BOXER BABY BATTLES BEDTIME! Interview with Mia Wenjen + giveaway x3!

BOXER BABY BATTLES BEDTIME! is a new picture book from author Mia Wenjen and illustrator Kai Geitzen. The flap copy reads, “Mom is counting on Dad to get Boxer Baby down for her nap, but Boxer Baby is the G.O.A.T. of sleep avoidance. This hilarious face-off mimics a three round boxing match, as Boxer Baby is no lightweight when it comes to staying awake. Dad has a few tricks up his sleeve, but will it be enough in this epic battle against naptime?” Mia has written numerous books in a variety of genres and formats, and I thought the story behind the publication of BOXER BABY would be interesting for our blog readers. So, joining me today is Mia, who runs an incredibly popular blog of her own called Pragmatic Mom.

Andrea: Hi Mia! Welcome to Picture Book Builders! Thanks for stopping by and chatting about your new book, BOXER BABY BATTLES BEDTIME! This story is definitely a fresh take on the baby-who-won’t-nap trope. Could you tell us what inspired you to write this story?

Mia: I love to box so I’ve always wanted to write a boxing picture book. My husband was a stay-at-home dad with our oldest, now 24, and I wanted to highlight that because I didn’t see that in many picture books. He felt like he was stigmatized and it was a challenging and lonely job. I remember him driving around for an hour in a loop towards Cape Elizabeth on some days to get our daughter to take a nap. He didn’t have to stop the car on this route so she wouldn’t wake up. She had acid-reflex as a baby and that made sleep hard for her.

Text on this spread reads, “In the blue corner, Dad realizes it’s way past Boxer Baby’s naptime. In the red corner…”

Andrea: I sympathize with your husband, as my first son didn’t want to nap either. I was lucky, though, that he would sleep in a swing so I didn’t have to drive around for hours! In the book, you frame the battle to get the protagonist to nap as a boxing match between her and her father, with lots of fun idioms to describe the action. There’s also a glossary of the idioms in the back matter. I honestly had no idea there were so many idioms that came from boxing! Which came first for you, the boxing idioms or the plot?

Mia: The plot came together first, but I had so many boxing idioms in earlier versions that my editor asked me to remove. It was a boxing idiom overload that didn’t even cover half of them!

Andrea: The book is published by Eifrig Publishing, but you also ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to publish the book. Could you share about this business model and why you decided to take this route? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with a very small publisher versus a larger one?

Mia: I received the nicest rejection from a big publishing company that said he loved my book and wouldn’t change anything but that he had two boxing picture books in the pipeline. There aren’t any boxing picture books with this take out there according to the research that I did, and I didn’t want to be the third or fourth picture book. When Eifrig was interested, I knew that the distribution channels were very limited but I felt it was worth it to get my book out there early. I ran a Kickstarter campaign to pay for the ARCs and honestly, since this was my second Kickstarter and my goal was only $2000, it wasn’t too bad. Not all publishers of any size will fund ARCs these days, so I was happy to do my part. I think the advantages of working with a small publisher is that your book gets a lot of time and attention, especially when it comes to selling the book for a very long time that perhaps larger publishers may not do. The downside is that the distribution channels are more limited. My agent had this book manuscript on submissions for over a year so it was now or never. Or at least, it felt that way to me. 

Text on this spread reads, “It’s nap time for Boxer Baby. Dad chases after her, but she ducks behind the sofa. Dad circles the couch, looking for an opening. It looks like Boxer Baby’s time is almost up.”

Andrea: That is super interesting. It sounds like a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing.

BOXER BABY BATTLES BEDTIME’S illustrations are full of movement and interesting perspectives. Can you tell us about what it was like to work with debut illustrator, Kai Geitzen? Did you collaborate with him, or does Eifrig have an art director who worked with him?

Mia: Because my publisher is so small, I hired and paid for the illustrator myself. My oldest daughter goes to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and though she’s an Industrial Designer, took an illustration class in Hawaii for her January session two years ago. She because good friends with many illustrators including Kai and thought he was one of the most talented illustrators from her class at RISD. I was able to sit in on all the meetings with both the art director, editor and illustrator so it was really fun to collaborate throughout the design process. I actually brought the Easter Egg idea into the book that Nat Iwata had snuck into Sumo Joe (hint: the hallway of portraits). 

Text on this spread reads, “But wait! Is that a foul below the belt? Yes! It’s a colossal poo. This poo is too big for a diaper change.”

