The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/ Lisa Varchol Perron and Review of Patterns Everywhere
Lisa Varchol Perron is a children’s author and poet whose work has been featured in numerous anthologies, journals, and magazines.
In addition to being an author, Lisa works as a psychotherapist with specialized training in child and adolescent development. She holds graduate degrees from New York University and UC Berkeley and now lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts with her husband and two young children.
Her debut picture book, Patterns Everywhere, releases on April 4th.
Welcome Lisa, thank you so much for coming by to talk about yourself and your debut picture book.
Hi, Maria. Thanks for having 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?)
I write most days of the week at my dining room table, but I’m often squeezing in edits while waiting in the car to pick up my kids from various activities. I’ve been writing poetry for most of my life but not with an eye toward submitting or getting published. I started my first middle grade novel about four years ago, and then I began writing picture books and children’s poetry.
Patterns Everywhere was one of my first completed manuscripts. I really like switching back and forth between writing poems, picture books, and novels. As you might guess from my upcoming books, I especially enjoy writing in rhyme.
It's always interesting combining family and writing. What do you like to do outside?
I love going for walks in the woods with friends and coastal hikes with my husband and daughters. I’ve also done a lot of backpacking and camping. My most memorable backpacking trip was along the Kalalau Trail on the Nāpali Coast of Kauai.
© Photo: IndustryAndTravel/Shutterstock
That's such an amazing trail. Can you share the name of an author, illustrator, and/or a book that made an impact on you as a child?
I had to memorize a poem for class in elementary school, and I chose Emily Dickinson’s Hope is the Thing with Feathers. That’s when I realized how much I love poetry. I still treasure the collection of Emily Dickinson poems that I received for my 12th birthday.
Now that we know a bit about you, what was your inspiration or spark of curiosity for Patterns Everywhere?
The idea sparked during a family hike, and I was further inspired by my husband’s scientific research (which includes wave ripples and the spacing of ridges and valleys). I’d read other books that explored a specific pattern in nature, but I kept thinking about the incredible variety and how I might approach the topic differently.
I really like the format you used to explore a number of patterns. What is the most fun or unusual place where you’ve written a manuscript?
I work on manuscripts anywhere and everywhere. I’ve even revised some lines in my head while getting my teeth cleaned! But my favorite writing location is at my in-laws’ house in Vermont, looking out at the mountain.
Revising in the dentist is definitely not one I've heard before! How long did it take from the first draft to publication for Patterns Everywhere? Was this similar to your other books?
It took a little over three years from first draft to publication (plus some brainstorming/research time before I started writing). My other books have ranged from nineteen months (a board book) to four years from drafting to the expected publication date.
Interesting. Is there something you want your readers to know about Patterns Everywhere?
There is an educator guide available on my website! It’s free to download and use with students.
Thank you for providing the link for this. What was the most rewarding part of the publishing process for Patterns Everywhere?
The most rewarding part so far has been hearing from teachers who are excited to share the book with their classes, both for science lessons and English Language Arts. I’m always happy to get kids reading poetry, and I love bringing it together with science.
What was the hardest, or most challenging part of writing and/or researching Patterns Everywhere?
Text © Lisa Varchol Perron, 2023.
Dunes arise from wind on land,
lifting, drifting grains of sand.
Crescent moon or desert star.
Patterns, patterns near and far.
One of the most challenging parts of the writing was deciding what needed to go in the main text and what could be saved for the sidebar. I ultimately decided that the rhyming stanzas would be an introduction to the pattern and would include strong verbs to make the text as active as possible (which can be tough in a list-style book). The sidebars became a way to give additional information about the formation of that pattern. My goal was to create a book that could be read in various ways each time: rhyming text only, rhyming text + sidebars, or sidebars only.
It really works well for so many different ages. You did a great job with that. Did you or the publisher secure the photos? What surprised or amazed you most about this process? What is your favorite spread?
The publisher secured photo permissions, and I was able to provide feedback to the editorial team during the design process. The designer, Viet Chu, found stunning images to showcase each pattern.
One thing that surprised me was that I got to add extra spreads! During the editing process, we realized that there was room to add two more patterns, so now there are twelve patterns introduced instead of ten.
Text © Lisa Varchol Perron, 2023.
