Lily (age 8): This book is called "Chuckling Ducklings."
Gracie (age 10): By Daddy Zenz! It is adorable. You have the cutest illustrations, Daddy.
Dad: Well, thank-you my dear. But perhaps you are biased.
Gracie: I think it's the cutest thing I've ever seen. Even if you weren't my dad, I would still say so.
Dad: Aw, thanks.
Isaac (age 12): Inside this book you'll find little baby animals. The book tells kids about baby animals and their names in a cute, fun way.
Dad: What are some of the baby animal names that most people would be familiar with?
Elijah (age 5): A baby rabbit is a "bunny."
Lily: A baby dog is called a "puppy," and a baby cat is called a "kitten."
Dad: How about some surprising names?
Lily: A baby llama is a "cria." I didn't even know that. I learned something.
Gracie: I know all the baby names. Because I memorized the book.
Dad: Well, what about when I was first working on the book?
Gracie: I didn't know a baby hare was called a "leveret."
Dad: My absolute favorite word in the book is "puggle." It might even be my favorite word in the world.
Gracie: A "puggle" is a baby platypus. Our new baby sister Maggie is a puggle too. We called her Puggle when she was in the womb. And, well, she also resembles a platypus. Kind of.
Dad: Ha ha ha...
Lily: I like the picture of the cubs stacked up upon each other.
Gracie: It's a cub tower. They're adorable.
Isaac: I like the baby raccoon cub. He's awesome.
Elijah: I like the tadpoles. They look like they are playing tag and having fun.
Isaac: I changed my mind. I like the tadpoles.
Gracie: Evie... there's an owl!
Evangeline (age 3): (gasp!) Owl!
Isaac: I changed my mind. I like the baby eel -- the "elver."
Evangeline: Owl, owl, owl, owl! Owl!
Isaac: I changed my mind again. I like the big puffy bird. I don't even know what it is. Is it a vulture or something?
Gracie: There are a whole bunch of birds boogie-ing by a tree.
Gracie: Evie's favorite page is the one in the back. The page that shows the heads of ALL the adorable baby animals from the book.
Lily: It's like a chart.
Gracie: "Giraffe -- Calf. Goat -- Kid. Goose -- Gosling."
Lily: On the top it tells the kind of animal, and on the bottom it tells the baby name.
Gracie: I like the chart too because you can see all the cuteness of the whole book together on just two pages.
Isaac: The names are in alphabetical order on the chart.
Dad: That way if someone is wondering, for instance, what a baby kangaroo is called, they can check the chart and see - "...H, I, J, K - Kangaroo.... Ah, it's called a 'joey.'"
Lily: My favorite animal is the chuckling duckling.
Dad: I know... You are the duck girl!
Dad: What else is special about this book and you and ducks? You and this book and ducks all come together somehow.
Lily: I'm dedicated to it.
Dad: Ha - you are dedicated to my book? Or is the book dedicated to you?
Lily: Ha ha ha hee hee... the book is dedicated to me! I've loved ducks ever since I was little teeny two year old.
Gracie: Even the lettering is fun in this book! Most books have just flat sentences in columns. But this book has bouncy lettering.
Dad: Yep, that style of lettering was included in my initial mock-up pitch.
Gracie: It adds to the fun, because the lettering does curves and jumps and is moving with the animals. It's really active.
Dad: How is "Chuckling Ducklings" different from "The Hiccupotamus"?
Isaac: "The Hiccupotamus" is more cartoony and funny. This one is more "educational" and "cute."
Gracie: Hey Dad! There's a purple hippo in this book too!
Dad: I know. I put him there.
Gracie: A purple and pink hippo!
Dad: Not very purple. He's colored a bit more realistically.
Gracie: Yeah, but he's cute. And he's purple all the same.
Lily: He's the Hiccupotamus' cousin.
Dad: Do you have any memories from when I was working on this book?
Lily: I remember going up into your office every morning to see all the pictures.
Dad: Yes, I work at night while the house is quiet.
Isaac: Every morning we'd go up there to see what picture you drew while we were sleeping.
Gracie: I can remember you looking up baby pigeon pictures and trying to find a way to take the ugliest bird in the world and make him cute. No offense to all you pigeon lovers.
Dad: Many baby animals are not naturally very cute. And some animals were more challenging to make cute than others. The toughest was the baby pigeon.
