Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
Get ready for a good, old-fashioned hoe-down today because we get the pleasure of chatting with the amazing Tammi Sauer about her new picture book that just released this week: THE FARM THAT MAC BUILT!
Kaitlyn: Hi, Tammi, thanks so much for joining us today!
Tammi: Thank YOU for having me!
Kaitlyn: The pleasure is all mine. I’m so excited to have you here! First question: What led you to the fantastic decision that Old MacDonald needed a fun reboot?
Tammi: I like to challenge myself to try new approaches to writing stories. This time around, I couldn’t resist giving a mash-up a go. The Farm That Mac Built is a mix of “The House that Jack Built” and “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Oh, and I thought it would be fun to set a book as a way-off-Broadway production that goes off the rails because that is just how my brain works.
Kaitlyn: Haha! I love how your brain works! You are the queen of picture book story structure (well, at least in my mind! We need to make it official; let’s get a ceremony on the books for when social distancing is a thing of the past). Can you share why you decided to use a cumulative structure for this story and a bit about why it works so well here for those still learning craft?
Tammi: I had no choice! 🙂 The title begged for this structure. I think when people see the title, they automatically expect the story to follow the familiar cumulative pattern of “The House That Jack Built.” Because of this, the structure was basically built in–I just needed to hang the right words on it.
A bonus to using the cumulative structure is that the repeated parts of the text invite little listeners to actively engage in the read-aloud experience.
Kaitlyn: You’ve gotta go where the story takes you and I love that it provides so much extra fun for little ones! What is another way a writer can amp up the read-aloud-ability in a manuscript?
Tammi: The use of just the right poetic devices (alliteration, consonance, assonance, etc.) can really help a manuscript sing! In The Farm That Mac Built, for instance, I included some onomatopoeia. Even the youngest listeners can participate in the reading of the story by joining in on the oinks, moos, baas, neighs, and clucks.
Kaitlyn: You’re just brilliant! Now, I’ve got to know, whose idea was the scarecrow narrator/how did he come about?
Tammi: The illustrator, Jackie Urbanovic, came up with the scarecrow as the narrator. When I was writing the story, I envisioned the narrator to be an uppity cow in a tuxedo. That scarecrow was a big surprise.
Kaitlyn: Ha! I would have loved the uppity cow too, but I love that Jackie found another cool way to tie the story together. I also have to say, you are one of my writing idols for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that you’re a female writing funny books. Can you talk a bit about that?
Tammi: I write funny picture books because those are my favorite kind of picture books to read. Also, I used to read piles and piles of picture books to my kids. When my son Mason was four, he would have one of two reactions to each book. If he loved it, he would give the book an enthusiastic double thumbs up. And, if he didn’t, he would say, “Wow, that’s a dud.” As I write, I keep four-year-old Mason in mind. I can’t let that kid down!
Kaitlyn: LOL four-year-old Mason sounds awesome; I’m so glad he’s helped inspire so many amazing books! You have inspired and taught so many of us with your wonderful posts about the craft of writing, can you share who taught and inspired you?
Tammi: At Kansas State University, my undergrad language arts professor, Dr. Marjorie Hancock, began each class by reading a picture book. It was always such a joy to enter her classroom and know that the hour was going to begin in such a wonderful way. This same professor noticed I was good at writing. One day, she pulled me aside after class and said, “Tammi, you have a gift with words. You should pursue publication.” Knowing that she believed in me gave me the courage to try. Years later, I thanked Dr. Hancock the best way I knew how. I named a chicken after her.
This is one of the stars from Chicken Dance, illustrated by Dan Santat:
I didn’t know anything about or anyone in the business. I didn’t even know I wanted to be a writer until Dr. Hancock gave me that nudge. But I loved to read. And the more I read, the better I got at writing.
Kaitlyn: I think that means we all have Dr. Marjorie Hancock to thank for helping you find this path! If you had to give just one piece of advice to an up-and-coming writer, what would it be?
Tammi: The best piece of advice that has helped drive my career comes from an old Cynsations blog post. It was this comment by author Lynn Hazen: “My main considerations for any picture book are humor, emotion, just the right details, read-aloud-ability, pacing, page turns, and of course, plot. Something has to happen to your characters that young readers will care about and relate to. Oh, and you have to accomplish all that in as few words as possible, while creating plenty of illustration possibilities. No easy task.”
Kaitlyn: Wow, that’s a TON of amazing information in one comment, go Lynn and thank you for sharing it with us! Thanks so much again for stopping by to talk about the craft of writing and your hilarious new book! Wishing you all the best with good sales and lots of love for it!
Tammi: Thanks so much for the invitation! And I hope your wish comes TRUE. 🙂
Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children’s book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has 30 picture books with more on the way. In addition to winning awards and earning starred reviews, Tammi’s books have gone on to do some fun things. Chicken Dance: The Musical is set to tour the nation, Wordy Birdy is a Kids’ Indie Next List book, the 2021 Book Choice for Read Across Oklahoma, and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, and Your Alien, an NPR Best Book of the Year, was released in Italian, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and French which makes her feel extra fancy.
To learn more about Tammi, her books, and her school visits, please visit www.tammisauer.com.
Follow Tammi on Twitter: @SauerTammi
Follow Tammi on Instagram: tammisauer
I’ll insert author head shot and bio
Kaitlyn’s review of THE FARM THAT MAC BUILT
The Farm That Mac Built is such a fun adventure for kids and adults alike! With a mix of Old MacDonald, The House That Jack Built, and some great slapstick comedy, this story will get kids oinking, mooing, and baaing while adults laugh along with the humor from the Scarecrow and in the art. This is definitely a great addition to all picture book lovers’ libraries!
Do you want to win a copy of The Farm That Mac Built (contiguous US only)? Check out all the ways to get into the giveaway (each one is an extra entry):
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you added THE FARM THAT MAC BUILT to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of THE FARM THAT MAC BUILT
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for THE FARM THAT MAC BUILT at your library
- Quote retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.
Thank you all for reading and sharing, and I hope you’re staying safe and well!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez