Making Yaks Yak with Linda Sue Park, A Book Giveaway and a Birthday!


Here’s something to crow about— Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by me hits the bookshelves today!

In this fun and funny picture book “Bugs bug bugs”, ” Flounders flounder”, and “Steers steer”!

I asked Linda Sue where her idea came from for the book, and this is what this talented author had to say…

“YAKS YAK was born out of my love of wordplay. I think that authors–at least this author!–are always… let’s say, ‘concerned’ about how their words will be illustrated, and I have to confess that for this book I was even more anxious than usual. There are so few words! How could an illustrator possibly glean the spirit I intended for the book with so little to go on?!

Dinah Stevenson, publisher at Clarion Books, could not have made a more perfect choice. Not only did Jennifer capture that spirit of the fun and fascination of words, she made the book hers as much as it is mine, strengthening the text with her brilliant choices and additions. I love the illustrations so much that it’s hard for me to pick a favorite…but do take a close look at those rams ramming…”

Thank you, Linda Sue! (Blushing) I feel for authors! So hard to entrust your ‘children’ and ideas to someone else. This was such fun, and Christine Kettner (art director at HMH) is brilliant.

Here’s a little peek at the process I went through to illustrate. These are the first ape sketches…

Yaks Yak early apes sketchbook page

apes 5apes 9 apes 8
And here are the early thumbnails. I hate doing thumbnails and usually end up giving up halfway through. When we were first envisioning the layout of this book, we had the page turns hooking together with a little ‘clue’ in the bottom right hand corner of what would be on the next page. That proved too problematic, both in the logistics of the narrative, as well as potential production headaches.

Yaks Yak my very first thumbnails

Illustrating this book was a blast to do. Each spread is a different cast of characters. Each animal (noun) is shown with that same word used as a verb. In some instances, the animal really does do that action. For instance, apes aping and parrots parroting, but others’ not so much.

If a bat is holding a bat (an action they would not, and could not do) the illustration still needed to be as relatable as a dog dogging (which they do do).

I decided that I needed to give myself some ‘tools’ to use when i needed to (voice banners), and that I would try to tie the spreads together with a unifying use of fun and humor, hence the hats, and fancy Victorian accessories.


It was important that the reader knew clearly and immediately the name of the animal at which they were looking. Seeing a”parrot” and not just a “bird”, looking at a “fish” and not a “trout”.

Here’s another ‘work in progress shot’— I work on heavy watercolor paper (faithful readers of this blog have read of my paper predicament. I ended up using the 300 pound hot press, but using the back side, which isn’t as smooth).

Yaks Yak spread in progress masked out plants and fish am painting background

First, I tape down the paper and because this is a full bleed, I then use masking fluid to paint over the foreground. In this photo I’ve masked out the fish and plants and I’ve painted the background. The next step will be to peel up the mask and paint the foreground. Next, I go in at the end with ink line. Each spread also needed a designed spot for the definition.


The reviews have been very good;

“Details such as hats and teacups carry through from picture to picture, and on each spread the animal’s behavior and interaction with other animals of its kind are spot-on…Children will recognize the behaviors from their fellow humans while learning new vocabulary in a memorable way.”
–Horn Book

* “Gleeful linguistic fun that kids will wolf down.”
–Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

* “Animal and word lovers alike will enjoy this clever take on homographs…”
–School Library Journal, STARRED review

“Young readers will love this hilarious, informative book.”

I especially love hearing which spreads the reviewers have pulled out to talk about in detail, and which seem to be people’s favorite one. One of my personal favorites is the badgers. I think because it was one of the hardest to solve and communicate. In the end, I’m pleased with the stream of consciousness dialogue and the bit of collage.

badgersThis book also has a wonderful chart at the back which dives into the etymology of each of the words and provides teachers and kids with a great learning tool.

And, hopefully they’ll have a chuckle at the same time.


Happy Birthday, Yaks Yak! I’d like to giveaway a birthday present, or two!

I’ll send a book to two lucky commenters! Suzanne will announce the winners on her March 15th post.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. This one’s been on my Get This Book list since I saw the title. And now that I see the art, it’s moving to Get This Book Now.

  2. Lindsay Hanson Metcalf

    Looks delightful! I can’t wait to read it.

  3. Kim Pfennigwerth

    I can’t wait to read this myself and better yet to read it to my grandsons. This language sounds like a lot fun!

  4. Those illustrations are amazing, Jennifer! I can’t wait to see the whole book and the back matter. Thanks for sharing your process.

  5. Illustrators always amaze me! Thanks for sharing. Looks like a great book.

  6. Hats – of course! What a brilliant tie-together. The out slugged slug made me nearly spit coffee on my laptop. Cannot wait to add this book to my library!

  7. What a fun book. The illustrations look amazing. Can’t wait to read it.

  8. This looks fabulous, Jennifer! Congrats!
    And thank you for sharing part of the process. Fascinating!

  9. Very cute & thanks for the look at your process too!

  10. What a great idea for a book! And I LOVE your art, Jennifer (especially those bats!) Looking forward to checking this one out!

  11. What fun! Love the art!

  12. Amanda Sincavage

    Oh, how fun! I’m a sucker for word play and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful! Congrats and happy book birthday!

  13. Love this idea, and your artwork is SO full of humor and energy, Jennifer! Going straight onto my must have list.

  14. Oh my gosh, what a brilliant idea! This book looks like SO MUCH FUN! I can’t wait to get a hold of a copy!

  15. Such a fun idea! Kids and grownups both will laugh their way from animal to animal!

  16. Jennifer, This is such a beautiful book! Can’t wait to get my copy.

  17. This looks fantastic, Jennifer! And I always love it when you show your process (even if I don’t always understand how it all works . . .). Congratulations!!

