Creator Corner: Author Linda Booth Sweeney and Illustrator Miki Sato

Welcome to Creator Corner, a blog series where we interview the creators of our recent books. For this post, we interviewed The Noisy Puddle author Linda Booth Sweeney and illustrator Miki Sato, whose book is publishing March 15, 2024!

Owlkids Books: Linda, how did you become a children’s book author?

Linda Booth Sweeney: It seems like I’ve always been writing, though it has taken me a long time to call myself a writer. During our last move, I discovered an old cardboard box from my parents’ attic. Inside, there must have been 20 diaries and journals. When I looked at the dates, I realized that I started writing in those when I was about 12 and I haven’t stopped.

I remember the exact day I began writing for children. Jack, my oldest son (now 25), was three. I was pushing him around Cambridge, Massachusetts in one of those inexpensive pop-up strollers. We were 15 minutes from home when a gale-force wind blew in. The little canopy on the stroller snapped off and I remember feeling the stroller lift up off the ground. This was before cell phones, so there was no calling for a ride. I put my head down and ran for home! I was worried, but Jack was bouncing up and down, pointing to everything he saw: signs shaking, hats flying, balls rolling.

During his afternoon nap, I flopped down at my desk, grateful we made it home in one piece. Jack’s excitement was contagious and his words were swimming around my head. I started to write them down. That was the beginning of my first children’s book, When the Wind Blows (2015, Putnam).

Owlkids Books: Miki, how did you become a children’s book illustrator?

Miki Sato: I originally had my start doing editorial illustrations for magazines, so when I got an email asking if I was interested in doing a picture book, it was a pleasant surprise! There was definitely a shift that needed to happen with my mindset and illustration style, but I’m really happy with all the books I’ve illustrated over the years.

OKB: Linda, what are your favorite things to write about?

LBS: I love to write about the wonder of hidden things, like how nature is made up of patterns of interconnections we cannot see, and other hidden things like our perceptions and feelings. My family is always telling me how funny I am, but as a former academic, I tend not to let people see that side. I’m hoping to change that in my next children’s book!

OKB: Linda, what inspired you to write this book?

LBS: I love to walk in the woods to clear my head. The first few stanzas of this poem came on one of those walks in my hometown of Concord, Massachusetts.   Half-way down the well-worth path to Fairyland Pond, I saw one lone goose and then about 20 feet away, one lone crow. Both were standing silently next to a small row of bright, yellow daffodils. It was a serene and peaceful scene. Suddenly, I heard a cacophony of quacking sounds from what looked like a small swamp, which I later discovered was a vernal pool. I realized I couldn’t hear myself think!  I laughed, and wondered aloud, “What happened to the forest’s hush? Why is everything in a rush?” From those few lines, this book was born.

OKB: Miki, which spread did you most enjoy illustrating and why?

MS: My favorite spread is probably the one with the painted turtle splashing into the water. I enjoy the movement with all the tadpoles and the water boatmen in the water, and the little duckweed floating on the surface. It was also the first illustration that involved figuring out how to show both above and below the water of the vernal pool. It’s surprisingly hard to make water look like water! I decided to use cling film to mimic the reflections of the vernal pool, and used that technique throughout the entire book.

OKB: Miki, which spread was the most challenging to illustrate and why?

MS: I spent a lot of time trying to make the buttonbush flowers in the spread with the butterflies. A buttonbush flower is made up of a cluster of tiny blossoms, but whenever I tried to mimic it with individual cut flowers, the whole thing looked too busy and messy. In the end I went with a simple textured fabric. It took me a few tries to get it looking just right. This book was full of illustration challenges, but that might be what I enjoy most about illustrating picture books.

OKB: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

LBS: My hope is that children will fall in love with the unusual cast of characters in vernal pools, like fairy shrimp, whirly gigs and quacking wood frogs! I want them to discover that, even when they don’t see them, these important ecosystems are there year-round. As they grow older, my hope is that these same children will share the magic of these pop up pools with their children.

MS: There was a lot of preparation and research that needed to happen before I even started the illustrations. Through this book, I learned a lot about vernal pools and the creatures that inhabit them. I hope the readers can also learn something new, and appreciate the tiny little worlds of nature that surround us.

My hope, too, is that these same children will take steps to protect vernal pools as adults. Most people have never heard of a vernal pool, yet they provide us humans with really useful “ecosystem services”, helping protect our communities from floods, filtering our water and helping create health in surrounding ecosystems. Due in part to the lack of awareness that they exist, these pop up spring ecosystems face increasing threats from urban development and agriculture.

OKB: What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?

LBS: I own the same bright yellow 1974 Volkswagen Thing I drove when I was teenager. Daisy is essentially a tin can on wheels and doesn’t do well above 30 mph, but she’s my “go girl” car and keeps my inner child alive and well.

MS: My main influence on why I started to draw as a child was because of manga and anime. When I have the time, I actually still work on comics of my own personal projects. My experience with reading and drawing comics helped me a lot when I first started illustrating picture books.


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