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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Julie Falatko

Julie Falatko writes books for children. She is the author of many books, including Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book), which was named one of the ABA’s best books for young readers for 2016, was featured in People magazine, and was read online by David Harbour of “Stranger Things,” and the Two Dogs in a Trench Coat chapter book series, illustrated by Colin Jack (Scholastic), for which she received the Denise McCoy Literacy Award.

Author photo of Julie Falatko.

She lives with her family in Maine, where she maintains the Little Free Library in front of their house.

Collage of the covers of Julie's 11 books.

Julie’s the author of A Sofia Special, illustrated by Vivian Mineker (2023), Rick the Rock of Room 214, illustrated by Ruth Chan (2022), Yours in Books, illustrated by Gabe Alborozo (2021), The Great Indoors, illustrated by Ruth Chan (2019), No Boring Stories, illustrated by  Charles Santoso (2019), Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably), illustrated by Tim Miller (2017), Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!), illustrated by Tim Miller (2016), and the Two Dogs in a Trench Coat chapter book series, illustrated by Colin Jack.

Her newest picture book, Help Wanted: One Rooster, releases on June 18th.

Welcome Julie, thanks for stopping by to talk about your newest book and writing.


Thanks so much for having me, Maria!


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 always written stories. It took me until I was in my thirties before I understood that it was something I could do professionally.


I’m a morning person, and I get my best writing done before noon, although I write all day if I’m trying to finish something. Three years ago, we converted the utility shed in the backyard into an office for me. I’ve worked in every corner of the house, and I love having a separate space, with a door. My little old dog loves the shed, too. There’s a couch for him to nap on.


My favorite type of book to write is a silly one. I love when I manage to make myself laugh. I love characters who are earnest and full of goodness and also completely ridiculous.


You do have a wonderful ability to write humor! What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written or illustrated a manuscript?


In 2017, we were car camping at Moosehead Lake in Maine, and our car broke down on the way to a hike. It took nine days for our car to get fixed. For a while, we had no idea when we would get home. Or if we would ever get home. At the time, I was working on revisions for The Great Indoors, which is about forest animals who move into a human family’s home while they’re camping, and it seemed a little on the nose. I don’t normally work while we’re on vacation, but at that point there wasn’t really anything else to do. So I sat at the edge of the lake, with ravens overhead and loons in the distance, and worked on that story about camping indoors.

Sounds almost like it was meant to be. What was your spark of curiosity or inspiration for Help Wanted: One Rooster?

Book Cover - a sheep and a cow, hooves on hips, in front of a "Help Wanted: One Rooster" sign.

One of my favorite ways to come up with a story is to look at media I love and figure out why I love it. I like to break it and figure out the equation of it. What makes it work? I had watched the Monty Python interview sketch for the billionth time and tried to figure out what about it I loved so much, and decided the unexpected and increasing absurdity was my favorite part of it. I tried to translate a similar absurdity (and interview process) into a picture book.


I think you definitely succeeded! How did the writing and journey to publication of Help Wanted: One Rooster compare to some of your other picture books? Was it easier or harder than writing the more serious, A Sofia Special?


A Sofia Special was a totally different process because it’s one I wrote with the incredible people at Driscoll’s Berries. It was fun to team with them, but also a totally different process than my normal one since I was collaborating at every step of the way. Usually, I’m on my own for months or even years, until I’ve taken the manuscript as far as I can. Help Wanted: One Rooster wasn’t easier or harder than A Sofia Special, just a totally different experience.


It’s so interesting to me how the writing process is different for every book. Some come very quickly, some take months to even get a first draft. Some barely change with revisions, some end up so different from the first drafts that it’s hard to even see how one led to the other.


Given the timing, in this next answer, I'm guessing this might be one of the later types of books. How long did it take from the first draft to publication for Help Wanted: One Rooster?

Twelve years! So far, definitely my longest.

Wow. It is really fun, so I glad you did not give up on it. What was the hardest part of writing Help Wanted: One Rooster? What was the most fun?


I could not figure out the ending for this book. That’s part of what took so long. I knew I had these rooster candidates, but I couldn’t figure out why they needed a new rooster in the first place. Where did the rooster go? Why? It took ten years to figure it out.

Even though it took a while, this was a super fun book to work on. I love the process in a picture book of imagining all the backstory, and then not putting any of it into the actual text. It’s like a version of Name That Tune. Can I get this character across in fourteen words? It’s such a fun puzzle.

That's a great way to think about it! When you first saw Andrea Stegmaier’s illustrations, did anything surprise or amaze you? What is your favorite spread?

Internal spread - as the sun sets, the rooster candidates - three birds and a space blob - march off to speak with rooster.

Text © Julie Falatko, 2024. Image © Andrea Stegmaier, 2024.

I love the illustrations in this book so much! Andrea totally echoed the text’s the increasing absurdity in the illustrations. There are so many details, so many hilarious things happening in the background. My favorite spread is the one that shows the rooster candidates, who have conferred with each other, on their way to carry out their plan. They’re so determined.

And the sheep looks so thoughtful and puzzled. What's something you want your readers to know about Help Wanted: One Rooster?

This might be the silliest picture book I’ve written. And that’s saying something.

It is pretty silly, but super fun. Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I’ve just seen character sketches from my 2026 Simon & Schuster picture book, Figdor Makes a Friend, which is illustrated by Marissa Valdez. There are a lot of quirky little folks in that book, and Marissa is making them so funny and adorable.

Book cover - dog sitting on the carpet in the Oval Office, writting notes.

*And watch for Chester Barkingham Saves the Country, illustrated by Eva Byrne coming on September 17th! *

Figdor sounds intriguing... we'll have to keep our eyes out for its release. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Photo of a hike at Acadia National Park.

Ohhh, this is a good question. I love National Parks. I love the National Park in my own state, Acadia National Park. It’s beautiful and they let you take your dog on the shuttle bus.

Photo of Julie's dog on a shuttle at Acadia National Park

I also love Zion National Park, which felt otherworldly compared to the landscapes I’m used to. I’d love to visit Yosemite or Joshua Tree. They’re on my list. I know they’re gorgeous, and I want to see for myself. Someday.

What a cute dog! Thank you, Julie, for stopping by to share about yourself and your newest picture book. It was wonderful to chat with you.

Book Cover - a sheep and a cow, hooves on hips, in front of a "Help Wanted: One Rooster" sign.

Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Help Wanted: One Rooster.

To find out more about Julie Falatko, or contact her:


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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