Oh, Picture Book Builders people, summer is here! Author Meg Fleming and illustrator Paola Zakimi have just the book for us.
This is what School Library Journal and Kirkus had to say:
This first purchase is a perfect storytime choice to usher in the beach season, and the rhyming, repetitive text is simple enough to enable even the youngest children to chime in. A bonus: Youngsters will meet a few unusual ocean creatures, all of which are labeled on the endpapers.”–School Library Journal (starred review)
“…a delightful day of beach exploration.”–Kirkus
I thought we could all use a day at the beach. Joining us for this bit of fun in the sun is Meg Fleming.
Hi, Meg! Welcome to Picture Book Builders.
Hi, Tammi! It’s an honor to be here, thanks for having me!
Tell us a little about your latest book, Here Comes Ocean.
Of course! Here Comes Ocean is a virtual day at the beach, complete with sand, salt and seashells. A family of three – and sidekick pup – take a trip to the beach and with each wave that rolls in, a new ocean treasure floats, skitters or crashes to shore. It’s a book of great oceanic discovery!
What was the initial inspiration?
I’m so glad you asked! A few years ago, my family was watching my 3-year-old niece, Marina, while my sister was busy having a baby. We took Marina to the beach for some fun and she and I were having a pretty massive conversation about seaweed when she noticed a big wave about to crest.
She looked at me. She looked at the ocean. She looked at me again, this time holding her pointer finger up and said, “Oh! Here comes Ocean.” And with that she excused herself from our conversation to take her call with Ocean.
In three words she not only anthropomorphized the entire ocean, but she had a mission and a date to keep!
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. She said it once, and it haunted me for two years until I figured out how to make it work in a book.
I love that! Hmm…I think I need to schedule an appointment to hang out with that niece of yours!
You are a master at creating fun-to-read-aloud, heartfelt rhyming picture books. What is your secret?!
Oh my goodness, Tammi! Look who’s talking!! Stop making my day, THANK YOU!
It’s not much of a secret, but here’s what usually happens with me. As mentioned above, I usually become haunted by a couple of words. The word patterns, and the rhythm swish and sway around in my head until I can’t contain the rhythm anymore, and I need to splat every possible idea out on a big sheet of butcher block paper. One hundred percent of the time, when I write in rhyme, I end up writing out the alphabet across the top of that giant sheet of paper. (Don’t get me wrong, I know it… I know the song!) But there’s something about the act of writing the alphabet that unlocks things for me.
I am constantly asking myself, is there a better word that says more? Once I have a ton of options, I circle my favorite stanzas and then begin my hunt for a story arc. It’s truly an act of piecing together a puzzle… and it’s my FAVORITE thing to do. And the heart falls in. You gotta have heart take-away. Heart is something that can’t be injected like in a recipe, like “okay now add two and a half cups of heart.” For me the heart part is either there from the get-go or it seeps into the piece during the revision process.
Most of the time it just comes naturally. I feel like if an idea doesn’t have heart, I probably won’t be compelled to write it.
Okay, in addition to booking that appointment with your niece, I now need to invest in some butcher block paper. What a fun way to dive into a story!
I love how your title is also a refrain that we see throughout the pages of this book. Not only is a refrain a great way to break up a rhyming text, but it also offers an invitation for little listeners to participate in the reading of the book. How did this title/refrain come about? Do you have any advice as to how to create just the right refrain?
Oh my goodness, I need the answer to this question right now for another manuscript I’m working on!
As I mentioned earlier, this perfect refrain and title came by way of a child, and her in-the-moment whimsy. I’m still amazed by how it happened. I think the key with this phrase is the anticipation. If we can come up with a succinct way to say, “But wait… there’s more!” in a few words, then kids will want to hang around for the page turn.
In this instance, the refrain and title were easy to come by, but the rest of the story took some patience. In books I’ve written where the story comes first, it takes a lot of trial and error to find the right refrain. I have to revise a lot to land on the right set of words with the right beat.
I am a big fan of some well-executed endpapers. The endpapers for Here Comes Ocean are gorgeous and informative. Who came up with the idea for them?
Oh my, so am I! I really wanted a learning experience to go along with all of these amazing critters, and also… how dreamy is Paola Zakimi?! I asked my awesome editor, Andrea Welch, if we could use the endpapers for some Ocean ID, and she said “yes!” As you know, it’s always a beautiful group effort. Paola’s artwork is transportive and I’m so glad we get the chance to spend time with the ocean treasures on the endpapers.
In a super geeky moment, I sent Andrea a spreadsheet of all of the common and Latin names for the ocean critters in the book. She told me that I’m the first author to ever send her an Excel doc. That is high praise coming to a girl who is the least linear thinker on land. (I will tell you this, the Latin name for By-the-wind Sailors is VelellaVelella. It didn’t make it in the book, but you can see how I became obsessed with all these beautiful words.)
