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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Mirka Hokkanen and Review of Little Seasons: Spring Seeds

Mirka Hokkanen is an amazing Finnish-American author, illustrator, printmaker, and educator. Her art has been shown in galleries around the world and her illustrations have been featured on products from picture books to home goods.

Author/Illustrator photo of Mirka Hokkanen.

Mirka loves creating uplifting and funny stories that feature animal characters and nature.

Collage of Mirka's 6 book covers.

She’s the author/illustrator of Mossy and Tweed: Crazy for Coconuts (2023), Kitty and Cat: Opposites Attract (2023), Mossy and Tweed: Double Trouble (2023), Kitty & Cat: Bent Out of Shape (2023), and the illustrator of Harmony Humbolt: The Perfect Pets Queen by Jenna Grodzicki (2021) and Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book by Vivian Kirkfield (2019).

For some background information, check out our earlier interview (here).

Her newest author/illustrated picture book, Little Seasons: Spring Seeds, releases on February 6th.

Welcome back Mirka! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat about your books and writing.

Thank you so much for having me back, Maria!

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


I’m thinking a lakeside cabin in Finland might sound like a very exotic location to most people I know. (I’ll let you in on a secret: in reality it’s my family’s cabin where I spent all my summers as a child.)


Sounds like an exotic location for a writer and a magical place for a child. What was your inspiration or spark of interest for Little Seasons: Spring Seeds?

Book cover - avocado and nine other seeds matching across cover, as three seeds take root underground by worm tunnels.

When I started growing the idea for this series, I had three kids under 8, and we spent a lot of time exploring nature around us. When we visited the library, I noticed how much they gravitated towards non-fiction books, but saw a gap in what they and I were interested in reading about, so I decided to create some new books that I would love to read to my kids one day.


HA! I love that you saw a gap in your library and found a way to fill it. When we last spoke, you were illustrating using wood engraving and digital color enhancement. Did you use the same technique for Little Seasons: Spring Seeds?


That feels like such a long time ago (even though it’s only a few years)! For Spring Seeds, I sketched and painted digitally on my iPad in the Procreate drawing app. The final polishes for each illustration were finalized in Photoshop, which I did for Four Otters as well. I like finalizing illustrations in Photoshop, as I feel it gives me a better idea of what the final printed pages will look like.


Amazing the changes a few years can bring. As the author/illustrator, which was the hardest part of creating Little Seasons: Spring Seeds, the writing or the illustrating? What was the most fun part?


That is a tough one, as both of them kind of develop together. I think the hardest part was the last rounds of revisions and the tiny edits with the subject matter expert to make sure all details in the book were correct scientifically.


The most fun part was coming up with the humor. I would come up with the facts that I wanted to present first, and then as I went through them again it was fun to think of what humor I could add to each fact. It was kind of like puzzle solving for each page and I really enjoyed that.


I can see how that would be a fun puzzle and how important it was to consult experts to ensure the facts are still correct with the humor. How long did it take from the first “seed” of the idea to publication for Little Seasons: Spring Seeds?


I had been playing with the idea since around 2020 but didn’t really put pen to paper seriously until Mid-2021. I had a first dummy by October 2021, developed it, and we had the offer for the series in March 2022, with the book coming out February 2024!


I’ll often mull over ideas in my head for a long time before I put pen to paper. It helps keep my thoughts loose and easier to move parts and fit other ideas in, like a cryptex shape sorter, to find the right story structure, hooks, characters, and plot for a book.


When I put thoughts on paper, they become more tangible for me, and it feels harder to change big chunks of the story at that point, because now I took the time to write it down and to change it, I have to erase and then rewrite things. So, by the time I start writing something down, I usually have it pretty well worked out in my head.


I thought about the structure of Spring Seeds for a while. I thought about making it into some sort of an ABC book, a counting book, or a kind of an encyclopedia of plants in the garden, plus a few other ideas too, until I settled on something in my mind that was a cross between the visual style and reader level of Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman and the humor-to-fact ratio of Disgusting Critters by Elise Gravel – with relevant back matter to garnish it off.

Collage of book covers - broccoli in underware and a lumpy toad.

It can be so hard to cut lines and sections we've grown attached to. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Little Seasons: Spring Seeds?

Little Seasons: Spring Seeds is packed full of fun and facts, and is sure to delight both kids and grownups. The backmatter has an assortment of activities, and I’ve uploaded a bunch of free PDFs from coloring pages, to taste testing, and seed growth charts to my website for extra seed related resources.

Collage of the activity page for Spring Seeds on Mirka's website.

These are excellent activities! Thanks. Many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in Little Seasons: Spring Seeds? If so, could you share one or more with us?

Internal spread - nine seeds trying to sleep for the winter. Bumping each other and stealing leaf covers.

Text & Image © Mirka Hokkanen, 2024.

I didn’t hide any easter eggs in the story on purpose but I did pepper in experiences from my own parenting journey that most parents might find relatable.


I did identify with the twirling sleeper and the 'leaf stealer." Is there a spread that you were especially excited about or proud of? Or perhaps one which is your favorite spread? Which spread are you most proud of?

I loved working on the whole book, and each page has little bits that I love. I think my favorite one is where all the little seeds are playing on the sunflower. It was fun to draw all the little seeds running around being kids on the page.

Internal spread - giant sunflower with lots of seeds jumping rope, playing hopscotch, and other games.

Text & Image © Mirka Hokkanen, 2024.

I think I’m most proud of the cover. I hand lettered it and love the way everything came together with fun colors, and the seeds marching with the sign. It has so much personality and conveys the spirit of what the book is about.

I enjoyed the sunflower, too. And the cover is delightful. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


We’ve wrapped up the second book, Little Seasons: Autumn Leaves, and I can share a snipped of that one. I think that book will be just as fun and educational as the Spring Seeds.

Internal spread - three leaves examining their veins with a magnifying glass. One has a spider stretched across its front.

Text & Image © Mirka Hokkanen, 2024.

Aside from that, I’ve got two other books underway, but they are still in such early stages that I can’t share anything from them yet.


How fun! Thank you for sharing that teaser for the Autumn Leaves book. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?


For someone who loves the outdoors so much, it might seem odd I haven’t visited many National Parks! I’ve always been happy with the trails closest to home, wherever we live, because I find nature fascinating no matter how mundane the location. We like to look up plants and animals that we spot on the trails, and pick up interesting leaves, rocks or feathers we find on the ground. Spotting tadpoles, strange insects and furry caterpillars are an exciting bonus on any walk.

Photo of hiking trail on Oahu, Hawaii.

My favorite place outdoors is the forest by our summer cabin in Finland because it has been the same through my whole life and where I’ve spent time walking with friends and family. The most memorable trails I’ve hiked were on Oahu, HI. Nature there is beautiful, with exotic plants and animals, and breathtaking views everywhere you look. Seeing a parrot flying about freely still makes my heart flutter, even after living on the island for four years, and seeing them in our backyard daily.


I can see why the hikes on this island are so memorable. They are stunning. Thank you, Mirka, for coming back to talk with me about your newest book.

For more information about Mirka Hokkanen, or to contact her:


Review of Little Seasons: Spring Seeds

A fun, informational book with a big personality and a little sass which explores the life cycle of seeds from Spring to harvest.

Book cover - avocado and nine other seeds matching across cover, as three seeds take root underground by worm tunnels.

Little Seasons: Spring Seeds

Author/Illustrator: Mirka Hokkanen

Publisher: Joyful Books for Curious Minds/Macmillan Publishing Group (2024)

Ages: 2-6

Informational Fiction


Spring, seeds, plant growth cycle, and seasons.


A funny and informative nonfiction picture book introducing the life cycle of seeds and exploring the season of spring, including interactive back matter and a tear-out memory card game.

Discover how seeds spring into action! As winter warms into spring, the amazing life cycle begins—seeds root and sprout and start to grow. From tiny carrot seeds to big avocado seeds and everything in between, discover what seeds can do in this pitch-perfect picture book for younger readers. With clear, informative text and bright, charming illustrations, as well as lots of hilarious interjections from the seeds themselves, this is an exciting start to a new nonfiction picture book series exploring life cycles and the seasons. Next, look out for Autumn Leaves! in Fall 2024.

Opening Lines:

Winter is a quiet time in the backyard.

Seeds on the ground are peacefully sleeping,

waiting for spring.

What I LOVED about this book Peek back to the interview to see just how "peacefully" the seeds were sleeping. The book is full of puns, contradictions with the illustrations, and other humor. Mirka Hokkanen does a great job of including a wonderful diversity of fruit and vegetable seeds - from tiny seeds (strawberries), midsized seeds (peas, corn, and squash) and fist-sized seeds (avocados). And then giving each one a unique and engaging personality.

Internal spread - on upper left a group of seeds circle a sneezing seed. On lower left, carrot is searching for small seeds under a leaf. On right, Avacado seed towers over other seeds as they play basketball.

Text & Image © Mirka Hokkanen, 2024.

Combining the science of the life cycle of seeds with readily identifiable activities (basketball or measuring growth against a vertical ruler), Mirka brings the science down to a level the youngest kids can grasp. Then she adds a bit of humor through the illustrations to entertain both the kids and the adults, too - "Mmmm, Mudslide!" (ice cream anyone?)

Internal spread - on left, a newly planted seed and a seed just rooting are watered from a can. On right seeds slurping dirt/water through straws as thier roots growing bigger.

Text & Image © Mirka Hokkanen, 2024.

When you plant seeds

in your garden and give

them water, they start

to grow roots.

Roots are like straws that seeds

use to take in food and water.

She makes the connection between come seeds (sprouts) and the resulting fruit or vegetable by showing adults & little seeds/sprouts participating in familiar activities together - a snuggle, stroller ride, playing at a park, or a recess scene atop a sunflower. The book culminates in a colorful rainbow of fruits and vegetables and a surprise and punny ending. By continually connecting the science of seed production, germination, and growth with a sprinkling of humor throughout her colorful, big, bright images and succinct text, Mirka creates a wonderful early science book that young kids will enjoy reading.

Ten pages of engaging back matter take a closer look at seeds, offer experiments, outdoor explorations, taste test, classroom activities, a fun cast of characters, and a detachable memory game. This is a fun, early science book packed with information of seeds and plant growth Resources:

Book cover ina circle with a list of available activites below.
  • check out the amazing STEAM activity pages on Mirka's website.

  • find seeds from fruits and vegetables you eat at home or get a seed packet and plant some seeds in a small glass or other clear container. Can you see the roots grow?

  • try some fun seed art projects

Photo of four seed art projects.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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