The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/ Susanna Hill and Review of AlphaBedtime and Giveaway

First things first - the winner of Shachi Kamshik's debut book Diwali in My New Home is:

Danielle Hammelef

Congratulations Danielle!


Okay, back to the post. Susanna Leonard Hill grew up in New York City with her mom and dad, one sister and two brothers, and an assortment of cats. She went to the Brearley School for K – 12, then received her B.A. in English and Psychology from Middlebury College. She then went on to get her M.A. and M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology and Special Education of Children With Learning Disabilities from Teacher’s College, Columbia University.

She worked for many years teaching dyslexic students, but stopped after her third child was born. Now she spends her time being a mom, writing, teaching writing, and visiting schools whenever she gets the opportunity.


Susanna is an amazingly generous, caring, and talented person. In addition to her "Would You Read It Wednesday" & "Perfect Picture Book Friday" (#PPBF) posts, she has added a “Tuesday Debut,” post featuring new Picture authors. Be sure to check out her website and blog for additional information on contests and her “Making Picture Book Magic” class.


[For some basic information on Susanna, check out our interviews (here) and (here).]


Her newest picture book, Alphabedtime, released October 25th.


Welcome back Susanna! So glad you’ve come back to share with us about your newest book and upcoming endeavors.


Thank you so much for having me, Maria! I’m delighted to be here!


What do you like to do outside?


I love being outdoors. I like to run (and by “run” I refer to a pace at which I am frequently passed by fairly unmotivated-looking caterpillars), hike, ride horses any chance I get, walk on the beach if ever I get the opportunity, or just sit on my back porch with a cup of coffee and my dogs, soaking in the peace and beauty of nature. (Okay, well, I sit on the back porch soaking in peace and beauty. They are usually heavily involved with some forbidden excavation project, eating whatever flowers I have not yet managed to accidentally kill, or barking their silly heads off at the doe who casually hangs out just on the other side of the fence where they can’t get her – Temptress!) I also really like to write on the back porch, weather permitting.


Anyone else think that sounds like heaven? What was your inspiration for Alphabedtime?

I got it in my head that I wanted to write an alphabet book. But there are a lot of great alphabet books out there already, so by gum! I was going to need some kind of fresh spin. I sat at my kitchen table (not on the back porch that day), a fresh sheet of paper in front of me, my pen poised over it, ready to write. . . (queue swelling dramatic music). . . aaaaaaand. . . NOTHING!

How was I going to reinvent this particular wheel?

When in doubt, just start writing.

But what?


Alphabet, I reminded myself.

I wrote: A B C D E F G. Very original. Probably not a picture book.

(Here I will skip over a LOT of wadded up paper-throwing, useless first lines, and attempts to escape the act of writing by going to scrub the tile grout.)

I wrote a l p h a b e t. Several times. And a few more. I was, technically, writing.

I read what I’d written out loud: alphabet alphabet alphabet. . . and it started to sound like “alphabed”. . .

My mind went from alphabed, to bedtime, to alphabedtime, and suddenly I had my idea! As far as I knew, no one had ever tried to put the alphabet to bed!

DING DING DING! Inspiration! 😊


I love this peak into the actual process of trying to capture the essence of the story! Thank you for this gift. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

Oh, gosh! I had so many favorites! I bet that’s true of a lot of authors – we all started out just loving to read! But let’s see. . . In the picture book era, I loved Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel, Make Way For Ducklings, Harry The Dirty Dog, Madeline, and a couple of Dr. Seuss books - The Cat In The Hat Comes Back, Green Eggs And Ham, One Fish, Two Fish, and To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. When I moved on to chapter books, The Little House books, Pippi Longstocking, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and Nancy Drew (a long phase during which I collected and read Every. Single. One! My parents despaired.) Followed by Anne of Green Gables, and all the horse books. All of them.

I think we would have been swapping books if we'd grown up near each other. What was the toughest aspect of writing this book? The most fun?


I think the toughest aspect was also the most fun. 😊


Alphabedtime is written in rhyme. It is always a challenge to figure out how to say what you want to say in such a way that it rhymes and fits your meter without adding extra words just to make your rhyme scheme or meter work. So, there is a lot of word-juggling. And a lot of rephrasing to think of how you can say the same thing in a different way so that you get a different word to work at the end of your line – one you can actually find a good rhyme for. (For example, nothing rhymes with “orange”!) It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle, though, and when you finally get it right, it is so satisfying! It was also really fun thinking of the alphabet as 26 children, each with his or her own personality.


That does sound like both a lot of fun and a BIG challenge. Is there anything you want your readers to know about Alphabedtime?


I want them to know that they should always listen to their wise parents and go to bed sweetly and quietly without any trouble. 😊


Or maybe that the alphabet is a bunch of boisterous babies and you never know WHAT they’re going to get up to next (but you surely won’t want to miss it!) Think about all the things you can do with the alphabet!


