Q: Why did you decide on a sloth and a squirrel as the main characters in your new picture book?
A: An article about animal ambassadors in The Wall Street Journal titled Sloths Hot, Armadillos Not: Zoos Seek Affection for Overlooked Species got me interested in learning more about sloths.
When I discovered that sloths spend 95 percent of their lives in the treetop canopy, I knew my character should have an active tree-dweller as a buddy. Since opposites attract, I chose a zippy, chippy squirrel to set the stage for a funny friendship adventure.
Q: What do you think Kelly Collier's illustrations add to the story?
A: Kelly’s brilliant illustrations add so much humor, expression and personality to the characters and storyline!
I especially adore her interpretation of grouchy Mr. Peacock, the pickle plant manager. From his bushy, black eyebrows to his button-down vest and shiny nametag, he is the epitome of an unforgiving executive bird boss!
Kelly chose an amazing pale green pickle-toned palette accented with turquoise and orange-red that really stands out on the bookshelf. So creative!
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: Laughter and a love of silly books! And possibly the idea that whether you are packing pickles, selling popsicles, or riding a bike, everything is better with a friend.
Q: What first got you interested in creating children's picture books?
A: My toddlers were subsiding on vast quantities of circle-shaped cereal, so I wrote my first picture book as an entry for the Cheerios “Spoonful of Stories” contest.
Even though “Ozzie the Oyster” was definitely not ready for publication, I discovered a passion for the craft of picture book writing fueled by countless classes, conferences, workshops,and library visits.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My agent is submitting another funny food story about a humble raccoon roasting s’more after s’more for an ever-expanding forest feast. I am also working on a Sloth and Squirrel sequel that sends them off to explore current fitness fads.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Sloth and Squirrel’s pickle packing predecessors were an infamous pair of Connecticut pickle peddlers named Sidney Sparer and Moses Dexler.
According to the Hartford Courant, the two men were arrested in 1948 for selling pickles deemed “unfit for human consumption” because they did not bounce when dropped. That’s a fun fact to share on National Pickle Day, November 14!
Readers are welcome to connect with me online! Tell me if you have seen a sloth in real life, or if you have ever joined a friend on an adventure gone awry.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Cathy Ballou Mealey.