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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Kate Allen Fox and Review of A Few Beautiful Minutes

Kate Allen Fox is an award-winning children’s author from southern California.

Author photo of Kate Allen Fox

After working in public health, she combined her passions for science and the written word and began writing picture books that inspire wonder and curiosity about the natural world. Her essays have appeared in several publications, including The New York Times and McSweeney’s. In addition to being a writer, Kate is a speaker, arts educator, and homeschooler.

She’s the author of Pando, A Living Wonder of Trees (Capstone 2021), which was named one of the best books of the year by School Library Journal and Chicago Public Library and a finalist for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award.

Kate’s new picture book, A Few Beautiful Minutes: Experiencing a Solar Eclipse, releases on September 26th.

Welcome Kate, thank you so much for coming by to talk about your new picture book and your writing.

Thank you 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 written my entire life, but I got serious about writing for publication in 2018 after the birth of my second child, when I decided to step back from working full-time. These days, I homeschool both of my sons, and my writing routine is a bit fluid based around their education and activities. I usually write in the middle of the day when they’re eating lunch and playing (before we head out for afternoon activities). I write on the couch. I have a desk, but somehow there’s too much pressure there, so I always end up writing on the couch. Bad for my posture, but, hey, it’s comfy.

I totally understand! What do you like to do outside by yourself or with family or friends?

I love hiking and often get my best ideas outdoors. I also figure out picture book revisions in my head while weeding my backyard. I live in southern California, so outdoor activities abound—from the beach to the desert to forests not too far away.

Sounds like the perfect place to live. What was your inspiration or spark of interest for A Few Beautiful Minutes: Experiencing a Solar Eclipse?

Book cover - boy standing in grass, arms stretched wide, beneath the corona of a full solar eclipse.

When the last total solar eclipse came to North America in 2017, my husband, older son, and I were lucky enough to see it. We lived in Atlanta at the time and drove to the North Carolina border to get in the “path of totality”—the area where the moon completely blocks the sun and you can see a lot more effects of the eclipse.

On the drive up there, we listened to podcasts about eclipse chasers—people who travel to every eclipse and spend years planning their adventures. I was struck by the idea that people spend hours driving or years planning to see something that only lasts a few minutes. After the eclipse, I understood.

I wasn’t writing picture books yet when I saw that eclipse, but I recalled the experience as I started drafting this manuscript a couple of years later.

It is so amazing when you get to see it. It really is magical. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

Book cover of The Lorax.

Oh, tough one! I loved Shel Silverstein and memorized many of his poems. I also loved The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. I actually didn’t read a ton of children’s literature as a kid, so I have read many of the classics as an adult. My dad read me a ton of poetry for adults (he liked Poe, Frost, and Whitman, among others) and that definitely affected my style as a writer.

Have to have at least one tough question. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about or gain from A Few Beautiful Minutes?

For me, the book is really about how short experiences can be meaningful. Even if readers never see an eclipse, I’d love them to feel a sense of possibility—that something magical (even if it’s brief) can come into their lives and leave a lasting impact.

Interesting. How many revisions did A Few Beautiful Minutes take from the first draft to publication?

SO MANY! This is definitely the hardest manuscript I’ve ever drafted. I would guess I went through 30+ drafts. I first drafted it in 2019, and it went on sub in 2020. My agent and I got two different revise and resubmit (R&R) requests in late 2020/early 2021. The notes from Little, Brown Young Readers resonated with me since they wanted more lyricism. I went to work on that revision, but it proved tricky. With the help of my agent and my critique group, I got through, and it sold in 2021.

I'm really glad you stuck with it! What was the toughest aspect of writing or revising A Few Beautiful Minutes?

There’s a lot of science and a lot of emotion baked into the text and getting the balance right (while not sacrificing accuracy) was a challenge. I always try to bring an emotional layer to STEM topics. Sometimes, it falls into place quickly. Sometimes, it’s harder. I think it was harder in this manuscript because (1) the science for eclipses takes a fair amount of explanation and (2) there are so many emotional elements to an eclipse, it was hard to know which to focus on in such a short space.

I think you did a remarkable job! When you first saw Khoa Le’s illustrations did anything surprise or amaze you? Which is your favorite spread?

Internal spread - boy watching the eclipse with the sun's corona reflected in his eyes.

Text © Kate Allen Fox, 2023. Image © Khoa Le, 2023.

Oh my goodness! So many surprises! So much amazement! I love the cats she inserted throughout the text and the way they paw at the shadows. I love that she set the book by the ocean. And my favorite surprise is in my favorite spread. The child’s eyes hold a reflection of the sun’s corona!

Her illustrations really are quite remarkable. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

Winter Solstice Wish (illustrated by Elisa Paganelli) is coming out from Beaming Books in October 2024. It’s a lyrical ode to the winter solstice centered around a beach bonfire. It’s inspired by beach bonfires popular in the San Diego area, where I live. I’ve seen the art for this book, and Elisa’s illustrations are amazing! I’m so excited for this one.

Can't wait to see this one! 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.

My favorite National Park is Yosemite. First of all, it’s objectively the best. I also honeymooned there, so I’m biased. My husband and I hiked Half Dome, and it was generally a magical trip. We’ve gone back with the kids, including in snowy winter, and it’s always so special. I still need to go to Yellowstone and Zion, but I don’t think they’ll top Yosemite for me.

Thank you, Kate for participating in this interview. It was wonderful to get to know you.

Thank YOU!

To find out more about Kate Allen Fox, or contact her:

Some of Kate's Upcoming Virtual & In-Person Events:

Virtual: TOMORROW (9/27) at 5 pm PT/8 pm ET! I'll be reading A Few Beautiful Minutes and answering questions as part of the "Storytime Sprint" series. There will be fun! There will be prizes! Register here.

In-person: (No registration required for either event.)

1. Barnes & Noble Encinitas at 11 am on 10/11; and

2. San Diego Children's Discovery Museum in Escondido at 10 am on 10/12.

Review of A Few Beautiful Minutes:

Experiencing a Solar Eclipse

This is such a stunning and lyrical celebration of the awe inspiring wonder of a total solar eclipse and the comradery it inspires.

Book cover - boy standing in grass, arms stretched wide, beneath the corona of a full solar eclipse.

A Few Beautiful Minutes: Experiencing a Solar Eclipse

Author: Kate Allen Fox

Illustrator: Khoa Le

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2023)

Ages: 4-8



Solar eclipse, nature, and community.


A poetic and exquisitely illustrated tribute to the solar eclipse and the magic of togetherness, seen through the eyes of a child.​

What happens during a solar eclipse? The sun vanishes. Light becomes dark. Day animals sleep, and night animals wake. The moon takes over the sky. People stop what they’re doing and together, they look up. The whole world changes for a few beautiful minutes.

Celebrating a favorite wonder of the universe, A Few Beautiful Minutes encourages young readers to (safely) discover each stage of a solar eclipse, and to experience how this incredible phenomenon can connect us to one another.

Opening Lines:

Under a broad, blue sky

from coast to coast,

we gather for a rare illusion . . .

a total solar eclipse —

when the sun vanishes into thin air

. . . for a few beautiful minutes.

What I LOVED about this book:

Lyrically playing up the grandeur of a solar eclipse with a hint of theatrical magic, this gorgeous nonfiction sets the stage by bringing together the audience

Internal spread of a boy on a bike, a car, a camper, and a boat converging on a beach area to watch eclipse.

Text © Kate Allen Fox, 2023. Image © Khoa Le, 2023.

and the performers.

Internal spread of the sun, moon, and earth moving into alignment for the eclipse.

Text © Kate Allen Fox, 2023. Image © Khoa Le, 2023.

In the endless expanse of space,

the universe prepares for a show,

one the sun and moon have given us

since the dawn of time.

As the moon slips into place, "to steal the sun’s glory. . . for a few beautiful minutes," Khoa Le creates a sweet montage of panels featuring a diverse group of kids excitedly making sun viewers to safely view the show. The soft, digital illustrations and poetic text shift between close-ups of the kids and the expanse of space and the moon's movements - creating tender (two cats curled under a tree as the eclipse is mirrored in shadows) and humbling moments.

Accurately following the progression of the eclipse - the moon's slow progress, "eerie orange hues hug the horizon," the darkening sky, the temperature drop, and the animal's changed behaviors - Kate Allen Fox has created an excellent book for teachers and caregivers to explore solar eclipses. When the eclipse occurs, the refrain, " for a few beautiful minutes" shifts slightly to "for those few beautiful minutes." And Khoa Le creates an ethereal illustration of a group gazing at the corona and its reflection dancing in the waves. Though they are digitally created, the illustrations feel as though they're paintings.

"Captivated and connected," the crowd watches the moon supersede the sun

Internal spread - large group of people enjoying the eclipse and the sun's corona together.

Text © Kate Allen Fox, 2023. Image © Khoa Le, 2023.

The corona’s lightning-like tentacles

grasp at space; their glow

dances in our eyes,

all of us aware of our own tininess,

all captivated and connected

and one wonders if the change in the refrain - "for those tiny precious minutes" - refers only to the fleeting occurence of the corona effect or our own lives. Look back to the interview to see again the stunning image when the focus zooms in on one child - "In the crowd is one tiny precious . . . you." The ending spreads complete the eclipse and are touching, magical, and stunning. The explanation and detailed timeline of an eclipse enhances the STEM aspect of the text. It is a magnificent book showcasing total solar eclipses and community.


Solar eclipse paper plate craft.

- create your own working solar eclipse.

- make a sun viewer - directions at the back of the book.

- watch a video on solar (and lunar) eclipses.

- On October 14, 2023 look for an annular solar eclipse, visible in North America, or watch the YouTube NASA live feed from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. EDT.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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