A PARK CONNECTS US— Birthday & Giveaway!

Welcome to Picture Book Builders, author Sarah Nelson. And welcome to the world of readers, 


Today is publication day for Sarah’s new picture book, illustrated by Ellen Rooney. I love celebrating book birthdays and am so happy that Picture Book Builders gets to toot the party horn today!🎉

Congratulations, Sarah, on your beautiful book and thank you for being here today. A PARK CONNECTS US is lyrically written. You mention all the ways that a park is used, needed, and appreciated. At the back you discuss in your author’s note that parks were not always an essential part of our communities and landscapes, reiterating the importance of green spaces in our environment. The illustrations are brimming with color and inclusivity. It’s absolutely stunning!

Jennifer~ I’m assuming that parks must be important to you. Can you tell us where the idea came from and why you wrote this book?

Sarah~ Thank you for this warm welcome, Jennifer! Yes, I love our parks. I spend lots of time meandering the trails of my favorite parks, saying hello to neighbors, reveling in the wonders of each season, breathing in fresh perspective… and sometimes even spotting new story ideas!

Some book ideas strike like lightning, but A PARK CONNECTS US was more like a slow glow. For several years before writing this book, while visiting my city’s parks, I often wondered, “How did these beautiful parks even happen?” I wanted to write something to celebrate how very lucky we are that parks did happen—that we have these shared, green places in which to frolic, fly kites, and connect with nature and community. I also wanted to investigate my genuine questions about city park history. Once I began that research, I was even more excited and inspired to create a picture book tribute to parks. They are some of our most democratic and inclusive institutions—places that belong to all of us and where we all belong… whoever we are.

Jennifer~ Your writing style is so captivating. I enjoyed your word choices and the fact that it would also sound fabulous read out loud. Do you read your manuscript out loud as you write? Could you tell us about your writing regime?

Sarah~ Oh, this is so nice to hear. Thank you! Word choices and the sounds and rhythms of language are some of my favorite things about writing picture books. While I’m revising and fine tuning a manuscript, I read my lines and paragraphs aloud many times—sometimes hundreds of times (just ask my husband!). Since picture books are meant to be said, not silently read, I love trying to make my words a joy to say and to hear. I aim for what I call “musical read-aloud-ability.” I’m also a verb enthusiast. I love how the perfect verb can convey so much.

I don’t write every single day—I’m a part-time writer, part time teacher—but when I’m working on a project, I’m at least thinking about it every single day, dashing off quick notes, mulling over problems, reimagining scenes or sentences, or reading… some projects require lots of reading. And when I’m able—I write or revise in longer blocks of uninterrupted time when I can really immerse myself and focus deeply.

Jennifer~ What kind of research did you do for your book?

Sarah~ A PARK CONNECTS US was one of these projects that required a lot of reading and research. The main text of the book is light and lyrical, but the back matter shares city park history. Before writing, I read books, watched documentaries, and listened to some great TED Talks. I usually like to see and understand the big picture before settling on which smaller pieces of the picture will be intriguing and important for children. In this case, I learned lots about the urban parks movement of the late 1800s, and especially about iconic landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed hundreds of our most beloved city parks and championed a vision for parks, and for cities designed around parks, which benefits us still today. Quite serendipitously, this year is the Olmsted Bicentennial. You can read A PARK CONNECTS US and then join park celebrations in dozens of cities across the U.S. this spring. How fabulous!

Jennifer~ As someone who illustrates for authors, I always like to know if there was a particular image that surprised you in the book.  

Sarah~ What a wonderful question. I wouldn’t say that anything surprised me when I first saw Ellen Rooney’s sketches, but a great many things delighted me. Ellen’s illustrations, as you can see, are stunning—so colorful, playful, and apt. I love how the words and art work together in our book. I love how Ellen and the fabulous team at Owlkids Books embraced and built upon my vision for an inclusive park filled with diverse people and blooming, zooming plants and wildlife. Turning the pages of A PARK CONNECTS US is like going on a joyous excursion through a glorious city park with friends, family, and neighbors. Amazing! 

Jennifer~ Any last things you’d like readers to know about the genesis of this story?

Sarah~ Thanks so much for asking, Jennifer. As you know, it takes a while to make a picture book… I primarily researched and wrote this book four years ago, in 2018. Back then, it felt very timely. It felt like I was not only writing a love letter to city parks, but also a love letter to America… and to a more hopeful chapter of our story that is important to remember, celebrate, protect, and carry on. In 2022, the message of A PARK CONNECTS US feels even more timely and important. After all the heartbreak and separation of the last several years, we need kind, peaceful places to be together—places where everyone can gather, meander, and play. 

I hope that little and big readers will feel the welcoming spirit of A PARK CONNECTS US on each and every page and be pulled outdoors to explore and enjoy community and nature in our shared parks.

Share this post to facebook or twitter and post a comment below for a chance to win a copy of A PARK CONNECTS US! Sarah will pick a winner and I will announce them on my next blogpost, April 16.

