Hi Math is Everywhere readers and Fall Writing Frenzy Friends,
Today’s post is extra exciting and is bound to be incredibly wonderful because Margaret Aitken and Lenny Wen are two of the kindest souls I’ve ever met. We’re all far away from each other, but we’re imagining we’re sitting down for a cup of tea together. Are you all ready? Because today, we get to reveal the book cover for the very first book Team Sanchez sold, Margaret Aitken’s debut picture book, OLD FRIENDS, wonderfully illustrated by the incredibly talented Lenny Wen that releases July 2022.
About OLD FRIENDS (from Macmillan):
Paired with colorful and vibrant art by Lenny Wen, Old Friends is an inventive and heartfelt debut picture book that celebrates found family, caregiving, and the value of intergenerational friendships.
Marjorie wants a friend who loves the same things she does: baking shows, knitting, and gardening. So with a sprinkle of flour in her hair and a spritz of lavender perfume, Marjorie goes incognito to the local Senior Citizens Group. It all goes well until the Cha-Cha-Cha starts and her cardigan camouflage goes awry. By being true to herself, Marjorie learns that friends can be of any age if you look in the right places.
Kaitlyn: Thanks so much for joining us today, Margaret and Lenny, and please share what tea you’re drinking for our lovely interview.
Margaret: Thank you so much for having us! I’m sipping on a mug of peppermint tea.
Lenny: Thank you so much, Kaitlyn! Mine is a cup of jasmine tea.
Kaitlyn: Mmm, both teas sound delicious–a chipper peppermint alongside a lovely Jasmine, which is my favorite smell ever! Over here, I’m enjoying the wafting of lavender and honey from my mug. I’m so excited to dive in, so Margaret, without giving the whole cover away, can you tell us your favorite parts of this cover?
Margaret: Definitely! Firstly, I was blown away by how vibrant it is. There is so much action and movement. Secondly, I LOVE the beautiful colors Lenny chose. It is exactly the type of cover which would catch my eye in the bookstore and scream ‘Read me!’
Kaitlyn: Yes! What can get better than a cover that screams “Read me”? (And readers, I hope it screams “read me!” to you so much that you pre-order this amazing book today!) Now, Lenny, without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about the cover?
Lenny: The cover is energetic and full of life!
Kaitlyn: Oh, how I love energy! Now, Lenny, please tell us more about how this cover came to be so we can start picturing what it might look like.
Lenny: I won’t take all the credits for the cover. It was a very collaborative process between me and the publisher’s art department (shout out to art director Sharismar Rodriguez, designer Carolyn Bull and Mike Burroughs). First, I submitted a bunch of rough ideas to the team.
The team liked one idea (can you guess which one?) but the rest of the ideas were too stiff and not as energetic as the manuscript. So we tried to develop another ideas based on that one which ended up here:
We wanted the cover to be full of movement, life, and contrary to the dull or gloomy impression which people might think when they hear the word “old”.
Kaitlyn: Wow! These are so awesome and so many! You do such amazing and in-depth work, Lenny, and I love the collaborative effort as well. Okay Margaret, Lenny gave tons of options, can you give us one more hint about the cover so we can try to guess which the cover above was selected? And maybe a hint about color so we can start trying to picture it?
Margaret: Hmmm, well I would say … it makes you want to move … and the colors make me think of a delicious cupcake.
Kaitlyn: OOoOoOo exciting, intriguing, delicious even! Readers, are you on the edge of your seat? I know I am!
I think it’s time, dear readers!
Are you ready?
Wait for it…
Here’s the cover of Margaret Aitken and Lenny Wen’s picture book, OLD FRIENDS:
Kaitlyn: Wow! What a gorgeous cover. Lenny, can you share some details about this beautiful cover you created that others may not notice? (Also, if you’re up for it, I’d love to share some sketches, let me know.)
Lenny: I made three color sketches for the cover which you can see here:
Then Carolyn edited it and it became like this:
We wanted Marjorie to pop up and be the first thing the readers might notice. I don’t have a special Easter egg in the cover but I tried to make the cover as dynamic as possible so you feel like dancing right after you see it!
Kaitlyn: I definitely feel like dancing after seeing this beautiful artwork filled with vibrant characters.and an adorable cat! Thank you for sharing this super fun cover that screams “read me!” Now, Margaret, can you share why you adore this cover so much?
Margaret: Yes! As I wrote ‘Old Friends’ I hoped to squash the myths that as we get older we become dull and tired (such nonsense!). The cover is bursting with life and energy which I love! Lenny captured it perfectly and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
Kaitlyn: Haha 😂 so true! We do not become dull and tired as we grow! In fact, some of my favorite people are much older than I am, and they have the best time (and stories to share!) Margaret, can you share how this wonderful story came to be?
Margaret: Sure! The story had a few different influences. One being my time spent taking care of older people as a rural doctor in Scotland. There is so much loneliness in our modern society and it is something that I hope can change. Another influence came from witnessing my son’s preschool visit to a local care home. The interactions between the tiny tots and the care home residents was so heart-warming and I wish it was a practice that was widespread. The third influence came from my elder brother, David, who dressed up as an elderly lady one Halloween. If you read the story you’ll know why 😉
Kaitlyn: These are all so inspiring, and I sure hope this book will result in more connectedness, too. Lenny, can you share why you decided to illustrate this book when asked?
Lenny: When Erin Siu shared Margaret’s manuscript and I read it, I immediately fell in love with the protagonist, Marjorie. I love how heartfelt, witty but also heart-warming the story is. I could picture all the scenes right away in my mind and felt so excited because of it. That’s how I knew that I absolutely wanted to illustrate this story.
Kaitlyn: Aww, that is wonderful, and I felt the same.when first reading it! I immediately fell in love with Marjorie, and the witty, heart-warming story as well. I hope everyone reading his post will also fall head-over-heels for OLD FRIENDS! After that wonderful review of your work, Margaret, can you share some advice for writers?
Margaret: Thank you for your kind words. My advice to writers would be to think about subjects/themes/characters that they love. I think sometimes we can come up with a smart, ‘marketable’ idea or a clever title, but if it doesn’t make your heart sing then it will show on the page.
Kaitlyn: Yes! This is what I adore so much about you, Margaret, all your stories, especially OLD FRIENDS, feel like they’ve come straight from your incredibly kind heart. And now that everyone has seen your stunning work, Lenny, can you share advice for illustrators, too?
Lenny: Becoming an illustrator can be very frustrating. Even after we get published, the anxiety might still be there. I just want to say, take one step at a time, you don’t have to draw and create masterpiece every day, don’t compare yourself to other illustrators (I know, this one is super tricky), celebrate all of your success even if it is just small, show your own ‘voice’ which bring you joy and one last thing, be kind to yourself as I know ourself is our worst critics most of the time.
Kaitlyn: It is so refreshing to hear this, Lenny. I personally have faced this a lot with my writing as well as I bet many readers today’s have faced this with their creating, too. It’s so wonderful to hear that persistence pays off and that it’s okay to be kind to ourselves because we can be our own worst critics. Finally, if you could spend the day with your favorite author or illustrator, would you rather go outside and fly a kite or sit by a fire with tea?
Margaret: I’m TERRIBLE at flying kites so I will choose the fire and the tea (earl grey).
Lenny: I’m terrible at physical activities so I will also choose to sit by a fire with tea.
Kaitlyn: Tea it is! And I’ve really enjoyed our tea conversation today, so I’d be delighted to join in on your next teatime (no kites, I promise ;)). Thank you so much, both of you, for joining me today on the Math is Everywhere blog and for sharing your gorgeous cover with us! I can’t wait to get my copy for my daughter!
Author bio and social media/website links
Margaret Aitken is a Scottish writer for children. As a child, Margaret could often be found outside hoping to stumble upon the characters of Brambly Hedge and Beatrix Potter. After studying medicine at the University of Glasgow, she worked as a doctor in the village of Doune, a filming location for Outlander and Game of Thrones. Along with her husband and three sons, Margaret is currently enjoying life in a New England-style farmhouse in Maine. When she isn’t writing she can mostly be found at the beach, in the garden, or baking something gluten-free.
Illustrator bio and social media/website links
Lenny Wen is an illustrator who also writes sometimes. She was born and raised in Indonesia, but currently she lives in the countryside of Austria. Represented by Christy Ewers at The Cat Agency, she has been working with HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Little Brown for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster, etc.
When she is not illustrating, we might find her watching movies, staring at the trees, reading books, filling up her cup with coffee, or hugging her Shiba Inu.
Say hello to her on:
and view more of her work at: www.lennywen.com
Lenny is offering a free portfolio review to one illustrator via email (preferably to an illustrator who wants to work in the children’s book industry.) You will send Lenny a website link, or any social media link if you don’t have a website. You can also write your goals and what you want to achieve. Lenny will send an email with feedback.
Margaret is offering a critique on a picture book (less than 1000 words) rhyming or non-rhyming, plus optional follow-up on revisions of the same story.
Wow, these are AMAZING prizes If you want to enter, there are 5 ways to enter the random drawing (each one counts as an extra entry). Do the following and come back and leave a comment with which of them too did.
Share in a comment below that you
- Added OLD FRIENDS “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Pre-ordered a copy of OLD FRIENDS
- Did a quote retweet or retweet about this blog post on Twitter and tagged a friend, a librarian, a teacher, and/or your favorite indie bookstore.
- Followed Margaret and Lenny on social media(links above in bios)
- Signed-up for Margaret’s newsletter
Link to pre-order: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250801388
Thank you all so much for joining us to support Margaret and Lenny’s beautiful upcoming book OLD FRIENDS, which debuts July 2022! Also, if you haven’t heard the news, our third Fall Writing Frenzy Contest was just been announced. Pop over the Lydia’s blog, check out the rules and the beautiful pictures, and share share share! Share with all your writing and GN Kidlit friends (Board book through YA) and help us build another amazingly supportive #FallWritingFrenzy community. I’m looking forward to reading the entries and seeing more wonderful connections. And make sure to subscribe to this blog and Lydia’s because we have another Fall Writing Frenzy success story to share soon.
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez