Welcome to Cantastic Authorpalooza, featuring posts by and about great Canadian children’s book creators! Today’s guest: Karen Krossing. Take it away, Karen!
Thanks for inviting me to write this post, Lindsey. I’m a fan of Cantastic Authorpalooza!
As an author of novels for teens and kids, I’m used to being the sole creator of a book in partnership with a publishing team. When I wrote my first picture book, part of my journey was to understand and explore this new-to-me format. Picture books are a conversation between author and illustrator, words and art. Each creator brings half a book to form a whole. Co-creating Sour Cakes (Owlkids Books) with talented illustrator Anna Kwan has been a delightful conversation. And conversation is a major theme in Sour Cakes.
I come from a family that talks out problems, perhaps because we’ve faced so many of them. Inspired by my family history of mental health challenges, Sour Cakes is told only in dialogue between two siblings—a big one who wakes up wanting to play and a little one who feels sour. Big tries to cheer Little up by offering to sing a song, colour a picture, and bake sweet cakes, but Little grows increasingly sour. When Little’s mood reaches a boiling point, Big tries a new tactic. She empathizes and enters the gloom with Little, offering compassion and a slice of cake. Together, they navigate Little’s messy feelings until both siblings are ready to play.
When writing Sour Cakes, I drew from my childhood interactions with my older sister as well as interactions between my two daughters and my two nieces. There’s something about siblings—how they can perfectly annoy one another and also support one another with great acts of kindness and acceptance. When illustrating, Anna says she drew from her interactions with her cousins as well as her young nephews, so Sour Cakes is a gift from our families to our readers’ families. Personally, I adore the way that Anna illustrated complex sibling emotions. They can be hard to explain in words, yet somehow Anna has captured them in ways kids can relate to.
Sour Cakes offers a road map for how to acknowledge one’s own difficult emotions and how to support someone who’s experiencing emotions that feel too big to handle. The book can be interpreted as a sibling who is going through a bad mood or a deeper depression. We all experience bad moods and good ones, and it can be hard to navigate them alone. Luckily, we don’t have to.
My goal in writing Sour Cakes was to spark reader conversations about their emotions, so really, Sour Cakes is a conversation that I hope will foster more conversations. For ideas about how to have these conversations, Anna and I created a Discussion Guide and Colouring Pages.