  18. Hi, Linda, thank you! I love to see ‘behind the scenes’ things, too. It’s good to know that others’ do, too! Thanks!

  19. What a fantastic concept brought to life by your incredible illustrations! You are amazing, Jen! I’ve got some baby showers coming up and this would make the perfect gift!

    • Hi Karen, thank you so much for your lovely compliment! I have bookplates that I would be happy to sign and send anyone who would like them? Just email me through my website ( Or, at least I should have some (ordered them)?

  20. My kindergarten grandchild is fascinated by these illustrations and animal pairs….She especially likes(and ‘gets’) Fish fish…….This is a wonderful book to help learn nouns and verbs…..Thank you!

  21. This one looks so incredibly fun! Can’t wait to see it (and hope to win it LOL). Thanks for sharing, and happy book birthday!!

  22. I would love, love, love to use a copy of this in a picture book workshop I’m leading in August. Kate Messner recommended it as a wonderful example of a picture book with very short text.

  23. Stacy Digianantonio

    The title alone made me want to read this book. Now that I’ve seen the illustrations . . . wow!

  24. This looks like a GREAT book! What a funny and clever concept. Thanks for the post!

  25. What fun your readers will have reading this book! I love the concept, the humor, and your beautiful illustrations. Thanks for sharing your process.

  26. What a fun book. Love the illustrations!

  27. Oh, pick me! Pick me! This book looks like so much fun. I love what Linda Sue Park did AND how Jennifer responded to the text. It makes me smile.

  28. What a fun book! Definitely going on the to-read list!

  29. What a wonderful collaboration! Congratulations!

  30. So cool! I can’t wait to read this book!
    Love the concept!!

  31. This book is so much fun! I can’t wait to get a copy. I predict this will be a classroom favorite.

  32. These illustrations are beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  33. This looks like a beautiful book. I can’t wait to read it!

  34. This book is a delight as are all of Linda Sue’s books. I had the pleasure of working with her at a Highlights workshop a few years ago.

  35. P.S. It’s amazing to see all the work that went into the illustrations. Lovely, Jennifer!

  36. Jennifer, You and Linda Sue have completed a book that will endure through the ages because it’s funny, it’s informative, and the artwork is superb!! Congratulations – and the reviews are well-deserved!

  37. I can’t wait to see this fun book. Children will enjoy it while enjoying learning more about language.

    I love the ape!! Imagine holding a tea cup, of all things, with your toes while holding up a hat or plate of fruit with both hands. lol

  38. This fun (and educational) book looks like the perfect pairing of author and illustrator. I can’t wait to read it!

  39. This looks like a fun book and the illustrations look gorgeous!

  40. Love the concept and love your artwork. fingers crossed!

  41. Great fun and teaching too!

  42. This looks wonderful! I can’t wait to read it!

  43. This book lover loves this book! I look forward to finding it and reading it!

  44. So cute, and I love the humor with the homographs. Students will love this!

  45. Such a fun book! Thanks for sharing. =)

  46. Yak Yaks looks like a fun, fun book! Congrats!

  47. Gosh this looks like so much fun. The illustrations are terrific. Thanks for a chance to win a copy.

  48. What a clever idea!! Thanks for sharing the process!

  49. This is such a great concept and the kids in my classes would love this fun book! I loved reading and looking at author and illustrator’s processes too.

  50. Wow. Love this book and these beautiful illustrations!! So nice to peak behind the curtain!

  51. Yaks Yak! What fantastic illustrations!
    Thank you for a look at your process.

  52. Jennifer, your artwork here is stunning…and fun. Congratulations on another beautiful book release.

  53. The words are fun and clever and I was attracted to the art work. Now that I’ve read this, I want to study the art even more! Thanks for the insights.

  54. Kathy Mazurowski

    This book sounds like so much fun. I just added it to my library list.

  55. Patricia A Miller

    This looks like such a fun book. Congratulations!

  56. What a fun book. I just love word play. Can’t wait to read it! ! CONGRATS!!

  57. What a wonderful word play book. Perfect for all students, but especially my English Language Learner.

  58. This book sounds like a lot of fun for adult and child. Beautiful illustrations!

  59. Beautiful illustrations, Jennifer! So much energy & fun. Thanks for sharing the post.

  60. Great background information about how illustrators think and play with the author’s words and story.

  61. I am going to find this darling book for our grandson, it is beautiful! I loved seeing how you work through your illustration process too, Jennifer.

  62. Can’t wait to YAK about this one on my blog. LOVED this post. Thanks!

  63. Thanks for this great post and the behind-the-scenes skinny!

  64. Thanks for this great post and the behind-the-scenes skinny! 🙂

  65. What a great concept! Can’t wait to read it “in person!”

  66. You have to love anything done in watercolor. This looks like a lot of fun. Looking forward to reading it,


  67. GREAT punster fun

  68. Hi Maria! Good luck in the giveaway!

  69. Brilliant idea for a book – and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful.

  70. Just read this yesterday, Jennifer and I LOVED it–so wonderful! And I especially love your art–it’s filled with such humor and feeling. Such a great read aloud!!

  71. Looks like I missed the giveaway, but I will definitely be picking up a copy of this book – it looks hilarious! (that slug!)

    • Hi Lauren, sorry that you missed the giveaway, but if you do buy a book and want a signed bookplate (I’ll send to you for free), just email me through my website and let me know. It’s a fun design and features… “that slug”!

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