The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Gabi Snyder and Review of Two Dogs on a Trike

Find Your Unexpected

~ Gabi Snyder

Gabi studied psychology at the University of Washington and creative writing at The University of Texas. When she’s not writing, she loves taking nature walks, visiting Little Free Libraries, and baking sweet treats. She lives in Oregon with her family.

Gabi’s debut picture book, Two Dogs on a Trike, illustrated by Robin Rosenthal, released May 19, 2020 from Abrams Appleseed. Her second picture book, Listen, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, is due in spring 2021 from Simon & Schuster/Wiseman.

Welcome Gabi, thank-you so much for stopping by to talk about your debut picture book and writing.

Thank you for hosting me on your fabulous blog, Maria!

ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write?)

GABI: I dabbled in writing for several years before I took a leap and studied writing, with a focus on writing fiction for adults, at the University of Texas. After that, I took a succession of jobs that used writing (like grant writing and instructional design).

But it was only when my kids were little, and I became immersed in the world of picture books reading to them every day, that I realized I wanted to write picture books. I wrote my first picture book draft in 2014.

I have a desk where I do some of my writing. I also like to write outside or at the kitchen table, just to mix things up! Pre-pandemic, I enjoyed writing at coffee shops with some writing friends. I look forward to returning to that habit someday.

I love writing picture books, but sometimes I enjoy writing for older kids, too. I am currently drafting a chapter book and revising a middle grade novel.

Sounds like you're having a lot of fun writing! What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

I was not a physically adventurous child, and it took me awhile to learn how to ride a bike, but once I did master bike-riding, I loved the sense of freedom and joy I felt when pedaling around my neighborhood, and later, all over my small town. Taking solo bike rides to discover new things in familiar places is one of my favorite activities as an adult, too.

It is fun to explore on a bike. What inspired you to write Two Dogs on a Trike?

Two Dogs on a Trike starts with a gate left open and a dog escaping her yard to join a poodle on a trike. Soon it’s three dogs on a scooter and then four dogs on a bike. With each new mode of transportation, a new dog is added to the fun. But what the pups fail to notice is that the original dog’s family cat is in hot pursuit.

As a kid, one of my favorite picture books was Go, Dogs, Go! by P.D. Eastman. The silly dogs and sense of movement and fun in Two Dogs on a Trike are, in part, an homage to the P.D. Eastman classic.

In Two Dogs on a Trike, we count up to 10 and back down again while moving through different and escalating modes of transportation. And the dog versus cat dynamic that plays out in the story was inspired, in part, by my childhood pets. I grew up with a cat we called Kinko (named for his kinked tail) and an assortment of dogs. Kinko was the undisputed boss. Now my family includes one dog and one cat. (They take turns keeping each other in line.)

A beloved childhood book and family pets are great inspirations. What was the hardest part of writing Two Dogs on a Trike? The rhyme or the story arc?

I don’t think I initially set out to write a rhyming picture book. But as I started writing and trying out different and escalating modes of transportation, the rhyme felt like a natural addition.

Perhaps the hardest part was deciding just how simple the text should be. I remember drafting one revision that involved active verbs for each spread. But, ultimately, I decided to keep the text spare and leave room for the illustrator to work her magic. The text is simple, but layered. It’s a counting book, a dog book, a transportation book, and an epic chase! As a counting book, it does specify the number of pups and mode of transportation for each spread, but the appearance and personality of the dogs and the setting were left open to interpretation. I did include a few illustration notes about the cat character and her story arc that’s not obvious from the title or the text!

It is so tough to create a story with such succinct text. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

In addition, to Go, Dogs, Go! by P.D. Eastman, I was a big fan of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. That picture book is from 1942 (!), but I find it still resonates with me today. My favorite middle grade novel was probably The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I also gobbled up everything by Judy Blume!

Thanks for introducing me to a new book. Is there something you want your readers to know about Two Dogs on a Trike?

When my kids were little, they LOVED counting books. I think it’s because after a few readings, they were able to count along as I read and they gained confidence in their growing math skills. Reading a counting book is a wonderful way to learn or practice early math skills without feeling like you’re practicing!

I hope readers will come away feeling the joy of these adventuring dogs. I hope they’ll laugh at the canine chaos and be surprised by the determined, resourceful cat. It would also be lovely if the book helps child readers learn how to count up to 10 and back down again!

