Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
As the days get colder and the call to cuddle up with a beautiful book begins, I’m so delighted to share with you today an absolutely gorgeous picture book author-illustrated by my friend and critique partner Leah Hong: Happy Dreams, Little Bunny.
Description of book from the publisher:
This stunningly illustrated debut is The Runaway Bunny for a new generation—a captivating flight of fancy that also helps children lull themselves into dreamland.
Little Bunny can’t sleep! There’s so much to think and wonder about, big and small. But with a nudge from Mommy, Little Bunny discovers that sometimes our thoughts can be turned into happy dreams . . . where anything is possible. Debut author and illustrator Leah Hong’s tender drawings and gentle dialogue between mother and child sing a modern lullaby for anyone who has trouble falling asleep—or whose imagination has soared at bedtime.
Kaitlyn: Hi, Leah, thanks so much for joining us!
Leah: Hi Kaitlyn, thank you for having me on your blog!
Kaitlyn: My pleasure! I’m so excited to chat with you. Can you start by sharing where the idea of this beautiful book came from?
Leah: Thanks so much, that means a lot to me. I have strong memories of lying in bed as a child with my mind whirling, not feeling anxious, but also not being able to settle down and go to sleep. I wanted to capture that feeling of bedtime, my head full of wonder and excitement and my thoughts slowly morphing and shape-shifting the sleepier I got.
At the same time that I started brainstorming ideas for this book, my son was having a hard time settling down at night himself. He went through a long phase of calling out to me over and over each night. He wouldn’t get out of bed, but he’d bang on the wall of his room (my studio is on the other side of the wall!) and holler “Mom, where are you?” or “Are you there Mom?” It felt natural to combine these two experiences into one story.
Kaitlyn: I love that you touched on the parent and child aspects here since being able to incorporate both makes such a wonderful selling point. Speaking of selling, selling a new twist on a bedtime story can be challenging, can you share how you created a new twist that editors wanted and/or how your agent pitched/sold it?
Leah: So true! But because Happy Dreams, Little Bunny is the very first story I wrote and illustrated let alone published, I have to admit that at the time I was developing this book, I was largely unaware of those challenges. I did (and still do!) read a ton of picture books though and I was pretty sure at the time that I hadn’t come across a story with quite the same POV as this one. Luckily the team at Little, Brown agreed.
Kaitlyn: WOW! You sold the very first book you ever wrote and illustrated AND it’s the first book you sold?! That has to be some kind of record and should tell you how born to be in this industry you are! Now I need to know: how did you decide on the characters? (Sketches would be awesome if you have some!)
Leah: I fell head over heels in love with a character I had developed in a picture book illustration class. So much so that I kept drawing this rabbit long after the assignment was due and the class was over. I knew I couldn’t let this little bunny go and I had to use them in a story of my own.
Here are some images showing the progression of Little Bunny, from early sketches to final artwork:
Kaitlyn: Just stunning! No wonder you couldn’t stop thinking about this adorable character! Thank you for sharing your sketches. What was your favorite part of author-illustrating this book? And what was the most challenging?
Leah: Hands down the best part of illustrating a book I authored was having that deep emotional connection to the story and getting to choose what to include in the imagery. Having said that, since this was my first book as either author or illustrator, I felt some fierce imposter syndrome. Luckily there was so much work to do I didn’t have a chance to wallow too deeply in it and really just had to buckle down and get the work done. There’s nothing like a looming deadline to keep you grounded!
Kaitlyn: Thank you for sharing that; we all have imposter syndrome, and it’s so great to know that an author-illustrator who does absolutely stunning work feels this way too, and that deadlines can be a great cure. Haha! Okay, now how did you find your agent, and how did you know she was the one?
Leah: I’m with Kirsten Hall of Catbird Agency—I’m still pinching myself! I did a ton of research when I was ready to start querying and what I began to notice early on, was that a lot of my very favourite illustrators were with Catbird and I decided to begin my querying there. I’m incredibly grateful that Kirsten connected with my story and that she took me on.
Kaitlyn: Sounds like a perfect match, and I’m so glad you did the research that led to your wonderful agent! Who was your editor for this book, and what was it like working with him or her?
Leah: My editor was Andrea Spooner at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. She was fantastic to work with. She took the time to walk my newbie self through the process of editing with patience and kindness. She also pushed me to do my very best work in the gentlest and most encouraging way possible. I count my lucky stars that I had such a supportive introduction to the world of publishing.
Kaitlyn: Yes! Andrea is such a dream editor; the perfect mix of passionate and kind; so happy for you, my friend! Can you share with us what you’re working on now?
Leah: …I wish I could! Sorry for being so coy but it’s too early to share right now.
Kaitlyn: Haha, I love the mystery! The anticipation is what keeps us coming back. Readers, make sure to follow Leah on social media so you won’t miss out when she has more news! Until then, Leah, can you share some advice for illustrators or author-illustrators?
Leah: Hands down the best piece of illustration advice I was ever given was from one of my picture book illustration instructors who said, “You’ll be spending many hours, even months, on the final artwork so you have to choose a style that you enjoy working in”. It seems so obvious but hearing those words really helped me focus on what materials work and don’t work for me and gave me permission to just have fun. It was so freeing. She also said, “Don’t include anything in your portfolio in a style you wouldn’t want to illustrate an entire book in.” Such sage advice.
Kaitlyn: Yes! Sage advice indeed! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, or mathematician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?
Leah: Gyo Fujikawa is one of my all time favourite illustrators and since she is no longer with us, I guess meeting her would automatically be an adventure! Is it too boring to admit that I hope the adventure would include me getting to watch how she works?
Kaitlyn: Not boring at all; I got all excited just thinking about watching Gyo work, too! It just shows we’re in the right industry! Thank you so much for sharing and for joining us today to talk about your beautiful book!
Leah: Thank you, Kaitlyn! You are such a fierce champion of the kidlit community. I feel honoured that you invited me onto your blog.
Kaitlyn: Well, now, as I wipe the happy tears from my eyes from those kind words, I hope all the readers check out the following info and get in on the giveaway, too!
Author-Illustrator Bio and links
Leah Hong spent many of her childhood hours drawing stories, but it wasn’t until she had children of her own that she became reimmersed in the world of picture books, and fell in love with them all over again. A graduate of Emily Carr University of Art + Design with a visual arts degree in painting and drawing, she has worked both as an illustrator and graphic designer. Her lifelong love of drawing and storytelling led her to create her picture book debut, Happy Dreams, Little Bunny (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2021). She lives with her family in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Kaitlyn’s Review of Happy Dreams, Little Bunny
With absolutely stunning illustrations that in and of themselves will lull you and your little ones into a dreamland, readers and listeners alike will enjoy this gentle, new bedtime story that may soon become the new classic bedtime story!
Leah is offering an INTERNATIONAL giveaway of this beautiful book! If you want to get in the running, follow these instructions:
To enter the random drawing, do any/all of the following options, then come back and write all of the things you did in ONE blog comment. (If you forget something, feel free to reply to your first comment ;))
- Share that you added Happy Dreams, Little Bunny to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share that you ordered a copy of Happy Dreams, Little Bunny
- Share that you did a purchase request for Happy Dreams, Little Bunny at your library
- Share that you left a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble
- Share that you retweeted or quote retweeted my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tagged some friends.
Thank you all for supporting and amazing creator! And stay tuned to the blog because we have another post tomorrow and Friday will be another #TeamSanchez cover reveal!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
PS. Thank you all for patiently waiting while Lydia, Ameerah, and I read all your wonderful Fall Writing Frenzy entries, and I still can’t thank you all enough for the lovely and supportive community you created again this year. It warms my heart to see so many wonderful creators cheering each other on!