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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/Andrew Hacket, Review of Ollie the Acorn and the Mighty Idea

Andrew Hacket is a writer, second-grade teacher, and father of three. He is “inspired by nature, children, and all of the wonders yet to be imagined.”

Author photo of Andrew Hackett.

Andrew recognizes that being a kid is hard and he writes to create ways for kids to see themselves in stories and characters, to accept and overcome their insecurities, or to escape for just a little while through the power of their imaginations. He and his family live in Massachusetts.

His debut picture book, Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea, was released on April 9th.


Welcome Andrew, it’s nice to meet you!

Hi Maria, it is wonderful to meet you as well and thank you for having me on the blog.


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


I have been “officially” writing for a little over 4 years. Prior to that I dabbled and jotted down scribbles here and there, but I lacked the knowledge of how and where  to get started in this industry. It wasn’t until Covid hit and I took time off of work to support my children’s learning from home, that I had the mental capacity to figure out these missing pieces and begin to approach writing with the goal of being published.


Being a full-time teacher, parent of three kids (who have way too many activities), and in the midst of promotion for 3 books, writing time has been very hard to come by. However, when my life is in a calmer state, I tend to write early in the morning or late into the evening when the house is quiet. These are the times I can get new words and first drafts onto the page and I am often down in my basement office or cuddled up in my favorite chair. Once a draft is done, revision comes on the road with me. Waiting rooms, play rehearsal, the soccer field sideline are all open game for revision.


Determining a favorite type of book to write is such a tricky question as my three books have a range of tones and structures and I love each one of them. I will say that writing often comes easier to me when I am crafting a quieter, lyrical piece based on emotions. These manuscripts flow out of me much smoother than humorous, plot-driven drafts.


Wow, I can see why writing time is hard to come by at the moment. Congrats on having 3 book launches this year. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child? 

Book cover - small mouse in overalls joyfull holding a cookie.

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie was absolutely a childhood favorite. I loved the cause and effect structure, the simplicity, and the illustrations!


It is a wonderful, classic book. What was your inspiration or spark of interest for Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea? 

Book cover - boy holding an acorn while a bully and his dog peek around a big oak tree.

Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea was inspired by a summer conversation with my children about the possible implications of swallowing a watermelon seed. My mind soon wandered to what would happen if a different type of seed was consumed, perhaps an acorn! This was the spark I needed to set into motion the creation of Ollie.


At around the same time, I had been teasing out the idea of a character named Twig, who would be on the smaller side, and he would prove to everyone all of the amazing things he COULD do as a result of his size.


Through a bit of mental idea melding, these two bits of inspiration combined, and the first draft of Ollie began.

That's cool, I love how the two ideas melded. How long did it take from the first draft to publication for Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea?


I wrote the first draft of Ollie in October 2020, and it was published on April 9, 2024.


What was the toughest aspect of writing Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea? And what was the most fun part of creating this book?

Committing to an ending was hard for me. I desperately tried not to have Ollie eat his bully because I worried it was too much. Puzzling through how to pull this off was very frustrating and in the end, it turns out that ingesting Everett was the perfect ending after all.

The most fun part of this story was imagining it as a read aloud. The teacher in me wanted a book that elicited laughs and invited children to join in with refrains and onomatopoeia. I threw a few burps in there for good measure! As a result, reading this book aloud to kids is what I am most looking forward to.


I think you are going to have so much fun but so are the lucky kids! When you first saw Kaz Windness’ illustrations, did anything amaze or surprise you? Which is your favorite spread?

I am in awe of Kaz! She did such an incredible job of bringing this story to life. I love the color palette, the style, and the characters. Absolutely everything!

Internal spread - boy turned into a giant tree monster carrying potted plants and striding toward scared cat.

Text © Andrew Hacket, 2024. Image © Kaz Windness, 2024.

My favorite image has to be the 2-page vertical spread when Ollie has transformed into a tree monster. It is exactly as I imagined, but even better!

It is so wonderfully imaginative! What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written and/or illustrated a manuscript?

Being in nature is both calming and inspiring for me. On occasion, I will hike out into the woods, string my hammock between a couple of trees, and spend some time imagining. While I don’t often pen new drafts in these instances, I frequently outline and brainstorm those ideas that have been percolating in the back of my mind for a while.


That sounds absolutely heavenly. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea?

The creation of this story was all about revision. The bones came together quite quickly, but finding the perfect ending, character names, and title all took countless revisions and the support of a bunch of fabulous creators. I am so grateful to each person who helped get this story from idea to publication.

Ollie's full name, Ollie Alexander Kandersteen, is quite impressive. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


I have a few projects in the works and a bunch of manuscripts on standby, but no secret publishing news at the moment, though I am keeping my fingers crossed.


One project I am especially excited about is an early reader series about a squirrel and turtle. Turtle is a reluctant reader whereas Squirrel can’t get enough of books. These titles are decodable for young readers and each focus on a specific word family. As a teacher, I know how valuable stories like these can be to students and I am remaining hopeful that they will land with the perfect editor.