Oh, I am a total fan of super geeky moments. And how great is the word VelellaVelella?!
Scoop time! What’s next for you?
Yaaay! Coming Summer 2021, I have a new book coming out called Sounds Like School Spirit and it’s a pep rally on the page. Sounds Like School Spirit is being illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, as we speak(!) and is published by Dial Books/Penguin Random House. I cannot wait to share this cheer-for-school with the world. After that, in Spring 2022, Wondering Around, illustrated by Richard Jones and published by Beach Lane Books/Simon and Schuster will be coming out. Wondering Around is a picture book that shows how wondering about little things can lead to big discoveries. I can’t wait for this as wondering while wandering is an activity I hold near and dear to my heart.
Meg! I can’t wait for these books! Thanks for stopping by and sharing so much with all of us. Now, if only I can figure out how to move Oklahoma closer to the ocean……
Meg Fleming is an award-winning children’s book author, a fan of all dogs and a big-time laugher. Also, a voice teacher, Meg draws on her love of rhythm, rhyme, and lyricism to create and imagine stories.
Meg’s books have received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, but, most importantly, they are loved by children and dreamers of all ages. She is the author of Here Comes Ocean, Sometimes Rain, Ready, Set, Sail!, Ready, Set, Build! and I Heart You. Meg writes from her home outside of San Francisco with a dog on her feet. Visit her at www.megfleming.net.
For a chance to win a SIGNED-BY-MEG copy of Here Comes Ocean, leave a comment and/or share this post on Twitter. Please be sure to tag Meg @megosphere and Tammi @SauerTammi. Winner must live in the continental United States.
Congratulations, Hillary Craig! You won a copy of Frog Meets Dog!
I love the sparse text, the recurring theme, the charming illustrations, and the fact that it was inspired by a child’s response to the ocean and the author’s response to the whimsy and rhythm of the child’s words.
Thank you so much, Colleen. <3
This looks so fun and just right for a summer read! Congratulations and good luck !
Looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing your process.
My pleasure, Cindy!
Congrats on another amazing looking book!
Thank you, Kim!
I love that this was inspired by the adorable words of a child. Great interview!
Out of the mouths of babes! Thank you, Mary!
Congratulations, Meg and Paola on a gorgeous (and, dare I say, cute) book! Love the illustrations and am encouraged to see that good rhyme is still being bought by publishers! I’m encouraged.
Mary, you may! Thank you. Keep going with your stories!
I love that the initial idea for your book came from a simple but fun line spoken by a child. I’m now going to comb my memory for potential ideas from my nieces and nephews!
Yes, Mary! All the adorable things that little kids say… they’re the best fodder because they speak ‘kid’ the best! Thank you!
I adore your secrets on word play and adding heart to the tale. Looking forward to reading this and all your exciting books to come. Congrats!
Cathy, that means the world. Thank you so very much! xoxo
Love how you got the idea!
All you have to do is tell your sister to have a baby and then watch the rest of her kids for the weekend! Works like a charm! LOL ( J/k, of course.)
The deal is, inspiration is EVERYWHERE. We just need to keep our eyes and ears open. 🙂
This looks lovely. I especially love the refrain!
Thank you, Rebecca!
Book looks great! I look forward to reading it to my twins!
Hooray for TWINS!! (And an extra toast to the parents who double-up on EVERYTHING!!) Thank you, Zachary!
Love to hear how you were inspired – here comes a winning picture book! Congrats!
Thank you so much, Danielle! <3
I love how your niece’s words “swished and swayed” in your head until you had to get them out on butcher block paper (what a great way to get the creative juices flowing)! Thank you for sharing the backstory for this book, and thank you also for a virtual summer day today!
Thank you so much, Lori! It has been a treat to be here!
We all need a virtual day at the beach, don’t we?
Love it! I so enjoy going to the beach, but this visit will be risk free! Congratulations!
Yes, this is one trip to the beach that doesn’t require sunscreen or hand sanitizer! Thank you, Angie!
What a great post, interview and new book!!! Living near the beach, I so appreciate the whole idea of Here Comes The Ocean and cant wait to read it! ?
Awwww, a beach friend! Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy the book – Paola’s illustrations are truly transportive!
Oh my, that butcher paper exercise is BRILLIANT! Can’t wait to read this book. Thanks for a great post!
Debra, if I had it my way, ALL of school would have been done on butcher block paper! We need all the space we can get, right?! Sending best to you and your stories!
Such a wonderfully inspiring interview. Here Comes Ocean will be a beloved favorite for kids and a mentor text for rhyme with heart. Congratulations!
Thank you so much, Claire. I really appreciate that. <3
This book looks cute and beach books are always a hit!
Thank you, Stacy!
This brought me right back to growing up near the beaches in Los Angeles. Congratulations on another wonderful book, Meg, and great post, Tammi.
