Kid Lit Love: SHE LEADS: The Elephant Matriarch

Hello and Happy Monday! Today, we welcome author, June Small to the Kid Lit Love blog with her memorable picture book, SHE LEADS: The Elephant Matriarch, released May, 2020, published by Familius. Illustrations are by Yumi Shimokawara. This is a lyrical nonfiction book that follows the matriarch as she teaches, cares for, and protects her family.

She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch

She is the Queen. The matriarch.

She leads her daughters and their daughters.

Inspiring text and striking illustrations follow the empowering journey of an elephant matriarch as she leads her family through the wilds of Africa. With facts about African elephants on every spread and a message that will encourage young girls to be the trailblazers of their generation, She Leads offers an incredible story and an unforgettable tribute to the strength of a true leader.

Open your eyes, princess. One day you will lead.

*Kirkus starred review*


I was able to connect with June through the Kid Lit 411 facebook group and it is a pleasure to have her as a guest on the blog!

1. Tell us why you write books for children.

I love reading! In kindergarten reading the Mr. Men and Little Miss books in the library bean bag chair, crushing all the Boxcar Children and Saddle Club books I could get my hands on in late elementary and middle school, mysteries though high school, I couldn’t get enough books. 

When I got serious about writing, I wanted to build readers. I wanted children to fall in love with books. I wanted to create non-fiction that pulled a kid in and made them curious and hungry for more and fun fiction for them to escape into. I write for children to spread joy.

2. Tell us about the inspiration for your book.

I had done some elephant research for a chapter book series. On International Women’s Day my agent retweeted an elephant fact and said she’d love a book about elephants. I had an AHA moment. I had the research for a larger book, but maybe this could be perfect for a picture book!

The structure I chose was unlike anything I’d ever written. It has a short lyrical story and in addition to that the story goes deeper with non-fiction sidebars on each spread. I did this mainly because I couldn’t decide if I wanted a beautiful story or one with the cool elephant facts, so I did both, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out.

3. Share a piece of advice for children’s writers.

Study different books with different structures and styles. If a piece isn’t working for you, step out of your comfort zone and try it a different way. Approach your problem from a different perspective. 

Yes, it can be time consuming and yes it may fail fabulously, but artists should always be learning and practicing their craft. Time consuming is not the same as time wasted. It will teach you something and expand your writing toolbox. You may not like the POV change or structure change for this book, but it may work perfectly for your next book. Be brave and don’t fear failure.

Thank you for the interview, June. Your comments about the inspiration for the book really spoke to me and I have revisited one of my works in progress after considering how I might incorporate non-fiction sidebars. It is a beautiful way to make a book that is both lyrical and educational at the same time.

You can connect with June Smalls via her website or through Twitter @June_Smalls

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Kid Lit Love: Noah Noasaurus


Elaine Kiely Kearns does so much for the kid lit community. She and Sylvia Liu are responsible for the kid lit 411 website which provides a wealth of information for aspiring writers. If you haven’t checked it out, I encourage you to do so.

I was excited to receive a copy of Elaine’s debut picture book, titled NOAH NOASAURUS. This book has the winning combination of a popular dinosaur theme paired with a recognizable stage of childhood development. Many parents can relate to the “No” phase where a child’s favourite word becomes “no.” And for that reason alone, parents and children will love the book.

From the Wooly Mammoth Slippers to the Smilodon Toothpaste, Elaine has fully explored the dinosaur theme in a playful manner.


The bright and colourful illustrations by Colin Jack along with the increasing parade of dinosaur friends who follow Noah on his grumpy journey are delightful.

In true toddler fashion, Noah’s grumpiness turns to laughter and he and his friends discover that a sense of humour can bring us out of our dinosaur doldrums. This is a super appealing book for preschool aged children.