Goodnight School by Catherine Bailey (+GIVEAWAY)

Hello, Picture Book Builders people.

The end of another school year is HERE, and I have the perfect way for all of you to celebrate–Goodnight School. This gem of book is written by my pal and critique buddy Catherine Bailey and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld. Gift it to a child! Gift it to a teacher! Gift it to YOURSELF!

I’m not the only one who loves this book. Check out these reviews!

“A loving after-hours tribute to a stalwart school building.”—Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

“The titular school may be sleepy, but kids will stay awake long enough to pore over the inspired artwork.”—Kirkus Reviews

Nice, huh?

Today, Catherine Bailey is with us at Picture Book Builders. Let’s ask her some questions, shall we?

TS: Catherine! Welcome to Picture Book Builders. Where oh where did you get the idea for this delightful book?

CB: Hello Miss Tammi and thank you so much for hosting me today. I am excited to be here (and excited for Summer –  yay!)

The idea for this book popped up during COVID. At the time, I had two children in elementary school, and I saw their teachers and administrators working incredibly hard. Maintaining a sense of normalcy, boosting morale, and of course educating – all while dealing with masks, remote learning, and constant uncertainty and changing guidelines – phew! I knew it was exhausting, and I cracked a joke that “even the pencils must be tired.” That one line stuck in my head and was the seed for this book. Working on the story became my love letter to educators – a “thank you” and an “I see you” for all the folks that work in our school system. My mother and aunt both worked in elementary schools, and they were also a big inspiration. And of course, it was tremendous fun to imagine what went on after the bell rang. The kid in me always wondered what an empty school would be like – foreign yet familiar, maybe even a little bit wrong (like seeing a teacher at the grocery store!)  

TS: Not only does Goodnight School share what happens at the school once all of the teachers and students go home for the day, but it also offers a bonus storyline through the art. This bonus storyline begins in the front endpapers and goes all the way to the back endpapers. Please share a little about my favorite literary escape artist. Did the turtle come to you when you were working on your first drafts, or did he make an appearance later in the process? Also, do you have any suggestions as to how one can go about including a bonus storyline through the art?

CB: The turtle! I love the turtle! From the start I wanted to add a sort of “Where’s Waldo / I Spy” element to this story. I knew this “hidden in plain sight” element would pair nicely with the sneak-peek, behind-the-scenes concept of a school after hours. Plus, I loved the tension of near misses between the turtle and the security guard. At first, I was thinking Guinea Pig, but then a wonderful critique partner suggested a turtle. The juxtaposition between an escapee on the run and, well, a plodding turtle was too good to pass up.

My suggestion for adding a second story in the art is this – it must at least make sense with the main storyline, and ideally advance or reinforce it. Here I had a security guard helping a school go to bed, so it made sense that she would also (spoiler alert!) help a class pet head to bed. Once you have two plots that you can weave together, look for moments in the plot where the characters and/or action can intersect. For example, I added a line about everything in the music room being quiet, except for a tambourine. That was on purpose so that, in an art note, I could add in the turtle bumping into the tambourine.

TS: Goodnight School is a rhymer which gives this book a lyrical, bedtime-y feel complete with just-right, cozy-sounding words. What was your process like for connecting those words with the various items found in a school?

CB: Great question! It all starts with a list (and then that list has baby lists, and so on – ha!). I grabbed a pen and pad and brainstormed physical objects you would expect to see in an elementary school. I reached out to my teacher friends for more ideas. I wanted each object to basically scream “YOU ALWAYS SEE ME IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS!” (hence recorders, reading mats, and so on). That was List #1. Then I did the same for specific settings within a school (List #2), and I did it again for words / phrases related to bedtime (List #3). It was easy to match items with settings. The last step was pairing items with bedtime language. That part was the most challenging, but also the most fun because finding the right pairing was sort of like a puzzle. Beats and rhymes and alliteration – basically all the tools in a rhymer’s toolbox – had to align. I was also able to give each object its own little personality in this last step. After all, Fridge would not just sleep – he would    s l u m b e r  , am I right?

TS: Cori’s art beautifully complements the text–even the subdued color palette feels like a perfect fit. Tell us about one of your favorite spreads.

