Up Close and Personal With Susanna L. Hill and Betsy Snyder (+ a Giveaway!)

You can alpha-bet that I’m P-U-M-P-E-D to be a stop on the ALPHABEDTIME Blog Tour! As a matter of fact, Frog on a Blog is the final stop of the tour, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome author Susanna Hill and illustrator Betsy Snyder here to wrap things up in a super enjoyable way!

To visit the other blog tour stops, click the image above!

Make sure you read the whole post because there’re lots of goodies to explore, including Susanna and Betsy’s fun, informal interview; an adorable, printable craft project for use at home or school; an awesome example of one of Betsy’s sketches with the finished illustration; Susanna’s very first book ever; and, last but not least, a giveaway of their fabulous new book Alphabedtime! Let’s go!

This is the last stop on the ALPHABLOGTIME tour! If you’re just tuning in and want to know any of the “Creation of the Book” details about Susanna’s inspiration for the book, or how Betsy approached the monumental task of creating the art, please check back to some of the earlier stops on the tour, several of which covered those topics. If you’d like to know who instigated the Alpha-Mayhem, then By Word Of Beth is the stop for you! If you are looking for activities to go with the book, they can be found at Maria Marshall’s and Laura Sassi’s. For some delicious Alphabet Cookie recipes, Little Red Story Shed with Julie Abery is the place you want to go. All the links can be found at https://linktr.ee/alphabedtime

But here and now we’re going to get down to the nitty-gritty, the bare bones, the essential inner-workings, and give you a sneak peek at the up-close-and-personal! Just who are Susanna and Betsy?

Are you ready? Yes!

Favorite color? 

Betsy: Blue—the color that makes me think of the ocean, my happy place.

Susanna: Cornflower blue – so pretty!

What was the first book you ever wrote/illustrated and how old were you?

Betsy: I don’t remember the first “book”, but the first piece of art I remember illustrating as a child was one I titled The Invisible Lady With One Orange Leg (orange marker scribble on cardboard, age unknown). Clearly I was destined for greatness, ha!

Susanna: The Girl And The Witch (can you guess what it’s about? 🙂 ) I wrote it in 2nd grade. The decorative cover should make it clear why I do not illustrate my own books!

Favorite (bedtime) snack? 

Betsy: Buttery popcorn!

Susanna: I’m not a bedtime snacker, but for a regular snack, my favorite is a Snickers bar and Diet Coke (I know! Dreadful! But favorite means special occasion – not something I do often. Er, not too often…)

Favorite quote from a children’s book?

Betsy: “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” – The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Susanna: “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” – E.B. White, last line of Charlotte’s Web

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Betsy: Either a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld, a soap opera writer, or an artist. 

Susanna: I wanted to drive a steam roller and put my baby on the seat next to me.

What are 3 things people might not know about you? (or people might be surprised to learn?)


1. I was born in North Carolina.

2. I love to ice skate.

3. My name fits perfectly into the Itsy Bity Spider song (sing it—the itsy Betsy Snyder went up the water spout…)


1. I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee (if Alabama means New York City and banjo means piano…but I’d have to be Pippi Longstocking to actually have a piano on my knee…)

2. I know all the words to the 1970s Big Red chewing gum commercial. Also, to the Oscar Mayer jingle. . . and the Dial jingle. . . As well as the theme songs to The Love Boat, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch. . . I could go on, but I don’t want to scare you TOO much! And I wasn’t even allowed to watch TV, except for PBS! (Of course, ask me for my ATM pin number and I have to look it up – there’s only so much real estate in the brain and mine is full of meaningless nonsense!)

3. I am a lot more comfortable with dogs and horses and cats than I am with people. I’m pretty sure I was one of those three animals in a past life because I love to bask in sun puddles. 🙂

Which characters in ALPHABEDTIME remind you most of your own children? 

Betsy: S’s affinity for sharks and U running around in his underwear remind me of my spirited 5 year-old son—he has a way of making bedtime wild.

M’s magic makes me think of my 8 year-old daughter—she went through a phase where she practiced her tricks and put on magic shows.

And T’s T-Rex stuffy and Triceratops helmet are a nod to both of my dinosaur-loving kids.

Susanna: Okay. In the interest of maintaining positive relationships with my now grown children, I will not attribute names or genders to any of my choices. 🙂 But I’d say D (the noisy musician), K (the entertaining clown-around), F (the feather-boa-wearing reader), W (the quiet, serious, nonfiction reader), and Z (the dog-loving baby) grew up in my house!

Favorite stuffy/lovey as a child?

Betsy: Mr. Bear, a big stuffed polar bear that my grandma gave me. He definitely became REAL to me.

Susanna: Pink blankie

Do you have a pet, or is there a pet you wish you had?

Betsy: My family and I have a 5-month-old golden retriever puppy-monster named Penny—we adore her fluffy cuteness but fear her puppy teeth. My kids also have 2 goldfish named Golden Sun and Strawberry that are surprisingly still alive since being won at Home Days in August.

Susanna: I have two rambunctious young rescue dogs who came from bad beginnings and are still learning that the world doesn’t have to be a scary place. Their names are Finn and Violet, and if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ve seen way more of them than you probably ever wanted to! I also have a spotted pony named Hoops who technically belongs to my daughter, but I have inherited her. Lucky me! 🙂

Favorite tip/advice?

Betsy: “You do you.” I adopted this phrase after I first heard a close friend use it years ago (thanks Melissa Wolf!). It’s great advice for kids, but also for artists and writers, don’t you think?

Susanna: If you stir coconut oil into your kale, it makes it easier to scrape into the trash… 🙂 Oh. Did you mean a writing tip or advice? How about this: the joy of being a writer is that you can do anything. The story is yours. You are in charge. You can write happy or sad, quiet or exciting, mysterious or funny. Whatever mood you’re in, whatever you need in the moment, you can make it happen. And if it’s doing something good for you, it will do something good for someone who reads it.

On a more book-related note, we thought it would be fun to show you one of Betsy’s sketches together with the finished art so you could see how it transformed.

And Betsy also made a craft to go with the book, which you can use at home or in the classroom. You saw it here first, folks! 



Was this a fabulous post or what? That’s a rhetorical question because of course it was fabulous! Thank you, Susanna and Betsy! But, just when you thought you couldn’t take any more fabulousness, you’ll have to hold onto something because we have a giveaway too!! The publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, has generously offered a copy of Alphabedtime to one lucky person. To win a copy of Alphabedtime, leave a comment on this post. A winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, November 30. Susanna will send a personalized signed bookplate to go with it if the winner desires. This giveaway is open to US residents only.

Susanna L. Hill is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, including Moon’s First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship, and the award-winning author of over twenty-five more books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis, Can’t Sleep Without Sheep, and the popular When Your Lion Needs a Bath series. Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai.

She does frequent school and library visits, teaches picture book writing, and has a popular picture book blog. Susanna lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley where she practices the alphabet with her children and two rescue dogs. Find Susanna online at https://susannahill.com.

Author-illustrator Betsy Snyder’s smile-inducing art can be found on everything from social expressions products, board games, plush, decor, fabric, wallpaper, and of course—books!

Since making her publishing debut, Betsy has illustrated and/or authored over twenty books, earning recognition from groups including the Society of Illustrators, The New York Times, Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine, Indie Next List, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center and Please Touch Museum. Betsy lives in northeast Ohio, where she enjoys cozying up to doodle with her art-loving family, and venturing out to schools and libraries to encourage kids (and even grown-ups) to share their stories and chase their dreams. Learn more about Betsy and her books at www.betsysnyder.com.

Trucks On Tour (plus a Giveaway)


Can trucks be adorable? They can if they’re the hard-working, road-building crew from Susanna Leonard Hill and Erica Sirotich’s new picture book THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT, set to be released on July 25. In this fun rhyming story, readers may recognize a familiar rhythm, that of the classic nursery rhyme THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT. I’ve asked Susanna to talk a little bit about the process of taking something familiar and turning it into something fresh and new.