But mostly, I want them to know that they should always read a story before bed! (Preferably this story 😊)


I hope that means you ar thinking about other Alphafamily books! This is great advice. And something I follow as an adult (though I've shortened it to a chapter - or so - before bed!) When you first saw Betsy Snyder’s illustrations in Alphabedtime did anything amaze, surprise, or delight you? What is your favorite spread?


What a question! When I first saw Betsy’s illustrations I was completely blown away. The whole thing amazed, surprised, and delighted me! I love the color. I love the energy. But most of all I love all the detail! Every child has his or her own personality and style. Every child has items in hand or nearby that begin with their letter – and not just one or two items, sometimes as many as eight if you look! The cat and the dog appear somewhere on every page. And after M shows up with her magic and the bunnies hop out of the hat, there are bunnies everywhere if you look for them! (My favorite bunny is the one snorkeling in the bathtub!) And I love Baby Z with his zebra. 😊

Text © Susanna Leonard Hill, 2022. Image © Betsy Snyder, 2022.


The babies who are tucked in snug are S, N, U, and G. The story they’re reading ends in X, Y, Z. So thoughtful. Such attention to detail! I hope that my story is engaging, and fun to read aloud, and that it will delight kids, but I know that Betsy has provided young readers with a feast for the eyes filled with things to search for and find and enjoy. I feel like every time I read it I see something I hadn’t seen before. It’s perfect!

Text © Susanna Leonard Hill, 2022. Image © Betsy Snyder, 2022.


As for a favorite spread – Yikes! How to choose? Right from the dedication page with the giant pot of alphabet soup and 26 bowls (yes! there are 26! you can count them!) every spread is fantastic. But if I had to pick, I guess I do especially love the bathtub page, the climactic moment page (I dare not spoil it if you haven’t read it yet!), and the last page (again you have to see it 😊) And I was especially delighted to see that V’s cup at toothbrushing time has her name on it – Violet – which is the name of one of my dogs. 😊


I love the bathtub scene, too. Especially that poor bedraggled, wet cat! If you could meet someone real or imaginary, who would that be? Why?


I would like to meet Anne of Green Gables. She is so smart, dreamy, imaginative, tempestuous, impetuous, kind, and, at heart, a writer. I feel that we would be kindred spirits as we have much in common (although I don’t claim to share her smarts!) 😊


I think you would be, too! Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


Hmm… Well, I’m writing three books that are not going particularly well at the moment, given that they all have beginnings, a lot of scribbled and crossed out middles, and either no endings or endings I don’t like. The stories and I are in that stage where we haven’t yet figured out who’s boss and we don’t always like each other very much.


But writing is always a work-in-progress, so I’m hopeful these stories and I are going to work the kinks out, and they’re going to turn into something that is not trashcan filler. 😊 I’ve also got a few things out on submission but the less said about that the better because there is just so much hope wrapped up in those and if it doesn’t go well, well, you know what that disappointment is like.

Good luck making up with your manuscripts and fingers crossed for the ones that have ventured into the world. What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

I have not been to nearly as many National Parks as I would like to! But I have been to Muir Woods, which I absolutely loved. Those towering trees, their tops in the clouds, and at their feet the carpet of needles that mutes footfalls and makes everything feel hushed is just magical.

I also loved Yellowstone where I saw a lot of bison. (And I do not hold it against Yellowstone that I STILL have never seen a moose in real life!) And I have a deep fondness for Central Park in New York City. The old Central Park Zoo, the Carousel, the ice-skating rink, the meadow, the Boat Pond, the Alice in Wonderland statues… But I grew up right across the street from it, so I guess that explains that. 😊

Thank you, Susanna for coming back by. It was wonderful to chat with you again.


Thank you so much for having me, Maria! I so appreciate it!


To find out more about Susanna Hill, or contact her:

Website: http://www.susannahill.com/

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SusannaLeonardHill

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusannaLHill

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/SLHill1

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=26268678&locale=en_US&trk=tyah&trkInfo=tas%3A

SUSAN%2Cidx%3A2-1-2

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/102248907287284628149/posts/p/pub

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/susannaleonard/

Making Picture Book Magic (online picture book writing course): http://susannahill.com/for-writers/making-picture-book-magic/



For quick links to Susanna's Blog Tour and Events,

check out this link:

https://linktr.ee/alphabedtime






Review of Alphabedtime + Giveaway


I am so honored to be able 10 share with you not just an interview with my friend, the amazing person, author, and teacher - Susanna Leonard Hill, but also to share with you her newest treasure of a picture book.

Alphabedtime


Author: Susanna Leonard Hill


Illustrator: Betsy Snyder


Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House (2022)


Ages: 3 to 6


Fiction


Themes:

Bedtime, alphabet, alliteration, family fun, rhyming, and snuggles.


Synopsis:

It’s a busy night for the Alphabet Family—after all, there are 26 kiddos to get ready for bed. A, B, and C declare they are not ready, and Impish I and Jazzy J don’t want to settle down, but by toothbrushing-time the crew seems to be headed in the right direction. Bath time requires six bathtubs and is super-splashy—and getting into jammies is no joke—but finally, after a story has been read and they are all tucked in tight, peace should reign. Except what’s this? When Mom turns off the light, it’s an Alpha pillow fight! Toddlers are sure to get a huge kick out of this lively alpha family—and hopefully following each and every little letter’s antics will tucker them out!


Opening Lines:

Suppertime’s over.

Everyone’s fed.

Alpha Mom says,

TIME FOR BED!


What I LOVED about this book:

This is a spectacular example of two very talented creatives approaching a premise - bedtime for the alphabet family - in their own unique way and creating an amazing picture book as a result.

Text © Susanna Leonard Hill, 2022. Image © Betsy Snyder, 2022.


Susanna Leonard Hill wrote a fun, rhyming text of bedtime for a family with twenty eight (alphabetically named) kids. And Betsy Snyder from this first image, masterfully imbues each child with a great personality. From the quintessential baby "Z" gleefully tossing food everywhere, to the clown "K" with a spoon on her nose, "E" the Elvis impersonator belting out a tune, and helpful "V" assisting with clearing dishes. I love the face of "U" peaking from under the table. Of course they are eating alphabet soup - well most of them, anyway. What a lovely, safe place to be a child.


As they head toward bed, Susanna leads the reader through a series of rhyming couplets, as A to T resist the idea of bedtime. "WE’RE NOT SLEEPY! sing A, B, C./ D and E chant, NEITHER ARE WE! . . . .O, P, Q, R try to hide./ S gives T a piggyback ride." This succinct, beautifully spot on, rhyming text smoothly moves the reader on a raucous romp through the alphabet and leaves a ton of room for the illustrator.

Text © Susanna Leonard Hill, 2022. Image © Betsy Snyder, 2022.


Which Betsy Snyder jumped right into. In addition to adding personality to each child via their clothing - P is a pirate, and Q is a queen, Betsy surrounded each child with alliterated images. O carries an octopus and wears overalls under a portrait of oranges. R stands under rocket ship and rainbow photos, in roller skates. And S & T's helmets are to die for! Even the skateboard's trail gets in on the action! Each colorful spread is a true feast for preliterate children and anyone who enjoys exploring picture book illustrations. In addition, Betsy weaves in the playful antics of a cat, a dog, and a handful adventurous bunnies.


Eventually, all 26 toddlers are "named" and Betsy ingeniously has the final six around the sink brushing their teeth, while the others line up out the door in reverse order from T to A. The kids have surrendered to the eventuality that that they have to get ready for bed, but each personality approaches this task in very different ways. Just look at the bathtub scene. While the text "A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y and Z are splishing-splashing happily!" seems straightforward, the way Betsy laid it out mimics the rhythm of the alphabet song. Which both results in the fun creation of a number of tubs, as well as encouraging the kids reading along to sing the song and sight read the letters. Oh my gosh but this spread of bathing alphababies is so adorable and again sprinkled with fun alliterated images!

Text © Susanna Leonard Hill, 2022. Image © Betsy Snyder, 2022.

The alphababies' humorous personalities continue to shine as they dress in pjs, listen to a bedtime story, and get tucked into bed. With a bit of playful humor occurring between the text "Alphababies warm and snug" and the illustration of S, N, U, and G in one bed. (Look back at this spread in Susanna's interview), Susanna and Betsy create a loving, and supportive environment for these adorable and diverse alphababies.


Wait until you see the last couple of spreads and especially the final two. This is such a wonderful new, exciting twist on an alphabet book; encouraging kids to learn their alphabet, find items corresponding to the letters, and enjoy the perfect snuggle time bedtime story. One that may make parents and caregivers glad they don't have 26 toddlers/babies! It's a super playful, unique, and gorgeously illustrated alphabet picture book.

Resources:

- using things you find outside, make a nature alphabet.


- cutting pictures from magazines, printing pictures, or drawing images make alphabet snowmen or alphabet turkeys by adding items starting with each letter to their bellies or feathers.


- make your own alphabet book. Fill it with names of friends or family members beginning with each letter then add images from magazines or your own drawings of other things beginning with the letter.


- look around your house, can you find an item for each letter in the alphabet? How many can you safely take into the tub with you?


- if you missed it, check out Beth Stillborn's lively interview with the Alphababies themselves (here).


Alphabedtime Giveaway


Great news, Susanna is offering one lucky reader a copy of Alphabedtime.

- Simply comment below to be entered in the random drawing on November 8th.

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

- *Sorry US Residents only.*

Decorative scroll design
Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Decorative scroll design

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