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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Kari Gonzales and Review of How to Hatch a Reader

Kari Gonzalez is a writer of children’s fiction and informational fiction with a heaping helping of humor and STEAM concepts.

Author photo of Kari Gonzales.

She is enthralled with writing funny and sometimes lyrical picture books. She also writes middle-grade and young adult novels-in-verse. ​Four plucky chickens are kind enough to share their home with Kari, her husband, and their two little girls. When she is not regaling her family with tall tales or creating colorful characters for her stories, you will find Kari reading voraciously or stuffing her double-decker little free library full of books.


Her debut picture book, How To Hatch a Reader, released on August 15th.


Welcome Kari, thank you so much for coming by to talk about your debut book and your writing.


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?)


Great question! I have been telling stories ever since I can remember. My dad kept a book I dictated before I could even write. Sooo, a long time! I write as often as I can, but not every line I write down is a keeper. Keeping up with the 12x12 Picture Book Writing Challenge I try to write a new draft every month and spend a whole lot of time revising after that! If I kept paper drafts, my drawers would be overflowing. I like to write children’s stories ranging from board books and picture books to novels in verse for middle-grade and young adults. As far as my favorite type of book- I’d say it’s a tie right now. I love to write humor and sweet, lyrical stories but one thing they always have in common - lots of heart.


We can always use more stories with heart. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?


I love to make and decorate extravagant cakes…but I can’t stand to cut my work of art and always pass the cake knife to someone else to do it. I’ve never actually passed on eating it once it was sliced though!


HA! 😊 What was your inspiration or spark of curiosity for How To Hatch a Reader?

Cover of How to Hatch a Reader - with a girl showing three chickens a book and a fox peeking from behind a tree.

As I was teaching my children to read, it was in the middle of the pandemic and the task felt a little daunting! I found myself wishing there was a fun guide. Then, How To Hatch A Reader sparked as we lay in the grass reading out loud to each other as our chickens flocked around us.


Reading with a flock of chickens sounds like a fun adventure. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

Collage of six Berenstain Bears books,

I adored the Berenstain Bears series by Jan and Stan Berenstain. I was so invested in the characters. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.


It is such a great series. I was always amazed at how many teenagers were collecting them, when I was getting them for my kids. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about How To Hatch a Reader?


I adore puns and idioms and had such an egg-cellent time crafting every word of this story. I hope you enjoy it! Also, be sure to check out the free educator guide and printable activities, they are a great pairing for the book. Happy reading!


How many revisions did How To Hatch a Reader take from first draft to publication?


23 drafts! And let me tell you the first several were fast drafts and in rough shape but once I ironed out the heart of the story and the plot, I was able to start fine-tuning the humor and line-level edits. That is one of my favorite parts of the revision process!


So funny how authors seem to either prefer drafting or revising. What was the toughest aspect of writing or revising How To Hatch a Reader?


One of the most challenging aspects of revision was keeping the word count low. There was just so much I wanted to add, but I had to balance that with the desire to make every word count and keep the word count low for the youngest reader audience.


Ahh, the perpetual problem with picture books! When you first saw Rachel Suzanne’s illustrations in How To Hatch a Reader, did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?

Internal spread - four funky chickens dancing under a disco ball.

Text © Kari Gonzales, 2023. Image © Rachel Suzanne, 2023.


I was blown away by Rachel Suzanne’s expressive style, warm colors, and the humor she brought to every spread. Partnering on this book was a dream! I have so many favorite spreads, but my top favorite is the disco ball spread where the characters are doing the funky chicken! You can see more of Rachel Suzanne’s amazing art and other books here: http://www.rachelsuzanne.com/


Love the star glasses! Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


I recently finished up the final edits for If You Live On A Farm which is releasing in 2025 with Feeding Minds Press. It is a lyrical love letter celebrating the vast variety of farming from my experiences growing up in an agricultural town and having my own tiny hobby farm. Marie Hermansson is the illustrator and her art style is incredibly rich in detail. Prepare to be amazed! You can see more of Marie’s art and other picture books here: https://www.mariehermanssonillustration.com/


Here is a teaser for our book: If you live on a farm, you may play a quiet game of under-soil hide n’ seek or hear a chorus of sounds when trying to sleep, but one thing is for sure, the diversity of modern farming is wonderfully unique.

