Lisa Katzenberger joins us on the blog today to discuss her picture book "It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship". This is a beautifully illustrated, heartwarming book that will appeal to many readers!
Lisa Katzenberger is the author of IT WILL BE OK: A STORY OF EMPATHY, KINDNESS, AND FRIENDSHIP (Sourcebooks 2021) and NATIONAL REGULAR AVERAGE ORDINARY DAY (Penguin Workshop 2020). She is an instructor at The Writing Barn, a mom to eleven-year-old twins, and serves on the Board of Trustees of her public library in suburban Chicago. Visit Lisa online at www.lisakatzenberger.com.
It Will Be OK is a sweet, simple picture book about how to help a worried friend. Discover the power of listening and gain insight into dealing with anxiety and having empathy. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our loved ones is to be present for as long as they need us.
Giraffe and Zebra meet every day under their favorite tree to walk to the watering hole. But today, Giraffe isn't there Where could he be? Zebra spots him hiding in the tree; Giraffe has seen a spider and is scared silly. Zebra patiently talks to Giraffe and does the very best thing: supports Giraffe for as long as Giraffe needs it.
What inspired you to write It Will Be OK?
I saw this photo as a writing prompt on Twitter. It’s totally photoshopped, but it made me wonder what would make a giraffe climb a tree. I instantly thought “Oh, it saw a spider” but then I thought that was silly—why would a big, strong giraffe be scared of a small little spider? But then I acknowledged that sometimes I’m afraid of things that may appear very small, but feel big and overwhelming. And the story blossomed from there.
We all have times where we are this giraffe!
What was the process like from inspiration to getting published?
Long! I wrote my first draft in January of 2017. I brought an early version to an SCBWI pitch conference where we could read the first page of our manuscript to an editor. I was seated with Kelly Barrales-Saylor from Sourcebooks Kids and she liked the story, but gave me feedback on how to improve it. I worked on a revision (on and off) for a couple years, then finally submitted Version 40 to Kelly and she loved it!
Version 40! That's true dedication. I'm sure it changed so much from that original draft. Do you have a scene or sentence in the final version of the book that was your favorite to write?
In the beginning of IT WILL BE OK, Giraffe’s friend Zebra finds him hiding up in a tree and encourages him to come down. Zebra gives all the reasons why Giraffe shouldn’t be scared of the spider. Then I love this scene: “Giraffe expected Zebra to leave. But Zebra waited. And waited some more.” Zebra is being such a good friend, just waiting by Giraffe’s side as he works through his emotions and comes down from the tree on his own terms. I think it shows kids that we don’t need to have all the answers, but we can respect the space our friends may need to process their emotions.
Even as adults, we need to know that it's okay to give people space to feel! Why do you think these books are important for kids to have on the shelves?
I think books about Social Emotional Learning topics are so important for kids to have access to, as learning to identify and name our emotions at a young age can lay the foundation for strong emotional health. Talking about mental health topics like anxiety (instead of shying away from them like I did during my childhood) makes it easier for kids to get help and understand that all their feelings are valid and normal.
You also have an Educator Guide for this book. How do you think parents, teachers, or counselors could use your book and the guide to engage in deeper conversations with kids?
I think just having a conversation about emotions and our mental health can go a long way. For a child to know that an adult in their life wants to talk about feelings can be a big step to opening up ongoing conversations about emotions. Simply asking a child “how are you feeling?” “what do you need?” or “how can I help you?” can go so far in establishing trust and encouraging a child to open up about what’s on their mind and in their heart. The Educator’s Guide has discussion topics to help start a discussion and other fun activities to keep the conversation going.
Do you have any advice for authors who want to write about tough topics for kids?
Do it! Think about what topics or themes you felt like you wished you could have read when you were a child. Be honest, and don’t feel like you need to sugar coat things for kids to understand them. Kids are strong and you could write the story that makes a difference in a child’s life!
Thank you so much Lisa for taking the time to share with us, and I have no doubt this story will make a difference in the lives of many children.
Lisa has generously donated a copy of It Will Be Okay as a giveaway to one of our readers! Leave a comment here on the blog to enter. Entries will close March 30th and winner will be announced here on the blog March 31st!