The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime: Cover Reveal and Q&A with Eija Sumner

July 24th marks the start of Shark Week! To celebrate, we are excited to reveal the cover of The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime by Eija Sumner and illustrated by Nici Gregory, publishing with Tundra Books on March 5, 2024!

Keep scrolling for the exclusive cover reveal and a Q&A with author Eija!

The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime
By Eija Sumner
Illustrated by Nici Gregory
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267893 | Tundra Books
Release Date: March 5, 2024
This little mermaid is too FIERCE and SCARY and FEROCIOUS to follow The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime . . . well, except the part about snuggling her shark stuffie. A hilarious picture book for kids ages 3 to 7 who are experts at resisting sleep.
Once upon an evening, a good little mermaid begins to get ready for bed.
Once upon? No. Not once upon. I know what that means. And I’m NOT a good little mermaid. I am a PREDATOR!
Thus begins our story of a little mermaid who is anything but good.
Sleep? Sleep is for guppies! This little mermaid is a TERROR of the DEEP.
Cleaning up and putting toys away? This little mermaid doesn’t need TOYS. The ocean is her playground, and everything in it is afraid of HER.
Brushing her teeth and flossing? Never! Well . . . maybe a little bit so they gleam like RAZOR-SHARP BLADES.
Cleverly told through a back and forth between The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime and a mermaid who is resisting bedtime at every turn, this story will delight readers with its hilarious illustrations and adorable but VERY SCARY main character. Will she ever go to sleep? Read on to find out.

Q&A with Eija Sumner

Where did the initial inspiration for the book come from?

The initial inspiration for TGLMGTB came from brainstorming a different mermaid idea for older readers, and exploring darker aspects of mermaid and siren mythology, where sirens are more monster-like and predatory. My very first draft was a really voicey first-person point-of-view narration of a baby mermaid-siren trying to lure the reader into the sea. It was a lot of fun to write, but too extreme for a picture book. I really wanted to have a character that embodied some of the more confident, aggressive, and action-like imaginary play that I loved reading as a kid in Calvin & Hobbes.

My agent at the time suggested looking at The Monster at the End of this Book for inspiration and how to handle the monster-like character reacting to the words on the page to help create some of that distance I needed. Adding the book within a book about etiquette and bedtime routines was a nice way to pay homage to the history of children’s book origins while also moving the main character’s attention away from the reader and toward something a child might relate to, like bedtime routines. 

Mermaids are very much in the zeitgeist right now. How is the main character in The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime different?

The main character in The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime is very cute but also aggressive, animalistic, and very sure of herself and her capabilities as a predator and protector of the ocean. In some ways, she’s just as rebellious as Ariel in the mermaid zeitgeist, but she’s rebelling in her own way about how mermaids are perceived, how they behave, and the expectations that society or culture may have for little girls – I mean mermaids. 

How was it working with the illustrator Nici Gregory? What was it like when you first saw her illustrations of the mermaid you wrote?

Nici Gregory’s work is incredible; I was absolutely blown away by her illustrations of this feisty little mermaid. It was very hard not to send a page full of exclamation marks back to Sam, my editor, once I saw the initial sketches of The Good Little Mermaid’s Guide to Bedtime. There are many wonderful and hilarious details; the characters are so expressive, and every page is packed with tons of personality and voice. The mermaid is a loud, extreme character, and Nici nailed that and more with her illustrations. I’m proud of the story and writing on this project, but Nici’s artwork elevated this book in ways I could not have imagined. She did an amazing job. 

There are a lot of bedtime books out there for young readers. What inspired you to take bedtime underwater? And to give it a sort of meta feel?

The very first drafts of this story felt like a scary story you might hear at a sleepover. With the main character building herself up and taunting the reader like, I’m not too scared to go to bed because I don’t sleep, because I’m a scary mermaid.

This notion of the book ending with bedtime was already there from the beginning, and I was having fun exploring the voice and writing, but needed a way to preserve this very big voice and aggressive character without turning that aggression onto the reader.

So rather than have my rebellious character interacting with the reader, I had her interacting with an etiquette guide focused on bedtime routines and self-care. The meta guide to bedtime provided some structure to lead the character towards the end goal – bedtime – while also giving the mermaid plenty of fodder to react to the guide and how she felt about the guidelines. But she could also embrace some of the bedtime routine rules when they reinforced her identity as a scary mermaid.

Has anyone ever given you a piece of advice for writing children’s books that you’ve taken?

Author Marsha Wilson Chall (Pick a Pup, A Secret Keeps) gave me the advice that humor in children’s books should not come at the expense of the child, and that’s something I always try to keep in mind. 

Your previous book, Crocodile Hungry, was also about a creature upending expectations. What draws you to these kinds of stories that play on the usual perceptions?

It’s fun to play with expectations! It’s a great way to hook your reader to explore the familiar in a new or different way. There’s a lot of room to play when expectations and perceptions get upended. 

What books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading a lot of new adult fiction lately like Luis Alberto Urrea’s Good Night, Irene and R.F. Kuang’s Yellowface. Children’s books that I’ve read recently are Karuna Riazi’s A Bit of Earth and Lauren Soloy’s The Hidden World of Gnomes.

Also by Eija Sumner:

Crocodile Hungry
By Eija Sumner
Illustrated by John Martz
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267879 | Tundra Books
Crocodile hungry.
What can crocodile eat?
Canned ham? Too hard to open.
Beef jerky? Gets stuck in teeth.
Eggs? Bite shell, get toothache.
Crocodile must find food. But where?
Though Crocodile is surrounded by food, he doesn’t know it. He’s used to food coming in packages and boxes and in handy tins. Will the hungry crocodile figure it out? Readers big and little will laugh out loud at the simple but hysterical text and illustrations by debut author Eija Sumner and cartoonist (and now resident crocodile expert) John Martz.