Author Interview with Angela Burke Kunkel about her newest picture book PENGUIN JOURNEY, illustrated by Catherine Odell 

Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,

If this time of year is inspiring you to get a sweet, loving picture book with sparse text, then you’re in for a big treat today! Pull on your biggest coat and take a PENGUIN JOURNEY today with author Angela Burke Kunkel!

Book Description

[from the publisher]

A lyrical picture book exploration of emperor penguins’ incredible journey to parenthood, with stunning watercolor art. 

Packed Snow / Moon glow

Wind-blown / All alone 

This young picture book is about the incredible lengths to which emperor penguins go for their young ones. Angela Burke Kunkel’s lyrical text and Catherine Odell’s gorgeous illustrations detail the penguins’ amazing journey, and an author’s note and bibliography provide added context.

Kaitlyn: Hi, Angela, thank you so much for joining us! 

Angela: Thanks so much for having me on Math is Everywhere, Kaitlyn! I’m excited to have the chance to share a bit about the story behind Penguin Journey.

Kaitlyn: Yay! We’re excited to hear about it, Angela, so let’s dive right in! Can you share what inspired this story and a bit about its journey into the world?

Angela: Sure. Penguin Journey really just started as a morning writing exercise in my notebook. I tend to write very long, wordy first drafts and end up doing a lot of cutting during revision. I sat down one morning with the challenge to write a complete story in 100 words or less, and the image of a lone penguin popped into my head. The story itself has changed so much since that early draft, but the low word count and that image of a penguin have stayed throughout. I’m incredibly grateful to my editor, Meredith Mundy at ABRAMS Appleseed. Meredith initially passed on the story, but then reached out with a revise and resubmit request--- could I take what I had written and keep it spare, but make it more lyrical? And her editorial eye really helped guide the book from this short little story with a cute refrain to a more lyrical piece of nonfiction.
Art by Catherine Odell 

Kaitlyn: Wow! That is just the best, and Meredith does have such a great eye; I’m so glad you two connected! Can you share why you think stories like these are so important for our little ones to read about?

Angela: In my experience children have an innate curiosity and affinity for animals. I think sharing the family bonds between penguins, and the incredible journey they go through to even start a family, gives readers (adults included) an even greater appreciation for these animals. And, as a species severely impacted by climate change, I hope this appreciation translates to action--- we all need to do what we can to support the protection of Emperor penguins and other threatened species. 
Art by Catherine Odell 

Kaitlyn: Agreed! I remember sponsoring Koko the gorilla in elementary school after my teacher shared a magazine with us. Kids (and adults) are so much more likely to take action after they get to know these wonderful animals. Thank you for helping with this wonderful cause! Can you share what sets this book apart from other books about Emperor penguins?

Angela: I’d like to think the approach offers readers something new. Penguin Journey is a work of nonfiction, but it has a very low word count and is told in very spare, gentle verse--- it could be a soothing bedtime story. It’s also pretty limited in scope. Rather than something like a nonfiction early reader that covers many aspects of penguin life or many penguin species, this story focuses on the migration Emperor penguins take to find a mate and what follows after--- raising their young in the extreme Antarctic environment. 

Kaitlyn: So wonderful, and this can definitely be a beautiful bedtime book, readers! Can you share who your editor was for this book, and what you enjoyed about working with this editor? 

Angela: As I mentioned before, Meredith Mundy at ABRAMS Appleseed really guided Penguin Journey into a different type of book than it was initially. I loved working with Meredith because when she originally reached out with a revise and resubmit request, she gave me just enough information where I could understand the how and why this would be a stronger book if I made the potential changes. Her suggestions really resonated and helped me dig in to a major revision, and her feedback that followed was just as careful, helpful, and thoughtful. I’m in awe of what editors do!

Kaitlyn: Me, too! Editors are amazing unicorns; we’re so lucky we get to know them as are writers, like you, my friend! Can you share who your agent is and what you enjoy about working with this agent?

Angela: Yes! My agent is Liza Fleissig. I’m incredibly grateful that she took a chance on me based on Digging for Words, and I appreciate that she’s supported a range of projects--- Penguin Journey is such a different book than Digging, as are my next two books--- but Liza has seen the potential in each one and has been a cheerleader throughout.

Kaitlyn: I’m so glad you found such a wonderful partner to help bring your beautiful books into the world. Speaking of which, this is your second picture book – super congrats! – can you share some similarities and differences between the experiences?

Angela: I think the major difference was the revise and resubmit process of Penguin Journey. Digging for Words also went through several rounds of major revisions, but there were a lot of elements of that story that stayed the same from the very beginning--- the two Josés, for example. Even though Penguin Journey is a much shorter manuscript, the revision process was so much more intense, in part because I knew I was working within limited space and wanted to keep the word count low. The book has changed so much from that very first “waddle waddle.”

Kaitlyn: Thank you for sharing that there’s always revisions; I think that’s wonderful for writers to know and remember that it’s hard work, but when we see beautiful books like yours, we know it’s worth it! Can you share some advice you like to give to aspiring authors?

Angela: I think the advice that was most beneficial for me, from middle grade author Lindsay Eagar, was “just write.” Don’t spend time trying to perfect the ideal routine, or an Instagram-worthy writing space. Just get the words down. You can’t revise what doesn’t exist.

Kaitlyn: Wonderful advice! Now, can you please share with us what’s next for you or what you’re working on now?

Angela: Yes! My next book, May Way with illustrator Claire Keane, will be released in 2023. It’s a dual biography of Robert McCloskey, focusing on his creation of Make Way for Ducklings, and Nancy Schön, who created the famous sculpture in the Boston Public Garden. I always loved walking by the bronze Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings when I lived in Boston, and it was fascinating to learn more about the process of both artists. 

I also have a fourth book in the works, but can’t talk about that one quite yet!

Kaitlyn: Wow! A double biography sounds so cool! I can’t wait, and good luck with what’s happening with the secret book in the works! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, scientist, or mathematician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?

Angela: Oh my goodness. I’d have to say a fireside chat--- at her cottage in Maine--- with Margaret Wise Brown. A few years ago I read a biography of her, In the Great Green Room by Amy Gary, and then of course Mac Barnett’s brilliant picture book biography, The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown. She was so prolific and such an interesting person and so much more than Goodnight Moon (which is of course amazing).

Kaitlyn: Oh my! I just adored The Imporant Thing About Margaret Wise Brown as well. To be a fly on that fireside chat wall! Thank you so much for sharing and for joining us today, Angela!

Angela: Thanks so much for having me, Kaitlyn! It’s always fun to talk about books. 

Book info and links

Preorder link for the Vermont Book Shop (included a signed print by Catherine Odell, while supplies last):



Barnes and Noble:


Author Bio and links

Angela Burke Kunkel is a school librarian by day and a writer in the very early mornings. Her debut picture book with illustrator Paola Escobar, DIGGING FOR WORDS, JOSÉ ALBERTO GUTIÉRREZ AND THE LIBRARY HE BUILT (Schwartz & Wade), celebrates perseverance, community, and the power of books. Look for PENGUIN JOURNEY, her nonfiction picture book-in-verse with Catherine Odell, in October 2021(ABRAMS Appleseed). Her third picture book with illustrator Claire Keane, MAKE WAY, will be released in 2023 by Random House Studio. You can learn more at, or follow Angela on Twitter and Instagram @angkunkel.

Kaitlyn’s Review 

With lyrical text, complimented by beautiful imagery, this picture book shares the lovely bond penguins have and is great for all children, especially those interested in animals and nature.

Thank you, readers, for reading and supporting another wonderful creator! If you haven’t checked out the most recent Team Sanchez cover reveal for MUSHROOM RAIN, check it out here and pre-order here!


Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez

6 thoughts on “Author Interview with Angela Burke Kunkel about her newest picture book PENGUIN JOURNEY, illustrated by Catherine Odell 

  1. Congratulations Angela! I look forward to reading Penguin Journey. Thank you for sharing your revising process to keep your story in sparse text. We do love our words!


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