The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Deb Adamson and Review of I Miss Your Sunny Smile
Deb Adamson writes children's books that are silly, sweet, and usually a combination of both. Deb’s been a radio news director, worked in public relations at a major U.S. Aquarium, wrote a syndicated column (picked up by more than 250 newspapers), and is an essay and memoir writing instructor. She lives in Connecticut in the company of three amazing and much loved, guy varieties- her husband, son, and orange-cat-extraordinaire, Fatty Lumpkin, AKA Lumpy.
She is the author of the picture books Florence Griswold: The Keeper of the Artists (Little Red Tree, 2019), Stormy The Baby Dolphin: A Gulf Coast Rescue (Eakin Press, 2000), Monkey See, Monkey Do (Millbrook, 1997).
Her newest board book, I Miss Your Sunny Smile (Blue Manatee), released yesterday.
Welcome Deb, thank-you so much for stopping by to talk about your newest books and writing.
Talk about sunny smiles! Can you 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 been a writer for as far back as I can remember. I think my writing passion really took off, though when I was about age nine and I received my first locked diary. I remember treasuring that little book with blank pages meant only for me to see. It was within those pages that I began to notice the world around me—my relationships to my family, things that really meant something to me that I could not articulate to anyone else. Things that worried me… I was a worrying kid.
I write in different genres for kids - fiction, nonfiction, rhyme or non-rhyme, and lots of time just silly. I think it’s important for writer’s not to get “branded” as a specific type of writer. We never know what will inspire us and I believe that inspiration is where the magic happens and therefore the best writing.
I totally agree with you on the "branding." What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I had to really think about this question because I guess I have always considered myself an open book. Maybe the fact that I have always wanted to own a cow? I know! Crazy. I don’t live on a farm, so that’s most likely never going to happen. But I am so drawn to a cows’ beautiful eyes and gently faces. People often say that you have never really had a true connection with an animal until you have owned a horse. But I think that would be a cow! Instead, I have the pleasure of owning one small, manageable amazing cat named Lumpy, which is fine for now.
Great name for a cat! Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
Dr. Seuss was a childhood favorite for sure. His titles role off the tongue and encourage a love of language. The pure silliness of his books is what has stayed with me and I hope has colored some of my own writing.
What was your inspiration for I Miss Your Sunny Smile?
I am a lover of self-improvement books for adults. This little book is my attempt at reaching the youngest audience with messages to help guide them through difficult emotions. Without getting too deep, I Miss Your Sunny Smile is really a chance at boosting emotional intelligence. The message is—we all have bad days, but bad days come and go. And with a little help from those we love, we can switch gears and come through on the other side. Also I am a mom, and so I remember my own son, during his toddler years needing guidance through the occasional tough day. I think this is a book that parents and children will appreciate. And especially now, with social distancing, when things are so out of balance for us all—especially little ones, who are really missing the normalcy of their daily lives.
I think this will be helpful to both kids and their parents. How long did I Miss Your Sunny Smile take from the idea to publication? Did you find the board book format more, or less, challenging than your nonfiction picture books? Why or why not?
From idea to publication this little book has taken about five years to produce. It was originally written as a picture book but was pitched by my then, agent to a Big Five publisher. An editor there loved it but thought my concept worked well for a large format, longer, board book so we went through a few rounds of revision. After that I was thrilled! The book was on its way. Or so I assumed. But then after making it fairly far in the process it got rejected in a marketing meeting. Needless to say, I was so deflated. Soon after, my agent left agenting to pursue her own writing, so I began pitching the manuscript on my own. I finally found it a home at the independent press, Blue Manatee about two years ago. It again went through revisions with the editor there, so really it is far different from the original picture book manuscript I queried all those years ago. I am happy with how it has turned out, though and my editor is considering it being part of a series. I’ve already written two additional stories to add to the collection.
Oh that's an exciting bit of news to learn. Congratulations! Did anything surprise you when you first got to see the illustrations for I Miss Your Sunny Smile? Do you have a favorite spread?
Text © Deb Adamson, 2021. Image © Anne Zimanski, 2021.
I could not be happier with Anne Zimanski’s illustrative interpretation of my words. If there was any surprise, it’s that she seemed to envision it almost exactly as I did. I love the almost, retro style illustrations she used. The detail and emotion she captured are just delightful! If I had to pick a favorite it would probably be the mom, son and dog looking under the sofa for his smile, barking and wagging tails. It’s just a silly spread.
I loved the idea of looking for a lost smile (good mood) under the couch. How have you been staying creative this past year? Is there anything that has helped you “prime the well”?
I’ve been one of the more fortunate writers in that my creativity this past year hasn’t really stalled. Being home so much I have found that I’m really putting in the time at the computer. That’s not to say it has all been a breeze and the writing has all been successful but it’s words on a page. I recently pulled out a middle grade novel I’ve been working on for a few years. Revising it has given me a meatier project to sink my teeth into to. I also began writing a chapter book series and of course have a few picture books in various stages of completion.
What is your favorite animal? Or one you are enamored with. Why?
I love cats. I grew up being a dog person but when I married a guy who grew up with cats, my perspective changed. That’s not to say that I still don’t adore dogs and we have owned both at the same time.
But right now, I am just a proud owner of one orange Tabby who entertains and adds much to our little family.
Thank you, Deb for stopping by and sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.
To find out more about Deb Adamson, or get in touch with her:
Review of I Miss Your Sunny Smile
We've all had grumpy days. Even ones where we can't quite pinpoint why we feel that way. No wonder toddlers who have the same strong emotions, yet less verbal skills, totally meltdown. This is a gentle, loving board book for toddlers and older kids which is perfect for a snuggle and a smile.
I Miss Your Sunny Smile
Author: Deb Adamson
Illustrator: Anne Zimanski
Publisher: Blue Manatee Press (2021)
Emotions, grumpy days, misplaced treasure, and family.
"I miss your sunny smile. How'd you lose it? Where'd it go? Let's go searching for a while."
Having a bad day is never fun, but it can be especially difficult for young children to understand that sad feelings are temporary. Through gentle rhymes and warm illustrations, we see a mother helping her son find his smile again.
Cheer up my little sweet pea.
I miss your sunny smile.
How’d you lose it? Where’d it go?
Let’s go searching for a while.
What I Liked about this book:
Starting on a grey, super rainy day, which perfectly matches the child's sad, gloomy face, a mother and son begin a quest to find his missing smile.
Text © Deb Adamson, 2021. Image © Anne Zimanski, 2021.
The pair looks in the cookie jar (it's a big set of grumpies when chocolate can't help) and the dress up box. Nope. They try music, bubbles, and peek-a-boo. But no smile can be found. While they might not be successful, the dog's antics are sure to have the reader smiling! It's adorable in a pirate hat. I love where they eventually find the smile. Without giving it away, let me say that Anne Zimanski's closing image is truly delightful and thought provoking. It's the perfect wrap up of a silly search for a smile.
With a sweet rhyming text, this board book gently shows children that their sad feelings are valid, but also temporary. That our family (and friends) love us through the emotional grey days. That they are willing to help distract us or just listen. The softly colored, beautiful illustrations exude love and understanding, while not belittling the valid, and strong, sad or frustrated emotions of the child. It is a wonderful book for times when grumpy emotions strike or for snuggly story times.
- make an origami face with changing emotions. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVpBZKQdcoI&ab_channel=VitaliDIY).
- draw a picture, or write a story, about where your smile hides. What or who makes you smile?
- what makes your friend(s) smile? Your parents or sibling? Can you help a friend, brother or sister, or parent when they're sad?
- resources for helping a child cope with sadness (https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/early-care/tip-pages/all/helping-children-with-sad-times)