Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
Get your comedy hats on because today’s interview is all about the funny! We’re chatting with Anna Lazowski about her funny ABC picture book T. REXES CAN’T TIE THEIR SHOES, illustrated by Steph Laberis.
Description of book from the publisher:
A funny and encouraging alphabetic book about all the things animals CAN’T do but kids CAN! Every parent teaching their children new skills will be happy to have this super-positive picture book on hand.
Bees can’t ride bicycles, penguins can’t play ping-pong, and zebras can’t go zip-lining. No one is good at everything, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying! Here is a funny and encouraging picture book for any child learning how to tie their shoes, ride a bike, spell their name, or do a variety of new things.
Follow a hilarious alphabet of animals, and see all the things they can’t do but kids can—from doing gymnastics to flipping pancakes to playing a xylophone. Along the way, young readers will learn that it’s okay if they can’t do everything; they can still have a LOT of fun trying.
Kaitlyn: Hi, Anna, thanks so much for joining us! It’s such a pleasure to chat with you about your funny book!
Anna: Thanks so much, I’m a huge fan of your blog so it’s lovely to be here talking about my debut picture book!
Kaitlyn: You’re making me blush! I’m so glad you enjoy the blog, and I’m so excited to dive in about your picture book! Can you start by sharing where the idea of this wonderful book came from?
Anna: I remember when my son was starting Kindergarten, the kids were all supposed to be able to tie their shoes. He was young for his grade, and had always had Velcro shoes. So he got his first pair with laces and it was a horrible nightmare trying to get him to learn to tie them up. Encouraging kids to do something they aren’t interested in, or ready to do yet, is a recipe for failure. Then when you add a deadline into the mix, it doesn’t make it any easier. That got me thinking more about all the expectations we put on our kids, and on ourselves as parents. So I wanted to come up with a silly way to reinforce the idea that it’s okay if you can’t do everything right away, because whether you learn to tie your shoes at age four or age seven, eventually you’ll figure it out.
Kaitlyn: That’s so true! Every kid is different; our daughter has learned some things way sooner and others way later, too; there’s nothing wrong with it, and we’re proud of her always. Can you share why books like this are so important to share with our little ones?
Anna: I think so many books for little ones are about building kids up, encouraging them, and that’s really important. But it’s rare to see a book that kind of revels in what - at least on the surface - appears to be a celebration of not being able to do things. This is an ABC book that uses the word “can’t” 26 times! And I think the idea of not being able to do something is extremely relatable for kids. They have to keep trying things till they’re able to get them, and that needs to be normalized too.
Kaitlyn: Yes, yes, yes! I love that you’re helping kids see all the sides! Now, I was super intrigued to read that iguanas can’t eat ice cream; something I definitely never thought about before. Can you share a bit about why?
Anna: As you can see from the image, the melting would be a huge problem. But the real issue is that animal proteins aren’t good for iguanas, they can’t digest them. So, just like for the lactose intolerant kiddos out there, dairy products are a definite no for them.
Kaitlyn: So fascinating! Now if you had to pick, what was your favorite scene to write about?
Anna: I think it was the N page which reads, “Narwhals can’t eat nachos”. I was trying to imagine what food would do really poorly in water. With nachos, the chips would get all soggy and the toppings would fall off. Then I was thinking about the narwhal trying to eat while navigating around the tusk. So the text for that page was one of my favorites, and when I saw Steph’s illustration she captured it exactly. It’s so funny!
Kaitlyn: Haha! Love it! Can you share who your editor for this book was and why you enjoyed working with this editor?
Anna: My editor was the incredible Frances Gilbert at Doubleday. She saw the pitch as part of #PBPitch in June 2019 and made an offer that day. Frances was wonderful to work with, she is very collaborative, which I really appreciated. It’s fun to see your work through someone else’s eyes, and to get their ideas on ways to improve things. For example, she suggested writing a short opening in rhyme to set the book up, which I absolutely loved doing, and it definitely made the book stronger.
Kaitlyn: Frances sounds like a dream, and short intros are so helpful and fun; love that advice! Can you share how you found your agent, and how you knew this was the one?
