Today I am delighted to introduce you to the author and illustrator of The Adventures of Grandmasaurus and The Adventures of Grandmasaurus at the Aquarium Rescue Centre published in Canada by Common Deer Press. While most interviews and reviews I share are of Australian authors and illustrators, it is a pleasure to have this opportunity of introducing you to author Caroline Fernandez and illustrator Shannon O’Toole, both Canadian.
About Author Caroline Fernandez
Caroline Fernandez is an award-winning Canadian children’s author. She lives, writes, and bakes in Toronto, ON.
About illustrator Shannon O’Toole
Shannon O’Toole is a Toronto based illustrator, painter and elementary school teacher. She has illustrated Stop Reading This Book!, The Adventures of Grandmasaurus series, as well as The Math Kids Series published by Common Deer Press. Her playful illustration work is inspired by the unique and humorous characters in her life. Aside from illustrating books for children, Shannon has exhibited her artwork in galleries across Ontario. When she is not drawing, Shannon can be found curled up with a cup of coffee, watching old movies.
About The Adventures of Grandmasaurus at the Aquarium
Grandma is at it again! Moonie and I just want to enjoy our class trip to the Aquarium Recue Centre, but Grandma has other plans.
When dust makes her sneeze and turn into different Mesozoic Era marine reptiles it’s up to us to track her down, stop her funny business, and make sure we still have time to finish our field trip reports.
The first Adventures of Grandmasaurus — my review
Before we get into the interview about the second Grandmasaurus story, The Adventures of Grandmasaurus at the Aquarium Rescue Centre, let me tell you how I discovered the wonderful Adventures of Grandmasaurus.
I subscribe to Story Monsters LLC, ‘The Literary Resource for Teachers and Librarians’ which publishes the Story Monsters Inc magazine. I received a free digital copy of the first in the series in return for an honest review.
This is my review of the first Grandmasuarus story, which is posted on Goodreads.
I recently received of a copy The Adventures of Grandmasaurus written by Caroline Fernandez and illustrated by Shannon O’Toole from the publisher through Story Monsters LLC.
I was immediately attracted to the title and the cover with its vibrant illustration of a grandmother, in the shadow of a dinosaur, with some children. The idea had instant appeal to a grandmother who loves visiting museums and discussing dinosaurs with her grandchildren.
The story is a delight and the humour in the text is perfectly complemented by the humour in the illustrations. The introduction sets the tone for rest of the story. When the first-person narrator reminds Grandma that, this time at the museum, there is to be no funny business, we know we are in for a treat with a great deal of ‘funny business’ afoot.
And so the fun begins the moment Grandma sneezes, when a ‘silver sparkle of museum dust soared’ up her nose, and she disappears. The children frantically search the museum for her, but every time they think they have found her, she sneezes and changes form again (a clue is in the title). Grandma is not so good at behaving herself in the museum, which causes some anxiety for her grandchild knows the rules.
As I read the story, wishing I could be that Grandma, I was reminded of Miss Frizzle and the Magic School Bus whom, as a teacher, I also wished I could emulate.
This book is great to read aloud and perfect for sharing with young (and old) dinosaur enthusiasts who will delight in Grandma’s transformation throughout the book.
Teachers will be thrilled with the excellent teacher notes that are available to accompany the book.
When publisher Kirsten Marion told me that there was to be a second adventure and that the author and illustrator were available to interview, I didn’t hesitate. Having now read the second book, any review I would write would be very similar to that of the first.
Hi Caroline and Shannon, I very much enjoyed your first Grandmasaurus story with her adventures in the museum and was delighted to find I enjoyed this second, ‘The Adventures of Grandmasaurus at the Aquarium Rescue Centre’, just as much.
Caroline, can you tell us what gave you the idea for the first Grandmasaurus story?
C. The credit for Grandmasaurus inspiration comes from my publisher. We had already published one picture book together (STOP READING THIS BOOK). Over coffee, my publisher mentioned a want for a story about a grandparent and a grandchild who loved dinosaurs. That made me think about the magic of a grandparent/grandchild relationship and also of the adventures my Mom took with my kids. It made me think…what if…a Grandma magically sneezed into different dinosaurs and there was a role-reversal where the kids were in charge of herding her when they were out on a field trip.
Shannon, I love the way your illustrations add so much to the characters and to the humour. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to illustrate these stories and what you thought about the stories when you first read them?
S. Thanks so much! Caroline and I had previously worked together on Stop Reading This Book! Published by Common Deer Press, so when I was asked to collaborate again on The Adventures of Grandmasaurus, and the sequel The Adventures of Grandmasaurus: At the Aquarium Rescue Centre, I was elated! When I first read the manuscript, I thought it was such a fun and creative storyline and thought there were so many opportunities for some unique illustrations.
Caroline, did you have the idea for this next adventure at the Aquarium Rescue Centre at the same time or did that idea come later?
C. After writing the first Grandmasaurus book, I made a list of other field trips Grandmasaurus could go on. The first on my list was an aquarium rescue centre because there is so much illustration opportunity for Mesozoic Era marine creatures.
Are any more stories planned to extend the series?
C. Grandmasaurus fans will be pleased to know she’s coming back in books 3 – 5 (and maybe more!).
I love the Grandma in the stories. She is lovable, funny and most endearing. She’s a grandmother I’d love to be. She also reminds me of Ms Frizzle and her Magic School Bus — a teacher I’d love to be. Did you have any particular person in mind when you created this Grandma for your stories?
