Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
Today we have a doubly exciting interview featuring two sweet new board books about math and music with the wonderful Laura Gehl who just released her Brilliant Babies board books this week, illustrated by Jean Claude! Brilliant Baby Plays Music and Brilliant Baby Does Math. (By the way, any of you who are wanting to make a super awesome author website should definitely ask Laura about hers; it’s SO COOL! Pun intended ;))
Kaitlyn: Hi Laura, thanks so much for stopping by the math is everywhere blog to chat!
Laura: Thank you so much for having me! I can’t think of a better blog to visit in celebration of these new board books, considering that one of the books is literally about how MATH IS EVERYWHERE!
Kaitlyn: YAY! This is my favorite kind of party–a math and book party! First of all, these books are ADORABLE, what inspired them?
Laura: I was a music kid growing up. I played the oboe, and spent most of my free time either practicing or at rehearsals. I met some of my closest friends and my husband through music, and I had so many amazing experiences as a result of being a musician–including giving a concert at a solid rock church in Scandinavia, playing the music from Star Wars in Spain, and staying with host families in Argentina and Ireland while performing in those countries (Fun fact: I got sick when in Ireland, and my host family was 100% serious in telling me that drinking Guiness would make me feel better!). While my personal experience was primarily with classical music, I believe all kinds of music have the power to bring people together. And I wanted to write a book that would inspire families with young kids to play and/or listen to music. Whether Brilliant Baby Plays Music inspires families to pull out pots and pans for drumming, to blast the radio in the car, to have a dance party, or to attend a concert, I hope the book leads to joyful shared musical experiences.
Kaitlyn: Wow, that’s amazing, especially oboe! Reed instruments are difficult themselves but oboe, you have to be very talented to play that delicate, powerful instrument. And I’m loving your host family in Ireland. I hope you’re still in contact with them. I was just chatting with my host sister from France from when I was 18 our daughters are both growing up together! Now onto the math!
Laura: On the other hand, Brilliant Baby Does Math is my attempt to show that babies and toddlers are doing math, and building math skills, every day–and having fun at the same time! Cooking, shopping, building block towers, playing Candyland, looking at the patterns of leaves on a nature walk…it’s all math. Math is joyful, math is everywhere, math is something families can “do” and learn together just by following kids’ curiosity and interests…those are the messages I hope this book will send.
Kaitlyn: I love that because babies do math almost immediately after being born, and it definitely can be super fun! Board Books tend to be a more difficult part of the industry to break into. How did you start writing board books, and do you have any advice about working on them?
Laura: It’s funny, I had a conversation about this with Joyce Wan (author and illustrator extraordinaire, including the illustrator of the Peep and Egg books) years ago at a book festival. She had also heard people say that it’s very difficult to sell board books. But Joyce said, “My whole career is board books!” So maybe it was Joyce’s voice in my head that made me think I should give board books a try. The first ones I published were the Baby Scientist books, each of which spotlights, and makes accessible for the littlest readers, a different scientific career. I had so much fun working on those, and now I have written board books on lots of different topics, from animal behavior to baby unicorns! I actually have two sports board books releasing later this year, Baseball Baby and Soccer Baby, illustrated by Reggie Brown. As far as advice, reading lots of recently-published board books is a great place to start. Also, think about how a single board book idea could fit into a larger series idea. I’ve sold fourteen board books, and they’ve all been in series rather than standalone books.
Kaitlyn: Joyce Wan is so amazing, and congrats on selling so many wonderful board books. Readers, take note, board books do much better with series potential! Speaking of series, are there more Brilliant Baby books to come?
Laura: Yes! The third Brilliant Baby book will be about science, another great passion of mine. The fourth book will be about fighting germs. It isn’t specific to COVID but more generally focuses on how kids can stay healthy and prevent spreading germs to friends and family.
Kaitlyn: Oh, those both sound fantastic! In both of these first two books, I love the use of appropriate words like “observe” and “compare” for Brilliant Baby Does Math and “orchestra” and “strumming” for Brilliant Baby Plays Music. Were there any conversations around these words?
Laura: Thankfully, no! I’m a fan of big words for little readers, and letting kids learn vocabulary through books. Neither my agent, Erzsi Deak, nor my editor, Charlie Ilgunas, flinched at a single “big” word in either of these books–thank goodness! (In the Brilliant Baby science book, get ready for “hypotheses,” “data,” and “persisting,” among other delightful vocabulary words.)
Kaitlyn: That’s the best! I totally agree, big words are how kids learn vocabulary, your agent and editor just earned super points from me! Now, I have to say the cooking and archeology spread is my favorite in Brilliant Baby Does Math! Did you put the paleontology aspect in art notes?
Laura: I love that spread, too! And no, I did not indicate paleontology in the art notes, but I love that Jean chose that direction. For those with an interest in paleontology, I should mention that my upcoming photo-illustrated picture book Who Is a Scientist? features a real paleontologist, Nizar Ibrahim, along with 13 other fabulous scientists working today.
Kaitlyn: First of all, readers, that should remind you how talented illustrators are, give them the freedom and they’ll take your words to a whole new level. Second, this photo-illustrated picture book sounds amazing, Laura! If you had to choose, what’s your favorite thing about Jean Claude’s art in these books?
Laura: I really love all the little outfits the babies are dressed in! I never realized how much illustrators think about clothes until I did a podcast interview about my book May Saves the Day, along with the illustrator, Serena Lombardo. Serena talked about her thought process in terms of the clothes May and Stu wear in the book, and now I am super aware of the thoughtfully-chosen clothes in every picture book and board book that I read.
Kaitlyn: Isn’t it remarkable how we never know and then someone sheds light on something and it becomes a beautiful part of our lives from then on? Laura, can you share who your agent is, how you connected with this agent, and why you love working with this agent?
Laura: Erzsi Deak is my agent. I found her through Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 challenge. What drew me to Erzsi was her promise of excellent communication, and she has kept that promise 100%. I love that Erzsi gets back to me right away whenever I email her, and I also love that she believes in my work even when I start to lose faith in it myself.
Kaitlyn: Ohh, that’s SUCH an important aspect of the author-agent relationship, your agent has earned more brownie points in my eyes! Can you share some advice for up-and-coming writers especially in these challenging times?
Laura: First of all, I want to share with anyone who is struggling to write these days that I am 100% in the same boat. I used to be a write-every-day person, and now, with my kids at home full time, I’m lucky if I write once per week! I would say if you’re struggling to find the time or headspace to write in the midst of the pandemic, keep scribbling down ideas to write later. And if you are able to find some time but don’t have it in you to write, READ! Read in the genre you want to write, or just read for fun. I recently read a fabulous middle-grade novel (The Trials of Morrigan Crow), even though I don’t write middle grade, and a tiny plot point in that story gave me an idea for a new picture book.
Kaitlyn: Thank you so much for sharing that. I think we’ve all really struggled in this time, and you’re so right. Whenever I’m down and I pick up new books (or even old ones) to read, I get a little boost, even if I don’t write, it reminds me what a wonderful industry we’re in. (Also, I just added The Trials of Morrigan Crow to my Goodreads list, thank you for the recommendation!) Can you share a bit about your next book and/or what you’re working on now?
Laura: I have a few books releasing later this year. One of them is Goat Wants to Eat, which is an early reader. Cat keeps wanting to nap, and Cat isn’t picky…Cat will happily nap on a mat, or on a coat, or on a chair, or on a boat. But Goat is very hungry. And Goat keeps eating every object that Cat tries to nap on! Writing early readers is challenging, because of the need to use very limited vocabulary and lots of repetition, and somehow create a funny story that will push an emerging reader to keep reading. But I like a good challenge, and I hope emerging readers will love this book–and that it will help build their confidence and love of reading!
Kaitlyn: Ha! That sounds hilarious; I can’t wait to get it for my daughter. I’m so amazed at the word recognition my four-year-old has. She has been reading most of an early reader Duck, Duck, Dinosaur: Bubble Blast, and I agree, these books are so phenomenal in their ability to repeat and be wonderful! I can’t wait to see my daughter read Goat Wants to Eat! Finally, if you could spend a day with your favorite author or illustrator, would you sit by a fireside and chat or go out on an adventure together?
Laura: Adventure! Maybe a lovely hike, followed by ice cream.
Kaitlyn: Count me in (and my daughter, you say ice cream and she’s there, even if she has to hike over a mountain)! Thanks so much again for joining us today, Laura!
Laura: Thanks so much for having me, Kaitlyn, I really hope we can all go for that hike together one day.
Kaitlyn: I would LOVE that, and you can bring your oboe (I’ll bring my trumpet, but I don’t play much anymore lol).
Book description and Links to Purchase
This brand-new series will introduce and explore all the different subjects your brilliant baby will soon master!
In Brilliant Baby Does Math, your Brilliant Baby will love exploring all the applications of math and where they can find it in their daily lives, like learning what’s hotter or colder, checking the score of the game, and seeing math in skyscrapers, rocket ships, and more!
In Brilliant Baby Play Music, your Brilliant Baby will love learning about all the different types of music they can groove, dance, and boogie along to, as well as being introduced to instruments such as cellos, pianos, trumpets, saxophones, and more!
Laura Gehl is the author of more than two dozen board books, picture books, and early readers, including One Big Pair of Underwear, I Got a Chicken for My Birthday, the Baby Scientist series, and the Peep and Egg series. In addition to the Brilliant Baby books, her 2021 releases include Goat Wants to Eat, illustrated by Fred Blunt (Simon & Schuster, July), Who Is a Scientist? (Lerner, October), and Odd Beasts, illustrated by Gareth Lucas (Abrams, November). Laura lives in Chevy Chase, MD with her husband and four children. In addition to reading and writing, three of her favorite activities are traveling, hiking, and eating ice cream. Sometimes, she is able to do all three at once! Visit Laura online at www.lauragehl.com for free downloadable activity sheets and teacher’s guides, and to subscribe to her newsletter.
Kaitlyn review of the books
The Brilliant Baby series by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Jean Claude is such a fun board book series! Each page is filled with bright images that babies and toddlers will love, I’m a blown away at author Laura Gehl’s ability to make these subjects fun, knowledge-filled, and also in impeccable rhyme! You’ll find yourself laughing at the comedy and smiling at the wonderful interactions when reading these books!
As a math teacher, Brilliant Baby Does Math is well done, including all the fun and comical things about math.
As a trumpet player who enjoys many genres of music, I really enjoyed the Brilliant Baby Play Music is not only fun but also incorporates so many types of music for babies and toddlers to be exposed to.
Would you like to win a signed copy of either Brilliant Baby Does Math or Brilliant Baby Plays Music? (US only)
Here are 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 Brilliant Baby Does Math and Brilliant Baby Plays Music to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of Brilliant Baby Does Math or Brilliant Baby Plays Music
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for Brilliant Baby Does Math or Brilliant Baby Plays Music at your library
- Quote retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.
Thank you all for supporting Laura and other wonderful creators by reading this blog and sharing about their work! Chat soon!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
PS. Watch the blog for some fun updates coming soon