Feb 23, 2013


Chronicle Books, February, 2013

When a new release garners lots of attention I try to let others shine the spotlight and instead offer up titles that may have been overlooked in the shadows. OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK, by Jesse Klausmeier, illustrated by Suzy Lee has hit the shelves with a splash. Recent reviews and interviews can be found at Publishers Weekly for Children, Mr. Schu's blog, School Library Journal's Hundred Scope Notes, a starred Kirkus review, Read, Write, Repeat, and Chronicles interview with Jesse and Suzy.

The book trailer makes it clear that this book(s) speaks for itself.

So why shouldn't I pass on this title with such other noteworthy commentators already offering their thoughtful insights and accolades?
That's easy- because Jesse is a member of our Wisconsin Regional SCBWI and agreed to answer some questions about her debut picture book when I asked. How could I pass that up?
Welcome, Jesse! Here we go...

You've said you loved books as a child, so which ones do you remember most?
Three that stick out are:
  • ·      The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone illustrated by Michael Smollin
  • ·      The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • ·      Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak
Back page copy
Has anything about those influenced the way you write for kids today?


The Monster at the End of This Book was the first book I experienced where the narrator spoke directly to the reader. Because Grover spoke directly to me, I became one of the main characters. In Open This Little Book, the reader is the character that kicks off the story. The directive to open this little book instantly engages the reader and demonstrates that she or he plays an active role in the book.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar stands out for its innovative design. As a child, I found the collages and the die-cut pages captivating. I had never seen anything like it and that novelty is something I hoped to achieve with Open This Little Book.

Little Bear was the first “big kid book” I read on my own. The feeling of accomplishment when graduating to solo reading is unforgettable. In my writing, especially for the youngest crowd, I do my best to put as few words on the page as possible so that they can memorize the text and confidently share it with others.
Photo credit: Julia Moberg

When you first held a copy in your hands, what were your first thoughts, or what surprised you most about this book?
I guess the biggest surprise was that my book was genuinely real. Until I physically held a copy, I couldn’t fully comprehend that I was actually being published. The editing and design process passed in a haze of excitement and anticipation. I’m still getting used to seeing my book in bookstore windows. My friend Julia sent me these pictures of the French version of the book in the window of a Parisian bookstore! 

Have you been able to share your book directly with kids yet? Can you tell us about that?
Yes! This is truly my favorite part of being an author. I love watching kids get drawn into the story by physically leaning closer and closer in towards the book as they open the smaller and smaller books within. 
CeCe, 11 & Neela, 9
I had the pleasure of having a four-year-old read the story to me. She prompted me to guess what character would be found within each little book based on the clues in the covers.
But I think the most memorable moment was when my 11-year-old niece Gwyn read the book and really studied each page. She flipped back and forth to compare how each character’s world changed throughout the book, commented that it was important that Giant was blue and a girl, and savored all the delicious details in the last illustration. Having the book appeal to such a wide age-range is truly heartwarming.

Jesse Klausmeier
Photo credit Alicia Bozewicz.

Any advice for someone with a desire to write for kids?
Sure! My two biggest pieces of advice are:
  • ·      Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org). I met my agent and editor through the SCBWI and I can't recommend it enough. You'll have access to their amazing resources, conferences, local chapters, and supportive community.
  • ·      Read! Become an expert in your genre and read as much as you can within it. Read and study the books that have won awards, are on the best-sellers list, are recommended by your librarians, and re-read the books that you loved as a child.
Thanks, Jesse, for sharing your thoughts, reactions, and advice here, and for the creation of an amazing new book. Next week I'll take a closer look at it, along with a few other books that explore the very nature of books. OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK and some select others demonstrate that a physical book has a unique and important place in our lives, and always will. The fact that it is receiving such a warm and enthusiastic welcome assures me that I'm not alone in my conviction. Take a look at your earliest opportunity and see if you agree.

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