Sparky & Spike (+ GIVEAWAY)

My guess is you already know the stars of the book Sparky & Spike: Charles Schulz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever. You don’t think so? Well, maybe these two clues will help: Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

This book, written by Barbara Lowell and illustrated by Dan Andreason, takes us to the childhood of Charles M. Schulz and introduces us to one very special dog.

This is what Kirkus had to say about the book:

“A fetching story, perfect for budding artists and lovers of the funnies.”

And, in a starred review, Booklist called it:

“Doggone fun.”

Nice, huh?

I’m so happy to welcome Barbara to Picture Book Builders!

Barbara, congratulations on Sparky & Spike being named a Junior Library Guild Selection. What an honor! How you did you come up with the idea for this book?

Thank you, Tammi! I’ve always loved the comic strip Peanuts. I thought that a biography of Charles Schulz would make a fun picture book. I was surprised and happy that no one had written one before.

I first wrote a manuscript about Charles that began when he was about six years old and ended on the day Peanuts first appeared in print. Charles was an adult for a good part of the manuscript. I sent it to a freelance editor who suggested that I focus on Charles as a child and his relationship with his dog Spike. So, I did. Amy Novesky, my editor at Cameron Kids, asked me to add sections from the first manuscript, when Charles is a child, into the second. This turned out to be a great idea.

You’ve written many nonfiction books (biographies, narrative nonfiction, etc.) for kids. Please share some advice for those of us who might want to give nonfiction a try.

I grew up reading lots of nonfiction books. I think a writer needs to have a passion for nonfiction and research. It can take a long time to research a subject and having that passion makes researching fun, not a chore.

Of course, as with any project, a writer needs to read books in their genre. I primarily write picture book biographies and have read hundreds of them. It’s a good idea to take online and/or in person classes about writing nonfiction for children. The Highlights Foundation has excellent classes and does offer scholarships. And subscribe to Melissa Stewart’s blog. She is a great resource. Her blog address is:

What are three fun facts that you learned in your research that didn’t make it into the book?

Charles Schulz named several characters after his friends: Charlie Brown, Linus and Frieda.

He always thought that he would write an action-adventure comic strip not one about children. In Peanuts, Snoopy seeks adventure by leading his Foreign Legion patrol through the desert and fighting the Red Baron atop his dog house.

At first, Charles decided to name the dog in Peanuts, Sniffy. But he discovered there was already a dog with that name in a comic magazine. He chose Snoopy because his mother had once suggested that as a good name for a dog.

You have an upcoming event at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. Tell us a little about this opportunity.

Cameron Kids, an imprint of Cameron + Company is located in Petaluma, California, not far from Santa Rosa. I have been working with Cameron Kids’s publicist, Emma Kallok. She approached the museum about hosting me. During my research for the book, I visited the museum’s online website many times. I’m excited that now I will be visiting the museum in person.

Scoop time! What’s next for you?

My Mastodon, based on a true family that lived in a natural history museum with their “pet” mastodon, will be released in Spring 2020. Behind the Bookcase: Miep Gies, Anne Frank and the Hiding Place will be out in Spring 2021. It’s a biography of Miep Gies and her relationship with Anne Frank. Miep was one of the people that helped hide Anne Frank. She is responsible for saving Anne’s diary. I recently finished a picture book about a mischievous kid, and I am working on two more nonfiction picture books. 

Thank you, Tammi for inviting me!

Thank YOU for stopping by. 🙂


Barbara Lowell is the author of Sparky & Spike: Charles Schulz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever; Daring Amelia; Alexander Hamilton, American Hero and more books for children. She is a member of SCBWI.


Twitter: @barbara_lowell


Barbara is giving away a signed copy of Sparky & Spike: Charles Schulz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever.

For a chance to win, please leave a comment. For another chance to win, share this post on Twitter. Make sure to tag Barbara @barbara_lowell and Tammi @SauerTammi.


Congratulations, Danielle Dufayet! Cluck-cluck. What luck! You are the winner of A Little Chicken.

