Thursday, August 6, 2015

Spotlight on Penny Parker Klostermann + DMC Challenge


Good greetings, ye of the ditty guild! 
'Swounds! Can I not take my leave for ONE MONTH without returning to a voracious dragon wreaking havoc in these parts? Methinks Penny Parker Klostermann is to blame! Verily, it is so.

Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight (Random House, 2015). She loves all kinds of books, but especially very silly picture books that make her laugh. She has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too.

Random House Books for Young Readers, Aug 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0385390804
Find at, Barnes & Noble, or via
Hmmmm... plump... googly-eyed... this fellow seems harmless enough. I'm quite fond of the polka-dotted neckerchief he's sporting. Shall we give him a chance? It's not like he can swallow an entire ditty kingdom, right?

Think again!

This gorbellied, hook-nosed scoundrel is NOT to be trusted. Oh, he may look puppy-faced, but just like that old, witless woman who swallowed a fly, this cold-blooded hornbeast hath no clue about good manners. He gorges himself silly – bloatage maximus – until... well... you'll have to read the book to find out what happens next.

4-8 year olds are going to LOVE this picture book– especially budding squires and squiresses. The antics are hilarious, and British animator Ben Mantle's cartoon illustrations are the perfect match for Penny's rollicking rhymed verse– bright, expressive, and exuberant. Check out this interview with Ben Mantle describing his artistic process, then hie thee to Penny's blog for a fun activity guide or to sign up for her newsletter.  

Perchance you would like to get to know Penny better? 'Tis thy lucky day! Hither art the lady's five favorites. 

Favorite childhood memory:  
Wading in the Crystal River with my three sisters
Favorite subject in school:  
Physical Education
Favorite teacher:
Mrs. Ferguson, my fourth grade teacher. She praised my writing skills and let us cook and pull taffy at school.
Mrs. Ferguson
Miss Penny (1st grade)

Favorite food:
Rib-eye steak
Favorite smell:
Rain as it hits the ground and mixes with the dirt. I recently found out that this smell actually has a name. It's called "petrichor," from the Greek words "petra," meaning "stone," and "ichor," which refers to the fluid that flows like blood in the veins of the gods.

Congratulations on your debut picture book! We all have twists and turns in our lives, many of which are unexpected. Can you point to any events that, in retrospect, were instrumental to finding your way to children’s publishing? Or did you know you’d find your way here all along?
I didn’t know that I would find my way here. In fact I probably didn’t read a picture book from the time I outgrew them in elementary school until the time I started reading them to my son. Even when I was reading them to him, I didn’t have my sights set on being an author. I loved the books! Loved reading them to him! But I was a teacher and a mother and that’s about all my mind could handle. And then one day, after my son had outgrown picture books, too, I picked up a copy of The Math Curse. That book made me laugh so hard. Probably because I have the math curse! Anyway, that planted a seed and it grew slowly until I decided I wanted to give writing picture books a try.

Please describe your “writing zone” – when, where, how do you prefer to write?
I write on my laptop sitting on the couch in my living room or the couch on my patio. Both places have lots of light and I love light! Since I know it’s best that I don’t sit for long lengths of time (I get super stiff!), I set a timer for 30 minutes (sometimes I cheat and go longer ☺). Then I do the laundry or take my shower or clean my house or run errands…anything to get me moving for a while. Then back to writing. Also, I love to walk! Love! So a couple of times a day I head out into the neighborhood to walk. I consider this part of my writing zone as I have done a lot of creating and revising on my walks. I record my thoughts on my iPhone.

I love cumulative tales. Many of the rewrites of THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY were hilarious and well written. It appealed to me to give this a try. I had several ideas written in my 2011 PiBoIdMo List (Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month), but hadn’t attempted one. I started out with a different character but couldn’t find enough exciting things for him to swallow. So I ran through a list Tara has on her website-500+ THINGS KIDS LIKE. Dragons! Kids like dragons! It fit the rhythm and I could think of all kinds of medieval fun! I was off and writing.

After reading this book, it’s obvious that you had loads of fun writing it! What did you find the most enjoyable? In what way(s) did it challenge you?
I did have loads of fun! Most enjoyable? The basic story came quickly. I had it down in less than a day. It was really fun to imagine all of the items a dragon could swallow in a kingdom. Challenging? I wanted my dragon to have a reason for swallowing each item. In the beginning this resulted in some forced rhymes so I had to tweak and tweak until I found my way around those. Then once Maria Modugno (my fabulous editor at Random House) saw the story, she asked that I change the beginning. Here is the original beginning:
There was an old dragon who swallowed a knight.
I DO know why he swallowed the knight…
…he won the fight.

