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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Francine Rockey and Kendra Binney - Plus a Giveaway

This debut duo took a moment from exploring Oregon's glorious trails to share a bit about themselves and their gorgeous, upcoming picture book.

Francine Rockey Francine Rockey is a writer, poet, and editor specializing in children’s literature. As a mom, former educator, and life-long reader, she has often seen the resplendent magic of books. Francine lives in Bend, Oregon, with her forever valentine and two young sons, where they wander along trails over mountaintops and under waterfalls collecting stories.

Kendra Binney was raised in a small mountain town with no shoe stores. Most of her time was spent barefoot treading through the minuscule world of spiders, snakes and all things hiding in the grass. She transfers this closeness with the small and obscure into her paintings. Through scenes of dripping landscapes and insecure, vulnerable characters, she illustrates a world draped in memories, remorse, and fragile realities. Seen through pastel washes and shiny candy coatings of resins, her works evoke both nostalgia and contempt. They are at once gentle and cruel, sweet and unsettling.

Though her paintings have been exhibited, sold, and published around the world, Kendra herself spends most days in a small studio in Portland, OR. Where she paints, daydreams, and paints some more.

Their debut picture book, To Find Treasure in the Mountains, releases August 16th.

Welcome Francine and Kendra, tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write or illustrate? How long have you been writing or illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate? )

FRANCINE – Most days I write first thing in the morning and in the early afternoon. But some days an idea, a phrase, a couplet will start to hum and swirl, it will crescendo until I have no choice but to stop whatever I’m doing and write (I always have a pencil and paper with me just in case today is a someday). I like to write my first drafts by hand outside in the grass or on the patio, or really anywhere. But the bulk of writing happens at my office computer (with the flower basket and hummingbird feeder in the window).

KENDRA – I’m a full time illustrator. I’ve worked as an artist most of my adult life, but only made the switch from being a painter to an illustrator a few years ago. I especially love creating illustrations based on science and nature - especially flowers, bugs, and other animals. But also love doing more fantastical art about mythological beasts, fairy tales, and magic. I thought this book let me do a little mix of both.

Nice to "meet" you of both. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

FRANCINE – I think Goodnight Moon, Now We are Six, and A Light in the Attic were my first favorite books that were read aloud to me, and I still carry those verses. “Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere” is an exquisite line. Just perfect. The Little Prince and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were my first favorite books that I read myself, and they’re still favorites. I never outgrew books the way some kids do, every book I’ve ever loved, I still love.

KENDRA – I really loved all the Serendipity books and used to collect them. I was always captivated by the illustrations.

Francine, what was your inspiration for To Find Treasure in the Mountains?

FRANCINE - We were visiting our family’s cabin in the forest near Williams, AZ, just south of the Grand Canyon. My valentine and I love to go on these long-meandering-all-day hikes looking for elk sheds and turkey feathers. To get our young kids excited about the long hikes we’d say we’re going on a treasure hunt. My thought at the time, was that we’d make-believe the turkey feathers and elk sheds were treasure. But our sons started pointing to everything, the sunlight through a cloud, “Look! Treasure!” A gnarled-bleached-alligator-juniper branch, “Look! Treasure!” A porous lava rock, “Look! Treasure!” And it was my kids who were pointing to a truth. A truth that I’d known but almost forgotten. That being out in the wild is the treasure, treasure to be treasured beyond measure! After our hike, I couldn’t get to my notebook fast enough, To Find Treasure in the Mountains, could not wait to spring into being.

Wonderful. "Out of the mouths of babes," indeed. Kendra, what was it about the To Find Treasure in the Mountains manuscript appealed to you as an illustrator and/or what discoveries did you make as you started working on it?

KENDRA - I was drawn to the magical tone of the book. I’ve always thought being out in nature as a magical experience and thought the manuscript captured that sentiment well. During research for the illustrations I learned a lot about Yosemite and the different plants, animals, and geology of the area.

You definitely captured the beauty and joy of wandering in nature. Francine, how many drafts did it take To Find Treasure in the Mountains to go from idea to publication?

FRANCINE – WOW! Goodness. So many drafts. It’s very first form was a free verse poem, and then I felt it really wanted to be a picture book, so I reimagined it. I think fourteen is a fair guess. Seven before it was acquired, and then another seven between acquisition and publication.

I can see the backbone of the poem in the text. Kendra, how many revisions did it take to create the fun illustrations for To Find Treasure in the Mountains? Can you tell us a little about your process with this book?

KENDRA - For the most part, I had a pretty good vision for the art going in, and there was just a single main round of revisions from rough to final art. There was one page in particular though that took maybe 3 or 4 different ideas before it really clicked, and there were some small revisions for technical aspects - to make sure the animals and plants were accurate for the region etc.

I love the whimsy you managed to keep while staying accurate. Is there something you both want your readers to know about, or take away from, To Find Treasure in the Mountains?

FRANCINE – I hope after To Find Treasure in the Mountains readers will spend more time marveling along the nearest trail, fluttering with butterflies, simply falling in love with nature.

KENDRA - I really wanted the art for the book to capture the sense of wonder and magic I feel when I’m outside. I hope when readers put down the book they’ll be inspired to venture outside and discover that sense of adventure and magic for themselves - even if it’s just in their own backyard.

I think you will succeed in inspiring lots of readers to explore outside. Kendra, many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in To Find Treasure in the Mountains? Could you share one or more with us?

KENDRA - Working on the illustrations for the book very much took me back to my own childhood. I grew up in a tiny mountain town where my brother and sister and I would go on similar excursions as the characters in the book. We definitely had our share of sibling rivalry moments, but there was always a sense of unity and cooperation during our outdoor adventures. I think there’s a feeling of connection that happens when you experience nature together and I wanted the characters in the book to give the readers a glimpse of that as well. I also definitely tried to leave a lot of small details in the art so readers would have new things to discover every time they opened the book.

Francine, what is the hardest or most challenging thing for you about writing children’s books? How about writing To Find Treasure in the Mountains in particular?

FRANCINE –Rejection is the hardest part. Resilience and an unshakeable hope are essential.

Very true. Kendra, what was the hardest part about illustrating To Find Treasure in the Mountains?

KENDRA - I think the most challenging thing was just making sure every page felt special and that I was able to capture the children and their experience in a way that felt truly magical and treasure worthy.

You did a wonderful job. Francine, did anything surprise or amaze you when you first got to see Kendra’s illustrations? What is your favorite spread?

FRANCINE – Yes! Kendra Binney’s art is so lush and dreamy, and it is such an incredible experience to see an artist’s actualization of a written image. I absolutely love the new layers of wonder her work brought to the text.

Text © Francine Rockey. 2022. Image © Kendra Binney, 2022.

One of my favorite moments in the illustrations is for “Eye to eye with a grasshopper, you’ll be very close to treasure!” I’d imagined a very zoomed-in image of a kid and a grasshopper here, and Kendra provided that but then added two of the kids jumping as though they were grasshoppers. Which was surprising in such a lovely way. I think it added a new way of interpreting the line, that emulating an aspect of nature is another way we can meet nature eye to eye.

It is such a fun spread! Kendra, is there a spread that you were especially excited about or proud of? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Francine Rockey. 2022. Image © Kendra Binney, 2022.

KENDRA - I think the spread where they are climbing across the rocks with the cloud animals above them is my favorite. There were a few little problem solving issues with incorporating everything that needed to be included on that page and I’m proud of how it came out. I think that spread also does a good job of summing up what the book is all about.

I liked this one a lot, too! How are you, or have you, each been staying creative these days?

FRANCINE – I read. I expect inspiration. I keep my pencils sharp and nearby. I listen. I write!

KENDRA – Ive been working on art for 4 new books along with a lot of other fun projects the last few months, so definitely staying creative and very busy lately.

Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

FRANCINE – So many new projects! Nothing though that is ready to share just yet, but I can say there is a sensational seedling of a story set on sprouting!

KENDRA - I recently finished illustrating An Arctic Story, which is a beautifully written and informative children’s book that follows the animals of the arctic circle through the winter. It comes out in October of this year.

That is such a gorgeous cover! I can't wait to read this one. Francine, we'll have to keep our eyes out for what you do next. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

FRANCINE – The Deschutes National Forest is home, so I feel it is a favorite by default. The Grand Canyon was my first National Park, so I can’t not mention it, and there is no blue like Crater Lake blue. Crater Lake is so blue it’s not just a color but an emotion—it is peace made tangible and visible on Earth! And Yosemite! I’ll be visiting for the first time soon, and I’m beyond thrilled to add Yosemite to my list of best-loved Earth amazements. © Kim-Chamales

KENDRA – There’s way too many! I took a trip to Alaska a few years ago and was awestruck by both Denali and Kenai Fjords national parks and would love to go back. More locally I love the state parks along the coast of Oregon. The hikes through the area are so green and overgrown and remind me of places in fairy tales. I’m fortunate to live in a city with so many city parks, and nature preserves and love exploring all the amazing places that are just minutes from my house. I have never been to Yellowstone and would love to go someday. © NPS Photo / Kent Miller

Thank you Francine & Kendra for sharing with us a bit about yourselves and your newest picture book.

