The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/Amber Hendricks and Review of Butterflies Soar/Wildflowers Grow

Born and raised in the Midwest, Amber Hendricks grew up reading everything she could get her hands on- including the morning cereal boxes. Always trying to bridge the practical and creative, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Merchandising with an emphasis on Visual Merchandising from Northwest Missouri State University. Amber has worn many hats in her career: Army wife, Mother, Visual Merchandiser, Certified Pharmacy Technician, and most recently, Childcare Professional. But she has always circled back to her first love of telling stories. Amber currently resides in Missouri with her husband and two children.


Amber's the author of Superheroes Don't Babysit (2020), Extraordinary Ordinary Ella(2020), and Sophie and Little Star (2018).

For additional information see our earlier interviews (here) and (here).


Her two newest books, Butterflies Soar and Wildflowers Grow, released on March 8th.

Amber, thank you so much for stopping back by to talk about your board books Butterflies Soar and Wildflowers Grow and your writing.


Hi, Maria! I’m so thrilled to be back on your wonderful blog. Thank you for having me!


Did you find anything particularly helpful in keeping you inspired and writing these past couple of years?


Like so many other creators, I found it very difficult to be creative in the early months of the pandemic. The stress and strain of so much uncertainty sapped the creativity right out of me! I absolutely appreciated the numerous free resources and webinars provided by SCBWI during that time, but ultimately, reading and critiquing my CP’s amazing stories kept me inspired even when I couldn’t get my own words on the page.


When I did feel up to writing again, I finally allowed myself to work on a MG project that had been living in my head for years. As a former pantser, I focused on plotting and was thrilled to write the entire first draft in less than a year! Having a plan to follow helped me stay on track and write every day.


Having a plan and goals can be diverting enough to shut most everything else out and get work done. Congrats! What was the inspiration for Butterflies Soar? How about for and Wildflowers Grow?

Both of these stories began as entries in Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest in different years. There was something so appealing in the challenge of creating a story with a beginning, middle, and end in 50 words or less. Appealing but daunting! I’ve always loved the musicality of words but struggled with writing a wordier picture book manuscript in rhyme. Vivian’s contest was just the prompt I needed!


I love all things nature and, in good weather, can usually be found more outside than in! I love getting my hands in the dirt and coaxing little seeds to grow into beautiful flowers and yummy vegetables. There is something so magical in those transformations. Nature is my happy place and often where I look for inspiration!


I definitely agree with you. There's nothing like spending time in the garden to reset your mind and attitude. Did your experience writing, revising, and/or publishing, either or both, Butterflies Soar and/or Wildflowers Grow differ from your previous books? What was the toughest aspect of writing each of these books?


When I initially pitched the idea to my editor, each story was already written and came in around 30ish words. She liked the concept but felt that the story arcs weren’t quite complete. It was tough to find a way to flesh out the stories while maintaining the integrity of the rhyme/meter and keep the word count appropriate for board books.


After a revise and resubmit, my editor asked if I could write two more board book manuscripts to create a series of four. Of course, I said yes! Since I had worked with Amicus before, I knew I was in great hands and that the books would be gorgeous. But that was my first experience with writing on a deadline!


It's cool that they want two more though! How hard is it for you to switch between picture books and board books?


Writing board book manuscripts was a happy accident and something I never intentionally set out to do. The idea always intimidated me in the past! But striving to keep my picture book manuscripts less than 500 words (with a sweet spot of around 300), and entering contests like Vivian’s, Susanna Hill’s, and Kaitlyn Sanchez’s Fall Writing Frenzy and Spring Fling really helped hone my craft and made switching between picture books and board books much easier.


Sometimes, life surprises us. We just have to be ready to accept its challenges. Is there something you want your readers to know about Butterflies Soar? How about Wildflowers Grow?

Text © Amber Henricks, 2022. Image © Gavin Scott, 2022.


I hope the books encourage kids and families alike to get out, explore and enjoy nature. More importantly, I hope Butterflies Soar and Wildflowers Grow inspire children to become good stewards of the magical natural wonders all around us!


When you first saw Gavin Scott’s illustrations in Butterflies Soar and Wildflowers Grow, did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite page in each book?


Text © Amber Henricks, 2022. Image © Gavin Scott, 2022.


I was completely blown away by Gavin’s talent! I absolutely love how bright and vivid his illustrations are and how perfectly they pair with my words. Picking a favorite is tough, but I adore the last spreads in each book for their explosions of color!


Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I am delighted that the following two titles of the Little Nature Explorers series, Autumn Leaves Fall and Forest Friends Sleep, will be releasing in July! Whereas Wildflowers and Butterflies celebrate all things spring, Autumn Leaves Fall and Forest Friends Sleep explore and celebrate the changing seasons, from the last days of summer to the first snow. Gavin’s illustrations for these two board books are so cozy and dreamy!


