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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/Jamie Siebrase and Review of Tonight! A Bedtime Book

Jamie Siebrase is a longtime Denver journalist, children’s book author, and trained community naturalist.

Author Photo of Jamie Siebrase.

When she isn’t writing about the outdoors, Jamie’s usually on an adventure with her family of five and their nutty doodle, Rocky.


Jamie’s nonfiction titles are Mythbusting the Great Outdoors: What’s True and What’s Not? (2022) and Hiking with Kids in Colorado: 52 Great Hikes for Families (2021). Her latest adult book, Exploring Colorado with Kids: 71 Field Trips for Families, comes out in June 2024.


Her debut picture book, Tonight! A Bedtime Book, was released on November 7th.


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

 

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?)

 

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school. In sixth grade, I went public with this news. My Language Arts teacher, Mr. Winston, had students keep a “dream journal” for a month. I was so nervous to present mine in class! On the cover of the journal, in big, bubbly pre-teen girl handwriting I’d written: I dream of being a writter. Writter with two Ts. Right before class, when it was too late to change much, my dad looked at the journal and said, “If you’re going to be a writer, maybe you should learn how to spell it.

 

That was blow #1. Immediately after class, my best friend, Lindy, came up to me and said in this really snobby voice, “You know, Jamie, nobody ever does what they say they’re going to do.”

 

I think these important people in my life were helping prepare me for a lifetime of rejection.

 

Despite early warning signs, I majored in creative writing in college. Talk about a useless degree. After college I picked up a few freelance journalism gigs, and I even interned for a homes and lifestyles magazine in Denver for a while. Writing wasn’t paying the bills, so I went to law school, but I kept writing, publishing two peer-reviewed legal notes in national law journals.

 

I had my first son during my third year of law school, and I was sure of one thing: I definitely didn’t want to be a lawyer. When my boys were little, I returned to freelance writing, picking up any assignments I could get at Colorado magazines and newspapers. I really loved it, and I’ve been a freelance journalist for fifteen years.

 

I have three kids, so I write in the early mornings at my standing desk, which is what I call the kitchen counter. I wake up around 4:30 a.m. and work for a few hours. I occasionally squeeze a little writing into the afternoons, too, but I also really like being outside and playing with my kids. If I lived someplace cold and boring, and I didn’t like my family, I’d probably be a much more productive writer. I guess everyone has their cross to bear.

 

Books are new for me. I started writing them right before the pandemic, when I signed a contract for Hiking with Kids Colorado. I’ve done three guides for Falcon. Well, one’s more like a series of essays, so two guides and book of outdoor essays.

 

The children’s book was a little random, hatched from a conversation I had with one of my sons. I loved writing it. I also loved working with the illustrator, Eric Parrish, also a Coloradan. And I love promoting the book because I get to spend time reading aloud to really cute kids who sometimes give me hugs. I’ve done talks and signings for adults, too, and not one of them has ever given me a hug. If they did, I’d probably call the cops. Unless it were, like, Jack Black or Seth Rogan, two of my Hollywood crushes. Sorry, Ben. Ben is my husband, and I’m sure he understands.

 

This was a really long way of saying that I’ve been writing for a long time, and I guess children’s books are my favorite books to write now that I know how fun they are.

 

Ha! What a fun way to get into writing children's books and encapsulate your productivity. Given your book titles, I think I can guess. But is there something special you like to do outside by yourself or with family or friends?

 

Given your question, I think you nailed it. I love hiking and exploring the outdoors. I do a lot of trail running and a little biking. I’m what you’d call a “soft adventure” enthusiast. I’ve been rock climbing and ice climbing, but I don’t go up very high. Hiking is great because I rarely ever get hurt doing it. I’ve gotten into SUP, and I also like to kayak and canoe on flat water. I snowshoe and Nordic ski, but I’m afraid of alpine slopes. A neighbor once invited me to go snowshoeing to a tent campsite for a few days—in the winter!—and I was like, “Um, no thanks. I like to be warm and comfortable and not dying of exposure.”

 

😊 *chuckling* So, for anyone else not familiar with it, SUP = Stand Up Paddleboard (I looked it up). What was the inspiration or your spark of interest for Tonight! A Bedtime Book?

Book cover - mountain lion cub sitting in a moonlight patch in a meadow with a crown on its head.

The book is dedicated to my middle son because he inspired it. When he was little, and I used to tuck him in at night, I’d say, “You’re my little prince,” and he’d say, “No, I’m a….”

 

He’s a superhero dude, so usually he’d pretend to be Spiderman or The Flash. But I thought it would be cute to write up the story with baby animals instead. And then sneak in a few facts so kids would learn a thing or two while reading the book with their parents.

