these books to grow up thinking, “Of course I could be a scientist! Why not???”

SUSANNA: Did you want to be an astronaut or an oceanographer when you were a kid?

LAURA: No, but I did want to be a chemist! Marie Curie was my hero, and I memorized the periodic table in elementary school. My daughter, age 8, wants to be an astronaut. My dedication for BABY ASTRONAUT is to her (Shh! She doesn’t know yet!).

SUSANNA: Was it hard to make the information you researched accessible to this age group?

LAURA: I used to write about science for children’s magazines, so I did have a lot of experience framing difficult concepts in age-appropriate language. The hardest part of making science accessible to young kids is that sometimes in order to write something in simple enough terms, it is no longer exactly accurate. For example, BABY ASTRONAUT says, “On Earth, gravity stops us from floating into the air. In space, there is less gravity. Baby floats through the air. Baby’s food floats too. So does her toothbrush!” All of this is correct—but it is also a bit misleading. There IS less gravity in space. And astronauts DO float through the air. In reality, though, at 200-250 miles above Earth, where the International Space Station is in orbit, Earth’s gravity is still strong. The real reason astronauts float is because they are in constant free fall—but the science of that is tricky even for adults to understand. So I kept it super simple, and we just have to hope that BABY ASTRONAUT inspires future scientists who will one day understand the complexities of microgravity.

SUSANNA: What are the most interesting things you learned while writing these books?

LAURA: For BABY ASTRONAUT, we were specifically focusing on astronauts as scientists, so I read a lot about the different science experiments happening on board the International Space Station. That was fascinating! One experiment showed that 3D printing works normally in space. This is key for deep-space missions, because the astronauts will be able to print items they need on these very long missions.

I also learned how much is still unknown in the field of oceanography. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, eighty percent of our oceans are unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored. Just the thought of all of that exploration yet to

come gives me chills. I hope lots of little readers will be inspired to grow up to be oceanographers. Imagine the discoveries they could make!

SUSANNA: What fields of study will the baby scientists tackle next?

LAURA: The next two books in the series will be BABY PALEONTOLOGIST and BABY BOTANIST. I was never a dinosaur-focused kid. In fact, I was at the Museum of Science in Boston over Thanksgiving and realized I had never once, in all my visits over the years, stopped by the dinosaur exhibit there. But researching paleontology was particularly intriguing, and now I really want to visit an active dig site. I found out there are some sites where you can go with your kids and help excavate fossils. How cool would that be?

SUSANNA:  VERY cool!!!  Thanks Laura! Now let’s hear from Daniel!  Hi Daniel!  Thank YOU for joining us too!  What made you want to illustrate these stories?

DANIEL: So many things! I loved the idea of introducing scientific principles in a fun way to very young children. I loved the theme of each book (there are 2 more in the series). I also love to take on book series where each book involves a different main character, because it affords me the opportunity to vary the ethnicity of each one. It’s always a priority of mine for every child to be able to see themselves in the books I help create. Lastly, at the same time I signed on to illustrate this series I was also about to have a new little one in my own family. So it seemed timely that I could dedicate a set of baby books I illustrated to the new baby in my life. One of the greatest joys of book making is that I’m creating something that can live on with my family for generations.

SUSANNA: Did you want to be an astronaut or an oceanographer when you were a kid?

DANIEL: When I was young (maybe 10 or 11), I was fascinated with the ocean. I told everyone I was going to be a marine biologist, even though I didn’t know what one really did! It came about after I was gifted a massive photography coffee table book documenting the work of underwater photographer David Doubilet. I was mesmerized by the vastness of the underwater world, all the different creatures, and landscapes (seascapes?). If you think about it, it’s sort of a bizzaro outer-space filled with real life “aliens”. So cool! I think if I wasn’t an illustrator I’d try my hand at some sort of life-science field. I’m fascinated by our world, and all the secrets and treasures it holds.

SUSANNA: Did you have to do a lot of research to be able to draw accurate illustrations?

DANIEL: I did do a fair amount of research…with the help of Chelsea, our art director, fact-checking my sketches. I even learned a few things myself! Like what an electrical outlet looks like on the ISS, and that there’s a fifth ocean called the Southern Ocean. I had no idea. The bigger challenge with these books was to strike a balance between portraying accuracy while keeping the illustrations playful and fun for little ones to look at. I was given a lot of creative freedom to add goofy details like hats on dolphins, and faces on planets. That made illustrating these books a blast!

SUSANNA: Which is your favorite illustration from the astronaut book? The oceanographer book? Why?

DANIEL: In BABY ASTRONAUT there’s an illustration depicting the difference between gravity on Earth and (the lack of) gravity in space. I really loved thinking up funny things to have floating around the space shuttle and space station. This particular illustration involves broccoli, carrots, ranch, a jelly sandwich, toothpaste, and a toothbrush…Did I mention I took some artistic liberties with these books?!

For BABY OCEANOGRAPHER, I really like the spread of the baby floating on a big wave inside his submarine. For each book I included a little sidekick friend for the baby, and in this spread his crab buddy is hanging on for dear life to the top of the submarine. I really enjoyed finding funny things for this crab to do to add a little more humor and fun to each illustration.

SUSANNA: How did illustrating these fact-based stories differ from the straight fiction you’ve done previously? Was it easier or harder?

DANIEL: I wouldn’t say it was any easier or more difficult. Every book is different, and presents different challenges. These were the first books I’ve illustrated that included baby characters. Drawing babies can be a bit daunting when they need to perform complex actions in the story. Babies, by nature, don’t really do anything except lay there and eat, so drawing them manning submarines, driving boats, and shooting off into space was a funny challenge I gladly accepted. I took a few creative liberties with my baby characters, giving them longer limbs and super baby abilities, while still trying to keep them little and cute.