CB: Cori is a genius. We all know this. I just about fainted when I heard she signed on to this project. So picking a favorite spread is impossible. No can do. Nope. I mean every page turn reveals yet another perfectly personified item – right down to a drooling water fountain. I was impressed with how she laid out the art as well. On one page she used a split screen effect with the security guard on one side of a door, and the web-surfing turtle at a desk on the other side of the door. That was so clever!  I also loved the wordless double page spread that gives readers an aerial view of the school’s interior. It reminds me of the CLUE board game. I’m hoping young readers will trace the turtle’s wandering footsteps with their fingertips, down the stairs, around the corner and into the break room – just a few steps ahead of the guard. And can we talk about the color palette Cori used? It’s perfect! I was wondering how an artist would do an entire story set at night, in a dark building, with all the lights off. Cori’s use of moody blues and grays is perfect.

TS: The school day might be over in the book, but school is always in session for picture book creators! If you could share one piece of advice with this crowd, what would it be?

CB: Oooo, another great question. I’ll keep it short and sweet: Persistence beats talent. Which is to say – don’t quit. Write every day, even if it is just emailing yourself a plot idea or jotting down fun names for future characters. Of course, talent is important, as is learning the craft of writing and the industry of publishing. But those things don’t mean bupkis if you aren’t actually writing and putting yourself out there. I wrote for years before I was published, and I started by submitting to children’s magazines and online poetry websites. My breakthrough was not a giant glittering blockbuster debut of my first ever manuscript. It was chugging along, day by day, submission by submission, and building up to bigger contracts and better connections. I kept on despite hundreds of rejections (which I three-hole punched and kept in a binder by the way!) I have been writing picture books for over a decade now, and I can safely say 90% of the people I started with – critique partners and writers I’d meet at conferences – have dropped off. But I didn’t.

TS: Oh, that’s GREAT advice! By the way, I have a binder, too! I still have it! Before I made my first sale, I put my “nice rejections” in sleeve protectors–Yes. So fancy.and lovingly snapped them into My Binder of Nice Rejections. I’d read over them when I was feeling discouraged to remind myself I was getting closer and closer to a YES.

Scoop time! What’s next?

CB: Welllllll … bats eyelashes coyly…. I do have *something* in the works. Two somethings actually! But I can’t dish too many details because they are still in progress. I can share that there is a follow up to Goodnight School hitting shelves in the next year or so. It’s a different setting with a different cast of characters. This time they are waking up to a brand-new day, but of course I still worked in a furtive, furry friend on the run. For more news about this book and my upcoming projects, check out my Instagram at @CatherineBaileyBooks and my website at

TS: So excited for you, friend! Thanks for visiting Picture Book Builders!


Catherine Bailey is an award-winning children’s author and youth presenter from sunny Florida. Her recent books include DINOS DON’T MEDITATE (Sounds True, 2023), HUSTLE BUSTLE BUGS (LLBYR, 2022), HARBOR BOUND (Disney/Hyperion, 2019), and the forthcoming GOODNIGHT SCHOOL (Union Square, 2024). And there’s more on the way! She has also written for popular children’s magazines such as Highlight’s Hello and Babybug. She is a frequent children’s speaker and has visited with hundreds (and hundreds, and hundreds!) of kids at schools, libraries, stores, and special events.

When Catherine is not writing, or editing, or swatting at mosquitoes, she looks after her husband and two children. All three of them are quite sticky, and none like bedtime, but she loves them anyway. Her prior job titles include Lawyer, Sailboat Deckhand, and Cartoon Network Intern. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, and snacking. Oh, and TJ Maxx! But mostly reading.

Learn more about Catherine and her work at


Catherine is giving a signed copy of Goodnight School. For a chance to win, leave a comment on this post. For a bonus chance to win, please share the post on Twitter. (Yes, I will call it Twitter forever.). Please tag me in the post (@SauerTammi).


Congratulations, Michelle Mattes! You’re the winner of a signed copy of Moo Hoo!

Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has more than 30 published picture books and has many others on the way. Her books have received awards, earned starred reviews, made lists, been made into musicals, and been translated into many different languages. Most importantly, kids really like her books! To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.


  1. This sounds like a great book! Can’t wait to read it!

  2. Thanks for sharing your process, Catherine! And best wishes with your work.

  3. How adorable – and cheers to persistence! Will look forward to reading this story!

  4. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    Congrats! This sounds incredible. And I loved hearing the back story.

