Sail away with THE FRIEND SHIP

I was in Barnes & Noble, minding my own business, when some irresistible, voyaging animals caught my eye.

I opened The Friend Ship, written by Kat Yeh and illustrated by Chuck Groenink, and happily set sail with this adorable crew.

This is what Kirkus had to say about the book:

“Yeh makes effective use of dialogue and repetition, investing her characters with personality with just a few lines. Groenink employs sunny, warm hues that increase in saturation as the boat fills and Hedgehog becomes surrounded by friends. A sweet, simple story with a nicely offbeat heroine.”

Nice, huh?

Kat was kind enough to stop by Picture Book Builders.

Kat, congratulations on your latest picture book! Please tell us about The Friend Ship.

Thanks, Tammi. 🙂 The Friend Ship is the story of a very lonely Hedgehog. One day, she overhears some woodland animals talking about her and how things will get better. “Friendship is out there, all she has to do is look.” As you might have guessed, Hedgehog comes up with her own interpretation of the conversation. “The Friend Ship is out there! All I have to do is look!” and she decides to build a boat and head out to find this elusive thing called The Friend Ship. Along the way, she meets some other lonely creatures who would love nothing more than to join the search.

What sparked the idea for this book? A Carnival Cruise? An unexpected hedgehog sighting, perhaps?

1) I’m terrified of cruises (because: Titanic)

2) I wish I had unexpected hedgehog sightings in my life!

Actually, this idea dropped down from the sky in the midst of picture book brainstorming during Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) a few years ago, but it was only a title. An idea. The Friend Ship. I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. So, I let it sit. For what ended up being a few years. I’d peek in on it every now and then while I was working on other stories. Til one day, I knew.

Chuck Groenink’s art feels like the perfect match for your text. The palette, the classic feel, those animals! What was your reaction when you saw the art for the first time?

When Rotem Moscovich, my editor at Disney-Hyperion, sent me samples of Chuck’s work as the potential illustrator for The Friend Ship, I fell hard and fast. Not only with the charming way he created his animals, but as Rotem put it: “Just look at the way he handles light.” His work glows with warmth. So, I knew it was going to be charming and beautiful and fun. But when I received the art for the book, I was reminded of the very best part of being teamed with an illustrator: Having a partnership with someone who can make your words and story come to life in a way you never thought of. A partner who is there to make your idea Even Better. I mean, c’mon, the endpapers, the personalities of the animals, the teeny secret details that you only notice in repeated readings. I just felt incredible lucky and so happy to be teamed up with Chuck.

If you had one key piece of advice for writers, what would it be?


If you’re writing picture books, read everything out there. Carry stacks home from the library and immerse yourself. Then write without thinking too much or worrying at all. Write out of joy or love or silliness or whatever it is in you that makes you want to take part in this wondrous profession in the first place. You can edit and figure things out later. For now, just create. Then put it all away and let it sit. Sorry, I think that’s more than one key piece of advice. And I haven’t even gotten to drafting and editing, etc. Maybe we can talk about that another time. For the record, I just checked and I had 16 drafts of The Friend Ship (and that’s not counting 16a, 16b, 16c—16h).

Thank you for sharing the number of drafts. It shows that it takes a lot of work to make a good thing great.

Scoop time! What’s next for you?

I have a new middle grade novel out in September from Little, Brown, THE WAY TO BEA, about 12 year old Beatrix Lee, a seventh grader who discovers that someone is responding to poems (written in invisible ink!) that she has been hiding in a secret place in the woods. I’m so crazy about this book and can’t wait to share it. I’m currently working on my next middle grade novel, as well as a couple picture book ideas that are making me snort out loud in the quiet section of the library. But I’m most excited about this April. I’ll be the Dorothy Carter Writer In Residence at Bank Street, working with 9-10 year olds on novel writing. Kids are incredible. They go for things creatively in ways we all should.

Ooh. It sounds like 2017 is going to be an amazing year for you, Kat.

Thanks so much for spending a little bit of time with us at Picture Book Builders!

