Cantastic Authorpalooza: Karen Patkau

August 5, 2019

Welcome to Cantastic Authorpalooza, featuring posts by great Canadian children’s writers! Today’s guest: Karen Patkau. Take it away, Karen!

Peck! Pick! Pop! Crack! HATCH!

Triceratops Stomp by Karen PatkauA plaster cast of an embryo fossil and three eggs circulated around the room. Dr. David Evans, a paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum, described his remarkable find: a dinosaur nursery where he found dinosaur eggs!

As a writer and illustrator of non-fiction picture books, nature and animals are my passion. I’m always on the lookout for ideas about them. That evening I wrote down a few notes about Dr. Evan’s important find. Busy working on another book project, I intended to file it away with my list of potential subjects.

The cast came to me and I studied the remains of these prehistoric creatures. A tingling sensation crept up the back of my neck.  I recognized it. I knew I was getting an idea.

Sometimes it takes years for a story line takes shape. My tale about dinosaur eggs came together within a couple of days. I wrote it down quickly. I rewrote it a couple of times over the next week and showed it to a few friends.

One said to me, “Does the world really need another dinosaur book?” Normally I’d have agreed, but I had a strong feeling that my idea was different enough. I sent it off a publisher that I had worked with before. I got a very speedy and positive response. Apparently the world does need another dinosaur book.

The key to writing about a popular topic is a novel perspective. In this case, it was that of some very noisy Triceratops babies.

Although my text was hypothetical, there was enough natural history in it that I needed to do research about the flora and fauna that existed during the time of Triceratops dinosaurs.  I scanned the Internet, watched nature programs and looked at other dinosaur picture books. I sketched Triceratops and T-Rex skeletons at the Royal Ontario Museum. I contacted the Curator of Dinosaur Palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta with several specific questions.

The next time I saw David Evans, I told him about my story.  He broke into a huge grin and said that I’d made his day. He was delighted his discovery had inspired a kid’s picture book.

Here is a recent review by Jeffrey Canton in the Globe and Mail:

“The world is full of wonder for some newly hatched Triceratops babies in Karen Patkau’s Triceratops Stomp (Pajama Press, $19.95, 2-5) as they explore with their mama, who makes sure to keep them from harm but also wants them to experience life outside of their nest. Young readers will find themselves stomping and romping and thudding about just like the baby dinosaurs in Patkau’s lively onomatopoeic text.”

Karen Patkau is an author, illustrator, designer and visual artist. She was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. On the back of a photo of her at 10 months old, a telling note is written by her mother – “Here is Karen looking at a book. She enjoys books, especially those with pictures of animals in them.” Today, Karen lives in Toronto. Find her online at

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