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. Ladies, thank you so much for this wonderful interview! I LOVE how the idea morphed and became even cooler. I especially enjoyed all the outtakes, and I’m so excited to check out your other books, too. I definitely want to write NF someday, but I love your advice, it needs to be about something that I’m really passionate about.

  2. This looks wonderful, Tammi. I cannot resist a dog story, and that it includes Schultz is a plus. Thanks for sharing & congrats to you, Barbara! Looking forward to reading it!

  3. Thank you for this fun, interesting post. I read it twice over. Thank you, Terri

  4. Valerie Lawson

    Ah! Two of my favorite people in one post! What a fantastic interview, Tammi! I am a HUGE fan of this book (and its author!)

  5. Danielle Hammelef

    I learned some facts already about this man. I’m looking forward to reading this book.

  6. I was a huge fan of Charles Schulz / Snoopy when I was little! This looks charming!

  7. As a fan of Charles Schulz and Snoopy and the whole Peanuts gang, I need this book in my library. I am also a fan of Highlights Foundation workshops, which are helpful with fiction as well as non fiction.

  8. Cant wait to read this one. Ive been to the Shultz museum many times. The whole city celebrates Peanuts. (Im even wearing my Charlie Brown shirt today!) 🙂

  9. Barb,
    Your book sounds like a fun read. I recently read Carles Schultz retirement letter to his readers and had renewed respect for him.

  10. I love Charles Schulz and any book about him. I would teach letter writing to my 3rd and 4th grade students, and they would send letters to Mr. Schulz. He would answer their questions and send each child a personalized letter. He did this for 25 years up until his death. Happiness is a warm puppy, but for my former students, happiness was a letter from Charles Schulz.

  11. Debra K Shumaker

    I can’t believe a PB bio hadn’t been done on him yet! I can’t wait to read this story!

  12. That’s awesome to write about Charles Schulz! Congrats!

  13. Wow! Finally got a chance to read our copy at the library and loved it! Also thrilled to know that Dan Andreasen lives only an hour away from us in Medina, Ohio…

  14. This looks great! Looking forward to reading. Love me some Snoopy. Thanks, Tammi.

  15. What a perfect design for this topic! Congratulations!

  16. Thanks for highlighting this book, Tammi. As I’m sure Barbara knows, Minneapolis/St. Paul goes way back in Schulz trivia as the place where he was born and went to school. There’s even a golf course in St.Paul with a sand bunker in the shape of Snoopy!
    Great book, Barbara!!

  17. Cindy Schumerth

    Another great post! Thanks.

  18. Thanks for sharing this book with us! I can’t wait to read it!

  19. Sandra Nichols

    Always enjoy these interviews. I’ll be looking not only for Barbara Lowells’ book Sparky & Spike: Charles Schulz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever but the upcoming book My Mastodon. And Barbara, thanks for sharing Melissa Stewart’s link. I visited it and am signed on.

  20. Patricia Nozell

    When I first learned about this new picture book biography, I reserved it at my library. Learning the backstory makes me want to read it even more.

  21. This book looks adorable! Congrats, Barbara!

  22. Fascinating! Thank you!

  23. Nadya Abu-Rish

    I can’t wait to read this one!

  24. I just love this…thanks for sharing!

  25. Cassie Bentley

    What a great idea. Everyone knows Snoopy, so now we have a book about his creator. I love that the illustrations look like the 1950’s textbook illustrations.

  26. What a great peek behind the creation of Snoopy. So sweet to see the childhood influence of Schulz’s relationship with his dog.

  27. I love the art, and am excited about her upcoming books, too!

  28. Wonderful interview!!! Love all the tidbits behind the making of this book!!!

  29. Wonderful interview! Loved reading a bit about Barbara’s process for the book, and her advice for non-fiction PB writers (and how Snoopy might have been Sniffy…). Thanks, Tammi, and congratulations, Barbara–SPARKY & SPIKE looks fabulous!

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