March 06


Making Supermoms!: A Conversation about Collaboration by Heather Lang and Jamie Harper

We’ve been friends for thirty years and critique partners for almost as long. When we first discussed collaborating on Supermoms!, we had the same basic idea—to make a fun and fascinating book about moms in the wild. But neither of us had a clear vision of how best to do that. We believed we could create something special by working together.

What made us think we’d be good collaborators? And how did we pull it off?


Heather: It all began on a comfy couch with a cup of tea and some chocolate! Working together wasn’t hard because we’re so compatible. We always give each other honest feedback and listen. We’re both open-minded and willing to make concessions. And I think we have the same drive and desire to keep pushing until we know we’ve achieved our very best. 

Jamie: So true, Heather. And as you know, I’ve found making children’s books to be lonesome. Thankfully I have my dog Louie as a constant companion . . . but he’s not that good at giving feedback and he can’t come to the library with me. I can’t explain how much I looked forward to our weekly meetings in person and more informal chatter over texts.

Heather: Me too . . . except for those texts at 3 a.m. with your latest supermom finds! 

Jamie: Yup, I’m the night owl and you’re the early riser, which sometimes made communicating tricky.

Heather: Thank goodness for our shared Google Sheet. And it really helped us organize our ideas and research:


Jamie: The more we researched, the more we found new examples of supermoms. We searched the web and read books, science articles, blogs, even social media. Who knew that a big, hairy, scary spider could be a terrific mom! We watched everything from YouTube videos made by nature enthusiasts to PBS Nature episodes to award-winning movies. Seeing our supermoms in action helped bring our writing to life. 

Heather: And don’t forget our field trip to the Museum of Science’s Nature’s Superheroes exhibit in Boston—that was an epic fact-finding mission.

I think reaching out to experts to fact check and ask questions is always one of my favorite research steps. I never know what treasures I’ll discover, and their enthusiasm is always contagious.

Jamie: I had no idea how much we’d rely on experts. I remember Ad Konings—a guru on all things cichlid. He was the best resource and teacher. He helped me find just the right cichlid with just the right colors and identified the perfect, ugliest cichlid predator. I came to love those little mouth brooders and almost got a tank of cichlids for myself! 

Heather: I bet your pup would have loved them, too! Of course, sometimes we learned that the “facts” we’d hoped to use weren’t actually true. I was sad to cut our mama kangaroo, who “trained her joey to box.” But so often our scientists shared rich details we could add to the text or use in our back matter—like how the hornbill mom removes poop from her nest. 


Jamie: Don’t you think the most challenging part of this project was finding the most effective structure and a fresh design?

Heather: Definitely. Fortunately, over the years we’d studied thousands of picture books together. Those conversations about how books were structured, what worked, and what didn’t, all fed into our brainstorming sessions.

Jamie: Our text changed so much from our first draft, which featured babies bragging about their moms and trying to one-up each other. Yes, we liked that the babies had voices, but we wanted something more relatable and engaging. Let’s face it, most kids don’t go around bragging about their moms. 

Heather: We played the “What If?” game so many times . . . What if we had a narrator lead us through the book and make funny comments? . . . What if the moms had more of a speaking role? . . . What if we changed the main text to third person facts and let the babies make short funny comments? 

Jamie: That’s when we knew we were getting somewhere.


Heather: A comic book design went naturally with our superhero concept, and I love how you took it to the next level. 

Jamie: When I began experimenting with panels it was a terrific surprise. Using more than one panel on some pages/spreads allowed us to show a sequence of events and not just one point in time. Essentially, we could tell a mini story on just one page or spread, which is a perfect complement to the more sparse, factual main text. For example, the river otter page reads like a mini vignette, showing how determined mom is to teach her pups to swim (that would be impossible to do in just one panel).


Heather: Next came the task of finalizing our supermoms. What a complicated puzzle! 

Jamie: I think dividing parenting behaviors into five categories was a big help: making homes, feeding, transporting, protecting, and teaching. Eighteen animals allowed for enough breadth within each category (and sufficient space for creating the art). 

Heather: Our decision to include a diversity of animals, from invertebrates to mammals, also helped us make some cuts. And the facts had to show a variety of behaviors, even within the categories. I loved our tiebreakers—brainstorming which facts could lead to the funniest images and speech bubbles.

Jamie: As the illustrator, I had to consider the visual impact of each page, which required researching each animal’s anatomy, movements, colors, and habitat. Cutting some spectacular supermoms was tough, but perhaps they’ll show up in another book!


Heather: It also took some experimenting to figure out the best way to write together. In the end, splitting up the animals and drafting sentences on our own was most productive. Then we edited and polished together. 

Jamie: But when it came to writing speech bubbles, don’t you think our best ones came from back-and-forth brainstorming? 

Heather: For sure! We had so many laughs thinking about what our kids would have said in each situation and remembering some of our own super (and not-so-super) mommy moments. 

Jamie: But this wasn’t the end of our journey. As we perfected the text and back matter and I worked on my sketches, we identified new questions to research. Since the speech bubbles are integral to the art (and the main text) they were always evolving as the art developed. I think they were the hardest part of the writing.

Heather: I agree. And we had to make them work for those readers who go straight to the art and speech bubbles before reading the main text. What an exciting moment when we submitted the final text and art—it wasn’t easy letting go since we both love to edit and polish . . . 

Jamie: . . . and I love to tinker with the art. Speaking of art . . . I’ve got to sign off . . . Superdads! is calling!  


Collaboration isn’t for everyone. It can be tricky when two people ultimately find they have different visions for a book. But when everything aligns, the back and forth can yield something magical that neither person could have created on their own. Supermoms! combines our collective experiences as friends, creators, readers, children, and mothers. And what could be more fun than promoting a book with a friend?

Heather Lang writes picture books that celebrate our natural world and biographies about real women who overcame extraordinary obstacles to follow their dreams. Her award-winning books include Swimming with Sharks, Anybody’s Game, and The Leaf Detective, an NSTA/CBC Best STEM Book and Green Earth Book Award winner. To research her books, Heather has observed animals in the Serengeti, climbed to the treetops of the Amazon, and explored the depths of the ocean. You can read more about Heather’s books and find lots of activities and resources for Supermoms! at

Jamie Harper is the author and illustrator of many picture books for children, including Miles to Go, Miles to the Finish, and four books about the indomitable Miss Mingo and her kindergarten class of lovable animals. She says, “Watching the documentary film Born to Be Wild showed me that human moms and animal moms have many of the same experiences with their children and gave me lots of ideas for humorous illustrations.” Jamie lives outside Boston with her husband and their French bulldog, Louie. Now that her children are grown, she plans on filling the house with dogs. You can follow her on Instagram @jamieharperillustrator and learn more about her at

SUPERMOMS: ANIMAL HEROES. Text Copyright © 2023 Jamie Harper and Heather Lang. Illustrations Copyright © 2023 Jamie Harper. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.