When is a sequel, not a sequel? When it’s a similar yet separate book!
Natalee Creech has visited my blog a few times, but she visited my blog in 2022 to talk about her book NOTHING becoming a board book (which was a companion book to the book we’ll discuss today). She has lived in multiple countries (Canada, South Korea, and the US). She has been a librarian, a teacher, and now a published writer. You can learn more about her at her website or you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Her newest book SOMETHING releases February 7th. Just like NOTHING, it’s a rhyming text that expands on how to be kind from a biblical perspective. And frankly, there aren’t enough books about kindness out there (in my opinion). This book gives concrete examples for young readers on things they can do to be kind without being didactic or preachy. That in and of itself is a wonderful accomplishment on such a needed topic.
Welcome back Natalee!
Me: What gave you the idea to turn Matthew 25: 35-36 (which is about showing kindness to others being akin to showing kindness to God) into a picture book?
Natalee: I had already written two manuscripts titled Everything and Nothing based on Bible verses, so I had in my mind to work on one called Something. I started with the title and explored Bible verses that used the word something, settling on this one.
Me: You have an amazing talent for taking complex subject matter and breaking it down in a breezy conversation with questions kids would absolutely ask. How do you do that? How do you approach a subject like this? Are there many revisions?
Natalee: Thank you! I hope it comes off as effortless, but in fact there were SO MANY REVISIONS! I looked back at my files and discovered that I started this manuscript in June of 2017. I found 60 different versions, written over 5 years in 3 different countries on 2 different computers! (RIP, beloved Macbook Pro!) In order to keep the question/answer part of the structure similar to Nothing I brainstormed questions children might ask. I work with children daily, so that helps keep me in touch with my target age group. And of course, my editors always know what a manuscript needs to improve it and make it more appealing to children.
Me: Was this book a companion or a sequel to NOTHING which came out in April 2019? Or is it a separate idea that came along later?
Natalee: Companion book is probably the most apt description since it doesn’t matter which you read first and the characters are not the same. I intentionally set out to write another manuscript that was similar to the first two I had written– connected title, similar structure, and based on a Bible verse.
Me: The illustrations by Pablo Pino are pitch perfect. I love the many ways he illustrated and interpreted your text. Were there any illustration surprises for you? What was your favorite illustration?
Natalee: I absolutely love Pablo Pino’s illustrations! Penguins were a surprise! They show up quietly, hiding behind a tree in the first spread then join the downhill fun in the second. My text was: When I know a friend is hurting then my heart starts aching too, like it’s asking me a question . . . is there something I can do? I didn’t indicate why the friend was hurting, but left that to the illustrator and art director.
I’m not sure I can actually choose a favorite, so I’m going to cheat and share a few. I love the illustration in which a new family is moving into the neighborhood and children show up to help – a couple of them completely taking over! They give the new kid a superhero cape that matches their own.
I also love the Waggin’ Wagon spread with all the incredible furry friends Pablo Pino created to be on that vehicle. (Shout out to my critique group for helping with the name!)
I also love the last page in which many of the characters converge and it’s like a treasure hunt for readers to go back and remember who helped whom in what way! Where did the mail carrier get his new mode of transportation? On which page did we see that kid dressed like a fire fighter? There’s so much to love and look for in every illustration. Pablo Pino is amazing!
Me: Why is the message in this book an important one you want to share with young readers?
Natalee: I know there are lots of books with messages of being kind, helping others etc. but part of what I wanted to say – and this is me, personally, not something from this particular Bible verse – is to pay attention! Small things can make a big difference, but you have to notice before you can help. I also hope this book sparks conversations about how we can love like Jesus. What would that look like?
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Natalee: I felt a lot of resistance in writing this story. I questioned whether I should be writing it at all. Who am I to do this? What have I done to make a difference? I realized I need the words of this story as much as anyone else. I need to remember that compassion doesn’t have to be complicated. There has been a quote circulating recently on Facebook that says something like this: Everyone wants to save the Earth; nobody wants to help Mom do dishes. Let’s all do the dishes a little more!
Me: I love that. What projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?
Natalee: You know how people choose a word for the year? Were I to do that, my word for the year should be “finish.” I have so many manuscripts I need to finish! I need to completely overhaul EVERYTHING, the manuscript that led to NOTHING and SOMETHING, and bring it more in line with the published versions in hopes that it too will someday become a book. I also have projects I’m working on that aren’t specifically Christian, including some humorous non-rhyming books, but at the moment I don’t have anything under contract.
Jena, I always enjoy talking with you! Thank you so much for hosting all your Simply 7 interviews. I know many in the writing community enjoy them and love to see the journey and process of other authors as their manuscript become books!
And thank you for stopping by again Natalee!
Dear readers, if you’re interested in pre-ordering the book, you can find it here. It’s a unique approach to the subject of kindness that you won’t want to miss. Definitely check it out.