Caring for Your Lion (+giveaway!)

Have you ever ordered a kitten, but the pet delivery truck dropped off a lion instead? Then this book is for YOU! (It’s also for everyone else.)

CARING FOR YOUR LION (Sterling), my latest book, is illustrated by the oh-so-fierce Troy Cummings. Troy’s art is warm, wonderful, and, well, purrrr-fect.

This, by the way, is what Kirkus said about our book:  

“Sauer’s terse text, presented as the steps in the care manual for the lion, are tongue-in-cheek smile-inducing, as are accompanying black-and-white diagrams from the manual. However, their interaction with Cummings’ full-color, digitally created illustrations of a light-brown–skinned child and the full-grown male lion that was delivered instead of a kitten are laugh-out-loud fun. Allow plenty of time to giggle over the details.”

Today, Troy is joining us from the wilds of Indiana.

This, by the way, is Troy’s self-portrait:

Welcome to Picture Book Builders, Troy!

Helloooooo, Tammi!  Thank you.

What drew you to this manuscript? Were you worried I’d send a lion to your house if you said no?

Yes. I get together with illustrators all the time for coffee, where we swap stories about the kinds of critters Tammi Sauer will send after us if we say “no” to one her manuscripts. (Sharks, chipmunks, ducks, aliens, rock-and-roll-roosters, cave boys and skateboarding princesses. To name a few.)

ALSO: what really drew me to your manuscript was your humor. I love how you wrote the story in the chipper, yet bone-dry tone of an instruction manual. I knew immediately it would be so fun to try to draw pictures that showed things working out not-quite-as-well as the pet-care instructions led us to believe. (And I genuinely laughed out loud –actually, snorted out loud– when I read your joke about the pizza guy. Oh, man.)

These are some of the early cover sketches:

Can you share a little bit about your process?

I always start out by doodling… I read the manuscript, and just sketch whatever comes to mind. I try to organize my doodles into story “beats”, and look for page turns.

This part — finding the page turns– is super-important! … it’s always a nice feeling to have the narrator ask a question or set up a joke, and then turn the page to find the punchline or be surprised.  (I’m basically trying not to step on your toes at this point, but to support where I think you’re headed with each page.)

Then I sketch tighter drawings for each spread, scan ‘em in, and move to color. I’ll block in loose, flat shapes of color, and then add textures and details in Photoshop.

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

Try to draw with kids as often as you can. And draw fast and sloppy. If you worry about trying to get it PERFECT, you’ll never finish. At least, I won’t. (Oops. That’s like two or three key pieces of advice.)

Scoop time! What’s next for you?

I’ve just finished writing the 13th, and final book in my NOTEBOOK OF DOOM series, titled BATTLE OF THE BOSS-MONSTER. All I have to do now is draw the pictures. : ^ )

Troy, thanks so much for stopping by Picture Book Builders. And a huuuuuuge thank you for illustrating CARING FOR YOUR LION!

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Troy Cummings has been a writer, illustrator, janitor, and swim-team manager, but has never been a lion-tamer. Until now. He’s written and/or illustrated a whole pride of kids books, including THE NOTEBOOK OF DOOM, LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (w/ Tara Lazar), MIGHTY TRUCK (with Chris Barton), and THE EENSY WEENSY SPIDER FREAKS OUT. He lives in Indiana with his wife and their hungry, roaring, shaggy-maned kids.

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Tammi is giving away a CARING FOR YOUR LION prize pack to one lucky commenter. This pack may or may not come with a real lion. You’ve been warned.

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Check out the CARING FOR YOUR LION Activity Kit! It’s pretty fierce. Just click on the picture below.

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Congratulations to Elizabeth Curry! She won a signed copy of VAMPIRINA AT THE BEACH.


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. Becky Scharnhorst

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this book! It looks hilarious!

  2. A real lion may be involved? Count me in!

  3. What a great book! I am looking forward to reading and learning the tips should I ever get a lion! Thank you. 🙂

  4. OMG! I can’t wait to read this book and use it as a mentor text. I’m sure it’ll be one of my favorites! Thanks, Tammi and Troy.

  5. Stacy Digianantonio

    This book looks funny and I love the illustrations. I look forward to reading it!

  6. This book sounds like so much fun! Congrats to both of you!

  7. How lucky you are to have had Troy illustrate your book! I love your sense of humor, Tammi! Can’t wait to read your newest…and I’m not lyin’ 😉

  8. I’ve got this one on order and can’t wait to get it! Congratulations to both of you!!

  9. Such a lovely, fun book! Can’t wait to read it!

  10. Sounds like a rip-roaring good book. If I win, I will be mindful of the size of the package before I open it.

  11. Roaringly fun!
    Fond memories of my childhood book DANDELION by Don Freeman…lion hairstyles gone wrong. Or is it mane-styles?

  12. So ready for this one! And now I want to know the pizza guy joke, too. 😉

  13. Lindsay Hanson Metcalf

    What delicious interplay between text and illustration. Can’t wait to read it. Congrats, Tammi and Troy!

