Author Tammi Sauer Visits for Coffee
(With Art from Dan Santat, Bob Shea, Dan Krall,
Victoria Hutto, and Joe Berger,
Since I’m a Hopeless Illustration Junkie Who Can’t Help It)

h1 April 3rd, 2012 by jules

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Next to author/illustrator Matthew Cordell, Tammi Sauer may very well be the busiest picture book author of 2012.

I wanted to chat with the very punny Tammi here at 7-Imp about her upcoming books—she sees five of her picture books released this year—and then she up and announced she was doing one of those newfangled, so-called blog tours for her picture book Bawk & Roll, being released today by Sterling and illustrated by the one and only Dan Santat. (How do you like their back-flap photos for this book, pictured right and below?) So, I said, Tams, sign me up for that blog tour thingy. (I don’t really call her “Tams,” but she’s visiting for coffee this morning, so why not?) But in true 7-Imp style, seeing as how I have an excessively overactive work ethic, not to mention I love me some picture books, I also secured some art from the other picture books Tammi will be releasing this year, so this is a long, art-filled post but also with some words from Tammi, of course.


In fact, as you can see at the top of this post, I’ve got a wonderful image from Bawk & Roll—the back cover image, to be exact—but above that is an early sketch from Joe Berger for Tammi’s Princess in Training. I just really like that sketch, that bad-ass princess on her skateboard. More images from that book (which won’t be released from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt till October) are below.

In March of this year, we were already treated to one of Tammi’s books. (See art from Me Want Pet! below.) Bawk & Roll (the sequel to 2009’s Chicken Dance) is out today, as mentioned, and it’s mighty fun. “Sauer dispenses her many puns with an appealingly deft touch,” writes Kirkus, “offering a genuine lesson on friendship. Santat’s illustrations are similarly droll, featuring several clever and surprising page designs, making the most of the opportunity offered by the contrast between stage and audience. This flock rocks.” And, as mentioned, more Sauer picture books are to come this year.

So, let’s hear from Tammi, and as she talks I’ll show you some more of Dan’s entertaining illustrations from Bawk & Roll, as well as from all the other 2012 titles.

I thank her for visiting — and I thank all the illustrators sharing art today.


* * *


“Elvis Poultry and the Chicken Dancers took the stage. The lights went down.
The curtains went up. The barnyard went wild.”

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“‘I don’t think this is what she had in mind,’ said Marge.
Elvis glided to the stage. And the chickens?”

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“Marge and Lola tried new ways to calm their jitters.”

“But nothing worked. ‘We’ll try one more show,’ said Elvis.
‘If our flock can’t rock, I gotta go solo.'”

“Everyone got in the moo-d.”
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“Elvis was so inspired, he came up with a brand new song.
‘Thank you. Thank you very much.’ Marge and Lola gave each other a high five.”

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Front endpapers
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Back endpapers
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Art (sans text) from Bawk & Roll (Sterling, April 2012),
illustrated by Dan Santat

Jules: What do you put in your coffee that makes you so prolific and how can I get some of that thing? No, seriously. I know that some authors hate the word “prolific,” but you do have a lot of books coming out this year. Are you always jotting down ideas for picture book manuscripts? Do they wake you at night, these ideas?

Tammi: I WISH I had magic coffee!

For me, coming up with a good idea is hard. Crazy hard. Some people can churn out 325,989 ideas before breakfast. I am not one of those people. For example, it took me over a year to come up with the idea behind Me Want Pet! I had always wanted to write a pet book, but I knew my story had to be different from the piles of pet books that were already out there. I finally got my ah-ha in the PetSmart parking lot. (Oh, the irony.) Instead of writing about a typical kid who wanted a typical pet, I decided to write about a cave boy who goes in search of the perfect prehistoric pet. Ooga!

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Sketches from Me Want Pet!
(Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, March 2012), illustrated by Bob Shea

As for the prolific thing? It’s an illusion brought on by my various houses’ publishing schedules. These books sold over a five-year span of time. I sold one in 2007, one in 2008, two in 2009, and one in 2011. So see? Not prolific. I am, however, calling 2012 the year of the cave boy, chicken, chipmunk, princess, and the state of Oklahoma. I’m hoping it catches on.

Oh, and I’m glad you asked about getting woken up by an idea. The other night, I went with my daughter and her friends to the midnight premier of The Hunger Games. We got home after three. I didn’t get to bed until five. But at seven I woke up knowing exactly what I needed to do for a manuscript. So, instead of spending that morning in bed, I spent it hunched over my keyboard. I couldn’t not write. (Impressed by my correct use of a double negative?)

