Suzanne Kaufman and TAKE YOUR PET TO SCHOOL DAY (+ Giveaway!)

Hello, all—

Guess what? We’ve got a very special guest visiting today. Author/illustrator Suzanne Kaufman is here to chat about her latest book, Take Your Pet to School Day — which, I’m happy to say, also happens to be my latest book. (For a chance to win one of two giveaway copies, leave a comment below.) 

In a recent round-up of back-to-school books, The New York Times summed it up like this:

“Ashman’s vivacious rhymes and Kaufman’s lovingly detailed illustrations bring a far-fetched dream to life in this larky story. One school’s students are told to bring their pets on Friday, and they do, not just dogs but a snake, a horse and an ant farm, pulled in a red wagon. Chaos reigns, and the teachers freak out. Turns out the pets themselves have engineered a scam — a highly entertaining one that proves school stories don’t have to be serious.”

I agree about Suzanne’s lovingly detailed illustrations. Take a look at what happens when the pets go to art class:

You might recognize Suzanne’s work from the New York Times bestselling book All Are Welcome, written by Alexandra Penfold.

She’s also the illustrator of several other books, including 100 Bugs by Kate Narita, and she wrote and illustrated Confiscated.

But let’s get on with the questions, shall we? Here’s Suzanne . . .

In your recent books, you’ve had a bazillion students, pets and bugs to illustrate. How do you begin? And how do you keep everyone straight? Any sketches you can share?

SMK: It is crazy. I feel like I am the gang of kids, animals, and bugs illustrator now, but I love it.  I keep it straight by trying to be authentic and not generic with my design.  All of my kids and pets are based on real people and critters.  So, as I begin a story, I create character sheets thinking of their personality as part of the design and pose choice in an illustration.  I work rough and as I go to final art, I ask what this character would do because of their personality.  I based costume designs on this.

I love that you asked me for photos of my dogs and included them in the book. Thank you for that! Here are Sammy and Stella at home, and in close-up on the final page of the book:

How many other characters in the book are based on real people (and animals)?

SMK: Embarrassingly too many to mention but here are few for the kids, adults and my own dog Pippi. 

How does your background in animation help you in illustrating picture books?

SMK: It lets me work very loose in the dummy and sketch phase knowing I can keep my character consistent while executing the final art.  Also, animation is all about the feeling, so I am always intuitively asking how my characters feel throughout the book.

We love looking at creative people’s working spaces. Can you share a picture or two of your studio? 

SMK: I have a home studio, but I am so busy with my family and life I pretty much work anywhere—at school, in the car, at my desk…

What keeps you inspired creatively?

SMK: School visits are my biggest inspiration right now.  I love connecting with kids and inspiring them to write and draw their own stories.  I love how they can find themselves in my books and have a story for everything.

So great to have you here, Suzanne. Thanks for stopping by!

Two more things . . .

(1) Suzanne created these fabulous printable bookmarks, which are available to download right here on her website.

(2) For more about the writing of the story (and the value of hanging on to old drafts), you can read my post over here.

Book Giveaway!!!

To win one of two signed (by me) copies of the book, leave a comment below by September 10th. I’ll announce the randomly-selected winner in my next post.

Thanks for reading, everyone. And here’s to a happy school year for all!



Linda Ashman

Linda Ashman is the author of more than 40 picture books, as well as The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a “how to” e-book for picture book writers.


  1. This looks like such a fun PB, I can’t wait to read it!

  2. Thanks for sharing your process. I would love to win a copy of your book. Kudos to you both.

  3. This is fantastic! Love seeing all of your character development Suzanne! Your work makes me smile!

  4. It is thrilling to see the workings of artists! Looking forward to reading the additions to my list.

  5. Wonderful to get Suzanne’s behind the scenes process of creation. I love that each character is based on a real person or animal.

  6. Oh my goodness – such pet-packed fun! Thanks for sharing. Loved everything about this post!

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    Judith Wright Aplin

    Oh, my, do I have unfinished mss in a file…just waiting for “someday”……!
    I look forward to reading this whole book and examining the wonderful children and animals illustrated in it…

  8. What fun illustrations–I especially like the cover of her book “Confiscated”!

  9. Congratulations Linda and Suzanne. Your newest book sounds fantastic! I loved the inside look at the design process for the characters.

  10. Can’t wait to add this to my read-aloud stack!

  11. This book looks adorable! I love the idea of a take your pet to school day which is probably every kid’s dream & most teacher’s nightmare. And the art looks adorable! I’ve put it on hold at my library. Can’t wait to read it!

  12. I love the illustrations and can’t wait to read the text! Congratulations!

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    Debra K Shumaker

    Looks like such a fun book. Can’t wait to read it!

  14. Congrats on your latest book! It looks adorable!

  15. How fun, I’m looking forward to reading this! I love how many of the people and pets are based on real people and pets, so cool. Congratulations to you both!!

