Elwood Bigfoot: Wanted: Birdie Friends!

At book signings there’s always somebody who, after flipping through a book, looks at me to ask, “Where’d you get this idea?”

Honestly, it isn’t always easy to remember, 3-5 years after the fact, what sparked a story idea.

But if they ask that about my newest book, Elwood Bigfoot:  Wanted:  Birdie Friends!, I’ll have no trouble.

Elwood Bigfoot - Cover

Once, while watching Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet, something started bothering me about reported bigfoot sightings. Checking out dozens of accounts on the internet confirmed it:  the vast majority of spotters claim to have seen a bigfoot. That’s “a” bigfoot. One. How lonely must that be? The poor beasts. Made me want to hold my nose and give one a hug. Or a friend.

My first effort was the sweet story of a bigfoot who lived in a forest near a kids’ summer camp and watched them from across a lake, longing to meet one and make a friend.

It stunk. Sweet stories? Not my forté.

My second try featured a bigfoot kid on his way to bigfoot camp when a distracted bus driver accidentally dropped him off at a camp for humans. He tries to fit in through a variety of hilarious situations. At least I thought they were hilarious.

More stink. And I wrote many versions of that one. Ultimately, my then-agent said the ending was too predictable. Phooey. I tried and tried to rework it, but … ugh. The problem, I realized, was that I wasn’t writing a character-driven story, but a plot-driven one.

Plot-driven stories? Not my forté.

That’s when I had to sit back and say, “Okay, stop. What does Elwood WANT?” My third try felt right from the start. It’s simply the story of a bigfoot, Elwood, who is devastatingly lonely. Thank goodness for …

Elwood - sample page1

Reprinted with permission from Elwood Bigfoot © 2015 by Jill Esbaum, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Nate Wragg.

From the book:

          Elwood loved birdies. Each flash of feather, each chirp and cheerful song helped him feel less alone. Whenever a birdie swooped by, Elwood hollered, “COME BACK, BIRDIE! BE MY FRIEND!”

          But no birdie ever came back.

Elwood knocks himself out trying to befriend the neighborhood birdies. He builds a home high in a tree. He crafts a disguise and acts like a birdie. He plans a wild housewarming party. Nothing works. He even creates a birdie theme park:

Elwood - sample spread1

Reprinted with permission from Elwood Bigfoot © 2015 by Jill Esbaum, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Nate Wragg.

From the book:

          Still the birdies kept their distance.

          Elwood began to sweat. BIRDIELAND had to make the birdies like him. It just had to.

It doesn’t … until he finally discovers what he’s been doing wrong.

Only one review is in so far, from Kirkus. And it’s a whew. Among other nice things, they said:  “Esbaum’s sweet tale of a friendship-seeking bigfoot is a good title to hand to those not quite ready for chapter books. The … simple text will keep them interested without unduly challenging their new reading skills. Wragg’s adorable, snaggle-toothed bigfoot … will easily charm the kids (and birds). Bright, enticing cartoon illustrations and a character many can identify with will hook story timers and new readers.”

The first time I saw Nate Wragg’s illustrations – whimsical and colorful and filled with life – my heartbeat doubled. Wait till you see Elwood in his birdie disguise … and dancing the boola-boola … and demonstrating the Chick-a-BOOM-erang (a theme park ride) for the birdies. The big surprise, for me, was that Elwood’s story ends on a sweet note.  🙂  How could it not? Elwood’s a big, hairy pile of soft-heartedness.

Elwood Bigfoot stomps into stores next Tuesday, September 1st. If you’d like to win a copy for your favorite kiddos (or yourself), just comment below before Saturday, September 5th. I’ll choose one winner in a random drawing, and we’ll announce it here the following week.

Wait! Blue Slip Media has created a fabulous activity kit to go with this book. It’s free to download from my website.   Please do!

And BEST of luck in the contest!


Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Bird Girl - Gene Stratton-Porter Shares Her Love of Nature With the World, Parrotfish Has a Superpower, Stinkbird Has a Superpower, Sea Turtle Swims, Kangaroo Hops, Jack Knight's Brave Flight, We Love Babies!, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in 2025: Polecat Has a Superpower!, It's Corn-Picking Time!, Giraffe Runs. She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at http://jillesbaum.com.


  1. This sounds great. I love Bigfoot! I’m sure the kids will too after reading your book. Thanks for the giveaway. I would love to win a copy.

  2. I know this will be a fun book that kids will love. Congratulations!

  3. My copy of Elwood just shipped! Such a fun story Jill. Thanks for the post.

  4. Looks like a sweet, friendship story! Great illustrations. Congratulations, Jill!

  5. I’d hug your adorable Bigfoot . . . and I wouldn’t even hold my nose!

  6. I love the originality!
    I’m curious to see how Elwood finally wins over the birds.
    And I loved reading about your various attempts at writing the story.
    Can’t wait to read it!

  7. I LOVE Elwood Bigfoot!!! Thanks for sharing your journey with us. And congratulations!

  8. I love the book, love the author, love the humor. Not much more to say on the topic.


  9. This post has hooked me and I want to know more about the adorable Elwood Bigwood. Such delightful illustrations.

  10. Hooray for Elwood! He sounds like a charmer. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. And hooray for you!! (Btw, version #2 DID sound pretty hilarious.)

  11. I can relate to your “journey” of finding the right story for Elwood. It can take many, many tries. Ultimately, he had to reveal it to you in his own time. Congrats and looking forward to owning this adorable book.

  12. This sounds like a cutie. Can’t wait to see how Elwood makes friends.

  13. Elwood and I could be friends- I love birdies, too, and go places with my binoculars around my neck! Can’t wait to read your story.