“Cave Boy had a lot of things.”
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“…a woolly mammoth! Cave Boy rode Woolly home.”
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“…a saber-toothed tiger! Cave Boy and Toothy raced home.”
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“Nooo! Cave Boy to the rescue!”
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Shea’s final spreads from Me Want Pet!

Jules: Why, yes, I am! … Talk about your school visits. You do them often, yes? How does it inform your writing, if at all?

Tammi: I do lots of school visits. What’s not to love? After my presentations, I’ve gotten marriage proposals from kindergartners, first graders have invited me to move into their houses, and fifth graders have even called me words like “cool” and “funny.” Not my OWN fifth grader, mind you, but real, live fifth graders nonetheless.

Once I was even chased by fifth grade paparazzi. Evidence:

I am a former pre-k teacher and library media specialist, so I am very comfortable with the school-visit scene. It is an honor and a joy to get kids excited about reading and writing. And the fan mail from these crowds? Unbeatable.

Last spring, I even got an idea for a picture book at one of my school visits. When I visited Marlow Elementary in Marlow, Oklahoma, I loved that their school mascot was an outlaw. The kids were decked out in outlaw gear, right down to the handlebar moustache. Plus, there was a huge banner in the gym. It read, “You’re not at Cowboy Camp anymore, Tammi Sauer. Welcome to OUTLAW CAMP!” Right away I knew I had to write a picture book in which the elementary school kids were a bunch of bad guys. The book sold last November, and I can’t wait to unveil the details. One thing I CAN say is that this book will be dedicated to the Marlow Elementary Outlaws. Yeehaw!

Marlow Elementary in Marlow, Oklahoma

These are my Top Ten Tips for a Successful School Visit:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep prior to the visit. You will need to be ‘on’ from the moment you walk into that school building until the moment you pull out of the parking lot.
  2. Smile. Be friendly and accessible.
  3. Get the students’ attention before they even sit down. I have music playing that sets the mood. I also have jokes that tie into one of my books popping up on the screen as the kids are getting settled. This keeps the kids amused as they wait and makes it easier for the teachers to monitor pre-show behavior.
  4. Open your presentations with something that gets the kids to like you. I start by sharing three weird facts about myself. My facts are backed up with funny visuals. Once you have the kids liking you, everything else is cake.
  5. Build humor into your presentations.
  6. Gear your presentations to a variety of grade levels. What works for pre-k doesn’t work for sixth graders.
  7. Include audience participation.
  8. Bring props.
  9. If you have a PowerPoint presentation, do not read directly from it. Use it for little reminders to yourself, fun visuals, picture book spreads, etc. Reading directly from your presentation will bore and/or lose your audience.
  10. At the end of the day, give the library media specialist a card and a little something to say thank you. My gift always ties into one of my books. A small token of thanks lets the library media specialist know you appreciate the time and energy he/she put forth into making your author visit a success.

(Click each image to see entire spread from which these illustrations come)

(Click each image to see entire spread from which these illustrations come)

(Click each image to see entire spread from which these illustrations come)

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Art from Oh, Nuts! (Bloomsbury, September 2012), illustrated by Dan Krall

Jules: Out of all of your books coming out this year, whose art surprised you the most? Whose illustrations, that is, were the most pleasantly unexpected with regard to your texts?

Tammi: Are you trying to get me in trouble with my highly esteemed partners in crime??!! Nice try, Danielson.

I am honored to have books with Bob Shea, Dan Santat, Dan Krall, Joe Berger, and, for the Oklahoma book, Oklahoma illustrator Victoria Hutto. Each book has wowed me. I’m not worthy.

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Spread and cover from The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oklahoma
(Sterling, October 2012), illustrated by Victoria Hutto

Jules: What’s next for you? What are you working on now that you can talk about?

Tammi: Following the craziness of 2012 will be the release of my second book with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It’s called Nugget and Fang, and it focuses on the unlikely friendship between a minnow and a shark. Holy mackerel, that book was fun to write! Michael Slack is the illustrator. I got a sneak peek at one of the spreads, and I fell for Michael’s art hook, line, and sinker.

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“She spent her time karate-chopping, diving into the moat,
and skateboarding up and down the drawbridge.”
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“‘Our next lesson,’ said Madame Gertrude, ‘is the Frills of Fashion.’ The princesses tried on gowns, chose just the right accessories, and learned how to walk with flair.
Princess Viola was perfectly lovely, but . . .”
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“…And so she did. Princess Viola wasn’t prim. She wasn’t proper. But . . . “
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Early sketch
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Spreads (without text) from Princess in Training
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2012), illustrated by Joe Berger

* * * * * * *

If you want even more on Tammi and/or Bawk & Roll, here’s the rest of her official blog tour:

* * * * * * *

All illustrations and sketches were sent by the respective illustrators and used with permissions and all that good stuff. Tammi’s and Dan’s photos used with permission of Dan Santat. School images used with permission of Tammi Sauer. Thank you. Thank you very much, as both Elvis Poultry and Tammi would say. As well as maybe even Princess Viola Louise Hassenfeffer . . .

