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Three Questions With Debut Picture Book Author June Smalls (ODD ANIMAL ABC’S illustrated by Claire Sedovic, Blue Manatee Press)

June Smalls is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a lover of literature. She resides in Northern Virginia with her hubby, The Kid, and an ever-growing assortment of animals. I so enjoyed meeting June at Highlights last year, and am excited about the April 16th launch of her first picture book, illustrated by Claire Sedovic.

You can find out more about June and her work on her website and Twitter.

Book title: ODD ANIMAL ABC’S
Author: June Smalls
Illustrator: Claire Sedovic
Publisher: Blue Manatee Press


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.

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

Here are two photos. One is my plant George. I grew him from a trimming, stuck him in a paper cup for two weeks until he grew roots, then I got him a fancy pot of his own with all the soil he wanted. I don’t even know what kind of plant George is, but he is the only plant I’ve ever kept alive. George is just over one year old.

The second picture is my own broken crayon art. I always say I’m not an illustrator but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with pictures. Debbie Ohi hosted a class at the Highlights Foundation, and this was one of our activities. It sits on my Shelf of Beloved Objects with my turtles, a tibbit (tiger/rabbit), and other odds and ends that make me happy.

Sample spread for ODD ANIMALS ABCs (click on image to view bigger version)

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

The job of a writer is not to tell kids what to think. It isn’t to tell them what to do or what lesson to learn. Our job is to point them forward. We don’t tell them how to get somewhere, we just tell them that they CAN get somewhere, as long as they keep going.

Writers have to keep moving forward too.

I had hundreds of rejections on roughly one dozen books, picture books through middle grade. It took about five to six years to go from “I’m serious about writing for the traditional market” to “I have books being traditionally published. There are no secret formulas, magic beans, or fairy godmothers to make it happen overnight. But if you keep working, keep learning, and keep growing, you can make things happen. I now have an agent, two trade picture books sold, as well as two work-for-hire books sold for the school market. I have a number of other works on submission.

Keep writing.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I’m excited about creating more books! SHE LEADS: THE ELEPHANT MATRIARCH is due out in spring of 2020 with Familius and I have a number of picture books, novelty books, and chapter books ready or already on submission. I am excited for kids to read my work and say, “This made me happy/laugh/curious about the world/think.”

I’m also excited about chocolate… but I’m always excited about chocolate…

For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.