This week on Picture Book Therapy Thursday we have something everyone can relate with-- the Struggle Bus. We've all been on it a time or two and Julie Koon does a wonderful job using this imagery to address perseverance and working through adversity with kids.
Julie grew up as a red-haired, freckle-faced girl with glasses bigger than her head allowed for and dreams bigger than her head allowed for too. Now she works as an elementary school counselor, where she help kids learn how to navigate their feelings and the big wide world.
She is a mom of three kids and two guinea pigs. She writes and reads every chance she gets. She paints digitally and with watercolors. Julie is represented by Regina Bernard-Careeno at Martin Literary Management.
The Struggle Bus is Julie's debut picture book, published by Kind World Publishing. Sometimes things are really tough. It’s just too hard, you’ve had enough. Grumble, rumble, bump, and roar, The Struggle Bus is at your door. Strap in and hold on tight! Through all the ups and downs, you have what it takes to do hard things. Rolling, rollicking rhymes take readers on a journey of perseverance, where challenges are faced and mountains are climbed.
Thank you for joining us Julie! first off, what inspired you to write The Struggle Bus?
I wrote The Struggle Bus at the beginning of the pandemic, when it seemed like the whole world was facing enormous challenges. I knew that I wanted to write a book of hope, to cheer others on in difficult times. I overheard someone saying that they were riding the struggle bus, and I thought, that's it! What a fun, kid-friendly way to talk about challenges.
I love seeing you taking that imagery and bringing it to life. What was the process like, seeing the book go from inspiration, to illustration, to published?
I love writing in rhyme, so I wrote as many stanzas as I could with problems that a bus might encounter. Then I picked my favorites, and formed them into a story arc that I felt good about. I hadn't even finished the dummy when the #PBPitch twitter event came up, and I decided to pitch it. I was surprised to find that the idea resonated with so many, and I got an agent through that event. Soon after, it was acquired by Kind World Publishing, who are the most fantastic people to work with. I edited and drew my heart out, and now it's in the hands of readers! It was such a fun and exciting process.
Do you have a scene in the finished book that is your favorite? My favorite scene in the book comes after the lowest low moment, where the bus breaks down. The boy's friends come to help him, and there is a page turn where the bus soars into the sky with a beautiful sun in the background. I love that scene because it speaks to the power of people coming alongside you when you are going through a challenge.
It's definitely a beautiful scene. Why do you think this book is important for kids to have on the shelves? My hope is that it will help kids feel less alone in the challenges they face. All of us go through challenges and hard times. I also hope that it will encourage kids to believe that they can do hard things and come out stronger on the other side. You’re also a school counselor! How do you think parents, teachers, or counselors could use The Struggle Bus to engage in deeper conversations with kids? I think parents, teachers, and counselors can use this book to talk with their kids about what to do when they have big feelings or are facing difficult challenges, and even share about their own challenges. One of my favorite parts of the book is the backmatter, which has questions about these topics, and also gives a list of coping skills that kids can try to help them feel better when they are upset.
Do you have any advice for authors who want to write about tough topics for kids? My biggest advice would be to think back to your own experiences of childhood. The small details, the way things made you feel, and putting yourself back in those tinier shoes can help you see tough things the way that kids see them. Difficult and sad things are a big part of childhood, and I think that just trusting your kid readers, that they can hold those feelings in a book, resonate with them, and won't be put off is important too. Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share? No new publishing news for me yet! I have a picture book out on submission, and I am chugging along on an early chapter book series. Thanks again for sharing the journey of "The Struggle Bus" with us Julie! Where can we find you online to keep up with your work? You can check out my website at www.juliepkoon.com, and follow me on twitter, @juliepkoon.