I think you will accomplish those goals. I like the cat, though I do have to say, I love the paddle-boarding mouse on the end pages. How long did it take from the first draft to publication? What was the hardest part of the publication process? The easiest?

I wrote the first draft of Two Dogs on a Trike in the fall of 2017. In summer of 2018, I found my agent, the fabulous Natalie Lakosil, and we sold the book to Meredith Mundy at Abrams Appleseed in September of 2018. The book came out May 19 of this year, so that’s a little less than three years from first draft to publication.

The hardest part of the publication process was the waiting! First there’s the waiting to hear back from editors when you’re out on submission. Then there’s waiting to hear who your illustrator might be, waiting to see initial sketches, etc. But…the waiting also made receiving news all the more exciting!

One of the easiest – and most gratifying – parts of the publication process is having the chance to see the illustrations at each stage of development. As a newbie, I didn't know what to expect, but was happily surprised that Meredith kept me apprised of each new development with the art. Once we had a finished book, Meredith asked me whether the illustrations matched what I envisioned when I submitted the text. In truth, the book's illustrations are even more adorable and humorous than I’d imagined. The 80s retro vibe/wardrobing of Robin Rosenthal’s characters is very much in line with my aesthetic. It may sound clichéd, but there’s something magical about the picture book collaboration between an author and an illustrator. The whole is so much more than the two parts!

I like your take on waiting! Did anything about the illustrations surprise you (when you first got to see them)? What is your favorite spread?

I’m totally smitten with Robin’s illustrations. I love the humor in her dog and cat characters, and I especially love the 80s retro vibe of her wardrobe choices. The story escalates to “Nine daring dogs on a hot-air balloon.”

Text © Gabi Snyder, 2020. Image © Robin Rosenthal, 2020.

But when we reach “Ten dogs,” there’s a revelation. That tenth animal is NOT a dog! And while my illustration notes made clear who that is, I did not specify where we are. Robin’s illustration there is hilarious and unexpected—a spaceship! I gasped in surprise when I first saw the illustration, and yet it seems like the inevitable “of course!” choice. I have several favorite illustrations, but my all-time favorite is probably that first spaceship spread because of the fun surprise.

I wondered how much direction you'd given. What has been the most frustrating aspect or period of time as a children’s writer for you? Any advice for unpublished and/or un-agented authors?

I was already a writer when I started writing picture books in 2014, but still didn’t find my agent until 2018. I submitted a lot of manuscripts between 2014 and 2018. And I received some champagne rejections as well as some requests for additional manuscripts. A few times I felt I was *so* close but not quite there. That can be a frustrating place to be. I was happiest (and continue to be happiest) when focused on the writing itself and not the outcome.

My advice is to be gentle with yourself; don’t expect your first, or even your third, draft to be brilliant. And be especially easy on yourself right now when your attention is likely pulled in so many directions. In times of stress, it can be easy to fall back on bad old habits, like mindlessly scrolling through social media when you mean to be writing or taking meaningful action. Now it’s especially important to lean heavily on your good habits. If taking walks helps clear your head and let you focus, then keep taking walks!

And know that the more you practice – the more you read and write – the better writer you’ll become. You may have to write 20 stories before you write one that begins to match your vision.

Great advice, Gabi. Can you share a tidbit about Listen (Spring 2021) and/or any other projects you are working on now?

My second picture book, Listen, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, will be out in spring 2021 from Simon & Schuster/Wiseman. It begins with noise: the BEEP! WOOF! ERNT-ERNT! VROOM! of a busy morning, and draws the reader closer as it encourages listening to quieter and quieter sounds. It encourages mindfulness and not only hearing, but really listening, paying attention to the quiet, and even silence, around and within you.

We'll have to keep our ears peeled for news of this one. Is there something you wish you could tell your younger self or kids today?

I’d encourage kids not to be afraid to make mistakes when trying something new! Making mistakes is how we grow and learn, so try not to be too discouraged by mistakes. I would also encourage kids to look for new ways to approach any concepts that are giving them trouble. For instance, if you’re struggling with a math concept, are there math games that will help you practice those particular skills? If a child has been practicing entirely with pencil and paper, are there math manipulatives she can use to help make concepts that may seem abstract more concrete? There are many different methods for learning the same concept!

