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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Jennifer Concepcion

Born in Haiti and raised in Northern British Columbia, Jennifers live in Costa Rica. A mom of three and a bilingual kindergarten teacher: her daily adventures provide her with never ending inspiration! No matter what she’s writing, Jennifer’s one goal is for her readers to feel seen, whether they`re 3 years old or 83

Author photo of Jennifer Concepcion.

​Jennifer writes both humorous and heartfelt stories, some incorporating her beloved second language (Spanish). She is passionate about creating diverse characters that allow children to see themselves on the page. Jennifer’s proud to be a Costa Rican and wants to accurately represent the beauty of its people, culture, language and landscapes in her manuscripts.

​When not teaching, writing, or building pirate forts at the beach, I can usually be found in a hammock under the mango tree with a good book.

Her debut picture book, Potatoes for Pirate Pearl, releases on September 19th.

Welcome Jennifer,

Maria, thank you so much for having me as a guest!

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 have been writing books since I was about 6 years old - really! My mom has a bunch of them stashed in her garage. Clearly this is a type of creative expression that I've always been passionate about. I started to get serious about finding an agent and publishing my work in 2020. These days my writing time is evenings and weekends between kids soccer practices and ballet recitals - it never quite feels like enough! But having a limited writing schedule does help me to keep organized and efficient. My favorite type of book to write is the illusive humor meets heart picture book - I love the challenge of trying to get both into one manuscript.

What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

I loooooove black licorice! It's not the most popular of candies haha, but the taste/ texture combo for me is just divine.

I have to admit, it is definitely an acquired taste. Congrats on your debut book. What was your inspiration or spark of curiosity for Potatoes for Pearl?

Cover Image - a pirate with parrot holding a potato.

I am a kindergarten teacher and I was trying to think of a fun way to introduce our science unit on plant life cycles! The character of Pearl popped into my head one day and I made up a little story about a pirate with scurvy who needed "earth grown vittles" to get healthy. The kids clicked with it and we kept it going for the whole unit, which inspired me to scribble it down and submit it to Feeding Minds Press! That''s so cool. Bet those kids will be excited to see the book. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

Cover image of Anne of Green Gables - red-headed young girl clutching a book with the farmhouse in the background.

My mum worked at the public library in our town when I was a kid! So I can honestly say that I grew up among those stacks. She fostered a love for books and reading in me from a very early age (Shout out - great parenting move Mum!!) and I remember feeling like some of the characters were truly my friends. I loved the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery and the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. I love those books, too. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Potatoes for Pearl?

As you are reading the book, keep a close eye on what Pearl gets up to in the illustrations! If you are paying attention, you may get an interesting surprise at the end... Ooh, that sounds intriguing. How many revisions did Potatoes for Pearl take from first the draft to publication?

At least 20! That was the part of the publishing process that surprised me the most - the number of drafts that the ms goes through as it bounces between author, illustrator, editor, and publisher. I was so very lucky to have an incredible team to work with who approached the whole process with grace and treated me with such kindness and respect. Thank you to my agent Dan Cramer from PageTurner Literary, my editor Emma Dryden and Julia Recko from Feeding Minds Press!

What was the toughest aspect of writing or revising Potatoes for Pearl?

Letting go of my darlings, for sure! There is still one line that I miss from the original ms - Pearl mentions "Hard Tack Biscuits" at one point, while she is eating and her mouth is full. I had written it as "Herd Terf Berfkets" because that's how one would say "Hard Tack Biscuits" with one's mouth full. It was changed because apparently not everyone got the joke but it still makes me laugh to say it! HA! Maybe it's one of those 'dialect' type things. Everyone speaks differently with their mouth full? 😊 When you first saw Chloe Burgett’s illustrations in Potatoes for Pearl, did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?

When I first saw Chloe's illustrations my jaw literally dropped. She somehow captured the characters almost exactly as I had imagined them and brought them to life in new and amazing ways that I hadn't even thought possible. Her work truly captures the essence of Pearl, Fay, and Petunia as I wrote them - I am a HUGE Chloe Burgett fan!!!

Internal image - pirate, farmer, and parrot tearfull huggin goodbye with a pile of potatoes at their feet.

Text © Jennifer Concepcion, 2023. Image © Chloe Burgett, 2023.

For a seafaring

pirate, you're not

a bad farmer.

For a


you're a mighty

good matey.

My favorite spread would have to be a tie between the first time that Fay and Petunia meet, and the spread where they say goodbye. The contrast between the two really shows the character development that Chloe illustrated so skillfully! Such a touching goodbye. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I live in Costa Rica and my children were born here. We are a bilingual family and I do have several projects on the go with elements of bilingual and multicultural families! And...yarrrrrr me mateys, I do be thinkin' that Pearl and Fay have got a few more adventures up their sleeves ....or in their pockets! (wink wink).

Good luck with these projects. And lastly, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Grand Canyon photo © Maria Marshall

Here in Costa Rica we live close to several National Parks where we can walk to see monkeys, macaws, pizotes and guatusas (google these, they are so cool). In the U.S. I was absolutely blown away by the Grand Canyon National Park! When you look at the Grand Canyon, it doesn't seem like it should be real. But somehow it is!!!

Cover Image - a pirate with parrot holding a potato.

Thank you, Jennifer for participating in this interview. It was wonderful to chat with you.

Be sure to come back Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Potatoes for Pirate Pearl.

To find out more about Jennifer Concepcion, or contact her:


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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