Interview with Elizabeth Suneby, author of NO ROOM FOR A PUP!

I’m pleased to welcome (back!) Elizabeth Suneby. We’ve chatted about her earlier books here. Today Elizabeth shares her newest picture book, NO ROOM FOR A PUP (Kids Can Press) co-created and illustrated by Laurel Molk. The story is a charming retelling of a classic folktale. Readers will relate to young Mia as she slowly but surely (and lovingly) fills her home with pets.

NO ROOM FOR A PUP is such a fun book! What inspired this re-imagining of the traditional “It Could Be Worse” folktale?

Laurel Molk, who illustrated my mitzvah-themed books (It’s a… It’s a… It’s a Mitzvah (picture book) and That’s A Mitzvah (board book) published by Jewish Lights, approached me with the idea.  

Our goal was to bring the beloved folktale into a contemporary, multi-cultural setting to ensure the widest exposure for the universal message of the importance of gratitude. We felt more children could relate to a city than a shtetl and pets versus farm animals in their home.  Relatability also inspired us to add the universal “please can we get a dog” theme.  How many children do you know who have begged for a pet as some point in their lives?  We also wanted Mia, the protagonist to be part of the solution versus in the traditional tale, the rabbi is the problem-solver.

What were your thoughts when you saw Laurel Molk’s illustrations?  Did they match your vision for the book? 

Laurel and I are dear friends, so I know her brilliant work well!  Consequently, no surprises, except in the wonderful details she created. She is a dog and animal lover, so this story offers the perfect place for her to showcase her passion and talent.

There is a very fun visual surprise at the end (without giving it away!). Did you have an illustrator’s note or was this Laurel’s twist?

All Laurel.  Take a close look at the other illustrations for more fun layers.  Look at the face of the pet pig in the arms of a book group member as the crowd walks in to Mia’s apartment. Notice anything about Mia’s mom’s shoes?  Look closely and you’ll smile at many illustration details.

You write both fiction and nonfiction. Does your writing process differ based on the genre?

Yes and no!  How’s that for an answer?!?  For my narrative nonfiction (Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education) and fiction based on facts and reality (Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet) both published by Kids Can Press in their CitizenKid collection, I conducted primary and secondary research to ensure authenticity. For informational nonfiction (The Mitzvah Project Book and See What You Can Be), we conducted lots of research.  To write the fictional mitzvah concept picture book and board book, it was all about unleashing creativity. No research involved.

Do you have pets? 

Notice any resemblance? That’s EJ, our beloved pup, who passed after a long, loving life soon after the book was published. I had dedicated the book to him.

What a wonderful way to honor EJ. Thanks, Elizabeth!

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