Learning fractions by cooking was one of my all-time favorites. That way, you learn and get a yummy treat, too. What is your favorite animal? Why?

In the past, I’ve said that I’m a dog person. But I’m really both a dog AND a cat person! In terms of my favorite animal in Two Dogs on a Trike, I adore all the characters from the book. I LOVE that pug! But probably my favorite character in the book is the cat. She has so much personality! Robin described her influences for the cat character as “part Garfield, part Grumpy cat, part cop from Terminator 2,” and I think that hilarious combination shines through in the cat’s facial expressions and body language. So fun!

Thank you, Gabi for stopping by and sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.

To find out more about Gabi Snyder, or get in touch with her:

Website: https://gabisnyder.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Gabi_A_Snyder

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gabi_snyder_writer/

Review of Two Dogs on a Trike

Two Dogs on a Trike

Author: Gabi Snyder

Illustrator: Robin Rosenthal

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed (2020)

Ages: 3 months to 5 years

Fiction

Themes:

Counting, dogs, transportation, rhyme, and humor.

Synopsis:

Count up to 10 and back down again in this picture book starring 10 traveling dogs and one very tenacious cat! One by one, each dog escapes its yard and joins the adventure in this hilarious counting story. Vehicle-obsessed readers will love seeing all the modes of transportation that the pups use—until the family cat decides to round them all up to go back home. Gabi Snyder’s charming text and Robin Rosenthal’s delightful illustrations are a surefire combination in this winning picture book.

Opening Lines:

One dog stands alone.

Two dogs on a trike.

Three dogs on a scooter.

Four dogs on a bike.

What I Liked about this book:

When a book is so entertaining that the intrinsic counting lesson fades into the background, you've found a great concept book. Gabi Snyder's simple, sparse text will allow young readers to quickly feel a sense of mastery. While Robin Rosenthal's bright, expressive illustrations portray the energy and exhilaration of dogs gone wild.

When a gate is left open, a dapper dog hops on a trike with a poodle and sets off on an adventure.

Text © Gabi Snyder, 2020. Image © Robin Rosenthal, 2020.

Seeking increasing thrills, they gather together a growing number of dogs and get crazier and crazier. There's a ukulele playing dachshund in a cone of shame, a pizza party as a sheep dog drives a train, and a concert on a ferry. Unbeknownst to them, the family cat ditches a blue stripped head wrap and is hot on their trail. Calmly following them with a skateboard, race car, submarine, and a helicopter.

Until, stuck on a spaceship, the dogs realize that number ten is . . .

Text © Gabi Snyder, 2020. Image © Robin Rosenthal, 2020.

Fleeing the snarling cat, the dogs backtrack through the vehicles counting back to "One dog stands alone." The dapper dog once again in the yard, behind the iron gate.

Text © Gabi Snyder, 2020. Image © Robin Rosenthal, 2020.

Then, just when you think it is over, Robin drops some fun hints on the verso side. Can you guess the final line? That mouse's head wrap seems vaguely familiar. Be sure you don't miss her awesome illustration on the end pages! Overall, this is a wonderful book. One that is so much fun to read, kids will hardly realize they are learning math skills.

Resources:

- make a list or draw a picture of other ways the dogs, cat, or mouse could travel.

- do some counting activities with toy cars/vehicles (https://www.themeasuredmom.com/8-preschool-math-ideas-using-toy-vehicles/).

- now, try some with toy animals (https://www.themeasuredmom.com/math-activities-with-animals-for-preschoolers/).

- other ideas for counting activities with preschoolers (https://handsonaswegrow.com/16-counting-activities-preschoolers/) & (https://theimaginationtree.com/20-counting-activities-preschoolers/).

Follow Me
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • 1473394675_goodreads
  • Pinterest
Recent Posts
Archive
Categories
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn Social Icon

© 2015 by Maria Marshall.  Proudly created with Wix.com

Proud participant in ...
Link to Nerdy Chick's Summer School Badge
Link to RhyPiBoMo Badge
Link to ReFoReMo Badge
Link ReFoReMo Badge
Link to PiBoIdMo 2015 Badge
Link to Chapter Book Challenge Badge