Today, I’m thrilled to be talking with Ann and Sue about their writing partnership, their inspirations for their Tip and Tucker series, and what it’s like living in the same city but two different states.
Meet Ann Ingalls
How did you and Sue team up to write the Tip and Tucker series of early readers?
Lucky for me, I met Sue at a local writers’ group. We hit it off right away and realized that we have the same sort of sensibility about writing for children. We write to engage children, to entertain them, and to teach them. With this group of emergent readers for Sleeping Bear, our aim is to teach them to read.
What inspired you to adopt hamsters as the main characters for the series? Are any real incidents from your years as a teacher reflected in the stories?
I had many, many classroom pets—mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, canaries, finches, turtles, fire-bellied toads, loads of fish, salamanders, and the list goes on. My students especially loved having hamsters. Salamanders were the stinkiest. We kept them in a small wading pool and returned them to the ponds they came from after a period of time, usually about 2 weeks.
Your list of countries visited is quite extensive—Australia, the West Indies, Germany, China, Hungary, Peru, Belgium, Guatemala, and so many more! How did you become such a globe-trotter? Can you share any anecdote from one or more of your trips?
I have always loved to travel, beginning with family trips to northern Michigan as a child and a trip to Mexico as an exchange student in college.
One time during a visit to Denmark, I visited an elementary school. I loved seeing that each classroom had its own fruit bowl, and that children go outside for recess even when it rains because they need the exercise and their clothes will dry in the classroom anyway. That same school was attached to a senior care center and the children and adults ate together, read together, and went to recess together.
I’m intrigued by some of your nonfiction titles—Fairy Floss about the invention of cotton candy, J is for Jazz, an alphabetic romp about jazz, and Trails to California about some of the state’s founders. What sparked your interest in these topics, and what do you like best about writing nonfiction?
I am a research nutcase. So often my own curiosity about a particular topic and the reading I do to satisfy that leads me to write a book. That is so very true about the jazz books, a book on piranhas, and even the 8 books on manners I wrote. I now know that if you are walking down the street during a rainstorm with an umbrella and someone else is coming from the opposite direction with an umbrella, the person with the taller or higher umbrella holds it above the lower umbrella as the people pass one another. Who would have thunk it?
The variety of your school presentations sound fantastic! What’s your favorite part of school or other events? Do you have an anecdote from an event that you’d like to share?
I know what I like best is reading to the children in the group. I like watching their expressions and answering any questions they might have. I also love to play silent Hokey Pokey with them. I came up with the idea for that during a time my students had to wait in long lines to have their pictures taken. It’s still a pretty big hit.
One time during a presentation at a local school, a child in the front row was so attentive. I thought he was really interested in my presentation. When it came time for questions, he asked me if I knew that I had hair in my nose. I thought his teacher would die of embarrassment. We all had a good laugh about it, and I told him that he had hair in his nose, too.
What’s up next for you?
I have a few new manuscripts that are out on submission. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed but have no expectations. If they sell, I’ll celebrate. If they don’t, I’ll keep on writing and revising.
You can connect with Ann Ingalls on
Meet Sue Lowell Gallion
It must have been fun collaborating with a friend on this series. What was your process for working together with Ann and crafting the story? Where did Tip and Tucker’s adorable names come from?
Ann and I became critique partners and friends a long time ago. One day, having coffee at a local bagel shop, we started brainstorming characters and story ideas to try writing something together. Einstein Bros. Bagels became our Tip and Tucker headquarters. We do get some funny looks from other customers!
We came up with the personalities of the characters first. Tip’s name emerged early on as we pictured a hamster hiding with just the tip of its tail showing. Ann is very fond of my beloved black lab mix, Tucker, and she suggested that we name our adventurous hamster after my curious pup. I’m not sure how the real Tucker feels about that.
As far as process, we work on a draft together, then head home and start emailing revisions back and forth. I tend to be a procrastinator and Ann’s energetic and prolific. She speeds me up and I slow her down. All I can say is that it works, thanks to Barb McNally, our wonderful editor at Sleeping Bear Press, and the team there. André Ceolin, who illustrates the series, is the one who brings these two characters and their stories to life. We are enchanted with his work and feel so lucky to be part of this series.
Besides telling a great story, early reader books encourage kids to fall in love with reading while also introducing new vocabulary and sentence structure and giving them a sense of pride and accomplishment at the end. That’s a lot to think about while writing! Where do you start and how do you draft the structure needed?
It’s a challenging form. It’s difficult to work with such a limited vocabulary, plus just a few high-interest words in each book. We also want kids to relate to the animal and human characters and their feelings and experiences. At the same time, we want a lively story arc with humor and great illustration possibilities. The art helps the students in decoding the words. We draft the story first, and then go back and edit, edit, edit. Ann’s deep education background is a huge resource for me. I’ve learned a lot working on these.
Can you talk a little about the Lead to Read program that you’re involved in? What kind of mentoring do you do with students? What kinds of changes and successes do you see in the kids that you mentor?
I’m such a fan of this program. Lead to Read KC organizes community volunteers to read for 30 minutes one-on-one with kids in first, second, and third grade classrooms every week. The goal is to improve third-grade literacy.
I go to my school on Tuesdays at lunchtime along with other volunteers. You work with the same child all year, so you get the opportunity to get to know that student. I love bringing picture books and early readers that might interest them or make them laugh. The student picks out some books from the classroom or from my book bag, and the fun begins.
It’s an absolute thrill to see a student who is struggling with reading experience success. Kudos to all the teachers and librarians who do this critical work every day!
I’d love to see the Lead to Read model replicated all over. There are more than 1,100 volunteers reading every week in Kansas City now. Check it out at leadtoreadkc.org.
You seem to have been born into the writing and publishing business! Can you talk a little about your family’s business, a favorite memory from your childhood, and how it influenced your becoming a writer?
My family had a commercial printing business, so I grew up playing at the plant on Saturday mornings with my sister. We loved to roam around the skids of paper and create things with scraps and rubber cement. We went to work in the bindery and as proofreaders there in the summers when we were teenagers. My sister ended up a writer, too.
Readers know you for your adorable and critically acclaimed Pug Meets Pig and Pug and Pig: Trick or Treat, illustrated by Joyce Wan. Can you share where the idea for this cuddly cute pair came from and the inspiration behind the characters? Can readers look forward to more from Pug and Pig?
Thank you! Joyce Wan is a fabulous book partner along with the whole Beach Lane Books team. The idea for Pug and Pig came from a story a friend told me in a water aerobics class about a family with a pet pug that adopted a pig. I loved the way the words “pug” and “pig” sounded together, and the illustration potential of two round, curly-tailed creatures. I can’t share any details yet, but yes, there’s more to come from Pug and Pig!
What’s up next for you?
Ann and I are at work on book 3 of the Tip and Tucker series, which will come out in 2020. I’ve got several projects in the works that haven’t been announced yet that will come out in the next few years. And I’m looking forward to some solid writing time in the months ahead, as well as lots of school visits in the upcoming year.
And one last question for the two of you!
Ann and Sue share a pretty cool fact! They both live in Kansas City, but the city is divided between Missouri and Kansas. Ann lives on the Missouri side and Sue lives on the Kansas side. In a bit of friendly rivalry, can you each tell me your favorite place in Kansas City and your favorite thing about your state?
ANN: Maybe my favorite place in Kansas City is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I have been there so many times with so many different people. I loved taking my children there when they were small and everything and every space looked large and amazing. They still love to go there. We actually went there to study how to make my son, Kevin’s, Halloween costume as a knight.
SUE: State Line Road actually is just a few blocks from my house. One of my favorite things about Kansas City on both sides of the state line is all of our parks and fountains. Visitors often are surprised that there are so many trees and gardens. We do have hills also!
ANN AND SUE: For our friendly rivalry, anyone from Kansas City has a favorite barbecue place. Ann loves Q39 on the Missouri side. My favorite is Brobeck’s on the Kansas side!
Thanks, Ann and Sue for this fun chat! You’ve definitely made me want to visit Kansas City! I wish you both all the best with all of your books and your upcoming projects!
You can connect with Sue Lowell Gallion on
Back to School Month Review
About the Holiday
It may seem like summer vacation just began, but it’s already time to start thinking about the new school year. The stores are stocked with clothes, supplies, and plenty of gear to make the new school year the best ever. But the “stuff” of going to school is just part of getting ready. Kids are looking forward—eagerly or maybe with a little trepidation—to meeting new friends, having new teachers, and exploring new subjects and ideas. Making the transition to a different grade easier and exciting is what National Back to School Month is all about.
I received a copy of Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak from Sleeping Bear Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway prize package. See details below.
Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak
Written by Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by André Ceolin
It’s the first day of school and Tucker is up and at ‘em as soon as the bell rings, but “the bell scares Tip. He hides” in his little red igloo. As the kids enter the classroom, they immediately notice Tip and Tucker’s cage and come over to take a peek. Their teacher, Mr. Lopez, introduces adventurous Tucker and shy Tip. He even reveals a funny fact about Tucker: he snores!
