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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - July 2024 Interview with STEAM Team Books Members

Whether you're here to support the STEAM Team authors, curiosity, or because you love nonfiction books, I hope you read to the end because you'll discover some amazing authors and super spectacular books!

Steam Team Books Logo - Name and a decending rainbow of books on a white grid globe and a black background.

Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to four creatives from the STEAM Team Books – a group of authors and illustrators who joined together to celebrate and help promote their STEAM books. I hope you enjoy this peek at these delightful books and fascinating creatives.

"STEAM Team Books is a group of authors who have a STEM/STEAM book releasing in 2023. It includes fiction & nonfiction, trade or educational books.” Check out their website for other interviews, activities, and bios.

Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write or illustrate? How long have you been writing or illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate? What drew you to STEAM books? etc.)

Author photo fo Katie Furze.

Katie Furze – Ruru: Night Hunter (Scholastic NZ 7/1/2024) - My writing journey began twelve years ago when I had a little time on my hands. My older children were at school and my youngest was at morning kindergarten – it was the perfect opportunity to reinvent myself. I’ve always loved children’s books, especially ones that stimulate the imagination, so I started to write, and I haven’t looked back!

Even if it is just a sentence or two jotted in my journal, I write every day, wherever I am. I like to process my thoughts, ideas and first drafts the old-fashioned way with a pen on paper. I write nonfiction and fiction for children of all ages including picture books, short stories, articles, novels, poems, plays, and early readers and sometimes I write for grown-ups too.


I’ve always loved science and nature and that’s what drew me to STEAM books.


[Author of Tuatara, A Living Treasure, illustrated by Ned Barraud (2023).]

Author photo of Katey Howes.

TRIBUTE to Katey Howes – The Reindeer Remainders: A Math Story with Plenty of Heart (Sourcebooks Explore 6/4/2024) –  It is with a very heavy heart that I remind readers Katey Howes, an extraordinary and award-winning author and poet, very unexpectedly passed away in May. She was planning to participate in this interview and share with us about her amazing new book.

Katey Howes was passionate about raising kids who love to read, and about helping kids recognize that they are makers, inventors, and creators! 


For a bit about Reindeer Reminders, from Katey herself, check out fellow STEAM Team Books member, Rebecca Gardyn Levington's tribute and interview on Picture Book Builders.

[Author/Illustrator of Woven of the World (2023), and author of A Poem Grows Inside You, illustrated by Heather Brockman Lee (2022), Rissy No Kissies, illustrated by Jess Engle (2021), Be a Maker, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic (2019), Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe, illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti (2018), and Grandmother Thorn, illustrated by Rebecca Hahn (2017).]

Fortunately, co-creator & illustrator Marie Hermansson has stepped in to share this amazing book with us.

illustrator photo of Marie Hermansson.

Marie Hermansson - The Reindeer Remainders: A Math Story with Plenty of Heart (Sourcebooks Explore 6/4/2024) –I illustrate daily, normal working hours usually. I have several books going right now and in order to keep up with the various schedules I work every day so it doesn’t end up piling up on top of each other. I’ve been illustrating for about 8 years now and I feel so lucky that it is my job to make picture books. We have a good deal of picture books at our house because I have two young children. Non-fiction or STEAM books are both of my children’s favorite type of books. They were always my favorite types of books when I was a child as well, so I guess it runs in the family!


[Illustrator of I Am A Thundercloud by Leah Moser (2024) and Listen to the Language of the Trees by Tera Kelley (2022).]  ​

Author photo of Lisa Varchol Perron.

Lisa Varchol Perron – All the Rocks We Love (Rise x Penguin Workshop 7/16/2024) - I’ve been writing poetry and songs for most of my life, but my kid-lit journey started in earnest about five and a half years ago, when I started drafting my first middle grade novel. Shortly after that, I began writing picture books and children’s poems. (Poetry has always been one of my favorite genres!) I usually write at the dining room table, but I try to carry a notebook with me so that I can brainstorm ideas or work through a passage while I’m away from home. I’m often drawn to STEAM and nonfiction because I like following my curiosity when writing. I was a kid who enjoyed reading for fun AND to learn, and I’m a big believer that those experiences don’t have to be mutually exclusive.


[Author of 5 books including Tell Me About Oceans, illustrated by Jennifer Falkner (2024), Tell Me About Space, illustrated by Jennifer Falkner (2023), My Love for You, illustrated by Sheryl Murray (2023), and Patterns Everywhere (2023), and over 70 poems in children’s magazines and anthologies.] 


Thank you for sharing a bit of yourselves. What helps each of you to be inspired? (perhaps a certain place, music, activity, etc.)


Katie Furze – Being outdoors! Inspiration is everywhere and I always have my best ideas when I’m outside. Whenever I feel stuck, I know it’s time to go for a walk.


Marie Hermansson – Inspiration comes from almost anywhere at any time for me. It can be something I hear, read, or see that sparks a little idea. Although a walk through the woods is one of the best places to be inspired. My mind becomes so much calmer and quieter, and I can really focus on being present in the moment. Ideas have a clear path without distraction. The beach has the same effect, but we don’t live near the beach so there’s not much opportunity for a walk there.  I love going to local gardens and arboretums. Overall, I would say almost any outdoor activity holds the promise of inspiration.


Lisa Varchol Perron – I find inspiration in various places, but by far the most common way I get inspired is by spending time in nature—walking in the woods or along the coast. If I’m in a writing rut, it’s almost always because I haven’t been outside enough!


Nature is definitely a wonderful source of inspiration and health. Now that we know a little more about all of you, what sparked your interest and caused you to write or illustrate this book?

Book cover - closeup of the face of a New Zealand Ruru owl at night.

Katie Furze – Ruru: Night Hunter (7/1/2024) - Ruru are a beloved native owl of Aotearoa New Zealand. I’ve always adored them – they’re small, full of character, and they have a distinctive call that sounds like: ‘more-pork, more-pork’. I remember hearing ruru at night when I was a child and wondering, what is making that strange sound? In Ruru: Night Hunter I wanted to create a book that shows children what it’s like to be a ruru out hunting at night.

Book Cover - seven reindeer in bandanas in fron t on a chalkboard with forest based math equations.

Marie Hermansson (Katey Howes) – The Reindeer Remainders: A Math Story with Plenty of Heart (6/4/2024) –Sourcebooks Kids approached me with the script of The Reindeer Remainders and asked if I would be interested in illustrating it. I had previously worked with Sourcebooks on Listen to the Language of the Trees and had such a great experience, so I was keen to work with them again. Although after reading Katey’s manuscript I was even more excited to be involved with the project. I was already a big fan of Katey’s work and was so excited for the opportunity to work with her and be a part of her story. 

Book cover -  a child gazes at a collection of rocks in their cupped hand.

Lisa Varchol Perron – All the Rocks We Love (7/16/2024) – All books are a collective effort, but this one was a collaboration from the very start. It emerged from a brainstorming session with the editors, who proposed the idea of coauthoring a book about rocks with my husband Taylor, a geology professor. We spend a lot of time outdoors as a family, and our daughters are full of questions about the different rocks they find and how they formed, so we were excited to have the opportunity to write this book for curious kids. It was a fun process!


I love all the different ways these books were inspired. What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of being a children’s author or illustrator?


Katie Furze – Accepting that some stories that are dear to my heart may not be picked up by a publisher.


Marie Hermansson – For me, it is the length of time that a picture book takes from beginning until it publishes. So much time can go by that sometimes I feel like I am almost a different illustrator by the time a book comes out. That is because I am always working on improving and learning new techniques with my illustration. Another challenge would be not knowing when the next project will come in. It is such a rollercoaster ride. Projects often come all at once, which poses its own problems when it comes to scheduling.


Lisa Varchol Perron – Things tend to move slowly in publishing, and it’s sometimes hard to wait (especially when on submission). I’ve found that working on the next project helps a lot. A friend recently referred to waiting as “a quieter time for creating,” and I like that reframing.


Thank you all for your honesty. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about your book?


Katie Furze – Ruru: Night Hunter (7/1/2024) – Ruru nest in the natural hollows of large, old trees. You can help ruru, by keeping old trees on your property – so that ruru have nesting places. Also, you can plant new trees (preferably natives) so that ruru will have places to nest in the future.


Marie Hermansson (Katey Howes) – The Reindeer Remainders: A Math Story with Plenty of Heart (6/4/2024) –Of course, this book is really special because it is Katey’s last book. I feel so lucky that I had the pleasure of getting to know her and to be a part of her book. She was such a talented author and a really kind person. It is still so sad that she isn’t here to celebrate its publication but I know that so many will celebrate it. I think that children will love this book for many, many years to come. 


