Today I welcome Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan to the blog to talk about her 2017 picture book!

Tells us a bit about Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3:

MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3 explores the bittersweet end of the school year in a lively, multi-cultural classroom. It’s hard enough to say good-bye to a favorite teacher, but when Mrs. McBee tells her students that she won’t be back in the fall, they are stricken.

“But you won’t get to see me again!” said Jamaika.

“Or hear me read,” said Max.

“Or see how much bigger I grew,” says Lou.

“You can’t go!” William said. “Nothing will ever be the same without you.”

Overcome with sadness, William is slow to rally and find a way to help wrap up the year. It doesn’t help that take-charge Jamaika tells Mrs. McBee repeatedly that William’s not helping. But ultimately Jamaika and the rest of Room 3 are surprised that William’s contribution is the one they needed most of all.

MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3 is a story about transitions, compassion and community.

What are three things your protagonist(s) are grateful for, and why?

Mrs. McBee is grateful for her McBee-hive full of diverse students, because they create the special magic of a community where everyone helps each other grow.

Jamaika is grateful that Mrs. McBee allows her to practice her leadership skills and gives her the opportunity to grow in compassion and understanding of her classmates. Even though Jamaika is frustrated with William, ultimately she prizes William’s contribution above all others.

William is grateful that Mrs. McBee allows him not only the time to process the sad news about her departure in his own slow way, but also encourages Jamaika to grant him the same. William is also grateful that he can contribute in his own way too, and he does. He draws pictures of all the class and Mrs. McBee throughout the year, enjoying learning together, preserving memories.

As the author, what picture book(s) are you thankful for?

I am grateful for Barbara Berger’s GRANDFATHER TWILIGHT and Charlotte Zolotow’s WILLIAM’S DOLL for leading me into writing for children. GRANDFATHER TWILIGHT drew me in with poetic beauty, WILLIAM’S DOLL with a message that needed to be heard. I thought, “Picture books can do that?” and I was hooked.

Please share one person that’s made a big impact on your picture book career.

Eric Kimmel made a huge impact on me early on in three important ways. He told me to join SCBWI, he was honest about his dark nights of the soul when he desperately wanted to be published in book form and despaired that it would never happen, and he subsequently published so many delightful books that I shared with my children and students.

What are you hopeful for (or looking forward to) in 2018?

I look forward to the release of two more picture books, I’M DONE! illustrated by Catherine Odell on Holiday House’s fall list and WHEN YOUR DADDY’S A SOLDIER, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, on Beach Lane’s fall list. With the release of WHEN YOUR DADDY’S A SOLDIER, I will have accomplished a life goal of representing military kids in print. I’ll be excitedly doing pre-release preparations for BUTTON AND BUNDLE, illustrated by Gillian Flint, on Knopf’s 2019 spring list.

Thank you Gretchen – and congratulations on your 2018 books!

Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan is a former elementary reading specialist who now devotes herself to writing for children and visiting schools as an author. She is an active tribe-member of SCBWI and writes picture books, chapter books and middle-grade fiction as well.

Gretchen grew up as a global nomad, daughter of a career Army officer, and lived on three continents. She has settled in Camas, WA where she lives with her husband, cat and dog, stunt squirrels, nomadic neighborhood chickens, and celebrates when her children and grandchildren come home. Children will find a home in her heartfelt books about community, courage and compassion.

When she isn’t writing or teaching, Gretchen can be found playing word games, hiking in the woods, x-country skiing and attending plays. Please visit Gretchen at gretchenmclellan.com for more information about her books, events and author visits.

"A surprising gem." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Chicken Wants a Nap is available at Amazon, Barnes & NobleTarget and your favorite independent bookstore!

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