MOM SCHOOL {review and author/illustrator interviews}

by Rebecca Van Slyke
illustrated by Priscilla Burris

In this adorable kid’s-eye view of what would happen if Mom went to school, a little girl imagines Mom School, where all moms learn their amazing skills, like fixing a bike tire and baking cupcakes. With warm, funny illustrations and a fun role-reversal story in which moms act like kids, young readers will love imagining what would happen if their own moms went to Mom School.

MOM SCHOOL is simply adorable! Kids are always wondering how we know how to do so much. I remember my oldest use to think parents never got sick since she never really saw me being sick. Even though I’ve had my fair share of colds and the flu. Us mom’s just keep going I mean who else is going to do the errands, cooking, the playing and more. Rebecca Van Slyke really captured what kids think and imagine. Being a 2nd grade teacher she has lots of practice and great subjects to bounce around ideas and create books for. Priscilla’s illustrations really bring MOM SCHOOL to life. I enjoyed reading this as well as my girls. This would be a great Mother’s Day gift or new mom gift. This is also perfect for kids before they head off to school for the first time. We can’t wait to read DAD SCHOOL when it comes out. 

I was honored to be able to interview Rebecca and Priscilla. 

Rebecca Van Slyke: 

I love the concept of mom school. How did you come up with the idea?

My mom, of course, was the original inspiration for MOM SCHOOL. She’s such a great mom, she must have graduated summa cum laude from Mom School. And when my daughter was little, when she asked how I knew how to do things, I’d tell her I learned them all at Mom School.
 I saw that you’re a 2nd grade teacher. Did your students help you with any ideas?

I get ideas constantly from my second graders! I think second grade is a perfect age– they love school, they’re more independent, and they are so excited about learning.
 I took many children’s lit classes while getting my Early Childhood Education degree. We had to write and illustrate a picture book. They are a lot harder to create than they look. How long did it take you to write Mom School?

Yes, they can take longer than a novel to write! Having such a limited word count means that each word is crucial, but the themes must still be as deep as a longer book. It’s distilled, like poetry.
Or scotch. 🙂

I first wrote MOM SCHOOL and DAD SCHOOL in 2007. Since then the two books have been through about seven revisions each.
I saw Dad School is coming out next spring, any thoughts of creating Big Sister or Big Brother school also? My girls think that would be fun and a great gift idea for baby showers. 🙂 

I would love to write others in the series! My second graders suggested the sibling books, too. And Baby School. And Grandma School. And Dog School. They have a lot of ideas!
What are some of your favorite picture books? What about your 2nd graders do they have some favorites, besides your’s of course!?

Oh, I love this question! Growing up, I loved the Frances books by Russell and Lillian Hoban, and I still remember my mom reading Betty Boegehold’s THREE TO GET READY, an early reader about a family of three kittens and their mother. I love sharing these as well as more modern classics like WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (the ultimate picture book), Jon Scieszka’s versions of fairy tales, and anything by Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, and Harry Allard. One that just came out this year that is a real hit in my classroom is Kevan Atteberry’s BUNNIES!!! my kids all love reading that along with me. Then throughout the day, I’ll hear little quiet voices saying, “Nooooo bunnies…”

Priscilla Burris: 

The pictures are so cute and colorful, what media did you use to create the drawings?

Thank you so much!~ 
The media I used for this picture book were 
Plain white paper, a #2 pencil and my trusty – and most beloved – Pink Pearl Eraser, a Wacom Stylus and Tablet and Photoshop.
How did you get started illustrating children books?
First, my years attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising ( provided me with valuable lessons I still use currently in my career.  From Color Inspirations and Combinations, Patterns, and how fabric folds and falls, are just a few of what comes to mind when I illustrate.  I love to say that my characters all need to be in whatever fashion is appropriate for their particular stories ~ so I am always, always grateful for FIDM!
The ‘lightbulb’ moment that triggered my desire to focus on being a Children’s Book Illustrator happened when I was completing my Early Childhood Education course and the Final Project was to ‘Write And Illustrate A Children’s Book’.  I created an over-sized picture book (poster size!) as my final project.  

My first professional work as a children’s book illustrator began in creating illustrations for an Educational Publisher.  This was a wonderful learning process for me and am very grateful for the experiences this provided, working with an awesome publisher and editor!   It was during this early time in my career that the editor introduced me to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators ( – and the rest, they say, is history!  =D

The SCBWI is most definitely the best organization for anyone serious about a career in writing and/or illustrating children’s books!
I took many children’s lit classes while getting my Early Childhood Education degree. We had to write and illustrate a picture book. They are a lot harder to create than they look. How did you go about creating the characters and illustrations of Mom School? 

Started with doodling “Mom” characters and scenes that would work well alongside the text, in the most natural way possible. One thing I have learned throughout my years is that – for me – it is much better to stay ‘loose’ in my work, than to tighten up, if I am going to keep the sense feeling, personality and humor I want to create in an image or character. 
What are some of your favorite picture book illustrations or illustrators? 

SO many favorites!!! To name just a few ~ Illustrations by Syd Hoff, Nancy Carlson, Charles Schulz, Jill Barklem, Mark Buehner, Scott Campbell, Peter Brown, and the list goes on and on and on!
Thank YOU!  I appreciate your interest in my work and am very grateful!
– Priscilla 

thank you Random House Kids, Rebecca Van Slyke and Priscilla Burris for allowing me to review this great picture book. All thoughts and opinions are my own and were no way influenced by the free book.