Hi, parents, librarians, book fanatics, writers, and readers of all sorts! The season of gratitude and giving thanks is officially here. And what better way to celebrate than with a heartwarming book about gratitude? We're thrilled to have Sue Heavenrich on the blog with us sharing her and Chamisa Kellogg's new book with Sleeping Bear Press, The Pie that Molly Grew! Using a similar rhyme scheme to The House That Jack Built, and starting with the planting of a single seed, Sue's book follows Molly as she plants a pumpkin seed and watches it grow - eventually into a pie. Containing informative backmatter that includes facts about pumpkins and a recipe, this book can't be missed this holiday season. Want to know more about Sue and the inspiration behind her book, PLUS want to hear some pro-writing tips from her? Read On...
Q: Hi, Sue! Thanks for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit. We're thrilled to have you here during the season of gratitude and hear all about your new book, The Pie that Molly Grew. Please share the seeds of inspiration for this sweet book, as well as its journey to publication.
A: Seeds of inspiration is exactly right! Some of my best ideas come from hanging out in my garden – one came from the compost pile, if you can believe it. The inspiration for “Molly’s Pie” came from a pumpkin seed. Here’s the thing about pumpkin seeds: they are small, about the size of a penny, but they have lots of growth potential. Just two or three seeds produce a tangle of vines that can take over an entire garden. And then there are all the bees that visit the flowers: bumble bees, squash bees, sweat bees and more.
When Susanna Leonard Hill posted a challenge to write about pie, a line came to me: This is the pie that Molly made. I knew I wanted to show the magic that happens in a garden, from seed to roots to vine to the final fruit.
Q: This book finds inspiration in the cumulative tale / nursery rhyme The House That Jack Built. Please share ways in which you made the tale your own, including the STEM component.
A: With plants, one thing leads to another. Without germination there would be no sprout, no roots, no vine. And then there was that line I scribbled in my notebook: This is the pie that Molly made. I think it was the rhythm of that line that made me think of “The House that Jack Built” and before I knew it I was jotting down more lines with that rhythm and rhyme. While the science teacher in me wanted to include the nitty gritty details of photosynthesis and xylem and phloem, I knew I’d have to scratch perfectly useful multisyllabic words. Which leads right to the next question…
Q: What kind of research went into writing this tale?
A: I knew I needed different ways to describe what roots and stems do, so I made “job lists” for the different parts of the pumpkin plant. And that meant digging out my old botany book. Then I thumbed through thesauruses (thesauri?) seeking words I could use that would fit the meter and rhyme without sacrificing the science. I covered page after page with word lists!
In-the-garden research included watching plant growth, measuring leaves, observing bees, and playing around with leaf stems. Did you know they are hollow and you can turn them into foghorns? And, of course, I baked plenty of pies!
Q: What was something surprising that you learned along the way?
A: On the surface, THE PIE THAT MOLLY GREW is about pumpkins. But as I worked on it, I discovered my book is about more than that. It’s about connections. Environmental connections: the sun, the rain, the soil. Habitat connections: the flowers and pollinators without whom we’d have no pie. Our connections to the gardeners and farmers who grow the food we eat. It’s about family connections and community connections and even historical connections. I shared some thoughts about those connections over on Beth Anderson’s blog earlier this year. See the post here.
Q: What does Thanksgiving mean to you? What is your favorite part of this holiday?
A: Thanksgiving for me has always been about gratitude. And that’s how I show it at the end of the book, where the community gathers to give thanks for the earth and the sun, the rain the plant drank … and the wonderful pie that Molly made.
I love how Chamisa Kellogg, the marvelous illustrator for our book, portrayed the community celebration. Look closely at that spread and you’ll notice that the food is served on a collection of tables as diverse as the people sharing the meal. I think that, to me, is the heart of Thanksgiving. Well, that and pumpkin pie!
Thanks so much for joining us, Sue! We can't wait to check out your new book!
Q: Would you like to leave a treat for the readers?
I'd love to leave a dessert!
As much as I’d love to share a slice of pie with everyone, that is really hard to do via cyberspace. So I’ll share a slice of advice I got from Bruce Coville, way back at the very first writing conference I attended. He gave us this recipe for learning how to write a picture book:
Go to the library and check out ten picture books. Read them and write down the title of the one you like best.
The next week, go back to the library and check out ten more and after reading them, write down the one you like the best.
Do this for ten weeks. At the end of that time, you’ll have a list of ten titles.
Go to the library and check them all out. Then type them word-for-word.
Believe it or not, I still have those typed pages. I even drew storyboards for a few of the books. It instilled in me a deep appreciation for the importance of studying mentor texts.
Thanks so much for such a scrumptious treat! Readers, please leave a comment below thanking Sue for stopping by.
About Sue Heavenrich:
Sue Heavenrich is a curious naturalist and is particularly amazed by the diversity of insects that visit her garden. She has followed ants in the desert, tagged bumble bees in the Rockies, taught science to high-schoolers, and filed hundreds of articles as an environmental and community journalist. A few years ago Sue traded in her reporter’s notebooks for composition books and began writing for children. When not writing, she counts pollinators as a community science volunteer. The world outside her back door inspires her to ask questions and look closer. Sue is active in SCBWI and shares book reviews, author interviews, and science on her Archimedes Notebook blog. She also loves pie – especially pumpkin!
For more about Sue and her book, check out the below links:
Chamisa Kellogg (illustrator):
Sleeping Bear Press
To purchase Sue's books on Amazon, or to leave a review for them, click here.