Meet Salina Yoon, Author of Penguin and Pinecone

salina yoonWhen I first read Penguin and Pinecone to my children, my heart nearly melted. It was such a sweet story that was both engaging and well illustrated. I reached out to Salina Yoon, author of Penguin and Pinecone.  I wanted to ask her some questions about what inspired her to write this beautiful story. I know you will find her responses very insightful, I sure did! Whether you have a very young child or older child, any parent can relate to this book.

1. What inspired you to write and illustrate Penguin and Pinecone?

I love penguins, and they’re easy to draw and color!

That’s the easy answer. The more complex answer is that I was ready to push myself and get out of my novelty/board book comfort zone.  Most of my novelty books are 12 pages or less with very few words in them.
These are mainly concept-based books in rhyme or simple text. The idea of creating a picture book seemed daunting with its typical 32-40 page format. But after 12 years of creating approx 200 novelty books, I wanted to challenge myself to writing and illustrating a longer work, and to write an actual STORY!
Writing PENGUIN AND PINECONE was a milestone in my career and one of great growth for me as an author/illustrator. I no longer shy away from attempting to write stories as I had once done. Since Penguin’s first book released in Oct 2012, I went on to write more! Two additional Penguin stories will be published this year (April and Dec), and more picture books after that.
Penguin pinecone
2. What would you like children to learn most from reading this story?
I’d like for children to learn that love can grow even when you’re far apart from the ones you love.
Penguin shows readers how he holds a special place in his heart for Pinecone no matter what the distance and no matter how much time has passed.
But this story isn’t just for children. Penguin nurtures and loves Pinecone, much like a parent with a child. Pinecone is small and vulnerable to the elements in the icy world so Penguin protects it and keeps it warm (with a scarf he knits). When he finds out that Pinecone can’t grow big and strong on the ice, Penguin makes the decision to do what’s best for Pinecone, regardless of his own feelings of loss and sadness. But when Penguin lets him go by placing him in the forest, Pinecone is able to thrive and grow… much like a child who grows to be an adult when they finally go away to college, or move out for their independence.
Penguin visits the forest in the final scene, but there is no more sadness. There is only wonderment and awe for Pinecone, and a love that continues to grow.
 3. What was your favorite book as a child?
“Oh, What a Busy Day,” by Gyo Fujikawa was very special to me. It had short little poems throughout this very illustrated book. What I loved about it was the diversity of all the children within its pages, and the picturesque scenes that whisked me away from my less-than-pictureque reality. And the children depicted were so playful, imaginative and sweet. Each page was a delight. I flipped through the pages often, even when I didn’t yet know how to read English.
4. What is the significance of the pinecone in the story?

Pine cones are typically unspectacular. They are brown, hard, and rough—not the kind of object someone might adore, like a brightly colored flower or a beautiful sea shell. Penguin not only notices Pinecone, but grows very fond of his newfound prickly friend. Having Penguin grow attached to a plain little pine cone shows Penguin’s depth of character better than if I had him find an irresistible baby bunny or a pretty yellow tulip. Penguin looks past the appearance of his foreign friend and simply loves. And to show that love grow, I illustrate this by actually making Pinecone physically grow! This also illustrates the long passage of time before the reunion takes place.
5. Out of all of your books that you have written and illustrated, which books do your own children love the most and why?
They always seem to love the book that I’m currently working on—which means they’re not even published (or even acquired) yet when they read it. I was working on one picture book submission that my 9 yr old son absolutely loved. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell. My son was disappointed along with me because he said it was his favorite from all of my other books. But I’m sure when I’m ready to create a new story, he’ll love that one just as much. I wish editors were just as easy to please!
Salina Yoon is the award-winning author and illustrator of the Penguin picture book series, featuring PENGUIN AND PINECONE, and the forthcoming PENGUIN ON VACATION and PENGUIN IN LOVE from Walker Books.  She is also the creator of another picture book, FOUND, also forthcoming from Walker, and picture book, LEVEL 1, forthcoming from HarperCollins. She has also created nearly 200 novelty and board books for young children.
To view Penguin’s book trailer:


  1. Found says:

    […] and Pinecone, Penguin in Love and Penguin on Vacation. To read my interview with Salina, click here. To learn more about Salina’s books  and check out her website click […]

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