She didn’t want the word fight AND she wanted to have the traditional “I don’t know why” as part of the story. As you can imagine, changing this would change my story in other ways. But after giving it some thought, I felt she had excellent points. I love my story so much more after revising per her advice! Here’s the new beginning:

There was an old dragon who swallowed a knight.
I don't know why he swallowed the knight.
It’s not polite!

From THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON, text © Penny Parker Klosterman, illustrations © Ben Mantle (click to enlarge)

Would you share a favorite selection from THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON?
This is tough because I have quite a few favorites. But if I have to pick just one then I pick this:

From THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON, text © Penny Parker Klosterman, illustrations © Ben Mantle

This is my favorite because this annoying little steed clippity-clops through the entire book, which I think, adds a special dose of humor. And once I saw how Ben Mantle illustrated the steed and his clippity-clopping this selection went even higher on my favorite scale. 

From THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON, text © Penny Parker Klosterman, illustrations © Ben Mantle

Undeniably, Dragon has an appetite for the unusual. What is the strangest, or most remarkable, thing that you’ve ever swallowed?
Well I do my best to carefully inspect everything I swallow so usually it’s just the normal fare. But then there was that time  . . .
There was an ol’ Penny who swallowed a snake
A rattling snake for goodness sake!
Photo: Ralph Arvesen
Yep! I live just a hop, skip, and a rattle from Sweetwater, TX, home of the world’s largest rattlesnake roundup. They serve fried rattlesnake and I had to try it. They said it tastes just like chicken. Blech! I say it tastes just like rattlesnake and I don’t want to ever swallow it again!

Can you give us a hint about what’s coming up next for you?
Yes. I’m very excited about picture book number two, A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE. In this fairy tale mash-up, a well-meaning chef accidentally cooks with ingredients essential to famous stories-Snow White's apple, Jack's magic beans, and Cinderella’s pumpkin. Ben Mantle will be illustrating this book, too. It is slated for Spring 2017.

If you had all the world’s children in one room, what would you tell them?  
I would tell them to embrace their sense of humor.

Finally, please tell us what you have chosen as this month’s ditty challenge.
Since my book is a cumulative tale, I thought it might be fun for challenge participants to contribute to a cumulative poem for this month’s Little Ditty Challenge.

The poem will be made up of couplets.
Here is the definition of a couplet from Kenn Nesbitt’s site:
Two lines of poetry, one after the other, that rhyme and are of the same length and rhythm. For example, “I do not like green eggs and ham. / I do not like them Sam I Am.”
What kind of couplets should you add? We know that my old dragon swallowed his way through the entire kingdom . . . what if it happens again?  I think we should be prepared just in case the old dragon comes our way. Let’s think of things he can swallow so that we can avoid being swallowed?

How it works:
I’ll start us off with three couplets naming things that the old dragon can swallow. I challenge you to add a couplet (or up to four couplets) to my couplets. Your couplets must be complete so that no rhymes are left hanging. Get as silly and outlandish as you wish. The poem will be cumulative, but not "progressive," so you won't be building off each other’s lines, only off of my starting lines. Your couplets will be part of the whole poem. Your lines can’t have "closure" — i.e., the dragon can't die or suffer some other poem-altering fate.
I have high hopes that by the end of the month we will have accumulated plenty for the old dragon to swallow and have a fun poem to boot. So let’s get started.
There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed . . .
Things from my refrigerator.
Albert Allen’s alligator.

Mr. Tobin’s fresh grown squash.
Edamame succotash.

Bacon, sausage, juicy steak
Pudding, pies, and birthday cake.

Hear ye! Hear ye! All ye scribes, troubadours, wordsmiths–

Penny Parker Klostermann has thrown down 
the gastronomic gauntlet!

(Pray tell, is that a dragon I hear or just my stomach growling?)

Stomach Growls by Kaaziel on Deviant Art

'Tis a most splendid challenge, Penny–
Thank you for making Today's Little Ditty a stop on ye olde blog tour AND for offering a personalized copy of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT to one lucky participant (chosen randomly at the end of the month).


Throughout the month, send your couplet(s) to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. For children under 13 who would like to participate, please read my COPPA compliance statement located below the contact form.

Some poems may be published on the blog as daily ditties, but all of them will appear in a wrap-up celebration on August 28th, 2015.  

Fare thee well, gentles and ladies!
Until we meet again... hopefully not in Dragon's belly.

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.


  1. This looks fun! How about:

    Mashed potatoes, lima beans,
    guacamole, garden greens

    1. Nice, Pat! Would you please email me at If I'm going to use your couplet, I'll need to know your last name to give you proper credit. Thanks.

