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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/Amber Hendricks + Review Autumn Leaves Fall/Forest Friends Sleep

I'm excited to interview Amber and highlight the final two board books in her Little Nature Explorers series published with Amicus Ink.

Born and raised in the Midwest, Amber Hendricks grew up reading everything she could get her hands on- including the morning cereal boxes. 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 Butterflies Soar (2022),Wildflowers Grow (2022), Superheroes Don't Babysit (2020), Extraordinary Ordinary Ella(2020), and Sophie and Little Star (2018).

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


Her newest books, Autumn Leaves Fall and Fall Friends Sleep, release August 9th & 10th.


Amber, thank you so much for stopping back by to talk about your board books Autumn Leaves Fall and Fall Friends Sleep and your writing.


Hi, Maria! Thank you for having me, again. I always love reading your interviews and am thrilled to come back to talk about my newest board books!


What was the inspiration for Autumn Leaves Fall? How about for Fall Friends Sleep?

Autumn Leaves Fall and Forest Friends Sleep are the next two books in the Little Nature Explorers series, following Butterflies Soar and Wildflowers Grow. When my editor asked if I had any ideas for fall titles in a similar vein as Butterflies and Wildflowers, I really wanted the stories to mirror each other. Where the spring titles focus on the burst of new life that comes as winter gives way to spring, I wanted Autumn Leaves Fall and Forest Friends Sleep to reflect the opposite and focus on the slowing/winding down of fall and winter.


I also wanted to mirror the opening lines. For example, in Wildflowers Grow, the opening lines are:


Down, down deep,

Little seeds asleep.


For Autumn Leaves Fall, the opening lines are:


Up, up high.

Green against the sky.


Thankfully, my editor was on board with my vision!


It's fun that you have a series of board books that explore the seasons. Did your experience writing, revising, and/or publishing Autumn Leaves Fall and/or Fall Friends Sleep differ from your previous books, especially Butterflies Soar and Wildflowers Grow? What was the toughest aspect of writing each of these books?


Normally ,when I pitch a manuscript, it is completely written and has been reviewed by my amazing critique partners a few times. These books were my first experience writing new stories on a deadline.


I think the toughest aspect of writing Autumn Leaves Fall and Forest Friends Sleep was coming up with the concepts and writing fully fleshed-out manuscripts in a limited amount of time. The task was made even more difficult as I had to keep my word count below 50 words for each book. But I enjoyed the challenge! And participating in Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest was great practice.


I love that contest and imagine writing to a deadline could be scary! Do you plan to continue writing board books or mixing it up with some more picture books, too?


Board books are so much fun! I love the idea of playing a small part in introducing a love of reading at such a young age. If the opportunity presents itself I would love the chance to write more board books! But until then, I am happy to continue working on picture book manuscripts.


*Smiling* Is there something you want your readers to know about Autumn Leaves Fall? How about Fall Friends Sleep?


It is no secret that we are facing extreme climate change and we all need to do our part in protecting the world. I hope that Autumn Leaves Fall and Forest Friends Sleep will inspire a whole new generation of nature explorers to appreciate the magic of nature and who will grow to be good stewards of our Earth.


I hope so, too. When you first saw Gavin Scott’s illustrations in Autumn Leaves Fall and Fall Friends Sleep, did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite page in each book?


I adored Gavin’s illustration style from the first image that my editor shared from Gavin’s Instagram account (@gavillustrator) of a shaggy bear duo done in soft hues. His art in Autumn Leaves Fall and Forest Friends Sleep is so wonderfully warm and inviting that it is hard to pick just one page!

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


I do love how Gavin included the bunny from the cover of Autumn Leaves Fall throughout many of the spreads. I think little readers will have such a fun time discovering its hiding places!


I agree that Gavin's illustrations are amazing. I fell in love with the bear hugging the fish! Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


I recently signed with the amazing team of Rena Rossner and Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs of the Deborah Harris Agency and am out on submission! I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together and am so excited about what the future holds.


In the meantime, I have turned my attention to polishing a MG novel I wrote during the first year of Covid that celebrates my love of all things Ireland. It may never become a book-shaped thing, but writing a MG is something I’ve long wanted to try and it gave me something positive to focus on during those dark and uncertain first months of the pandemic.


Congratulations! And your MG sounds tantalizing. If you could meet anyone (alive, literary, or dead), who would that be and why?


This is such a great question! And such a hard question! My favorite book of all time is The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien so I’d probably have to say Bilbo Baggins. I’d love to sit and have Elevenses with him, take a walk about the Shire, and listen to him recount his adventures!


Nice! Thank you so much for stopping back by Amber. It was wonderful to chat with you again.


It is always a pleasure visiting your wonderful blog, Maria. Thank you so much for having me and for all the support you give!


