Book Trailer Premiere: Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs by Melissa Stewart and Stephanie Laberis


Hello, Melissa Stewart! Happy Wednesday! Thank you for sharing Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs’ book trailer and for finishing my sentences.

Melissa: Thanks so much for premiering this book trailer, Mr. Schu. I’m really excited to share Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs because I think all kids have felt like an underdog at some point. Instead of focusing on the world’s biggest, fastest, strongest animals, the book highlights ways that being small or clumsy or shy or even stinky can help animals survive.


I wrote the words in purple, and Melissa wrote the words in black

Making the book trailer for Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs was a BLAST! I’m so grateful to uber-dedicated third grade teacher Lesley Burnap and her students at Coolidge School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, for agreeing to participate. They did a terrific job!



I met Lesley several years ago through the Nerdy Book Club, and she has been SO supportive of me and my books. In July, I went to nErDcamp in Michigan with Lesley and some other nerdy friends. What a great trip!



I love how Lesley took the book trailer script that I wrote and modified it to meet the specific needs of her class. It was her idea to include the surprise ending, and she found a way to add a role for a nonverbal student in her class. These changes are perfectly in line with the book’s gentle message of accepting others and celebrating differences.



The idea for Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs took quite a while to gel in my mind.

I began researching animal superlatives in 2011. I was hoping to find a unique angle, something I could add to the conversation. I developed a four-book proposal about the science behind the statistics, but editors weren’t interested. I tinkered with two different picture book manuscripts, but they went nowhere.

Then in 2013, I decided to turn my idea on its head. I began thinking about anti-superlatives—the smallest, slowest, weakest animals. Maybe I could write a book about them.

One morning, as I was waking up, the beginning of the book just popped into my headI knew it was gold, so I scrawled it in my notebook and went about my morning routine. When I sat down at the computer, I typed it in. I loved the strong voice and embedded question. I knew this approach was fresh and fun.

But as I re-read the words aloud, I suddenly realized that this wasn’t going to be just an anti-superlative book. It was going to be an anti-bullying book too. And to write it, I’d have to revisit some painful parts of my childhood. This was going to be a book only I could write, but it would come at a price, and that scared me.

So I shut the file.

Six months later, I convinced myself to just add some of my research notes to the file. I wasn’t writing. I was just assembling information. By September, I could see that all the pieces were falling into place, and I finally felt brave enough to write the ending. I was committed.

After crafting prose for the animal examples in the middle of the book, I shared “Smallest, Slowest, Weakest” with my writing group. They pointed out many problems, but author-illustrator Steve Anderson saw my vision clearly and gave me an incredible gift—the title Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers.



In December 2014, I did a week of school visits in Summit, NJ. Each day after school, I dug into the manuscript, working late into the night. All that time with no distractions really paid off. By the time I went home, the book’s pacing was working, and I’d settled on just the right set of animal examples. I was ready to submit it.

The manuscript was rejected twice, but after making some revisions, it was finally accepted in the summer of 2015. And now—three years later—it’s a book!



Stephanie Laberis’s art style is a perfect match for the playful voice of my text. I feel so lucky to have been paired with her for this book. Not only are her illustrations wonderful, she was a joy to work with. And here’s a little secret. It looks like Stephanie and I will be pairing up for another book in the future. Want to know more? Sorry. You’ll just have to wait for 2020.


School libraries are a vital part of every school. If we want kids to fall in love with reading, we need to give them access to books they will connect with. A well-stocked library with a knowledge teacher-librarian can make all the difference for young, curious minds.



Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if there are any teaching materials to go with Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs. There sure are. Check out the teacher’s guide, readers theater, and read-aloud guide on my website.

Thanks so much, Mr. Schu. The children’s literature community is so lucky to have you as an advocate.

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