Monday, January 4, 2021

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Of Happy Birthday Trees by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

Buy Happy Birthday, Trees HERE


AUTHOR: Karen Rostoker-Gruber

ILLUSTRATOR: Holly Sterling 


 "Happy Birthday, Trees" backstory:

I was invited to a luncheon given by the PJ Library in New York a while back (pre-COVID). 

They told everyone there that they were looking for board books. I write a lot of board books, 
so when I went home that night I looked in my drawer and pulled out an old manuscript, 
which at that time was called, "Happy Birthday to the Trees." I sent it to the PJ Library and 
won their author incentive award (two thousand dollars). 

Then, Karen Grencik (my agent at the time) sold the book to Joni Sussman, at KarBen. Joni 
shortened the title to "Happy Birthday, Trees," which I like a lot better.

It's a board book about planting a tree with simple rhyming couplets and a repeated refrain. 
It's for the Jewish holiday Tu B'Shevat, which is very similar to Earth Day.

Holly Sterling's illustrations are very lively and colorful! The characters in this book look 
like they are having so much fun that I want to hop into her illustrations!
I also like the characters in my book because they come from diverse backgrounds and they 
are working together in harmony.

Karen Rostoker-Gruber is a multi-award-winning author of over 16 traditionally-published 
books with hundreds of thousands of copies sold. Farmer Kobi's Hanukkah Match, was 
named a National Jewish Book Award Finalist and was awarded the 2016 Outstanding 
Children's Literature Award from the Church and Synagogue Library Association. Her 
books Bandit (Marshall Cavendish 2008), Bandit's Surprise (Marshall Cavendish 2010), 
and Ferret Fun (Marshall Cavendish 2011) all received starred reviews in School Library 
Journal; Rooster Can't Cock-a-Doodle-Doo (Dial 2004) and Bandit were both International 
Reading Association Children's Book Council Children's Choices Award recipients;  three 
of her books, Rooster Can't Cock-a-Doodle-Doo (in 2005), Bandit (in 2009), and 
Ferret Fun (in 2012) were all chosen for the 100 Best Children's Books in the Bureau 
of Education and Research's Best of the Year Handbook.  Rooster Can't Cock-a-Doodle-Doo 
and Ferret Fun were nominated for the Missouri Show Me Award; Bandit was nominated 
for the South Carolina Book Award; and Rooster Can't Cock-a-Doodle-Doo was a 
Dollywood Foundation selection two years in a row (in 2007 the Dollywood Foundation 
bought 73,579 copies and in 2008 it bought 88,996 copies). Karen's book, 
Maddie the Mitzvah Clown, published by Apples and Honey Press, a division of 
Behrman House, was named a PJ Library book selection in July of 2017 and went out to 
21,000 4-year-olds in the US and Canada. Karen's latest books, Happy Birthday, Trees 
(KarBen) and A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale (Whitman), will both be out in 2020.  
Karen is an active member of SCBWI, has twice co-chaired the Rutgers University 
Council on Children's Literature's One-on-One Conference, and is one of the co-founders 
of The Book Meshuggenahs.    

 @KarBenPub @TMeshuggenahs

Photo: Karen's Manuscript Files! 

THANK YOU for Sharing Your Story Behind the Story, Karen! 


  1. Sounds like you have had some success with this form of children's book, Congratulations on your book and your neat files of manuscripts and an agent like Karen.

    1. Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground, Sheri! So happy to see you here!