Bianca Schulze Discusses Don’t Wake the Dragon
Welcome, Bianca! Congratulations on your picture book debut, DON’T WAKE THE DRAGON. We’re so excited to get roaring along with your new book, out in stores on July 28, 2020. It’s so much fun to read, and we think children are going to love it, too. Let’s get started!
Can you tell us about DON’T WAKE THE DRAGON? Why don’t we want to wake the little dragon up?
Don’t Wake the Dragon is an interactive bedtime story starring a sound-asleep dragon who, under no circumstances, is to be woken up! Dragon, like a lot of kids, is reluctant to go to bed. Since it takes a lot of cajoling and effort for Dragon to fall asleep, we want her to remain in a state of slumber. Children have to check in on the sleeping dragon as the castle cook drops his pots and pans and when the knights throw a loud birthday party. Of course, she remains asleep through all the cacophony of noise, but once the kingdom is silent and settled, Dragon wakes up. How can that possibly be?
What inspired you to write DON’T WAKE THE DRAGON? Perhaps little dragons in your own home? 😉
Don’t you know it! The inspiration came from my three little dragons (some of whom are not so little anymore). The idea specifically stemming from a five-hour airplane flight with my family in which my youngest, who was one at the time, was not feeling well. It took some time to settle him, so when he finally fell asleep in my arms, my husband told our other two: Don’t wake the dragon! While I held onto him for hours, cringing every time someone on the plane made a sound, I managed to find humor in my years of experience with reluctant sleepers. I had loads of fun turning real-life, frustrating parental moments into silly scenarios that both kids and parents could relate to.
What was it like working with illustrator Samara Hardy? What’s your favorite part of her gorgeously detailed (and super fun!) illustrations?
We collaborate via the editors at Clever Publishing. I think her translation of Dragon’s persona is spot on, and the particular red of Dragon makes her both lovable and fiery all at the same time. I also love how Samara has infused humor with the addition of some bonus characters, namely a cat and some mice that help propel the page-turning. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way Samara’s artwork brings Don’t Wake the Dragon to life!
What is your writing process like? Do you work on several projects at once or focus on one at a time?
The truth is, I think I must write like a mad professor! I have so many ideas. But when one sticks and won’t leave me alone, I usually won’t fall asleep until I have a story idea from start to finish typed out in the notes app on my iPhone. Once the concept feels solid, I take it to my computer and turn it into the story that I think it’s meant to be. I print it out and read it aloud—I find reading aloud highlights phrasing that isn’t quite working. I make notes taking a pen to the paper and then head back to my computer. When I feel happy, I have a trusted set of people who read it, and I ask them to be highly critical. I make any necessary revisions, repeat the last step as often as needed, and then voila. That is until the editor at the publishing house takes a look. There are usually more revisions required, especially with picture books since the artwork and the words need to work seamlessly together.
What writing projects do you have in the works now? Another round of Dragon, perhaps taking the big red tyke out for a stroll?
Yes! Dragon will be starring in a new book in 2021, Who Loves the Dragon? I’m so excited! This time Dragon is wide-awake and preparing to celebrate one of the kingdom’s most important events of the year: the annual Friendship Festival! When the castle cooks are called away to cater to the Queen, and the knights must report for special duty in the Enchanted Forest, Dragon worries that this year’s Friendship Festival is doomed. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of friendship and love to go around for Dragon. Kiddos will interact with the story by waving to characters, blowing kisses, dancing, and more. Samara Hardy is working on the illustrations as we speak—I can’t wait to see the finished book!
What were some of your inspirations in picture books? Can you name a few?
Interactive books have always been high on my list. From my childhood, I loved There’s a Monster at the End of This Book. In general, I’m inspired by books that harmoniously blend words and text, while also making me feel something. The best picture books make me cry or laugh or say a-ha, or invite the reader to participate. Someday, by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds, brings a sentimental tear to my eye as it’s the quintessential reminder to enjoy every moment with my kids, while also letting them know how much I love them. Andy Rash’s Are You a Horse? (sadly out of print) and Jeremy Tankard’s Boo Hoo Bird are spot-on with kid-friendly humor and endings that make me laugh-out-loud every time I read them. The late Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s books are filled with a-ha moments while usually being sentimental or funny at the same time, such as Little Pea and Cookies: Bite-Sized Life Lessons. Christian Robinson’s You Matter is a new favorite thanks to the playfulness of his artwork and its importance—the book preaches without being preachy (that takes talent)!
Favorite book you read last year (picture and non-picture book)?
Yikes! So hard! I reserve the right to change my mind at any time. Lol!
I’m going to go with Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, by Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal, as my favorite picture book. Juana Martinez-Neal’s illustrations are always so warm and inviting, and the cover made me want to pick up the book straight away. The poetic text is brief and delightfully bubbles along. Between the pictures and the words, you can imagine the delicious food smells and the joy of the togetherness. It’s a reminder of the importance of family and acceptance and tradition.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, by Dan Gemeinhart, is a favorite for middle-grade books. There’s never a dull moment. It’s packed with adventure, inclusivity, and first-class storytelling. Ultimately, it’s a reminder that every single person has their own unique story and their specific things going on. You can’t run away from those things, and the sooner that you face them head-on, the faster things will improve and get better. I just loved Coyote’s determination and the adventure and the message of acceptance.
And even though some of these are not books published last year, some of my recent favorites reads for adults are Becoming by Michelle Obama, Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, Educated by Tara Westover, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, and Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I just started The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett—it’s possibly too soon to say, but it’s definitely shaping up to be an absolutely amazing story.
Thank you for joining us, Bianca! We can’t wait for everyone to read and love DON’T WAKE THE DRAGON!
Written by Bianca Schulze
Illustrated by Samara Hardy
Publisher’s Synopsis: Shhh! Be very quiet. The rascally dragon is finally asleep. But, when the page turned, the breeze blew the door shut with a BANG! Did it wake up the dragon? Create a fantastic bedtime experience by reading this interactive story featuring a reluctant-to-sleep dragon—a character that children will surely relate! Designed to be read aloud, parents will take pleasure in the playful text as much as children will enjoy hearing it. When the story finally comes to an end, and the gentle lullaby is repeated, the dragon – and your child! – are encouraged to drift off to sleep.
Buy the Book
Ages 2-6 | Publisher: Clever Publishing | July 28, 2020 | ISBN-13: 978-1949998641
About the Author
Bianca Schulze is the founder and editor of The Children’s Books Review – a resource devoted to children’s literature and literacy. Bianca is also the bestselling author of 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up, an Amazon “Book of the Month” in 2016. She is a reader, reviewer, mother, and children’s book lover. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Bianca now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.
This interview—Bianca Schulze Discusses Don’t Wake the Dragon—was conducted between Bianca Schulze and Denise Mealy. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Bedtime Stories, Bianca Schulze, Interactive Books, and Picture Book.
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