Author Interview with Sue Fliess about her newest picture book The Princess and the Petri Dish

Hey Math is Everywhere readers,

I’m skipping with excitement today because I have the pleasure of chatting with one of the kidlit greats today about two of my favorite things: fairy tales and STEM! Please welcome Sue Fliess who’s here to talk a bit about her newest rhyming picture book: The Princess and the Petri Dish.

Kaitlyn: Thanks so much for joining us today, Sue!

Sue: Thank you for inviting me!

Kaitlyn: First off, can you share with us the inspiration for this adorable story?

Sue: Believe it or not, I had tried years to pull off a successful Princess and the Pea fractured fairy tale. My first attempt was alliterative, and I think it drove some editors bonkers–and not in a good way. I finally let it go, as I was only hearing it one way and that wasn’t working. It wasn’t until I started down this path of fractured nursery rhymes/fairy tales for Albert Whitman & Co., that the princess and her pea stormed my castle again. I had written Mary Had a Little Lab and Little Red Rhyming Hood and my editor asked me if I could write another — to have a nice trilogy, and that it would be awesome if it was a STEM theme. She initially asked me to consider a Goldilocks story. So I started reviewing all the fairytales again, and playing around with titles. And that’s when I came up with the idea for the princess to have a petri dish instead of a pea. But the tie in, is that she grows a new kind of pea in the petri dish. The story ‘sprouted’ from there. (secret: a Goldilocks STEM book is in the works!)

page08-09 copy

Kaitlyn: Ohhh, I can’t wait for STEM Goldilocks, too, thanks for sharing that secret! For The Princess and the Petri Dish, I just ADORE the fact that this princess loves STEM, when you started writing this book, did you have the idea of empowering more girls to like STEM? 

Sue: I did, but had no idea if anyone would take to these books. Thankfully they did!  I know the market was being kind to girls in STEM stories, and that’s clearly because society has started to finally openly encourage girls to code and get into the sciences, but you never know with picture books — especially fictional ones. When I saw how much love Mary Had a Little Lab got for being a girl who loves science and invention, I was even more excited to do more like it. 

Kaitlyn: That’s so wonderful to hear, especially as a mom of a girl who loves trucks and math! What process did you go through for this story? 

Sue: Oh, my. This story. I had the title, and I knew the main idea was that I wanted a girl scientist to invent a new kind of pea, but figuring out the actual story was quite a challenge. First, I had a girl who proved she was worthy to be a princess by her invention, thereby becoming a princess. And about 4 iterations of that. Then I shifted to a story of many kingdoms participating in a Festival of Vegetables (I mean, what!?) and the princess wanted to win the big prize and make a name for herself. Then about 6 iterations of that one. Both of these versions were written in prose and the book was bordering on 1000 words.  I was struggling to find the real story–and to streamline it. Then my critique group called for an intervention and encouraged me to write it in rhyme, mainly just to boil the story down to its essence, and go from there. Fortunately, when I did this, it became my story! And it is in rhyme and it is SO much better than the other versions. 


Kaitlyn: Haha, that’s amazing! Your critique partners sound wonderful! What advice can you share with authors about the journey to publication? 

Sue: Writing is like any craft or talent. The more you work at it, the better you get. I’m a better writer today than I was in 2006, when I was just starting to write children’s books. My advice would be to keep practicing your craft, and produce the best work you can. Share your writing with trusted readers in order to make your stories better. And then, and probably the biggest bit of all, don’t give up after you get your first few rejections. It can sting, but it just means they weren’t the right editor/publisher for your particular story. My first book SHOES FOR ME! was rejected ~27 times before I got an offer. All it takes is one yes!

Kaitlyn: That’s great advice! Finally, if you could hang out with your favorite author, would you chat over tea or go fly a kite?

Sue: Definitely chat over tea. First, I’m terrible at keeping kites in the air. Also, I get distracted easily and I think I’d be so focused on keeping the kite airborne, I’d miss the experience of talking with and learning from my favorite author! 

Kaitlyn: Haha, I’m horrible at keeping kites in the air too! Thank you so much for joining us today!

Sue: Thanks for having me and letting me talk about my books!

Sue’s Bio

picture of Sue

Sue Fliess (“fleece”) is the author of over 30 children’s books, including Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins, Mary Had a Little Lab, Ninja Camp, How to Trap a Leprechaun and many Little Golden Books, including the bestselling Robots, Robots Everywhere! and I’m a Ballerina! Her books have sold over 850k copies worldwide, have been included in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, and have been translated into French, Chinese, Korean, Turkish, and Spanish. Her essays have appeared in O Magazine, HuffPo, Writer’s Digest, & more. Fliess has also written for the Walt Disney Company. She lives in Northern Virginia with her family and two yellow labs. Please visit her at

Follow me on Twitter // Instagram // Facebook

The Princess and the Petri Dish

cover of The Princess and the Petri Dish with girl scientist

Pippa isn’t your usual princess. She prefers petri dishes to perfecting her curtsying. And when she realizes that she doesn’t like peas, she gets a sweet idea that consumes her and almost the whole kingdom.

Get your copy today:

Kaitlyn’s Review of The Princess and the Petri Dish

Sue Fliess created a new-aged fairy tale–written in stellar rhyme–for girls who love STEM and a fun story for those of us who don’t like peas! I hope this book inspires young girls to create these yummy peas so I can enjoy them on my grilled cheese sandwiches, too! 

Giveaway Time!!

Sue is giving away a copy of The Princess and the Petri Dish 

How to get in on the Giveaway:

  1. Comment on this blog post
  2. Retweet the tweet about this post 
  3. Request that your library order a copy of The Princess and the Petri Dish and share in the comments that you did so

Each one of the above gets you another entry into the giveaway!

Thank you all for joining us today to learn about Sue’s newest book, her experiences, and writing.


Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez

PS. If you haven’t stopped by to read the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest entries, make sure to hop on over and check them out. Read, comment, and connect with wonderful writers and author-illustrators! and check out our craft chats, writing exercises, and prize donor trivia using the #SpringFlingKidlit hashtag on Twitter.



38 thoughts on “Author Interview with Sue Fliess about her newest picture book The Princess and the Petri Dish

  1. Congratulations, Sue! I’m looking forward to reading THE PRINCESS AND THE PETRI DISH. STEM + girl power!! Thank you for a wonderful interview, Kaitlyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A STEM re-telling in rhyme?
    What could be more sublime?

    Seriously, Sue has an amazing talent. Never a misplaced or forced rhyme. Love hearing the backstory of how this came together.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Will definitely check this book out! I read many fractured fairy tales with my 3rd grade students during our adapted fairy tale writing unit. We are currently on this unit now and it has not been the same teaching this unit remotely. :(. Always love adding new books to my classroom!

    Liked by 2 people

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