I have a few favorite spreads, but I especially like the one that shows ridges and valleys at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley. It’s a striking landscape, and I think many people are surprised to learn about the tendency for ridges and valleys to be evenly spaced.
It is stunning and a really interesting fact! Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I have six more books coming out over the next couple of years, and I’m excited about them all! One of those projects is a picture book about rocks that I wrote with my husband, Taylor Perron. As an Earth and planetary scientist, Taylor has provided input on several of the nonfiction books I’ve written (including Patterns Everywhere), but this will be our first book as co-authors. Rocks Are All Around (Rise x Penguin Workshop) is illustrated by David Scheirer and set to release in summer 2024. We hope it helps kids feel more knowledgeable about and connected to the world around them.
[*She also has My Love For You (May 2023) & Tell Me About Space (October 2023) releasing this year!]
I couldn't resist adding these other two, since their covers have been revealed. What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?
My all-time favorite National Park is the Badlands in South Dakota. The landscape is breathtaking, and camping under that night sky is incredible.
© Erik Fremstad
Thank you so much for coming to talk with me Lisa and for sharing your debut book.
To find out more about Lisa Perron, or contact her:
Review of Patterns Everywhere
I get to offer you a sneak peek at a wonderful upcoming picture book which combines poetry, science, and stunning photographs in an exploration of patterns found in nature.
Author: Lisa Varchol Perron
Publisher: Millbrook Press/ Lerner (2023)
Pattern and shapes, rhyming, nature, and poetry.
Look around and discover patterns in the natural world! You might see them in leaf veins, in coral reefs, in sand dunes, and in many other places. Rhyming verse is accompanied by stunning photographs and brief sidebars that explain how these different patterns form.
Step outside. Let's find designs—
branching, cracking, spirals, lines.
Search the earth, the seas, the air.
Patterns, patterns everywhere.
What I LOVED about this book:
The main text is written as a poem with two rhyming couplets on each spread. Lisa Varchol Perron ingeniously built a fun refrain into each fourth line. One which the younger kids will enjoy chanting in subsequent reads. Creating her own pattern, this opening page establishes the rhyme (AABB), refrain, and inclusion of informational sidebars which expand a bit on each of the patterns noted in the text.
Text © Lisa Varchol Perron, 2023.
WHAT IS A PATTERN?
A pattern is a sequence that repeats in
a predictable way. Nature is full of them!
Some of nature's patterns are made
or repeating geometric shapes. Other
patterns are caused by color or spacing.
I love the waterfall which streams in a fun ripple pattern behind this initial sidebar description of patterns. In fact all of the photographs in the book are amazing in their detail and texture. But I particularly love how this initial image also subtly features a sunrise - the beginning of a day at the beginning of the book at the start of a journey into a world of patterns.
Using a combination of tightly focused, landscape, and aerial photographs, Perron investigates the patterns found in leaf veins, ridges and valleys, sand dunes, corals, wave ripples, sea foam, earth layers, basalt columns, snowflakes, mud cracks, and the spiraling curves of plants and animals (shells) in a way to capture the interest and attention of younger readers. Lightly conversational in tone and brimming with fascinating facts that expand on the main text - such as the consistent spacing of valleys, factors which change the path of a river, and coral color comes from algae - the sidebars will equally engage the curiosity of older readers.
At the end of the journey, completing her own pattern, Perron ends with a stunning sunset and a question to the reader - "What might you discover there?," and returns to the initial version of her refrain - "Patterns, patterns everywhere."
Text © Lisa Varchol Perron, 2023.
It is a wonderful, enthralling exploration of patterns in nature that will appeal to a wide range of readers. One that is a joy to read and look at again and again. The back matter explains the rhyming pattern and provides activities, a glossary, and some fantastic books and websites to pair with the book. It's a wonderful book for exploring ways to write about nature and opening discussions on the science and math of nature's patterns.
- experiment with making your own pattern in a fractal triangle.
- what patterns do you notice around you? Take a photo, draw a picture, or write a description (can you do it in rhyme?) of the pattern you've found.
- try the sketching Activity in the back of the book or write your own AABB set of rhyming couplets about the patterns, where you found them, or how they make you feel.
- check out the educator's guide for Patterns Everywhere.