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Kat was kind enough to offer a signed copy of The Friend Ship to one lucky duck commenter. The winner will be revealed in my next post.

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Kat Yeh grew up reading and scribbling in Westtown, Pennsylvania. She worked as a copywriter for many years in advertising and sports marketing, while writing poems and children’s books in the wee hours of the night. She is the author of picture book, THE FRIEND SHIP (December 2016) from Disney Hyperion and middle grade novels, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE (January 2015) and THE WAY TO BEA (coming Fall 2017), both from Little, Brown Books.

She currently lives on Long Island where she spends any non-writing time being outside as much as possible and exploring all the bay and harbor beaches with her family.

Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has more than 30 published picture books and has many others on the way. Her books have received awards, earned starred reviews, made lists, been made into musicals, and been translated into many different languages. Most importantly, kids really like her books! To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.


  1. This sounds like a terrific book–and something my granddaughter will love! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your process.

  2. That’s great advice -it is about the joy of it all.

  3. What a fun interview, and a lovely book! Thanks, Kat and Tammi!

  4. Charming! Can’t wait to check this out. Congratulations Kat and Chuck. Thank you for sharing this picture book Tammi.

  5. Fabulous interview, Tammi! Congrats to you, Kat! This looks like one of those books that begs to ride home with me from the bookstore. 🙂

  6. Loved this interview and Kat’s thoughts on collaboration with the illustrator! “Having a partnership with someone who can make your words and story come to life in a way you never thought of. A partner who is there to make your idea Even Better.” Can’t wait to find those secret details and see the endpapers! Thanks Kat and Tammi.

  7. Thank you, Tammi, for sharing this book with us. Sounds adorable! Congratulations to both Kat and Chuck!!

  8. Words of wisdom with a practical yet inspirational meaning. Thank you!

  9. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Friend Ship. I love how the concept of the story came from a misinterpretation of the word friendship. Clever idea! : )

  10. Wow, I can’t wait to read this book! It sounds so sweet. And you have some great advice in this post. My favorite line, “Write out of joy or love or silliness or whatever it is in you that makes you want to take part in this wondrous profession in the first place.” Sometimes I get so caught up in writing a book that will be published that I forget about writing out of joy. Thanks!

  11. I am in LOVE with this book!!

  12. Lindsay Hanson Metcalf

    This looks adorable. The title draws me in right away… I can’t resist a great pun!

  13. Ooooh!! LOVE Hedgehogs and this book looks wonderful! Congrats to the lucky-duck commenter that wins! Looking forward to this book! XO

  14. Can’t wait to read this!

  15. What a beautiful story. I love the concept that friendship is out there if you only look. Thank you for sharing this book with us. My kindergarten class would truly enjoy it!

  16. The title and cover are so inviting! Congratulations on this book and your other successes!

  17. Congrats on the book and thanks for the writing tip.

  18. Eager to read this book. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  19. The illustrations in this book are lovely and I enjoyed the wide array of animal characters. All in all, a very cute picture book!

  20. This book sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to check it out.

  21. Kat thanks for sharing your story of determination and revision. I can’t wait to read the Friend Ship!

  22. Thank you, KAT, for sharing key pieces of advice for writers under construction like me.

    I look forward to sharing this delightful book, THE FRIEND SHIP with my students.

  23. I can’t wait to read this book. It sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Beautiful! Can’t wait to read this book. Love the title. Also looking forward to The Way to Bea!

  25. I love the looks of this book and the title! It’s perfect. Great post Tammi and Kat!

  26. I’m looking forward to reading this book. It sounds delightful!

  27. I ADORE this book. Thanks for the great interview, Kat and Tammi!

  28. Looking forward to reading The Friend Ship and your upcoming novel, too. Thanks for sharing your journey and advice, Kat!

  29. Sounds like a wonderful book! Thanks for sharing!

  30. I am crazy in love with the story and the art in THE FRIENDSHIP – such a heartwarming story with a fun ending twist! Thank you for a wonderful interview and I can’t wait to read THE WAY TO BEA.

