Chicken Soup for the Soul Kids

Hello, Jamie Michalak! Hello, Lorian Tu! Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss and celebrate The Sunshine Squad: Discovering What Makes YOU Special and Sophie and the Tiny Dognapping: A Book About Doing the Right Thing.

I love the Sunshine Squad! Jamie, please tell everyone about what the Sunshine Squad does.

Jamie Michalak: Thanks, Mr. Schu! The Sunshine Squad is a group of five friends who live in the same apartment building in the city. Inspired by their comic book artist buddy, Oliver, they form the Sunshine Squad — a league of everyday heroes who spread sunshine by doing kind deeds.

The squad learns that they can use their strengths to help people. For example, the artistic Oliver can draw a thank you card for his teacher and animal-loving Sophie can pet-sit for a neighbor.

Lorian, what materials did you use to create the art for both books?

Lorian Tu: I always start with pencil sketches in my sketchbook. From there, I take a photo of the sketch and upload it onto my iPad, where I ink it digitally. Usually, after that, I like to have the digital linework printed out onto watercolor paper, which I then paint with watercolors, gouache (say “gwash”— it’s opaque watercolor paints) and colored pencils. For these books, however, I was moving all my art supplies to a new studio, so I had to do it all on my iPad. It was fun, and definitely a learning process, and much less messy. Even though working on my iPad has its benefits, I prefer using paint, pencils, and paper.

Jamie, please finish the following sentence starters: 

Lorian Tu’s illustrations are full of heart and humor. She made each character come alive with distinct personalities and lots of energy. Kids will love the funny and unexpected details Lorian has included, and they’ll relate to the characters’ emotions that she’s captured so well.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Kids are super kid-friendly picture book and board book stories about navigating familiar situations. The books are about doing the right thing, even when that’s difficult. But these stories are never preachy — they’re slices of life from a kid’s point of view. Plus, each book includes activities that young readers can do to help their community or form their own Sunshine Squad. (Secret handshakes optional.)

Lorian, please finish the following sentence starters: 

The Sunshine Squad: Discovering What Makes YOU Special is dedicated to... I wanted to honor some people who have always been there for me through thick and thin, so I dedicated this book to a few different friends: Molly O’Neill, who is my agent, and one of my closest allies. She’s always so patient with me, and so helpful and kind, and generous with her time and energy. She’s wonderful. Las Musas is a group of Latinx women and non-binary creators who make children’s books (some are authors, some illustrators. Some make picture books, some MG or YA) they have also been a source of deep comfort and community for me. Everyone is always asking, “how can I help,” “how are you,” “what can we do to support you....” It’s like a family. Sam and Ollie are my sons, my biggest source of inspiration and motivation, and my everything. Floyd Cooper is someone very special to me. I had dedicated this to him right before he passed, and never got to share with him that I did it. I met Floyd at a Highlights Foundation workshop. He was just so generously kind and insightful, and even after the workshop was over, we kept in touch and he was always there to offer feedback, advice, a place to vent... he’s just someone who I admire very much, who was so kind to me and helped me to believe in myself. I think he was just that kind of person, and I was lucky enough to have known him... like being in just the right spot to see fireworks perfectly.

Picture books remind me of theatre, because it’s such a collaborative and multi-faceted form of art. Just like theatre, there are a handful of people, all with different backgrounds and experiences, and lenses, who the work is filtered through— including the readers (like an audience at a play!)... just like theatre, the written words are given life by the actors (the characters), costumes, props, set... (That’s my job) which is checked over by the editor and art director (kind of like the director of a play and the stage manager who helps everything to run smoothly and on time and makes sure everyone is working well together). In the end, the only reason the art is so beautiful and effective is because of all the people who had a hand in it along the way. It’s a team sport, and I love working with the amazing teams (or should I say cast and crew?) For every book I’ve worked on. Maybe kids love picture books so much because they are able to pick up on that love and collaboration when they dive into the pages of a book.

Thank you, Jamie and Lorian! 

Jamie Michalak is the author of nearly forty books for children, including movie and TV show adaptations. She lives with her family in Rhode Island.

Lorian Tu is a children’s book author and illustrator. She lives in New England with her family where she creates content for children.

Look for The Sunshine Squad: Discovering What Makes YOU Special and Sophie and the Tiny Dognapping: A Book About Doing the Right Thing today. 


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