  14. This book looks like a roaring fun read! I love tongue-in-cheek humor and Troy’s art is so fun! What a great collaboration.

  15. I can’t wait for this book. So fun and adorable!

  16. What a great team! Can’t wait to read this book.

  17. This looks like a wonderful book. I look forward to reading it. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  18. I am anxiously awaiting to tame a lion! It never ceases to amaze me how much great illustrations help bring a book to life. Looks like another award winner!

  19. I love hearing about the artistic process. Thank you, Tammi and Troy. This sounds like a hilarious story!

  20. Such a fun idea! I’d love for a lion to come in the mail. This lion would be funnier though.

  21. Oh, how Purrr-fect! Can’t wait to get my claws on this one, Tammi and Troy!

  22. I LOVE stories with “unusual” pets! This will be so much fun to share with children!

  23. Congratulations to both of you! What a perfect collaboration!!!!!

  24. great post. my take-away: Draw fast & sloppy. Like the way we should write. Thanks – and can’t wait to read this book.

  25. This book looks so fun! Cool to see some of the initial sketches. Can’t wait to read it!

  26. Oh, man. Gotta get this book so I can snort about the pizza guy too. Great interview! Love seeing all those cover samples. Thank you, Troy and Tammi!

  27. Your new book looks hilarious, and now I need to know about the pizza guy. Thanks for this interview!

  28. Another slam dunk! Congrats!

  29. Everything about the book makes me want to get a lion! Love it!

  30. Troy, I’m a Hoosier, too. Your illustrations are darling. And I love the cover you decided on.

  31. This is the PERFECT book for our school’s Mentor Text Study we are doing this summer! 50 titles in one summer!

  32. Congrats on another winning title, Tammi! Love your illustrations, Troy. Can’t wait to read this one! I liked the hammock cover 🙂

  33. That’s a special delivery I’ll look forward to–the book, not the lion!

  34. I hope you’re not lyin’ about the lion…Delightful!

  35. Congratulation Tammi & Troy! This book looks awesome!

  36. danielle hammelef

    I have to read this book and study it for my own writing! This sounds hilarious and just plain fun! I hope the lion does come with the book…

  37. Kathy Mazurowski

    So much fun! Can’t wait to read it. Thanks for the opportunity.

  38. Looks like you have created another winning book! You rock!

  39. My granddaughters, Lily and Marley, would adore this book! Very appealing!

  40. So great to see a sneak peek of the story and hear some behind-the scenes details. My copy is arriving any day now! Talk to you guys in a few days! 😉

  41. Wonderful post–thank you, Troy!

  42. Love seeing this process…thanks for sharing!

  43. What A fun story. I think my Kindergarten class will truly enjoy this book. It looks like the perfect balance of exciting and sweet. Thank you for sharing and for the giveaway.

  44. Great post, Tammi, congratulations to you both! So interesting to get a peek at Troy’s process. I loved seeing the cover sketches! Can’t wait to share this one with kids. And I think it needs a sequel . . .

  45. This sounds like a real winner and one kids want to read again and again.

  46. Tammi, I loved your interview with Troy. And that’s no lion . . . sorry.
    I’d roar with excitement if I my name were drawn!

  47. Great advice about page turns. I love how the illustrations and text go together for the tongue-in-cheek adventures.

  48. Sherri Caballero

    This book is going on my must read list. I can’t wait to share it with my students. Great interview with Troy too! He’s the best.:)

  49. This looks hilarious. Can’t wait to read it. Congratulations!

  50. A great addition to any collection!

  51. What a dynamic duo you two are! Can’t wait to get my hands on this book (and perhaps a fluffy kitten – NO LION!)

  52. Tammi, I love your books. Can’t wait to see this one! Great article – loved seeing the illustrator’s process and all the cover options. Thank you!

  53. This book looks like so much fun. Can’t wait to read it! Congratulations!

  54. Thanks Tammy for sharing the scoop on your new book. Looking forward to reading it! Congratulations on it’s release.

  55. I can’t wait to read this- just ordered a copy, and look forward to finding out what happens! Love the illustrations- thanks for a peek at how they took shape.

  56. This book looks like so much fun with a perfect match of text and ilustrations. I can’t wait to read it.

  57. This sounds like a roaring-good read! Thanks for adding to my vocabulary – FWOOF! And congrats to you both!

  58. Thanks, Patricia!

    Troy gets credit for the FWOOF. 🙂

  59. No, I don’t want a lion, but I do want to read this book! See you both at the Indiana SCBWI conference. Lucky me to see both of you.

  60. I’ll risk being sent an actual lion. At least I’ll have the handy reference manual to go with it! This looks like a great book!

  61. Investigating this care manual may be prudent on my part as the grandsons would think getting a lion instead of a kitten was a terrific idea.

  62. How fun! Love seeing the cover sketches. Congrats to you both!

  63. Angie Quantrell

    Oh, what a fun book! Can’t wait to read it! Congrats!

  64. LOVE this book – it’s one of my new favorites! Perfect pairing of text and images. Congrats to you both.

  65. One of our nominees for our first time “Oklahoma Redbud read-Aloud Award!”

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