  5. Michael Henriksen

    Thank you for sharing these insights full of positive practical advice! Loved hearing about the evolution of this project and your own persistent path to publication. Excited to read your newest book as soon as it’s available! Congrats! 👏👏

  6. I love the concept for Goodnight School by Catherine Bailey. I’ve always been drawn to stories about inanimate objects. For Halloween, I would dress up as a flower pot or an M&m…rarely as a person. Thank you, Catherine for walking us through the origin of the turtle and sharing how you came up with the story idea. I can’t wait to read this one!

  7. Thanks for sharing your lovely book. I can’t wait to read it.

  8. I really enjoyed the interview, such a great window into the process behind this book. Thanks, looking forward to reading!

  9. So fun…thanks for sharing!

  10. I, too, was always fascinated by the thought of school after hours. The mystery of a place when the bustling is gone.

  11. Thanks for a great interview! So many gems beginning with:”Even the pencils must be tired!” What a great beginning to Goodnight School! Congratulations Catherine. I love the art too–so clever and fun. Esp. with the turtle. The blue/gray palette is perfect. Soothing too as a bedtime book. I also have a book, Little Thief! set during the night and I wondered how the artist would manage and she chose purples and pinks.

  12. Stefanie Raszler

    This sounds like an adorable, fun read!

  13. I look forward to reading this story! Thank you.

  14. Heather Stigall

    This books sounds adorable! And the idea totally gave me “why didn’t I think about that?” vibes. Brilliant! Congrats!

  15. What a great book! I look forward to reading it. Enjoyed the backstory, too. Congratulations, Catherine!

  16. Such a great idea – love the escaped turtle!

  17. Thanks for relating the backstory for Goodnight School. It’s such a great premise! I love the parallel story with the turtle, too!

  18. This story idea is marvelous! As a retired elementary teacher, I smiled at all of the little scenarios- and the turtle of course! Looking forward to this book to share with my friends who are still in the classroom!

  19. Sheri Delgado-Preston

    Hi Catherine- What a fun story! I’m going to see if our public library has it. If they don’t, I will suggest it. Congrats!!

  20. Danielle Hammelef

    My parents were both elementary teachers so I think this book will be so much fun to read and maybe even bring back memories of being with them when the schools were empty of kids. I’m excited to follow the turtle around too. I have a similar memory to the seeing your teacher at the grocery story one: My mom’s favorite story to share about the first days of school as a kindergarten teacher was when she used the bathroom during free play time. She noticed how quiet the class got and the shocked faces of the students as she emerged. “You go to the bathroom?” So I understand the mind-blowing discovery that teachers are human.

  21. So many great tips! Thank you Catherine and Tammi!

  22. Oooo, I’d love to win this book for my kindergartners! Great interview & concept.

  23. As a former educator, all teachers and students are sure to like this delightful book, GOODNIGHT SCHOOL.

    I love your advice, Catherine, “Persistence beats talent.”

    Thank you, Tammi. I shared this post on Twitter.

  24. Looks like a great book. Congrats!

  25. Such a sweet school book! Extra bonus: an adorable turtle!

  26. Patricia Nozell

    This looks adorable! I can’t wait to read it and try to find the turtle in each spread. And thank you for the advice about persistence. So true!

  27. Angie Quantrell

    Oh, so cute! I was a teacher for many years, and I love this! Congratulations! Thanks for the advice!! Persistence.

  28. I love everything about this book! As a teacher, I can appreciate this story so much. I also love the turtle. What a great idea to thread that through the story. Kids will love looking for it. Thanks for sharing the backstory on this too.

  29. Love the idea and the art. I’m looking forward to reading it. And yes, teaching during COVID ( including the days where we were allowed to return) were exhausting.

  30. Can’t wait to get this fun book❤️❤️

  31. I can’t wait to check your book out! Sounds wonderful!

  32. What a great idea for a book! I love a good rhyming text, and the illustrations are adorable. Congratulations!

    I’ve also tucked away some of your comments about persistence — I plan to dole them out to fellow writers who are feeling discouraged. 🙂

  33. Sounds great! I will be looking forward to reading it!

  34. Julie Augensen-Rand

    Great interview! It’s always so nice to see a book come to life. I cannot wait to see all the art. The little bit you shared looks so amazing. And you know, I love the turtle. *wink!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *