One of my favorite picture books of 2016 thus far is Ella and Penguin Stick Together by Megan Maynor and illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet. The cover alone is striking. It made me excited about reading the book.
Have you ever been attracted to a cover, eager to discover what’s inside, only to be disappointed by a lackluster story and illustrations that don’t live up to the cover’s awesomeness? That’s not the case with Ella and Penguin Stick Together!
This book has endearing characters, an engaging story, beautiful illustrations, and tons of sweetness and fun. Well done Megan, Rosalinde, and Harper Publishing!
I’m pleased to welcome Megan Maynor today in the Interview Alert spotlight!
Interview Alert: Megan Maynor
1. I love, love, love your debut picture book Ella and Penguin Stick Together! When did you decide that writing children’s picture books was what you wanted to do?
Thank you! It’s funny, a friend of mine recently reminded me that I talked about writing a children’s book in high school, so I guess it’s been in the back of my mind for a long time. But I began writing picture books in earnest, with the aim of selling a book for publication, when my children were small and I was transitioning from full-time ad agency work to freelance copywriting and being at home with the kids.
Or, measured another way, I started writing about ten years before I sold my first book.
2. Both Ella and Penguin are sweet characters, but Penguin is also very silly. Is he modeled after anyone in particular?
The idea for Penguin came from goofing around with my kids when they were little. Like when I’d offer to help them put on their shoes, then put the shoe on my head. Or say, “We need some milk. Better go to the library!” Or, “Have fun in the pool. Don’t get wet!”
You know, real high brow stuff.
But those things are funny to kids. It’s funny to see an adult be wrong. And it’s fun for them to be the expert. I started thinking about how to employ that in a story—where someone is mixed-up and the child character, as well as the child reader, gets to be the expert. And that led me to Penguin who is kind, and a good friend, but also confused about some things. As we would say in our house, “He’s still learning.”
3. Glow-in-the-dark stickers are so fun! How did you come up with the idea to write a story that included stickers?
I got a handle on these characters pretty quickly, but it took me ages (read: MANY drafts) to figure out what they should be DOING in the story. What was the plot? I’m not sure what made stickers pop into my mind, though I did have a pretty serious sticker collection as a child and stuck glow-in-the-dark stickers on my bedroom ceiling—where they remain to this day. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.) But glow-in-the-dark stickers presented a great story problem for Ella and Penguin. They want to see the stickers glow—but they don’t want to go into the dark.
4. The illustrations are a perfect complement to your story. The cover alone is striking! When you saw Rosalinde Bonnet’s interpretation of your words for the first time, what did you think?
Thank you! I also ADORE Rosalinde’s work. To be honest, the first time I saw her sketches, I was completely delighted. I love how Rosalinde captures the emotion and character of both Ella and Penguin so well. And she brought so many things to the page which I couldn’t have anticipated. In Ella’s bedroom, for instance, there are such wonderful details—including these fantastic toys and stuffed animals. I’ve told Rosalinde that she should start a business on the side so these toys can exist in the real world. (She’s kind of busy making more beautiful picture books, so I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath on that one.)
5. I’m excited to hear that there’s a sequel on the way! Can you tell us a bit about it?
Sure! In the next book, ELLA AND PENGUIN: A PERFECT MATCH, Ella and Penguin decide that they should match, because they are friends, and friends match! So they do everything the same—wear the same outfit, eat the same snack, and so on, but only one half of the pair is actually enjoying everything. Then Penguin starts to worry. If they don’t really match, can they still be friends?
Again, in this book, Rosalinde really brings out the emotions and captures the highs and lows of this friendship.
It comes out January 2017!
6. Why do you feel picture books are important?
Gosh. We could talk about this for a couple hours, but here’s one answer: In a picture book, a child is learning about the world with an adult who matters to them—through a beautiful work of art created just for them.
Because picture books are read aloud, they’re a shared experience. So there is room to laugh together (some of my favorite books!), to anticipate and be surprised together, and room for the child to wonder aloud, and the adult to expand on what’s presented in the book.
And then read it again!
7. Do you have any favorite picture book authors or illustrators? Favorite picture books?
Another question that’s hard to answer, but I’ll give it a go. Here are some picture books I am always happy to pull from the shelf—I could never read these too many times:
Blueberries for Sal, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Extra Yarn, Rattletrap Car, Library Lion, Big Red Lollipop, Once Upon an Alphabet, George and Martha, The Best Pet of All, Moo!, Cowboy and Octopus, Punk Skunks, Big Momma Makes the World, I Want My Hat Back, Officer Buckle and Gloria, Owl Babies, Kitten’s First Full Moon, Wolfie the Bunny… I’ll stop there for today.
There are so many fabulous new books every season—it’s really another golden age for picture books. Here are a couple of places I go to keep up:
8. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your books?
Thank you, Megan! It was so great getting to know more about you! 🙂