Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 7, 2022

Book Giveaway: THE HAPPIEST KID by Sarah Bagley Steele

Sarah Bagley Steele’s debut picture book, THE HAPPIEST KID, illustrated by Elsa Pui Sil Lo and Clarice Yunyi Cai and published by Yeehoo Press, came out in March. Yeehoo Press has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Sarah.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments By Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

What’s the happiest kid supposed to do when she wakes up not feeling happy? A reassuring picture book debut about recognizing sadness and talking about big feelings.

Sally is usually the happiest kid. She wakes up every morning with a bright sun shining over her bed, and she knows it’s going to be a good day. But one day she wakes up feeling different and there’s a gloomy cloud hanging over her instead. She doesn’t know why it’s there, but she doesn’t want anyone to see it—not her parents, not her teacher, and not her friends—so she hides it away. But as the day goes on, the cloud grows too big and heavy for her to carry, and Sally must find the courage to let it out.

In this sweet story, Sarah Bagley Steele, Elsa Pu Si Lo, and Clarice Cai offer a gentle reminder that everyone feels sad sometimes, and that’s okay.

BOOK JOURNEY:

The Happiest Kid is my debut picture book, and I am honored and thrilled to share its journey on Writing and Illustrating. Thank you so much for having me!

I started writing picture books in 2017. My background is in theater; I worked as a Literary Manager off-Broadway for many years, reading submissions and working with writers on their new plays. I wrote a lot of script notes. There was always part of me that wanted to take the plunge and write myself. I have long loved picture books, but it wasn’t until I had kids that I began reading a lot of them and knew that’s what I wanted to write.

The Happiest Kid was my fourth manuscript. I got the idea when I was feeling sad about something and ran into a friend on the street. She asked how I was doing, and I immediately said, “Great! Wonderful!”, almost like a reflex. It made me think about the ways we hide feelings and wonder if my very cheerful daughter ever does the same. I started writing a story about a happy kid who felt sad.

The general character trajectory came easily but I struggled with the actual plot. I knew it needed a lively narrative kids would want to follow. When I was in college, I took a personal essay writing class and in one assignment, I wrote a line about stuffing my pain in my pocket. The image resurfaced in my mind when I was trying to activate my character Sally’s story. What if sadness were a physical object, she literally stuffs in her pocket?

That was the starting place for me in writing the cloud that Sally tries to hide over the course of the book. It became the motor the plot needed, and it also lent itself to a visual journey, which Elsa Pui Sil Lo and Clarice Yunyi Cai told beautifully and playfully with the illustrations. Can Sally zip up the cloud in her backpack? Will it stay put it she shoves it behind her back? What if she sits on it? What if keeps growing?

I completed the first draft in March 2019 and began sending queries to agents that spring. I received one Revise and Resubmit request, for which I rewrote the ending. Something was still not clicking, though, and she ultimately passed on the book.

As a querying writer, it’s hard to know when to keep working on a manuscript, and when to move on to something new. After several more passes, I was about to shove the manuscript in a drawer and move on when I read on MS Wishlist that Yeehoo Press had an interest in children’s books about emotions. I submitted it directly to Yeehoo Press in February 2020.

In June 2020, I received a lovely, lengthy email from my future editor Zhiqiao Wang. He engaged with the main character and asked insightful questions. When I worked in the theater, my goal was always to find what question or piece of feedback would most help a playwright have that moment of, okay, this is what I’m trying to say, this is what my story wants to be. What would help someone “unlock” the story they were trying to tell. Zhiqiao’s feedback did that for me. I dove headfirst into a rewrite, sent it back, and received an offer three weeks later. The Happiest Kid was the right story for the right person at the right time, and I’m glad I continued to research submission opportunities when querying didn’t pan out.

The Happiest Kid was released on March 15, 2022. I have learned so much from this experience, both about craft and the publishing industry. It’s changed my process in a helpful way, in that I’m more aware of what I’m writing and where it might fit in the current landscape. At the same time, though, there was something honest and freeing about writing The Happiest Kid when I didn’t know what I was doing. It came from the heart.

My favorite part has been sharing the story with students and kids. I wanted to write a book that helps children process big feelings and know that everyone feels sad sometimes, and it’s okay.

SARAH’S BIO:

Sarah Bagley Steele is a children’s author who loves stories of all kinds that not only make you feel, but help you see the world differently than when you began. Before turning her attention to her own writing, Sarah worked in the theater industry, developing new plays and musicals off Broadway. She founded a summer theater company in Pennsylvania and produced ten seasons of free Shakespeare in the Park.

After a career producing theater, Sarah turned her attention to her own writing and fell in love with the wonder of children’s books. She has degrees in English and Theater Studies from Duke University. When not writing stories, I love devising inventive activities and adventures for kids and sharing them on my Instagram feed. The Happiest Kid is my first book. I have many more stories to tell.

Born and raised a California girl, Sarah lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two children and rascal puppy. When not writing, she loves reading, cooking, and crafting of all sorts.

Sarah, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I am sure this book will help children realize that there may be days where you don’t feel so bright and sunny and that’s okay. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Congrats, Sarah, Elsa & Clarice! Looking forward to reading this book.

    Like

  2. This idea is such a unique and relatable way to show how we try to deal with our emotions. Congratulations on this important book that will resonate with all readers. I’m an email subscriber and shared: https://www.facebook.com/danielle.hammelef/posts/pfbid02F5jxJpWb3x3gfteiN4Asnn8G7KMYhZAsAfFG5XhAAQa3pLNBGMJLWS4MhFs3B5odl

    Like

  3. Oh, I bet many readers will connect with this! Great job! Congratulations!

    I follow by email and tweeted this post.

    Like

  4. Thanks for sharing the details of your debut PB’s journey to being PUBLISHED” as ” the right story for the right person at the right time…” (I think I’ll tack that phrase RIGHT in front of me in my writing space…)

    Like

    • Kathy, I receive your blog regularly—Many thanks!

      Like

    • I’m so glad it resonated with you. Timing isn’t everything, but it sure can play a big role!

      Like


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