Laura Sassi’s Master Class on Picture Books is coming in less than two weeks!! To get us in the mood, I’m sharing a blog post that originally appeared on my own blog. Her publisher is giving away a copy so make sure you leave a comment to enter!


The story begins with an introduction of the characters and their “backstories.”

Fernando loved chocolate and cheese on dry toast,

and popcorn and gumdrops,

But what he liked most…

was feasting on Mozart, 

Puccini and Strauss,

and lending a paw at the Old Opera House.

On the next page, we meet Delores.

Delores loved glamour and spotlights and praise.

She longed to be showered with fragrant bouquets.

Now here was her chance,

after years in the chorus,

to take center stage and be Diva Delores!

Fernando is ready and willing to help Delores with her debut, but she haughtily announces she has no need of him. Not one to take rebuffs easily, Fernando continues to help her–despite her disdain.  On the day before the opening, Fernando comes to her rescue when Delores finds (ahem) that she has a problem fitting into her gown.

With one day remaining

til opening night

Delores discovered

her gown was too tight!

Needless to say, Fernando’s efforts aren’t appreciated.

Delores FINALLY comes to her senses when she falters during her performance. She needs help from her little friend–but where is he? Has he abandoned her?

Of course not! Fernando pops out of his hiding place inside her wig and saves the show amidst cheers from the crowd.

She sang high,

she sang low,

with a voice rich and sweet,

as the Opera House mouse

tapped along to the beat.

And when she forgot 

the last verse of her song,

He said, “I can help!”

Then he tra-la’d along. 

And the audience loved them.

They brought down the house.

“Three cheers for Delores!””

Three cheers for that mouse!”


Here is my email interview with Laura about her path to publication. 

Carol: Could you tell me a little about Diva’s publication journey?

Laura: The journey from spark to publication took seven years. I got the original idea for my story while participating in Tara Lazar’s wonderful STORYSTORM challenge, or Picture Book Idea Month as it was called back in 2011. I worked on the story off and on for five years. I played with plot, rhyme, character development – everything but setting, really – until finally it was ready to sub in 2016. It was acquired by Sterling Children’s Books that spring and took another two years to be published, which is typical for picture books.

Carol: How did you EVER think of this idea?

Laura: The story was prompted by paging through my writing notebook and looking at early notes for a completely different piece called “Mouse House”, a short rebus about a little mouse curling up in his house in the woods to sleep.  Seeing those notes, prompted me to imagine where else a mouse might live – and that imagining led me to the opera house! And once I envisioned that opera house mouse it wasn’t long until Delores was there was there as well, snootily preparing for her opera debut.

Carol: How many drafts? 

Laura: I’ve lost count. YEARS worth! 

Carol: The illustrations match the text so well. Did you supply any illustration notes?   

Laura: Illustrator Rebecca Gerlings did a wonderful job and it was really all her! I saw sketches along the way, which was fun, but the illustrations were her domain. Out of curiosity, I checked the final version I sent to Sterling and saw that I had only three illustration notes. Two were stage notes explaining, for example, that Fernando hides in Delores’s wig and that his home was in a hole at the Opera House (as opposed to elsewhere).  

Out of curiosity, I checked the final version I sent to Sterling and saw that I had only three illustration notes. Two were stage notes explaining, for example, that Fernando hides in Delores’s wig and that his home was in a hole at the Opera House (as opposed to elsewhere).  

One of Rebecca’s original sketches,
“Delores is a hippo.”

But there’s a fun story behind the first note which said simply, “Delores is a hippo.”  Obviously that changed. The early sketches of Delores as a hippo were cute, but everyone – Rebecca, me, the art team etc. – all agreed that she wasn’t quite what we envisioned so the art director asked Rebecca to come up with another animal. The result? The wonderfully snooty, yet lovable Delores the seal!  


You’ll find several activities related to Delores and Fernando here.


And here is a short video that will make you run out and buy this book for your child, classroom, or library:


Want to know how Laura creates those fun, unqiue rhymes? Want to work on your own picture book ideas? Join her at Write2Ignite’s picture book Master class on April 24. It’s on Zoom and there is room for YOU!

For more information about the class, click here


Do you want a copy of Diva Delores? Leave me a comment by 6 PM on April 14. If you want extra chances to win, share this post on social media. Just tell me where you shared it and I’ll put your name in the hat each time you share it! U.S. addresses only. 


If you attend the picture book master class, you will be automatically entered in MORE giveaways. Laura’s publishers have donated additional copies of her books to give away as door prizes


  1. I’ve read DIVA DELORES & THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE. It is a delightful book and fun to read aloud. Carol, I enjoyed your review and the additional notes from the author. It’s encouraging to know a successful book author lost count of her rough drafts because there were so many before achieving the polished and published end-product.

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