Hello, Picture Book Builders people!
Today, my friend (and superstar critique buddy) Dianne White is taking over this post. I had asked Dianne if there was a picture book that she would like to feature and right away she said, “COOLER THAN LEMONADE!”
Isn’t this the perfect book for a June post? I think so!
Please grab yourself a tall glass of lemonade, sit back, and enjoy Dianne’s post and interview with Harshita.
June brings the dog days of summer and Eva, the protagonist of COOLER THAN LEMONADE, by Harshita Jerath, illustrated by Chloe Burgett, knows there’s nothing better than an ice-cold glass of lemonade to make things right. With “the freshest ingredients, a welcoming smile, and a can-do attitude,” she’s100% confident her lemonade stand will be a success.
Things are going to plan until her neighbor, Jake,opens his own stand across the street. That means… competition!
Eva “puts on her thinking cap… and another idea, “SNAPS, SIZZLES, SPROUTS!” She experiments, tests, and adjusts until she finds the perfect new flavor. “More, please!” the crowd chants.
Naturally, Jake ups the ante and Eva must rise to meet each new challenge until… “Eva is out of new ideas and out of business.” But is she? A suggestion from her brother, Aru, sets her on a new path. An idea “APPEARS, BLOSSOMS, and TAKES FLIGHT!”
Kids (and adults) will be inspired by Eva’s determination, and, in the process learn more about idea generation, young entrepreneurship, and creativity.
I’m so pleased that Harshita was kind enough to answer a couple of questions about her own creative process.
DIANNE: Welcome to Picture Book Builders, Harshita!
You mention in an interview HERE, that your son, Neel was the inspiration for COOLER THAN LEMONADE. He, like Eva, is a bit of an entrepreneur and, one summer day, decided he wanted to open a Kulfi stand (a frozen dairy dessert that originated in Delhi in the 16th century) at a local farmer’s market. The seed for your story was planted!
But… it’s a long way from inspiration to completed draft, and even longer to a manuscript ready for submission. Just like Eva’s initial inspiration, a new idea for a story can “SNAP and SIZZLE with possibilities,” but, as we both know, this does not always mean our idea “SPROUTS into something bigger.”
Can you talk about the process of developing your story? More specifically, did you write a quick draft of your idea from start to finish? Plot out a beginning, middle, and end? What did your story exploration process look like?
HARSHITA: Writing COOLER THAN LEMONADE was a different experience than my debut, The Leaping Laddoo, where I clearly envisioned the story from the get-go.
For COOLER THAN LEMONADE, the writing journey started with a character and a theme. Inspired by my younger son’s never-ending ideas to make money, I knew that the character would be a fearless, spunky one, and the story would address the aspects of entrepreneurship. So armed with these two nuggets, I wrote my first draft. The character spoke to me as a girl. And that’s how Eva came to life. The initial story was about Eva’s family starting a Kulfi stand in the farmer’s market.
As I dove into revisions, I couldn’t add depth to the story because I lacked the personal experience of opening a stall at a farmer’s market. So, I read articles. I asked about the preparation and obstacles to having an ice cream stall at a farmer’s market. I revised the story again and again. But I was unsatisfied with the direction it was taking.
It was frustrating, so I put the story away for a few weeks and continued working on other manuscripts. When I returned, I rewrote the story. I removed the parents from the picture and added a neighborhood lemonade stand, giving me a broader platform to include the different business aspects.
I studied entrepreneurial articles to gather insights. I added. I deleted. I did this countless times. I was having way too much fun. Gradually, the story began to morph into the one I had envisioned, and which is now this book, COOLER THAN LEMONADE – a story about great ideas and how they happen.
DIANNE: Wow, Harshita! That’s amazing. People just starting out often don’t realize the level of thought that’s involved in creating a picture book that works on many levels.
In COOLER THAN LEMONADE, you make good use of craft tools: strong verbs and repetition (“a new idea SNAPS… SIZZLES… and SPROUTS”), a pattern of 3’s (“Eva has the freshest ingredients, a welcoming smile, and a ca-do attitude) and a structure that frames the process of creating a business using a solutions-based (design thinking) series of steps.
Can you talk more about the role these various craft elements played in COOLER THAN LEMONADE?
HARSHITA: You are right; people barely realize the effort and the research that goes into creating these picture books. For outsiders, they may appear deceptively simple to write. But someone working on the craft knows that multiple elements need to work to create a good picture book. For starters, it needs to appeal to both adults and kids.
For COOLER THAN LEMONADE, after I was satisfied with how the story flowed, I began to work on the finer craft details.
The repetitive structure of the story demanded a fun word or phrase that gave readers a clue that Eva, the main character, was coming up with a new idea. So my first-word choice for these moments was ‘PLOINK, a new idea drops into Eva’s bucket.’
But PLOINK… didn’t work out because ‘bucket’ was just a metaphor. Then I researched how ideas come to life, and that’s when the phrase SNAPS, SIZZLES, and SPAWN stuck to me and finally changed into SNAPS, SIZZLES, and SPROUTS. The thought behind this phrase is that an idea appears fast in a SNAP. As you nurture the idea, it SIZZLES with possibilities, and when an idea is fully formed, it comes alive and SPROUTS into this world.
The thought about the design thinking curriculum tie-in came late in the craft. I read about entrepreneurs’ process of introducing a new product in the market. Eva follows these steps to adapt her lemonade stand to stay in business. While I was working on revisions, it so happened that my son came home with a design thinking worksheet from school. It was a moment of illumination. The scientific experiment process was a perfect fit for what Eva was doing. So, I tweaked and adjusted it to make that curriculum connection.
Lastly, as authors, we are aware of the magical effect of three. It is the smallest number to make a pattern, thus leaving an impression on readers. While I had a pattern of threes from the onset, the challenge was to find the appropriate active verbs.
Every time Eva tries to come up with fresh ideas, she takes three actions:
“She walks, she sits, she stews.”
“She meditates, she builds, daydreams.”
“She doodles. She crafts. She fiddles.”
So I needed nine of these action verbs. I could come up with four effortlessly, which were meditation, walking, doodling, and daydreaming. But I needed five more kid-friendly ways. So guess what! I went back to the research hole. I read. I observed. Later, I added crafting, building, fiddling, sitting, and stewing.
And that’s the backstory of adding some of the finer craft details to my latest picture book.
Dianne, thank you for these insightful questions. They allowed me to reflect and delve deeper into my processes. I appreciate this opportunity to talk about my writing. I hope my responses are helpful.
DIANNE: Very helpful, indeed. Thanks for sharing your writing journey with readers, Harshita!
- Readers can learn about Harshita’s book by visiting her WEBSITE.
- Enjoy the book trailer for COOLER THAN LEMONADE.
- Download the Educator’s Guide to accompany the book.
- Follow Harshita on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Dianne White is a writing teacher and award-winning author of picture books including, most recently, DARK on LIGHT (Beach Lane/S&S), illustrated by Felicita Sala. Her next book, coming July 2023 from Margaret Ferguson /Holiday House, is THE SHARING BOOK, illustrated by Simone Shin. For more about Dianne and her books, please visit her website, or follow on Instagram and Twitter.