February 10, 2021

Birth Stories for Books: SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED, by Rebecca Kraft Rector

It's time for another behind-the-scenes look at a path to publication story. Today's guest is Rebecca Kraft Rector, and we'll be talking about her forthcoming picture book, SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED (illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte, Nancy Paulson Books, February 2021). 

Dawn Prochovnic: Thank you for stopping by the blog, Rebecca. I’ve been excited to talk with you ever since I read the title and saw the cover art for SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED. I’m guessing there is a personal experience behind this book, and I can’t wait to hear all about it! 

Rebecca Kraft Rector: Nope, no personal experience at all. The four of us kids were always perfectly behaved during our car trips. None of that “I want the window” or “I don’t have enough room!” Nope, none at all.

Rebecca (2nd from left) and her perfectly-behaved siblings 

DP: Well that is a shocker ... on many levels! (Though me thinks I detect a tad bit of sarcasm here!)

I’d love to hear about the process and timeframe between your initial idea and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor. 

RR: I first wrote SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED 20 years ago. My critique group helped me polish it and refine the structure over several months. I submitted the story and many rejections followed. The story that was finally accepted is the same version I submitted many years ago.

DP: Well that definitely provides some solid evidence that some manuscripts are just waiting for the right editor at the right time. Good for you for sticking with it! 

When you compare some of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

RR: SQUISHED actually grew out of another story I was working on. The characters and the overall concept were different and the earliest drafts had no word play. The idea of being squashed, repetition, and a circular structure survive in the final story.  

DP. I love hearing the backstory! 

Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, is there any one moment along the way that you credit with opening the door for this particular story to find its way to publication? 

RR: I put the story away until 2017, when I took it to a Highlights Foundation workshop. Cecilia Yung, Art Director at Penguin Random House, saw the story (text only since I can’t draw), loved it, and took it to editor/publisher Nancy Paulsen. And Nancy offered to publish it!

DP: Wow! That's a great endorsement for the program offerings at the Highlights Foundation (and for your manuscript!)

You have another picture book that comes out next year (LITTLE RED, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster) and also several fiction and nonfiction titles from a variety of other publishers. When you compare the path to publication for SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED to one or more of your other books,  what are some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each?

RR: SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED and my middle grade novel TRIA AND THE GREAT STAR RESCUE were in the right place at the right time. SQUISHED was discovered at a workshop and TRIA was plucked from the slush pile. 

Many of my other books were written to exact specifications for educational publishers. They were written and published relatively quickly. I revised LITTLE RED for about a year before my agent submitted it. Aladdin made an offer a few weeks later.

DP: Sounds like those revisions for LITTLE RED were well worth the effort! 

One of my favorite parts of being an author is connecting with young readers at school, library, and bookstore visits, and I’m always looking for new pro tips. Your bio indicates you have worked as a librarian (and maybe you still do!) Based on this experience, what professional advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters in terms of planning successful (in-person and/or remote) events? 

RR: My library system hosted authors for special events and summer reading programs. We couldn’t book someone we knew nothing about. Contact the libraries and schools and let them know what you offer. Put all the info on your website, too. Make sure your programs are interactive and appropriate for many age levels or offer different programs for different ages.

DP: That's great advice. Thanks! Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on? 

RR: I’m currently working on companion stories to SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED and LITTLE RED. I’m also revising a middle grade fantasy.

DP: I wish you much success with these other projects ... AND with the launch of SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED, Rebecca! Thanks so much for sharing your Path to Publication with us!

Friends, you know the drill: Rebecca's books are available everywhere books are sold!


I’m a twin and the oldest of four children. Our many car trips did not inspire me to write SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED because we were always absolute angels. Absolute. Angels. 

For as long as I can remember, I loved reading and writing stories and poems. So, it’s no surprise that I became a librarian and writer. But I’ve also worked as a cleaner, babysitter, shampoo girl, filer, typist, reading and study skills teacher, and elementary school network manager.

My cats Ollie and Opal keep me company while I write. I don’t care for coffee, so my writing is fueled by dark chocolate chips, often eaten on graham crackers.

Although I’ve had more than 30 books published, SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED is my first picture book. My second picture book LITTLE RED is coming from Aladdin in Spring 2022. You can find me online at RebeccaKraftRector.wordpress.com.


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms (Spring '21), Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com


  1. I love this story! Even the title made hurtled me back in time when I distinctly remember my brother and sister cutting up in the back seat ---- not me! Not ever! Thank you so much for sharing this! And to think we have another one of Rebecca's books to look forward to soon! Wowzer!

    1. Thank you, Stephanie! So glad to meet another perfectly behaved sibling. ;)

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Stephanie. I think this story brings up some solid road trip memories for many of us!

  3. I, too, was always perfectly behaved and never quibbled with other back seat passengers! Great path to publication story for a gem that was just waiting for the perfect moment to shine!

    1. Ha! I'm amazed by how many of us NEVER quibbled with our siblings on long car rides ; )

    2. Thanks for commenting and joining me in the 'perfect' sibling category. :)