Today we are very excited to share an interview with author Susanna Leonard Hill and illustrator Betsy Snyder (ALPHABEDTIME)!
Read on to learn more about them, their book, and a giveaway!
Meet the Author: Susanna Leonard Hill
Susanna L. Hill (susannahill.com) is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, including Moon’s First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship, and the award-winning author of over twenty-five more books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis, Can’t Sleep Without Sheep, and the popular When Your Lion Needs a Bath series. Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai. She does frequent school and library visits, teaches picture book writing, and has a popular picture book blog. Susanna lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her children and two rescue dogs.
Meet the Illustrator: Betsy Snyder
Betsy Snyder’s (betsysnyder.com) smile-inducing art can be found on everything from social expressions products, board games, plush, decor, fabric, wallpaper, and of course—children’s books! Betsy lives in northeast Ohio, where she enjoys cozying up to doodle with her art-loving family of four and venturing out to schools and libraries to encourage kids to share their stories and chase their dreams.
About the Book: ALPHABEDTIME
A cast of adorable alphabet characters make this clever bedtime story a standout!
Suppertime’s over. Everyone’s fed.
Alpha Mom says, TIME FOR BED!
It’s a busy night for the Alphabet Family—after all, there are 26 kiddos to get ready for bed. A, B, and C declare they are not ready, and Impish I and Jazzy J don’t want to settle down, but by toothbrushing-time the crew seems to be headed in the right direction. Bath time requires six bathtubs and is super-splashy—and getting into jammies is no joke—but finally, after a story has been read and they are all tucked in tight, peace should reign. Except what’s this? When Mom turns off the light, it’s an Alpha pillow fight! Toddlers are sure to get a huge kick out of this lively alpha family—and hopefully following each and every little letter’s antics will tucker them out!
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
It is common writerly wisdom that you can’t wait around for inspiration to show up. If you wait, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter 😊 So one day when inspiration was conspicuously absent, I decided I would write an alphabet book. Challenge extended!
But there are a lot of great alphabet books out there already, so I knew, if I was going to do it, I’d need to come up with something different – something that hadn’t been done. And guess what? It seemed like all the good ideas had already been taken! I started draft after draft only to decide pretty quickly that they had no future.
What to do. What to do?
I wrote the alphabet across the top of the page. Then I wrote the word alphabet several times in a row, mostly just to feel like I was actually writing something. I read aloud what I had written: “Alphabet alphabet alphabet.” And it started to sound like “alphabed.” And that made me think of “bedtime.” And suddenly I knew what I was going to write: Alphabedtime! As far as I knew, no one had ever tried to put the alphabet to bed. Challenge accepted!
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
That is a hard question to answer for this book, as there are 28 human characters plus a dog and a cat! I can relate well to Alpha Mom, doing her best to wrangle her crew into bed, though I have only 5 children, not 26! I had fun creating each of the Alphabet Children, but I think my favorite is either Baby Z or his dog. They are thick as thieves, those two, always close together. Baby Z and his zebra are the last characters to appear. At the sink, the dog holds Baby Z’s toothbrush while Z squeezes the toothpaste. At bath time, Baby Z, the zebra and the dog have their own tub. When they put on their pajamas, the dog’s are purple zebra patterned, and at story time, the dog brings All About Zebras to be read. And I love the last page, but I won’t spoil it for you – you’ll have to go look at it yourself!
YABC: Which came first, the title or the story?
The concept of an alphabet book came first, then the title, and finally, the story.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I am most proud of the pillow fight scene at the climax of the story. I love the concept of it – a wild, all-out pillow fight between 26 kids who are supposed to be on their way to dream land – and I love the way the language worked out with “It’s an alpha pillow fight!” and “What’s this alpha free-for-all?”
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
The most important thing I’ve learned is to keep writing, and to do it for the joy of it. You can’t please everyone, nor should you try to. The most important person to please is yourself, so that coming to your writing feels genuine. Although it’s a widely accepted rule that writers should write every day, sometimes that just isn’t possible for me. It’s a rare day that I don’t write something, but there are days when what I write is a blog post or note to a friend, or a personal journal entry, not anything related to an actual manuscript. When I write, I don’t think about what’s popular or what might sell. I just try to write stories that make me feel something to write – joy, sadness, interest, excitement, amusement – and that I think will make my young readers feel satisfied, enlightened, entertained, or understood…or a combination.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
If I have to choose one thing, I guess I’d say I love that you can tell who all the children are, even though you can’t see the letters on every child, because of what they’re holding. For example, you can’t see that the child in the green sweater is O, but he’s holding an Octopus. M has a Magician’s hat, and J has a Jellyfish. I also love that even the cat and the dog have their pajamas on, and that several of M’s bunnies have escaped from her hat and are scattered about on pillows, with one perched on O’s head. The whole picture is one of family togetherness with each child as an individual, but it also hints at the humor of the book. So beautifully done!
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2022?
