January 2014


Tag! I’m it! Fellow author Sarah Albee tagged me recently to participate in a children’s author blog hop. And what better way to celebrate the new year than to crow about some of my author/illustrator friends?


Here’s how it works. Sarah asks me a few questions and then I tag three other authors.  But first, a bit about Sarah. She and I first met when we worked together at Children’s Television Workshop, now Sesame Workshop. Sarah was fresh out of Harvard and as fellow editors we immersed ourselves in the words, wit and wisdom of Grover, Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert and Elmo. Some of the very first books I wrote were Sesame Street books and that was true for Sarah, too. Since then, we’ve gone down similar career paths, writing oodles of books for Sesame Street, Nick Jr., Fisher Price and more, before branching out to our own original work. While I focus on picture books, Sarah channeled her passion for history into what she calls “Horribly Humorous History for Kids.” Here’s one of my favorite Facebook posts from Sarah: “Productive morning of fact checking at the library. Wondered why I got a look from a guy sorting through stuff at the printer, and then realized my printouts were about 1) Haydn's head being stolen by phrenologists, 2) Verrazzano being eaten by cannibals, and 3) Plutarch's account of Roman dictator Sulla's intestinal hemorrhage, where the corrupted flesh teemed with swarms of mites. #bestjobever#


Check out Sarah’s latest book coming in April:

BUGGED: How Insects Changed History


Get to know Sarah for yourself by visiting her website or her blog, by following her on Twitter, or by friending her on Facebook.




Now on with the interview! 

Sarah: What are you working on now?

Susan: I’m working on several picture books all in different stages of production. ROOTING FOR YOU (left) debuts in March 2014, followed by TICKLY TOES, a baby board book coming this fall. Meanwhile, I’m looking at sketches for a book with Random House, revising a manuscript for Candlewick and writing a brand-new picture book manuscript that I’ll submit to my agent later this month.





Sarah: How do your books differ from other works in the genre?

Susan: Many of my picture books have a multicultural bent. SPIKE, THE MIXED-UP MONSTER is set in Mexico and includes a little Spanish. THE TOOTH MOUSE is set in Paris and includes a little French. Showing diversity, encouraging inclusion and giving kids a global perspective are all important

to me. 


Sarah: Why do you write what you do?

Susan: A lot of people say to write what you know, but I find it more interesting to write about what surprises me. I was dumbfounded when I first saw a photo of an axolotl (left) or when I first found out that most children around the world have a Tooth Mouse, not a Tooth Fairy. I also like to combine science with poetry. 




Sarah: What’s the hardest part about writing? 

Susan: I agree with you, Sarah. It’s the waiting. And waiting and waiting. I sold my first three books in 2009, but they didn’t appear until 2012! 


Now it’s time to tap three more children’s book talents! I first met Anna Raff through a mutual friend at the New York SCBWI conference. One peek at her portfolio and I knew she was going to be big! Sure enough, just a few years later she has a book by the Children’s Poet Laureate published by Candlewick and a spread featured in the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art show.


Matthew Cordell and I have yet to meet in person, but we’ve had the great good fortune to collaborate on two picture books. ROOTING FOR YOU debuts in March 2014 and LEAPS AND BOUNCE is slotted for 2016. When my editor first pitched his work to me, he described Matt as “the young Bill Steig.” Yes, as in William Steig, one of my favorite illustrators on the planet! How lucky could I get? And while I certainly see the reference to Steig, Matt has his own unique brand of humor and whimsy that makes him none other than “the young Matt Cordell.”  


Michaela MacColl is a friend and neighbor who lives in the next town over. She writes intriguing historical fiction for middle graders based on the lives of famous women such as Emily Dickinson. We met through SCBWI and she’s been incredibly kind in sharing her expertise about websites, school brochures and more. She even booked me into my first school visit! 


Okay, you three, over to you! 


ANNA RAFF has illustrated several books for children, including WORLD RAT DAY by Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis, SYLVIA'S SPINACH by Katherine Pryor and THINGS THAT FLOAT AND THINGS THAT DON'T by David A. Adler. She is currently at work on a picture book for G.P. Putnam's Sons by Lisa M. Bakos, to be released in 2015, followed by another non-fiction book by David A. Adler. Her illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Kiwi Magazine, among others; on TV on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and MTV's "Woodie Awards." In 2010, she created Ornithoblogical, a blog of bird-related imagery. Anna has an MFA from the School of Visual Arts and a BA from Connecticut College. She lives in New York City, where there are reportedly four rats per human resident.


Visit Anna at Annaraff.com


MATTHEW CORDELL is the illustrator and author of many acclaimed books for young readers. Though he spent most of his life in small town South Carolina, at the turn of the century he migrated midwest to set up shop in Chicago. It was there that he met his soon-to-be bride, his passion for children’s books, and deep dish pizza. Matthew is the illustrator of many books including the Justin Case series by Rachel Vail, If You Were a Chocolate Mustache by J. Patrick Lewis and Toby and the Snowflakes by Julie Halpern. He is the illustrator and author of hello! hello!, Another Brother and Trouble Gum. Matthew now lives in the suburbs of Chicago with his talented wife, author Julie Halpern, and their two children.


Visit Matt at matthewcordell.com


MICHAELA MACCOLL attended Vassar College and Yale University. She earned degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. What happened that helped them to be great? Michaela has two daughters so she's hoping to identify those moments firsthand.


Visit Michaela at michaelamaccoll.com