Simply 7 with Diana Murray and Luke Flowers–UNICORN NIGHT

Today’s picture book is a sequel to my favorite unicorn book that was me dancing with joy today on it’s book birthday!

DianaMDiana Murray has visited my blog numerous times over the years.  In fact, she and Luke both visited my blog back in 2019 about the first book UNICORN DAY.  She is now the author of over a dozen books for children and her award-winning poems have appeared in magazines such as Highlights, High Five and Spider, as well as many poetry anthologies. She grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her firefighter husband, two children, and a motley crew of pets. You can learn more about her at her website.

Unicorn Night COVERUNICORN NIGHT is a terrific sequel to UNICORN DAY.  After a day of partying hard, what comes next?  Bedtime of course!  I’m surprised I didn’t think of that myself!  Diana with her amazing rhyme weaves another bedtime story that will have those unicorn fans tucked in tight in no time.  And Luke Flowers’ illustrations are again brightly colored and full of fun tidbits you really have to be paying attention to in order to catch all the surprises and laughs tucked inside.  Favorite characters return and new characters are introduced.  This is exactly what a sequel should be and you won’t want to miss it.

Welcome back Diana!

Me: I’m absolutely thrilled to see “Unicorn Day” get a sequel and I’m sure many young readers are too.  Did you already have a sequel in mind when the first book came out?  Or did you have to start thinking of one when “Unicorn Day” did so well?

Diana: Thank you! I’m so excited! No, I never imagined it would have a sequel. But when it started selling really well, the publisher asked me if I had sequel ideas.  My first idea was “Unicorn Night”, as it seemed like a logical progression. I wondered what the unicorns would do after the party was over. I also wrote the manuscript for a second  idea, which will be another sequel published next year. I don’t think I can give details on that one yet. It was super fun for me to get back into Unicorn world! And a treat for me to see more glitter-tastic illustrations from Luke.

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Me: Technically, I think we can say that this is also another bedtime story.  Now that you have at least three bedtime stories published, I have to ask: is this quickly becoming your favorite genre?  Or did unicorns and bedtime just naturally come together here in this story?

Diana: For sure, I have several “Goodnight” books and more on the way. I do think bedtime books are a favorite for me. Reading before bedtime is the most common time for parents and kids to share a story. When my kids were little, sharing that special moment was my favorite time of day. So “bedtime” as a story theme is a natural choice.

Me: Do you have plans for any other books in this series that you can tell us about?  (Please say yes!)

Diana: I do have another Unicorn book coming out in 2022! Luke is in the middle of working on the illustrations as we speak. I haven’t gotten a peek yet, but I’m super duper excited. I don’t think I can reveal specifics yet, unfortunately, even though I’m dying to spill the beans.

Me: Yay!  I can’t wait!  The illustrations by Luke Flowers are once again fantastic.  From the clever names of potions to funny book titles (I actually laughed at the ones on the last page), there is SO much to see in this book.  He really brought it to life.  Did you have any favorite illustrations?

Diana: Yes, the book titles made me laugh, too! And the recycling container labeled “Resparkle”. Luke is so brilliant! I love the snuggly baby unicorn and the image of them all reading together on their cloud bed, and the way it’s a reflection of the human readers. It’s funny to notice the similarities and differences of unicorns going to bed vs children going to bed. Luke did such an awesome job capturing that.

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Me: I absolutely loved how many returning characters I saw in this book as well.  The faux-nicorn, the goth-icorn, the yeti-corn among many others.  There are also new characters, like all the woodland creatures.  That moose with the cup of tea!  Adorable!  Were there any new favorite characters for you that Luke created?

Diana: The “goth-icorn” is my goth teenager’s favorite! Luke is such a master of character creation. I loved the adorable baby unicorn with one tooth, the sneaky baby dragon, and the tea-drinking, sleepy-eyed moose! There are so many characters to look at on every page. I love how Luke gave the animals all different dreams, like the turtle who dreams of flying with a rocket pack. So fun!

