Tackling Tough Topics with Humor and STEAM by Kari Gonzalez (+ a Giveaway!)

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.

Connect with Kari:




How To Use Picture Books To Help Your Grandkids Fall in Love with Reading by Susan Day

Here on Frog on a Blog, I’ve been saying for years that literacy is the jump-off point from which all of life’s successes take flight. Many of us take reading for granted, but did you know that some people can’t read street signs, or menus, or cereal boxes, let alone job applications, instruction manuals, or other important documents. If children are introduced to books and reading early on, their chances of becoming strong readers and ultimately successful in life increase substantially. The best way to start is by reading picture books together. 

Please welcome back author and literacy advocate Susan Day. Susan’s article 5 Ways to Make Storytime the Best Time Ever appeared on Frog on a Blog last year. Today, Susan has returned with suggestions on how grandparents (or parents) can use picture books to help their grandkids learn to read and, hopefully, fall in love with reading in the process.

Develop a love of reading with picture books_2

How To Use Picture Books To Help Your Grandkids Fall in Love with Reading

by Susan Day

Learning to read is one of the most important tasks any child has to learn.

It is right up there with learning to ride a bicycle, learning to swim, and later on, learning to drive a car. However, many might argue that learning to read is so much more important, and for good reason.

Without basic literacy skills, a child’s future career, job prospects, and even happiness will be compromised. One of the saddest things I have ever come across was meeting an adult who couldn’t advance their career because they simply couldn’t read or write well. This not only meant never earning more money, but it affected their ability to prepare for retirement, and of course, their self-esteem.

So where do we begin and what can we do?

All children have an innate love of pictures and funny stories. They seem to be hardwired to respond to bright colors, and magical tales. Toddlers and preschoolers like nothing more than cuddling up to a parent or a grandparent, and sharing the special memories only a book can offer.

Picture books offer children so much enjoyment, but is just buying a book and reading it to a child enough?

Is there something else we can do to build a love of books, and a desire to read?

Picture Books Created For All Children

Picture books have been specially written, designed and illustrated to appeal to their young readers. The images are bright, large and some often have delightful quirky things hidden inside them. As well, the text is simple enough to keep a child’s attention.

Look for books which have large text. This way your child can read along with and track the words with their fingers. Sound out individual letters and blended sounds, and ask what other things begin with these sounds.

Encourage your child to look at the shape of the letters and the words as they appear on the page. Once they have done this a few times, you might like to begin to point out other places where these words appear including signs, packaging and, of course, other books.

Grandmother reading with grandchildren

Take Time to Study the Illustrations

We are all in too much of a hurry today with some parents rushing to finish reading because they have so many other things to do.

However, to really build a strong bond and understanding of how a book works, point out the illustrations and ask questions.

What is that character doing?

What color is this or that?

Do you think the character is nice, angry or sad?

Stop and Ask, What’s Going to Happen Next?

One thing children love to do is predict what is going to happen next in the story. Shut the book at a certain point and ask your child what he or she thinks is going to happen. If they don’t know or seem confused give them some options. Such as:

Do you think Goldilocks is going to drive a car next?

Where do you think the Three Bears were when Goldilocks came into the house? At the shops or at the park? Do you think they were at the movies?

Can you imagine what Little Red Riding Hood had in her basket? If she was visiting you, what would you like her to bring?

Predicting the text encourages engagement and involvement rather than just passively accepting what happens next.

Make the Book Relatable to Your Child’s Life

While many stories and fairy tales seem distant or fantasy based, there will always be aspects that can be related to a child’s life.

They might have a dog like the character in the story. They may not like the dark or they may love to sing, for example.

When a character’s parents do something funny or strange, you might ask if they know any parents who do those things too.

When a child can relate the actions or behavior of a character to their own lives, it makes the story more real and believable. They build a connection with the characters and the story that has a real meaning, even though the plot might be fantasy based.

With this in mind, don’t forget that many old fairy tales were written as warnings to children about how to behave and what to be frightened of in their world.

Next time you sit down to read to your child keep in mind how important it is to build a strong connection with reading, and grow a love of books in the heart and mind of your child.

SUSAN DAY AUTHORSusan Day is a passionate author, educator and, grandmother. She wants to empower all parents and grandparents to build meaningful relationships with their grandchildren. Her first non-fiction book was written to explore changes in grandparenting, and teaches the reader how to create their own Grandparenting Philosophy. Discover the Top 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing