Tumble by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom + Interview

Tumble, written and illustrated by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom follows the journey of a tumbleweed as it rolls across a vast desert. The short rhyming lines explain the tumbleweed’s movements in simple terms, and are fun to read aloud. The sky, landscape, and weather shift with each page turn, suggesting the passage of time and distance. Each page spread also features at least one other plant or animal in the illustration, suggesting the tumbleweed’s existence within a larger ecosystem.

My kindergartners love it for the bouncy rhymes, beautiful colors, and the ease with which they can read the text with relative independence. This would also be a welcome addition to a second grade seed dispersal unit, where they can dig into the back matter on tumbleweeds, or use the “Can You Spot the Plants and Animals?” page as a springboard for further research. Tumble is a book that can be as simple or complex as the reader makes it, and it’s a joy to read either way.

Adriana Hernández Bergstrom is with us on Picture Book Builders today to share her process in creating this book.

Welcome Adriana! You share on your website how the inspiration for Tumble came from your son in the form of a “writing duel.” [Readers: hop over here to check out one of the most charming “stories behind the story” EVER]. What has Tumble’s journey been since the initial conception?

TUMBLE was one of those rare experiences where maybe one or two words were changed from that initial concept I pitched. There was really not much that changed in terms of the language, and even most of my initial sketches became the underlying schema for the book you see today. I was really shocked by that, but also very relieved because there was a lot to do in terms of making the art once the text was approved!

Can you share with us some of your process for creating the art for Tumble?

My initial sketch dummy served as the base level sketches for my value studies. Then once that greyscale version was approved, using handmade textures combined with digital brushes, I made each picture. To guide me through the book I made a color script, which is a thumbnail version of the book with the basic colors I wanted to use on each page. This helped create a consistent feel and flow through each page turn. Then, as always, there were edits to the color version and the backmatter. There’s always something to improve!

The art is stunning. I love the way the back matter invites children to reread and look for each animal and plant. A lot of the information is packed into the illustrations. What did your research for this book entail?

I really enjoyed the research for TUMBLE and there was a lot! 

I interviewed Shana Welles, PhD who is a salsola (Russian thistle, a kind of tumbleweed) expert! She spent an hour clarifying a lot of my own misconceptions about tumbleweeds as well as educating me on the particulars of tumbleweed biology. I came to her with my manuscript and illustrated dummy based on my own research including several news articles Dr. Welles had written about tumbleweeds for various news stories. She pointed me to her own article about Salsolas: AoB PLANTS, 2020, Vol. 12, No. 1 (https://www.shanawelles.com/publications/and USDA articles on Russian Thistles for reference. She taught me that the lifecycle I was showing in the book is somewhat flawed because the reader may infer that tumbleweeds “resurrect” and the majority do not. Most are annuals which I explain in the backmatter, but there are a few species such as selaginella lepidophylla (Resurrection Plant) that do, but they’re ferns. So what to do! I chose to keep the text and images linear based on my audience. I knew I wanted TUMBLE to be for emerging readers as well as early elementary science classes. I chose the path of simplifying and condensing the information, and hopefully inspiring curiosity and for kids to want to learn more about the subject. The backmatter explains that most tumbleweeds are annuals which means 1 life cycle. 

I also interviewed Tom Vandenberg, a park ranger working at Big Bend National Park regarding the flora and fauna of Big Bend National Park including prickly pear, mesquite trees, and agaves. He helped me figure out what insects you see most often as well as what plants are the most commonly encountered. I would not have known that ladybugs swarm in that area if not for him. Oh! And he reminded me about javelinas (peccaries) which are really quite adorable.

While I was working on the art for the book, I visited the Living Desert Zoo and Carlsbad Caverns in Carlsbad, NM, and several parks in and around West Texas. During those travels, I’d pick up the local nature guides. Also, I want to disabuse readers of any notion that I’m some kind of jet-setting fancy type. My in-laws live in West Texas, and we visit the area once a year if we can. Over the last 20 years of visits to the West Texas and New Mexico, I have truly enjoyed getting to know and love the natural wonders of the area. My brother-in-law sent me some of his amazing photos of roadrunners, hawks, and snakes from his time in the oil fields (thanks, Boone!) and these became reference photos for the art. 

It’s incredible how such a brief text is bolstered by such extensive research. The first time I read Tumble, I immediately imagined how it would fit into a plants unit, so I’m not surprised to learn you wove a lot of science into the journey of the tumbleweed. What do you hope readers will take away from Tumble?

I hope readers take away a sense of wonder for the desert landscape and give it a second glance. It’s not obvious with deserts that there’s a lot of life there, but there is and it’s worth conserving it. I also hope TUMBLE sparks curiosity in readers and that they’ll take it a step further and look into plant biology or the many ecosystems around the world. We’re surrounded by such beauty!

I love when a book invites readers to look deeper and consider the natural world. Thanks so much for stopping by, Adriana, and congratulations on Tumble’s release!

Sara Holly Ackerman

Sara Holly Ackerman is the author of several picture books including THE GABI THAT GIRMA WORE, co-authored with Fasika Adefris and illustrated by Netsanet Tesfay, NOT JUST THE DRIVER! illustrated by Robert Neubecker, and CHALLAH FOR SHABBAT TONIGHT illustrated by Alona Millgram. She is a school librarian who lives in Brooklyn, NY right down the street from the library and she never leaves home without her library card. Visit Sara at www.sarahollyackerman.com and on Instagram at @sarahollyackerman.


  1. Can’t wait to read TUMBLE, Adriana! How original! I grew up in West Texas–Snyder which is halfway between Lubbock and Abilene. There was many a time a tumbleweed or two would roll (hop or bounce) across the road. Best wishes on its success.

    • What??? Very smart. I have a funny tumble weed story. We drove to a college reunion last year in Colorado and had to stop in the middle of the road because it was covered in tumble weeds. I got out to take a picture because they were so pretty. They weren’t ordinary brown but instead a lovely fuchsia. I motitioned to my husband, who was still in the car,”Can I take one?”. He nodded.
      When we arrived at the reunion my former roommate and classmates admired my tumbleweed. My husband volunteered to go back and get more. The end of the story is some of us who flew to the reunion mailed our tumbleweeds back home. I have mine displayed in my living room. I think I’ll order your picture book and send it to my friends.
      We also have West Texas roots.
      Good for you for developing your idea for a picture book!

      • Thank you and whoah!! Please send me the photo of the fuchsia tumbleweed!! I have to see them. I have a tiny one a friend sent me from storm chasing in Kansas (thank you, Alethea!). I bring it with me to school visits, but it’s kind of falling apart (boo hoo!). Any pointers for maintaining it?

    • Ohmygoodness! My in-laws are not that far over in Odessa! Thank you for the well wishes!

  2. Angie Quantrell

    This takes me right back home to Arizona where I grew up for most of my elementary years! Oh the tumbleweeds! Once I was in a Christmas parade and a snowman float was made with tumbleweeds! Your book looks amazing! Congratulations, Adriana!

  3. TUMBLE sounds terrific! Will ask my library to procure a copy ASAP!

  4. I love how this interview highlights the amount of research that is required when writing a fact-based book for children! And reducing text to simple phrases while maintaining accuracy is such a skill. This book looks wonderful! It will both educate and entertain readers of all ages.

  5. danielle hammelef

    I remember traveling east through the plains and being in awe of the tumbleweeds rolling. We hit a few that crossed the highway, but they just seemed to disintegrate like confetti. I can’t wait to learn more about tumbleweeds by reading your book.

  6. YAY! A desert PB! I’m working on one of my own and am inspired by your extensive research. Thank you!

    • I wish I could have had citations on the back or something for TUMBLE. At the very least I can share what I learned through these interviews. Best of luck on your desert PB, I can’t wait to see it on the shelves!

  7. Joyce Patricia Uglow

    I can’t wait to read TUMBLE!

  8. I cannot wait to read Tumble.

  9. Sara and Adrianna, what a wonderful interview and the link behind the story! Thank you! Tumble sounds so much fun. It is really fascinating to realize that the desert is not dead as it first appears to be. Congratulations!!! Looks like you won the writing duel!!

    • Hah! I think I did too. I remember after I got my first proof, my son asked when *his* version would be published! I ended up making copies of another one of his books and publish it ourselves to share with his friends.

  10. I remember seeing tumbleweeds for the first time traveling by a Santa Fe train from Illinois to California when I was ten. I love the use of personification and rhyme in picture books! This book sounds delightful.

  11. I want to thank Adriana for letting me read Tumble last fall at an SCBWI event and also giving me great advice on a manuscript I had written with a tumbleweed in it. Congrats Adriana and thanks Sara for the wonderful interview. I have gotten a copy for myself.

    • Aww, you’re very welcome, Deborah. Thank you for commenting and letting me know I made a difference to you and your process! Did I get to sign your copy of TUMBLE? If not, let me know and I’ll send you a signed bookplate!

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