The creator of more than 140 novelty books for the youngest readers, Salina Yoon moved on to picture books in 2012 with Penguin and Pinecone, the story of a scarf-clad Antarctica penguin who finds a fast friend in a pinecone. In Penguin’s Big Adventure (Bloomsbury, Sept.), the friendly fellow embarks on his fifth—and most ambitious—escapade, which takes him very far from home.

Penguin’s top priority is being a good friend, a theme Yoon introduced at the very start of the series. As a preschooler, the author’s son, an avid collector of sticks, rocks, and other natural tidbits, inspired Penguin and Pinecone. “One day, he found a pinecone, brought it home, and put it in a box,” recalls Yoon. “He took it upstairs to his room, and asked me if I’d make a little blanket for it. It was the sweetest thing to see this little boy caring for this pinecone draped in a small piece of cloth, and I remember thinking how nurturing children naturally are. I kept this memory with me, and it became the basis for my first Penguin story.”

Penguin’s Big Adventure was also sparked by an interest of her children, Yoon says. Her sons, now ages 10 and 11, are fascinated by feats recorded in such works as the Guinness Book of World Records. “Because of their interest in the ways people break records, I decided that Penguin should make it his goal to be the first penguin ever to reach the North Pole,” she says. “Once he does, he realizes that there are no other penguins there, but, true to his character, he finds a new friend.” Who is, of course, a polar bear.

Yoon branches out yet again in her next picture book, Be a Friend, due from Bloomsbury in winter 2016, in which a boy who communicates only through mime feels alienated until he finds a way to connect with a new friend. “This is a very important book for me,” Yoon says. “I have avoided illustrating children for most of my career, since I wasn’t comfortable doing that. But when I developed the concept for Be a Friend, I just knew that the characters had to be children.”

A resident of San Diego, Calif., Yoon, attending her first BEA as an author, is excited about participating in today’s Speed Dating with Children’s Authors. She looks forward, she says, to “sharing Penguin’s Big Adventure with booksellers from all over the country.” This morning, 9:30–10:30 a.m., she autographs copies of Stormy Night, as well as posters featuring Penguin and Bear, at a ticketed signing at Table 1. 

This article appeared in the May 29, 2015 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.