Laura Renauld is a children’s book author and former third grade teacher living in Northern Virginia. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the author of Porcupine’s Pie and the soon to be released Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers. You can find more about her at laurarenauld.com.
Mandy Becker: Porcupine’s Pie delivers readers a great message about the power of friendship, while also still acting as a fun story. How do you find a balance between educating and entertaining your readers?
Laura Renauld: I never sit down to write a story that teaches a lesson. My first priority is to write a story that will capture a child’s imagination; one that they will request at bedtime again and again. When I write about themes that children can relate to, like friendship and sharing, the “lesson” comes across naturally as the characters interact and discover positive ways to interact with each other. In this way, there is no overt teaching or moral, but children still walk away from the story with a sense of how to engage with the world.
MB: Have you and your loved ones made the friendship pie that Porcupine enjoys in this book?
LR: Yes! Early on, I thought that a pie recipe would be the perfect addition to the story so I started experimenting. I kept careful notes and ultimately made four pies with slightly different proportions of the key ingredients: cranberries, apples, nuts, and honey. Then I hosted a taste test with family and friends. Once the votes were in, it was clear which recipe deserved a place at the back of my book!
MB: How do you feel like your background as a teacher has helped you to write picture books?
LR: Reading aloud and discussing stories with my students was always one of my favorite things as a teacher. I witnessed the power of books to delight, encourage, and grow empathy. I just had to be a part of that as a writer. Being around kids all day also gave me a front row seat to common childhood interactions and challenges, which I could draw on to give my writing authenticity and kid appeal.
MB: What is your favorite part about writing for kids?
LR: I love being able to tap into my inner child; to be ridiculous and curious and imaginative and emotional. This helps me connect with my readers while I’m drafting and revising. Once a book comes out, it is such a treat to share my book with children. I have had the pleasure of reading to preschoolers, doing elementary school visits, and interacting with families during literacy nights. Whenever I connect with my readers directly, I can feel the impact the work of authors and illustrators has on the world. It is a humbling experience, filled with pride and a great deal of responsibility.
MB: What drew you to telling the story of Mister Rogers in your upcoming book, Fred’s Big Feelings?
LR: When I started learning about Fred Rogers’s childhood, I was captivated by the role his strong emotions had on his habits, personal interactions, and self-esteem. As he grew, he discovered how to channel his big feelings into productive endeavors, meaningful relationships, and groundbreaking television. I thought that emotions were the perfect angle from which to teach children about this compassionate American icon since the current generation is only familiar with him via the animated PBS spinoff, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Social and emotional learning are the keystones to healthy child development and I wanted to provide a window into the life of the man who pioneered this type of care for children’s television.
MB: What can we expect from you in the next year?
LR: In addition to book launch events in Northern Virginia and Maryland in January and February for Fred’s Big Feelings, I will be participating in the Virginia Festival of the Book in March 2020. I also have another book scheduled to release in 2021, but I can’t share anything about that one yet!
Thank you for having me!