Screen Shot 2021-09-06 at 1.40.02 PMMe: I loved that too!  Here is another brilliant example of the things amazing illustrators can bring to a written text when they are given the room to create.  Did you have any idea that there would be a dragon in this story? Were there any other illustration surprises for you?

Diana: No, I had no idea the dragon would play a big part in the story. The baby dragon hiding throughout the beginning and then being the one to point out that the unicorns forgot to sing the bedtime song was all Luke’s idea. It was a wonderful surprise that he added that layer.

Me: I love that!  This book captures bedtime routines beautifully.  What bedtime routines do you do with your own kiddos?  Or as your kids are getting older now, what bedtime routines do you find necessary for yourself?

Diana: My own bedtime routine usually consists of having some warm rooibos tea and then watching ASMR videos. When my kids were little (they’re teenagers now), we always read stories before bed. Some of their favorites were Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Room on the Broom, Bear Snores On, Little Skink’s Tail, Noodle’s Knitting, Shampoodle, and Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. Well, I could go on and on.  I sure miss the days of reading books out loud with my kids snuggled in my lap. Sigh. But that’s why it’s so nice that I still get to be a part of that ritual in a way, by writing my own stories for others to share.

Aww!  I love that too.  Thank you for visiting my blog again Diana.  BUT WAIT, dear readers!  There’s more!  Luke Flowers is also visiting with us today.

LukeFlowers_photoLuke Flowers began to pursue his lifelong love of children’s books in 2015, as both an author and illustrator. Since then he has illustrated more than 60 children’s books.  When he’s not illustrating or writing, he enjoys puppetry, playing banjo, basketball and outdoor adventures with his family. You can learn more about him at his website.

Welcome back Luke!

Me: Can you tell us about the journey to this sequel?  When did you know you were going to illustrate another unicorn book for Dianna Murray? 

Luke: I was thrilled to find out there would be a sequel, and I would have another chance to work with Diana and the Sourcebook crew! I found out in May of 2020, so needless to say any good news was welcome in the midst of that challenging year. The struggles of 2020 and everything that was happening in our world really had a big influence on the process of creating the art for this book. I won’t go into too much detail, but I was really struggling with a lot of anxiety and worry (as all of us were in many ways) from the loss, uncertainty and fears surrounding our country, communities and the world.

The theme of “storytime” and “nighttime routines” with our little readers, really reminded me of why that is such a special time with children. It’s a time of certainty, a peaceful end to the day, a sense of safety and rest. I really wanted to capture that tone and set that stage with the art, but it was also a needed reminder to myself and for my family at the same time about how we embrace those same themes in the midst of difficult times.

Screen Shot 2021-09-06 at 1.00.07 PMMe: Wow, I love that.  Unicorns are kind of an evergreen topic, but they also feel like they’re getting a bit overdone right now in the market.  After the success of “Unicorn Day,” how did you feel about doing another unicorn book?

Luke: Growing up in the 80s there were unicorns everywhere too. I’m sure medieval artists were thinking the same thing! I’m honored to be part of a long line of artists celebrating these unique creatures. I think it’s actually quite fun to see all the clever twists on how to tell another unicorn story or create an imaginative character. That is what I tried to do from the start with my adaptation of these unicorn friends, and how I would make them UNIQUE-corns!

Me: Ha!  Yes!  I loved your inclusion of so many characters from the first book in this sequel and some of my absolute favorite ones at that.  Did you have to go back to your work for the first book to review who all you had included?  Or did you just remember the characters you’d already brought into this world?  

Luke: I was happy that we were able to bring in some familiar characters from “Unicorn Day” but also add in a new group of unicorn friends. It’s funny that you mention who was included in “Unicorn Night” because the main theme of “Unicorn Day” was inclusivity and community.

Screen Shot 2021-09-06 at 1.44.18 PMI actually wanted to build on that theme in a similar way with the characters in the sequel. Diana had already created this beautiful narrative of the way a night time routine has a rhythm and peaceful flow. I believe children find a deep sense of love in that routine. A parent/guardian taking the time to slow down, connect, care for them has lasting impact that flows through their lives and can then be shared with others. Diana captures a wonderful sense of love, connecting, inspiring and dreaming together in this book. Again, what was happening in our country had a big impact on my creative journey and working on this book at that time. We lost so much of our unity in 2020, I was certainly trying to bring that theme of togetherness and love into every spread of this story. I hope it shows through in obvious and subtle ways too that readers will find with each reading.