  16. Congratulations! This book looks like so much fun! Fun to share with children! Fun to write & fun to illustrate!! Can’t wait to get my hands on it!!

  17. So MUCH inspiration here, Linda and Suzanne. AWESOME post! Congrats on the new book!

  18. What a fun look into our process, Suzanne! Great illustrations! Congratulations on your book!

  19. As a writer, it is so enlightening to see how an illustrator works. It also inspires. I itch to get back to my work – with an eraser.

  20. How fun to see Suzanne’s character inspirations! I look forward to reading and playing a game of, Find Jessixa Bagley!

  21. So adorable! I love the pets and the chaos of a pet day at school. Because you know it would be chaos! Congratulations!

  22. As a former teacher and now a children’s author myself, I love this book idea! Hahaha. With all the serious books, it’s nice to laugh at one now and then. Congrats and loved the interview.

  23. This was so much fun. I loves seeing the inspiration faces behind the characters.

  24. Sammy, Stella, and Pippi must be so proud! It was fun to read about all the inspiration you had for this book. Great post and congrats on the new book.

  25. Who doesn’t love a bit of chaos? This book looks delightful!

  26. Loved the inside peek at the making of the art here. Congrats on the book—can’t wait to share it with my students!

  27. Fabulous, detailed and interesting interview on both sides. I always wondered about the process of bookmaking, ever since binding my book of songs at 10 y.o. I love almost everything Suzanne Kauffman creates, her characters make me feel joy. I also like her politics, but that’s just extra. You got lucky being put together. I love the magic synergy of two creatives complimenting each other to create something more powerful than they could have alone. Linda, I love that you use verse, it’s my favorite style of PBs, maybe because the rhythm makes me think up melodies. I just got your book for my Kindle….The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. What a treasure trove of wonderful info. Thank you. I am learning so much more about PBs with the help of your generous Kidlit community. What I am learning from writers is invaluable to my songwriting, whether kidlit or not. I feel like a college kid again with all this delicious knowledge. Again, thanks for sharing, congratulations on your hard work paying off. Please consider me in your book drawing. Peace, Annie🎶

    • Thanks so much, Annie. I’m glad you’re finding Nuts & Bolts helpful! By the way, songwriting is an excellent background for writing picture books. Good luck with your writing!

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    Danielle Hammelef

    Take Your Pet to School Day is fun, chaotic, and adorable! I enjoyed the interview and looking at all the bright illustrations. The text is definitely going to be mentor text for me.

  29. Each and every word so carefully chosen and then the illustrations make those jewels of words shine even brighter. Now, I just have to get a pet to take to school!

  30. That was absolutely fascinating to learn about the illustrator’s process! These are some fabulous pictures. I can see how animation helps to bring your illustrations to life. I will share this post to my fb page. Too cool!

  31. This is so fun, Linda and Suzanne!! I just love when authors and illustrators of the same book interview each other, because you both know the project best out of anyone else. Thanks for sharing!

  32. This looks wonderful! Congrats all around.

  33. So so cute & the dogs are perfect models.

  34. I love this post! Thanks, ladies. 🙂

  35. My son just started school and I enjoy reading him any back-to-school books I can find. Adorable illustrations!

  36. So excited about a new Linda Ashman book – this one looks delightful!

  37. All I can say is “WOW!”

  38. What a great interview with so much fun in the illustrations!
    Your process is awesome, Suzanne and thanks for sharing it with us

  39. Congratulations, Linda and Suzanne. I love seeing Suzanne’s creative process. Thanks for sharing!!

  40. What a fun behind the scenes look at your new book, Linda and Suzanne. My library doesn’t own it yet, but I’m fixing that with a purchase request today!!😊😊

  41. Thanks so much for doing that, LeeAnn. I hope your library agrees it’s a worthy purchase! 🙂

  42. I love the diversity as seen in the people and the animals. It truly represents us in the world.

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    Carmela McCain Simmons

    This will be the perfect birthday gift for a young reader I know. Delightful verses and brilliant illustrations! How fun!
    Thank you for sharing!

  44. Congratulations! Such a fun book.

  45. I just love this…thanks for sharing!

  46. This is lovely and super fun! I enjoy seeing Suzanne’s characters come to life in Linda’s delightful story. All the best for your new book!

  47. What a fun post! I loved seeing the inspiration behind Suzanne’s characters! Congrats to you both on this fun book!

  48. What a clever idea for a story! Sounds like it’s loads of fun. Requesting it from my library now.

  49. We love your book, “Take your Pet to School Day” and “All are Welcome.” All of our elementary libraries are reading the first book because it was nominated for the Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award this year. It’s so exciting. We are all reading your book first. I just got done creating lessons in Seesaw and Google Slides for K-3rd. I can’t wait to show them this page as well! Thank you both for your talent!

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