Making Cinnamon Drop Rainbow Raisin Surprise Out Of Gruel

(or, how to take something old and tired (and in the case of gruel, kind of disgusting 🙂 ) and make it fresh, exciting and new!)

by Susanna Leonard Hill

“Mom!” your horde hollers. (Or Dad – I’m not gender stereotyping, just writing from my own point of view… more on that in a minute 🙂 )  “What’s for dinner?”

“Chicken,” you answer.  (Or veggie burgers, pasta, chili, pork chops, soup and salad, salmon, beef stew, or burritos…)

“Not again,” the horde whines.  (Because – as you all know – the only good answer to this question is pizza.  Everything else is old and boring and only to be tolerated because it’s better than starving to death, a danger the horde feels to be imminent every evening!)

You bristle.

You shopped and washed and chopped and diced and put time and effort into a delicious and nutritious meal for them – time you could have spent writing! – and for what?


You’d think you’d offered them watered-down gruel!

Looking down into their pathetic Dickensian faces – “Only gruel, mum?  Please, mum!  Mightn’t we have something better?” – it dawns on you that there’s another way of serving up dinner.

(And no, it’s not hiring a personal chef or feeding the children out of a trough in the back yard… although both options are tempting 🙂 )

Uh, Susanna?  (I hear you interrupt.)  Do you have a point?  We’re supposed to be talking about writing, not gruel!

Why, yes, in fact, I do. 🙂

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that there are no new stories.

This is a daunting statement if you’re a writer.


If there are no new stories, what are we supposed to write?

As with the age-old question of what’s for dinner, there may not be anything new… but it’s all in how you serve it up!

Gruel takes on a whole new interest, meaning, and desirability if you put in your own dash of this and pinch of that and present it as Cinnamon Drop Rainbow Raisin Surprise, or Banana Berry Blast Supreme!  Suddenly the horde is front and center at the table, eager to partake.

So it is with writing.

Perhaps it’s true that there are no new stories.  (Perhaps not, but that’s a debate for another time.  The point is it can often feel true when you sit down to write.)

But just because something has been done before, whether it’s peanut butter and jelly or a picture book about bedtime, doesn’t mean that you can’t put a whole new spin on it.

Your spin.

Believe it or not, no one else will tell a story exactly the way you do because you are unique.  You come at everything from your own point of view.  (I told you we’d get back to that in a minute. 🙂 )

You bring your own unique combination of feelings, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, memories, experience, and dreams to everything you write.  As a result, I could ask 20 of you to write a bedtime story and I would get 20 new and different stories.  They might be similar in concept, but the execution would be unique to the individual – from who you choose as characters, to what the precise problem or goal is in relation to bedtime, to how you resolve the story, to your choice of language and mood.

Because of this, we can take things that have been done before and make them new – turn the familiar into the fresh and fun.


Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich
Used by permission of Little Simon

When my son was little, he loved heavy equipment.  We read a lot of books about big trucks.  Most of them simply pictured and described the trucks and what they were used for, or showed them on a road going somewhere.

I wanted to do something different.

I wanted to show how a group of trucks could work together to build a house, or a road, or something…  That was me.  Something that came from me. My experience of reading with my son.  My own fascination with heavy equipment.  My own interest in how things work.

My story would be a story – not just a description – and it would be about the trucks, of course, but also about the process of building and about teamwork.

I made a list of the vehicles I might potentially include.

I mucked about with a number of different openings.

I played with which trucks to use and how to include them.

And I thought to myself, what is the best way to tell this story?

And out of nowhere, like a tickle of memory, a sequence of notes that conjures up a familiar song, I thought, a sequence story… like THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT!

Without even really realizing it, I was taking something familiar (THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT) and making it something new – making it mine.

Someone else would have written this story a different way.  They wouldn’t have thought about sequence, or it wouldn’t have occurred to them that THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT would make a perfect vehicle (hahaha) for a story about trucks building a road.