Thanks so much, Wendy! Awwww I’m glad this brought back good, beachy memories!
Love the ocean and this book is wonderful. Congrats Meg (Gem) and thanks Tammi for the interview.
Hahaaa! Thank you, Deb! I really appreciate it!
The beach and ocean are my happy places. I love how this idea came to you and enjoy that it took time for your brain to figure out how to make it into a book. I have ideas but just can’t make them work. Congratulations and thanks for the interview.
Danielle, I totally get that. I feel like some ideas need to stew longer than others, don’t you. In the case of this book, I really needed to leave it alone to steep. It’s hard to be patient when we know we have something special but aren’t sure how to frame it in or piece it together.
When I was a music student, I had a voice teacher who would say to me, “don’t ever ‘take’ a breath… ‘allow’ the breath.”
This is something that I’ve thought about a lot. “Allowing ideas to work” vs. “making ideas work” are a pretty big distinction. We can’t really make magic happen – then it’s not magic, but we *can* make a space for magic, and allow it to pay us a visit.
I say, take the ideas you love the most, write them on a post it and stick it on a wall. Then the idea will know you expect great things from it.
See what happens and let me know!
Wonderful interview! I grew up near the ocean and this book is sure to bring back special memories. Looking forward to reading it and enjoying the pictures!
Thank you so much, Jill! Another ocean-girl!!
I love the ocean and I can’t wait to read your story! Thanks for sharing how it came to be! How neat!
Sounds like the kind of book that will call me to the beach.
You use language so beautifully. I love Sometimes Rain and can’t wait to read this one. Very interesting that you write and then puzzle together the arc.
So lovely! Now I’m even more excited for an upcoming beachy trip to San Diego!
Your book sounds wonderful Meg! The ocean is just where my family and I would love to visit someday:)
I have a rough draft of an ocean book. This will inspire me to work on it! Can’t wait to read your book!
Congratulations Meg! I love the ocean and this book sounds like a wonderful tribute to a child’s experience with the sea.
As a rhymer, I surely enjoyed this post and what a great kid and adult friendly subject!
I grew up near Myrtle Beach and love the ocean! Great job, Meg and Tammi.
You all are making my so happy, I’m gonna have to yell, “Please pass the Kleenex!” Thank you for sharing in the fun! Huge beachy hugs (with sunscreen and hand sanitizer from a distance, of course)!
Now go write something AWESOME! You’ve got an amazing idea in there, and I know you have a unique and special way of sharing it. Stay with it! xoxo
This looks like such a fun and playful story . I love books that are centered around rhyme.
This book is sweet and fun…just what I needed as i watch the coronavirus numbers going up in my state.
I love the whole concept of the ocean coming to greet us! In my own geeky moment, it reminded me of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Grammar of Animacy” in Braiding Sweetgrass. I live by the sea, and it is alive!
Here Comes Ocean! Thank you for sharing your process. Love the butcher block paper surround. I’m a visual person and I think that might work for me. Can’t wait to see and read Here Comes Ocean!
I smiled thinking of your big sheet of paper. I was just wondering the other day how people plotted out their ideas before we had computers and imagined some author with lots of sheets of paper taped together in all different directions as ideas began to come (and then folded nicely into a 3 ring binder ). I like your idea of writing out all the ideas and keeping the best ones…. 🙂 do you keep your original butcher papers forever? If a book takes years do you just fold it up and store it when you are not working on it? Haha….
What a beautiful book! And what great writing insight. Thanks for hosting a giveaway!
This book looks adorable. Thanks for telling me about it. I can’t wait to read it.
This looks fantastic! I can’t wait to read it.
I can’t wait to read this book to some kids I know. And I LOVE endpapers!
I love hearing the behind-the-scenes details! And even your interview answers are poetic. Congratulations, Meg!
Thank you, Tammi and Meg. Awesome post!
Looking forward to reading this book. Congratulations on Sounds Like School Spirit! Great title.
I would love to have an date with the ocean! Such a cute book.
Meg and Tammi, thank you for one of the most fun interviews ever. What a gem you found in your little niece. And with a name like Marina, it’s even more perfect. Congratulations on a beautiful book!
Love the heart and flow of Here Comes the Ocean!
Loved reading how this story came about. Look forward to reading it!
This looks lovely!! Thanks for the insight into your process.
Loved reading about this story and love seeing some of the pictures. It’s all summer! Thank you!
I love the ocean and I love everything about this book!
Beautiful! What a fun book that encourages exploration.
Your book looks adorable, Meg. I love the ocean, but I don’t get there very often. I look forward to reading HERE COMES OCEAN!
I grew up at the beach and love everything about it,except maybe sticky sand on the way home! Your book looks wonderful!
I love the beach and your book looks wonderful!
This books really appeals to me. I want to share my own love of the ocean with my grandchildren when they get a little older. This will be a great introduction!