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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Gayle Krause and Review of Zadie and the Witch's Tea

As a child, Gayle made up stories and acted them out for her two sisters and the neighborhood kids. As an adult, she makes up picture book, MG, & YA stories for kids around the world.

A Master educator, she’s taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Ms. Krause writes fantasy, contemporary, and historical fiction, but most of her work is fantasy. She's been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Scholastic Book Clubs, and in various Young Adult Anthologies.

Gayle’s ability to write in multiple genres stems from having trained nursery and elementary teachers and teaching Pre-K. Many of her former students can be found among the pages of her books.

Gayle’s the author of 7 books, including Rock Star Santa, illustrated by Will Terry (2008), Daddy, Can You See the Moon?, illustrated by Carlos de la Garza (2019), Once Upon A Twisted Tale, illustrated by Caroline O'Neal (2019), Twice Betrayed (2017), Scheherazade's Secret (2014), and Ratgirl: Song of the Viper (2013).

For more information on Gayle, see our earlier interview (here).

Her newest picture book, Zadie and the Witch’s Tea, releases on September 5th.

Gayle, thank you so much for stopping back by to talk about your newest picture book and writing.

What do you like to do outside by yourself or with friends and family?

I walk three days a week, either by myself or with my husband. My once-a-year project where I spend hours outside is readying my garden in the spring (tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, and herbs), which is rewarding in the summer and fall.

Sounds like a great garden. What was your inspiration or initial spark of interest for Zadie and the Witch’s Tea?

As I said above, I write mostly fantasy and witches always spark my fancy, even when it’s not Halloween. And with my Children’s Literature background, and my Fairytale Seminar – BEYOND THE FAIRYTALE – which teaches prospective children’s writers how to reimagine a traditional fairytale and make it their own, Zadie and the Witch's Tea was born.

A retelling of Cinderella with a little witch and no prince, it tells the story of a young witch who dreams of attending The Grand Witch’s Tea on Halloween, but her sisters say she can’t go because she doesn’t have any “witchy” magic. Devastated, Zadie wishes with all her heart to attend, and her wish is granted by her Hairy Fairy Godspider.

Once there, she witnesses the other witches competing with their spells, chants, and potions to become the Grand Witch’s assistant. While watching, Zadie makes herself some bubble tea and offers it to two elderly witches, who are also observing the contest. The next day, the Grand Witch knocks on the witch sister’s door, Zadie’s lost hat in hand, and offers her the coveted position saying Zadie’s magic is her kindness.

That's a fun retelling! What is the most fun or interesting place that you’ve written a manuscript or started a story?

The island of Montserrat, British West Indies. Many of the tropical scenes in my historical fiction YA novel (a female pirate story) are taken directly from my experiences on that island. © Derek Galon

So gorgeous. That would be a really fun place to write. How long did it take for Zadie and the Witch’s Tea to go from its spark to publication?

Zadie’s path to publication took many turns. First written in 2016, it followed the Cinderella tale closely, but had too many words. So, I revised to make the words less and submitted it to my then agent. She, in turn, submitted it to several publishing houses. The responses came back mixed. Most loved the idea but asked me to rewrite it in prose.

One problem with that….for picture books, I think in rhyme. I write in rhyme. And am aware of good rhyme vs. bad. I belonged to The Poets’ Garage for six years, was the assistant poetry editor for Beneath The Juniper Tree and served on Angie Karcher’s Rhyme Revolution Committee for four years, helping to write the rhyme rubric and selecting the “BEST” Rhyming picture book in the U.S. for four years. And they wanted me to write it in prose!

After weeks of resistance, I did. My agent loved it, except again, it was too long. If I cut out the repetitive parts that made it Cinderella-y, it was dull and boring. So, I took a break and used my creative time to design and sew Zadie, her sisters, and the Grand Witch.

During my time at the agency, Kate and I were agency sisters, in fact, we shared the same agent. (since then the agent left the business and Kate and I left the agency). But I love her whimsical illustration style and she was the perfect illustrator to bring Zadie’s story to life.

Those are amazing dolls. And how cool that you knew the illustrator. What was the hardest thing you encountered about writing Zadie and the Witch’s Tea?

I think the hardest thing I encountered was trying to rewrite to an agent’s specific R&R request, which changed the whole gist of the story. And after I achieved what she wanted, she passed anyway. (And then I had 2 versions of the story.) Then as stated above, an editor at one of the big 5 asked for the story to be written in prose. After I completed her request, we never heard back. (Then I had 3 versions of the story).

Oh my! Is there something you want your readers to know about Zadie and the Witch’s Tea?

The message in Zadie and the Witch’s Tea is that kindness is more powerful than magic! I hope young readers will see how kindness will be rewarded and will help make a kinder society.