Thanks for visiting and celebrating with us!

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    Oh my, this book sounds beautiful. Can’t wait to get hold of a copy!

  2. This book is right up my alley. Can’t wait to read it! Congrats, Sarah and Ellen!!

  3. So excited to see this out, Sarah! It’s a gem.

  4. What a beauty! Thanks for showcasing this one, Jen, and CONGRATULATIONS, Sarah!

  5. Thank you so much, Debra!!

  6. Danielle Hammelef

    This book is gorgeous and I also love our parks. My husband and I spent our anniversary this past January exploring a local Metro Park and photographing wildlife and feeding the birds. I shared on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danielle.hammelef/posts/10223491890019190

  7. I saw the Olmstead PBS parks show. What a genius. This book is too. Timely also after the pandemic separated us for so long. A community park is a great place to reconnect. Thank you for writing and researching such a wonderful story.

    • You’re welcome, Cassie! Thanks for your kind words! I loved the PBS Olmsted documentary, too: Designing America. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone as a fabulous intro to Olmsted and the early urban parks movement!!

  8. Book looks great, would love to read this to my twins, we love going to the parks in NYC! (shared on Twitter, @StupidInventor )

  9. Michael Henriksen

    Congratulations Sarah (and thank you for sharing this, Jennifer).
    May we all nurture the nature around us, and enjoy sharing the joy of parks in all their fabulous (& frogness!) glory!🤗💚

  10. Congratulations Sarah and Elen on this beautiful book! I absolutely love the idea of the park as a “connector.” It reminds me of the CITY BEAUTIFUL MOVEMENT in the 1890s and 1900s which sought to create harmonious spaces for people to connect. I wrote MONUMENT MAKER, a children’s book about Daniel Chester French, a quiet but central figure in that movement.

    It’s time for a CITY BEAUTIFUL MOVEMENT revival, and your book is part of that!

  11. Looks like a great book about a treasured subject. I live 2 blocks away from a township park, and it’s wonderful . Can’t wait to read this and the back matter. I first learned about Olmstead at the Biltmore Estate where he designed the grounds.

  12. I love parks!! Can’t wait to read this book!

  13. What a wonderful topic for a picture book! The amazing verbs create a wonderful connection between children and parks. Congratulations, Sarah and Ellen!

  14. …a park heals us. Wow! What a sentence. Lovely!

  15. Congratulations, Sarah! This book looks wonderful. As a big fan of parks, I am excited to read it!

  16. Love the spreads here–definitely will add your book to my reading list! Also, love how you described the inspiration as a “slow glow.” 🙂 Congrats on your book birthday!

  17. Jennifer and Sarah, wonderful interview! What a beautiful, joyous book celebrating parks. We’ve been fortunate that once we started a family we lived in communities with lots of parks. They truly draw people together. Congratulations Sarah and Ellen!!!

    • Thank you, Vijaya! Parks sure do bring us together, don’t they. I shared our book with my students today, and they had so many of their own stories to share about how parks connect them. It’s really cool to hear how so many of us feel the same way.

  18. This book is right up my alley! Congrats!!

  19. Wow!! Thank you so much everyone for all these fabulous comments and park connections!! I hope you will love this book!! And thank you again, Jennifer, for the wonderful questions and the opportunity to share. Wishing you all many happy trips to the park this spring!!!

  20. I love the way the words and the illustrations make the park seem so warmly welcoming and so open to all people and all kinds of activities.

  21. My son has inspired me to go to our local parks more. A local girl scout troop worked with the library to put in a story stroll and that has been fun too! This book looks like a lovely tribute.

  22. Stefanie Raszler

    This book sounds amazing! I can’t wait to read it.

  23. Well this is so fun! Thanks for sharing!

  24. Congrats on your book, Sarah–it sounds lovely. I am a fan of any green spaces–we all need them!

  25. It is a win-win especially to those who loved going to parks. Finally, somebody wrote a book that celebrates the joy and the fun of being in the parks- a home away from home kind of environment where you can meet and make friends with people. Congrats, Sarah!

  26. Congrats, Sarah and Ellen! I’d love to win a copy of this book, so I RTed it on Twitter as well.

  27. Beautiful book! Who doesn’t love a park? Waco has a huge municipal park, and we love visiting! Congratulations! I shared it on Twitter!

    • Thank you, Dedra! I think we all feel such special connections to our local parks, don’t we? For me, it’s the parks in and near St. Paul, Minnesota–especially Como Park. In addition to all the wonderful experiences I’ve had in this park, my family now also has a memorial park bench there for my mom who passed away. Now it’s her park, too! Parks connect us in so many ways!!

      • Yes, they do! Parks hold a different definition for everyone. I can’t wait to read your book. I just learned I WON!!👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  28. This book looks lovely! Maybe if everyone reads it they will be more inclined to keep their local parks clean.

  29. A park, the perfect place to read this book!

  30. What a beautiful book! Parks are a great way to make connections with people in person and through this book! It’s something most children have experienced and can relate to or have in common with those around them!

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