Dawn graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later with an MBA. For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and then as a manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books.
After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead.
Dawn is also a math enthusiast. When she’s not busy writing and reading, she can be found doing math problems, sometimes just because. In high school, Dawn’s dream was to have a math equation named after her, but now, she believes having her name on the cover of books is a million times better!
Dawn lives with her husband, three children and golden retriever in sunny Arizona. Some of her best memories include reading to her kids while they were plopped in her lap, all giggling at silly, clever picture books. Dawn is an active member of SCBWI and many other children’s writing groups.
Dawn’s books include The Night Baafore Christmas, The Night Baafore Easter, The Night Baafore the First Day of School, Once Upon a Christmas and Counting Elephants.
THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Bo and the sheep are back for their third adventure together! For our new readers, can you briefly introduce Bo and tell us about his other escapades?
Bo is a young boy who gets so excited on Christmas Eve, Easter Eve and the night before the first day of school that he can’t fall asleep. When he decides to count sheep to help him get to sleep, Bo quickly finds out that the flock is just as excited as he is. Soon the sheep get out of Bo’s bedroom and into a ton of childlike fun. From eating the Christmas tree and coloring Easter eggs to making puppets, painting and getting haircuts on the eve of the first day of school, the sheep keep Bo on his toes.
The sheep are supposed to help Bo get back to sleep, but they always seem to create a bit of trouble first. This couldn’t possibly be based on personal experience, could it? Did you (or your kids) ever try to prolong bedtime? 🙂
My kids always prolonged bedtime. One night when my twin daughters were really little, I heard a strange noise coming from the baby monitor in their room. When I went into see what was going on, I found them in the closet playing. Soon, I discovered that the strange noise was the static coming from the baby monitor they had shut off so we wouldn’t know they had gotten out of bed. What toddler thinks to shut off the baby monitor? I knew right then and there that bedtime in our house would be an adventure.
How do you decide what mischief the sheep will get into next?
After I list all the traditions, décor, food, etc. associated with the event and/or holiday, I imagine the excitement someone who is experiencing all of that for the first time might feel. As a kid, I remember how excited I was for school to start. I loved getting brand new pointy crayons and pencils, colorful paint sets, construction paper and glue, and I couldn’t wait to use them. When my kids were growing up, coloring, crafting and puppet making were favorite things to do. In general, if there’s mischief the sheep get in to, there’s a good chance my kids did too.
Rumor has it that, in addition to being a children’s book author, you are also a math whiz! Did your love of numbers influence your creation of these stories?
I’m pretty obsessed with math. I’ve always loved math. Because of that love, I pursued a degree in Mechanical Engineering. When I began writing children’s books that love of math stayed with me and found its way into my stories. My hope is to make math fun, so kids grow to love math at early age. In The Night Baafore series, kids can not only count but also practice number identification by reading what the sheep are doing, then finding each corresponding sheep on the page, all while giggling at the sheep’s shenanigans.
Sometimes authors and illustrators hide some messaging in the book, outside of the story. Are there any carrots in The Night Baafore the First Day of School?
There’s not so much a hidden message, but more of a feeling that I want kids to get from the story about how much fun school can be. I want kids to feel the sheep’s excitement so they get energized and look forward to the school year.
There are carrots in the books – real carrots and kale and a cherry on top. This was meant to be funny because whenever I tried to get my kids to eat healthy foods, they, like the sheep, would opt for what was in the cupboards instead.
Pablo Pino has illustrated all of your books featuring Bo. Did you talk to Pablo at all during the illustration process or did you get to be surprised? What is your favorite part of the imagery he has brought to your story?
We didn’t really talk during the illustration process, so I got to be surprised. I did email him after I saw the final work for each book in the series to tell him how absolutely thrilled I was with what he had done. We follow each other on social media so we keep in touch that way. It’s fun to connect on that level and celebrate our books together.
If I have to pick, I’d have to say that my favorite part of the imagery he brought to the story has to be the body language and facial expressions. Pablo has an incredible talent for capturing the perfect expressions and mannerisms. Sometimes while reading, I find myself making the faces the sheep and Bo are making, and every time I’m in awe of how perfectly Pablo got it!
What do you hope young readers will feel when reading your book?
I hope readers feel pure joy and excitement when reading my book. My goal was to make kids giggle and interact with story. I hope they find the antics to be silly and engaging and have fun finding the sheep on the page. I want kids to look forward to school and all the fun that awaits them.
ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS
Once Upon a Christmas turns “ho ho ho” into “ha ha ha” when your characters get into some interesting predicaments. Where did you get the idea to write this book?
My wonderful editor suggested the idea and then I ran with it. I used parts of another manuscript I had written that was a spin on The Three Bears, then I added some mythological characters as well and ended up with a mashed-up make-believe story that goes back in time with characters everyone can relate to.
Humor can sometimes be difficult to convey because every child experiences humor differently. Do you have any secrets for how you incorporate humor into your tales and make your books so fun?
For me, silly is the secret. I try to remember the things my kids found funny and create situations based on that. I love wordplay and puns so I use them whenever I can – just ask my kids, they’ll vouch for me. I think seeing the unexpected is inherently funny. Also, putting a spin on something familiar can add humor. For example, since we all know that Goldilocks tries the porridge, chairs and beds until one is just right, I used that to add humor to Once Upon a Christmas, but you’ll have to read it to find out how.
Your book features Santa (of course!), Bigfoot, Little Red Riding Hood, unicorns, dragons, and more. Something for everyone! With such a cast of characters, was it difficult to bring their stories together?
It was a bit challenging. I wanted all these characters to be a part of the story but at first, I couldn’t find a way to bring them together organically, until I got the idea for a celebration where everyone was welcome! But, I also wanted them to have a conflict they could resolve together, so what better issue than to have them help save Christmas. Once I had the storyline, I found myself getting carried away and the party got big, too big, so unfortunately, I had to leave some characters out. Hopefully they’ll find their way into another story.
Did you have a favorite fairy tale character growing up? Which one and why? What about a least favorite? (Can’t say I was too fond of bigfoot!)
My favorite fairy tale character was Cinderella. I loved how kind, caring and optimistic she was despite how she was treated. With a song in her heart and a smile on her face, she never lost hope and kept dreaming and, because of that, good things happened for her.
My least favorite, of course, was her wicked step-mother.
Like the Shrek movie series, your story will equally appeal to parents and grandparents AND their littles. Did you have a particular reader/age in mind when you started the book? Or did you set out to write a book for the whole family?
I wanted this book to appeal to the whole family. I knew parents and grandparents could relate to the classic characters like the Three Bears and the Three Little Pigs, and I hoped that would bring back memories of them reading those stories when they were young. These characters are timeless, and when grandparents, parents and kids recognize the same characters, there’s an instant connection that brings them together on another level.
I can imagine this book as a fun tradition that families can read together, year after year. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition?
I do. My favorite tradition is pretty unconventional. It’s conspiring with my kids to hide my husband’s beloved Larry Bird Christmas tree ornament, then leaving ransom notes from the “Bird napper.” The kids and I would taunt my husband with clues as to where Larry might be, which would send him on a wild bird chase. We got so many laughs from the Bird napper days. But rest assured, we always returned Larry to a place on the tree on Christmas Day.
Tell us the truth: cocoa or egg nog? 🙂
Definitely cocoa, because for years our family walked to Starbucks on Christmas Eve to get cocoa, so cocoa brings back wonderful memories of late-night walks, looking at lights when the kids were young
Where can our readers find out more about you?
Readers can visit my website at dawnyoungbooks.com