There Are No Dragons In This Book - Story Snug
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Donna Lambo-Weidner talks about There Are NO DRAGONS In This Book illustrated by Carla Haslbauer

There are NO DRAGONS in this Book – but are there?!

The Story: We visit a busy, diverse community home where both children and adults are trying to decide whether they are seeing dragons. Or are they seeing something else?

Full of whimsical, pastel coloured illustrations this interactive book encourages observational skills and discussion as we try and solve the mystery of whether there are dragons in the book. Our search is… (NO SPOILERS! You’ll have to read it to find out!)

“There are No Dragons in this Book” by Donna Lambo-Weidner, illustrated by Carla Haslbauer © NorthSouth Books, an imprint of NordSüd Verlag

We’re delighted that author Donna Lambo-Weidner has joined us to talk about There Are NO DRAGONS In This Book beautifully illustrated by Carla Haslbauer. Welcome to Story Snug, Donna! 

Thank you, Catherine! It is an honour to be here with you and your readers.

Congratulations on the publication of your debut picture book. How did you become a writer?

I’m not one of those writers that wrote my first book in second grade. It took me decades to find that calling. Only when my family moved from Berlin to Munich and my kids were in middle grade and high school, was I able to find time to write more than our Annual Holiday Letter. A friend and I signed up for a class titled, ‘Every Life is a Story’. Dorothea “Dee” Pattee had been a journalist in the U.S. before moving to Munich in 1968 with her family. She, with her knowledge, wisdom, and kind-hearted critiques is 100% responsible for putting me on this path. It’s been a bumpy road, scattered with potholes and mountains to scale, but it has been well worth the effort.

Where did you get the inspiration for There Are NO DRAGONS In This Book?

The concept was sparked while I was on a retreat in the autumn of 2019. It was held in a two-story farmhouse, hundreds of years old, that rests upon a knoll nestled deep within a vast forest in southern Germany. Thick, leafy vines dotted with soft, pink roses climbed up the wall outside my room, wrapping themselves around the window obstructing the clear view I would otherwise have had to the rolling foothills butting up against the Bavarian alps. Imaginings of dense, thorny bushes surrounding Sleeping Beauty’s castle, as well as Rapunzel’s plight high atop her stone tower filled my head. This led to thoughts of magic, knights, and of course…dragons. But alas, there are no dragons here, I lamented, keeping in mind how excited my five-year-old self would have been if only she could have found one. And if she had been able to live with one.

The farmhouse sounds like one out of a fairytale! Is there a message in the story that you want to convey to readers?

I wanted the reader to have fun and be fully engaged within their own imaginings. There’s nothing like the unbridled laughter of a child to make my heart dance. Only when the German Academy for Children’s Literature awarded my illustrator, Carla Haslbauer, the Serafina Prize for Young Talent at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2023 did I hear the impact our project had on others. In Dr. Stefan Hauck’s laudatory speech he claimed that “[the viewer] in order not to be led astray, has to constantly compare, suspect, and draw their own conclusions—this creates independent thinking, a fact-check, and therefore a competence that is vehemently demanded in the current debates on promoting reading.” I have to give Carla the credit for visually manifesting the concept so delightfully.

Huge congratulations Clara! We love the way that so much of the story is shown through the illustrations and the way that readers know more than the narrator. Our favourite illustration shows the children in the bathroom.

There Are NO DRAGONS In This Book - Bathroom - Story Snug

“There are No Dragons in this Book” by Donna Lambo-Weidner, illustrated by Carla Haslbauer © NorthSouth Books, an imprint of NordSüd Verlag

Do you have a favourite illustration?

That’s a tough question to answer. I honestly love them all. But if I had to choose one it
would be the dragon reveal. The scene was initially the end of the story, until my critique group chimed in saying it was more like the end of a joke. They pushed me to come up with a more engaging ending. 

I’m very happy I took their advice. Funny thing too, he bears an uncanny resemblance to a sand-filled toy dragon I bought in a bookstore in Rosenheim after finishing the first draft. He now sits next to the German version of the book on my desk.

There Are No Dragons in this Book - Donna's favourite illustration - Story Snug

“There are No Dragons in this Book” by Donna Lambo-Weidner, illustrated by Carla Haslbauer © NorthSouth Books, an imprint of NordSüd Verlag

This is a brilliant illustration! Was there any collaboration between you and Carla before There Are No Dragons In This Book was published?

None directly. I had a few thoughts here and there when our editor, Naomi Wolter at NordSüd Verlag, shared the initial art work with me. I had never envisioned the book being a house, so when the cover ended up as the roof, I needed to change a few words to make it work. 

How has being a member of SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) helped with your journey to publication?

SCBWI has played a huge role. In fact, it is the reason I’ve come this far. When I first joined, we lived just outside Munich. I’d written a picture book rhymer thinking it was the greatest story ever told. It was NOT…which I was gently made aware of at the first meeting I’d gone to. In those days (2009) there were no webinars, but I was able to at least join a small critique group of seasoned writers. Through a series of fortunate events, I became the regional advisor for Germany and Austria. Soon after that though, we moved back to the states. One local SCBWI conference later, I landed my agent, Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, and 11 years after that…here I am with my debut picture book. 

It’s amazing how long a journey to publication can take. There are so many different factors involved in the process. Do you have a favourite location or environment to write in?

I used to write just about anywhere. Now it’s mostly at my desk or on my lap in my cozy hidey-hole office with a valley view, surrounded by books and travel memorabilia.

A valley view sounds awesome! Which authors have influenced your writing? Authors that you may have read as a child as well as current authors.

Growing up, I was a huge fairy tale fan. I still am—Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm. In those days though, the cleaned-up Disney versions we have today didn’t exist. Characters cut off their toes and had their eyes pecked out. I was also a huge fan of adventure—Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days had me mesmerized. Norse legends and Greek myths kept me riveted. I pictured myself sailing the seven seas with Sinbad the Sailor and the real-life adventure of Thor Heyerdahl on the Kon-tiki. 


Now that I write for kids, from a middle grade perspective, I love anything by Gary Schmidt. Right now it’s THE LABORS OF HERCULES BEAL. Neil Gaiman is a favourite too, especially when he reads the audio version. 

Do you have a current favourite picture book?

Besides the obvious (lol)? THE SKULL by Jon Klassen has just the right amount of charm and spooky suspense. (I love his illustrations, as well), and I EAT POOP: A DUNG BEETLE STORY by Mark Pett which includes facts about bugs I never knew. It’s en-GROSS-ing, funny, and genius.

I Eat Poop. is a really eye-catching title!

Are you able to tell us about any future titles or projects that you’re currently working on?

I’m always working on a few picture books, especially when my current middle grade work-in-progress hits a wall. I’m not a plotter, so that happens quite often, much to the delight of those picture book characters babbling in my head, each one pitted against the other for my attention. 

It’s great that you have so many characters bursting to get into books. Good luck and happy writing! Thank you for answering all our questions 🙂

About Donna Lambo-Weidner

Donna has sailed the seven seas with swashbuckling pirates, crossed blades with sword-wielding knights, and circumnavigated the moon in a cardboard box…all before the age of eight. Now that she’s earned a Bachelor of Arts, lived on two continents, and raised four kids (humans, not goats), Donna writes books for children based on her childhood adventures laced with her actual life experiences—dogsledding in the arctic, spending the night in a salt cave far below the Earth’s surface, and reaching into an elephant’s mouth to count her teeth. There were four…and they were the size and shape of a wet brick.

Donna lives in California above a vineyard-strewn valley with her globe-trotting husband, a rambunctious retriever, and a treasure chest rumored to have belonged to Captain Kidd stuffed with scrolls listing lands and experiences yet to be explored.

Donna’s website / Blog / Instagram / Facebook

Thank you North South Books and Netgalley for the review copy of There Are NO DRAGONS In This Book.

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15 responses to “Donna Lambo-Weidner talks about There Are NO DRAGONS In This Book illustrated by Carla Haslbauer”

  1. Jayne avatar

    What a lovely interview. It was nice to get to know a little more about Donna and her writing journey.
    Such a fun picture book with beautiful illustrations. 🙂

    1. Catherine avatar

      It’s really fun and very cleverly written 🙂

  2. Kim Carberry avatar

    What a fun sounding book and it looks really beautifully illustrated. How lovely to read more about the writer. x

    1. Catherine avatar

      It’s always really interesting to hear a writer talk about the book and its road to publication 🙂

  3. Carol avatar

    The interview is fascinating and the book sounds delightful!

    1. Catherine avatar

      I really enjoy talking to authors and illustrators about their books 🙂

  4. RaisieBay avatar

    What a fabulous interview and it looks like a fantastic book. I so miss these wonderful new books, my kids better hurry and make me some grandkids to read to.

    1. Catherine avatar

      Donna gave great answers! It’s always interesting to know more about an author and the way that they work 🙂

    2. Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner avatar

      Thank you! Fingers crossed for those grandkids 🙂

  5. Lisa | Handmade in Israel avatar

    What a great interview! The illustrations are wonderful, a bit different from the norm.

    1. Catherine avatar

      They’re fabulous illustrations aren’t they! I always love hearing the story behind the story and how a book comes to life 🙂