KMP: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site is a household name among families these days—did you ever anticipate it becoming a New York Times Bestseller?
SDR: I never, ever, EVER in my wildest dreams, could have even fanaticized that GGCS would be the success it’s become. It’s incredible, amazing surreal — I feel like I won the lottery!
KMP: Author inspiration always fascinates me—can you tell us what inspired you to write about a construction site?
SDR: My second son was (still is!) absolutely truck-obsessed. Tirelessly obsessed. (pun intended) At the end of the day, we’d snuggle up and read his favorite books — with titles like, My Big Truck Book, Construction Trucks, The Construction Alphabet Book, I Stink… (You get the gist.) So, counter to every mom’s great desire to set a peaceful mood before bed, reading about all of those great, big, powerful trucks only made Zak more revved up (again, pun intended!).
So, one night we began to tell each other a story: I reminded him how, whenever we’d drive past a construction site at night, all of the trucks were off — sound asleep. (Because, just like my little boy, those big trucks needed to rest so that they could work and play hard the next day.) We began to envision our favorite trucks doing their last chore of the day, slowing down, shutting off and going to sleep. And, that’s how the story was born.
KMP: Steam Train, Dream Train reminds me of books like The Polar Express and The Little Engine that Could—were either of those books an inspiration?
SDR: I suppose that every story we read stays with us in some way — and, certainly, I love both of those books and have read them countless times. But, the real inspiration started because both of my sons were really enamored with trains (We still have boxes, and boxes AND BOXES of Brio trains and track that I just can’t make myself give away.)
When we’d sit at train crossings, the boys would point out all of the different kinds of train cars, and make guesses at what kind of cargo they were carrying. It didn’t take long before the guesses turned silly — like tankers carrying maple syrup, refrigerator cars filled with ice cream and box cars filled with stuffed animals. That’s really how the idea started — taking different train cars and filling them with the stuff of (my kids’) dreams.
KMP: Your rhyming is impeccably clever and witty—did the words come easily to you?
SDR: Wow — I’m flattered. Thank you.
I guess that, yes, it comes easily to me overall. But, I DEFINITELY get stumped, struggle over lines or couplets, and beg for my editor’s help… It certainly doesn’t always come easily.
KMP: You have a new book coming out soon is that correct? Can you tell us a little bit about it? Will we see any trains or trucks?
SDR: I’m so, SO excited to announce that the sequel to GGCS: Mighty, Mighty Construction Site will debut on Valentine’s Day! Our team of five brothers will return, but will enlist the help of five new friends for a very challenging new project (and, yes, some of the new friends are girls). Ultimately, it’s a book about cooperation, teamwork and relying on each other’s strengths, and I’m really excited about it. Please let me know what you think!
In addition, I have two other books coming out next year: Big Machines: The Virginia Lee Burton Story (HMH, illustrated by John Rocco — September) and The Twelve Sleighs of Christmas (Chronicle, illustrated by Jake Parker — October).
All of next year’s offerings are true labors of love and big pieces of my heart. I hope so much that they are well-received.
KMP: Tom Lichtenheld did a beautiful job of bringing both, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train to life—did you anticipate such a unique and memorable bunch of characters?
SDR: Tom is a genius, plain and simple. He always delivers so much more than I could imagine — so much more than I could even hope for. His work has been a gift to me and my career, for sure.
KMP: I’m always curious to hear which picture books authors enjoyed growing up – can you share some of yours? Do you have any favorite board books?
SDR: My ultimate favorite was (is!!!) The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton, and my sons loved Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel, Katy and the Big Snow, Maybelle the Cable Car, Choo Choo — and that’s been the inspiration for my upcoming book about Jinnee Burton and her work.
I also loved Benji’s Dog House, Harry The Dirty Dog, Be Nice to Spiders and Dr. Seuss books like The Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. And, since the holiday season is here, I have to mention, Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree!
As a mom, our favorite (and therefore, still MY favorite!) board books were Pat The Bunny, Goodnight Moon, Good Night Gorilla (the boys loved looking for the balloon on every spread!) and Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?
KMP: Thank you again, Sherri for your wonderful stories and for answering all of my questions. I am looking forward to reading all of your future work. Best of luck to you!