Did anything surprise you when you first saw Kate Talbot’s illustrations? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Gayle Kraus, 2023. Image © Kate Talbot, 2023.

I had seen the sketches and the final color scheme, but I’d no idea how blown away I would be when I saw her final renderings of the spreads. Oh, my ……! They were beautiful, whimsical, quirky, and colorful. Kate captured the essence of Zadie and her story perfectly.

I really enjoyed Kate's illustrations, too. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I recently finished my MG Fantasy (also about a witch), which was born from a 200-word excerpt I entered in the national 2022 KID’S CHOICE KIDLIT WRITING CONTEST, which I won 1st place. The judges were MG readers, and that’s who I want to please with my MG novel writing.

As I await feedback from my MG Beta readers (some who judged the original entry) I am working on the sequel, which continues the novice witch’s journey.

Sounds intriguing. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

This is a hard question to answer. I have visited many National Parks literally across the country.

In the northeast, I visited Acadia National Park in Maine and the National Seashore on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In the southwest, I visited The Grand Canyon, Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks, to name a few. I visited Denali National Park in Alaska, and the Everglades National Park in Florida.

But most interesting is the famous Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park which is only a half hour from my house.

© Roadtrippers


Gayle is offering a signed copy of Zadie and the Witch's Tea to one reader who comments below and shares news about her little witch on social media.

She also has Zadie swag which will accompany the book.

Thank you, Gayle for sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with you again.

Thank you for having me and letting me share Zadie’s story with your readers.

I’m also sharing links:

For more information about Gayle Krause, or to contact her:

Review of Zadie and the Witch's Tea

This fun, rhyming fracture of Cinderella is set within the framework of witches trying out to be the assistant of the Grand Witch. It is fun and ingenious, especially the hairy, Fairy Godspider.

Zadie and the Witch's Tea

Author: Gayle C. Kraus

Illustrator: Kate Talbot

Publisher: Trowbridge Books, LLC (2023)

Ages: 4-8


Fairy tale fracture, kindness, and magic.


Fractured fairytale, kindness, witches, rhyming, and magic.


When a little witch's two older sisters dash her hope of attending the biggest event of the Halloween season because she has no "witchy" magic, her determination and a surprising Fairy Godspider enchantment sends her as a special guest. The adult witches try to outdo each other to become the assistant to the most powerful witch in the land, The Grand Witch. But a kind gesture from the little witch wins the night and the title, and her sisters learn that kindness proves stronger than any magic they possess.

Opening Lines:

Zadie loved to dress up, pretending to be

An elegant witch at The Grand Witch's Tea.

She fed woodland creatures with small, tasty treats.

They ate from her hand and slept at her feet.

What I LOVED about this book:

These first two stanzas and spreads not only set up the tight rhyme and rhythm for the text, but also provide a great look into Zadie's quirky (love the patched hat) and kind personality. Such a wonderful and intriguing opening. What, after all, is the "The Grand Witch's Tea"?

Text © Gayle Kraus, 2023. Image © Kate Talbot, 2023.

Turns out rather a Prince's Ball to find a bride, in this fracture of Cinderella, The Grand Witch's Tea is the event held to pick the next Grand Witch's assistant. When the mail-bat (how cool is that?) delivers an invitation to a glamorous, tea on Halloween, in true Cinderella-style, the better dressed and slightly mean, magical sisters prepare to go and leave Zadie behind. After all, she has no magic.

Text © Gayle Kraus, 2023. Image © Kate Talbot, 2023.

I love Kate's addition of an expressive, snooty black cat as the sister's companion. And what would a witchy Halloween retelling of Cinderella be without a glowing, shimmering, friendly-eyed, hairy, fairy Godspider who confirms that Zadie's "magic is kindness" and whips up a gown of spider lace and a plumed hat with pearls. But unlike Cinderella, Zadie can stay until three.

Text © Gayle Kraus, 2023. Image © Kate Talbot, 2023.

Elegant and full of witches trying to magically impress, the most fun of the event is the ghoulish Halloween fare that Kate Talbot grandly displays! It will give kids (and adults) ideas of their own upcoming events. The bright, colorful, and beautifully textured illustrations complement Gayle Kraus's wonderfully bewitching wording. After Zadie shares some bubble tea with two older witches sitting together and they watch the others conjure and charm for a while, she dashes home. Of course dropping her hat.

While the ending won't be a surprise, being based on Cinderella after all, it is satisfying and beautifully done. It's a great updated retelling both for its Halloween setting and the fact that the reward is not based upon charms (or looks) or foot (or even hat) size, but upon showing kindness to others. It's a book kids will enjoy reading all year round, but especially around Halloween.


- make your own glamorous or spooky witches hat.

- how can you spread a little kindness at home, school, club, or neighborhood?

- try making your own version of Cinderella. What would you change?


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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