  31. Can’t wait to get my hands on The Friend Ship. And thanks, Picture Book Builders bloggers, for continuing to share books that I turn out to love!

  32. Kristi Veitenheimer

    Can’t wait to read this book!

  33. I LOVE the title of your book, Kat! Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  34. What a wonderful concept for a book, and lovely art indeed. Congrats to Kat and Chuck!

  35. The art and text sound like a marriage made in heaven. I love this idea. It gets me thinking of words like that a writer can play on. I want to hug the animals.

  36. Lovely interview and an adorable book. I literally just ran across it at Barnes & Nobles this morning. I love the ending. And inspiring that it came out of Storystorm/PiBoldMo!

  37. I LOVE this book. The line about Hedgehog “got to work” made me laugh and love her. Such a great story.

  38. Oh, good…I must get this book to share with my granddaughter’s first grade class. Her school’s mascot is the hedgehog and this would be a perfect ‘read’ for many reasons….Thank you!

  39. What a perfectly simple and simply perfect idea for a picture book. Must. Have. It.

  40. I am excited to read it Kat! Like you because if Titanic, I am terrified of Cruises. The play on words for the title is perfect. Tells us what the story is about and hints at the quirkiness of it. The fact your story uses animals, makes me happy as those are my favorite stories. animals have so much personality and I enjoy seeing their personalities come out in writing.

    Congratulations on this new release for you and Chuck!

  41. I can’t wait to read FRIEND SHIP!

  42. Cindy Williams Schrauben

    I am so in love with The Friend Ship and Twinkie Pie. You are such an inspiration to me… and Bea??? Just, wow. Can’t wait.

  43. Congratulations, Kat. Thank you for sharing your author’s tips and advice. Your book, FRIEND SHIP, sounds like the perfect read before bedtime book. I have eight grandchildren and they always want me to read to them. It’s one of my favorite activities.

  44. My son and I really enjoyed reading this book. The title grabbed me and the story and illustrations did me in. Such a sweet book.

  45. I can’t wait to read this! Putting on my list of must reads! Thank you!

  46. The book glows! It has fabulous voices! And it’s one of those, “Why didn’t I think of that?” titles. I can’t wait to see and read this one.

  47. Sounds n like an excellent book. I can’t wait to read it.

  48. 16 copies… Im,so glad to hear that. Sounds familiar! Thanks for sharing some great advice on reading and writing.

  49. what a clever title. I can’t wait to read it.

  50. This looks adorable! I like the premise!

  51. This book looks lovely. Already on my to-read list! Thanks for sharing and having a giveaway!

  52. This one’s been on my reading radar, but now I definitely need to read it. Thanks for sharing its backstory, Kat.

  53. I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing the back story!

  54. What a fun interview! I really enjoyed reading it. And this book looks so cute and clever. Thanks for sharing this post.

  55. This book looks super cute! Congratulations!

  56. I LOVE The Friend Ship and look forward to reading ALL your books. Thanks for sharing your journey, Kat!

  57. I love The Friend Ship & loved meeting you & Chuck at Books of Wonder a few months back, Kat. The Friend Ship has a fresh take on the evergreen friendship theme & will have all Storystorm (PiBoIdMo) participants looking back at past title ideas & brainstorming new plays on words.

  58. I’m looking forward finding this book. It looks like one to read over and over, and savor the beautiful illustrations. Thanks for including insight about the relationship between author and illustrator.

  59. I cannot wait to read The Friend Ship.I love the title and the concept. Thanks for the insight into its creation.

  60. Great interview! So inspiring! Thanks for the advice as well- Can’t wait to read The Friend Ship- It looks fantastic!

  61. Meredith Pinkstone

    I can’t wait to read this book!

  62. This looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Tammi, and congratulations, Kat! Btw, I have a book coming out in October that Chuck illustrated–he’s such a talented artist (and his animals are adorable!).

  63. This looks like such a sweet book! Thanks for sharing!

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