The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/ Terry Pierce and Nadja Sarell + a Review of Hello, Meadow!
I have the privilege to interview Terry Pierce and Nadja Sarell about their adorable newest board book published by Yosemite Conservancy.
Terry Pierce has lived in many parts of the United States, including Texas, New York, Washington and California. She has a B.A. degree in Early Childhood Development and an international A.M.I. teaching diploma. Terry was a pre-primary Montessori teacher for twenty-two years before deciding to follow my dream of writing for children. She’s been writing since 1999, with her work appearing in magazines and the children’s book market. She has an MFA in Writing for Children &Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, including the Picture Book Concentration certification. She also teaches online children’s writing courses for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.
Terry lives in Mammoth Lakes, CA and is an outdoor enthusiast, enjoying backpacking, hiking, and rock climbing. In her spare time, you can find her staring at the stars or watching nature…
Terry is the author of 26 books, including Eat Up, Bear!, illustrated by Nadja Sarell, (2021), Love Can Come in Many Ways, illustrated by Suzy Ultman (2020), Soccer Time!, illustrated by Bob McMahon (2019), Cuánto mamá te quiere, illustrated by Simone Shin (2018), Mother Earth’s Lullaby, illustrated by Carol Heyer (2018), My Busy Green Garden, illustrated by Carol Schwartz (2018), Jack and Jill and T-Ball Bill, illustrated by Sue DiCicco (2018), Mama Loves You So, illustrated by Simone Shin (2017), Blackberry Banquet, illustrated by Lisa Downey (2008), and Tae Kwon Do!, illustrated by Todd Bonita (2006).
Nadja Sarell is a freelance illustrator from Helsinki, Finland. She graduated in 2004 from North Wales School of Art and Design with a BA (1st class Hons) in Illustration for Children’s Publishing. Before her illustration studies, she graduated as a dancer with MA in Dance from Theatre Academy in Helsinki.
She’s the illustrator of about 83 books, including A Mathematician Like Me by Dr Shini Somara (2020), Eat Up, Bear! by Terry Pierce (2021), Mighty Mila by Katie Petruzziello (2021), A Coder Like Me by Dr Shini Somara (2021), A Scientist Like Me by Dr Shini Somara (2021), Frankie Sparks (Frankie Sparks, Third-Grade Inventor) series by Megan Frazer Blakemore (2019/2020), An Engineer Like Me by Dr Shini Somara (2020), Little Dove and the Story of Easter by Zondervan (2019), and the I Saw Santa in… series by JD Green (2018).
Their newest children’s book collaboration is the board book, Hello, Meadow!, releases May 16th.
Welcome Terry & Nadja,
What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written of illustrated a manuscript?
TERRY – I’ve written in all kinds of places but my favorite place to write is outdoors. Maybe it’s the fresh air or the sounds and scents of nature, but my mind clears when I’m outside. I’ve written in forests, at lakesides, on mountains, even a cow pasture once (but with an extraordinary view!). Here’s a photo I took on a day hike with my husband…he fly fished while I worked on HELLO, MEADOW!
NADJA - I usually only work in the studio near my home. But I also enjoy working on both personal projects and commissioned work in my summer place by the lake. It's such a treat to dive into the lake every once in a while, or just stare at the water and trees. There are also a few artist residencies that I plan to go to when my kid grows up just a little bit more.
Sounds like you both have amazing places to work! Terry, what was the inspiration or spark of curiosity for Hello, Meadow!?
TERRY- I’m one of those very fortunate authors who had an editor approach them about writing a book! (It really is every writer’s dream, don’t you think?). I had been chatting with my fabulous editor extraordinaire, Nicole Geiger, about another board book idea in early 2021, when she said the Yosemite Conservancy publishers had an idea for another book. Eat Up, Bear! had been selling well, and they loved the idea of publishing books that create little stewards of the environment, so they wondered if I’d be interested in writing a book about meadow conservation. Of course, I said, “YES!”
Nicole had sent me some preliminary information about meadows, which helped launch me into a deep dive of research. I always knew meadows played an important role in ecology, but wow, I had no idea just how significant they are. Not only are they habitats for many animals, but they filter water (that ultimately drains to towns and cities), and they store carbon from the air we breathe. They help to combat climate change!
Maybe you'll need to use the research and create a picture book meadow book? Nadja, what about the Hello, Meadow! manuscript appealed to you as an illustrator?
