Please welcome children’s book author Kari Gonzalez to Frog on a Blog! Picture books that encourage a love for books and reading are some of my favorites, and Kari’s debut How to Hatch a Reader, which launches this summer from Gnome Road Publishing with adorable illustrations by Rachel Suzanne, does exactly that. Full of clever puns, How to Hatch a Reader follows a little girl as she shows you, the reader, how to teach your chickens to read. Including the “learning to read” aspect is what takes this fun book to the next level.
Kari likes to combine humor and STEAM concepts in her stories, especially when tackling tough topics. I asked her to stop by and talk a little bit about her process and how we can pair those two seemingly very different elements in our own writing too. Be sure to read to the end for a fabulous giveaway offer from Kari, your chance to win either a picture book manuscript critique or a 30-minute AMA (ask me anything) session!
I can’t help but laugh when I mention I am a writer to a new acquaintance and they say, “Oh, writing picture books sounds so easy!”
Writing picture books geared toward the harshest of critics, ones that won’t hesitate to walk away from a book in a heartbeat if it doesn’t suit them, is tough work! As an author, we have an economy of words and have to make each count to tell our stories in such a small word count.
When I started watching my kids pick their favorite books, they were always humor driven. And my favorite? Humor and STEAM to further connections and spark some great conversations.
After getting backyard chickens, an idea sparked. I knew immediately I wanted to write about the funny concept of teaching chickens to read. It was hilarious to picture, and I knew it would be a funny read-aloud. And when I sat down, How To Hatch A Reader poured out of me.
I wrote my story in one draft and mailed it off to my editor.
This story went through many revisions. The first version focused on the story. I knew I wanted to add STEAM language arts concepts, so that was my next pass at revision. The concepts came easily because I was in the thick of teaching my own emerging readers at home. So, I built in concepts like practicing letter sounds, pointing out sight words, and helping chickens practice their chicken scratch.
Then, my very favorite part…the humor! When I tackle a funny picture book idea I love to research idioms and puns. In fact, I started with a pun on the very first page!
I played off chicken-related idioms, like shake your tailfeathers and the early bird gets the worm. I also had a blast with subverting expectations at key page turns. And, as a nod to the parents, I even included some subtle and not-so-subtle jokes, like when I referenced dancing dinosaurs. Chickens are one of the closest living relatives to the T-rex!
These created such fun opportunities for illustrator, Rachel Suzanne, to bring her own brand of humor to our project. Each bit of humor played a role in driving the story forward while also pairing a fun read-a-loud story with STEAM concepts.
Writing a picture book isn’t as easy as some think. But tackling a tough topic like learning to read with humor and STEAM concepts made my book a standout submission when it hit my publisher’s desk. So dive deep into revisions. Try tackling tough topics with humor and STEAM and watch the magic unfold!
Kari is generously giving away, to one lucky person who comments on this blog post, a winner’s choice of either a non-rhyming picture book manuscript critique or a 30-minute AMA (ask me anything) session via Zoom. Just leave a comment by April 15th. I’ll choose a winner at random and connect them with Kari. Good luck!
Kari loves writing funny and sometimes lyrical children’s books. Her first draft writing process is fast and furious to get stories out of her head, which of course makes room for more! Six chickens, three fish, and one cat are kind enough to share their home with Kari, her husband, and their two little girls. HOW TO HATCH A READER, Kari’s debut picture book, releases in 2023, and an unannounced book in 2024. She is represented by Stacey Kondla at The Rights Factory.
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12 thoughts on “Tackling Tough Topics with Humor and STEAM by Kari Gonzalez (+ a Giveaway!)”
A great choice to pair these two elements! I think “chicken humor” really lightens what can be a sore spot for kids if they’re struggling to learn to read.
What a terrific feature with Kari -and great insights into her bookmaking.
I love the “rounds” of writing, focusing on different elements to add the fun layers.
Thanks for a great interview!
Lovely interview. I enjoyed hearing about how to incorporate puns and funny stuff.
Fantastic and writer relatable interview. It’s interesting to learn someone else’s process.
Your book looks delightful! 🙂 Very clever and fun! Congratulations on your debut book!
And thank you for this great interview.
Looks like a great book! Can’t wait to have a read of it! 🙂
What great ideas. Wonderful ways to think outside of the box and stand out in this crowded field of picture books!
Chickens and reading with STEAM elements! I look forward to reading HOW TO HATCH A READER.
Thank you, Kari.
Chickens, Reading, and STEAM elements! I look forward to reading HOW TO HATCH A READER.
Thank you, Kari.
It was great to read about your process! Thanks for sharing!!