I'm really excited to have our first author visit to A Picture Book A Day. Bonny Becker is the author of A Visitor for Bear, winner of the E.B. White Read Aloud Award and Amazon's Picture Book of the Year. She has written three more Mouse and Bear books, including A Birthday for Bear, A Bedtime for Bear, and her latest release, The Sniffles for Bear, which we just featured in our blog last month.
I'm thrilled to have the chance to interview you, but a disclaimer here...it's my first interview ever...so here it goes:
1) Where did the idea for the Bear and Mouse characters come from?
BB: It started with Mouse. Oddly enough, I was actually thinking about how some people seem to have the same problem show up again and again in their lives. You know, the names and faces might change, but somehow they always end up with the bad boss or the bad boyfriend. Being a writer, I guess, the metaphor of a mouse who won’t go away popped into my head.
That seemed like such a fun idea that I immediately set out to find the right character for Mouse to torment. After running through some ideas—a lion, an elephant, a human—a bear came to mind. And I was off and running!
2) Do you identify with any of you characters?
BB: Oh, yes. One of my books is “An Ant’s Day Off.” I was a busy mom of two and working out of the home at the times. And I definitely wanted to be an ant taking the day off! Another book “Holbrook: A Lizard’s Tale” is definitely about my feelings about being an artist (writer).
I have a lot of Bear in me, but I have to admit I’m getting more and more Mouse-like as I get older. My kids tease me I’ll end up being one of those old ladies who wear Christmas sweaters.
3) Do you feel pressure to continue to come up with new ideas for Bear and Mouse stories? Are there more sequels on the works?
BB:There are two more Bear and Mouse books in the works for a total of six. And I do feel pressure to come up with new ideas. There are a lot of ways I can think of to torment poor Bear, but I wanted something a little bit fresh or different to happen with each book. I’m kind of moving Bear along in terms of becoming a social animal! So, I want to work with just the right ideas not necessarily the obvious ideas.
4) I find it really hard to decide but, which Bear and Mouse book is your favorite? Why?
BB: I find it hard, too. But I think it would be “A Visitor for Bear.” Probably because I love the way Mouse keeps popping up. It lends itself to a nice slap-stick build and I like how Mouse turns Bear around by just appreciating Bear.
5) What books influenced you as a picture book writer?
BB: Oh, boy, that’s a hard one. I read hundreds of picture books not only as a mom, but once I decided to try to write one, I would check out dozens of picture books at a time from the library. I particularly liked the “classics” from the 40s, 50s and 60s like “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, “Make Way for Ducklings” and “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey, the Little Bear books by Elsa Minarik, and authors like Dr. Suess, William Steig, and Arnold Lobel. There are many great writers and books in picture books.
One book I have to mention is “A Hole is to Dig” by Ruth Krauss. For no particular reason than that I liked it, I decided to type out the text of this book just to try to get a sense of how it worked. It was incredibly useful for me to do that. I feel like it helped me start to get the way rhythm and compression worked in picture books.
6) What are 3 books every adult should read to their kids?
BB: Aaack! This one is even harder. “Charlotte’s Web,” of course. The Narnia series. Of course, kids get exposure to these books already. Maybe something more obscure like “The Wind in the Willows” which my father read to us when we were little.
7) What will Bear and Mouse dress up as for Halloween?
BB: Ha! I may be too late in answering this in time for Halloween, but Mouse will be a pirate and Bear will refuse to dress up, but his hat will be so funny that people will think it’s his costume.