Author Spotlight: Hannah Stark


July 26, 2019

Today we are pleased to feature picture book author Hannah Stark and her debut picture book, TRUCKER AND TRAIN, illustrated by Bob Kolar (Clarion Books, Aug 6, 2019). Enter to win a copy!



Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.

I grew up about an hour north of New York City. My dad was a teacher and my mom was an artist. My mom, Marisabina Russo, illustrated cookbooks and did New Yorker covers before becoming a children’s book author and illustrator when I was seven. I remember being immersed in the world of children’s books from a young age. My mom used to bring me along to meet with her editor, Susan Hirschman of Greenwillow Books. Susan always made me feel so welcome and I remember that she framed a drawing I made her. I remember meeting Peggy Parish at the IRA convention and getting a handwritten note from Beverly Clearly after writing her a letter. For me, editors, authors, and illustrators were just approachable everyday people. I always thought it was so weird that my friends thought of my mom as a mini celebrity.  

I never thought that I would write a book for children. I’ve always enjoyed writing but found it to be deeply personal. Around ten years ago, I started to share my poetry and short stories with friends and felt encouraged to go more public with my work. I took some adult writing classes and found that ideas for kids were regularly popping into my head while I was at work (I am an elementary school teacher). I think that reading children’s books everyday with and to my students inspired me to start to write one myself.  

Congratulations on your debut, TRUCKER AND TRAIN. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

Thank you!  TRUCKER AND TRAIN is about a big rig named Trucker who loves to rule the road with his size, strength, and mighty horn. One day he meets the larger, stronger, and louder Train. Trucker quickly realizes that Train is bigger, stronger, and louder but isn’t using his might for power. Instead, Train is well admired by the vehicles around him. TRUCKER AND TRAIN is a story about using our strengths for good. I hope young readers will see that with great power comes great opportunity.  



art © Bob Kolar

When my son was three he was in a pre-school class made up predominantly of boys. Some of the kids had much more rough and tumble personalities than my son does.  I was fascinated by how each kid used their budding personality, as well as, their body size, volume, and speed to sometimes take power over one another during play. 

At about the same time, my son was into trucks and trains. One day my son got really aggravated that the trucks couldn’t drive smoothly along the tracks. There was a meltdown and afterward we spent time talking about the differences between trucks and trains.  This was when I first thought about a character named Trucker.



 art © Bob Kolar
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

I say this with a great deal of humility but I think my road was rather short and sweet. Five editors saw TRUCKER AND TRAIN before it was acquired. I didn’t have an agent so there was a steep learning curve for me throughout the whole process. I am grateful to Pat Cummings for encouraging me to submit the story after her six-week Picture Book Boot Camp here in Brooklyn and to the Author’s Guild for all that they do to support writers.  

What projects are you working on?

I’ve always been intrigued by history and love when it is told in a narrative form. I’m working on three historical stories that require a lot of research but are such passion projects. The good news is two of them are on submission and one is in what I think of as a honeymoon stage, unearthing new articles and jotting down notes. Who knows where each project will go but I guess that’s part of the adventure.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read as many picture books as you can. Read the old classics and the hot new titles. Make a routine of going to the library or a good bookstore and reading a dozen or more books each visit. I do this as a teacher and mom but even more so as a writer. Be a student of the good and the not so good. Type up the text from your favorite and least favorite books. Study what works and what doesn’t. I have found that studying manuscripts on paper, without their illustrations, has taught me a ton about word count and story pacing.

What is something most people don't know about you?  

I love to travel but I hate to fly.  It is a true conundrum in my life.  

Where can people find you online?

I have a website https://www.hannahcarinastark.com/and I’m on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hannahstarknycand Instagram (where I also showcase some of my work in the classroom if there are any teacher readers) https://www.instagram.com/teachingrightalong/.  

Hannah Stark grew up watching her mom, Marisabina Russo, create picture books in her studio.  She remembers a house filled with children's books as well as bags of teaching materials because her father was a teacher.  Today Hannah's home is filled with picture books and teaching materials, too.  Hannah has been teaching elementary school in the New York City Public Schools for fifteen years.  She loves making and sharing resources for other educators and teaching kids to write.  She was inspired to write her debut book, TRUCKER AND TRAIN, while playing with her son.  When not writing or teaching, Hannah can be found taking road trips and train rides to unfamiliar places.


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26 comments:

  1. I loved reading about the author watching her mom create books! Congrats on this debut!

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  2. Anitha KuppuswamyJuly 26, 2019 at 8:31 AM

    Awesome book!!

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  3. Congrats Hannah!
    Can't wait for TRUCKER AND TRAIN to land in the hands of tiny readers everywhere!

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    1. It's so exciting, right? Thanks for checking out my interview Cathy! Love your book too!

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  4. I'm always up for a picture book about trucks and rolling stock!

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  5. I like the colors and the way the characters have been given personalities!

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    1. Thanks John. Bob Kolar does an amazing job with anthropomorphic characters. Check out his website when you can. http://bobkolarbooks.com/

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  6. Loved Hannah's advice and the philosophy behind Trucker and Train.

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  7. I love the message of this book and can't wait to read it. I also love to see new places, but hate to fly.

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  8. I love the look of both Trucker and Train, they look like fun guys to hang out with. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of the book.

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    1. They're pretty groovy. Especially that Trucker when he comes around. :)

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  9. Hannah, I love the premise of your TRUCKER AND TRAIN - using your strengths for good! I wish everyone would do this!

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    1. Thank you Cathy. I hope the idea will resonate with kids and their adult readers.

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  10. Looks like so much fun! I love the bits that are shown. Congratulations!

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  11. Sounds like a great book for my kindergarten class! Love that you grew up with the celebrities!

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  12. I love the backstory on how this book came to be. It sounds like a fun one to share with a great message!

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  13. Can't wait to read!

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    1. I would love to hear how it goes over with them. Thanks for the kind comment!

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