To find out more about Francine Rockey, or to contact her:

To find out more about Kendra Binney, or contact her:

Review of To Find Treasure in the Mountains

and Giveaway

I love hiking, strolling, or sitting and watching - just generally spending time in nature. So it's no wonder I fell in love with this magical book. The shimmering foil on the cover hints at the treasure to be found within. Unfortunately, I can't capture a good image - but the word "treasure," the animals, the magnifying glass, and the sparkles all shimmer. This book is a personal invitation to explore nature and discover the magic and wonder which exists all around. And I am excited to be able to give you a sneak peek before its release in two weeks.

To Find Treasure in the Mountains

Author: Francine Rockey

Illustrator: Kendra Binney

Publisher: Yosemite Conservancy (2022)

Ages: 4-7



Adventure, hiking, treasure, exploration, and wonder.


With sturdy shoes and a sense of adventure, three young children hike through the sparkling woods to find treasure in the mountains. No pirate’s map or magic wand required! Outside, there is always something wonderful just around the bend.

Is that treasure hidden in a hollow old tree trunk? Does treasure gleam near the lizard with the bright blue belly? Can the feathery flight of a great gray owl hint at treasure? Yes, yes, and yes! Because all steps into the wild lead to nature’s treasures. This lovely picture book highlights discoveries and connections that come from sharing time outdoors together.

Opening Lines:

If you want to find treasure

in the mountains, you don't need a

magical fairy or a wise, wand-waving wizard.

You don't need a pan to shift for gold

or a pirate map with X marking the spot.

All you need to find treasure here

is a sturdy pair of shoes.

And to remember which way is away

and which way is home.

Once your sturdy shoes are on tight,

and your which-ways are set right,

start stepping toward away.

What I LOVED about this book:

Sparkles dance on the beautiful cover and across the end pages leading the reader to this stunning dedication page! It is so soft and intriguing. As I personally love chickadees and it was fun to see the little bird pop in to observe the beginning and the end of the kids' adventure.

Text © Francine Rockey. 2022. Image © Kendra Binney, 2022.

The lyrical, poetic nature of the text is established right away in the opening lines; along with an expectation of an adventure. As three siblings set out to explore the woods, their tender, caring connection is shown in the illustrations as the older brother helps with shoes, they dance and play together, and give each other a hand as they scramble over rocks.

As a naturalist, I loved finding and identifying many of the animal and plants species I regularly see on my own walks - especially the columbine, snowdrops, & lupine, as well as the Steller's jay, squirrels, deer, dragonflies, & red-tail hawks. And I definitely agree with Francine that it is a gift to be able to observe these animals and birds and that "All steps into the wild lead to treasure."

As the kids hike through the woods, they look into hollow trunks, listen to the birds, and feel the roughness of bark; engaging nature with all their senses. It's a glorious image where they dance with wind as it "whispers.... treasure." Kendra has such a delicate, ephemeral quality to her illustrations, which still remain realistic and natural.

Text © Francine Rockey. 2022. Image © Kendra Binney, 2022.

It's a joyous celebration of taking the time to explore nature, observing everything big (deer and lizards) and small (ants and butterflies), sitting still and listening, and "being brave as a black bear/ and as steady as a mountain lion." [Look back at Kendra's favorite image]. I love the images of the bear and the mountain lion in the clouds roughly mimicking the kids' positions. The final three spreads highlight the majesty and magic of Yosemite National Park and gorgeously show how the kids can "keep the treasure" they found. This is a wonderful book for sparking an interest in heading outside on our own adventures.


- try a nature scavenger hunt on your next walk or time outside.

- create a nature notebook, using one you have or one you make, draw, photograph, or describe what you see and hear when you go outside in your yard, neighborhood, or parks.

- visit a National Park & do their Junior Ranger program. Of check out virtual Junior Ranger programs from many of the National Parks.

- if you can't get to Yosemite National Park right now and want to see some of the area featured in the book, check out the National Parks' Webcams. They also have cameras at many other parks - like the Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, and Crater Lake.

To Find Treasure in the Mountains Giveaway

Hope you enjoyed this interview & review. One lucky reader will win a copy of To Find Treasure in the Mountains.

- Simply comment below to be entered in the random drawing next Wednesday, August 10th.

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

- *Sorry US Residents only.*


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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