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Yellow background, RICK in 3D orange letters with a paper airplane zooming by, with Rick himself below, a rock with google-y eyes and a line smile, a little green-blue paint and a gold star on his right side

Just look at that rock face! Cuter than Mount Rushmore!

When I saw that funny lady Julie Falatko had a new picture book, you can bet I sent her an email right away booking her on the blog! We then had some banter before beginning…

“Hi Tara, in the interest of neither of us having any sense of time, I’m checking in to see if you have questions for me for the RICK THE ROCK blog post.”

“Oh no, I have about six blog posts before yours! I am slow and full of procrastination mojo. If that can be called mojo.”

“Procrastination mojo is its own special brand of mojo, but it’s definitely something that gathers steam and pushes me right straight into the giant room of procrastination, where all sorts of interesting things that are not on my to-do list live.”

I told Julie to write that book! It’s like the complete opposite of an Escape Room.

Then we finally got down to the rock of the matter.

A classroom scene with perspective from above, a small cubby room in the left rear and then kids at their desks writing and drawing, a girl laying on a yellow beanbag chair reading, a girl singing, a girl dancing, a boy showing off his painting of a yellow bear, then the Nature Finds shelf hovering above them all, with Rick, an acorn, a piece of moss and a piece of bark

Julie, those of us working in picture books know that a story set at school is almost always welcomed by editors. Of all the things school is known for—why did you choose a ROCK who lives on the “Nature Finds” shelf in Room 214?

That’s a good question. It was the other way around, though: the rock came first, and he was outside, and in a house, and in a shed, until finally the story made its way to school.

So he was a rolling stone? *ba-dum-tsss*

HA. A rolling stone and a rock star.

If the rock came first, what is it about an anthropomorphic rock (different than a metamorphic rock) that you were excited to share?

OK, so the interesting thing to me about an anthropomorphic rock is that it’s still a rock. I like the idea of a character who is weighty and immobile. What would a character like that think? What would a rock think that a human could relate to? That’s where a lot of my stories start, by thinking, ok, here’s this fragment from my day that interests me—is there depth to this rock, this paper clip, this tiny bird?

My older son got frustrated with me once when I was thinking out loud about what some wild animal might be thinking. “Do you have to anthropomorphize everything?” he said to me, annoyed. And I told him yes, I do. It’s my job.

Of course it’s your job! We can’t leave anthropomorphizing to the amateurs! What kind of world would that be?! (One I wouldn’t want to live in!)

I don’t even want to think of what would happen during an amateur anthropomorphication. Someone could get hurt. You can’t just initiate a tea party with a chipmunk out of the blue, you know. (You have to send a formal invitation first.)

How did Rick become so lively and interesting? Let me guess…are you saying that school makes him so?

It was school that made Rick lively! He was a real grump in earlier drafts. He spent a lot of time complaining about the indignities of the Nature Finds shelf. I still wish I could have kept the sentence “I’m young for a rock, but I’m too old for this” when Rick was getting smeared with glitter glue, but it was too much the old, grumpy Rick. Being in Room 214 with all the fun students made him (through many drafts) appreciate things a bit more.

Rick looking proud at the top of a cliff and then a dotted line showing him tumbling off the side and splashing down into water, juxtaposed with the static Nature Finds shelf and his friends beside him talking...acorn, moss, and bark

So does Rick—the non-grumpy, delightful version—have a part of school that he likes best?

Flinstones phone from the cartoon, a rock base with an animal's horn as the receiverWhat he likes, and likes best, about school is the arc of the story! In the beginning, he’s OK on the “Nature Finds” shelf, but he’s a little bored. He’s phoning it in, as much as a rock can phone something in (he’d have to use that Flinstones phone) (or he’d have to BE that Flinstones phone??). But by the end, he’s so happy to be in the classroom. The lessons are cool. The students are fun. And his favorite part is his friends on the shelf with him.

kids in the classroom doing various things like writing on the board, flying paper airplanes, setting up vials and beakers for science tests, shooting a basketball, building with blocks, reading a Geology book, looking though a microscope, all smiling and having a good time while the Nature Finds shelf looks on from above

Aww, that’s so sweet.

So Julie, what’s next for you? A sequel about Moss?

Wouldn’t that be AMAZING? (Amossing?) I love the way Ruth drew all of the Nature Finds. Acorn’s eyes! Bark’s concerned face! Moss’s shaggy demeanor! She is so top-notch at creating personalities for everything in her illustrations.

She captured ROCK and friends in all their anthropomorphic friendliness! And you can tell each child in Room 214 has their own quirky personality as well.

What advice do you have for picture book writers who want to anthropomorphize something not usually anthropomorphized?

Well, first (to draw on acting class), try to be the thing. Be the sneaker. Be the grain of sand. Be the rock. How does the world look from where you are? How does it feel to have a foot shoved into you, to be tiny and blown by the wind, to be heavy and immobile? Then I think: if this thing is the weird kid at school, what’s that kid like? (A story is more interesting to me if it’s about the weird kid.)

So if it’s a grain of sand, maybe that kid is pretty small and gets unwittingly pushed around in crowds, but also can make something huge and beautiful, like a sand castle. The story might be in the surprise that something so small can be part of something so big. Or it might be the grain of sand’s surprise at that. Or maybe it’s something else entirely, and the sand gets blown off the beach and down to the ice cream stand, and tries soft serve vanilla for the first time, and it’s everything that grain of sand thought it would be.

Julie, this interview was everything I thought it would be…and more! You have something more for the blog audience!

Yes, a picture book critique!

WOW! Thanks, Julie! I’m sure everyone is going to go crazy over that!

RICK THE ROCK OF ROOM 214 is available now from Simon & Schuster.

Blog readers, please leave one comment below and you’ll be entered to win a PB critique from the hilariously talented Julie Falatko!

A random winner will be selected at the end of this month.

Good luck!

Julie Falatko writes books for children. She is the author of many books, including Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book), which was named one of the ABA’s best books for young readers for 2016, was featured in People magazine, and was read online by David Harbour of “Stranger Things,” and the Two Dogs in a Trench Coat chapter book series, illustrated by Colin Jack (Scholastic), for which she received the Denise McCoy Literacy Award. Julie lives with her family in Maine, where she maintains the Little Free Library in front of their house. Visit her at

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