The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Jonathan London
I get the pleasure of bringing you an interview with the prolific and talented Jonathan London. Jonathan is the author of over 100 picture books for children, many of them about wildlife. I suspect many of you know his picture book, Pup the Sea Otter. His most recent picture book, Little Fox in the Snow, releases this Tuesday, November 13th.
Some of you may also recognize him as the author of the Froggy series. The first book in the series, Froggy Gets Dressed, was published in 1992. It is on the New York Public Library's 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know list. The most recent Froggy book, Froggy's Lemonade
Stand, released on May 15th. He has also written a MG trilogy - Desolation Canyon, Bella Bella, & Grizzly Peak.
Welcome Jonathan. Thank you for taking the time to visit with us.
ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing?)
JONATHAN: When I was in college I started writing poems. I didn’t take classes in poetry
(I mostly studied history), but I liked to read poetry. My early poems were influenced by Gary Snyder, and other nature poets. I tried to write at least one short poem every day, and usually I did! They were often about experiences I had hiking or backpacking in the mountains. Many of my poem were published in literary magazines.
I had two sons, Aaron and Sean, when I was in my late 30’s. They would say,
“Tell me a story, Daddy!” I started to tell them stories and writing them down.
Froggy Gets Dressed was a story I told to my kids. They laughed and asked me
to tell it again. So I wrote it down and started writing down other stories I told.
Soon, instead of writing poems, I was writing stories for kids.
Most of my early stories were at first rejected. Froggy Gets Dressed was rejected around 20 times before I found a publisher. Though I started writing poetry at around 18, I didn’t get my first books for children into libraries and bookstores until I was 45! So you see, I never gave up! And now, over 25 years later, I’ve had well over 100 books published.
Impressive. I admire both your determination and your persistence. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
Perhaps, few people know that my dad was in the Navy and that I moved around the country every two or three years and lived in many places—even Puerto Rico.
That's exciting. As an Army brat, I know that life style can be a big part of one's personality (extrovert or introvert) and drive to experience new things. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
My favorite book as a child was probably The Wizard Of Oz, which my mom
would read to me in bed, before I went to sleep.
If you could share one thing with your younger self and/or kids today what would that be?
If you want to be a writer, you should read a lot and write a lot. If you love what you do, don’t be discouraged just because somebody else doesn’t like your writing as much as you do. Write and write until you get it right!
I love your qualifier "as much as you do." Someone can like the writing but not want to spend two years working on the story. What was your inspiration for Little Fox in the Snow?
My inspiration for Little Fox in the Snow was the opening lines of a poem called Foxalito, by my friend, the poet Gene Berson: "Foxalito... ye are a soft sleeping miracle..."
I have seen a lot of foxes and one of my earliest picture books is Gray Fox, but Little Fox in the Snow wouldn’t have been written if I hadn’t read Gene’s poem first. It truly inspired me.
How interesting that it derived from lines in a poem. What's something you want your readers to know about Little Fox in the Snow?
Little Fox in the Snow is a poem of love, of celebration, of one of the
precious animals we sometimes glimpse, but don’t always try to follow in our
It's a beautiful tribute to the fox. You’ve written both picture books and a middle-grade wilderness trilogy (Desolation Canyon, Bella Bella, Grizzly Peak). Which was harder? Why?
Which is harder, writing picture books or middle grade novels? I loved writing
my middle grade novels Desolation Canyon, Bella Bella, and Grizzly Peak
(Aaron’s Wilderness Trilogy), but, for me, writing picture books is a lot less
work and takes a lot less time!
In addition to the 29-book Froggy series (started in 1992) and the Duck and Hippo series, you’ve written a number of nonfiction picture books, including Pup the Sea Otter (2017, illustrated by your son, Sean London), Hippos Are Huge! (2017), Otters Love to Play (2016, about river otters), Honey Paw and Lightfoot (2014, about grizzly bears), and The Eyes of the Grey Wolf (2004). Do you prefer writing fiction or nonfiction? Why?
I’m best known for my Froggy series (29 books. The next three are: Froggy Picks a Pumpkin - Fall 2019; Froggy Builds a Snowman - late 2019 or early 2020; and Froggy for President! - later in 2020). My new series is Duck and Hippo (Duck and Hippo in the Rainstorm - 2017, Duck and Hippo Lost and Found - 2017, Duck and Hippo Give Thanks - 2018, and Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine -12/2018).
But I have also written many wildlife books. I have seen these animals on wilderness trips, including wilderness river and sea kayaking trips. Which do I prefer writing? I have no preference. I love writing non-fiction books about wildlife, and I love creating fictional Froggy and Duck and Hippo stories, equally! (I love to get kids interested in wild creatures, and I love to make kids laugh!)
You have been busy! I am all for making nature interesting and fun, as well lightening all of our lives. Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
Right now I am doing research on wolverines. Though I have only seen one
in the wild so far, I am totally fascinated by these ferocious animals. I hope to
write a book simply called Wolverine in the near future. And I’m also working
on two new fictitious characters for a picture book called, The Whale and the Butterfly (they’re best friends!)
I must say both of these projects sound interesting. What is your favorite animal? Why? (Or maybe a current animal you are enamored with?)
Besides foxes, favorite animals of mine include wolves, whales, and grizzly bears. Though I rarely see wolves and grizzlies, the times that I have I will never forget. I do see whales about two or three times a year on the coast near where I live, but it’s always a thrill. Foxes I have sometimes seen right here where I live (a very small town in Northern California), and in the fields and forests near here. They are almost ordinary, but always magical. They lift my spirit to see them.
Thank you, Jonathan for stopping by and sharing with us. It was truly wonderful to chat with you.
Be sure to stop by this Friday for a Perfect Picture Book Friday Post #PPBF on Little Fox in the Snow.
To find out more about Jonathan London, or get in touch with him: