Laura Gehl's books for kids include Koala Challah, the Peep and Egg series, and the forthcoming My Pillow Keeps Moving!. She is based in the Washington, D.C., area.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Koala Challah, and what do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: The idea for Koala Challah came from a game called hinky pinky. In this game, one person gives another person a riddle with two clues—and the answer is two words that rhyme. For example, if I said, “A furry pet with whiskers and something you wear on your head,” you would say “cat hat.”
When my son gave me a hinky pinky where the answer was “koala challah,” I knew that was the title of my next book. Then I just needed to think of a story to go with the title.
Q: You have some new installments in your Peep and Egg series, and you've said you hope the books help kids overcome their fears. How do you come up with new ideas for the books?
A: Between the four of them, my kids have had just about every fear in the book. So coming up with new ideas is the easy part! Writing the books to keep the repetition that toddlers enjoy while giving each story a new twist…that’s the hard part.
Q: You also have another new picture book coming out soon, My Pillow Keeps Moving!. What inspired this book?
A: This book was also inspired by a game I used to play with my kids. One of them would pretend to be my pillow. As I pretended to sleep, the “pillow” would keep wiggling and giggling. So I would say “My pillow keeps moving!” or “My pillow is too noisy! I need to return this pillow to the store.” And another book title was born!
Q: What do you think the illustrations (by various people) add to your books?
A: So much! Seeing an illustrator bring my characters to life is always magical for me.
Joyce [Wan] adds special humor to every book. In Peep and Egg: I’m Not Taking a Bath, my favorite illustration is at the end, when all the animals are having a bath party but the pigs are in a boat. This allows the pigs to join the party yet stay dirty. Genius!
In Koala Challah, my inner 8-year-old—who was teased for wearing glasses—loved that Maria [Mola] portrayed one of the sister koalas wearing glasses.
In My Pillow Keeps Moving!, I loved how Chris [Weyant] drew the curmudgeonly man who keeps accidentally buying a dog, and the overenthusiastic, completely unhelpful salesman. I laugh every time I look at either character. SO much personality!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m always working on many different projects! Currently these include a story with trees as two of the main characters, and a story about a little kitten who goes to school for the first time.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I have another book we didn’t talk about here that is coming out in the spring. It is called I Got a Chicken for My Birthday. That book is about how first impressions can be completely wrong…and about the true awesomeness of grandparents (it is dedicated to two of my kids’ grandparents).
The illustrations, by Sarah Horne, are in an unusual color palate. They are hilarious and gorgeous and fabulous.