NADJA - I was really excited about the meadow theme in general. It's always important to me as a children's book illustrator that the project has a message and that it can educate children as well as entertain. It was especially lovely to illustrate all those lush meadow greens and flowers.
What was the hardest or most challenging part about writing or illustrating Hello, Meadow!?
TERRY - As I mentioned above, when asked to write the book, I dove into the research. It was challenging to narrow down which facts to focus on because I had learned so many important aspects of meadow conservation. Additionally, I had to focus on concepts that very young children could understand and identify with. The initial draft I wrote had way too much information (I think this is a common mistake for writers), so I pared it down and went back to Eat Up, Bear! for ideas on structure. The publishers wanted the meadow book to be similar to Eat Up, Bear! but different enough to stand on its own. After a few drafts working with Nicole, I think we achieved this and more!
NADJA - I think for me was the fact that I wasn't familiar with the different species of birds, flowers or butterflies. I had to do a lot of research, but I got plenty of help from the team. The meadows in Finland are just so different, as is the climate!
What's something you want your readers to know about or learn from Hello, Meadow!?
TERRY - I want young children to have fun learning that meadows are fragile places, which play an important role in the ecosystem, and—perhaps most importantly—they can take direct action to help protect them. Something as simple as telling another family member not to walk on a meadow is a great beginning! And besides staying on trails, leaving flowers unpicked, and animals undisturbed are important considerations when visiting meadows. We really want to create little stewards of the environment!
NADJA - I want readers of all ages to see how wonderful it is to observe the nature around you with all your senses. Meadows and forests are places where we can connect with nature. When you have this connection, you will learn to appreciate nature more and understand why it needs to be protected. It's vital that we teach this to our children too.
I think this board book and Nadja's sweet mouse will accomplish this goal. Nadja, many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in Hello, Meadow!? If so, could you share one or more with us?
NADJA - We discussed from the start that we need a little character that you can follow throughout the book. The little mouse was perfect!
Kids are going to enjoy spotting the mouse on the pages. Terry, where you surprised or amazed by anything in Nadja’s illustrations when you first got to see them? What is your favorite spread?
TERRY - Oh my gosh, they’re ALL my favorites! I love Nadja’s illustration style because of her use of bold colors and accuracy, all in a kid-friendly way. I was thrilled when I saw the art because my editor and I had discussed possible species to include in the book. We ended up with quite a list of flora and fauna, so to see how Nadja incorporated so many species into the book was exciting. And while I don’t have a favorite page, I will say that I loved seeing Jeffrey Shooting Stars (with a girl taking a picture of them, rather than picking them) [*Nadja's image choice below*], because they’re one of my favorite wildflowers. And I just smiled when I saw a grey fox hunting in a meadow on the sixth spread. And on the fourth spread, we get to see an old friend, one of the bears from Eat Up, Bear!
Text © Terry Pierce, 2023. Image © Nadja Sarell, 2023.
I really believe young children will LOVE the artwork! Some pages remind me of those “hidden” animal illustrations—for example, on the second double-page spread, in addition to the human family, there is a red-shouldered hawk, a red-winged blackbird, a mouse, a dragonfly, a grasshopper, a garter snake, a cabbage butterfly, a Yosemite toad, meadow paintbrush, Sierra lilies, irises and blazing stars. How fun for a toddler to find all those animals!
Nadja, is there a spread that you were especially excited about or proud of? Or perhaps one which is your favorite spread?
Text © Terry Pierce, 2023. Image © Nadja Sarell, 2023.
NADJA - I think my favourite would be the cover with the little mouse getting the spotlight. But I also love the spread where the boy and his grandfather are observing and drawing the surrounding nature, because it's something I would really enjoy doing with kids.
Any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
TERRY - I have another board book that’s in production with Familius Publishing, I’m a Baby! (illustrated by Volha Kaliaha). It’s slated to come out Fall 2024. I’m also working with Yosemite Conservancy on another possible board book, but it’s too early to give any details on that one. Stay tuned!
NADJA - I've been busy with picture book projects with my Finnish clients, but I have also been working on a new chapter book series of Flat Stanley (Adventures in Classroom 2E) for HarperCollins. It's been fantastic to be illustrating such an iconic character!
We are going to have to keep our eyes open for these books. What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?
