Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Sarah Aronson Writes Just Like Rube

by Sue Heavenrich

Last Friday I reviewed Sarah Aronson’s new book, Just Like Rube Goldberg over at Archimedes Notebook. It’s a biography of cartoonist – and incidental inventor – Ruben Garrett Lucius Goldberg who wielded pen with wit and also just happened to have a degree in engineering.

I loved the book so much that I bribed Sarah to join me today on GROG. Sarah – that chocolate I promised you? Welp, it never made it to the post office….

Sarah has written middle grade and young adult novels. Just Like Rube Goldberg is her first picture book, she says, “and it’s been a lifetime in the making.” Pretty much since she saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and tried to build her own breakfast machine.

As fascinated as she was with the Rube Goldberg-ishness of that idea, Sarah never saw herself as a nonfiction writer. And that meant (insert scary music here) Research! Fortunately for her, she has a mentor and friend in nonfiction writer Tanya Stone. But research wasn’t so bad, Sarah confesses. And she discovered that she likes writing things on index cards.

“I find myself becoming more organized with each book,” Sarah says. (Did I mention she’s working on a couple more?) And for anyone out there working on nonfiction, she has this bit of wisdom: write down where you find information, whether on a note card or in a footnote. 

“Doing the research was a fun exploration, and there is nothing about Rube Goldberg that doesn’t crack me up!” Sarah even discovered that she and Rube have some things in common:

  • they both follow their dreams;
  • they both work hard; and
  • they never give up!

The icing on the cake: now Sarah’s working on another book that grew out of her research.

So what was it that drew Sarah to Rube? “His story is a wonderful immigrant story,” she says, “and as a Jewish writer, I was happy to be writing about a Jewish person who came to this country.” Sarah’s relatives also immigrated to the US, so she felt a personal connection. Plus the breakfast machine….

While Sarah was developing nonfiction writing skills, she was also learning to write a picture book. And that meant thinking about page turns and how to fit a story into 32 pages. “I made lots of dummies to see how the text would fit on the page,” she says. Many, many, many dummies later, she figured she had it – and all that time spent working on Rube was totally okay because Sarah LOVES picture books!

Picture books aren’t just for little kids any more. Nonfiction picture books are often the first step for kids when they begin researching a topic. “Fourth, fifth – even seventh graders pick them up,” says Sarah. She loves seeing how teachers incorporate them into their classroom. “We built a Rube Goldberg machine out of kids!” she laughed.

Every writer hits stumbling blocks, and Sarah thinks one of the important gifts we can give kids is to talk about failure. “Writing is a practice,” she says, “and it’s never going to be easy to share your heart. Even when it’s nonfiction.”

We need to allow kids time and space to try things and fail. “I’ve got a mission,” Sarah says. “I’m a member of the 100 rejection club. And I want kids to understand that the word ‘no’ really means ‘not yet’ or ‘try again’. We have to model how we dust ourselves off and do it again.”

Moving forward, Sarah’s working on a middle grade novel and finishing two more picture books. You can find out more about her and her books at her website.


  1. Wonderful interview. Looking forward to reading this new pb bio!

  2. How I love this book! i wa sulky enough to see it on Sarah's computer last year at Highlights. Wonderful. Congrats, Sarah. Great review/interview, Sue.

  3. I didn't know about this book, but I am intrigued. Sue, I love your intimate interview style. And Sara, we look forward to your future projects. Love the cover!

  4. So many members of the 100th rejection club that it's good to see the break-outs! Congrats! I've had it on hold at the SFPL. And "Rube" is now on its way to my local branch. Yay!

  5. Yes! for those wonky index cards, Sue & Sarah.
    And thanks for Truths about sharing heart, never giving up. A boost to hear that today.

    Will be contacting Debra Sears, fave local librarian, with a few titles recommended to buy, including RUBE.

  6. Picture Books were NEVER just for kids....some of my best memories are of the reaction my Mom had to books when I was being read to her. If could find the PB of the tired mommy cat that made my mom laugh every time she read it....I'd be so happy. I love that you are more organized with each book. You give me hope! I'm hoping to organize just one first book...and then....!

  7. Can't wait to see this book. Love the title, the cover, and the interview. Thanks!

  8. I love the fun intro & all the writerly tips of this post, Sue, & Sarah.

    Sign me up for the 100 rejections club. In fact, I think I'm there.
    But under your rules, is it legit to count magazine articles turned down,
    or shall we researchers & submitters only tally book manuscripts???

    Research is my best pal but I have to put a door on it - or I run out the clock.

    Hoping JUST LIKE ... will be in my library system soon, as I've suggested it
    will be great for so many of our STEM events in the upcoming year & for 4th grade bio projects & other curriculum connections.

    (Also, sidebar here, Tanya Lee Stone had me at ALMOST ASTRONAUTS. I've recommended that to so many families, this being Florida with girls who
    have their eyes on the skies...)

    All the best summer breezes & joys, to everyone!

    1. O.K. - this week has been too full, too fast, too funky
      & now I see I've showered this blog with visits.
      I. Will. Scoot.