It’s RAINING MUSHROOMS! (and a giveaway!)

MUSHROOM RAIN, by Laura K. Zimmermann, illustrated by Jamie Green, was published in March by Sleeping Bear Press.

A dozen years ago, my neighborhood improved vastly when the town stretched a footbridge across the nearby marsh and built Windsor Castle Park, which includes miles of woodland and riverside trails. I love finding mushrooms along the trail. They seem to come in hundreds of colors. I was drawn to the cover of MUSHROOM RAIN when I spotted it on Instagram. This gorgeous book by Laura K. Zimmermann and illustrated by Jamie Green was published in March by Sleeping Bear Press. In a starred review, School Library Journal raved: “This showstopper of a picture book will wake kids up to the wonders of the botanical underpinnings and incredible aspects of the science of mushrooms…Pictures and words fizz with the magic that surrounds the quiet work of mushrooms and should send kids looking to learn more.” 

Congratulations, Laura! This is such a beautiful book! I’m so happy I spotted the cover on Instagram. I’m fascinated by mushrooms. I think one of the reasons your cover attracted me was because just an hour before I’d been revising a manuscript that mentioned fairy rings, those enchanting mushroom circles that pop up after damp weather.

Thank you, and thank you so much for having me! 

Laura with Tivy and a wild friend in Tennessee.

I think if I had the choice now, I’d have gravitated more towards a science than an arts career. Tell us a bit about your multi-faceted career.

There are so many cool things in the world, I have never been particularly good at just sticking with one. Being a scientist, teacher, and children’s author allows me to discover and travel down all sorts of marvelous rabbit holes. Although the various topics can be quite different from each other, they share common threads—research, curiosity, and kids, in one way or another.

Tivy explores a mushroom along the trail.

Your prose in this book is lovely. I’m impressed, because I know academic papers are not quite so lyrically written. As it happens, this week my younger son has taken a short working vacation to write his dissertation prospectus (organic chemistry.) When I first tried writing anything that wasn’t assigned, I remember finding it hard freeing myself of the academic style that had been a requirement for school work. It’s such a stubborn habit! I suppose he needs that style now, but can you offer my son any advice on how to throw off that academic voice for non-dissertationy projects?

Thank you. The lyrical prose in Mushroom Rain is certainly different from my academic writing. I teach APA style in my research classes and early on students often struggle to shift their voice to conform. But what I have discovered, and what I tell them, is that writing of any sort will help improve their writing in others. Learning to write in a lyrical voice has helped my academic writing dramatically, and my background in academics has influenced my kidlit style. However, that doesn’t stop me from falling into technical writing ruts. When I get lost in academic writing, the easiest way to find my way back is to grab a big pile of kidlit and start reading.

What wonderful advice! Now on to the subject of the book! Did you learn anything that surprised you? Anything that led you in a new direction?

Everything about mushroom-producing fungi surprises me. I knew very little about them until I studied Beatrix Potter’s research and then delved even further into their world for Mushroom Rain. Their tie to rain was based on an article I stumbled upon—that was the article that took me up to the sky and back again. 

Jamie Green’s illustrations are stunning! Every single spread could easily be an art poster I’d hang on my walls. Since this was your first picture book, tell us about any revelations along the way to holding that first author copy in your hands.

Jamie did such a beautiful job on the book. Their illustrations built on my words to create a magical world. Although Jamie and I had no direct contact while we were working on the book—my communications went to my editor, Jamie’s to the art director—I did get to see the art at different stages which I loved. It was so interesting to see the book evolve—my words shaping Jamie’s illustrations and their art shifting my words was a truly amazing process. Add to that the contributions of the many wonderful folks at Sleeping Bear and you get the book living in the world today. And even though I knew what the final book looked like digitally; the physical version is even more lovely.

What is your favorite thing that kids have said about your book?

Of course, choosing just one is hard, but since we began with my multifaceted career… At one of my school visits a class wanted to know what I did when I wasn’t writing and I told them I studied early childhood. One child’s response, “That’s creepy!” I did try to explain why it wasn’t, but I don’t think they believed me. I am hoping we can get that class connected with one of mine in the spring so they can evaluate it for themselves. I will make sure to choose one of my less creepy days. (Imagine a grinning emoji here since the blog doesn’t seem to allow for that.)

Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura. Readers, Sleeping Bear is offering one free copy of MUSHROOM RAIN! (US residents only, please, and no P.O. boxes since they ship UPS.) Enter for the random drawing by commenting below by September 10th, 2022. Maybe tell us: What’s your favorite woodland find?

Laura K. Zimmermann is a college professor by day and children’s writer by night. She has a PhD in developmental psychology and has published numerous academic articles as well as nonfiction stories in children’s magazines. MUSHROOM RAIN is her first picture book. When she’s not writing, Laura can be found teaching and conducting research at Shenandoah University or wandering through nature with her Goldendoodle, Tivy. She is represented by Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez at Context Literary.

Find Laura at these links: 

Social Media: TwitterInstagramPinterest

And explore her website — full of wonderful supplemental materials — here: https://laurakzimmermann.com/

Kim Norman

Kim Norman is the author of more than twenty children’s books, already or soon to be in print, published by Sterling; Scholastic; Penguin/Random House; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Candlewick, and Abrams. Calling herself a “Bedtime reading evangelist,” Kim has been invited to countless schools around the US and even wrote a book on the subject with the embarrassingly mercenary title, SELL BOOKS AND GET PAID DOING AUTHOR SCHOOL VISITS. The parents of two grown sons, Kim and her husband live in Smithfield, Virginia, with two dogs in a little house shaded by giant pecan trees. Read more about Kim and her books at kimnorman.com.

87 Comments:

  1. Destiny Love Lawyer

    I love walking and finding bright orange newts lighting up the path.

  2. Tiffany Loveland

    Woodland creatures are the cutest!! 🦊

  3. I love spotting butterflies flit through the forest during hikes! Thanks for this fun and informative interview. Would love to win a copy!

  4. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    I love, love, love this book! And am fortunate to call Laura a good friend! 🙂

  5. Congratulations, Laura! I can’t wait to read your book. I love the woods when the fall colors are brilliant.

  6. What a beautiful picture book in both the writing and illustrations! My grandchildren would love it. My favorite woodland find was a tiny fawn waiting for its mother’s return.

  7. We always found mushrooms under one of our maples when the weather was damp. The tree had to come down last year, but the mushrooms still show up to mark the spot where it stood.

    • What a sweet memory for you! I’m worried we have a pecan tree that may need to come down in the not-too-distant future. We came home from Maine to discover a HUGE limb had fallen. Tree guy is out there cutting it up right now. Hoping the remainder can hang on a bit longer. Trees are like family to me.

  8. Jilanne F Hoffmann

    I absolutely adore this book. The lyricism, the information, the art. All are exquisite.

  9. Elizabeth Volkmann

    What a wonderful interview! I love getting to know authors ‘behind the scenes’. And of course what a gorgeous book! Thank you, Laura, for creating it!

  10. This book looks amazing. I cannot wait to read it. I love looking up at the trees when I am in the woods.

  11. Danielle Hammelef

    I do enjoy walking in nature and finding small critters and more. My favorite find in nature are amphibians.

  12. Mushrooms are cool. This book looks cool!

  13. I have been fascinated with fungi and mushrooms for weeks now since reading Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. This book looks like the perfect compliment!

  14. My favorite recent woodland find was a teeny tiny orchid. I also love it when the trilliums bloom.
    I’m so excited to read MUSHROOM RAIN–it looks stunning–and appreciate the chance to enter the giveaway.

  15. I hike nearly every day and it’s usually where I get inspired. I love seeing birds and critters but I also love, once in awhile, finding tiny bits of art—like a dragonfly made of beads and wire hanging on a post, or a small ceramic troll tucked into the roots of a tree.

    • I love that, too. I have a friend who holds a weekly activities meeting up the street for special needs adults and they stroll down to the park now and then, leaving painted rocks here and there. They enjoy it, and so does anyone who finds the rocks.

    • The right nature art in just the right place can be magical. And you just gave me a new idea for a cool mushroom art project for the book website…thank you!

  16. Carl Gwin Nelson

    I love walking in the woods and listening to all of the birds & other animals hiding among the trees. Mushroom Rain looks delightful.

  17. Thanks for the wonderful interview, Kim! Laura’s book is so lovely and lyrical and informative! I too am a fungi fan and have a book on fungi releasing next fall, FUNGI GROW (illustrated by Diana Sudyka).

  18. I look forward to reading this book! Mushrooms are often so underappreciated. My favorite woodland find, though? WILDFLOWERS!

  19. I can’t wait to read this entire book! Of Course, Mushrooms and all their beauty are the best outdoor find.

  20. This book is gorgeous! I cannot wait to read it! I love finding mushrooms in the forest, but I also love finding cool rocks, ferns, wildflowers, animals, birds, sticks with moss, pretty much anything. It smells so refreshing and it’s all a wonder! Congratulations, Laura!

    • Thank you. There really are so many wonderful things in the forest to see, hear, and smell (although Tivy is way more into the smelling bit 🙂 ). I hope you love the book just as much!

  21. Becky Scharnhorst

    This book is gorgeous! My favorite woodland find is a black bear, but I also enjoy finding brightly colored fungi.

  22. I love woodland walks! Once, when camping, I encountered an Eastern Screech Owl, which was super cool. There’s nothing more beautiful than fireflies lighting up the forest. Fairy rings are awesome to see, as are lots of mushrooms! I’m looking forward to reading this amazing book! Congratulations, and thanks for the opportunity!

    • A couple of years ago there were so many fireflies, the trees lit up like Christmas trees. It’s the only time I have seen so many. And owls are their own kind of cool. 🙂 I hope you love the book just as much!

  23. I was so excited to see a deer for the first time in my mother-in-law’s backyard in Kentucky several years ago. It was standing still. I don’t remember how long I watch it from afar.

  24. Nature is amazing just like this book! Congratulations on the starred review.

  25. Thank you so much. I am so glad you enjoyed it!

  26. Elizabeth W Saba

    Lovely book!

  27. Kim and Laura, thank you for a wonderful interview! This is a must-have book for me. So lyrical and lovely! Congratulations, Laura! We love foraging in the woods for mushrooms and my husband went to a mushroom workshop and returned with kits for growing our own–so fresh and tasty. He also bought a couple of books on mycology to replace my old falling-apart paperback.

    • I keep meaning to explore one of those mushroom kits, Vijaya. Oh so many things I “keep meaning” to do. (Fear not, your train case will not fall into that “keep meaning” category. lol! We’re back from Maine and I’m back on the case! (Get it? On the case? ar ar!)

      • Kim, the kits make it easy to grow without contamination (why, yes, I’ve managed to grow all kinds of other things as well 🙂 I’m on the lookout for my case. The good thing is that having kids taught me patience. This writing life too.

    • Thank you so much, Vijaya. Those sound like wonderful kits!

  28. Janet Frenck Sheets

    I just (sadly) returned this book to the library. I think my favorite page is the one about mushroom smells. How fun to know that bubble gum-scented mushrooms exist!

  29. I love woodland finds of all sorts–one of my favorite things to do is to walk in the woods!–but my favorite find to date was when we lived in Australia, and we saw a cassowary while on a rainforest walk. It really made me viscerally feel like I had seen a dinosaur. An amazing encounter.

  30. I absolutely loved Laura’s book! We forage for edible mushrooms and I find them fascinating. Laura words perfectly described their world in the most beautiful way. My fav woodland (well, on the edge of the woods anyway) find was coming upon a severed deer leg that was being worked on by carrion beetles!

  31. The illustrations are stunning! Can’t wait to read as it is right “ up my alley”.
    Best thing I found was a fallen limb with three holes. I brought it home and wrote a pb manuscript about what three families might had lived there.

  32. The illustrations are stunning! Can’t wait to read as it is right “ up my alley”.
    Best thing I found was a fallen limb with three holes. I brought it home and wrote a pb manuscript about what three families might had lived there.

  33. This looks like a very interesting book! I love my walks in the woods, and finding a box turtle is the best! But happens less and less. 🙁

    • I love box turtles! I requested the lovely one that Jamie included in an art note. 🙂 It is sad to see things disappearing. I was just thinking the other day about how few butterflies and bees I had seen this year…☹️

  34. How lovely! Thanks for sharing!

  35. This book is so lovely! We rarely see mushrooms here in Tucson, AZ…it’s too dry. But every so often, one or two will pop through our rocky ground cover and surprise us. Congrats on your debut, Laura!

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