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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Kathleen Long Bostrom and Review of Since The Baby Came

First things first, the winner of The Yellow Áo Dài is:

Jolene Gutiérrez

Congratulations, Jolene!

Now, let me introduce you to Kathleen Long Bostrom an award - winning author of over fifty books for children. Her books are published in over twenty languages.

She is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who now writes full time. As a middle child, Kathy was both the new baby and the older sister who later became a mother of three herself. She knows whereof she rhymes. Kathleen lives in Carlsbad, California, with her husband, where she writes full-time in an office looking out over a grove of eucalyptus trees. She enjoys reading, swimming, watching Rafael Nadal play tennis, and snuggling with her one-year old mixed-breed puppy, Sophie Grace.

Kathleen’s books include, Will You Be Friends With Me?, illustrated by Jo de Ruiter (2020), The Worst Christmas Ever, illustrated by Guy Porfirio (2019), Hooray! It's Easter Day! (VeggieTales), illustrated by Lisa Reed (2017), Stories from the Bible: 17 Treasured Tales from the World's Greatest Book, illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova (2016), The View at the Zoo, illustrated by Guy Francis (2015), and Easter Stories and Prayers, illustrated by Elena Kucharik (2015).

For more information about Kathleen, see our earlier interview (here).

Her newest picture book, Since the Baby Came: A Sibling's Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems, releases May 2nd.

What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written a manuscript?

That’s a question I’ve never been asked before! My answer would be, Ireland. I’ve been there three times, and the first two stayed at a writer’s retreat on the western coast, overlooking the Atlantic ocean. I found the entire setting as well as the culture of Ireland so freeing and peaceful. I began writing again after a terrible writer’s block elicited from a previous trauma, and it felt like I’d found my soul-home, the place where I felt safe, free, myself. Poetry and stories flowed from me. I’ve been there twice since that first time, and am eager to get back!

It sounds amazing! What was your inspiration for Since the Baby Came: A Sibling's Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems?

I love writing in poetry, mostly picture books in rhyming verse, but thought it would be fun to write a book for children using different poetic forms. My goal was to introduce children to the joy of these various forms not in textbook fashion but through a story, where each part of the story was a different poem, from haiku and limerick, which many children know, but also others such as a villanelle, a new one for me! I was surprised how many poem forms there are. Researching these, then creating a story for young children and putting it all together into a finished book took several years, and many more years to find a publisher who understood the intention of the book.

I've seen a couple of picture books written in various verse forms, including the recent NF Ice Cycle: Poems about the Life of Ice by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Jieting Chen. How long did it take from the first draft to publication for Since the Baby Came?

A long, long time! I spent two years writing the book and another six having the story rejected over and over again. Then Sarah Rubio at Waterbrook & Multnomah read the manuscript and loved it (which is exactly what every author dreams!). It still took another few months for the manuscript to get through all the levels of a publishing house: acquisitions, marketing, publicity, etc. Once the manuscript was officially accepted, it took another two years to fine-tune and illustrate, and print. All in all, it took over ten years from conception to birth, but I loved every minute of the process (well, not the years of rejection!). It is all worth the wait as I can’t imagine the final book being any better than it is.

It takes a team to bring a picture book into the world. This includes my husband, whom I call my “first best editor;” my writing critique group members; my agent; the acquisitions editor and publishing house, and all the many people who are involved, not to mention the illustrator. Janet Samuel did a perfect job of bringing the characters to life. They actually feel real to me!

That is quite a journey. But it is very clear that the book is close to your heart. I, for one, am glad you stuck with it. What was the toughest aspect of writing Since the Baby Came? The toughest poem?

Several took extra time, for instance, “When Will This Baby Go Away?” which is a poem form known as the villanelle. A villanelle is composed of five tercets (three line stanzas) and a final quatrain (4 lines). The first and third lines of the first stanza repeat alternately in the following stanzas. Then, the two refrain lines form the final couplet in the quatrain. It’s easier to see how this works by reading the poem, but it took a long time to get just right.

Text © Kathy Long Bostrom, 2023. Image © Janet Samuel, 2023.

The most difficult to figure out as far as how the poem appears on a page was “Me, Too!” a Poem in Two Voices. The poem has two characters, the child and the baby. Some of the poem is the child speaking, some the baby (in thought bubbles), and some with both the characters together. Janet, the illustrator, as well as the editors were all very patient as we kept trying to find a way to make it work, but I think the final solution does just that.

I think it's inventive and adorable. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Since the Baby Came?

Here’s a little secret that most people won’t know when they read the book: my little dog, Ellie, is one of the characters! Ellie was a rescue dog, sweet and gentle and such a snuggler. She helped me through some rough times. She died just short of fifteen years old and I was devastated. The day after she died, I had an online meeting with my editor and several of the team at Waterbrook & Multnomah, to discuss the possible illustrations. I’d never, in nearly thirty years of publishing over fifty books, had such personal input into the illustrations.

I emailed the team prior to the meeting to explain what had happened, and that if I didn’t seem at my best and perhaps got weepy, it was because I was in such a deep place of grief. When we “met” face to face online, they asked me about Ellie. Then, one of the team suggested, “Maybe we can put Ellie into the book! Could you send us some photos?” I was astounded!

The photos were forward to Janet Samuel, who in less than a week figured out how to sketch Ellie. I still can’t believe it all. In the book, Ellie is even wearing a tag with the letter, “E.” I get choked up every time I see it, especially the illustration of her with her favorite, pink bunny, which I still have.

Thank you for sharing this. What a sweet tribute to Ellie! Did anything surprise or delight you when you first saw Janet Samuel’s illustrations for the first time? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Kathy Long Bostrom, 2023. Image © Janet Samuel, 2023.

