Interview with Salina Yoon and Penguin

Salina.Yoon.photo2Yesterday I reviewed the heart-warming Penguin series. Today I am so excited to share my interview with Salina Yoon. I met Salina through the Verla Kay Blueboards (now SCBWI boards) where she is an active member. She has a generous, caring spirit which comes shining through in her Penguin books. She is a “prolific” author/illustrator and has published over 200 books!! She has 6 new books coming out in the next two years. She got her start in novelty/board books and has recently branched out into character-drive picture books with great success.

What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your art and writing?
I like to capture the innocence of childhood, when anything and everything can be your friend. A child has an innate love for things and a need to connect, even if they are inanimate. Children see the preciousness of things we grown-ups sometimes overlook… and I bring this character to life through Penguin.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?
Eric Carle, Gyo Fujikawa, and Dr. Seuss were my earliest creative influences even though I don’t illustrate like any of them! Each are completely unique: Carle’s is graphic and minimalistic, Fujikawa’s is soft and rendered, and Dr. Seuss is wild and imaginative! It made me realize that a story can be delivered in many ways. I love to play around with art style from one book to the next (unless it’s a series). I could name dozens more books that are completely unique—and collectively, they are my influence, and remind me that each book can have its own character, style, and delivery. But specifically, Hervé Tullet inspired my own Tap to Play, the art of Charley Harper influenced the artwork in Kaleidoscope and Pinwheel. I also LOVE the art of Jon Klassen, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and Antoinette Portis. Groundbreakers—these talented people!


kal and pin

(Note: Pinwheel is unavailable currently, but is scheduled to be reprinted, and will be available again later this year/2014 due to early sell-out in 2013)

For Penguin’s art, though, it came internally from my childhood self. I wanted to draw Penguin in a way a child would. But at the time, I was illustrating all of my books with a mouse. This made it difficult to draw organically. So I purchased a Wacom tablet to allow myself to draw with a pen tool. Since I wasn’t familiar how to draw with this tool and tablet, my drawings were somewhat child-like. I decided to keep that “style” and it worked for Penguin.

What advice would you give to beginning authors and illustrators?
Make it your goal to CREATE, write, and grow, . . . and not to publish. Keep your eye on the ball… and that ball is to write or illustrate,… and publishing will follow!

Initially you were focused on novelty books and jumped into character-driven picture books with the Penguin series (which I love). Do you have any writing/illustrating goals that you would still like to accomplish?
Thank you (for loving Penguin!) I’ve enjoyed creating each and every one of my novelty books, but when I wrote Penguin, I was ready for a new challenge, and JUMP, I did! Since Penguin’s first book in 2012, I will have 9 character-driven picture books published by 2016 (so far)! There’s so many more I’d like to do, but I also aspire to write and illustrate for the early reader or even possibly the early chapter book market!

What were the seeds of inspiration for Penguin and Pinecone?
My first son was always very curious. As a toddler, he’d examine things very closely– like a fallen leaf on the ground. When he turned 4 or 5, he loved to collect things—like rocks, leaves, shells, and pine cones. He was very particular about the things he collected, and from his collections, there was always one that stood out. He’d take it, place it in a box, and ask for me to make it a blanket. A piece of fleece or napkin was enough. He didn’t ask for goggly eyes to attach to it or change it in any way. The way it was was simply enough. He’d name it… usually the name of the object, plus a “y” at the end. A rock became “Rocky,” a shell became “Shelly,” and so on. This sweet, nurturing spirit inspired Penguin’s character, though I didn’t know it at the time. It stayed with me, and when Penguin was born, I realized later that my son had inspired him!

What future adventures are in-store for Penguin?
Penguin is seeking to experience one of our favorite seasons—FALL—in his next adventure. And this time, he’s not traveling alone! Look for Penguin’s fourth book, Penguin and Pumpkin, in July 2014! This one focuses on the relationship of siblings. If you have a child with a younger sibling, this might be a sweet book to share.

Now some rapid fire questions for Penguin.

Who is your best friend?
I have made many best friends through my adventures! But among them, I have to say that Pinecone, Crab, and Bootsy are my very best of friends! (Learn how this happened in PENGUIN AND PINECONE, PENGUIN ON VACATION, and PENGUIN IN LOVE)

What is your snack of choice?
Fishies from the ocean, and marshmallows.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
The beach—where I met Crab.

