News and Interviews

Naseem Hrab and Kelly Collier Share a Conversation About Otis and Peanut Forever and Ever

In Conversation with Naseem Hrab and Kelly Collier banner. Image of cartoon mole-rat sitting at table and holding a mason jar, with solid pink section at middle and text overlaid with Open Book logo. Image of authors to the right of the banner.

Collaborating on a series of picture books or graphic novels is quite the task, but some of the finest KidLit out there comes from these fruitful partnerships between talented authors and illustrators.

This is certainly true with Naseem Hrab and Kelly Collier, the author and illustrator of Otis and Peanut Forever and Ever (Owlkids Books), a new junior graphic novel that follows the friendship between a long-haired guinea pig and a naked mole rat and all of their hijinks.

From profound lessons about preserving memories of those we've loved, to celebrating the simple things in life, like eating cake, there are beautiful lessons in the pages of this new book, written by Hrab and illustrated wonderfully by Collier.

In this KidLit Convos interview, the authors have collaborated yet again to share some insight into their work on this series:


Open Book:

What was the strangest or most memorable part of creating this book for you? 

Naseem Hrab and Kelly Collier:

Each Otis & Peanut book contains three stories, and one of the most memorable parts of working on this book was creating the wordless story in the book, The Dream. We had never created a wordless story together and it was an interesting experience to combine our brains initially over text, then over the phone and then finally with Naseem insisting she needed to act out parts of the story to get it right! 


What are the best, and the toughest, parts of collaborating on books in your opinion? 

NH & KC:

The best part of collaborating is the fun of it. Writing and illustrating can be such lonely pursuits. Just knowing you have someone to bounce ideas off can make a world of a difference, and make these otherwise solitary activities feel much more social!

In terms of the toughest parts, right now we’re in a unique position where we have more ideas than we can create given our other commitments. So, we’re having to put a few exciting ones on the back burner as we work through other more pressing ones. Yes, it’s ultimately the best problem to have.


What do you hope young readers will take away from our book?

NH & KC:

We’ve said that this series is meant to be a soft spot for children to land. In each book, Otis & Peanut have very happy moments, but they’re also grieving someone who is very important to them. We hope that these books help kids understand that we often need to make space for both happy and sad feelings at the same time. 


What advice would you give to someone working with a co-creator on a book for the first time?

NH & KC:

  • Really listen to each other. 
  • Appreciate and value the things that your co-creator brings to the table that you don’t, or can’t bring to the table.
  • Be flexible and open to ideas that aren’t your own.
  • Block off regular meetings to collaborate.
  • Express genuine gratitude to each other on a regular basis.


Is there another co-creator team whose books you find inspiring? 

NH & KC:

Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri! They are the creators of Dragons Love Tacos, Secret Pizza Party, High Five and more! Their work is hilarious, fun and so kid-centric! Talk about goals!


Is there anything you want to tell me about your experience working on this book?

NH & KC:

We really, really, really love making the Otis & Peanut books, so we really, really, really hope you love reading them … because that means we might get to make more! No pressure! 


Naseem Hrab is a writer and storyteller, and the author of the Ira Crumb series, How to Party Like a SnailWeekend Dad, and The Sour Cherry Tree, which was a Governor General’s Literary Awards winner. Her comedy writing has appeared on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and The Rumpus. She loves improv and coffee ice cream. Naseem lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Kelly Collier was born in Ottawa and grew up in Toronto, Ontario, where she still lives with her husband and daughter. She has an identical twin sister and an older brother. As kids, Kelly and her sister drew all the time, mostly in an effort to "outdraw" their brother. Kelly studied illustration in college and is both the author and illustrator of the Steve the Horse series.

Buy the Book

Otis and Peanut Forever and Ever

The Frog and Toad-style duo returns in a new series of stories about celebrating loved ones, past and present

Otis and Peanut are back! Grounded in the tender, supportive friendship between a long-haired guinea pig and a naked mole rat, the second book in this junior graphic novel series explores themes of celebrating life's simple pleasures, grief, and making new memories with sensitivity, humor, and optimism.

The three stories in this book reveal how the pair feel the loss of Pearl, Peanut’s sister and Otis’s friend. In “The Cake,” Peanut bakes a sweet treat for Otis using Pearl’s recipe and teaches him that there’s always a good reason to eat cake—even if it’s for no reason at all! In “The Dream,” Peanut is missing his sister, but finds a way to keep her memory close. And in “The Collection,” the two friends celebrate old memories, and make some new ones.

Author Naseem Hrab brings wit and lightness to challenging subject matter. The profound lessons she shares about missing someone you love while holding them in your heart will resonate with young readers. Poignant, funny, and sweeter than a slice of Pearl’s Strawberry Layer Cake, Otis & Peanut Forever and Ever is a treat to be enjoyed at any time.