 

That's one of the great things about informational fiction. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

Book cover - scientist tree dressed in clothes in a basement laboratory.

I wasn’t a huge reader as a child. Weird since I wanted to be a writter with two Ts. I did read the Goosebumps books occasionally, and in high school and college lit classes I moaned through a lot of the classics. I’m re-reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with my oldest son right now, and I can’t believe how good it is. I don’t remember enjoying it when I was in high school, but as a grown-up I’m really appreciating now how much of a master Twain was.

 

Maybe your appreciation is also coming from being a writter, too! Being quite different from your articles and previous books, what was the hardest part of writing Tonight! A Bedtime Book? And what was the most fun or rewarding?

 

The hardest part about children’s writing is getting published. (Does everyone say that?) I have several additional picture book manuscripts, but who knows if they’ll ever see the light of day? After writing a few adults books, and doing a lot of longform journalism, I think picture book writing is pure fun. I did a lot of research for Tonight, but I enjoy research, so that was just as fun as the actual writing.

 

I hope they continue to be fun! How long did it take from the first draft to publication for Tonight! A Bedtime Book?

 

A little over ten years. When my teenage boys were little… and my Google search history was clogged with questions like, "Can you die of sleep deprivation?"…. I wrote the manuscript for Tonight. After years and years of near-constant rejection, I finally found an editor at Muddy Boots who wanted to take on the project. Two more years passed, and—tada!—the book is magically available at bookstores.


I wasn’t actively working on the manuscript that whole time, but I’d come back to it every so often, tweak a few things, send out a few queries, eagerly await the rejection letters so I could find more people to reject me. You’re a writer, you know the drill. 


Persistence is the key! Sometimes it's just a matter of finding the right lock. When you first saw Eric Parrish’s illustrations, did anything surprise or amaze you? Which is your favorite spread?

Internal spread of chipmunks - one asleep in the burrow, one popping out of the entrance, and one stuffing cheeks in a pile of leaves.

Text © Jamie Siebrase, 2023. Image © Eric Parrish, 2023.


Eric was a delight to work with because he let me be involved in the design process. I don’t think that’s always the case based on what I’ve heard from other writer friends. I think Eric’s strength is animals and naturescapes. I like all of the spreads, but my favorites are the animal scenes. The chipmunk spread is so adorable, and there’s something magical about seeing underground burrows, don’t you think? I also love the book cover with the baby lion in a crown. Does it get any cuter than that?

 

The nature spreads are beautiful. Is there something you want your readers to know about Tonight! A Bedtime Book?

 

Yes, thanks for asking. Tonight is a love letter to mothers and their sons, but the more time I spend reading it aloud, the more I wish I’d put a note into the book about what the word “mom” means to me.

 

Without knowing me, the plot might sound a little exclusive. But in my opinion, you don’t have to be a woman who birthed a child to be a mom. I know dads who are the moms for their families, and I know so many grandmas and uncles and cousins and kind neighbors who double as moms. Sometimes my husband has to be the mom in our family, especially when the kids have stomach viruses because I don’t participate in throw up.

 

In a nutshell, Mom is the rubber cement that’s strong and flexible enough to hold everything together. Mom is the person whose brain hurts at night from thinking of everything. Every strong family has a mom at its helm, but not every mom looks like a 1950s housewife. Does any of this make sense?

 

Even with this definition of mom, I’m still excluding daughters, so maybe there needs to be a sequel to Tonight.

 

It makes sense and is good to know. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

 

Yes! Don’t you remember? We just came up with my next project a few seconds ago. It is the sequel to Tonight. [Ha! 😊]

 

Beyond that, there are a billion projects I’m working on. Sometimes I wonder if I got into writing because it appeases my ADHD proclivities. I don’t want to talk about anything, though, because I haven’t gotten an editor or publishing company on board with any of the new projects… yet.

 

Good luck with the sequel and your other projects. Last question, 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?

 

I’ve hiked all over the world, in Australia, Africa, and a few European countries. I’ve hiked a portion of the Swiss Alps. I’ve done some memorable hikes in California. (Hello, giant sequoias!) All of these places are wonderful, but for me, everything pales in comparison to Colorado. I love the Rocky Mountain landscape, the quaking aspens that patter like rain in the fall, all the colorful wildflowers in the spring and summer. You can’t beat those massive slabs of sandstone jutting out across the Front Range.

Photo of Chasm View, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado. (NPS photo by Lisa Lynch)

I don’t like big crowds, so I’m partial to under-the-radar spots. I think my favorite NP is Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It’s a little remote and way underplayed. I also really love Colorado National Monument outside of Fruita, which I discovered while writing Hiking with Kids Colorado.