Good luck with this project. What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park (anywhere in the world)? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

USGS photo of Florida Everglades with a white heron perched on the Mangrove roots.

This past summer my family and I had the chance to go to the Everglades and tick off a bucket list item of mine of exploring mangroves! Next up on our list is Joshua Tree, which we are hoping to check out this summer!


Thank you, Andrew for sharing about yourself and your new picture book with us.

For more information about Andrew Hacket, or to contact him:

Review of Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea

Book cover - boy holding an acorn while a bully and his dog peek around a big oak tree.

Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea

Author: Andrew Hacket

Illustrator: Kaz Windness

Publisher: Page Street Publishing

Ages: 4-8



Bullying, kindness, friendship, and the plant life cycle.


Ollie Alexander Kandersteen, successful amateur gardener, longs to be a tree: Strong. Tall. And mighty enough to stand up to Everett, the bully next door. Ollie is rather short for his age, and when things are too heavy or too high to reach, Everett is sure to point it out. Ollie wilts, he withers. Inside and out, he feels small.

But when Everett, feeling jealous of Ollie’s gardening skills, steals Ollie’s sapling, an idea takes root…

“I couldn’t. I shouldn’t.”

But he does! Ollie SWALLOWS an acorn. He waits, wonders, and rumbles … Burp!

With a little care and cultivation, a tree-mendous transformation begins! Ollie’s feet root, his arms branch, his locks leaf, and his limbs stretch to the clouds. He’s finally strong and tall enough to confront Everett. But when he does, he finds out that being the biggest doesn’t always mean you’re the mightiest and getting even with a bully might just make you feel smaller than ever.

Readers of all ages will root for and relate to Ollie in this whimsical story about working together despite differences, the power of kindness, and what it truly means to be mighty.

Opening Lines:

Ollie Alexander Kandersteen longs to be a tree. Strong. Tall.

And too mighty to be picked on by the bully next door.

But Ollie is not a tree. Not even a sapling. In fact, compared to Everett

Lucas Montgomery, Ollie looks like nothing more than a twig.

And he feels just as small.

“Too heavy for little Twig,” Everett barks.

Ollie wilts.

“Aww, Twig can’t reach,”

Everett needles.

Ollie withers.

When Everett takes his plant,

Ollie wants to snatch it right back,

but thinks . . .

“I couldn’t.” “I shouldn’t.”

So he doesn’t.

What I LOVED about this book:

This opening nicely sets up the personalities and relationship between Ollie and his next door neighbor, Everett. But it also gives the reader a glimpse of maybe why Everett acts this way....

Internal spread - on the left, vingettes of one boy bullying another. On the right, the bully kneeling in a garden of dead plants.

Text © Andrew Hacket, 2024. Image © Kaz Windness, 2024.

Legs shaking, Ollie slinks to Everett’s yard to ask for his plant back,

but stops and stares when he sees Everett’s garden.

“What are you looking at? You’re not supposed to be here!

LEAVE!” Everett snaps.

After Ollie flees from Everett and hides behind a massive oak tree, an acorn bonks him on the head causing him to wonder "What if I could become a tree?” This starts a chain of events where Ollie swallows increasingly silly things - all of which are actually required for an acorn to sprout and grow - the acorn, handfuls of dirt, guzzles of water, and ultimately a bite of the sun. Even though this is basically a tall tale, Andrew Hackett beautifully wove in STEM gardening elements into a bullying story. And Kaz Windness playfully shows a cutaway image of Ollie's stomach as he repeats the fun refrain “I couldn’t.” / “I shouldn’t.”/ But he does!

Internal spread - on the left, a boy reaching for a bucket of soil. On the right, the boy is eating handfulls of soil to his cat's disgust.

Text © Andrew Hacket, 2024. Image © Kaz Windness, 2024.

I love the sidekicks which Kaz Windness provides to Ollie (cat) and Everett (dog), they have such wonderful expressions which at times mirror the boy's expressions and at other times what the reader is likely experiencing. Such as the cat's reaction to Ollie eating handfuls of dirt.

As with most tales, things quickly go awry. Ollie turns into a monster - a gigantic oak who solves Ollie's issue by eating Everett. Proving that he is mighty, but . . . is this the way to be 'mighty'? Utilizing humor, onomatopoeia (especially a well-placed burb), and a touch of fantasy, Andrew Hacket and Kaz Windness explore bullying from both sides and create a touching and satisfying ending.

Internal spread - small boy has become a mighty oak tree and chases down the bully and eats him.

Text © Andrew Hacket, 2024. Image © Kaz Windness, 2024.

With a wonderful conversational voice, the back matter explores the reality and advisability of what Ollie consumed throughout the story as it weaves in STEAM. Subtly raising a number of important questions, this is an imaginative and fun new addition to friendship and bullying books.


Photo of a twisted, mighty paper bag oak tree.
  • make you own twisty, mighty oak tree (video here).

  • follow Ollie's steps and plant your own acorn (or other tree) in a pot or in your yard.

  • pair this with Bird Boy by Matthew Burgess, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani and Daisy by Jessixa Bagley.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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