Nugget & Fang Go to School (+ GIVEAWAY)

Nugget & Fang the SEA-quel is finally here! It’s called Nugget & Fang Go to School.

When Fang the shark is invited by his friends to attend Mini Minnows Elementary, he thinks it’s a great idea! But then his first day of school arrives . . . and suddenly, he’s not so sure. He’s not very good at reading or math. He doesn’t exactly fit in with his classmates. And the teacher looks crabby! Can Fang’s best friend, Nugget, and the other minnows help him discover that school really is FANG-TASTIC?

Not only was it so much fun spending time with these old friends, but it was a total joy to get to work on another book with Michael Slack.

This is what Kirkus had to say about Michael’s art in the sea-quel:

“Slack deftly portrays Fang’s every emotion. Readers will no doubt feel empathetic.”

Nice, huh?

Want to know a secret about Michael Slack? The first Nugget & Fang went to auction. I was having a hard time deciding which house to choose until I posed this question to the editors:  whom do you envision as the illustrator for this book? Both editors came back with a wonderful option, but I happily accepted the offer from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt because, well, MICHAEL SLACK. I knew Michael’s vibrant palette and ability to create endearing, expressive characters would make the perfect fit for these fishy friends.

Today, I want to welcome Michael to Picture Book Builders!

Michael, what made you say YES to the first Nugget & Fang?

I was already a fan of your books. They are funny and clever and you have a very unique voice. Me Want Pet took me forever to read to my daughter because I was laughing so hard . When I read the Nugget & Fang manuscript, I got the to line โ€œNugget was shocked. (And apparently delicious.)โ€ and I knew I was doing it.  It was also a great opportunity to create a character that looked slightly menacing but is a total softy at heart.  Also, I admired so many of the illustrators you had worked with ( Bob Shea, Scott Magoon, Dan Krall, Dan Santat) I wanted to be a part of the Tammi Sauer Illustrator Club. 

Well, it IS a pretty great club. ๐Ÿ™‚

Btw, that line was my favorite one in the whole book!

Can you share a little about your process?

I always start with character sketches–iteration after iteration–until I find the character. That is always a wonderful moment seeing the character for the first time. Itโ€™s like meeting someone that you really like and want to hang out with.

This is the first character sketch of Nugget and Fang. At this stage I just allow myself to play around with shapes and forms.

These are early character concepts of Nugget. I do as many variations as possible going in many different directions until the character reveals itself.

Since the characters in Nugget & Fang Go to School were already established, it was more about capturing Fangโ€™s expressions and finding the funniest situations to compliment your wonderful sense of humor.  Here are a few of the earliest concept sketches for Nugget & Fang Go to School:

Please give us a tour of your studio. (You get a bonus point for every sea creature in the scene.) 

I work in a 10,000 sq. foot converted sardine factory. Here is the mermaid pool / think tank. They come up with the best ideas during our brainstorming sessions.  This is my studio assistant Jules. I was surprised when a colossal squid answered my LinkedIn ad . If it werenโ€™t for him, Iโ€™d get nothing done around here. Cephalopods can really multi-task . This whole place is powered by electric eels. Can you believe it?

Wait. You want photos? Let me start over. 

I work from a very small room in my house. There is just enough space for my work table, a small drawing table, a shelving unit, and my loyal โ€œstudioโ€ companion Iggy Pup. 

Not only have you illustrated lots of books by other people, but you often write and illustrate your own books. Would you please share an illustrating tip and a writing tip with us?

Illustrate things that arenโ€™t being said in the text, something different that adds another level of depth to the story.  It is also fun to add little details that can be discovered over multiple readings. As for writing, that is more tricky. I rarely write the story first. My author/illustrator books are a back and forth between imagery and text.  I think visually so most of the first drafts of my books are wordless storyboards.  I  sketch, then find the words to go with it. Then see where it takes me. I make lots of lists in the beginning for example:

Spread 1: Lumpy Ghost is looking for something.
Spread 2: Still looking but in funnier places.

It helps me organize my thoughts and gives me a simple outline to build from.  So, I guess my writing tip is make lists. 

Scoop time! What’s next for you?

Iโ€™ve just finished my next author/illustrator book, Dragon Meets Boy for Christy Ottaviano Books/ Henry Holt out next year.  Iโ€™ve recently sold two projects that have not been announced yet. As an illustrator, we have Nugget & Fang Race Around the Reef coming out in October. Iโ€™ve also illustrated a fun non-fiction reader series called Truth or Lie by Erica S. Perl. 

Michael, FANGYOUVERYMUCH for visiting Picture Book Builders.


After receiving a Fine Art degree in painting, Michael worked as a character designer and art director in the childrenโ€™s gaming industry before launching his career in illustration. He has authored and illustrated books for Henry Holt, Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin, Chronicle, HarperCollins, and Disney*Hyperion and has created many popular kids products. While contemporary art, animation, and modernist design inform his style, it is his humor, playfulness, and love of quirky characters that are the heart of his illustrations. Michael lives  in the San Francisco Bay Area with his family.

insta: @michael_slackart

twitter: @michaelslackart


To enter to win your very own copy of Nugget & Fang Go to School, please leave a comment on this post. For a second entry, share this post on Twitter. Don’t forget to tag Tammi @SauerTammi and Michael @michaelslackart.


Congratulations, Annette Bay Pimentel! You are the winner of a signed-by-Barbara-Lowell copy of Sparky & Spike.

