For an author or illustrator, there are few things in life more fun than getting that box containing copies of your next new book. One of the things that IS more fun however, is getting that box when the house is full of kids. I thought I'd turn the recorder on and capture those first chaotic moments and the candid discussion that followed...
Dad: Here we go! What do you think is in this package?
Gracie (age 8): "Tickle Monster!"
Evangeline (age 1): Aiyeee!
Dad: Even Evie is excited.
Isaac (age 10): If there's a messed up copy, can I have it?
Dad: Here they are... Ta-da!
Lily (age 6): I want one!
Gracie: (immediately reading) "Don't worry about the kooky Cyclops..."
Lily: I get three copies!
Dad: Hey, Isaac, here's a scratched one for you...
Isaac: It is? Yes!
Dad: It's just got a scratch on the back.
Isaac: Nuts. I was hoping it would be really messed up, like the cover would be on upside down.
Gracie: (still reading) "Don't worry about the boogie-woogie Boogeymen..."
Isaac: Bookie Woogie?!
Dad: Boogie-woogie. Not "bookie."
Elijah (age 3): Mommy, can you read me this?
Gracie: (still reading aloud) "...four-eyed, three-horned, little, furry Tickle Monster!"
Lily: (reading aloud simultaneously from a different page) "Don't worry about the kooky Cyclops..."
Mom: (also reading aloud simultaneously) "...dilly-dallying Dragons!"
Elijah: Ha ha ha!
Dad: Hey, for the review, tell everyone what makes this board book special...
Gracie: Because it's got holes in it for your fingers to finish the pictures.
Isaac: They made the holes too big.
Dad: They are rather big. It must be for us grownups with fat fingers, rather than for kids. Wow - even my thumb could fit in there with extra room.
Gracie: Aww, Dad. For the boogie-woogie Boogeymen, you stick your finger through their nostrils! That's gross!
Isaac: Ha ha ha ha!
Dad: Kids will love that, won't they?
Isaac: I like it!
Gracie: It's snozz!
Isaac: It's nose hairs!
Gracie: My favorite is the Troll page. Look - your finger makes his tongue!
Isaac: Hey, I know... since the holes are so wide, maybe they are for your big toe to go in!
(Isaac tries it... Hysterical laughter follows)
Dad: Wow - that sure looks disgusting! Ha ha ha... Yikes! Your toe is the perfect size though. The Zenz children have discovered an alternate way to use this book.
Gracie: Little kids, if your fingers are too small for the holes, stick your big toe in there!
Dad: Yuck - don't stick your tongue in there.
Isaac: Does it work?
Gracie: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Dad: Wonderful... Now Gracie is sticking her tongue into the hole to make the Troll's tongue. Set that copy aside... I'm sending some of these to other people, and we don't want them to get that one!
Gracie: Yea! I can keep this one!
Dad: Yes, I do believe that's our copy now. No more tongues in these.
Lily: I want to stick my tongue in one!
Elijah: Look! I am sticking my tongue in here!
Dad: Wonderful. That one is ours now too.
Gracie: Ha ha hah ha ha!
Dad: We've only had this book in our house for 5 minutes and you've already found other wonderful applications. Hey - now Evie is eating it...
Kids: Hee hee ha haaah ha ha ha!
Dad: Well, it is a board book. That's why it's not made out of paper... so babies can chew on them.
Dad: So, there's the initial onslaught of reactions as everyone checks out the book. Who wants to review it now?
Lily: Isaac, Grace, everybody get a copy of Tickle Monster!
Elijah: This is Tickle Monster.
Isaac: It's written by Craig Yoe.
Dad: And illustrated by some guy.
Gracie: Illustrated by Daddy Zenz!
Dad: It says Daddy Zenz?
Gracie: Ooo... giant bubble wrap in the box! Isaac, share it!
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Dad: Are you done with the bubble wrap?
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Dad: Should we review bubble wrap instead? How bouncy is it?
Lily: It's fun!
Gracie: Bubble wrap is awesome!
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Isaac: Let's read "Tickle Monster" a second time!
Gracie: We have a special guest today.
Dad: Who is the special guest?
Dad: Ho-ho, the special guest is me? But I'm here every week.
Gracie: You are our special guest because you are the illustrator.
Dad: You guys have wanted to do an interview for the blog. Do you want to practice on me, little roving reporters?
Isaac: How long did it take you to make it?
Dad: By now, I don't remember off the top of my head. There's so much time between when the art is done and the book comes out. But it was a pretty fast project. Under a month I think.
Gracie: Was it hard to think of the monsters?
Dad: It was - so - much - fun! It was probably the most fun book that I've ever worked on.
Isaac: I would think so.
Gracie: Was it hard to think of pictures to go with someone else's words?
Dad: Not too hard since all the characters are crazy creatures. Like a Boogeyman. Who knows what a Boogeyman looks like??? It could look like anything! So it was lots of fun. The part that did make the job tricky was that I couldn't stick the holes just anywhere. They've got to be in the same spot for every page. So even though I could make a Boogeyman look however I wanted, I had to draw it around the hole placements.
Isaac: Did you think you might put the holes on the eyes of the Boogeyman?
Dad: That's a good question. I actually didn't get to pick what part of the body the holes would be for.
Gracie: You didn't?
Dad: The author wrote the words, obviously. But there are also people called Art Directors and Publishers, and they told me where they wanted the holes.
Gracie: Like for the tails.
Dad: Right. For the Dragons, they said that the finger coming through the hole will be the tail. So I couldn't just put the hole on whatever part of the Dragon I wanted.
Gracie: What was the finger hole on the Cyclops supposed to be for?
Dad: What do you think?
Gracie: A horn!