Besides ALPHABEDTIME? 😊 I am huge Oliver Jeffers fan, so I’m very much looking forward to Meanwhile Back On Earth. Also, Sophie Blackall’s new book, Farmhouse, which is technically already out but I haven’t gotten to read it yet.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
I (fairly) recently read Brigid Kemmerer’s YA Cursebreaker Series and thought it was fantastic! I shared it with two of my daughters and they loved it as well! I’ve also read a lot of great picture books including How You Came To Be by Carole Gerber, Pigeon & Cat by Edward Hemingway, and Brown Is Warm, Black Is Bright by Sarah L. Thomson.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
I find I want to support a lot of organizations, from literacy, to humanitarian and environmental efforts. There are so many that do wonderful things for such a wide variety of causes. But I love animals, so I guess one that is particularly close to my heart is animal rescue. I currently have two rescue dogs, both of whom came from bad beginnings, and although I won’t pretend they’re a model of obedience and decorous behavior. . .yet 😊, they are both sweet and loving and very entertaining and they make my life better every day, as my other rescue dogs have before them.
YABC: How did you get inspiration for the cover illustration?
I began by focusing on what the cover needed to communicate: both bedtime AND a reference to the alphabet. I used rough sketches to explore a variety of directions, including some lettering-driven ideas featuring a large-scale title with some characters tucked around, or with the characters themselves spelling it out. But ultimately, the direction the editor (Nancy Paulsen), art director (Marikka Tamura) and I all liked most featured a mix of kids—plus Mom, Dad, pets, and stuffies—tucked into bed reading a book together. We like the warm and cozy mood of a family-style storytime. Marikka also had the great solution that we reveal the letters on the p.j.s for A, B and C, and disguise the rest, and I think this was just the hint of the alphabet that the cover needed.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of the illustration and why?
Both the dining table scene at the start of the book, and the surprise pillow fight scene later were challenging in terms of composition because they bring together all 26 characters. That’s just a lot of drawing and corralling of kids! These spreads were the hardest to solve for me, but they are my favorites now that the book is finished. A labor of love!
YABC: How did you pick this book as one you wanted to illustrate?
The manuscript had me at ‘We’re not sleepy!’ sing A, B, C, D, and E chant ‘Neither are we!’. I loved the bouncy cadence, playful rhyme, suspenseful pacing, and big, surprise moments that bring all the kiddos together. Susanna left a lot of room for art interpretation, allowing me the freedom to build in some fun visual narratives.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
Charlotte’s Web with my 5 year old and 8 year old! It’s the first chapter book that truly held my little guy’s attention. Reading it as an adult to my own children made me appreciate the beautiful writing in a whole new way, and its masterful, organic way of introducing new vocabulary through the dialogue between Charlotte and Wilbur. We all fell in love with the poetic descriptions of the farm and its colorful characters, and the goofy geese chatter made us laugh and laugh. Now what do we read next? It’s a tough act to follow!
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I can’t wait to dive back into some new book ideas for novelty and picture books and get some concepts submitted!
YABC: What was the most difficult part of the illustration process?
Wrangling all those 26 kiddos was surely the most challenging part of this project. Assigning the characters and colors to each letter was a huge mix-and-match puzzle. I would think that I had everything settled, and then realize a certain grouping of characters on a page wasn’t working—and then I’d have to go back and swap characters and colors all around again. Checking for consistency was also a pretty big chore at the end of the project, but I had a great team to help me proof.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when illustrating?
I think it took me the longest to hone in on the right look for Alpha Mom. What does a mom to 26 kids look like? I wanted her to feel both timeless and classic, but also current and relevant. I also thought she should be quirky and cool, but not too trendy.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
I think color would normally be my illustration superpower because it typically comes more naturally to me. But color was trickier in this book, because there’s just SO much of it. At one point mid-project, when I realized I wasn’t happy with the overall color feel, but couldn’t quite figure out why or what to do, a few SUPER friends (you know who you are!) came to my rescue with some ideas to try that helped me get out of my color funk. So, maybe my real superpower is my amazing network of creative friends and the way we can support and encourage each other.
YABC: What advice do you have for new illustrators?
Network, network, network! And in terms of getting published, do your homework. SCBWI is an amazing resource and I frequently refer newbies to the FAQ page for the basics and to get them connected with a local chapter. Go to bookstores, find books in the same vein as what you want to do and take note of the publishers. Research submission guidelines and agents, and look for gaps and opportunities in the market. Know what uniqueness you can bring to a book and story. It can feel like a long road to get published, but find opportunities that help build your skills and move you forward—even smaller opportunities can become stepping stones to bigger goals, like getting published. You never know where one opportunity and connection will lead.
YABC: Is there anything that you would like to add?
Fun fact: If you include the cover, you can count 200 people in the whole book (203 if you include Mom’s arm turning out the light, and Dad’s arms handing out a glass of water)!
Author: Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustrator: Betsy Snyder
Release Date: October 25, 2022
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Genre: Hardcover Picture Book
Age Range: 4-8
~ Giveaway Details ~
Three (3) winners will receive a copy of ALPHABEDTIME (Susanna Leonard Hill) ~US ONLY
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*