Don’t Feed the Bear + a giveaway!
When I learned that loyal PBB subscriber Kathy Doherty had her debut picture book coming out this spring, TODAY, as a matter of fact, I requested a review copy. Oh, what a fun read aloud it turned out to be! Kathy agreed to let me share it with all of you and even dropped by to answer a few questions.
It’s the book’s read-out-loud-ability I want to talk about first. No, scratch that. FIRST, I need to show you the cover:
Delightful! The gist of the story, from the flap copy:
Bear had a perfectly great life … until Park Ranger put up a sign that read DON’T FEED THE BEAR. Well, Bear isn’t about to let Park Ranger get away with claiming all the picnickers’ goodies for herself. Crafty Bear puts up a sign of his own, and the battle for yummy grub in on! Each worthy (and hungry) competitor tries to persuade parkgoers to their side. At stake: delicious chow, like juicy burgers and chewy cookies. Who will win this war of words?
Right away I couldn’t help noticing that Bear was tall, and Ranger was short. That, along with Chip Wass’s artwork, put me very much in mind of old Yogi and BooBoo cartoons — in all the best ways. No surprise, then, to learn that he designs characters and illustrations for Disney, Cartoon Network, etc. Here, take a look:
The book is a bit oversized, which is perfect for group sharing. And the text throughout is minimal, leaving plenty of room for illustrator Wass to let ‘er rip. And he did! Text and art blend seamlessly to create a goofy, irresistible story of rivals who come to realize that joining forces will benefit them both.
Their forest home has a modern vibe, with cool tones that invite you in and pops of warm brights when contrast is needed. I’ll let the end papers be a lovely surprise to you, but can I just say that they should be on a list of Things That Make You Go “oooh.”
Okay, now I can talk about the read aloud factor. Kathy knows what appeals to kids: Short, punchy sentences a reader can read slowly to pack with emotional emphasis — and enough onomatopeia to have kiddos running around for days going “Smackity, smack, WHOMP!” and “Stompity, stomp, grrrr!” I love that Kathy doesn’t hit readers over the head with her point, either, but SHOWS kids the meaning of If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
Thanks, Kathy, for agreeing to answer a few questions.
JE: Both character are equally strong. Both have their own, equally self-serving agendas. How did you decide Bear was to be the main character?
KD: Right from the beginning, I knew this had to be Bear’s story. After seeing a DON’T FEED THE BEAR sign, I started to think what if. What if a bear had a perfectly wonderful life until a park ranger put up a DON’T FEED THE BEAR sign? What if the bear then saw the campers feeding the ranger, and decided to retaliate by putting up his own sign? What if I could create a funny sign war between these two characters?
JE: Was it difficult deciding how these two were going to resolve their issue?
KD: Not too difficult. I wanted Bear and the ranger to eventually call a truce. And I wanted the campers to provide food that would give Bear and the ranger the idea to work together and have a picnic. I tried a few scenarios and finally settled on the least wordy, drawn-out solution.
JE: Other writers are always curious about illustration notes. Did you include notes for each of the book’s funny signs, or were those left to illustrator Chip Wass?
KD: I didn’t add art notes, but I centered the signs and color-coded the words. Chip Wass, the illustrator, added even more silliness to the signs. He’s an award-winning artist who designs characters and illustrations for Disney, Cartoon Network, The New York Times, ESPN, and Wendy’s.
JE: His experience shows! Can you tell us about your experiences as a first-time author … submissions, expectations vs. reality, your road to publication, etc?
KD: I got an agent way before my work was ready to submit. Then my agent let a few authors go in 2014, including me. She hadn’t sold anything of mine, but she said I could still send her stories until I found a new agent.
Not long after we parted, I sent my ex-agent two manuscripts. After doing two revisions for a Peachtree editor, she sold that manuscript in 2015. The other manuscript I showed her was DON’T FEED THE BEAR. She said it was cute, but she didn’t think it would sell.
As luck would have it, I submitted DON’T FEED THE BEAR in 2015 to a Sterling editor. Two months later, he sent an email saying he loved DON’T FEED THE BEAR and asked if he could send a term sheet. I had no clue what that meant. So I emailed my author friend, Candace Fleming, and she said, “YOU SOLD A BOOK!” I was surprised the Sterling editor had not asked for a revision. Since I wasn’t under contract with my ex-agent, I hired a literary property lawyer to negotiate the Sterling contract. After that, my ex-agent semi-retired, and we amicably split for a second time. I’m the only author in the world who has had an ex-ex-agent!
JE: Proving once again that a rejection is only ONE person’s opinion! What’s next for you?
KD: I’m a retired reading specialist, so I have time to play with words every day. And guess what! My ex-ex-agent and I are back together, but not under contract. On a whim, I recently showed her two stories I thought were perfect matches for two illustrators she represents. She is currently submitting both stories along with her clients’ artwork. And I have another manuscript under consideration—after two revisions—at one of the Big Five publishers. I’m still not under contract with a literary agent . . . but at least I have a new website: http://kathleendohertyauthor.com/
JE: Fingers crossed for you, Kathy!
KD: Thanks, Jill, for featuring DON’T FEED THE BEAR!
JE: My pleasure!
Readers, Kathy’s publisher, Sterling Children’s Books, has offered to send one winner their very own copy of DON’T FEED THE BEAR. All you have to do is leave a comment below between now and April 20th. I’ll announce the winner in my next post.