It’s hard to put into words how it feels to see one’s precious words, crafted with such dedication and care, brought to life in illustrations. Janet conveyed the tone of the story, the emotions of the characters, the chaos of a new baby, the imagination of the child, and the progression of the baby’s growth in such a way that the characters feel real to me! I love this family! And she made Ellie a part of the story, mimicking the little girl’s ups and downs and an integral part of the family.

I love the relationship between the girl and her dog! Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I’m working on ideas for more books using a variety of poems, as there are so many more to play with. I also have a book coming out next year called Daddy, Tell Me a Story, another manuscript I’ve had in the pipeline for a very long time.

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

I’d have to say Yosemite because Greg and I honeymooned there many years ago! The beauty stuns us every time. He took our two youngest kids hiking Half Dome twenty-one years ago. I don’t like heights so our oldest son and I stayed behind. I have no regrets!

There are many more National Parks we still want to see, but Yosemite holds a very special place in my heart.

Last question, what is the best advice you’ve ever gotten - whether it’s regarding writing, publishing, or not ?

A friend once said to us, “Guilt is not a constructive emotion.” I often feel guilty about one thing or another, and then I remember her comment. She’s right. We/I need to let go of guilt and learn from what has made us feel that way.

Thank you, Kathleen for coming back to share your new picture book with us.

Thank you, Maria! It’s been a pleasure, again. I hope we can talk in a year when the next book is published! I appreciate your giving authors a chance to share, I enjoy reading your other posts and hearing the stories behind the books, as well as learning about books I might not know otherwise.

For more information about Kathleen Long Bostrom, or to contact her:

Review of Since the Baby Came:

A Sibling's Learning-To-Love Story in 16 Poems

The stunning illustrations and format of a story in verse enhance this fun and emotional story about coming to terms with the reality of a new sibling.

Since They Baby Came

Author: Kathy Long Bostrom

Illustrator: Janet Samuel

Publisher: WaterBrook/ Penguin Random House (2023)

Ages: 3-7



Poetry, new baby, siblings, and family.


This charming, playful story-in-verse introduces children to a variety of different poetic forms while walking them through all the twists and turns of welcoming a new baby into the family.

Since the Baby Came offers a unique take on a timeless topic. The heartfelt and humorous drama unfolds completely in verse, addressing the full range of emotions a young child experiences when a new baby joins the family—from surprise and confusion to feelings of neglect and jealousy to wholehearted tenderness and affection. The book also introduces young children to the playfulness and fun of various forms of poetry, from senryu to villanelle.

Opening Lines:


"Surprise!" Mama says.

"We are having a baby!"

Nobody asked me.

Mama is having a baby.

Everything’s starting to change.

God, can you tell me what happened?

Life is becoming so strange.

What I LOVED about this book:

It's fun to see picture books being written as stories in verse. Much more condensed, yet just as full of emotion and angst as the middle grade or young adult "novels-in-verse." I think it's a great progression from the reverso books (like Mirror Mirror: A Book or Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse) and haikus books (like Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth) which also tell a story in verse, but use only one form.

Kathleen Long Bostrom uses fifteen poetry forms, including senryu (haiku), list, riddle, roundel, villanelle, limerick, elegy, triolet, a poem in two voices, and many more to tell the emotional and touching story of a girl learning to accept and love her new baby brother. I have to admit, I didn't expect a limerick; but it is one of my favorite poems and illustrations.

Text © Kathy Long Bostrom, 2023. Image © Janet Samuel, 2023.


The baby's a strange little dude —

his habits are truly quite rude.

While drinking, he slurps.

He toots and he burps,

then he shamelessly spits up his food!

There will be a number of snickers from kids and adults when this one is read aloud. As Kathleen mentioned above, Janet Samuel's illustrations are stunning. Colorful, active, and realistic they do a masterful job of expressing the range of the girl's many emotions as they move through - concern, excitement, curiosity, jealousy, disgust (DIAPER VOLCANO - you don't even need to read the poem to understand that one!), anger, acceptance, and ultimately love. The little dog is the perfect foil to her emotions - covering one eye in the image above. And as the girl tries so hard to get the visitor's attention, I adore Ellie's flapping tongue and goggles. Even the stuffed lion is enjoying the ride.

Text © Kathy Long Bostrom, 2023. Image © Janet Samuel, 2023.


Everybody wants to see

the tiny baby, sweet and new.

I want to tell them, Look at me!"

I'm lots of fun to be with too.

See the things I can do?

I use a toilet when I pee.

And I know how to tie my shoe.

I run and jump and climb a tree.

Made this picture just for you.

Know my letters, A through Z.

I'm lots of fun to be with too.

This roundel is such a perfect capture of a new big sister, the displacement they can often feel, and what a young child thinks is important. Yet the poem's tone and illustration do a great job of remaining light hearted, here and throughout the book.

The illustrations of this biracial, loving family contain so many little visual treats and treasures - the girl's favorite stuffed lion, a sock monkey, an elephant topiary, stack of rings toy, and one blessed moment with a cup of steaming coffee. There are lots of visual nuggets for both kids and adults.

The final two pages offer the names and instructions for writing the 15 types of poems (one duplicated) in the book. It's a great resource for teachers and parents to help kids play with poetry. The soft digital illustrations beautifully help enhance this tender, poetic, and playful exploration of a child's emotions surrounding the arrival of a new sibling.


- make a lion finger puppet and using the body pattern for the lion, make an octopus finger puppet.

- do you have a favorite poem in the book? Try to write your own poem in that form.

- are you a brother or sister? What do you like to do most with your sibling? Is there something that bugs you?

- pair this with Maple by Lori Nichols (a tender sibling story) and My Brother The Duck by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman (a humorous look at a new sibling).


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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