If you weren’t a penguin what animal would you like to be?
It would be fun to be a boy dressed up in a wolf suit so I could cause mischief! That counts as an animal, right? I never cause mischief in real life.


Is Ms. Yoon a penguin-driver or laid back? 
She works very hard, but I get to do whatever I want… like bake.


Can you share with us your favorite selfie?


I like this picture because I am holding my own book!

Where can we can we follow you and Ms. Yoon?
You can follow me on my blog:
or my FB page:
and you can follow my Mama, Salina Yoon, on her FB page:
or learn more about her on her website:

Be sure to check-out Salina’s upcoming books.
FOUND (Walker Books for Young Readers), April 1, 2014
Penguin and Pumpkin (Walker Books for Young Readers), July 29, 2014
Tap to Play, (HarperCollins), Oct 7, 2014
Forthcoming in 2015-2016

Two additional Bear picture books, and one more Penguin book (untitled) with Walker Books for Young Readers

SY PB strip 2
I also recommend checking out these other fabulous interviews with Salina.

No Responses to “Interview with Salina Yoon and Penguin”

  1. Tina Cho

    How neat your son inspired the character of Penguin! I love getting story ideas from my kids. I love your illustrations. I bought one of your penguin books for my niece. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks, Darshana and Salina, for the interview!

    • Salina

      Hi Tina! I wish I could meet you one day! You’ve been such a supportive member on the boards,… and I always see you comment on one of my interviews! Thank you for following me (and Penguin)! It’s meant a lot! And thanks so much for the compliments! <3 Salina

    • Darshana

      Glad you enjoyed the interview Tina! I get ideas from my kids all the time, just don’t know what to do with them most of the time. My brain is too grounded in reality.

  2. Stacy S. Jensen

    My toddler loves to pick up pinecones and the penguin series. I love the little penguins at the end how very cute! Baking penguin!

    • Salina

      Thank you, Stacy! I hand-made the little Penguin out of polymer clay. He stands at about 2 inches tall… and I found various accessories where doll-house things are sold! And craft places. It was a labor of love! Thank you for leaving a comment! 🙂 Salina

  3. Sylvia Liu

    Thanks for this excellent interview. I have admired your Penguin books for a long time, and I love your advice to always create and grow. Thanks!

    • Salina

      Thank you, Sylvia! It’s hard to believe Penguin’s been around for nearly 2 yrs now! I’m so glad my advice is helpful to you. I take my own advice as well! The less I’m focused on selling, and more I’m focused on creating, the better off I am! Happy creating! —Salina

    • Salina

      Cathy–you are seriously one of Penguin’s favorite people! You do not miss an opportunity to show your support of us! I am so grateful for it, and delighted when I see your pic on the comments! THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! —Salina (and Penguin!)

    • Darshana

      I know loved all the clay pictures of Penguin. I too have curious to read the upcoming Penguin books and I’m so curious about Tap to Play.

    • Salina

      Ha! I will join you on Monday! And I say CREATE instead of just writing or just illustrating, because there are so many ways to be creative. Even just sitting and thinking about a character or story is creation! It’s the act of creating that matters most. How that transpires–through words or pictures–is secondary. Good luck!

      • julie rowan zoch

        I was just pondering , again, creating, and how I see it as everyone’s natural desire. It’s human. I’ve done a lot of gardening, to reap, but also to create, and as spring emerges, I’ve got that itch to scratch soil again, but even stronger is the urge to see my influence mesh with chance.

    • Darshana

      Hi Julie, that is so cool you garden. In my our house my husband is the gardener I have no patience for it. Now every time my editor brain starts starts 2nd guessing while I write my first draft I tell it to “shut up” I am creating, writing, and growing and that the story is for me! Working good so far. 🙂

  4. thiskidreviewsbooks

    The clay Penguin is so cute! (and, I like that Penguin likes to bake – I do too, and cook, too (I have recently learned how to make crepes! YUM!) 🙂 ) I really need to pick up these books! 😀

  5. Resh

    The selfie is ADORABLE 🙂 Love her books and she is so talented! thanks for sharing her interview on Kidlit Bloghop this week!

  6. ccarpinello

    Thank you so much for introducing me to this talented author! What great books. Thanks for sharing on the Kit Lit Blog Hop! Cheryl, Hop Hostess


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