What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Growing up my family visited a lot of State and National Parks, but I recently learned about an amazing sounding park off the Florida Keys! It is called Dry Tortugas National Park and is made up of a small group of islands 70 miles off of Key West. Though it is a 2.5 hour ferry ride (each way!), once on the island you can explore the preserved ruins of Fort Jefferson, a 19th century maritime fort, camp, and snorkel in crystal clear water! It sounds like a once in a lifetime experience!


© Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau


Looks & sounds amazing! Thank you so much for stopping back by Amber. It was wonderful to chat with you again.


Thank you again for having me!


To find out more about Amber Hendricks, or contact her:

Publisher’s Website: https://www.clearforkpublishing.com/amber-hendricks.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amber.hen.3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ashayhen

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


Book Review of Butterflies Soar and Wildflowers Grow

and Double Book Giveaway


Wonderfully simple poems, accompanied by gorgeous and immersive illustrations, make these board books a fun way for toddlers to learn about the life cycle of butterflies and plants.

Butterflies Soar and Wildflowers Grow


Author: Amber Hendricks


Illustrator: Gavin Scott


Publisher: Amicus Ink (2022)


Ages: Baby to 3


Nonfiction


Themes:

Nature, biology, and poetry.


Synopsis:

Caterpillars crunch leaves. They make their own chrysalises. And every day they change until they hatch into beautiful butterflies! And underground, seeds sleep until spring. Rain comes, seeds sprout, and flowers burst into bloom!


Amber Hendricks’ short expressive lines with repeated action words make these poems perfect for sharing with babies and toddlers, and Gavin Scott’s warm, cozy illustrations encourage all ages to appreciate nature. Little ones will want to read these board books again and again.


Opening Lines:

Crunch, crunch, munch.

Caterpillars lunch.


Down, down, deep.

Little seeds asleep.


What I LIKED about these two books:

In Butterflies Soar, Amber Hendricks snags a little kid's interest with the idea that caterpillars are "lunching" on leaves and Gavin Scott offers big, varied, and brightly colorful caterpillars. Though seemingly simple, it offers caregivers a wonderful opening for talking about what caterpillars eat, how they move, and the fact that are different types.

Text © Amber Henricks, 2022. Image © Gavin Scott, 2022.


Using action words and simple rhymes - like "Rock, rock, sway./ Changing every day" - Amber follows a caterpillar as it weaves a cocoon and changes into a butterfly. Gavin's addition of a curious owl and ladybug add a touch of humor and whimsy, as does the sweet face of the butterfly, with its curving probuscis.

Text © Amber Henricks, 2022. Image © Gavin Scott, 2022.


Similarly, in Wildflowers Soar, Amber begins with the idea of seeds sleeping through the winter - Down, down, deep./Little seeds asleep." I adore this opening image of a snowy blanket covering the seeds and earthworm, and the addition of the cute chickadee. What an awesome perspective for a toddler.

Text © Amber Henricks, 2022. Image © Gavin Scott, 2022.


This book tracks the seeds' response to the arrival of spring rain and sunshine, by growing roots and sprouts. I love the curious snail, mole, mouse, and ants that Gavin adds into the pictures. Animals who would naturally observe these "magical" events both below and above the ground. Splitting the image this way, until the end when the flowers bud and bloom, not only lets kids to see how seeds germinate and grow, but allows for more variety in colors.

Text © Amber Henricks, 2022. Image © Gavin Scott, 2022.


These two books masterfully condense the topics - metamorphosis & germination - into deceptively simple, five stanza poems and colorful, slightly whimsical, illustrations highlighting the changes that butterflies and flowers undergo as they grow. These are fun, beautiful books that parents and kids will enjoy reading again and again. Wonderful additions to nature book collections for toddlers.


Resources:

- using paper or treasures found in the house (buttons, stickers, etc.) or outside (leaves, flower petals, etc.) make your own mosaic butterfly. Or create your own caterpillar that turns into a butterfly (here).


- visit a zoo or science center with a butterfly exhibit/garden and see the various stages and watch the butterflies (and maybe moths) fly around the flowers.

- Using a variety of seed packets (flowers and/or vegetables) and make your own mini greenhouse. Which seeds do the kids think will grow roots or stems first? Where they right? Plant them in your garden or pots and enjoy your flowers or vegetables.


- make your own fingerpaint wildflower or a couple in different colors.


- take a walk around your yard, along a favorite path, or in a park. Look for plants starting to sprout or bud. If you can, watch them as they grow taller and bloom. How long did that take? How many different colors do you see?


A Double Book Giveaway


One lucky reader will win a copy of Butterflies Soaring AND a second lucky winner will win a copy of Wildflowers Growing.

- Simply comment below to be entered in the random drawing for a copy either book.

- Be sure to say where you shared the post (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and I'll add additional entries for you.

- *Sorry, US Residents only.*

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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