Kidlit Caravan Authors Carrie Tillotson, Harshita Jerath & Rebecca Gardyn Levington on Sophomore Book Inspiration

By Suma Subramaniam

I’m thrilled to welcome Kidlit Caravan members, Carrie Tillotson, Harshita Jerath, and Rebecca Gardyn Levington to Cynsations today!

Why did you write this picture book?

Carrie: The short answer is that my editor asked me to! The long answer is a bit more involved. My editor suggested that I write a sequel to my debut picture book, Counting to Bananas, illustrated by Estrela Lourenco (Flamingo Books, 2022), and suggested that it might be an alphabet book, with one title idea being B is for Bananas, illustrated by Estrela Lourenco (Flamingo Books, 2023). I was intrigued (a.k.a. excited, thrilled, dumbfounded!) by the idea and set out working on a draft.

I was convinced it was going to be an animal alphabet book and had a whole list of possible animal alphabet themes, one of which was about animals going to bed. Suddenly sparks flew—B is for bedtime, but Banana doesn’t want to go to bed, so B Is for Bananas instead!

The idea probably stems from my time as a parent with a young child who never wanted to get ready for bed. With many families experiencing bedtime struggles, I wanted to write a book that could play with the idea of getting ready for bed in a fun-filled and funny way, with the added hook of being a bedtime/alphabet mash-up!

Harshita: Cooler Than Lemonade, illustrated by Chloe Burgett (Sourcebooks, 2022) is the story that found me. While observing and guiding my younger son, who is full of ideas, the theme of entrepreneurship kept visiting me again and again.

I realized that there aren’t many picture books that guide kids toward finding their passion and bringing their ideas to life-which is the true spirit of being an entrepreneur, while money is the result. So I wrote about this empowering spunky girl, Eva, who brings her idea of opening a lemonade stand to life but gets pulled down by escalating competitive challenges until she separates herself from competition to discover her sweet spot which is a combination of her passion and creativity.

Rebecca: For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. Of course, as a child, I had no idea that’s what it was called, but I’d always craved structure and found safety and comfort in predictability. Any unexpected change to my schedule or any uncertainty of what the future might hold made me very uncomfortable.

I wrote Whatever Comes Tomorrow, illustrated by Mariona Cabassa (Barefoot Books, 2022), because there are so many kids who struggle (like I did, and still do), kids who panic at any unexpected change or disruption to their normal routine, big or small – a new sibling, a friend moving away, a substitute teacher, a fire drill…a pandemic.

The book is essentially a poetic mantra, written to myself as a child and to all children (as well as adults like me, who still need to hear it!). It is a reminder that we have all done or faced hard things in the past and we will continue to do and face hard things in the future. The trick is to remember that strength during the hard times and know that, for better or worse, this too shall pass.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Carrie: I hope B Is for Bananas is a point of fun connection for young readers and their grown-ups. I want readers to see Banana dressing up as various “characters” throughout the story while still getting ready for bed, and hope they realize that they, too, can play their way through many daily routines.

I am a huge proponent of playful parenting, so I hope grownups see the opportunities for using playful parenting to connect with their children. Also, I hope they laugh!

Harshita: My hope is that this story inspires kids to bring their ideas to life, embrace feedback and failures, take a break to fuel their creativity but most importantly, never give up. Most of all, I want readers to enjoy the story, and soak in the vibrant art by Chloe Burgett.

Rebecca: I hope that readers take away a belief that they are so much stronger and resilient than they think they are. While it is never easy to face new challenges or uncertainty, we thankfully have many tools – not to mention friends and family – to help us.

One tool that has helped the most with my own struggles has been remembering the times I’ve faced similar worries in the past. Sometimes it turned out that what I was worried about wasn’t a big deal. Sometimes it turned out that what I was worried about was a big deal. But in all cases, I pushed through and that knowledge helps me move forward each time I face another unknown.

There are wonderful exercises in the back of Whatever Comes Tomorrow that can be used to help kids manage their worried feelings, as well as an Activity Guide that can be downloaded for free on my website.

Cynsational Notes

Carrie Tillotson is the author of Counting to Bananas, B Is for Bananas, and the forthcoming Alpacas Here, Alpacas There. After getting a master’s degree in public health, Carrie worked as a biostatistician. Her job involved counting lots of numbers (but not many bananas). Carrie now sculpts her interests in science and fun into playful picture books. When not reading and writing, you can find her running, playing games, and eating ice cream (though usually not at the same time). She lives in Oregon with her husband and son, two dogs, and two chickens. Visit Carrie online at

Harshita Jerath (pronounced her-SHE-ta) is a children’s book author who draws inspiration from her memories of growing up in India and the colorful world around her. She currently lives with her family in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Leaping Laddoo, illustrated by Kamala Nair (Albert Whitman, 2022) is her debut book, and her latest book is Cooler Than Lemonade, illustrated by Chloe Burgett (Sourcebooks, 2022). Her next book is a Step into Reading book by Random House, coming out in Fall 2024. The story is about a dog who gets a little too excited by the sweets laid out for the Diwali celebration.

Rebecca Gardyn Levington is a children’s book author, poet, and journalist with a particular penchant for penning both playful and poignant picture books and poems – primarily in rhyme. She is the author of Brainstorm! illustrated by Kate Kronreif (Sleeping Bear Press, 2022) and Whatever Comes Tomorrow illustrated by Mariona Cabassa (Barefoot Books, 2022), and has six additional rhyming picture books forthcoming, including Afikoman, Where’d You Go, Where’d You Go? A Passover Hide-and-Seek Adventure, illustrated by Noa Kelner (Penguin Random House, 2024) and I Will Always Be… illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell (HarperCollins, 2025).

Rebecca’s award-winning poems and articles have appeared in numerous anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. She lives New Jersey with her family. Find out more about Rebecca and sign up for her monthly newsletter at

Suma Subramaniam’s interests in writing for children are centered around STEM/STEAM related topics as well as India and Indian heritage. When she’s not recruiting by day or writing by night, she’s volunteering for We Need Diverse Books and SCBWI or blogging about children’s books.

Her picture book, Namaste is a Greeting, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (Candlewick, 2022) is named one of Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year 2023. It is also a finalist for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award and has been selected as part of this year’s NYPL Storytime Collection to be read by all 88 branches of the New York Public Library System. It also made the best books of 2022 in The Guardian as well as Read Brightly. Her second book, She Sang for India: How M.S. Subbulakshmi Used her Voice for Change, illustrated by Shreya Gupta (FSG Books, 2022), is an Honor Book in Toka Box’s top South Asian Children’s Books of 2022 list. Suma is also the contributing author of The Hero Next Door anthology from Penguin Random House which is a finalist for the 2023 Massachusetts Book Award.

Her poems have been published in Poetry Foundation’s first Young People’s Poetry Edition of Poetry Magazine. She lives in Seattle with her family and a dog who watches baking shows. Learn more at