Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle (and a Giveaway!)

Kristy is not my only friend to have a book launch this week!   Aaron Zenz, author and illustrator of The Hiccupotamus, also had a PB hit the shelves on Tuesday.

Here he is to talk about his new release:

I know authors whose chapter book ideas ultimately became picture books.  And I know of television pitches that instead became graphic novels.  But how's this for a transformation: my most recent book has its roots in... a coloring book!

Back in 2003 I was busy creating art for fun activity books.  One of my assignments was a coloring book simply titled "Baby Animals."  For my own entertainment, I decided to set a challenge for myself.  Could I design the book so that each page had an animal with a unique baby name?  For example, one coloring page would feature a "Calf," another page a "Chick," another page a "Cub."  Could I do 24 pages with no repeats?

Once I started researching, I was astounded at the baby animal names I discovered!  Now, we all know that baby dogs are "Puppies" and baby cats are "Kittens."  But do you know what baby platypuses have been called?  Are you ready for this?  Puggles!  I kid you not!  Baby mice are "Pinkies," baby oysters are "Spats," and baby eels are "Elvers."  I fell in love with this wonderful nonsense, rooted in reality.

After the coloring book was done, these wonderful words stayed with me.  The phrase "I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle" popped into my head, and I knew I had a children's book.  I didn't care what form it took.  I love nonsensical words, and I just wanted to author a book with the word "Puggle" in the title.

To organize these wonderful critters I'd collected, I took my list of 54 baby animals and worked them into a poem.  Here's a verse:

I'm a PUGGLE, you're a PUGGLE
What's a CRIA?
Who's a JOEY?

I wrote my story in 2005 and started shopping it around soon after.  Over the years I created a variety of potential art styles for it.  Whichever style was ultimately chosen didn't matter much to me.  I just wanted to author a book with "Puggle" in the title.

At last, the fine folks at Walker Books decided to publish "I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle."  It is interesting (and highly unusual) to note that over all those years and after all those pitches, the story has remained nearly identical to Draft Number One set down on December 21, 2005.  A few animals have been shuffled around or swapped out.  But the book has remained virtually unchanged.  With two big exceptions:

Ha ha!  You can't win them all.  In the end it was decided that a cluster of baby ducks has much more appeal than a platypus and an echidna.  A platypus and a what???  My point exactly.  I wholeheartedly agree with the change to "Chuckling Ducklings."  And at least I get to use the line "I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle" inside the book right?  Oh wait... that was change number two:

It's the one and only line of text from the whole book that fell under the editor's knife.  But on the bright side... we've jumped from two appearances of the word Puggle on the spread to three appearances!  Yes!  More Puggle for the buck!

So look for inspiration everywhere -- you may find your muse in a coloring book or in the name of a baby animal.  And as you craft your works, I suggest you cling tightly to a passion (nonsense words!) but hold loosely to specific details (formats, titles, lines of text).

Wow!  Great story.  Thanks, Aaron.  To enter to win a copy of Chuckling Ducklings, just "Like" my Three Ninja Pigs page on Facebook.

You get an entry just for "liking" the page. You get an extra entry if you leave a comment (there or here) Winner will be picked Monday, Feb 22nd at 10:00 AM EST.  (Entrants must be U.S. residents)


Laura Pauling said...

I love hearing where authors find their ideas. So many times it's rooted in research like that. Cute book!

Unknown said...

Oh my goodness. Those are adorable. :)

Catherine Denton said...

This books sounds amazing! Finding new words is a hobby of mine and I would've never guessed all those differing names for baby animals. Too fun!

Megan K. Bickel said...

Love it! This looks totally adorable and fun! Great post about inspiration too!

Meg K said...

From a marketing perspective, I agree with the cover change - just put a chick or a rabbit on any cover, and the title can go on an Easter and/or Spring display in a bookstore. Unfortunately, the platypus is not associated with a season or holiday. Yet.

Boysnberries' Brambles said...

Hooray for Aaron!!!

Carla said...

I am LOVING these stories behind the books! I totally want to go buy "I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle" um...I mean, "Chuckling Ducklings!" I really like all the bizarre baby names and how it can teach kids about animals they might not know.


Kelly H-Y said...

Oh, that looks like a fun one ... and I loved his Hiccupotamus!

Larissa said...

What great pictures too!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Wow! What an inspiring and fun story.

Hardygirl said...

This is adorable! And, what a great source of inspiration.

I can't wait to figure out a way to use the word "puggle" in a sentence today.


Heidi Noel said...

I love Aaron Zenz and his bookiewoogie blog. What a fun give away.

Bethany said...

Hooray for fun words (especially when you use them to sneak in some learning too!). I'm a big fan of the whole Zenz family, their art is wonderful.

Z-Kids said...

Thanks Corey for having me come share my story-behind-the-story!

And to all who commented, thanks for your kind words! "Chuckling Ducklings" really was a dream project for me.

Now, who's excited for The Three Ninja Pigs? I am! I am!

- Aaron Zenz

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Corey, Thanks for sharing the behind the scenes side of publishing your books. It's really helpful to know how flexible you have to be.

Anonymous said...

This is adorable! I love picture books that begin with wordplay.

Meech said...

This blog post is now my favorite bit of inspiration. Ever. Thank you. :)