Anna: When I got the offer from Frances, I had full requests out with several agents. I reached out to all of them with the update and ultimately ended up signing with Moe Ferrara at BookEnds. On our call we talked in terms of a career, rather than just this book, and that was really important to me. So I picked the agent who I felt had a good vision for what she wanted to do with my work, and who I’m always happy to jump on a call with, or get edits back from. I know a lot of unagented writers think once they sign with an agent and go out on submission, all the challenges of querying are left behind. But there’s still lots of waiting, lots of almosts, lots of rejection, so you need to have someone you legitimately connect with in your corner to help you navigate it all.
Kaitlyn: Yes to all of that, and I’m so happy you found such a wonderful partner for your writing career! Can you share with us what you’re working on now?
Anna: My second book, Dark Cloud, is being illustrated by Penny Neville-Lee and will be published by Kids Can Press in spring of 2023. I’m just wrapping up my first chapter book and always have multiple picture books on the go. I tend to write a bit of everything, so right now I have a PB bio written in a unique structure that I’m really excited about. I have one silly rhyming manuscript, a few that deal with big emotions and just some general prose fiction. I also have one gothic horror novel I peck away at when I’ve parked my picture books to let them breathe for a bit. Like everyone, I find the waiting periods in publishing can get a bit demoralizing, but I can distract myself from the waiting if I have a range of things to work on.
Kaitlyn: Dark Cloud sounds amazing as do all your other projects, especially that great, little teaser of a unique structure; can’t wait to hear more soon, Anna! You’ve already shared lots of amazing advice, but can you share some more advice for authors?
Anna: My main piece of advice would be: You can’t sell the book you don’t write. So many people talk about wanting to write a book, but don’t get around to doing the work. If you’re committed to getting your manuscript done, you’re already on your way. I think you also have to learn to celebrate each win on your path to publication. Every time you get a book published, it feels a little like winning the lottery. But you can’t win all the time, so being able to celebrate a positive rejection from an agent, an R&R from an editor, getting a manuscript to acquisitions, or any other significant step along the way can help motivate you to keep going.
Kaitlyn: I couldn’t have said it better myself, Anna! Finally, what do you suggest for new writers who want to build connections in the writing community?
Anna: Being a writer is very isolating, which is great for the introverts among us, but luckily, many writers are extremely present online. When I first started out, I applied for mentorships (didn’t get any), participated in online contests (won an extremely helpful query letter critique), pitched in a whole bunch of Twitter pitch parties before connecting with Frances through #PBPitch, and joined 12X12 to connect with other picture book writers. Overall, I’ve found the kidlit writing community to be incredibly helpful and supportive of each other. As an added bonus, if you build connections with other writers, you can celebrate their wins while you’re waiting for your next one to come around.
Kaitlyn: Yes! This is exactly why I created and helped create so many contests; they’re such an amazing way to connect and learn and grow. Thank you so much for stopping by, Anna, to share about your wonderful book!
Anna: Thank you so much for such thoughtful questions and for helping me spread the word about T. Rexes Can’t Tie Their Shoes!
Kaitlyn: My absolute pleasure!
Author Bio and links
Anna Lazowski wrote her first picture book for a class assignment in the sixth grade and has been creating stories ever since. Now an award-winning radio producer, Anna has an MA (Journalism) from the University of Western Ontario and a BFA (Hons.) from the University of Manitoba. She lives in Winnipeg.
Kaitlyn’s Review of T. REXES CAN’T TIE THEIR SHOES
You definitely want to check out this adorable and funny picture book about ABCs. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the laughter and fun illustrations! I personally love the hilarious image of a bee trying to ride a bicycle and the laughter just goes on from there!
Giveaway- Anna is generously doing a DOUBLE GIVEAWAY: one winner will receive a copy of T. REXES CAN’T TIE THEIR SHOES (international book giveaway!) and another winner will get a picture book manuscript critique!
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 T. REXES CAN’T TIE THEIR SHOES to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share that you ordered a copy of T. REXES CAN’T TIE THEIR SHOES
- Share that you did a purchase request for T. REXES CAN’T TIE THEIR SHOES 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 again for supporting another wonderful creator! Make sure to post reviews of any books you read; they’re so helpful for authors and illustrators, and if you haven’t pre-ordered the wonderful #TeamSanchez books coming out next year, hop on it by reading the cover reveal interviews and clicking the pre-order links!
Talk soon, friends!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez