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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Leah Moser and Review of I Am a Thunder Cloud

Leah Moser is a children's book author living in Northern Virginia. She shares her love of writing and reading picture books with her husband, three children, and pup named Cali. 

Author photo of Leah Moser.

Her background is in elementary education in both a general and special education setting. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Lafayette College and her Master's in Elementary Education from George Washington University.

 

Leah’s debut picture book, I Am A Thundercloud, was released on April 2nd.

 

Welcome Leah!


Hi! Thanks for having me.

 

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?)

 

As a kid, I was more of a writer than a reader. I enjoyed creating my own stories, making up characters, and typing on my family’s computer.

 

I was a teacher for years and incorporated picture books into all subjects. Interactive read-alouds could introduce even the most difficult topics to my students.

 

When I took a teaching hiatus, I started writing regularly and submitting work in January 2019. In 2021, I signed with my agent, Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary Agency.

 

I write all types of books, but I find myself gravitating towards social emotional learning (SEL) topics. I get inspired by the BIG emotions my children have. I also enjoy writing funny stories, STEM topics, and even the occasional rhyming manuscript.

 

Ideally, I would love to write daily in a quiet, tidy room. But with my family’s busy schedule, I write anywhere and everywhere!


It's great to get to know more about you. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

Complete set of Wayside School books.

As a young reader, I enjoyed series such as Baby Sitter Little Sister (Ann M. Martin), Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling), Wayside School (Louis Sachar), Matilda (Roald Dahl), and Goosebumps (R.L. Stine).

 

One thing I remember is that I liked reading what I wanted and had a harder time when something was assigned. Now as a parent, I encourage any and all reading, which currently is graphic novels for my older children and unicorn books for my little one!

 

Assigned, 'forced,' reading does seem to take the joy out of reading for many kids. I think allowing them to read what they want, when they have time (especially in MG & HS) or on breaks, really helps to keep their love of reading alive. What was your inspiration or spark of interest for I Am A Thundercloud? 

Book cover - child standing with arms crossed as a thunderstorm and lightning rage all around.

In 2020, during the pandemic, we all had a lot of feelings. I had finished reading Grumpy Monkey (Suzanne Lang) and thought about anger. To me, anger felt like a brewing storm and thundercloud. I started writing down notes and feelings, and pretty soon I had the first draft completed.


I really like your analogy. Sometimes, it also feels like a slowly building and monstrously explosive volcano. How long did it take from the first draft to publication for I Am A Thundercloud?

 

I wrote the first draft of I Am a Thundercloud in August 2020. Initially, the story was about an actual thundercloud looking down below at angry animals. While some of the language stayed consistent through each draft, it slowly changed over time. My critique partners and agent were incredibly helpful during the revision process. Dan started submitting the story to publishing houses in May 2021. I got the YES from Allison Cohen at Running Press Kids in December 2021. I Am a Thundercloud will be released on April 2, 2024.

 

Yeah, for critique partners! What would do without them? What was the toughest aspect of writing I Am A Thundercloud? And what was the most fun part of writing this book?

 

One of the toughest aspects of writing I Am a Thundercloud is all the waiting. Publishing takes a long time, and it has been hard to wait: to get the manuscript ready, go on submission, hear a yes, sign the contract, hold my book, and get reviews.

 

The most fun part of writing this book was to watch it go from “my book” to “our book!” There have been so many people involved in making this manuscript into a book. It’s incredible to see how many people are invested and connected to this project. Finally being able to hold the book and flip through the pages has been pretty magical as well.

 

"Our book," indeed! When you first saw Marie Hermansson’s illustrations did anything surprise or amaze you? Which is your favorite spread, or one you really like?

I was amazed by all of Marie Hermansson’s illustrations! I’m not a visual writer, so I wasn’t sure what type of art I anticipated for this book. I was blown away by each one of her spreads. I loved the character she came up with, the emotions, and the color palette.

Internal spread - child in bottle unable to control anger as a giant thunderstorm rolls in from the right.

Text © Leah Moser, 2024. Image © Marie Hermansson, 2024.


One of my favorite spreads shows the character trapped in a bottle. I love the metaphor and the bold colors on that page.


Marie did an amazing job, and this is a stunning spread! What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written a manuscript?

The most fun place was probably at the hotel at Disney World. I tried to be as present as I could be, but sometimes, lightning strikes!

 

Ha! As long as you got to enjoy some of the family time, I bet they'll forgive your need to write a draft. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about I Am A Thundercloud?

 

The way the entire team worked together with a shared vision was special.

 

Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

 

I’m working on many projects at the same time! I’m editing a few SEL stories, revising a humorous manuscript, and planning an early reader.

 

Currently, I have a few stories out on submission, but nothing exciting to report yet.

 

I’m using the majority of my time to prepare for my upcoming school visits and bookstores visits! Check them all out here: https://www.leahmoserwrites.com/ [Be sure to check them out - Leah has lots of visits planned!]

 

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

Photo collage of Joshua Tree NP, the Grand Canyon, and Acadia NP.

Last year, our family visited Joshua Tree National Park, which was unlike anything I’ve seen before. In May, my husband and I are going to the Grand Canyon followed by Acadia National Park with my family in July. I’m looking forward to spending time in these special places!

 

I hope you have fun! Thank you, Leah for sharing about yourself and your debut picture book with us.


For more information about Leah Moser, or to contact her:


Review of I Am A Thundercloud


Beautifully using the analogy of a storm, this book explores the explosive emotions that everyone has experienced at some point and some strategies that can help calm the crackle and part the clouds. It's a wonderful SEL book for all libraries, home, and schools.

Book cover - child standing with arms crossed as a thunderstorm and lightning rage all around.

I Am A Thundercloud

Author: Leah Moser

Illustrator: Marie Hermansson

Publisher: Running Press Book Publishers (2024)

Ages: 4-8

Fiction


Themes:

Emotions, empathy, social emotional learning, and self-regulation


Synopsis:

Big feelings are hard to manage, especially when you’re a small person trying to understand yourself and the world. For those confusing stormy days, I Am a Thundercloud helps readers relate to their feelings through the sounds, sensations and colors of nature, making them feel comfortable and lighter.


Having emotions, even angry ones, is a part of being human. In Leah Moser’s I Am a Thundercloud a young child is having a bad day—they BOOM, ROAR, CRASH, and CRACKLE like an angry thundercloud. Tense body language, an inability to say the “right” words, the instinct to hide are like a brewing storm within the child. But like the sun breaking through, our protagonist processes big emotions by relaxing, asking for help,

opening up, and pausing to permit themselves to breathe. This powerful picture book reminds us that having the ability to recognize how we are feeling not only increases our emotional intelligence and helps us process our own emotions, but it also allows us to recognize and empathize with others who are struggling with their emotions.


Opening Lines:

I am having a bad day.


I want to scream.

I can’t do anything right.


What I LOVED about this book:

This is such an emotionally powerful opening. Everyone has had one of those days....a day when nothing goes right. A day when we'd all like to follow this child's example and just YELL at the universe. Both the text and the illustrations capture these feelings and events (spilled paint, dead plant, & a broken guitar string) very succinctly and powerfully. I love the child's expressions and the deep swirling colors of building frustration and anger. The analogy that the child's feelings are like a thunderstorm are highlighted in the initial illustrations' flash of lightning and word "BOOM!" and the "CRASH!," of a storm, in the upper corner of this spread.

Internal spread - on left child yelling with anger with a multi-colore storm cloud rising to the left corner. On the right 3 spot illustrations of spilled paint, dead plant, and string broken on a guitar.

Text © Leah Moser, 2024. Image © Marie Hermansson, 2024.


Leah Moser beautifully captures the range of feelings from a crackling shaking to "I cross my arms. / Bunch my brow./ Ball my hands./ Clench my teeth." And the inevitable explosion, as bottled-up emotions pour out in uncontrollable thoughts and mean words. Look back at Leah's favorite illustration in the interview for Marie Hermansson's remarkable representation of these feelings! The power of the emotions and the sensation of them spilling out is stunning.


Unable to hide from these overwhelming feelings and too angry to let others in, the child stomps, crackles, and explodes. Ultimately, getting caught in a swirling tornado of emotion. Little touches of subtle humor in the illustrations and interspersed lyrical phrasing helps to keep the initial portion of the book from being too dark or depressing; yet staying true to the uncontrollable rage everyone's experienced at some point.

Internal image - on the left a child storm clouds of anger roiling in his belly. On the right, child roaring out angry words.

Text © Leah Moser, 2024. Image © Marie Hermansson, 2024.


I am angry.

My insides

BOOM.


I ROAR with wrong words.


With a gradual shift in tone and more white space and softer colors, Leah and Marie offer kids a number of strategies they can use for taking back control. The child tries naming the emotions and frustrations, changing focus, breathing, and talking with others. I appreciate that it isn't just a list or instruction from an adult, but a series of things the child tries, which gradually dissipates and diffuses the stormy emotions, allowing the child to regain self-control.

Internal spread - on left a child with emotions gently swirling around . On right, two kids talking, while sitting on a pier.

Text © Leah Moser, 2024. Image © Marie Hermansson, 2024.


This is a book that will speak to multiple ages. A stunning, powerful book portraying and acknowledging big overpowering emotions and offering readers ways to sail through their own storms and emerge into calmer, sunnier waters.

Resources:

Photos - on left an ermotion collage and on the right, a leaf floating on water.
  • check out these other fun ways to acknowledge and release your anger through writing your emotions on paper, then ripping it up and making a collage or writing thoughts on leaves and letting them float or dissolve in water.


  • pair this with How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague and The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell, illustrated by Charles Santoso.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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