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



Review of Autumn Leaves Fall and

Forest Friends Sleep


With wonderfully simple poems, accompanied by gorgeous and immersive illustrations, these board books are a wonderful way for toddlers to learn about the fall cycle of leaves and hibernation.

Autumn Leaves Fall and Forest Friends Sleep


Author: Amber Hendricks


Illustrator: Gavin Scott


Publisher: Amicus Ink (2022)


Ages: 4-6


Nonfiction


Themes:

Nature, biology, and poetry.


Synopsis:

Autumn Leaves Fall - Take little ones on an active, rhyming jaunt of changing seasons and falling leaves in this poetic board book.


Squirrels, foxes, and bunnies romp through the forest as the trees change from the green of summer to autumn colors and finally to the bare branches of early winter. Amber Hendricks' short expressive lines with repeated action words make this poem perfect for sharing with babies and toddlers, and Gavin Scott's warm, cozy illustrations encourage all ages to appreciate nature.


Forest Friends Sleep - Take little ones on an active, rhyming jaunt of changing seasons and animals preparing for winter in this poetic board book.


As the leaves start to change color and fall, bear eats fish, woodchuck builds a burrow, and squirrel collects nuts—all to get ready for winter. Amber Hendricks' short expressive lines with repeated action words make this poem perfect for sharing with babies and toddlers, and Gavin Scott's warm, cozy illustrations encourage all ages to appreciate nature.


Opening Lines:

Autumn Leaves Fall -

Up, up, high.

Green against

the sky.


Forest Friend Sleep -

Romp, romp, play.

Summer fades away.


What I LIKED about these two books:

In Autumn Leaves Fall, Amber Hendricks immediately snags a little kid's interest with a squirrel, high in a tree, looking down at a bear, fox, and bunny, then sprinting through the branches full of a variety of leaves. Gavin's addition of the bird and clouds high in the sky is a nice touch. Though seemingly simple, it offers caregivers a wonderful opportunity to talk about different leaf shapes and species of trees.

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


As the weather changes and a 'Brisk, brisk, breeze" grows into a gust, Gavin Scott's illustrations shift into a riot of yellows, golds, and reds. Using a pattern of three action words followed by a simple rhymes - like "Gust, gust, blow./Changes slowly show" - Amber follows the cooling of the weather and the arrival of fall colors. Gavin's illustrations do an excellent job eliciting curiosity and wonder through both the expressions and actions of these animal friends and the changes occurring in the leaves. Especially their final joyful romp in piles of fallen leaves. Wait until you see the rhymes and illustrations for the leaves drifting and dancing in the wind.

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


In Forest Friends Sleep, Amber revisits the adorable bear cub and his friends, fox and squirrel, but adds a woodchuck. As the fourth board book in this Little Nature Explorers series, Amber continues the previous pattern of three action words followed by a simple rhyme. Gavin's opening illustration of them racing down a grassy hillside in a woodland meadow (sprinkled with a few butterflies and sparkly yellow flowers), then pausing in an almost magical woodland glade, with the animal friends watching the drifting leaves will be both familiar and enticing for a toddler - "Romp, romp play./Summer fades away."

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


The book follows bear, woodchuck and squirrel as they prepare for winter and their own hibernations. With "a tummy full of fish...a cozy bed of twigs" and a tree full of nuts, they are all ready and "waiting for the snow." I love the adorable look on bear's face as he hugs a fish, the sweet moment between a titmouse and woodchuck, and squirrel's enthusiasm as he sees the first flakes of snow. This is a very sweet, tender book showing toddlers how animals get ready for their winter hibernations and enjoy one last super snuggle - "Snuggle, snuggle, deep./Forest friends sleep." This is such an adorably sweet moment between friends. In the final image, the animals individually curl under a blanket of snow as the last final leaves lazily drift down.

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


These two beautiful books masterfully condense the topics - fall color change/falling of leaves & winter hibernation - into a deceptively simple, five stanza poem and colorful, slightly whimsical, illustrations showing the changes from the end of summer through to winter's snow. These are fun, beautiful books with adorable animal characters that parents and kids will enjoy reading again and again. Wonderful additions to nature book collections for toddlers.


Resources:

- make a picture, collage, or rubbing with fall leaves.


- go on a leaf shape treasure hunt. how many different shapes of leaves can you find in the summer? How do they change in the winter? Make a collage of matching summer and fall leaves.


- find a tree, or a grove of trees, and sit or lie underneath it at look at the sky. Sketch or write a description of what you see. What animals do you see or hear? How does it change through the seasons?

- can you make a hibernating blanket or pillow cave for yourself and a stuffed friend?


- try some hibernation crafts, like a paper bag cave.


- pair these books with The Leaf Thief by Alice Hemming, illustrated by Nicola Slater and Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus.

Comments


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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