  2. Love the fun and imagination of your picture books, Penny! They both sound enchanting. :-)

  3. I love the book, Penny, and know my granddaughters will, too. As for the challenge, I'm headed for the beach so I'll see what I can 'cook up' in a different environment. Thanks for a great interview, Michelle. And for all the giggles, Penny.

  4. Great interview, you two. I love the Dragon story. <3 Here are my additions to the ditty challenge.

    My grandma's old refrigerator.
    The rocket of a space invader.

    My dirty clothes and stinky socks,
    and mudpies made with chocolate rocks.

    And just to be a bit absurd,
    Ice cream topped with rabbit turd.

    1. I'm partial to the mudpies, myself. ;) Nicely done, Gayle!

    2. I have a feeling Dragon is getting very full and that he probably needs to consult a dietitian :D

  5. 'Tis a fun challenge indeed, and I too love the steed ;)

    Thanks for the great interview, Michelle, and congrats to Penny!!

  6. Thanks for the post. It sounds like a great book and fun challenge.

  7. Crying because the store hasn't called with my copy yet!

    1. Have you stopped crying?? So sorry! I hope your copy arrives soon.

  8. Sounds - and looks! - like a fun book. Congrats, PennY! And thank you, Michelle, for the interview!

  9. Fermented juice, sour milk,
    Moldy bits of month's-old elk.

    1. All I can say is dragon must have a very strong stomach! Mine, not so much. Blech!

    2. Oh my! Let's hope Dragon has an iron stomach!

  10. What an awesome post, Michelle. Thanks so much for having me on Today's Little Ditty. And the couplets...what fun! Methinks me dragon shall be stuffed by month's end!

    1. The pleasure's all mine, Penny. :) It's going to be a feast to end all feasts! Based on a couple of these comments, I'm not sure how appetizing it will be for the human palate, however.

  11. Great post, Michelle, with one of my favorite people in this kidlit community, Penny Parker Klostermann. LOVE her rhymes! LOVE her debut picture book! LOVE this challenge! Will give it a whirl. ;)

    1. And give it a whirl you did, Vivian! Thanks for all the LOVE!

  12. Splendiferous tale Penny, hooray! From the pages here me thinks the art and story are indeed wedded.
    Befitting to Dragon Times, I send my humblest appreciation Michelle for your rollicking blog review! Guided only by the light of my IPhone and dwindling sunset as alas our power is no more, but spirits say may grace us again when the owl appears...

    1. Such inspired lyricism by the light of your iPhone, Michelle! If the spirits didn't grace you, I hope the owl was clever enough to bring some spare batteries.

    2. Thanks, Michelle. The art and story are indeed wedded til the end of time!

  13. I just can't wait to get my hands on this book. I looks adorable.

    Moldy cheese and stale bread,
    Cauliflower by the head.

    1. Thanks for the couplet, Rosi. Better the cauliflower's head than mine!

  14. Hahaha, good one. Love it. Love Penny's book and her wonderful rhyming skills.

  15. I have a whole collection of I Know An Old Lady Who... books, and I am THRILLED to add this one to my collection! It is So. Much. Fun! Three cheers, Penny! My FIFTH graders will be enjoying your parody of the original!

    Now I'm off to imagine what else that dragon might eat...

    1. Of course your fifth graders will enjoy it, Mary Lee! I probably should have said 4-80 year olds.

    2. I'm so happy you're going to share this with your fifth graders, Mary Lee. I love it when I hear of teachers who continue to share picture books with older readers. I think the experience of a picture book is wonderful for all ages.

  16. Congratulations on the book, Penny and on your next book too. You've done such a great job revamping the old song. I love the humor in these sneak peeks (my young nephews are going to love Dragon).

  17. Can't wait to add Penny's book to my cumulative tale collection! Great interview, ladies!

  18. Isn't it sad when I think I've commented and I actually haven't? It's been so fun watching Penny's book launch tour! I don't know that my poor brain is up to the poetry challenge but I'll mull it over.

    Soooo excited for Penny!!

    1. Thanks, Teresa. And I totally get the commenting can be majorly overwhelming! Happy mulling :D

  19. Great post! And I can't wait to grab the book.
    I want to join in the fun!

    Leftover green rabbit stew.
    A fat vole, or maybe two.

    Fizzy current lemonade.
    Magic pudding mother made. Maria Marshall

    1. Nicely done, Maria! I think I'd like to try that magic pudding. :)

    2. Isn't everything Mom makes "magic," especially if its a treat or when your sick.....? :-)
      This was a fun challenge, Penny. Just what was needed to lift today's grey dragon shadow.

  20. Magic pudding sounds very interesting...especially since it's mother made!

  21. That was so much fun! The cumulative poem and alternate endings lightened up my dreary day. Thanks to all. :-)