Guest Edition

Karen Yin–What Was on Her . . .

Karen Yin

Sunday is World Whale Day. And there is no better guest than Karen Yin, the author of Whole Whale! Whole Whale, a tale of inclusivity, is Karen’s debut picture book. She fell in love with the beauty and parity of the words whole and whale and from there crafted a charming meta-fiction story of animals crowding into a book. It kicks off with a cat, and as Karen tells the story with read-aloud rhyme, the pages fill up with 99 animals. But what about the biggest animal of all? Can they fit a WHOLE BLUE WHALE?

Well, I’m sorry to say, I’m not telling. You’ll just have to read and see.




Written by Karen Yin, Illustrated by Nelleke Verhoeff

One hundred unusual animals try to squeeze into the pages of this raucous rhyming tale. But will there be room to fit a whole blue whale? The humorous ending features an expansive double gatefold and educational endnotes list the 100 animals in the book.


For two decades, Karen was an editor and copywriter for advertising agencies, where she performed quality control on campaigns for Disney, DreamWorks, Fox, Pixar, Universal, and Warner Bros. Karen is also the founder of the website Conscious Style Guide and The Conscious Language Newsletter, both of which fulfill Karen’s mission to spread mindful language.

So where do picture books come in? Karen broke into Kid Lit when her pitch got noticed by an editor at Barefoot Books on #DVpit, an annual pitch event for diverse authors. That pitch then became Whole Whale!

Karen Yin lives in sunny California with her partner and their cat friends, Nutmeg and Ginger. (No wonder the cat is the first animal in Whole Whale.) She joins us to celebrate World Whale Day and tell us what was on her…

List of Most Beloved Whales: Surprisingly, I—an author of a whale book—had no such list! So I did some research and made one just for you. Many whale tales, like that of Moby-Dick, are steeped in high drama. One of my favorite whales comes from Chinese mythology: Yu-kiang ruled the seas and could ignite windstorms when angered, not to mention turn into a bird. As for whales in real life, I can’t forget the mother orca who carried her dead newborn for seventeen days on a “tour of grief” in the summer of 2018. I suppose this is why I’ve subconsciously associated whales with big feelings. I’m happy to say that Whole Whale has the wholesome ending that all beings deserve.

Favorite page of Whole Whale: The animal-loving kid in me says that the answer to the mystery of how to fit a whole blue whale into a book is my favorite part. But my adult heart says it’s the dedication page, where I share my achievement with two of the most meaningful figures in my life—my mom and my partner.

Bookshelf: The prime spot on my bookshelf is taken up by graphic literature to remind myself that I grew up in a library, that my love of reading was stoked by a stash of comics hidden in the librarian’s drawer, and that my first long-form writing project, decades ago, was a graphic novel. Just looking at my comics shelf brings me so much joy. No whale comics yet, but I’m sure I can squeeze one in.

Editing Table: I’m working on a companion piece for Whole Whale. Shhh, the publisher doesn’t know yet.

Pandemic Menu: Last night, dessert consisted of sugar poured over steamed rice. Well, I used dark brown sugar and forbidden rice, but still. I’m not sure if I’ve leveled up pandemic-wise, but I’m up for having it again.

T-Shirt:Make Peace With Words.” I designed it for my Conscious Style Guide website, so I have it in a dozen colors. I avoid wearing it when Zooming in case I wore it last time.

Mind: What’s been on my mind a lot is the tremendous show of support for Whole Whale, starting with the publisher. Barefoot Books believed in my story so much, they made it their largest book ever. Whole Whale stands almost as tall as my tattered but treasured copy of Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World, which my mom gave me on my sixth birthday. My dream is for Whole Whale and its one hundred whimsical animals, illustrated by Nelleke Verhoeff, to be the Busy, Busy World to the youngest generation and to help them imagine ways to be inclusive.

Thank you so much, Karen. I love that Whole Whale is going to be Barefoot Books biggest book ever. What an honour for you, and what a gift for kids. I guess that will make the story a whale of a book! (Sorry, Everybody, I couldn’t resist.)

You can stay in contact with Karen Yin at, on Instagram @karensoffice, and on Twitter at @KarenYin.

If you would like to preorder Whole Whale—possibly even a signed copy—click on the book below.

Be sure to stop by again on March 15th, when I’ll have a rare guest from my adopted country of Switzerland. Laurie Theurer and 50 Amazing Swiss Women will join us in celebration of Switzerland giving women the vote fifty years ago. (I know, it’s hard to believe–1971–but it’s true.)

Also, plan on stopping by on March 30th when Erin Dealey and Peter Easter Frog stop by to tell us What Was on their garden path. (I hope it’s an Easter egg. But who knows?) 

If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit

6 thoughts on “Karen Yin–What Was on Her . . .

  1. Wonderful interview, Sandra and Karen! This is SUCH a charming concept for a book, Karen, and the illustration you showed is stunning. It actually took my breath away. This deserves to be a giant book!

    If you send me your email, I will send you the whale poem from a poetry collection I published a couple years ago.

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