Mr. Lopez asks Pim to read the five rules pertaining to their classroom hamsters. As he does, Tucker and Tip both listen along. “‘I like the treats rule,’ says Tucker” as he imagines all the apples, carrots, and seeds that await them. “‘I like the quiet rule,’ says Tip.” The last rule is to always make sure the cage door is closed by listening for the click. Mr. Lopez gives Pim a cardboard tube to add to the cage. Then it’s time for music class. As the kids line up, Mr. Lopez gives the hamsters a carrot and closes the door, but there is “no click.”
“‘Hasta luego, chicos,’ says Mr. Lopez” to Tip and Tucker. While everyone is gone, Tucker and Tip talk about school. Tip thinks it’s too noisy, but Tucker likes noise—and naps. He falls asleep on the carrot and begins to snore. Tip goes to the door of the cage. “Tip peeks out. The door opens. PLOP!” The cage is so high up now.
Tip calls for Tucker to help him. Just then Mr. Finch, comes in to change a lightbulb, and Tip runs out the door. Meanwhile, Tucker wakes up. He can’t find Tip. He “zips to the igloo. No Tip there. No Tip anywhere! ‘Where are you, Tip?’” he calls. Tip has zipped down the hall and into the supply closet. It’s quiet and dark, but there’s no Tucker.
Tucker is determined to find his friend. He leaps from the cage and runs down the hall and into a bathroom. One girl thinks he’s a rat, so “Tucker zips down the hall” until he bumps into Mr. Finch. Mr. Finch picks Tucker up and puts him in his shirt pocket. Tucker worries that he’ll never find Tip. In the closet, Tip has gotten hungry and tried chomping on the strings of the mop, but it crashes to the ground. “‘SQUEAK!’” says Tip. Tucker hears him. “‘SQUEAK!’” he answers. Mr. Finch also hears and opens the closet door. He lowers his hand down to Tip. “The hand smells like Tucker.” Tip climbs in and is plopped into Mr. Finch’s shirt pocket with Tucker.
Back in the classroom, Mr. Lopez and the kids are worried and searching for Tip and Tucker. Then “Mr. Finch peeks in.” The kids are happy to see Tip and Tucker. With their pets safely back in their cage, the class circles up on the rug. One child asks how they escaped. “‘Lo siento. I’m sorry,’” Mr. Lopez says and explains how he forgot to listen for the click and will be more careful next time. Tip and Tucker are happy to be back home with extra seeds to munch. In fact, Tip has decided that he “‘might like school…. This is a good home after all,’” he says.
Tip and Tucker are back with their second adventure, following Tip and Tucker, Road Trip in which Mr. Lopez chose them from a pet store and brought them to their new home. As Mr. Lopez’s students are introduced to their classroom pets, new readers get to know this darling duo too. With repeated words and phrases, onomatopoeia, gentle suspense, and humor, Ingalls and Gallion weave a story that will captivate kids while boosting their confidence in their reading ability. When Mr. Lopez discovers that he left the cage door unlocked, he gathers his students and apologizes, demonstrating a good lesson in accepting responsibility and the idea that everyone makes mistakes. Through his unexpected adventure, Tip learns with pride that he has untapped bravery, providing another good example for kids who may be more hesitant or wary of new experiences.
André Ceolin’s bright and welcoming illustrations invite kids to school, where Mr. Lopez’s diverse class is excited about their new pets and people watch out for each other—and their tiny charges. Ceolin’s pages are packed with action and detailed scenes that help emerging and new readers connect the text to what they see. Tip and Tucker are as cute as can be as they settle into their classroom home. During their separation they display emotions of happiness, wariness, trust, and finally joy in being reunited.
A delightful entry in this series for early, developing, and newly independent readers, Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak will enchant fans, who will eagerly look forward to these friends’ next adventure. The book is a charming addition to home, classroom, and library collections.
Ages 5 – 7
Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110083 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1534110090 (Paperback)
Discover more about Ann Ingalls and her books on her website.
To learn more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books, visit her website.
To view a portfolio of work by André Ceolin and learn more about him and his work, visit his website.
Back to School Month Activity
Fill Your Backpack Game
Make sure you’re ready for school with this fun, printable board game! As players take turns rolling the die to acquire supplies for their backpack, they get closer and closer to being prepared. The first player to fill their backpack with all six supplies is the winner!
- Printable Backpack Board Game
- Printable Supplies Playing Pieces
- Printable Playing Die
- Crayons or colored pencils (optional)
- Print one game board and set of playing pieces for each player
- Print one playing die
- Players can color their backpack game board if they’d like
- Cut out individual game cards and give a set to each player
- Cut out and assemble playing die
- Players roll the die to place items on their backpack
- The first player to get all six items is the winner
You can find Tip and Tucker, Hide and Squeak at these booksellers
Picture Book Review