Rumble and Roar: Author Sue Fliess Reveals Her Writing Journey

Sound is all around! Rumble and Roar: Sound Around the World takes you on a journey through four parts of the world to hear the roar of a waterfall, the chirp of insects, the thump of a heartbeat, and much more. Rhyming text by Sue Fliess and atmospheric illustrations by Khoa Le will delight and enchant young readers with every reading.

Today, author Sue Fliess describes the beginnings, the challenges, and the delights of writing Rumble and Roar.

Almost all my books start out as a list or jumble of words about the topic on which I’m about to write. Basically, a bit of a mess! Rumble and Roar was no different, except that I knew it needed to eventually resemble Flash and Gleam—a spare poem with backmatter-since it was a companion book.

I believe I first pitched the idea of movement to my editor, Carol Hinz, who came back to me with the preferred idea of sound. And so I started by making a list of all the sounds I would hear around my house, inside and out. Then I made a list of animal sounds/noises/calls. Then big machines like planes, trains, cars. Then sounds in nature.

And frankly, it was an overwhelming list that was only growing, and I was no closer to figuring out the thru line of the book. Flash and Gleam was filled with all types of light as a shared experience across cultures, but regions and celebrations of light guided the book’s content and flow. With sound, it seemed boundless. There are just so many sounds!

To help me narrow my focus, I consulted a map. I had visited a rain forest in Costa Rica not that many years before and thought that would be a great place to hear all sorts of cool sounds, so I started there. I’d also been to the Swiss Alps. I started thinking about wonderful places I’d traveled to see if those fit into the story. I also wanted to make sure we covered different regions of the world in this book than we did in Flash and Gleam.

Once I had an idea of the types of regions (woods, rain forest, mountains), I figured out which sounds would be in each, and ones that children would hear. It started out as a mix of animal sounds, nature, machines, and other man-made things and my editor thought it would make sense to focus on the natural world. So, I went back and removed most man-made sounds and focused on things we’d hear in nature, like chirping or raindrops, or that occur naturally, like a heartbeat.

One awesome thing about writing this book was that my research went beyond books and articles and maps. I was doing a lot of listening—to different animal calls, howls, hoots, waterfalls, rainstorms, drizzle, and even watched volcanic eruptions, to wrap my brain around how to describe all these sounds with words. This is why you’ll find a lot of onomatopoeia in the book. In the end, Khoa Le’s gorgeous and detailed illustrations include wooded scenes, the Brazilian rain forest, Switzerland and the Alps, the Arctic, and Africa. I’m beyond thrilled with how beautifully the book turned out and I hope everyone loves it!

Check out the companion book!

Flash and Gleam: Light in Our World

Grade Level: K – 2
Age Level: 5 – 8

The soft glow of a candle, the blink of a firefly, a burst of fireworks—light is everywhere in our world! Rhyming text and luminous illustrations follow four children as they experience many different forms of light.

Share this video Introduction with Young Readers

Praise for Rumble and Roar

“[N]icely complements introductory science units and will also remind readers to slow down, take a minute, and listen.”—Booklist

“A lyrical soundscape that leaves room for observation and makes space for scientific discussion.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This beautifully ­illustrated rhyming text will make a good read-aloud and can be used to spark conversations about sounds in the world.”—School Library Journal

Connect with Sue Fliess

Connect with Khoa Le

Find more illustrator and author articles on the Lerner blog here!

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