Oh, Picture Book Builders people, I can BEAR-ly contain my excitement. Today, our friend Mike Boldt has returned for a visit in celebration of Find Fergus.
This book had me at the cover. An endearing bear named FERGUS who was hiding behind the title?! I mean, c’mon!
This is what Kirkus had to say:
“The continual voice of the speaker is that of a kind, patient instructor as Fergus follows directions, presents various choices for hiding places, and works to improve strategy. . . .An amusing introduction to the long-standing diversion of hide-and-seek books.”
Mike, welcome back to Picture Book Builders! Please tell us about your latest book Find Fergus.
Hi Tammi! It’s great to be back. Find Fergus is a play on a search and find style book, but where the main character is actually terrible at hiding.
What sparked the idea for this book? A friendly game of hide-and-seek with a bespeckled bear perhaps?
That would have been a great story if it were true, but like many of my ideas, the idea for this book literally came out of a conversation. One day while I was chatting with my friend, Dan Santat, I jokingly said I was going to make a “Where’s Waldo” book where Waldo was really bad at hiding. Dan stopped me and told me he thought that was actually a good idea (well, minus the use of Waldo) and that I should do that book with my own character. The more I thought about it the more I realized there was a story there after all, so I took his advice! He is Dan Santat after all.
This book is not only a fun read-aloud with a just right alliterative title, but it’s a great example of narrative voice. How did you go about creating this warm, encouraging, we’re-all-in-this-together-to-support-our-pal-Fergus voice?
There was some search and find for myself to find just the voice for this book. Originally, Fergus was the one talking to the reader asking for more chances to find a new hiding spot. But in working with my amazing editor, Frances Gilbert, we realized when Fergus was talking, we were sort of guessing/assuming a certain response from the reader to what Fergus was saying – which could lead to a disconnect. Once we swapped it to the reader/narrator’s voice encouraging Fergus along followed by seeing Fergus’s response, it felt like a stronger connection between the reader and Fergus. Now we (the reader) were able to share the success Fergus eventually finds.
Did you face any particular challenges while working on Find Fergus?
I actually struggled quite a bit with choosing a direction with this book. I loved the initial idea so much, but I felt like I had two directions to go with it, and I really wanted to get it right. Is Find Fergus a search and find picture book, or a picture book about a search and find. It may not seem like much of a difference, but I wrestled forever with it. In the end, I went with the latter, which felt more natural for me and for the book. Finding the heart of this story, that we wanted Fergus to improve his hide and seek skills, was what finally sealed the deal. It’s something I often share with my own kids, and kids at school – that Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes progress.
Please share some of your early sketches for this book. Did it take a while for you to find just the right Fergus? (Did you see what I did there?) 🙂
Ha ha ha. Well played! Sometimes a character can be difficult to figure out, but you could say Fergus’s final design was much like him, easy to find. I decided to take a different approach to the artwork in this book from my usual work. While it’s not a true search and find, I wanted to give the nod to all those classic books that I poured over for hours as a kid. So a black outline with flat colors quickly felt right. Then I figured Fergus would need a main identifier, so the glasses of course, to complete the “Waldo” like tribute.
I love the endpapers for this book. They are probably my Favorite Endpapers of 2020. Mike, I wish wish wish we could discuss their awesomeness, but I don’t want to spoil them for anyone.
Sooo…it’s PSA time: Reader, I highly recommend you go purchase this book and/or ask your local library to order it, so you can discover those endpapers for yourself. You won’t be sorry. You will be happy. And, if you want to send cookies to thank me for this recommendation, well, I won’t be mad.
I’m so glad you liked the endpapers and hope readers do, too!
Mike, if you had one key piece of advice for writers and/or illustrators, what would it be?
I think my final advice would be similar to the theme of this book. Practice makes progress (NOT PERFECT). In my own work, once I moved away from striving to make a project perfect, I became much happier with what I was creating. Now, instead of feeling down after measuring my work against others or something that can’t be reached, I just measure it against what I’ve done before. It’s usually an improvement… usually ha ha.
Scoop time! What’s next for you?
After Find Fergus there will be a couple books out in 2021 that I illustrated. Bloop (by Tara Lazar), and Good Night, Alligator! (by Rebecca Van Slyke). They probably won’t be too hard to find either!
Thank you for having me back, Tammi. I sure appreciate it.
Thank YOU! 🙂
Mike Boldt is from rural Alberta, and is the author and illustrator of more than 20 books, including Bad Dog, A Tiger Tale, and the I Don’t Want to Be a Frog series by Dev Petty. When he’s not drawing ridiculous animals or people for stories, he can be found sharing adventures and laughs (and his ice cream) with his family. Find Mike online at mikeboldt.ca or instagram @thatmikeboldt.
Mike is offering a SIGNED copy of Find Fergus! For a chance to win, comment on this post and/or create a post or RT a post about this interview on Twitter. Be sure to tag Mike @MikeBoldt and Tammi @SauerTammi.
The winner of a copy of The Ghosts Went Floating, written by Kim Norman and illustrated by Jay Fleck, is Claire Noland. Congratulations!