The Time It Takes by Melissa Stewart

When I visit schools, kids seem stunned by how much time it takes to create a book and how many people are involved in the process.


My new picture book, No Monkeys, No Chocolate, is an extreme example. It took 10 years, 56 revisions, and 2 fresh starts. In this case, dumping everything and starting from scratch was the only way to find the story I really wanted to tell.

NMNC cover

As I was thinking about creating materials that would help educators use No Monkeys, No Chocolate in the classroom, I remembered all those stunned kids. I wanted to develop a resource that any teacher anywhere could use to easily and inexpensively show students the creative process behind the book. I wanted to pull back the curtain and make the entire process—from inspiration to publication—transparent.


To accomplish that goal, I created a Interactive Digital Timeline. It’s a combination of clickable elements—videos, rejected versions of the manuscripts, an interview with my editor, sample sketches, and even “final” art that didn’t make it into the book.


Students who spend a few minutes exploring the timeline will quickly understand that the book-making process involves hard work, dedication, and patience. Hopefully, they will realize that they shouldn’t balk at the idea of revising their writing assignments once or twice or even three times.


Students who spend time closely reading the four rejected and work-in-progress manuscripts in the Timeline can chart the changes from one manuscript to the next and gain a deep understanding of how and why professional writers revise their work. They will see that revision isn’t about “correcting” mistakes, but rather, framing and reframing an idea until it works for the intended audience. And that’s a lesson that will serve them well as they tackle future writing assignments.

 Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 150 nonfiction books for children. Her lifelong fascination with the natural world led her to earn a B.S. in biology and M.A. in science journalism. When Melissa isn’t writing or speaking to children or educators, she’s usually exploring natural places near her home or around the world. You can find her online at and and on Twitter as  @mstewartscience.