All Sea Smiles, with author illustrator Bonnie Kelso

All Sea Smiles, with author illustrator Bonnie Kelso

We are pleased to present our conversation with Bonnie Kelso, muralist and author illustrator of Sea Smiles, which releases February 13, 2024. 

Our Conversation with Bonnie:

GRP: Welcome, Bonnie! Sea Smiles is such a fun story. What inspired you to write it? 

BK: I wrote Sea Smiles when my kids were going through a rough time with their teeth. It seemed like as soon as one tooth fell out, another one was loose. It was all very dramatic and there were a lot of tears shed over the pain and difficulty when eating. I started having dreams about my own teeth falling out, too. That’s when I realized what a significant part of growing up the whole tooth loss situation is. I wanted to write a story about teeth, that might help kids deal with all of it by finding some humor in the process. And since I love sea animals, I decided to research sea animals with weird teeth. There was a lot to work with in that department. Because I enjoyed writing Sea Smiles so much, I wrote two more books in the series, all focusing on childhood milestones paired with sea animals. Those books, Sleepy Sea and Sea Suds, will be coming out over the next few years.

GRP: We can't wait to see all three books together! What conversations do you think the book will inspire?

BK: I think the book will be a fun way of talking to kids about good oral hygiene. Dentists especially will want to have a copy in their waiting room. It’s not the usual dry dental reading material. It will help kids laugh and hopefully make them feel less afraid.

GRP: What is your favorite scene or character in the book?

BK: My favorite part in Sea Smiles is when the adorable little penguin reveals his hideous teeth. You don’t see the teeth at first, only how the little girl and Wolffish react to seeing them, which provides a great opportunity for a laugh. As far as favorite characters go, I was surprised by Wolffish. For some reason, his character developed most quickly. Probably because there aren’t many children’s books about wolffish. Possibly none. There was no precedent for me to base the character on, so I got to invent his personality from scratch. He’s very competitive and a bit grumpy, but 100% lovable. 

GRP: Do you have any interesting things you can share with us about the illustrations?

BK: With Sea Smiles I decided to play with patterns. I designed a special pattern made from each character's teeth. I think it's a unique way to add a little Easter Egg that kids will discover over time. 

GRP: Thank you, Bonnie, for taking the time to speak with us about your book. We look forward to seeing it in bookstores and dental offices in February. 

You can connect with Bonnie Kelso online:


Instagram: @Bonnie.Kelso

Twitter: @BonnieKelso

TikTok: @BonnieKelso


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