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. We are big fans of Nugget and Fang in this house and happy to see them go to school!

  2. Angie Quantrell

    It’s back to school time! Can’t wait to read this one! Congratulations!

  3. So excited for this! FANG-TASTIC! Thanks, Tammi. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the art, Michael!


  4. Debra K Shumaker

    Oooh, I can’t wait to get a copy of the sequel! I love Nugget and Fang – text and art!

  5. A delightful post! Thanks to both of you for sharing this book!

  6. Love these illustrations…thanks for sharing!

  7. So glad Nugget and Fang are getting a sea-quel! Congratulations Tammi and Michael!! Woohoo!

  8. What a fun interview. I really liked the shot of his office and assistant.

  9. Maria Gianferrari

    Congrats on another hilarious book, Tammi & Michael!

  10. My Ss and I love Nugget and Fang! Can’t wait to read their latest adventure!

  11. “Cephalopods can really multi-task.” LOL

    And thanks for the list-making tip! The item for Spread #2 really sums up the entire writing process for me.

  12. There’s so much to love about this post! Where do I start? Tammi’s expert use of word play plus Michael’s incredible talent equals a match made in storybook heaven. Can’t wait to check it out!

  13. Sounds like a great summer birthday gift for a nephew heading to school in the fall for the first time.

  14. โค๏ธ Nugget and Fang! Canโ€™t wait to share the sea-quel with my Ss this fall!

  15. Great interview! Can’t wait to read the book!

  16. Love it! Can’t wait to read it!

  17. Looking forward to reading this fun book and sharing it with the little ones in my life. Congratulations!

  18. Danielle Hammelef

    The art is so fun! Can’t wait to read this book too. Iggy pup is so adorable!

  19. I definitely get the bit about ‘meeting’ the drawn character for the first time! Great expressions and I love the stickering on the sketch book! All the best with your future projects, Michael!

  20. Not only did this post intrigue me to read the book, but now I know where Michael’s secret wall safe is located! Valuable information from a fellow writer/illustrator. Congratulations these books looks so beautiful!

  21. thank you for sharing your work style and office!

  22. So fun to see others’ creative space. And assistants!

  23. Congratulations, Tammy and Michael! I’m delighted to see another Nugget and Fang adventure!

  24. Fang you for inviting Michael to share with us! Looking forward to reading and looking at your book!

  25. I love Nugget and Fang. Look forward to reading the sequel. Thanks for the interview. I’m curious about the Ganesh print handing in his studio.What’s the story there? ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite Tammi Sauer book, but Nugget and Fang ranks high…needless to say I can’t wait to read and view this new creation by the two of you! Congrats, Tammi and Michael!

  27. Rebecca Gardyn Levington

    Thank you for this awesome interview! Canโ€™t wait to read this! ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. What a fun sneak peek into the illustration process. Canโ€™t wait to read this one. We love the first one.

  29. Loved this post. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Love the interview and sketch samples! What a treat!!

  31. Yay, another Nugget and Fang book! Fun to see the illustrator’s perspective! Thanks for the contest!

  32. Kris Kuykendall

    LOVE the interview with Michael! I laughed out loud in parts! Go Nugget and Fang!!!

  33. The original is one of my all-time favorite PBโ€™s, canโ€™t wait for the sequel!

  34. What an amazing team ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ I adore process!
    P.S. I REALLY want to know what’s in the secret wall safe ๐Ÿ˜‰

  35. Thanks so much for posting this. As a writer, I love seeing things from the illustrator’s point of view. Even though I’m not an artist, I think your idea of drawing the story first–or imagining it in pictures–is helpful. It also fascinates me that an illustrator can give an animal like a shark clear expressions of emotion.

  36. Ashley Bankhead

    What a fin-tastic interview! I am excited to read this book. Congrats to both of you!

  37. Tammi and Michaelโ€”you are a great team! I’m very excited to read the newest Nugget and Fang book! Congratulations!

  38. Awesome! We love Nugget & Fang at my school and canโ€™t wait for their next adventure!

  39. Brandi Oโ€™Leary

    I love the vibrant and captivating illustrations! Thank you for sharing a little bit of the the process for the purpose! So many will be blessed by Tammyโ€™s wonderful story telling and your amazing story telling with radiant illustrations!

  40. I love your illustrations, Michael! They have so much character. Both you and Tammi have created a delightful book!

  41. His art is really something, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ™‚

  42. Jennifer Rumberger

    Fun interview!

  43. Fang’s face! I can see why you chose Michael Slack when you had the chance. I was happy to hear about this new Nugget & Fang, and now I see there will be a third. Congrats!!

  44. What a fun and enjoyable interviewโ€”thanks to you both for asking and sharing!

  45. Hearing about an artist or writers process is always interesting. I love Me Want Pet. I haven’t read any Nugget and Fang books…yet. Now I cannot wait.

  46. Thanks for the behind the seas tour, Tammi and Michael. Looking forward to this new Nugget and Fang adventure.

  47. Loved this interview, Michael’s reaction to Nugget and Fang, and the best line! Congratulations Tammi and Michael!!! Another winner!!!

  48. Valerie Bottcher

    This book sounds like so much fun! I’m already a fan of yours, Tammi, and from this interview, I’m now “hooked” on Michael, too !

  49. Love this interview!! Congrats to you and Michael! I especially enjoyed the tour of the sardine factory…er, home office.

  50. Love this, Tammi. Congratulations to you and Michael!

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