Meet the Author:
Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.
Bianca Schulze has written a wonderful, interactive story, perfect for reading at bedtime. Don’t Wake the Dragon puts your little one in charge of making sure the dragon stays asleep through all the craziness at the castle. They can bang on an illustrated drum, knock on imaginary doors, and shush their way through a party, but also gently rock the book from side to side as they sing the dragon a lullaby to make sure he stays asleep.
We met you because of the children’s book you authored, Don’t Wake the Dragon, but you are also the founder and editor of The Children’s Book Review. Tell us a little about that?
The Children’s Book Review, which I began in 2008, is a resource devoted to growing readers by sharing a diverse and fantastic book selection. In addition, we share literacy tips, interviews with authors and illustrators, offer book giveaways, and loads of fun stuff for book lovers!
Don’t Wake the Dragon is an interactive story that kids will love, but so will parents! Reading it can become part of any toddler’s bedtime routine to help settle even the most restless child down. Was this your intention from the beginning, or did the story evolve as you wrote it?
I think that was my subconscious intention from the beginning! You’ll see why when I answer the following question.
Was there a real-life inspiration behind the rascally dragon in the book?
I have three kids, so the inspiration came from my years of experience putting them to bed and keeping my fingers crossed that they stayed asleep for “most” of the night. The idea for Don’t Wake the Dragon explicitly stemmed from a five-hour airplane flight with my family in which my youngest, who was one at the time, was not feeling well. It took some time to settle him, so when he finally fell asleep in my arms, my husband told our other two: Don’t wake the dragon! While I held onto him for hours, cringing every time someone on the plane made a sound, I managed to find humor in my years of experience with reluctant sleepers. I had loads of fun turning real-life, frustrating parental moments into silly scenarios that both kids and parents could relate to.
Clever use of large fonts that are often dynamically enhanced further helps the reader make the most out of reading this story together. Was that your idea?
Like most great picture books, it takes a team to pull it off! Obviously, there’s the writer and the illustrator. There’s also the editor, the book designer and packager, and even the book marketer can get a say. I couldn’t say for sure who selected the large, fancy font, but the entire book is a team effort, and because of that, it truly turned out better than I could have ever imagined.
The illustrations are colorful and energetic with so much expression. Did you know the illustrator, Samara Hardy, before working on the book together? How much input did you have into her drawings?
The short answer is that I have never met Samara Hardy. The long answer is that my editor for Don’t Wake the Dragon, Rebecca Frazer, gave me a long list of illustrators that she thought would be great picks. She told me to tell her my two favorites from the list. So, I gave her four choices because picking just two was hard—Samara Hardy was one of them. I am so grateful Samara said yes to creating the art! I can’t imagine any other artist for the Dragon books. The particular red she chose for Dragon’s scales is perfect and the facial expressions given to all of the characters are superb!
I’ve been fortunate that the team at Clever Publishing asks me to include illustration notes with my manuscripts. However, I think of my input more as suggestions because Samara always adds so much more humor and fun to the pages that go far beyond the manuscript that I turn in. She’s really talented and I think it would be fun to meet her someday. But, alas, we live on different continents.
What is the best part about being a children’s author? Who were your favorite authors as a child?
There are many “best” parts about being an author. First (but not in order), there’s the pleasure of holding the finished copy of the book. Having a finished book in my hands leaves me feeling humbled by the teamwork that went into making it and provides satisfaction to my creative drive. Second, sharing the books with young readers makes my heart feel so happy. Seeing my words and Samara’s artwork bring joy to a child is so rewarding. Finally, the idea that the Dragon books may play a small part in raising a lifelong reader is incredible to me!
When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges for parents or opportunities to address?
This is a really tough question to ask because I think it’s really so individual for each parent and child. However, on a basic level of just getting kids to read, I recommend having as many books on hand as possible and frequently switching them out for variety and maintaining interest—visiting the library makes this super easy for anyone on a tighter budget or looking to supplement their monthly book club books.
In the grand scheme of things, there is a great need for a more diverse range of people represented in the books we read to our children. Kids should see themselves and others in books to help raise empathetic, loving, kind humans that know the world is made up of all kinds of people. Parents should certainly seek out a diverse selection of books to read and share with their kiddos—diverse in topics, life experiences, and beliefs. The conversations that can come from reading books together can be empowering and inspiring—not to mention an incredible way to strengthen a child-parent relationship.
Are you working on anything at the moment that we can look forward to reading?
I’m always working on something! Who Loves the Dragon? released in February of 2021; Just Be Yourself, Dragon will release in August 2021; and Samara Hardy is currently working on the art for Tell the Truth, Dragon, which will release in 2022. I have a few ideas that currently won’t leave me alone! So, who knows, hopefully there will be more books to come still!
We’re grateful to Bianca for spending time with us to talk about her work and looking forward to sharing “Don’t Wake the Dragon” with many of our picture book subscribers this month. You can learn more about Bianca and “The Children’s Book Review” on their website.
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