TERRY - My absolute favorite is Yosemite National Park (admittedly, I still have a few others on my list to visit). The reason I love Yosemite so much is because it never fails to take my breath away. I live in the Eastern Sierra, so the eastern park entrance is only a 40-minute drive for me. This means I visit Tuolumne Meadows a LOT during the summer and fall. Every time we round the bend that gives us the view of Cathedral Peak and Tuolumne Meadows, I gasp at their beauty. I love seeing the gorgeous green meadows and granite-white domes and peaks, set against a cobalt-blue sky. If you throw in a herd of deer or a wild bear…well, it just doesn’t get any better than that in my opinion!
NADJA- My dream would be to visit Yosemite, of course! I have a little spot of forest on my way to the studio, and I often stop there for a moment to just look at the old trees and escape the city noise.
Nadja, I hope you get to visit soon. It is breathtaking! Thank you Terry & Nadja for stopping by to share about yourself and your newest picture book.
To find out more about Terry Pierce, or contact her:
To find out more about Nadja Sarell, or contact her:
Review of Hello, Meadow! Plus A Giveaway
In their newest board book collaboration with Yosemite Conservation, Terry Pierce and Nadja Sarell gently and beautifully examine the fragility of meadows and offer ways that even the youngest reader to help take care of them.
Author: Terry Pierce
Illustrator: Nadja Sarell
Publisher: Yosemite Conservancy (2023)
Ages: 3 months to 3 years
Meadows, nature, conservation, stewardship, and respect.
Grassy, flower-filled meadows are really pretty! It’s oh-so tempting to hike and skip right through them. But meadows are actually fragile, and human footsteps and picnics can cause them harm—and then they cannot do their important work of providing habitat for creatures and plants, filtering water, and even storing carbon. The bouncy text and vibrant illustrations in this sturdy board book show little nature lovers how to easily protect meadows while enjoying one of Earth's loveliest features.
Meadows are such busy places.
Grasses, creatures, open spaces.
But meadows can get hurt, you see.
Let's do our part to let them be.
What I LOVED about this book:
The adorable little mouse on the cover changes to a concerned mouse on the first spread as it watches families veer off a trail and trample through the meadow, leveling grass, chasing animals, and picking flowers. The trash, scuffed up bare spots, and scared animals, intermixed with the gorgeous flowers, grass, and insects (butterflies), powerfully present these opening lines.
Text © Terry Pierce, 2023. Image © Nadja Sarell, 2023.
From the second spread to the final spread, Terry Pierce utilizes a wonderfully calming, lilting refrain - "Hello, Meadow! How are you?/ We can help our meadows, too!" - reinforcing the appropriate behavior of multiple families. Throughout the bright colorful images, Nadja Sarell weaves animals, birds, insects, amphibians, and flowers commonly living in and around Yosemite's meadows. [See Terry's description of the animals and plants on the second spread, in the interview above.]
Text © Terry Pierce, 2023. Image © Nadja Sarell, 2023
When folks leave flowers
on their own . . .
Hello, Meadow. What a view!
We can help our meadows, too!
On each successive spread, the last portion of the first line of the refrain shifts. Here, it's changed to "What a view!" and while the girl demonstrates the polite way to save a memory of the Jeffrey Shooting Stars with her cell phone, a grandfather and grandson paint the meadow watching a bluebird, hummingbird, butterfly, and a grey fox. "What a view" indeed. It also includes one of my favorite flowers - lupine.
As families use binoculars and remain on the trail or boardwalk they are rewarded with spectacular views, glimpses and moments with wildlife, as they protect the fragile, important meadows. The ending circles back to the beginning, but includes an affirming call to action for every age of reader and a visual demonstration of change in the behavior of two of the families from the beginning. A delightfully diverse cast of characters hike, play, and recharge themselves throughout the book. It's a gorgeous board book encouraging care and respect for the natural world.
- make your own pair of binoculars. Then take a notebook and pencil and go for a walk. What did you see? Hear? or Smell? Write a description or draw a picture.
- what animals and insects did you see in the book? Did you find the grasshopper, snail, or the bees? Which of these live near you?
Hello, Meadow! Giveaway
Awesome news! I get to offer one lucky reader a copy of Hello, Meadow! .
- Simply comment below to be entered in the random drawing on May 9th.
- 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.*