Sometimes you start a conversation with a stranger and you have no idea where it might take you.
June Smalls is an author I met on Twitter back in 2016. She reached out because she was working on a blog series about the many, many hands that touch a picture book from concept to completion and was interested in interviewing a librarian and final step in getting picture books into the hands of children. I responded to her set of questions, sharing how I became a librarian, what means I use to determine what books would the budget best be used toward, and that certain kind of magic that happens the a reader finds their just-right book. You can read the full interview here, entitled "Concept to Completion: Librarian Matthew Winner" on June's Reading, Writing and Reaching for Chocolate blog.
June and I reconnected in December of 2018 when she shared news of her debut picture book being announced. Today it is my great pleasure to welcome author June Smalls to the blog to share a first look at her picture book debut, ODD ANIMAL ABC's.
I invited June to finish my sentences. After reading her responses, scroll down for a look at the cover.
JUNE FINISHES MY SENTENCES:
The idea for the ODD ANIMAL ABC's first came from.. As a little kid, I had a cross stitched alphabet on my wall. It was all animals except for X, which was xylophone.
Fast forward a couple decades and I came across a pattern at a yard sale that was so similar. My first thought was, "How has this not changed in 20 to 30 years?"
I had just done research on Fossas for another story idea and started wondering if there were enough odd animals out there to fill the alphabet.
In ODD ANIMAL ABC's... Those classic animals have been overworked so the odd animals who have been overlooked take over the alphabet and send the classics packing.
Some letters even get more than one odd new animal. (This was not because I liked both animals so much that I couldn't choose just one... really.)
A fun fact I learned while researching this story is... There was a time when people didn't believe the scientists who described gorillas or Komodo dragons. They thought it was a hoax. Specimens had to be brought from the wild as proof. Now everyone knows about great apes and giant lizards.
Also, wombat poop is square.
One thing I hope readers will take away after reading ODD ANIMAL ABC's is... That there is so much out there in our amazing world. I want my readers to wonder, What else is there? What can I discover?
And just like that we have a COVER!
Oooooh! I see an okapi! We know those from visiting the Maryland Zoo. (And also, who would forget striped legging like that, right?!) Can you name any of the other animals on the cover?
There's this really fun thing that happens when you read animal collection books to students and that is that inevitably someone in the class is going to claim to be the expert on every single animal. "Oh I know what that is!" "I've seen one of those!" You know the drill. It's a little endearing, a little unavoidable. And that claim of experience or knowledge is always a little contagious, witnessed as more and more children say they know the animals page turn after page turn. But the thing that always catches them off guard is the curve balls, and this book sounds like it's made up of nothing but curveballs!
The description reads:
A is for Alligator, B is for Bear, and so on, right? Not in this book. The odd animals are taking over! It's time to meet Aye-Aye, Fossa, Numbat, Xenops and more curious, yet real animals that are ready for their spotlight. Laugh along as they introduce the letters of the alphabet in their own odd way!
I'm looking forward to sharing this one with my students come Spring!
Thanks for sharing, June! And thanks, blue manatee press!
ODD ANIMAL ABC's will publish on April 2, 2019 from blue manatee press.