Karen Patkau: A Flower is a Friend

May 19, 2023

A Flower is a Friend, by Frieda Wishinsky, illustrated by Karen PatkauWelcome to Cantastic Authorpalooza, featuring posts by and about great Canadian children’s book creators! Today’s guest: Karen Patkau. Take it away, Karen!

This book was a collaboration from the beginning. Ideas for words and images exchanged between friends.

On a warm summer day, as Frieda and I relaxed in her beautiful garden, we noticed birds and insects whizzing and settling among the flowering plants. Frieda showed me a photo she’d taken of a butterfly sipping nectar from a zinnia. It looked like they were kissing.

Together we wondered, “Is there a picture book here?”

The seed of an idea was planted, so to speak. We brainstormed concepts for the book and came up with a list.

It would be nonfiction, featuring a different flower and animal interacting with their environment on each spread. Frieda would write the words. The text would be minimal, lyrical and engaging. I’d do the images. They would be lush and colourful. A spread with an entire flower garden and the animals in it would be featured somewhere. Back matter would provide a sampling of scientific detail, describing the different mutualistic roles.

Frieda prepared the manuscript and I did three sample illustrations, which we pitched as an author/illustrator package. Publishers usually don’t want this kind of submission, unless the author is also the illustrator. However, Frieda and I have worked with many publishers through the years and we thought we’d give it a try. Fortunately, Pajama Press loved our proposal.

So this seed of an idea sprouted and grew. We watered and pruned until it blossomed into A Flower is a Friend.

Interior spread of A Flower is a Friend



“ Beginning with this quietly lovely book’s first spread, blossoms proudly announce themselves in clear, simple prose and describe how they help their friends….The remarkable digital illustrations, so photographically, lusciously lifelike that one can almost smell floral aromas wafting from the pages, call for readers’ close scrutiny….A garden of gorgeous delights.”—Kirkus  Starred

“This appealing picture book takes viewers on a close-up tour of a garden….Wishinsky’s age-appropriate text talks of friendships between flowers and animals and uses questions to engage her audience….Patkau’s vibrantly colorful illustrations are eye-catching and helpful. An intriguing picture book on flowers and their friends”—Booklist

“… Follow the little mouse into this delightful picture book that offers valuable scientific insights by arousing, in the earliest readers, a sense of wonder for nature.… the symbiosis between flowers and the small creatures that interact with them is shown in delicate, glowing digitally created images. They are paired with minimal text: a verb and noun that describe the relationship (e.g. kiss a butterfly), and a question (e.g. why do butterflies and zinnias love being together?).… Enjoy both quiet moments with the pictures and the fun of discovery with the text in this thoughtful book. – ***** Highly Recommended – Canadian Materials

Karen Patkau is an award-winning author and illustrator. Her work can be found in twenty -five picture books. Karen graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours degree, and became interested in visual storytelling while studying for her Master of Visual Arts degree at the University of Alberta. She has been writing and illustrating with a focus on nature nonfiction for many years. Visit her website at www.karenpatkau.com.

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