Isaac: Baby pigeons are the ugliest things ever.
Gracie: Everyone... look up a baby pigeon on the internet. You'll see why.
Lily: It makes me want to throw up.
Gracie: But Dad did a good job. His baby pigeon is adorable.
Isaac: Didn't you once have a crocodile in this book instead of the porcupine?
Dad: Yep, but there was a mistake in the book. I said that a baby crocodile was a "crocklet," but it wasn't true. I had gotten some bad information.
Gracie: What is it really called?
Dad: A "hatchling." And I already had some other hatchlings in the book - the baby tortoises. So we swapped the crocodile out for a baby porcupine. But it had been very cute. It was a baby crocodile with a ton of baby mice sleeping on his head.
Gracie: But you can't do a ton of little mice sleeping on a porcupine! That would hurt.
Dad: They'd get skewered.
Isaac: I remember when you did the endpapers. You had to go to the store for colored paper. And all the paper was bent!
Dad: That's right! I forgot about that. All the yellow paper had big creases in it. You and I went through every single piece to find the ones with the least amount of wrinkles in them.
Isaac: And the ones we picked out still had a lot of folds in them.
Dad: Fortunately it doesn't show in the final prints. Also interesting, that was the first time I've ever used my colored pencils on colored paper.
Isaac: And it worked out great.
Dad: I figured it was safe to experiment with colored paper since it was just endpapers. Now that I know how it looks, I'll have to do it again sometime.
Gracie: I bet you would have loved to use colored paper on the pages with underwater animals. The backgrounds are all blue. I remember you coloring in all that water. You were sighing, and you were only one third of the way done.
Dad: It did take a long time. But you're right - now that I know colored paper works fine, I'd probably use that instead.
Isaac: How long did it take?
Dad: It took one hour just for half a page of blue background. So for a two page spread...
Gracie: Four hours!?!
Dad: Yep, four hours to lay down the blue, and then another hour to touch up the edges around where the animals and background met up. So five hours just for the blue background.
Lily: Wow. I could not stand that.
Dad: Colored pencil art is a lengthy process. At least the way I do it.
Gracie: You did the pictures with Prismacolor colored pencils.
Isaac: They are better than any other kind of colored pencil. But they are really expensive.
Dad: Should we wrap this up?
Isaac: Please, please buy the book!
Gracie: So we can afford food!
Dad: Ha ha ha... Every purchase of a book feeds a Z-Kid for a day...
Gracie: Hey Dad, can you give us a new scoop on what your next book is going to be? I already know what it is. But can you give the readers out there a scoop?
Dad: Well, "Chuckling Ducklings" is the first book in a series -- at least two more books are coming, hopefully even more after that. This one was about baby animal names. The next one is going to be about "daddy" animal names -- like bull, boar, and gander. And paired with that book will be one about "mommy" names -- like doe, ewe, and hen. So there's more animal fun coming along! How's that for a "scoop"?
Gracie: That's a good scoop! I was talking like a reporter there. Gracie Zenz, signing out!
bear cub, tortoise hatchlings, hummingbird chick, lamb, and duckling; by Lily
oyster spat and tortoise hatchling, by Isaac
oyster spat and tortoise hatchling, by Isaac
Author/Illustrator: Aaron Zenz
Published, 2011: Walker Books
Like it? Here it is!!!
Time for the Great Chuckling Duckling Giveaway!
It's not every day that your second authored book comes into the world! To celebrate the release of "Chuckling Ducklings" and to thank our great readers, we're giving away some one-of-a-kind prizes. To be entered, just leave a comment. Easy-peasy!
Within that comment simply mention your favorite animal. Each randomly selected winner will receive an original sketch by Aaron Zenz depicting a baby version of your animal! Make sure your contact email is accessible (either by clicking the link back to your own profile page, or included in your comment.) One entry per person/email.
We'll select a winner out of every 5 comments. Yes! One in five! So... one person from comments 1-5 will win some original art. One person from comments 6-10 will also win. On and on, every five comments. If by chance we get up beyond 100, at that point the count will continue on at one out of every 10 comments.
On top of that, we will randomly select THREE people to win a signed copy of "Chuckling Ducklings"! The Giveaway will end on March 20 with an announcement of the winners. Good luck! Spread the word!
Update: see the winners here!