Road Trip! Yep! That’s right . . . a road trip with Susanna Leonard Hill and her new book, The Road That Trucks Built! On this road trip we will explore interesting tidbits about the construction of her book!
Pick your favorite from below!
Start your engine. Let’s go.
Speaking of Road Trip, Susanna’s book has been on a road trip of sorts. It’s been on a blog tour. Later in the post there’s a list of all the places it’s been. And guess what . . . A special prize will be raffled off among anyone who comments on every single blog tour stop, so don’t miss a single fascinating installment! I’ve left handy links below.
Now let’s start that road trip and hear from Susanna.
Me: Susanna, I just finished reading and rereading and rereading, etc. THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT. I’m completely in love with this book. The cumulative structure is just right for your story. The trucks are perfect — mighty, but adorable and friendly.
Susanna: I know! Aren’t they cute? Er, I mean tough!
Me: And the cover is a toy! Genius! (A cardboard wheel is part of the cover and readers can turn it to make the trucks move in a circle!)
Susanna: I wish I could claim it was my genius… but it wasn’t really. It was the editor’s (although I may have nudged his genius with my genius because my original conception for the manuscript was a pop-up book or a book that had moving parts… 🙂 )Me: I predict this book will be movin’ on down the road into the homes of many young truck-loving readers!
Susanna: I sure hope so! It seems like it would make an excellent car seat companion 🙂
Me: One very special thing about picture books is the marriage of text and art. As I mentioned above, the trucks are perfect. Erica Sirotich did an amazing job of making your wonderful text come to life. It was delightful to spend time with each spread and take it all in. In doing this I quickly noticed that the art not only includes hard working trucks, but also includes hard working, hardhat wearing birds! They’re just as adorable as the trucks and I love the fact that little birds are helping big trucks build the road. They’re certainly not birdbrains and add much fun to the visual story.
I thought it would be interesting to compare some of the work these hardhat wearing birds are doing to the work that has to be done to bring a book to life.
We could call it . . . Book Construction: Not for Birdbrains!
Let’s start with the yellow bird that is carrying a rock. This reminded me of digging for an idea. On the same spread there is an orange bird surveying the road. We must have ideas for stories … but beyond that we must survey (carefully consider) the idea in terms of story. When did you realize your idea had enough “story” for a book?
Susanna: Hmm… let me just adjust my thinking cap hard hat… I think I knew it from the beginning. The idea was the story of trucks working together to build a road. It was more a question of execution – how to tell the story. I wanted to keep it fairly simple for young readers, but not “dumbed down” (if you’ll forgive the expression 🙂 ) I wanted to call all the trucks by their proper names and teach a little about the jobs they do, and I wanted to tell it in a way that was fun but also interesting and educational. The cumulative structure and engaging read-aloud rhythm of The House That Jack Built seemed like a nice model to build on.
Me: On another page, there is a pink bird observing the road building progress and a blue bird clearing debris.
Did this story progress easily or were there times when it was messy and you had to clear debris and clean things up as far as rhyme, meter, word count, or other details?
Susanna: The actual story was pretty clear in my mind from the beginning. But yes, there was definitely mess! There is always mess. Really. I am never inviting any of you to my office lest you grow faint at the sight of my “filing” system:-) I’m not sure how easily your rhymes come to you, Penny, but for me there is always a great deal of experimentation. I went through MANY versions of the rhyme, because I wanted it to work smoothly without feeling forced and without adding unnecessary words or lines just to make the rhyme and meter work. So I tried a lot of different ways of saying what I wanted to say, switching the words and ideas around until I got a balance between story, rhyme and meter.
Me: One of my favorite bird characters is the green bird that wears a traffic cone as a hat and appears to be totally enjoying himself. I know that writing is extremely difficult and can be frustrating. But was there a part of this book journey that was especially enjoyable for you?
Susanna: Well, I have to admit… I like big trucks and I cannot lie 🙂 (Me: That cracks me up, Susanna!) As I’ve mentioned in other interviews, I did plan (at age 3) to drive a steam roller, and although I ended up taking a road less, umm, flattened? 🙂 , my love of trucks is long-standing. So it was enjoyable to write about trucks. I also really like telling a story of how something works, in this case, building a road. I liked learning about it myself, and I like the idea that kids could enjoy learning about it too, through the story. But probably the most enjoyable part was that I wrote this book for my son, so it was something I got to do for him and share with him even before it was published. (A long time before it was published, actually, since I wrote it when he was under 5 and now he’s 21! 🙂 ) Also, I don’t know about you, but when I think of trucks, I think of truckloads of good things… like chocolate… 🙂
Me: Later in the book two of the birds are riding on the Paint Marker truck. They seem very happy with the stripes being painted on the road. Maybe they think of it as “road art”. 🙂 Describe how you felt when you first saw Erica’s art for your book?
Susanna: I was thrilled! I think her art really suits the story. I love how colorful it is. I love how each truck has its own personality and facial expressions. I love all the little details, like the flower in the bulldozer’s smoke stack. And I LOVE the construction worker birds! The one with the cone on his head is probably my favorite too 🙂
Me: Her details are amazing. Let’s face it . . . the whole book is amazing and kids are going to treasure it!
I appreciate you sharing about the construction of this book. I can tell that both you and Erica put a lot of thought and hard work into making it so delightful. Hearing about your process is useful to writers and reader alike.
Susanna: Thank you so much for having me on your blog (again!), Penny! I so appreciate the opportunity to share with your readers, and I’m so grateful to you for helping spread the word of my new books. Plus, you gave me an idea! You know how, on the highway, you see those signs that say ROAD CONSTRUCTION AHEAD? Well, I think I need one over my desk that says BOOK CONSTRUCTION AHEAD! 🙂
Me: That’s a wonderful idea! Perfect for a writer’s desk.
As promised, here is a look at where Susanna’s trucks have been and I’ve made it easy for you. Here are the links to every single stop. Just click, enjoy, comment, and move on down the road to the next one because remember . . . someone is going to win a special prize. Comment on each of these blog posts and you’ll be in the running. But do it today because I’m the last stop on the tour 🙂
I’m the last stop on the tour 😀
GIVEAWAY: Readers! Lucky you! Susanna is giving away one signed copy of The Road That Trucks Built! All you have to do is leave a comment below. Leave your comment no later than midnight (CDT) Sunday, August 20, 2017 so that I can draw a winner! ***You must be in the United States to win.
And don’t forget to share on social media. The hashtag we are using to promote the book is #trucksontour. Every time you share a post on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram using #trucksontour you will get an entry into a raffle where 3 winners will each get a $25 Merritt Bookstore and Toystore gift card.
Meet Susanna: Susanna is the award winning author of over a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner and an Itabashi Translation Award Finalist.) Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one forthcoming in Chinese. Her newest books, When Your Lion Needs A Bath, When Your Elephant Has The Sniffles, and The Road That Trucks Built will be published by Little Simon in July 2017. When Your Llama Needs A Haircut (Little Simon) and Alphabedtime! (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books) are forthcoming in Spring 2018 and Spring 2019 respectively, with additional titles coming in 2018 and 2019. She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.
Places to Find Susanna: Website: http://www.susannahill.com/HOME.html
Face Book Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SusannaLeonardHill
Making Picture Book Magic (online picture book writing course): http://susannahill.com/for-writers/making-picture-book-magic/