Earlier this week I went to one of my favorite semi-annual events, the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers picture book cocktail party. Yes, it does combine two of my favorite things, picture books and cocktails, but it also offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at these books in the making. At previous parties I’ve enjoyed Marc Brown talking about If All the Animals Came Inside and hearing all the fine detail of the magnificent book The Dark from illustrator Jon Klassen.
Little, Brown highlighted three delightful picture books, and the creators were not only there to talk about them, but they also let us peek into their processes leading up to the final book, from pitch to layout sketches. I love seeing how different people work.
My favorite of the books is My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) by Peter Brown, who you might know from the delightful Children Make Terrible Pets. It details that super-awkward moment when you see one of your teachers outside of school. Young Bobby thinks his teacher is a monster, so imagine his chagrin when he runs into her at the park. When a gust of wind blows her hat, Bobby saves it and they start to spend a little time together. Perhaps his teacher is not a monster after all? (The art makes this wonderfully clear, as the teach becomes less monstrous on every page.)
Peter Brown was there to provide the origin of this story. When he was in third grade, he believed his teacher was a witch. She looked like a witch, and acted like a witch. When young Peter told his mom, “I don’t think she likes kids,” his mom replied, “I don’t think so either.” Fast forward to when he’s a super-successful author going back to doing a reading at his old elementary school. Now, this teacher was long-since retired, but Peter felt a bony finger tapping him on the shoulder. The teacher he encountered wasn’t the witch he remembered, but rather the sweetest old lady he could have imagined. Wouldn’t it be a trip to go back and meet your old
Tom Lichtenheld, who illustrated our faves Shark vs. Train and Duck! Rabbit! was there with author Richard T. Morris to talk about This Is a Moose, a super cute book where a film crew out to do a documentary about a moose discovers that he has ambitions to be an astronaut. Grandma Moose is no help — she just wants to play lacrosse. Will no moose act like a moose? When you’re a duck who’s a director and you have a film crew that’s all animals, it’s hard to fault the moose for career ambitions.
Dan Yaccarino of Oswald and The Backyardigans fame was there with author Margie Palatini to show off No Nap! Yes Nap! which is just what it sounds like… all the things you do with your stalling toddler during the struggle to get her to nap. Been there. Ozzie always won this struggle and we gave up trying long ago. If you’re still fighting the good fight, though, this is the book for you.
Tom Lichtenheld and Richard Morris and Dan Yaccarino and Margie Palatini got into some good-natured Chloe-and-the-Lion-style bits about who is more important to picture books, the author or the illustrator. Of course, the answer is
the illustrator that they’re equally important to bring these magical books to life.
Talk about burying the lede, though. After all the presenters, I wandered around to look at the other new releases on the tables and OHMYGODISTHATANEWDANSANTATBOOK?!!!! (Every time I see a new Dan Santat book I scream a little in my head. No one turned to stare at me so I think it was in my head.) It’s called The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. Usually, you see, children pick their imaginary friends. But when Beekle wasn’t getting picked, he went out in search of a child on his own in this tale of adventure and love. As ever, the art is gorgeous.
The Adventures of Beekle comes out in April, This is a Moose in May, My Teacher is a Monster in July, and No Nap! Yes Nap! in August. Let the preordering begin!