BREAKING NEWS: just as I was about to post this, I learned that an earlier book in this series, YOU ARE A RACCOON! is the winner in the Beginning Non-Fiction category of the Blue Crab Young Reader Award right here in Maryland! Congrats to Laurie! I spoke to her before the announcement to learn more about this engaging series:

Me: Congratulations on the two new books in your “Meet Your World” series, YOU ARE A ROBIN! and YOU ARE A GARTER SNAKE! (both Dial books, 2024, illustrated by Jay Fleck)! I love how these books help kids get to empathize with animals through shared movements. What inspired you to write this series?

Laurie: Thank you so much! I wish I could claim that these books were my idea, but that would be pure fiction. The first book in the series, YOU ARE A HONEY BEE!, was actually inspired by an excellent New York Times article about what it’s like to be a bee. Agent Kirsten Hall had read it and thought the premise would make a great for very young readers. She discussed it with my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, who then asked me if I’d be interested in writing it. I jumped at the chance!


Me: The illustrations by Jay Fleck are very inviting and warm. How did you two get paired? Is there anything you can share about his process or your collaboration?

Laurie: When Ammi-Joan showed Kirsten the draft I’d come up with, Kirsten thought her client Jay Fleck’s style would be a good match. Jay provided some sample illustrations, and we sent it all out as a package. That submission ended up going to auction, and we were offered a four-book series—a dream come true!

It was a very collaborative process throughout. When I first saw Jay’s brilliant idea to show the kids imitating the actions, I revised the text to highlight verbs that could be illustrated. And we both worked hard, through many rounds of revision, to make sure the illustrations are as factually accurate as they are adorable. I feel so lucky to have been paired with Jay for these books!


Me: How much of your research is behind a computer and how much is getting in the dirt with these animals?

Laurie: Great question! I grew up playing outside, have always loved nature, and have taken a lot of training as a volunteer naturalist, so I thought I was already quite familiar with all the animals in the series (the rest of which I chose specifically because of their widespread familiarity). To check my facts and fill in any knowledge gaps, I did a lot of book and online research. I was surprised at how much I learned, and it made me love the animals even more. For each book, I also contacted an expert who works with the animal daily to verify my facts (though any mistakes are still 100% my own!). I also observed them in the wild every chance I got, of course, but most of the research came from books, websites, and experts.


Me: You’ve written for a range of ages on many interesting subjects. How did you get into writing for kids?

Laurie: I graduated from college with a degree in Applied Mathematics and became a software engineer. After my kids were born and I started reading to them every day, it reminded me how much I have always loved children’s books. I decided to explore making a career shift, and (after a long time and a lot of hard work) here I am! Surprisingly, I think coding and writing are very similar—both use language to create something new, both have a necessary sequence or order to them, and both present a puzzle to solve. Now if only I could figure out a more straightforward way to test and debug a manuscript!


Me: Can you share what you’re working on next?

Laurie: I have a social-emotional learning (SEL) picture book coming out in September, LET THE LIGHT IN, which is about how we can take care of ourselves when we’re experiencing sadness, grief, or depression. I’m currently revising an informational picture book about Newton’s Laws of Motion, starring my cat, who was obviously a physicist in a previous life. And I’m working on a more serious middle-grade nonfiction about the Earth’s past—and present—mass extinction events. I’d love to work on some projects specifically about climate change, but I haven’t quite found my unique angle yet. We’ll see!

Me: Wow, those sound great! Hope your cat is prepared to be a picture book star…

Thank you so much for chatting, and wishing your books much success!

Laurie: It was wonderful to chat with you, Jonathan. Thanks so much for having me!

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