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The Joys of MISS MACDONALD HAS A FARM by Kalee Gwarjanski and Elizabet Vuković with editor Frances Gilbert

Five Questions with Kalee Gwarjanski, Author of MISS MACDONALD HAS A FARM

From idea to pub date, how long did it take to cook up your book? 

[Kalee Gwarjanski]  The idea came in 2018, the contract signed in 2021, and I published in 2024. So 6 years total. Prep time: 3yr. Cook time: 3 yr

Describe your book in 3 words.

[KG] Musical, vibrant, vegetabley 

What “ingredients” make a kidlit book “delicious” to you?

[KG] Read-aloud-ability. It has to be fun to read to my kids, over and over. I am a sucker for a good refrain.

Ending. I love when the ending ties to the opening. I heard it somewhere your ending should make the reader feel awww, oh!, or haha, and I just love that.

Surprising illustrations. I love when illustrations tell us something the words don't. 

Do you have a garden? What do you like to grow?

[KG] I do not have much of a garden to speak of. This story was inspired by taking my kids to a farm to pick up our CSA, because my gardening efforts are not fruitful! I do have tulips, chives and mint that come back every year.

What is your advice for parents who want to introduce more vegetables to their children?

[KG] Consistency, modeling, and no emotions. I think offering veggies often (with you eating them) with no emotional discussion is the key to success. I think not mentioning it is a big one. You want this to be a molehill, not a mountain.

Five Questions with Frances Gilbert, Editor of MISS MACDONALD HAS A FARM

From seed (pitch) to fruit (pub day), how did you dig into getting this book made? 

[Frances Gilbert] Kalee pitched the idea for “Miss MacDonald Has a Farm” via a Twitter pitch, #pbpitch. I liked it and asked to see it but ultimately decided to reject it. Then some months later she pitched it at another #pbpitch, and because I have an appalling memory (but to be fair, I look at over a thousand manuscripts a year), I asked to see it and Kalee had to remind me that I’d already seen it AND rejected it, LOL. I said I’d look at it again, because it obviously struck a chord. And the second time I read it – the exact same manuscript word for word – I loved it. I honestly have no idea why I didn’t snap it up the first time. This is just to say that there is often a sense of timing at play in acquisitions decisions. (And, no, don’t re-submit a manuscript unless someone asks for it again.)

Describe this book in 3 words.

[FG] Entertaining, empowering, and animal-friendly.

What “ingredients” make a kidlit book “delicious” to you?

[FG] I enjoy being a picture book editor because I love the way text, art, and design intermingle. Each aspect depends on the other.

Do you have a garden? What do you like to grow? 

[FG] I live in New York City and I have a rare apartment with a terrace that’s actually bigger than my indoor space. I’m a very lucky girl. However, the wind that whips up the avenue is gale-force so I’ve only experienced complete failure at container gardening. I’ve had a raspberry plant for three years that’s produced one raspberry. Last year I even failed at mint, which must be a first.

Did you like vegetables as a kid? Do you like them now? 

[FG] I was raised in the ‘70s by people from Northern England, so vegetables were not in play. My mom would boil a small quantity of peas or sprouts for herself but never tried to make anyone else eat them. (My literary hero as a kid was Frances the badger in “Bread and Jam for Frances” because she shared my name and we were both famously fussy eaters.) Iceberg lettuce was as close as I got to a vegetable until after college. Now, I’m mostly vegetarian (I still eat fish). I make my own tofu from soybeans, and I love to cook plant-based dishes and eat big salads out of a mixing bowl. I ate chicken my entire life until I hung out with some really nice chickens on my 50th birthday (I realize this is an usual phrase as I type this) and at that moment said to myself, “I no longer eat birds.”

Two Questions About the Book with Audrey and Gennie

What’s your favorite ingredient of this story?  

[Audrey Perrott] I love the twist on this familiar tune and story with a female protagonist and her love for tending to her garden. I also LOVE a book with a recipe, and this one is perfect for using what you have in the kitchen to make a healthy, easy, filling meal for a family that the kiddos can help make!

[Gennie Gorback] My favorite ingredient of the book was the variety of vegetables covered in the story (and how they all grow in different ways)! Pair that with a recognizable tune, and I can see educators using this book to inspire a million activities and lessons!

What food did this story inspire you to make? 

[AP]  First of all, I had to make the recipe in the book! I used what I already had, making it dairy-free and substituting sliced bread for the shredded potatoes. Second of all, I love pastries -- savory and sweet -- so I always keep vegan store-bought puff pastry in my freezer because you just never know when you're going to need some yummy bites! Asparagus is a favorite veggie of mine, and I had leftover ricotta from another dish, so I made up this veggie tart on the fly. But I always like something sweet and since strawberries are in season and I had leftover mascarpone cheese in my fridge, I whipped up a second sweet pastry for dessert.

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1 Comment

Steena Hernandez
Steena Hernandez
Apr 03

What a fun, vegetabley book! :) I was excited to see that my library has it on order! Can’t wait to read it!

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