But other people have certainly had the same idea with different topics.  Have you read THIS IS THE STAR? or, THE TREE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT? or any one of a number of other stories based on the familiar rhyme but encompassing different stories, characters and ideas?

Someone else might have started with THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT but used it to frame a story about filling a picnic basket because they had a family tradition of picnics every Sunday after church.  Or they might have used it to frame a story about building a car because of their race car-obsessed daughter… or anything else under the sun.

I came to the rhyme a little bit round about, but lots of people start with it, or some other familiar rhyme, song, or story.


Writers with unique perspectives and ideas wrote THERE WAS AN OLD MONSTER, and THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT, and THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED SOME BOOKS… and many others.  What character could you put in that story and what would they swallow and why?

Fractured fairy tales fall into this category as well – picture books abound that are based on the THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, and GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS, among others, all of them entertaining and delightful.  Those stories are familiar frameworks – scaffolding upon which to build something new, different, and fun.

Iza Trapani has made a career out of starting with familiar Mother Goose rhymes and spinning them into wonderful creative new stories that expand the original to new heights and depths.  That’s a whole other field of familiar you can cultivate into something new.

Give it a try today!

Start with something we all know:

The House That Jack Built

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly

She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain

Hansel And Gretel

There Was A Crooked Man

Little Boy Blue

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Eensy, Weensy Spider…

…or any other fairy tale, song, or nursery rhyme that appeals to you.

Change the characters or the setting.

Give the character a different problem, goal or challenge.

Put the story in a different format – cumulative or parallel instead of classic or circular.

Or take a manuscript of yours that hasn’t worked right just yet and see what happens if you put it into one of these shapes.  What if you tried working your story about a stray dog into a Jack And The Beanstalk tale?

There are so many ways to freshen the familiar!  And whatever you choose will be unique to you.

Take that old gruel and add a spoonful of cinnamon, and a handful of black raisins, golden raisins, and cranberry raisins and voila!  Instead of boring old gruel that no one wants, you have Cinnamon Drop Rainbow Raisin Surprise that has everyone begging for second helpings!

Hope that gives you a positive little nudge in your writing today!

Thank you so much for having me here at Frog On A Blog for the second time in a month, Lauri!  I so appreciate your support for my new books and your willingness to help spread the word!  And thanks to everyone for stopping by to read! 🙂

Thank you so much, Susanna, for stopping by and sharing your knowledge with us. We’ve all got our engines revving and we’re ready to write. But first, let’s visit the rest of the stops (or is it the rest stops?) on the Trucks on Tour blog tour. Vroom!!!

Truck Blog Tour Schedule


You can win a signed copy of Susanna’s book THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT by replacing a familiar title with one that has a truck in it. (For example: The Little Bulldozer That Could, in place of The Little Engine That Could) Put your title in the comments. At the conclusion of the blog tour, a winner will be chosen at random and will be notified.


A special prize will be raffled off among anyone who comments on every single blog tour stop, so don’t miss a single fascinating installment!

And don’t forget to share on social media.  The hashtag we are using to promote the book is #trucksontour.  Every time you share a post on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram using #trucksontour, you will get an entry into a raffle where 3 winners will each get a $25 Merritt Bookstore and Toystore gift card.

Susanna Leonard Hill is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for children.  She teaches an online picture book writing class – Making Picture Book Magic (http://www.susannahill.com/MAKING_PICTURE_BOOK_MAGIC.html) – offers picture book critiques, and does frequent school and library visits.  She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.

When Your Books Go On A Blog Tour (plus a Giveaway)

BlogTourBanner (2)

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in a book blog tour. That’s why I’m extra excited to be a part of the amazing Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog tour celebration of her TWO brand new children’s books WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES and WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH! Take a look at the covers; could they be any cuter?!

I wanted to know how Susanna created her “When Your” series. Her blog tour offered the perfect opportunity to find out! Susanna, the page is yours!

Hello Everyone!

Thank you so much for joining the When Your Books Blog Tour fun!
Lauri thought it would be interesting to talk about writing a series today, since that’s something a lot of us haven’t attempted.
So let’s talk! 🙂

It may surprise you to know that I did not set out to write a series!
The WHEN YOUR… books began with a case of the hiccups. (Mine 🙂 )
I don’t know about you, but in my household of 5 kids we have plenty of hiccup remedies…none of them particularly successful, mind you, but all of them guaranteed to induce silliness.

So on the day I got the hiccups, I started thinking about those ridiculous remedies – chasing, tickling, laughing, breath-holding, scaring, drinking backwards etc. – and I suddenly had an idea for a story: When Your [child/animal/something?] Has The Hiccups!

I sat down to write – my goal to produce that one single story.
But as you writers all know, the mind works in mysterious ways, and creativity begets creativity.

I wrote the hiccup story, but before I was even finished with it, I started thinking about sniffles…and baths…and haircuts… 🙂
“Hmmm…,” I said to the dogs who were asleep under my feet. “I wonder if I have more than one book here…!”
The dogs (shockingly) did not reply, but I felt I was onto something.
I knew something about series, obviously. We’ve all read them. But what I was used to thinking of as a series were things like Fancy Nancy – several books that feature the same familiar character in varied situations.
That was not what I had.

So I had to think a little about exactly what makes a series.
Clearly, there has to be an element of coherence – something to hold the stories together even without that familiar main character.
In the case of the WHEN YOUR… books that element of coherence is theme.
Every book in the series addresses “things kids sometimes find unpleasant.”
Etc… 🙂
I would not write a story for this series about how much fun someone’s birthday is – that would not fit!
A common theme is important and helpful, but since the characters change from book to book, I knew I needed more than that.

As I moved from writing the hiccup book to writing the sniffles book, I deliberately incorporated several things:

1. A similar tone and voice.
All the books feature an unseen narrator who offers advice.
The overall tone of the books is humorous.
2. A similar objective.
All of the books are instructional – they tell you how to do something.
3. An animal character who is particularly well-suited (in a kind of backwards way) to the situation – e.g. a lion who needs a bath (because cats hate water) or an elephant with the sniffles (because what could be worse than sniffles with a nose like that?!)
4. A child who is in charge.
5. No adults.
6. An ending where, without realizing it or objecting to it, the child ends up doing whatever s/he was trying to get the animal to do 🙂

Because the stories are about things kids sometimes find unpleasant, I wanted to inject humor, hoping to make those objectionable things seem a little more palatable.

And because these objectionable situations are things kids often have to be coerced into, I wanted the child character to be the one in control (since kids tend to lack that in real life! 🙂 ) and I didn’t want any adults.

As a result, even though each story features a different child, a different animal, and a different situation, they have a cohesiveness that holds them together and makes them feel like a matched set even though each story is just as capable of standing on its own.


Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Daniel Wiseman
Used by permission of Little Simon


Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Daniel Wiseman
Used by permission of Little Simon

I hope that gives you a little idea of one way you might go about writing a series. If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments and I will do my best to answer in a timely fashion. 🙂

Thanks again for joining the blog tour fun, and I hope you’ll enjoy the books if you get a chance to read them!

And thank you so much, Lauri, for having me here today and for so kindly hosting this stop on the blog tour!

It was my pleasure, Susanna! You’ve given us all a mini lesson on writing a picture book series. Awesome! 

And as if things couldn’t get any better, Susanna is generously offering one signed copy of each book, WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES and WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH, to one lucky winner.

To win, all you have to do is share your favorite book series in the comments!

A winner will be chosen at random and will receive their books after July 12.

Let’s keep the blog tour fun going! Be sure to visit the rest of the stops on the tour. The schedule is posted below. And don’t forget to visit Susanna’s blog for the “When Your Books Go On A Blog Tour” kickoff post. You may discover more chances to win fabulous prizes. Click Here!

Blog Tour Schedule (1)

Don’t forget to share this post using #whenyourbooks!  Every time you post with #whenyourbooks you get an entry in the end-of-tour raffle for a Special Prize!

Click Here to find out more!