Author Sara Levine on Humor and Asking Questions

Posted on

Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish! I’m excited to introduce my next guest. I love all her books but her picture book Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate served and still serves as a mentor text for me. Please welcome Sara Levine! She’s here to discuss her latest nonfiction picture book Poop for Breakfast illustrated by Florence Weiser and published by Lerner.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

The idea for this book came from the sons of Carol Hinz, my editor at Lerner Books (Millbrook and Carolrhoda). During the early days of Covid, when everyone was in lockdown, we were working together on the book that would become Germs Up Close. So I first met the boys on Zoom. Later they asked me science questions through Carol, and one was about robins nesting by their home. The kids thought they saw the robin parents eating the newly hatched chicks’ poop. Could this be right? I didn’t know the answer to the question, so I looked it up. And yes, it could be. To entertain the kids, I sent them other examples of animals that eat poop and joked to Carol that there could well be a book on this topic. And then, a few months later, after I finished my germs book, I wasn’t sure what writing project to work on. One day I thought, How about doing some more research on the topic of poop-eating? Maybe I could find enough examples for a book. And, well, I did! Once I had a good draft, my editor Carol Hinz was interested, just as her kids had been!

What is your writing process and does it vary depending on the project?

No matter what I’m working on, I do a lot of my thinking and writing in my head on walks or when riding my bike. Then, when I have a good format and working draft in mind for the book, I start to write it out. While writing, I do additional research to add more information to fill in what I already know. I tend to write in the morning, and away from home, in a cafe or in a room I reserve at the library. Once I have a strong draft, I share it with my writing group for feedback. And then once I’ve edited and rewritten and gotten the book in as good shape as I can, I share it with my agent and, in this case, my editor, too.

Parts of my process vary by what kind of book I’m working on. When I’m writing science for children, I’m usually writing on topics I’ve taught for years to college-aged students, so my process includes figuring out how to make the information intriguing and relatable to young children in the format of a picture book. For Poop for Breakfast, this book didn’t come from a topic I’d taught before, so I had to do a lot more research at the beginning. I did know of a few animals that eat their own poop, such as rabbits and dogs – I learned this from my own pets and from veterinary school. And, I had found the answer about robins, as well.  But I had to do a lot more research at the start of this book to fill in my educational gaps and to learn if there was enough material to write a book on this topic.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

Some animals eat poop because, well, it’s the only option. It’s what’s for breakfast. And lunch and dinner too!

I love many of your books (ie. Flower Talk and the Bone by Bone series for example) because you always find a way to craft a hook with massive kid appeal as you instruct. Can you please share some of your process for finding/developing these hooks?

Thank you for saying that, Lydia. That’s high praise, and it’s what I’m going for in my writing and in my teaching. And I think my teaching is mainly how I find and develop these hooks. When teaching science, a topic I find inherently fascinating, to college students who often are taking my courses because to meet a requirement, I feel a big drive and limited chance to show them just how interesting topics are. I have the great opportunity to win them over and open up their world views in this area. So I try to find ways of presenting material that are unique and interactive, ways that will keep their attention. Humor and asking students questions are two good ways of doing this, so these techniques are ones that I often incorporate into my books for kids.

Please share your favorite nonfiction books from 2022 that inspired you.

My absolute favorite picture book of 2022 is “People are Wild,” by Meganck Margaux. Is it nonfiction? Not exactly, but it teaches compassion for animals and has a point-of-view flip that brilliantly explains to children (and adults!) why we can’t “take” wild animals “home” with us. I wish I’d written this book.

I also love “The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest,” written by Heather Lang and illustrated by Jane Christy.  It is a gorgeous and beautifully written and inspiring book about how one scientist made a big difference.

Finally, “Amazing Evolution: Journey of Life”, written by Anna Clayborne and illustrated by Wesley Robins, is stellar writing about the topic of evolution. It’s a hard idea to teach to young children (or anyone of any age really), but Clayborne nailed it with grace and clarity. This book was published in 2019, but I discovered it this past year so am including it here.

I bought all three of these books for my nephew and niece, ages 5 and 7, budding scientists both.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?

Write about a topic that intrigues you that hasn’t been covered yet in a book for children.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why?

Because of my affinity for dogs, I’d like to be one, to know what it was like to see life from their point of view. But I don’t think I’d enjoy being controlled but a human, so I’d like to be a wild animal. Maybe a fox or a coyote because no one bothers them too much, and they can generally live their lives outside in nature and in peace.


Sara Levine is an award-winning writer of STEM books for kids, a veterinarian and a science educator. Her books, which include Bone by Bone, Tooth by Tooth, Flower Talk, and The Animals Would Not Sleep! have received the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize, Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, Beehive Book Award, Cook Prize and the Mathical Book Prize. She loves doing school and library programs. Visit her at


5 thoughts on “Author Sara Levine on Humor and Asking Questions

    Jilanne Hoffmann said:
    May 11, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    Oh, I just recommended this book to a friend who’s a 1st grade teacher. They’re going to love it! And I just checked it out of the library so I can read, too. Thanks for sharing this rec!


    catchandi said:
    May 11, 2023 at 7:13 am

    Fascinating books, and a great interview! Thanks for sharing!


    marty bellis said:
    May 10, 2023 at 9:42 pm

    Interesting interview, Lydia and Sara. You’ve given me a number of new books to check out! Look forward to reading them all.


    seschipper said:
    May 10, 2023 at 8:01 pm

    Great post!
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂


    Angie said:
    May 10, 2023 at 2:47 pm

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s