C. My mother is the original Grandmasaurus (the O.G.!). Not only is she a fantastic grandmother…she’s a little unpredictable when you take her out…I’ve lost her in a store a few times because she browses away from the group.
Your stories have a lot of humour in them, but they also have important messages too. What is the most important thing you would like young readers to take away from your books?
C. My dinosaur-loving son will want me to say dinosaur facts!
What is your favourite part of the aquarium rescue story?
C. I really like the spot-and-find Grandmasaurus aspect to the Aquarium Rescue Centre story. Kids love to point her out in all her different creature forms.
Do you like the way Shannon has illustrated both your Grandmasaurus stories?
C. I LOVE the way Shannon illustrated both Grandmasaurus books. Her detail of Grandma’s wet footprints at the end of Grandmasaurus 2 is brilliant!
Shannon, how did you feel when you were illustrating the stories?
S. When I am illustrating books, I feel playful. If something makes me smile while I am drawing it, then I feel that it might make someone else smile when they’re reading the book. I often like my work to feel light-hearted because I feel light-hearted when I illustrate!
What media did you use in creating the illustrations?
S. I used watercolour and pencil to create these illustrations, on Fluid Hot Press watercolour paper. It has a lovely smooth texture and makes it easy to scan and digitize.
Did you find any part of the aquarium story difficult to illustrate?
S. One challenge in all the Grandmasaurus books would be researching to make sure my depiction of that dinosaur or reptile is accurate, while still making it my own. Also, the sheer size of the creatures in the story can sometimes make it challenging to create a setting where it can fit, without losing any details such as expressions on the character’s faces.
What part did you enjoy illustrating the most?
S. For this Grandmasaurus book, as well as the first one, I really enjoyed illustrating the sneeze image of grandma. I enjoy looking in the mirror and imitating a sneeze face and try to recreate it in my painting. It’s not a facial expression I get to draw very often, and it makes me smile.
Caroline, do you have a favourite illustration in The Adventures of Grandmasaurus at the Aquarium Rescue Centre?
C. I can’t pick just one. Shannon has created a diverse class of kids on a field trip, lovable characters, and amazing representations of Grandma as different marine creates.
Shannon, do you have a favourite illustration?
S. I have many favourites! I would have to say I really enjoyed the “chase” spread in the middle of the book, where the two children weave between aquarium tanks observing grandma’s latest transformations. It was a great challenge and I loved painting the children on the other side of the tank.
I also really enjoyed the last spread, when grandma and Ms. Priya (the teacher) are walking out of the aquarium and grandma leaves behind wet foot prints. I thought it was a fun wink to the reader.
Caroline, how would you like teachers to present your books to the children?
C. I love it when teacher’s use my books as read aloud moments in class.
Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?
C. My advice for teachers is to make reading a positive experience. Offer lots of encouragement, humour, patience, and good books.
Do you have any advice for children as writers?
C. I usually start a story with a visual image…so when you start a story…imagine it in your head first and then write down what you are imagining.
Shannon, how would you like teachers to discuss your illustrations with children?
S. I would like for teachers to utilize the illustration clues to make predictions about what might occur next in the story, as I think students could really have fun guessing where or what Grandmasaurus will be next.
Do you have any advice for children when creating artworks?
S. Draw what you love and keep doing it! Art is a beautiful thing and should be something you’re enjoying. Make artwork that you love, and others will love it too.
Caroline, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
C. I have wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. I love reading. I love writing. I was the editor of my school newspaper and went to university to study literature.
What people or events influenced your decision to take this journey as a writer?
C. I kept going into bookstores and libraries; seeing all the books and wanting to have a book with my name on it on the shelves.
Shannon, when did you know you wanted to be an illustrator?
S. When I was a toddler, I would draw on walls, in the cracks of doors and under tables. It was clear I was a creative person. When I was about 6 years old, I entered a colouring contest, and won a free cake. It was such a simple, little thing, but it was a huge moment for me as a child. From that point onwards, I was confident I wanted to be an artist! I studied painting in university, and painted portraits, and was focusing more on producing gallery work. Then one day, I had the opportunity to illustrate a book for a friend. I found the process of illustrating to be so wonderful, and I knew that from that point onwards, this was what I wanted to do.
What people or events influenced your decision to take this journey as an illustrator?
S. I’ve always admired the illustrations in books as a child. I used to closely observe the lines and colours used in illustrations by Michael Martchenko, among others. I dreamt of seeing my name on the cover of a book as an illustrator and was always encouraged by my parents that it would happen one day. Having the opportunity to illustrate a friend’s book gave me the confidence to pursue illustrating. I began to focus my artistic efforts towards this goal, worked on my portfolio and joined some professional development conferences. I am still on my journey as an illustrator, but I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I have had thus far.
Thank you, Caroline and Shannon, for sharing your insights about these delightfully entertaining books and your processes in writing and illustrating them. Thanks also to Kirsten Marion, publisher, for coordinating these interviews and publishing the books.
The publisher has also made available some wondeful teaching notes to support your use of The Adventures of Grandmasaurus at the Aquarium Rescue Centre which are available via this link.
Connect with Caroline Fernandez on social media
Connect with Shannon O’Toole on social media
Purchase your own copy of the book from the publisher Common Deer Press. It is also available from major and independent booksellers.
These interviews are now available free, in a ready-to-print format, in Literacy Resources Author Spotlight Author Spotlight – Caroline Fernandez and Literacy Resources Illustrator Spotlight – Shannon O’Toole. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.
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