Thursday, December 8, 2022

Q&A with Kimberly Derting




Kimberly Derting is the author, with Shelli R. Johannes, of the new children's picture book Penny, the Engineering Tail of the Fourth Little Pig. Derting's other books include the Loves Science picture book series, also written with Johannes. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.


Q: What inspired you and Shelli R. Johannes to write Penny, the Engineering Tail of the Fourth Little Pig, and how did you create your character Penny?


A: Shelli and I have been writing STEM books for years, and we’ve been wanting to write (or should I say rewrite?) fairytales for a while. We both have daughters, so strong girl characters are important to us. But, while we were brainstorming, we realized there are a lot of stories, like the Three Pigs, without any girls at all. So, we decided they needed a smart sister who could save the day.


Q: What do you think Hannah Marks’s illustrations add to the story?


A: First off, I love that Hannah added another layer to the girl power of our team.


Secondly, Shelli and I love puns, so in our version, we went a little (hog) wild with pig puns and Hannah ran with that. She drew a map of the route Penny takes from New Pork City to Hog’s Heaven, where the three pigs live, and included fun stops along the way, like Central Pork, Wiggly Piggly Station, and Sty Harboar.


She also drew blueprints of the roller coaster Penny dreams of making. Hannah’s illustrations are fun and vibrant—she really brought Penny and her brothers to life!


Q: What did you see as the right balance between the original Three Little Pigs story and your own take on it?


A: We see our story as a continuation of the Three Pigs tale, sort of asking what happens when The Big Bad Wolf doesn’t give up?


We wanted enough of the original story that kids would recognize it—the houses made of straw, sticks, and bricks, as well as our version of “Little Pig, Little Pig, Let me come in...” But we also wanted Penny to use her engineering know-how to come up with creative solutions to their bully problem.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?


A: With all of our books, our goal is for kids to walk away realizing that science isn’t just a subject in school, but that science is everywhere, and it can be fun too!


In Penny, the Engineering Tail of the Fourth Pig, we obviously focus on engineering, and we want kids to see that engineering is about problem solving. We want them to feel inspired and empowered to come up with ideas of their own.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: We have more early reader books in the Loves Science series releasing in January 2023 and January 2024, and Shelli has her own book in the She Persisted series about Florence Nightingale coming out in March 2023. We’re also currently working on an all-new chapter book series due out in 2024.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: You can download free Penny puzzles and coloring sheets for your kids at


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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