  14. Thanks for revealing great tips re: the creative process in this post, Jill, and congratulations on your new book! Can’t wait to read Elwood Bigfoot!

  15. This book sounds delightful! Stirs up memories of our years living in the Pacific Northwest where stories of Bigfoot sightings abound and signs for Bigfoot Crossings are posted along the highways.

  16. This looks SO cute and creative – and I love learning about your creative process! Can’t wait to get my hairy hands on this one 😉

  17. What a wonderful story! So creative and so colorful. I can’t wait to get my paws on this 🙂

  18. Elwood and his birds sound charming–putting this one on my to-read list!

  19. This book looks downright delightful. Clever take on bigfoot + adorable illustrations = winner. Congrats, Jill!

  20. Jill,
    I’m so glad you stuck with this. What an adorable idea! I loved hearing your writer’s journey with this story. I need to think character-driven more often too. Best of luck to you on this book’s upcoming release!

    Thanks for the contest and giveaway.

  21. Jill, this book sounds charming. I can’t wait to read it.

  22. It looks adorable, Jill. Congrats! And congrats on the great Kirkus review as well!

    • Thanks for sharing your route to Bigfoot’s success. It looks like a fun book, I’m looking forward to seeing it.

  23. Elwood + birdies = a winning combination. Can’t wait to read this! =)

  24. Excellent post, Jill. The perfect combination of education, experience, and your own incredible mentor text! Can’t wait to read this!

  25. Thanks for sharing your process to get just the right story for Elwood. I can’t wait to read it.

  26. I can not wait for this book!!!!!

  27. This is a very inspiring post. Thanks for it and for a chance to win a perfectly adorable book.

  28. Oh this looks great! I think my son would love this! Thanks for the chance to win

  29. The book is sooo cute! Congrats on another winner!

  30. My husnand loves Bigfoot. It would be a fun book for him to read to our daughters.

  31. Can’t wait to read this book! Sounds like a book my son and I would love. 🙂

  32. Aw! Weebly looks like he is trying so hard. I want to be a birdie so I can go to his theme park! Congratulations on your book launch!

  33. Thanks for sharing a preview, and the story of how Elwood came to be. And many thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

  34. Elwood Bigfoot is adorable! Congratulations, Jill. I can’t wait to read it.

  35. Three cheers for Elwood! And three cheers for you, Jill! Can’t wait to see this book. Sounds like a winner!

  36. Thanks for sharing your process and story behind your story of Elwood’s character development. I love how the birds are “birdies” and the illustrations really highlight Elwood’s sweet character.

  37. Thanks for sharing the story of the many attempts! I have a few characters I want to talk to!

    I’ll look up the book. 🙂

  38. I love hearing the story behind the story — thanks for sharing, Jill. Already have my book on order. Can’t wait to read the whole thing!

  39. This book looks so cute. I’m excited to read it. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It was nice to hear that it took time to get the story just right. It reminds me to work hard and not give up. Thanks.

  40. Nice to know you went through multiple story lines with this character before coming up with the right one. So there is hope for me, as I slog through yet another draft/story line with my current characters! Thanks for sharing!

  41. What a fabulous concept. What’s not to love. Thank you for the opportunity of a giveaway!

  42. Congratulations, Jill! I loved learning about the “making” of your latest story, and I’m looking forward to reading all about Elwood and friends. 🙂

  43. This sounds great! Thanks for sharing how it came to be!

  44. Clever, Jill!! My grandkids are really into Bigfoot and would love this book!

  45. Three cheers for Elwood – I can’t wait to grab him! 🙂

  46. I love this! I can’t wait to read and read and read Elwood!

  47. Ooo! I’m completely charmed. I love Elwood already, and the birdie artwork makes me want to do a backflip. Thank you for sharing your rewriting journey in detail, and for shedding light on how to create a character with heart. This is a really helpful post. Congratulations on Elwood’s debut!

  48. It’s so interesting to hear about all the different version of the story you went through. Can’t wait to read this! Thanks.

  49. Elwood sounds like my kind of guy! Congratulations, Jill!

  50. Another fun book Jill with great illustrations and story line. I love Elwood already.

  51. Elwood!!!!!!! What a perfect collaboration of author and illustrator— Love! I’m a Finding Bigfoot fan, too. I spend lots of hours on car rides staring out the window into the ‘squatchy’ woods 😉 Now I’ll look specifically for Elwood!

  52. An excellent way to show children that’s it always, always, always possible to find a friend. Thanks so much for writing this charming lesson.

  53. How could those birdies resist “nestling” up to such an earnest furry fellow? Can’t wait to have my own copy of ELWOOD – and could someone please make a cuddly stuffy version too? 🙂

  54. Aw! I want to hug Elwood 🙂

  55. Thanks, everybody! So glad you stopped by and commented for the chance to win! Makes me wish I had more giveaway copies. 🙂

  56. Hi, Jill! Thanks for sharing your writing process for Elwood Bigfoot. Great concept and illustrations!

  57. Just pre-ordered it but would obviously love to win a copy, my 7th graders would love this book

  58. Kristen Browning

    I can’t wait to read it and to share it with my little one. The illustrations are wonderful!

  59. Loved the post! So interesting!

  60. Jill,
    This looks like another winner! I love this the idea behind the story and the idea that you kept working on it until you had the right story written. – Q

  61. Got to have this! This illustrations are so cute and who doesn’t love a Bigfoot story?

  62. I fell for Elwood the moment I first saw that cover.

  63. I love this book. It made me laugh out loud. Elwood has the perfect name and personality. Great match on illustrations, too. Thanks for sharing the process.

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