Andrea: You managed to write a story about boxing without actually featuring any physical fighting, which should reassure parents. The worst “attack,” I think, is the smelly diaper shown in the spread above. 🤣 As a boxer yourself, what do you love about the sport? What do you hope young readers will take away from the book?

Mia: I’m really lucky that my boxing trainer, Marc Gargaro of Nonantum Boxing Club, was one of the trainers for the U.S. National Men’s and Women’s boxing team. He was part of the team that went to the Tokyo Olympics and returned with 3 medals for the U.S., the highest medal count in 20 years for the sport of boxing. He trains my group the same as his fighters. I love how boxing is a skill that one can never master; there is always something to improve upon. Also, I love hand-to-hand combat as a means of getting exercise while also learning self defense. I started sparring again recently which is always a great reminder of what I need to improve on. LOL, defense is highly underrated!

I kickboxed for 10 years prior to boxing, including a little Muay Thai. My 60th birthday present to myself next year is a Muay Thai boot camp in Phuket, Thailand. I want to learn the elbow/knee self defense moves that are not part of kickboxing or boxing. 

I hope young readers learn figurative language – that idioms that they might be familiar with have boxing origins – while giggling at the silliness of a toddler evading her exhausted dad. 

Andrea: Wow, a Muay Thai boot camp! And I thought writing picture books was hard. What’s next for you, publishing-wise?

Mia: Including Boxer Baby Battles Bedtime!, I have nine picture books coming out. Six are with Red Comet Press, including the Fall release of We Sing from the Heart: How the Slants®  Took Their Fight for Free Speech to the Supreme Court illustrated by Victor Bizar Gomez (Red Comet Press, Oct. 15, 2024).

Andrea: That’s so exciting to have so many books in the works! Congratulations and thanks for chatting with me!

And now, for the giveaway: Mia is giving away 3 paperback copies of BOXER BABY BATTLES BEDTIME! along with a Squish Ball for each copy, as shown in the photo at the top of this post. Please comment below to enter. Three separate winners will be chosen at random on May 31st! U.S. addresses only, please.

Mia Wenjen blogs at PragmaticMom.com. She is also the co-creator and president of nonprofit, Read Your World. Her debut picture book, Sumo Joe (Lee and Low, 2019) was selected as a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year. Food for the Future: Sustainable Farms Around the World (Barefoot Books, 2023) is a Junior Library Guild selection, received a starred review from School Library Journal, and made Chicago Library Best of the Best list. We Sing from the Heart: How the Slants® Took Their Fight for Free Speech to the Supreme Court (Red Comet Press) and Boxer Baby Battles Bedtime (Eifrig Publishing) release on October 15, 2024. Changing the Game: Asian Pacific American Female Athletes was a Kickstarter project recently released by Scholastic. Postcards from Malcolm X: How Yuri Kochiyama Became a Civil Rights Activist (Red Comet Press) releases in 2025. Follow her @pragmaticmom on social media.

Andrea Wang

Andrea Wang is an acclaimed author of children’s books. Her book Watercress was awarded the Caldecott Medal, a Newbery Honor, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor. Her other books, The Many Meanings of Meilan, Magic Ramen, and The Nian Monster, have also received awards and starred reviews. Her work explores culture, creative thinking, and identity. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in Colorado with her family and pandemic pup, Tupelo.

8 Comments:

  1. What an interesting concept for what could otherwise be an everyday struggle for parents. I think kids will enjoy boxer baby’s fruitful attempts at escape while parents reading aloud will relate to the dad’s frustration.

  2. Danielle Hammelef

    I love the idea of a stay-at-home dad in a picture book! Mia is amazing! I didn’t realize her boxing abilities before reading today’s post. I have followed her blog and enjoyed the posts there on diverse books for kids and more. Congrats, Mia, on another fun book that gives readers a new angle on parenting and will have both the adult and children cheering on Dad and baby.

  3. Angie Quantrell

    Wow! Already I love this! Great job with the boxing vocab and images! Congratulations!!

  4. Mercy! This book is full of fun and energy!

  5. Mercy! Lots of fun and energy in this book!

  6. Great interview! Wow, Mia, I didn’t know this about you. Congrats on the new picture book.

  7. What a fun book! And I loved reading about your journey to publication, too. Congratulations!

  8. Lindsay Moretti

    This book looks SO relatable! I’m in the same trenches where I feel like I’m my baby’s opponent in the ring whenever bedtime rolls around. Fun concept – congratulations!

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