Lisa Varchol Perron – All the Rocks We Love (7/16/2024) – This book is a celebration of various playful ways we can interact with rocks, but it also introduces ten specific rocks, with back matter about how they formed. We hope this gives readers an increased sense of excitement and mastery when they’re outside exploring!


What was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing, illustrating, or researching your book? Was there a bit of your research you didn’t get to include?

Internal spread - the owl lands on a branch outside a house with a child watching through the window.

Text © Katie Furze, 2024. Image © Ned Barraud, 2024.

Katie Furze – Ruru: Night Hunter (7/1/2024) - I usually find the hardest part is getting the structure right. With Ruru: Night Hunter I knew from the outset that I wanted to include a child in the story, but it was tricky to find the right way to add this fictional aspect to my nonfiction narrative.

Internal spread - 13 reindeer in art class divide into four sets of three, with one "remain-DEER" standing alone.

 Text © Katey Howes, 2024. Image © Marie Hermansson, 2024.

Marie Hermansson (Katey Howes) – The Reindeer Remainders: A Math Story with Plenty of Heart (6/4/2024) –Research is more time consuming than challenging I think. I have to admit that I love to do research for illustrations. It is really continuing education for me in a way. Sometimes the challenge with research for illustration can be not having the proper information beforehand. I think that with nonfiction books it is important to have parameters for the illustrator before they start with the sketches. That helps the process go a lot faster and smoother in the end. 

Internal spread - on the left a collection of rocks (labeled chert). On the right, two child wade in a stream collecting chert rocks, as an adult watches from shore.

Text © Lisa Varchol Perron & Taylor Perron, 2024. Image © David Scheirer, 2024.

Lisa Varchol Perron – All the Rocks We Love (7/16/2024) – I think one of the trickiest (and most important!) parts of writing nonfiction is narrowing down the scope. There are many more rocks we would have loved to include, but we did our best to choose an assortment of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks in various parts of the world.

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


Katie Furze – I am extremely excited to share that Ned Barraud and I are working on our next book about another very special native animal of Aotearoa New Zealand with Scholastic NZ. Look out for it in 2025!


Marie Hermansson –Yes! I am currently working on If You Live On A Farm by Kari Gonzalez published by Feeding Minds Press. It is about all the different types of farms there are like mushroom farms, wind farms, solar farms, alpaca farms etc. It’s really interesting! The other book I am working on right now is The Secret of the Jellies by Karen Jameson published by Chronicle. It is a nonfiction book about the magical world of jellyfish. Both are so different from each other which keeps things very exciting for me.


Lisa Varchol Perron – I’m really excited about Wonder Why, coming out in April 2025 from Harper Kids. It’s a picture book for every kid who’s wondered why the sky is blue, why the wind blows, or why thunder rumbles. Nik Henderson’s stunning illustrations really capture the beauty and might of nature!

We are going to have to keep our eyes open for these books! How do you deal with, or celebrate, rejections?

Katie Furze – I try to look at what I call ‘passes’ objectively, reminding myself that it’s not a rejection of me or my writing, but most times comes down to factors outside of my control. I get ‘straight back on the horse’ if I can, it helps me to keep creating, but I also listen to my inner voice and take a break from writing if I need to.


Lisa Varchol Perron – I remind myself that editors have a variety of tastes and preferences, just like all readers. When a pass comes in, I take anything from it that might be useful and then return my attention to whatever else I’m working on. I think it’s important to care deeply about what we’re creating, but to also be able to detach from it to some degree, not deriving our sense of self-worth from someone else’s approval or disapproval. But if disappointment hits especially hard, I do something fun, like watch a good movie with my kids.


Last question, is there a plant or flower you love growing, or wish you could grow, in your yard or garden?


Katie Furze – I love my hydrangeas – they’re so big and bold and vibrant – they brighten my day. I’m missing them at the moment, because it’s the middle of winter in New Zealand – if only they flowered all year!


Marie Hermansson –I would love to be able to grow an avocado tree! I live in the wrong climate for them, and my garden is not big enough for a fruit tree unfortunately. I love avocados and to be able to walk out in my backyard to take one right off the tree would be wonderful!


Lisa Varchol Perron – My mother-in-law’s gardens are a masterpiece. (People come to take pictures and get inspiration!) If I had her green thumb, I would fill my yard with flowers that attract hummingbirds, like cardinal flowers and butterfly bush. I could sit watching hummingbirds for hours. They're such magical creatures!


NOW, let me take a moment to introduce you to these amazing STEAM books!

Book cover - closeup of the face of a New Zealand Ruru owl at night.