 

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

 

To find out more about Jamie Siebrase, or contact her:

 

You can find Jamie reading and signing her book around Colorado at the following events:

 

January 9, 2024 -Tattered Cover Kids

11:00 AM to 12:00 PM

2501 Dallas Street, Aurora, Co 80010

 

January 20, 2024 – The Wandering Jellyfish

10 AM to 11 AM

198 2nd Avenue, Suite 1-A, Niwot, CO 80503

 

January 23, 2024 -Boulder Book Store

5:30 PM – 7:00 PM

1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302


Review of Tonight! A Bedtime Book


Combining a week's progression of bedtime moments with a loving refrain and information about animal babies, this goodnight book creates a snuggle-worthy bedtime read full of imaginative, night-time fun shared by a mother and son.

Book cover - mountain lion cub sitting in a moonlight patch in a meadow with a crown on its head.

Tonight! A Bedtime Book


Author: Jamie Siebrase


Illustrator: Eric Parrish


Publisher: Muddy Boots/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. (2023)


Ages: 3-7


Informational Fiction


Themes:

Bedtime, family, animals, imagination, and goodnight book.


Synopsis:

Every night at bedtime a little boy imagines he’s a different animal as his mother attempts to put him to bed. “I’m a baby lark,” he tells her. The mother then says to him that baby birds are called hatchlings and it is time for this hatchling to go to sleep. “But hatchlings don’t sleep in beds, they sleep in nests,” she says. And so it continues as the boy imagines he is a baby mountain lion, bighorn sheep, chipmunk, coyote, skunk, and moose. This is a twist on “goodnight” books that also teaches about animal families and their habitats.


Opening Lines:

ON MONDAY…

Tonight, like every night, Mom whispers,

“You’re my little prince, and I love you.”

“I’m not a prince!”

“You’re not?”

“No!”

“What are you then?”

“I’m a baby mountain lion. GRRR! And

you’re the mommy lion.”


What I LIKED about this book:

In this interesting bedtime book, a young boy pretends each night to be a different animal. For the first animal, he's a baby mountain lion. I love all the little treasures that Eric Parrish added in the illustrations for kids, such as the cougar rug, stuffed animals in the bed, and meadow lark slippers.

Internal Spread - on left, dedication page. On right, mom preparing to tuck son into bed for the night. Stuffed mountain lion on bed and a circular rug with a mountain lion cub face on it.

Text © Jamie Siebrase, 2023. Image © Eric Parrish, 2023.


The soft-colored, often beige wall images of the bedroom contrast beautifully with the realistically detailed, full spread of each animal baby and mother in their habitat. Informational text about these animals - the term for the babies and where they sleep - is followed by the boy's request to be "put to bed" like that animal - "Mommy lion, will you prance into my cave with me?”

Internal spread - mom & cub mountain lion heading into their den in a dapple lit wooded area.

Text © Jamie Siebrase, 2023. Image © Eric Parrish, 2023.


Sweetly, the mother and son have a refrain to end each night's exploration of how mommy animals put their babies to bed, "You’re my little _____, and I love you./ I love my mommy, too.”

Internal spread - on left, boy sitting on top of covers, wearing bird slippers. On right, mom preparing to put boy to bed and he is on the bed wearing a paper headband with mountain sheep horns.

Text © Jamie Siebrase, 2023. Image © Eric Parrish, 2023.


“Of course. You’re my little chick,

and I love you.”

“I love my mommy, too.”


ON WEDNESDAY…

Tonight Mom leans over and

whispers, “You’re my little prince,

and I love you.”

“I’m not a prince!”

“What are you then?”

“I’m a baby bighorn sheep.

BAHH, BAHH, BLEET.

And you’re the mommy sheep.”


In addition to exploring mountain goats, skunks, moose, and chipmunks, the book follows the days of the week. Adding an additional layer and a little counting opportunity. Until, on Sunday, a twist surprises the mom. The back matter includes awesome kid drawings of each of the animals, information on viewing and proper interaction with wildlife, as well as additional readings. It's a fun, loving bedtime story book, full of imagination and information on a number of animals and their young.


Resources:

Photo example of blankets over a set of chairs to make a fort. Pillows and books jumbled about inside fort.
  • make your own blanket fort and read some bedtime stories in it.

  • think of a favorite animal (or two)? Where do they live? How might their mommy's put them to bed? Draw a picture of them in their home or make a diorama.

  • what is your favorite bedtime routine?

Comments


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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