Sounds fun. We'll have to keep our open for this book. And lastly, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

photo of Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite has always been my favorite and I am so lucky it is only a few short hours away. I’d love to go to Yellowstone or Banff National Parks, as well. I’m a huge sucker for the great outdoors and our family goes camping every year. We’d invite the chickens, but I’m convinced they use these opportunities to host epic funky chicken disco dances while we are gone.


Thank you, Kari for participating in this interview. It was wonderful to get to know a little more about you and your debut book.


To find out more about Kari Gonzales, or contact her:


Review of How To Hatch A Reader


With a unique twist, this book wraps learning to read into a puny, feather flying, romp as a sweet young girl sets out to teach her chickens how to read.

Cover of How to Hatch a Reader - with a girl showing three chickens a book and a fox peeking from behind a tree.

How to Hatch A Reader


Author: Kari Gonzales


Illustrator: Rachel Suzanne


Publisher: Gnome Road Publishing


Ages: 4-8


Fiction



Themes:

Learning to reading, chickens, and humor.


Synopsis:

Learning to read can be tricky, but a good teacher can make all the difference!


When your feathered friends start begging for books, you want to be ready with all the right tools. First, find a cozy place to rest their chicken cheeks and help them peck the right story. Make sure to avoid the scary ones (and any books with fowl language). Help your chickens practice letter sounds, point out common words, and encourage every chicken scratch. Don’t forget to celebrate with a dance party! Before long, words will be flying off the pages . . . unless that fox gets in the way.


With warm colors, adorable characters, humor and hints of forthcoming mischief, How to Hatch a Reader is the perfect addition to any home, library or classroom, helping kids build confidence in their own skills while encouraging a love for books and reading with others.


Opening Lines:

Are your chickens begging for b-b-b-book, books?

If so, it is time to teach your feathered friends to read.


But first . . .


. . . you have

to catch them!


What I LIKED about this book:

I've read books about reading with (or teaching) dogs and cats, but never one about teaching chickens. Such a enticing and funny premise. And of course opening with a sneaky fox behind the chicken coup and the line "...you have to catch them!" Kari Gonzales and Rachel Suzanne create a sense of suspense and a slight hint of danger.

Internal spread of young girl excitedly holding up a book with four chickens around her feet and a fox peeking from behind the coop.

Text © Kari Gonzales, 2023. Image © Rachel Suzanne, 2023.


Young kids will enjoy the bold, colorful images and spotting the fox's hiding places as the girl leads her chickens through the steps of learning to read. Sounding out letters, finding common words, and scratching out words to label their favorite things. As the girl teaches her chickens, she discovers that "F...for fox!" and "deviled eggs" (presented by a fox paw) bring "BUWACKS!" from her friends and she needs to watch out for "FOWL language" - like the title of the book she's holding out of their view, "Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!"

Internal spread of girl hiding a book while two chickens help a third who has fainted.

Text © Kari Gonzales, 2023. Image © Rachel Suzanne, 2023.


Sounding out words also caused a chorus of "BUWACK!" when the girl goes from "D-U-C-K" to "P-L-U-C-K." Though all is forgiven with a cuddly hug and the refrain, "Just kidding, chickens!" Moving from reading compound words to whole books, the chickens discover the sky's the limit. The chicken's enthusiasm, and their celebration of milestones with a special dance party, shows how exciting reading can be. The personalities and energy of the chickens will definitely appeal to young listeners.


Reminding me of Wiley E. Coyote, the poor fox continuously sneaks around and trying to catch a chicken with increasingly fur-brained schemes. The ending twist is fun and perhaps holds a hint at a sequel. A final page full of hints and a few resources for helping beginning to more advanced readers rounds out this puny, humorous book. It's a funny way to help caregivers approach teaching beginning readers and a fun, colorful, cheeky read-aloud for young kids.


Resources:

Origami chicken example
Rooster and two chick bookmark examples.

- make a couple of your own origami chickens and try to teach them to read.

- or make some chicken bookmarks to help you read.

- check out the educator guide/resources.

- pair this book with The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Kate Berube and How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills.

Comments


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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