Daniel also thought we might be interested in seeing a little of the illustration process, so he was kind enough to share a couple of sketches and a couple spreads of finished art!

First, here’s the sketch:


And this is how the art looks finished!



Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Many thanks to Daniel and Laura for sharing their new books here first!  And for giving us all some insight into how they were created!

The books are available for preorder.  Undoubtedly you can request your local independent book store to order them for you, or, if you’re an online shopper, they’re available for preorder on IndieBound,  Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks for stopping by to read even though it’s Monday!  Have a marvelous day, everyone! 🙂

(And if you have questions or comments for Laura and/or Daniel, I imagine they’ll check in 🙂 )

Oh, and P.S. – if you’re in the mood to keep reading about where books come from, Miracle On 34th Street is featured on Kathy Temean’s Writing And Illustrating blog today!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Diva Delores And The Opera House Mouse PLUS 5 Fun Facts From The Author AND A Giveaway!

Hurray!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, and boy do I have a treat for you today!

It’s Diva Delores’s debut!


Isn’t she gorgeous?! 🙂

You’re going to get to see this beautiful book AND hear from the author AND the publisher is generously doing a giveaway, so one lucky commenter from the US or Canada will be chosen at random to receive a copy of the book!

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

First, a look at the book!


Title: Diva Delores And The Opera House Mouse

Written By: Laura Sassi

Illustrated By: Rebecca Gerlings

Sterling Children’s Books, March 2018, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: friendship, manners, opera

Opening: “Fernando loved chocolate
and cheese on dry toast,
and popcorn and gumdrops,
but what he liked most . . .

was feasting on Mozart,
Puccini, and Strauss,
and lending a paw
at the Old Opera House.

Brief Synopsis: Fernando the mouse loves everything about opera.  He wants to help Delores with her debut, but the diva thinks she deserves bigger and better help!  It takes a few opening night jitters to get Delores to truly appreciate her helpful little friend.

Links To Resources: Teacher Approved: Seven Things Kids Can Learn From Diva Delores; Opera Facts For Kids; discuss what it means to be a “diva” and dress up one of your stuffed animals as a diva!  (AND, you can use the 5 Fun Facts from the author below as bonus material to go along with the book! 🙂 )

Why I Like This Book:  The fun of this book is in the setting – an opera house – and the main characters – who both love opera!  Although the story is really about friendship, manners, and appreciation, the fact that it takes place in an opera house and involves operatic performance makes it educational as well as original and fun.  (Picture books writers – this is how you make a theme like friendship original, fresh and fun by putting your own twist on it!  Add this to your mentor text list 🙂 )  The story is told in fabulously-written rhyme which makes for a fun read-aloud, and artist Rebecca Gerlings does a gorgeous job of capturing both the feel of an opera house and the personalities and expressions of our heroes 🙂

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

As an added bonus, I thought it would be fun to learn a little about the story behind the story and Laura’s writing process/path to publication with this book, so I asked her to share five fun facts about writing this delightful, creative, and original story.

Here’s what she had to say:


FACT #1 The journey from spark to publication took seven years.

I got the original idea for my story while participating in Tara Lazar’s wonderful STORYSTORM challenge, or Picture Book Idea Month as it was called back in 2011.  I then worked on the story off and on for five years. I played with plot, rhyme, character development – everything but setting, really – until finally it was ready to sub in 2016. It was acquired by Sterling Children’s Books that spring and took another two years to be published, which is typical for picture books.

FACT #2  Diva Delores wasn’t always a seal.

Originally, I imagined everyone at the opera house, including Diva Delores, as human, except of course, for Fernando the mouse. The team at Sterling , however, felt that mixing humans with a talking mouse might be problematic so early on we decided that all the characters in the opera house world would be animals. Early ideas for Delores included a hippo and an ostrich. Ultimately, illustrator Rebecca Gerlings used her wonderful talent and imagination to create the delightful seal Delores who we now know and LOVE!

FACT #3 I chose an opera house setting, because an opera, IMHO, is a lot like a picture book.

Both tell a full story in very few words with magnificent characters. Because there are so few words each word/note must work charmingly to move the story forward. Finally, both are gorgeously illustrated – one with stunning sets and props and the other with delightful painted spreads.

FACT # 4 I didn’t attend my first opera until I was in college.

I attended university about 90 minutes from Manhattan and my freshman year signed up for a special bus-excursion field trip to the Met to see TURANDOT!  I loved everything about the evening.  It was a magical introduction to opera, which I hope my book is too.

FACT #5 According to my kids, I am hard to be around when I am working on a rhyming manuscript.

This is because I click and tap to the beat as I write. I also, apparently, talk to myself in rhyme as I am writing. Worse yet, I sometimes even do this in public places, like if I’m out walking the dog or if I’m working at a coffee shop. This is mortifying to my children, but it works for me. And isn’t part of a mother’s job to embarrass her children?

Thanks for having me, Susanna!

Thank YOU so much for joining us, Laura, and for sharing all that interesting back story!  I am the first to admit that, although I love music, I know absolutely nothing about opera, so I love the whole concept!  (Also, Delores and Fernando are darling 🙂 )

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BIO:  Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014)and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales
Twitter: twitter.com/laurasassitales
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/

To join Laura on the rest of Delores’s Blog Tour, please stop off and visit these other fabulous blogs:

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For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Don’t forget, Sterling has offered to do a giveaway. They will send one book to one lucky winner in the US or Canada. It will not be signed because they are sending but it will be fresh off the press!  Just leave a comment below by Tuesday March 20 at 5 PM Eastern to get yourself in the running for the random drawing!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