Monday, November 27, 2023

Q&A with June Smalls




June Smalls is the author of the children's picture book Hear Them Roar!: 14 Endangered Animals from Around the World. Her other books include She Leads. She lives in Virginia.


Q: What inspired you to write Hear Them Roar, and how did you choose the animals to include?


A: Hear Them Roar was actually an idea that the publisher had. Familius publishing, which published my Leads series, said they were tossing around an idea of a sound book featuring endangered animals and did I think I could come up with something.


I said, “Of course!” and then had to dig in and research.


They didn’t have an outline or even a list of animals. They just gave me that awesome idea and let me run with it.


I tried to focus on as many different species, areas of the world, sizes, colors, from water, land, and sky – some familiar, some unknowns – everything to make the story as widely encompassing as possible in a great browsable format.


Each animal highlighted shares information about the animals, fun facts, the sounds they make, and what we are doing to help protect or bring them back from possible extinction. We end with hope, always.


Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?


A: I learned that megabats are pollinators like bees, rhinos squeal, cotton-top tamarins give birth to twins more often than single offspring, and that some animals are so rare, that even though we had one in captivity 50 years ago, there are no recordings of it, and so it didn’t make it into the book.


I ended up researching about 18 animals due to the fact that we couldn’t get rights on sound clips for some of the original animals. Novelty books add another layer that the author needs to keep in mind!


Q: What do you think Becky Thorns’s illustrations add to the book?


A: While the Leads series was more realistic, for Hear Them Roar, the publisher wanted a more colorful and whimsical feel to match the vibe of their other sound books.


There are maps, primary art, and smaller pieces that show more about the animal on each spread. The bright colors and textures of Becky Thorns’s illustrations make the animals pop from the page and even on the small sound buttons those animals are really engaging.


Q: How did you collect the samples of sounds that are included?


A: I found clips on documentaries or zoo clips from their sites or YouTube and included them when I sent in the finished manuscript.


However, the publisher was the one who reached out to various zoos and conservation groups to purchase the rights for each of the final sound clips on the sound bar.


These novelty books are more expensive to produce and manufacture. I never even entertained the idea that I’d get to work on a listen and learn book!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I just turned in a manuscript for the follow up to this book. Hear Them Sing will be a sound book about birds in North America. Fourteen birds that you can find right in your own backyard. 

I’m working on some final edits for a lift-the-flap series I have coming out with Sourcebooks eXplore called Digging for Dinosaurs. This novelty format has taught me a whole slew of things as we have to work around the flap placement and size.


It’s tons of fun, super cute, and just wait until you see the art by Grace Habib.


I’ve also been working on a magical chapter book series that I’d love to get out into the world!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: You can find me online at

Twitter “X”: @June_Smalls



--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with June Smalls.

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