I call this my sequel to OWL MOON, only forty years later! Probably I am the only one who sees the connection. I think the pictures are stunning in their own way. I hope John Schoneherr, who won the Caldecott for OWL MOON, is looking down from heaven with approval.
This book has only 22 words in the text, and more than half of them are made up! (There is a backmatter which accounts for many more words.) My husband is the one who counted the words and told me!! And I adore the paintings that look like old circus posters. It took the editor and art director more than a year to find exactly the right illustrator.
After the success (and an honor book award from the Jewish Publishers) for my first picture book midrash—MIRIAM AT THE RIVER—the publisher was eager for more. I wrote Deborah’s Tree and Mrs. Noah’s Doves at more or less than same time and what fun they were to write.
I had been writing poems for a science fiction magazine in Scotland. (I have a house in Scotland that I spend a lot of the summer at, so it’s not as big a stretch as you think.) Because they had already published a lot of my sf poems, they asked if I would like to do a small paperback book of sf poems and I was delighted to be asked.
This little board book just kind of wrote itself, and the wonderful first Jewish publisher I showed it to fell in love with it and brought it out swiftly as a board book.
Peter and I had dated for two months in college. He was known as the Williams College Poet at that time, and I as the Smith College Poet and someone (neither of us remember who that was!) thought it was a good idea to have us meet. We spent the entire two months discussing poetry,
My first-born granddaughter Maddison and I had written a book called “When Nana Dances With Me” when she was ten and was a young ballerina in Amherst Mass. As I had been at Balanchine’s School of American ballet in NYC years and years ago. And we loved to dance together in my kitchen.
All books have a back story and this is a fun one. An editor I did not know (who has become a dear friend) asked me for her publisher (of a company I did not know then) if I could help edit/rewrite a picture book. They had gorgeous illustrations that told the story, but the illustrator’s writing skills were not up to his artwork. That sort of thing is always a stretch.And can be a spiderweb of good intentions that ends up killing everyone involved.
This began as an interesting quote I read in a birding magazine, moved on to a poem (I write a poem a day and send them out to over 1,000 subscribers) and at last-with some additions and fiddling– a picture book with my favorite publisher of truly elegant books, Creative Editions.
So, twenty years or so ago, I had an idea to write a kind of middle grade sequel to MOBY DICK in which a fourteen year old boy in 1860s Nantucket hears a knock on the door early in the morning. His mother, who has been sick on and off all winter is still sleeping. His father is first mate on a whaler that is overdue. The boy opens the door and sees a stranger standing there.