Dad: Right! Good! You figured it out. I didn't know if it would be obvious that the Cyclops is supposed to have a single horn on his head. So for that page, in addition to what the publisher asked me for, I also drew some alternatives. I drew some where the finger would be the nose or the tongue. But they wanted to stick with a horn. And I'm very glad you knew it was a horn! That makes me feel better. I've been worrying about that.
Isaac: To tell you the truth, I had no idea what that was.
Dad: Well, what would you have guessed?
Isaac: I have no idea.
Gracie: What about on the Boogie-woogieman? Are your fingers supposed to be nose hairs or boogers or what?
Isaac: Ha ha ha!
Dad: I think that can be whatever you want. For that one, it's not so much that our fingers complete the picture. The holes in the book are just his nostrils.
Gracie: Maybe the Boogieman says, "I have a giant, fat worm in my nose!"
Dad: Well, he seems pretty happy about it!
Gracie: Hee hee heee hee!
Isaac: Did they give you any instructions about how the creatures were supposed to look? Or could you design that all by yourself?
Dad: I could make them look however I wanted. But the publisher had to approve it. And again, back to the Cyclops page... that was one where they didn't use my original design. Do you know what the word "Cyclops" means?
Gracie: One eye.
Dad: Right. I figured that for my Cyclops, the only thing necessary was to make sure he had just one eye. So the first Cyclops I drew was a little, alien, goo ball with one big eye. But the publisher wrote back and said they would rather it look like a traditional Cyclops with one horn coming out of its head, and your finger makes the horn.
Isaac: But not too many people would know what that was.
Dad: Well... Gracie knew!
Gracie: My favorite art in this book is the Tickle Monster.
Dad: He was really fun because a Tickle Monster can look like anything in the whole wide world. As opposed to a Dragon... a Dragon has to look like a Dragon.
Gracie: But a Tickle Monster could be a little globby thing with ten arms if you want.
Dad: It could be anything! The only thing I knew about the tickle monster from the text is that it had to have four eyes, three horns, and fur. Beyond that, I could do anything I wanted!
Isaac: I once made a tickle monster. I called it a Ticklafuss. And it was yellow and had really long wiggly arms and wiggly fingers.
Dad: No two people have the same imagination. If you guys had illustrated "Beware the Tickle Monster," this book would have looked totally different, wouldn't it?
Gracie: Yeah. My trolls would be little people with pointy ears and little green puffball outfits and little brown sandals and pointy green sailor hats made out of leaves.
Gracie: Daddy, if I had a choice between really meeting your trolls or the kind of trolls Isaac draws... then definitely, definitely your trolls!
Dad: Ha ha ha...
Isaac: What is wrong with my trolls? They just have giant clubs and axes and things.
Dad: My trolls don't look like they could kill you.
Isaac: Your Dragons look nothing like mine either. Yours have big horns that go floppy like bunny ears.
Lily: My favorite character is the baby Boogeyman. Because he's cuuuuuuuute.
Gracie: People usually think that things like Cyclops, Dragons, Monsters, Trolls would be scary. But in this book they are all cute! Because it's a baby book.
Lily: The Tickle Monsters are cute. They won't hurt you. Just tickle you. But you could laugh so much that you can't breathe.
Gracie: They are so furry! And they have big squiggly tickle arms! And little tentacles on the bottom!
Dad: They have lots of things they can tickle you with!
Lily: The baby Cyclops is cute, kind of.
Dad: Kind of?
Lily: He's not that cute because he has that thing coming out of his head. What is that? Maybe they have three ears.
Dad: You were out of the room when we were talking about that. It's a horn actually. Can you tell it's a horn?
Lily: Oh. Ummmmm...
Dad: Ha ha ha... well, Gracie knew...
Isaac: The Cyclopses look like goat thingamajiggers.
Gracie: They look like Mr. Tumnus but with Cyclops heads.
Dad: If you wanted one of these creatures for a pet, who would you pick?
Gracie: The dilly-dally Dragon. Because he's cute. Or maybe the kooky Cyclops. Because he's cute. Or maybe the baby Boogeyman. Because he's cute.
Dad: But baby Boogeymen grow up to be big Boogeymen.
Gracie: Well, he's still pretty cute when he grows up.
Isaac: Then you could stick your big toe in his nose. But don't pick a Troll. Trolls are always trouble.
Gracie: Especially the ones Isaac makes.
Isaac: I would pick the Dragon.
Dad: They grow up to be pretty big too. Look at the size of the mother compared to the trees.
Isaac: Whoa-ho-ho! Oh! That's a big dragon! I didn't notice the trees there! Okay, maybe not.
Lily: I would pick the baby Dragon anyway.
Dad: What would you do after he got big?
Lily: I would keep him outside.
Isaac: That Dragon wouldn't even fit in our yard.
Dad: What if he sat on our car?
Lily: Oh my goodness.
Dad: It would be flat as a pancake. Then if we wanted to go somewhere, we would have to sit on top of it, and he could throw it like a frisbee.
Isaac: That would make me sick. We could just ride on the Dragon. He'd only have to take one step and we would be wherever we wanted.
Dad: Any last thoughts?
Gracie: Read the book!
Isaac: And stick your big toe in it!
Lily: Or your tongue for the Trolls. Like this!
Dad: No more tongues. Hey - no more tongues...
Author: Craig Yoe
Illustrator: Aaron Zenz
Published, 2009: Running Press
Like it? Find it
How would you like a signed copy of "Beware the Tickle Monster!" A pristine copy, mind you... kept far away from the tongues and toes of the Z-Kids. Just leave a comment below between now and April 24, and we'll randomly select one of our visitors to win! Spread the word!