The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Yvonne Pearson and Review of Little Loon Finds His Voice

Yvonne Pearson is a children’s book author. She also worked as a social worker and freelancer for many years, writing books, magazine articles newsletters, and curriculum. Her poetry has appeared in Split Rock Review, Talking Stick, Main Street Rag, Wolf Head Quarterly, Open to Interpretation, Chrysalis, Sidewalks, Literary Mama, and other publications. She is a 2018 Loft-McKnight Writing Fellow and has received two Minnesota State Arts Board grants, the Loft Creative Non-Fiction Award, and the Shabo Award in children’s literature. She has three grown children, three grandchildren, and lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband.

She is the author of Sadie Braves the Wilderness (2017) and has also written 15 non-fiction children’s books.


Her newest picture book, Little Loon Finds His Voice, released September 21st.

Welcome Yvonne,


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 been writing since I was a teenager in many different forms. I earned part of my living with freelance writing—newsletters, conference proceedings, books, articles, etc. When my children were young, I wrote mostly poetry because, in its short form, I could work in discrete time periods. While I continue to write poetry, I have added children’s literature, and I love writing picture books.



What is something no one (or few) knows about you?


I worked briefly in journalism, beginning with Dispatch News Service in Washington, D.C., which reported alternative news from Vietnam during the war, and then reported on Minnesota Public Radio on a variety of topics, including a story on midwives that ran on National Public Radio. I was so excited about what I learned reporting on midwives that I chose to be attended by a wonderful midwife when each of my three children was born.

That sounds so interesting! What was the inspiration for Little Loon Finds His Voice?


I grew up on a lake frequented by loons in northern Minnesota. I loved, and continue to love, the beautiful sound of the loon, especially in the magic hour at dusk when all is still and silent but for that haunting call. When they call back and forth, or sing in duets, the sound is something out of this world. So a book about loon calls was a natural for me.


I know the call from recordings, but I have never heard one in person. Though I do hope to, one day. Your nonfiction books are mostly work-for-hire. How different was the creation and process with Little Loon Finds His Voice and Sadie Braves the Wilderness?


When I have received assignments for books for hire, they have come with already established content: outlines, number of words, reading level, and so on. They required research, but there was not as much call for creativity. In comparison, when I wrote Little Loon Finds His Voice and Sadie Braves the Wilderness I faced the blank page. It was much more challenging as well as a lot more fun. I dreamed up the idea, imagined the characters and the narrative arc, but more importantly, I got to play with language in a way that the restrictions of work-for-hire didn’t allow.


Sounds like you had a lot of fun working on these books. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?


I grew up in a house where almost the only stories we had were Bible stories. That said, I loved the stories told with the aid of the flannel board. I was captivated watching the “illustrations” go up as the stories were told.


I remember those days in Sunday school. Is there something you want your readers to know about Little Loon Finds His Voice?


I hope it helps children appreciate nature and invest in keeping our world healthy.


Do you consider Little Loon Finds His Voice to be nonfiction or informational fiction?


Little Loon Finds His Voice is informational fiction. I take some liberties in the story; for instance, it takes longer than three or four months for a loon to develop a yodel. But I was very careful in the back matter to make sure the loon facts were accurate nonfiction.


I love the range and variety that informational fiction provides. What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (as a child or now as a writer.)


I am working on a verse novel, and Marion Dane Bauer is an amazing writer who has been mentoring me. Verse novels I love which I have been studying are Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, Home of the Brave, by Katherine Applegate, and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. I also find Kao Kalia Yang very inspiring, both her memoir, The Song Poet, and her picture books. With that, I’ve left out a lot of inspiring writers, but I will stop there.


Great list for anyone looking for a new (renewed) read. How long did it take from first draft to publication for Little Loon Finds His Voice?


Forever! I wrote a couple drafts in 2012 and then abandoned it until 2016, when I wrote a couple more drafts. I came back to it in 2020 and wrote at least two more drafts before I considered it complete.


What is the hardest thing in general about writing for you? The most amazing? How about the toughest part of writing Little Loon Finds His Voice?


First drafts are by far the most difficult part of writing for me. Generating the material feels almost impossible when I face a blank page. The most amazing thing is that when I start writing I find that the words arrive. I am often surprised by what my fingers put on the page. I actually like revising better than generating material; it feels easier because I already have something to work with, and it’s fun to make improvements.


The hardest part about writing Little Loon was trying to communicate how amazing the sounds of the calls are. I’m not sure I was able to do that, so I am glad that there is a website people can visit to listen to the real thing.


I think you did a great job. When you first saw Regina Shklovsky’s illustrations, did anything surprise or amaze you? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Yvonne Pearson, 2021. Image © Regina Shklovsky, 2021.