23 comments to “Author Tammi Sauer Visits for Coffee
(With Art from Dan Santat, Bob Shea, Dan Krall,
Victoria Hutto, and Joe Berger,
Since I’m a Hopeless Illustration Junkie Who Can’t Help It)

  1. Oh to wake up to such fun, frolic & fabulous art! Marvelous…simply marvelous! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for helping me celebrate the year of the cave boy, chicken, princess, chipmunk, and the state of Oklahoma!

  3. Tammi

    Amazing and fun stuff here! And Double thanks for the 10 tips on school visits. Wish I was going to school so you could come visit!

  4. The fifth-grade paparazzi – too funny!

    It is clear from your terrific interview and school visit tips why kids love you so!


  5. How come the boys get all the fun Tammi Sauer books to illustrate!? And the lone girl, Victoria, has that geographic advantage…
    I loved this interview and can’t wait to read the books. Brava, Tammi, on unleashing so much fun, and thanks, Jules, for getting up early to help her share it.

  6. Hooray for the year of the cave boy, chicken, princess, chipmunk and the state of oklahoma! The books look great. Also, fun to wake up to all this fantastic art.

  7. What a great interview!

    Also, Marlow Elementary looks like such a fun school. I am now envious of all those kids who get to have an outlaw for their mascot.

  8. Great post! I loved all the art work, thanks for sharing!

  9. Mouth open in shape of WOW, no words coming forth but thinking that each of these books are dynamos; awesome illustrations inspired by equally awesome narratives—knowing in my heart of hearts that my budget has just gone south

  10. How fun to read about and see all your upcoming books, Tammi! This was a very fun interview.

  11. To everyone who read this and/or commented and/or thought about reading this and/or commenting:

    Thankyou.Thankyouverymuch. 🙂

  12. I love seeing the variety of (fabulous) illustratiion styles.

  13. My personal favorites are Crazy Dan Santat and Bob Shea. So great. And funny, Tammi! Very funny.

  14. Such a great interview! Awesome illustrations and narratives…just LOVE them all!! Thanks for the great read. 🙂

  15. […] Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast a blog about books « Author Tammi Sauer Visits for Coffee(With Art from Dan Santat, Bob Shea, Dan Krall,Victoria Hutto, a… […]

  16. Outstanding interview, Jules. (And thanks, too, for the follow-up post with more from Dan Krall.)

    Tammi Sauer seems like she might be someone who exhausts everyone within a 5-mile radius, and/or collapses into bed every night and sleeps like a… hmm, not a log, a log is much more lively than what I have in mind… sleeps like a stalagmite. (There y’go.) Maybe by her measure she doesn’t do many things, but clearly she is ALWAYS DOING THINGS.

    All the art is great. But I really, really hope the chicken-rock* books turn out to be a a trilogy.

    * Which reminds me: there used to be an AM radio station in Philadelphia, WIP, which in the ’60s was once dubbed a “chicken rock” station. The “rock” it played was pretty lame, 2nd- and 3rd-tier stuff. Rock which lacked the courage of its convictions, so to speak. (I don’t know why I’m boring you with this.)

  17. Tammi is prolific! Love her books. Excited about all 5 to come. “Princess in Training” – loved the artwork.

  18. Great interview! Tammi is amazing, and so are all of the illustrations! I love seeing the diverse styles and can’t wait to read them all.

  19. What each of these books (and this interview) offers is an exuberant sense of FUN and mischievous a sense of humor. Tammi clearly inspires her illustrator collaborators. The names Cutesy, Blinky and Bob are just a funny combo. And Marge and Lola meditating… ha! Thanks for sharing that watering hole pic; I wish I’d been an elementary school outlaw. Fun stuff all the way around.

  20. […] [Tammi Sauer's] Chicken Dance […]

  21. […] 2012 is a prolific picture book year for Tammi as she has five picture books coming out. In addition to Bawk & Roll, look for Me Want Pet (available in stores now), Princess in Training, Oh, Nuts!, and The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oklahoma. For more Bawk & Roll fun and festivities, be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour going on this week: Rob Sanders: Picture This! Julie Danielson: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast […]

  22. […] Download Image More @ […]

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