WHAT IF…We Told You the Story Behind the Story? by Mike Curato and Samantha Berger



Thanks for being a part of the Official What If…Blog Tour.

Nerdy Book Club reminds us of three things we both love: nerds, books, and clubs!

Put ‘em all together, and it’s magical.

Maaaagical! (Insert big glittery PUFF of magic dust here, because who doesn’t love special effects? Sam and Mike do!)


Speaking of Mike and Sam, this is the story behind the story of how we made this story (stop saying “story!”).


There were three things that brought us together as insta-friends in the first place:


  1. We both have the same agent, Brenda Bowen – #BowenBabies.
  2. We both love throwing theme parties that are extra EXTRA.
  3. We both take our karaoke game verrry seriously.


The night we MET!!! photo credit Isabel Roxas


At the time when we met, Mike was working on his very first Little Elliot book, which Sam loved, and Sam was working on Boo-La-La Witch Spa with Mike’s dear friend, Isabel Roxas. Sam was also making this Dress a Day project, which involved designing fashions made out of found objects and stuff around the house.


Dress a Day series by Samantha: “Don’t CD It, Be it,” made out of broken CD; “Jumpy Jumpsuit”, made out of coffee grounds; “That’s the Way The Cookie Crumbles into Couteur,” made from chocolate chip cookies


It turned 2014, and all was fine and dandy…

Until one not-so-fine-day in January, during the throes of winter in Brooklyn, the pipes in the apartment above Samantha froze and burst! It rained into her apartment from every pore of the ceiling and walls, and she had to flee the scene (with nothing but her dog and sketchbook). This was documented in the dress “Hot Mess,” made of pen and ink, candle wax, and sadness.

“Hot Mess” by Samantha


Sam was displaced for 3 months, and finally ended up in a new apartment near Union Square, in New York City. But the entire time, she still managed to keep creating a Dress a Day, even with no supplies to work with. Turns out the entire experience made her realize that the whole world can be your art supplies. And this inspired her to write the first draft of What If… It was a book about the indomitable spirit of creativity to triumph over any circumstance.


Right around the same time Mike was getting ready to throw his Little Elliot, Big City release party at Books of Wonder, which is also near Union Square. He wondered if there was anywhere fabulous to throw an after-party that was in the neighborhood. Turns out there was Sam’s new apartment! Together, we ended up throwing an EPIC launch party together at Sam’s place.

We are still cleaning up from that party, four years later.


Mike & Sam at said party of the year


The chalkboard still looks like this…


Mike and Sam started spending a lot of time together, and laughing a lot of that time.

We worked together on our own books, played together on our own time.

We went to book conferences, book events, and book agent shindigs.

We dressed up at costume parties, we dressed up NOT at costume parties.


No matter where we were, and what we were doing, we were always having a ball.


We have fun.


And then one day, Agent Brenda called Sam to tell her the incredible news – Little, Brown wanted to publish her new manuscript, What If…

This was a book different from any book Sam had ever written.

It was, in her own words, the song of her soul.

There was only one person who could illustrate it.


Since the very first day Mike and Sam met, there had always been an inexplicable level of comfort and sharing. Oversharing. The kind of comfort that comes with friends you’ve known your whole life. She was so excited about the possibility of Mike illustrating What If…BUT was afraid if he didn’t want to, or didn’t love the book, it could be really uncomfortable. Sam suggested Mike to her editor, Andrea Spooner, and the team at Little, Brown. Everyone admired Mike’s work and was very open to the idea. Meanwhile, Mike was secretly pining to illustrate the manuscript, so when he was offered the project, he squealed with delight! Glasses shattered, Dogs howled. Sam threw confetti.


On top of that, Mike decided to illustrate this book in a new style – one inspired by Sam’s Dress a Day Series, using the entire world as art supplies.

© 2017 Mike Curato



The two of us got to work on it TOGETHER, laughing all along the way, and making “What If….” jokes waaaaay too often. Mike even sat in Sam’s living room trying desperately to learn origami for one of the spreads. Sam also made…ahem…attempted to make some origami…for about 2 minutes. Sam may not be an origami girl.


© 2017 Mike Curato


Over the next year, we created this book, and (big surprise) we had so much fun every step of the way.


And that is the story behind the story.

Now get ready for the Book Tour! And the matching pajamas! And the embarrassing photos all along the way!

Then get ready for the story behind *that* story, which most good stories have.

(This post has been brought to you by the word “story.”)


A big thanks to Donalyn Miller and the folks at Nerdy Book Club for hosting us today!

Here’s to the nerds, and the books, and the clubs forevah.


Sam and Mike

Aka “Micantha Berato”


photo credit Leo Moreton


Be sure to join us for the rest of The Official What If Blog Tour:


3/27 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast: WHAT IF…Mike Curato Used Mixed Media to Make a Book?

3/28 Pragmatic Mom: WHAT IF…We Used Our Creativity to Overcome Obstacles?

3/29 Kidlit Frenzy: WHAT IF…Two Best Friends Made a Book Together?

3/30 Watch Connect Read: WHAT IF…We Revealed our New Book Trailer?


Also, check to see if we’ll be in a town near you on our upcoming book tour!