Me: I think it does!  I have to ask about the dragons!  They’re such a brilliant inclusion, but there are no references to dragons in the text.  What made you decide to include them in this story?

Screen Shot 2021-09-06 at 1.48.10 PMLuke: Because “Unicorn Day” ended with the big dragon bringing them all together, I wanted to bring that character into this next adventure too. It actually started out with the idea of hiding the little dragon throughout the book as more of a fun sub-story. But then I started thinking about how the little dragon really wanted to be included in the nighttime routine. I wanted to show that though the dragon is outwardly different from the unicorns, that same desire to be part of that special time and magic is universal. Because the dragon already had a heart shaped theme to them, I really wanted them to represent that idea of a BIG heart and how the dragon gathers all the unicorns together in a loving embrace. The theme of LOVE and letting that bring everyone together, was on the forefront of my mind because of where I felt we were at in our world and what I believe we will ALWAYS need more of. Dragon-sized L-O-V-E! (I even worked those letters into one of the spreads as a fun hidden reference to the overall theme)

Me: Your sense of humor always finds a way to shine through in your work.  The book titles and product names you snuck into the illustrations had me in fits of giggles.  Were these always part of your illustrations or did they get fit in at the end?

Luke: I’m so glad you spotted those and got a good laugh. I always want my work to capture that sense of whimsical fun and cleverness. I grew up loving books that had little hidden sub stories or characters to find (Richard Scarry was legendary at that). It’s fun to see what you can work into the story without distracting from it and gives readers something to find with each reading.

Me: What is one thing that surprised you in illustrating this sequel, “Unicorn Night”?

Screen Shot 2021-09-06 at 12.59.37 PMLuke: As I’ve mentioned a lot already, I think working on this particular story during the tumultuous year we had was both therapeutic and difficult. I’m so thankful for Diana’s positivity and joy she brings to her storytelling. I couldn’t help but fully embrace that message and the magic of her characters. Though it was honestly difficult some days because I was feeling so many emotions outside of my creative cave too. Throughout my life, reading and creating have always been a place where I find peace from the uncertainty of the world. I truly hope that my art will be the same for readers as they enter into that sacred space of storytime.

Me: You’re such a brilliant illustrator and I love your work.  Do you have any plans to try and write your own stories too?  What future “Luke Flowers” projects can look forward to?

Luke: DEEPLY grateful for that kind comment about my work, and your interest in where the creative journey will go next. I’ve been so grateful to have had the opportunity to illustrate over 50 books for authors that I have gotten to know as friends through the process. So I will always want to continue to illustrate for others as I move forward. I’ve also REALLY enjoyed writing my “Moby Shinobi” series for Scholastic. The 8th book just came out this summer, and we are now trying to sort out where that adventure will go next.

I have gotten to a place in my career where I do want to start writing more, and developing the stories I have been tucking away over the past few years. Honestly, my days are so full of illustrating books and working on gallery show pieces, I don’t get much time to focus on my writing. Over the next few years I’m really trying to shift that focus to developing these stories to pitch to publishers.

For now, I’ve got a few more books coming out next year that I’m very excited about! My first graphic novel, “Sparkle Dragons” (by Emma Carlson Berne) releases April 12. It’s a really fun series that I look forward to continuing to develop. Plus a festive “Star Trek” book coming soon. AND best of all … another book with Diana Murray and our unicorn friends!!

Wow Luke!  That all sounds fantastic.  Good luck and I look forward to reading them all.

Dear readers, if you haven’t had a chance yet to check out this book yet, I highly recommend it.  This is another unicorn story that stands out from the crowd.  It’s well written lyrics will be a welcome bedtime lullaby and the illustrations will help bring peace to the end of a long day.  It’s sweet and it has quite a few funny surprises in store too that guarantee it will be read and re-read many times.

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