I immediately loved Regina’s illustrations and felt very lucky that she was illustrating my book. I am so happy with how attuned she was to the spirit of my book. She captured it exactly. My favorite spread? That beautiful spread with all the yellow water lilies and the loon and his eeps, peeps and squeaks weaving among them.


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


I am working on a historical fiction verse novel, and I am excited to share that I have another picture book coming out in 2023 called Too Many Hugs.


Exciting. We'll have to keep our eyes open for them. During these crazy times, how are you staying creative? What things are you doing to “prime” the well?


Reading, of course, and walking along the Mississippi River by my house always makes me feel more alive. But perhaps the most important thing in priming the well for writing is interacting with my writing groups. I am inspired when I listen to their drafts. It sparks ideas for me and makes me excited to begin to play with words again. Also, their feedback on my own work is invaluable. The positive feedback makes me feel like I can do this, and their questions and challenges give me great ideas and fire me up to get back to work.


Last question, what is your favorite animal? Why?


Elephants and whales. I love learning about the intelligence of these animals and the evidence of their emotions and relationships. And, of course, watching whales arc out of the water is an amazing sight.


Thank you, Yvonne for stopping by. It was wonderful to get to know you and chat with you.

To find out more about Yvonne Pearson, or contact her:

Website: https://yvonnepearson.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yvonne.pearson.18

Twitter: https://twitter.com/yvonnePearson

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yepearson/


Review of Little Loon Finds His Voice

Little Loon Finds His Voice


Author: Yvonne Pearson


Illustrator: Regina Shklovsky


Publisher: The Collective Book Studio (2021)


Ages: 5-7


Informational Fiction


Themes:

Loons, nature, growing up, patience, and persistence.


Synopsis:

Ooo aaa woo woo! Papa Loon’s voice calls out long and strong across the water. He warns of danger. He defends his family’s home. He even wards off predators. But Peep! Eep! Squeak! Little Loon’s voice is nothing like his Papa’s. When an eagle attacks, will Little Loon find his voice in time?


A water bird found throughout much of North America, loons are famous for their echoing calls. Little Loon Finds His Voice is the endearing, coming-of-age tale of one little loon finding his voice, and with it, his place in the world. Breathtaking illustrations transport readers to misty lakes and towering pines, and informative loon facts at the end detail the life and habits of these enchanting birds.


Opening Lines:

He couldn’t wait to be bold and have a fearless call

like his Papa’s.


hello OOoooo ooo

Ahhhh OOOOO OOoooooooo ooooo


Papa’s wail arced above the trees,

soared through misty air, and rang off the rocks.

Papa’s call was long. His call was strong.

It echoed on the water.


What I LIKED about this book:

Like all young ones (human or animal), Little Loon can't wait to grow up and, like his dad, be able to make a long, strong calls that echo on the water. But as a newly hatched little loon, no matter how much he practices he only makes eeps, peeps, and squeaks.

Text © Yvonne Pearson, 2021. Image © Regina Shklovsky, 2021.


Encasing this sweet story about perserverance and practice, is a beautiful, illustrated look at the life-cycle of the common loon. Spanning from a little beak poking out of an egg on the title page to the bird's winter migration, Regina Shklovsky's watercolor and pencil illustrations offer glimpses of the loon's life fishing in a lake or drifting among moonlit reeds. As well as some of their predators. It's fun the way the onomatopoeia of papa loon's call is translated and depicted in the ripples of the lake shore - when a crow gets too close to their nest.

Text © Yvonne Pearson, 2021. Image © Regina Shklovsky, 2021.

Though we see Little Loon grow and his feathers change, his focus remains on his inability to call like his father. Which frustrates him into a listless silence. At this point, Yvonne Pearson shows the third "p" which the acquisition of many skills takes - patience. Even if grudgingly given. But time, and a little adrenaline, can do wonders. I'll let you see why and how Little loon finds his voice.


Back matter on the four types of loon calls, with a link to hear them (they are haunting), and some other loon facts make this a great starting point for learning about loons. It's also a good picture book demonstrating that while it's important to keep practicing, some things just take time. Overall, it's a sweet, lyrical look at loons and a universal story about growing up.


Resources:

- make a collage loon (https://www.dltk-kids.com/ANIMALS/mscissorskills-loon.htm). Then create a lake for it with collage, crayons, or paint.

- what is something you want to do, but have to wait until you're older? Are there skills you can practice, like Little Loon practiced his call?

- when Little Loon tries to chase off the goose, why is he embarrassed? How have you overcome frustration when learning a new skill?

Decorative scroll design
Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Decorative scroll design

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