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:
Appealing, yes?
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: 
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.

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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


  1. This book looks brilliant – adding to my TBR list! It’s great to get insight into Kathy’s agent and publishing experiences too. Thanks for sharing, Kathy and Jill. 🙂

  2. Yay! I’ve been looking forward to this one. 🙂

    Congratulations, Kathy!

  3. Sounds like a winner for sure!

  4. Jennifer Rumberger

    This looks so fun! Congratulations!

  5. What a wonderful book! Congratulations, Kathy!

  6. Looks like a fun one my son will enjoy. He loves bear books!

  7. Oh my goodness, this looks hilarious and adorable! Congratulations on your success. I can’t wait to read this one!

  8. Kim Pfennigwerth

    Fun story and the childhood memories of Yogi and BooBoo! Also interesting to hear about Kathy’s publishing journey!

  9. What a fun story and the perfect illustrations! Can’t wait to read this one!

  10. What an amazing story and journey for this book. I can’t wait to read it!

  11. I’m excited for this one. Thanks for the great interview!

  12. Deborah Williams

    I’m so happy for you, Kathy, and I know this book will make kids (and bears) happy too!

  13. This looks like a very fun read!

  14. Your book looks incredibly cute. Can’t wait to read it!

  15. Kathy, this looks fantastic!! So fun and funny! Can’t wait to take a look. CONGRATULATIONS!! 🙂

  16. What a fun story! So great to hear your journey to publication! Congratulations!

  17. This looks hilarious . . . can’t wait to read it! Congratulations, Kathy!!

  18. What a fascination story. This is definitely a different route to publication. I’m so glad you made it. This book looks wonderful.

  19. Can not wait to read this—aloud!

  20. Love the idea of a stand-off between bear and ranger. (And it sounds like you sort of launched a sign-off campaign of your own in the agenting world, happily resolved.)

  21. I love the idea of a sign war between the bear and the ranger. What a hoot!

  22. Love the illos and the fun interplay between ranger and bear! A winner for sure.

  23. This looks FABULOUS – ad what a great publication story 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!

  24. Kathy, I’m laughing at your ability to sell more books through your “ex-ex-agent” than your agent. I’m curious how you pitched DON’T FEED THE BEAR. Did you compare it to Yogi?

  25. Congratulations! This book looks wonderful and I need a copy! Cannot wait to read it!

  26. What incredible circumstances. That really inspires me to keep the dream alive and realizing there is a specific editor waiting to see my book! Congratulations!

  27. This sounds wonderfully funny! Congratulations, Kathy and Chip!

  28. Debra K Shumaker

    This sounds like such a FUN book! Can’t wait to read it. Congrats on all your successes!

  29. Kathy and I met at Chautauqua where we got to know one another over ice cream. I have enjoyed her zippy magazine articles for years and knew a book couldn’t be far behind. Congrats, Kathy! Can’t wait to read it…and the next… and the next…

  30. Thanks for sharing Kathy’s book and story, Jill. Congrats, Kathy. This looks like the perfect picnic picture book!

  31. This book looks hilarious. Thank you for sharing your journey to publication story – fascinating!

  32. Danielle Hammelef

    This book does look like it will make readers laugh and cheer on either the bear or the ranger, maybe both! thanks for the post today–I love Yogi and Boo Boo and those picnic baskets!

  33. Congratulations! I look forward to reading this book!

  34. Love the story! Yours and Bear’s! So glad they both had a happy ending. 🙂 Congratulations on your success and wishing you tons more!

  35. sounds like a great smooth read!

  36. Looks fun! Congratulations!

  37. Love a good war with words. Congrats on your debut release, Kathleen!

  38. Congratulations, Kathy! So glad to see your story as a book!! How cool is that?! I love the illustrations! So happy for you!!

  39. Wow, this looks adorable! On my list!!! Congratulations on your success!

  40. Valerie Bottcher

    The story about a “sign war” between two appealing characters sounds like a fun read! Can’t wait to read it !

  41. Kathy, this book sounds adorable. I can’t wait to read it!

  42. I can NOT wait to get my hands on this book!! I love a great read-aloud. Thank you for sharing your agent story, it gives me hope!

  43. This looks like lots of fun with the signs and reminds me how kids love to put signs on their doors… might inspire some back and forth 🙂

  44. I’ve got to get this to read at storytime! It looks so fun!

  45. You just have to love the “not a bear cap”!

  46. This book is going to be so much fun to read. Can’t wait! Congrats!

  47. This looks absolutely adorable…can’t wait to check it out!

  48. Thanks for another great interview–this book looks really fun–can’t wait to see it, art and text both!

  49. I love your inspiration for this story! Can’t wait to read the book! Congratulations!!!

  50. I’m adding this to my TBR pile right now! Looks adorable!

  51. Your own story and that of Bear’s are terrific. Thanks to both you and the illustrator.

  52. DON’T FEED THE BEAR sounds absolutely delightful! Such a great example about how subjective this business is, and a powerful message to not give up!

  53. I would love to add this book to my school’s library media center collection.

  54. What a fun idea, and those illustrations are so great! Congrats Kathy! Can’t wait to see more from you!

  55. Thanks, Kathy, for adding to the wealth of fun pbs for children!

  56. Can’t wait to read the interplay between the two characters. Thanks.

  57. Congratulations Kathy! Your book sounds and looks wonderful. Being part of a family who camps in the Adirondacks, this will be a must for gifting.

  58. This book looks so funny! 🙂

  59. Becky Scharnhorst

    Oh, Kathy! This book looks hilarious! What a fun premise! I can’t wait to read it!

  60. This book seems packed with humor. Definitely on my list to read! I love the illustrations, too!

  61. Lorraine Geberin

    Oh, dear Kathy! I’m SO happy for your success!! Well-deserved! I can’t wait to hold your book in my hands!! Congratulations!!

  62. what a great story idea!

  63. This book looks so cute! Thank you for sharing this post. I loved learning more about the behind the book. This was a fun interview. Thank you!

  64. Stacy Digianantonio

    This book looks like so much fun! I can’t wait to read it!

  65. After a recent trip to Yosemite, the book seems timely! Love the illustrations.

  66. Looking forward to reading this one!

  67. I love reading picture books that are great read alouds. They hook kids into stories and reading. I cannot wait to read this.

  68. I love the premise of this book! I love the humor and the fun illustrations!
    Can’t wait to get a copy!

  69. OMG — I just cannot WAIT to feed my literary appetite with this book! Best of lunch to you, Kathy!

  70. I can’t wait to read this book. My favorite animal is a bear. So this looks like a must read to me. Thank you for sharing such a fantastic interview with us.

  71. Love this! I think this might make a great Readers’ Theater title.

  72. Sounds like a great story and I love the artwork!

  73. This looks unbearably adorable. I’ll make sure to put in a purchase request at my local libraries.

  74. This looks fantastic!

  75. I’m so happy this is out! Can’t wait to see the final book!

  76. So happy to see this published! Just ordered four copies…❤️

  77. Thanks, Lisa! I’ll see you at the retirement party.

  78. I’m late to the party, but congratulations, Kathy. I love a good battle of wits and look forward to seeing how this one plays out.

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