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The Story Behind the Story – BUTTERNUT & BUTTERCUP by Jill Dana


We’ve all heard the adage “write what you know”. And, while I find that adage helpful in creating stories, for the Butternut series, I’ve focused on “write what you love”. In my Story Behind the Story for BUTTERNUT (book 1), I shared many seeds of inspiration: nature, kids, and words.


All those inspirations contributed to BUTTERNUT & BUTTERCUP, book two of the Butternut series. When you write what you love, your enthusiasm for a project is infused into the energy of the story. I love the Butternut character, a little lost squash who is finding his way. And, I love the Butternut supermarket world. I decided to include more of my favorite things into future Butternut stories. I don’t think that I did this consciously when writing early drafts. But what we love, or subjects that we are passionate about, are often at the heart of the creative process.

In this case, and this is a bit of a spoiler, there’s a focus on afternoon tea and tea parties. I’m a big afternoon tea fan, as you can tell, from this photo.



I also love friendship stories and feel that friendship stories are especially important for young readers. The budding friendship formed at the end of the first book, BUTTERNUT, between Butternut (a butternut squash) and Buttercup (a buttercup squash) blossomed in the invisible time span between the first and second book. But, what was next for these characters?

Buttercup’s birthday! Birthdays are very meaningful to most children. What present will they receive? What gifts will they share with friends on their birthdays? Will they have a party or celebration? Imagining Butternut’s relationship with his friend and his intention to get her the “perfect” gift provided another fun inspiration for this story.


Visiting old and new friends to help him with this challenge provided an opportunity to tour the supermarket further (for young readers learning about categorizing foods and different types of foods), illustrated different friendships, and expressed how Butternut didn’t need to do everything on his own (a subtler focus on the importance of community).

BUTTERNUT & BUTTERCUP includes themes of: friendship, sharing experiences, empathizing with other points of view, giving, types of food, idioms, word play, and more. I can’t wait for readers to dive into this new Butternut book and create their own connections with the text and joyful, colorful illustrations.


*Illustrations by the wonderful illustrator Rachel Tan-Hwee.


Author Bio:

Jill Dana is an author, illustrator, award-winning filmmaker, and certified elementary educator. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Television and Film Production and a Master of Education in Elementary Education plus TESOL. She is the author of the Butternut series, about a little butternut squash and his supermarket world, with themes of identity, friendship, #WhereFoodComesFrom and more. Her newest book BUTTERNUT & BUTTERCUP is "a vibrant, humorous and moving story filled with wordplay and imaginative characters to spark creativity in readers of all ages”, U.S. book birthday is March 1, 2023. Jill is a Rate Your Story judge, an active SCBWI member, Author’s Guild member, @PBSunrays, and @PictureBookGold. Visit Jill on social media @JillDanaBooks to learn about foods on #FunFoodFactsFriday and visit her website www.JillDanaBooks.com.


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