Ruru: Night Hunter by Katie Furze, illustrated by Ned Barraud (Scholastic NZ 7/1/2024) - Gorgeously illustrated nonfiction about "Aotearoa New Zealand’s only surviving native owl." Lyrically carrying the reader along with a father ruru on a night of hunting, the book vividly explores the prey, predators, and other dangers these magnificent birds face. I love how Ruru's story is framed by a child off to bed observing Ruru starting his search for food and the child rising as Ruru settles to sleep in a tree. Wonderful onomatopoeia, succinct sidebars, and fascinating back matter facts make this a terrific book to read again and again.

Synopsis: Meet Ruru, a bird of the night and a silent Night Hunter! Dusk creeps. Birds peep. Ruru opens his eyes, stretches his wings, and calls ... More-pork! More-pork! Ruru, also known as a morepork, is Aotearoa New Zealand's only surviving species of native owl. This book, set in an urban landscape, follows Ruru's nocturnal activities, where he hunts prey, feeds his chicks and navigates the dangers lurking within his environment.

Book Cover - seven reindeer in bandanas in fron t on a chalkboard with forest based math equations.

The Reindeer Remainders: A Math Story with Plenty of Heart by Katey Howes, illustrated by Marie Hermansson (Sourcebooks Explore 6/4/2024) –  What a wonderful way to weave mathematics, friendship, feeling left out, and creative problem solving. Bedecked in colorful bandanas, a class of thirteen reindeer divide into groups to work on tasks for their Showcase Night event. The bandanas help the reader keep track of the deer's varying emotions at being the "remain-DEER" or odd-deer out. Gorgeous illustrations, fun rhyme, and great word play beautifully take the reader through remainders, prime numbers, and including others in activities. Wonderful back matter expands on the math concepts, working together, and ways to exercise inclusion. It is truly a math story with a sleighful of heart.

Synopsis: A delightful rhyming picture book for back-to-school about working together and including others!

A class of a dozen reindeer is preparing for the big showcase night event when a new student arrives. This isn't a big deal until it's time to divide in groups, and there's a leftover reindeer every single time. How will the class make sure everyone feels included? And what will they learn in the process?

Back matter includes facts about division and prime numbers and practical tips for what to do when you or someone else is left out of the group.

*Check out this fun Educator’s Guide for The Reindeer Remainders -

Book cover -  a child gazes at a collection of rocks in their cupped hand.

All the Rocks We Love by Lisa Varchol Perron & Taylor Perron, illustrated by David Scheirer– (Rise x Penguin Workshop 7/16/2024) – A fun, rhyming early primer on rocks and fossils, this book is perfect for young rock lovers. As it explores many types of rocks (like chert, shale, and limestone) and things to do with them (collect, stack, and climb), the beautiful watercolor illustrations provide a glimpse into the environments and hidden treasures (petroglyphs) where children find the rocks. Back matter further describes the 10 types of rocks and notes that “some rocks need to stay put in order to preserve the geology and ecology of an area or to respect local beliefs and practices.” It's a wonderful early introduction to rocks.

Synopsis: A lyrical and informative celebration of ROCKS and why we love them.

Children love rocks. Rocks appear in jacket pockets, on windowsills, in the car, in their hiding places, and most often, in their little grips. Rocks are universal – they can be found in all climates, countries, and communities – making themselves available to anyone who craves the tactile pleasure of holding a perfectly sized, unfragile, unowned object. They can be collected, compared, stacked, plunked into water, painted, and shared. This book is an appreciation of their versatility and appeal, paired with the presentation of real types of rocks and their play-worthy attributes. The backmatter provides just enough extra information about each of the rocks included in the book. Written by a children’s author and psychotherapist, in partnership with her geologist husband, and illustrated with both warmth and accuracy, this nonfiction ode to rocks will speak to all little hands and hearts.


Thank you all for giving us a little peek into yourselves and your books. Wishing you all enormous success.


To learn more about these writers, their books, or to contact them:

Katie Furze – Ruru: Night Hunter (Scholastic NZ 7/1/2024) -  

Katey Howes - The Reindeer Remainders: A Math Story with Plenty of Heart (Sourcebooks Explore 6/4/2024) –Website -


Marie Hermansson  – The Reindeer Remainders: A Math Story with Plenty of Heart (Sourcebooks Explore 6/4/2024) – 

Lisa Varchol Perron – All the Rocks We Love (Rise x Penguin Workshop 7/16/2024) –


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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