Monday, February 22, 2010

Review #61: Crazy Hair

Dad:  What book are we reading?
Gracie (age 9):  "Crazy Hair."
Dad:  And the cover says "From the award-winning creators of 'The Wolves in the Walls.' "
Lily (age 7):  Wait.  The "Wolves in the Walls" guys made this?  Oh my goodness!!
Dad:  You like that one, eh?  So what are your impressions of "Crazy Hair"?
Lily:  It's crazy.
Isaac (age 11):  Crazy.
Gracie: (whispering)  Dad, can you stop the recorder...
Dad:  Huh?  Why?
Gracie: (still whispering)  I can't say...
Dad:  Can't say what?
Gracie:  The book freaks me out a little bit.  But I don't want to say that, because it might hurt the author's feelings...
Dad:  I am willing to bet that Neil Gaiman can take it.
Gracie:  This book freaks me out.  It gives me goosebumps.
Dad:  What part of it?
Gracie:  Everything.
Isaac:  I like it!
Dad:  You must have never read "Wolves in the Walls" yet.
Gracie:  Oh, yes I did.  It was awesome.
Dad:  That one didn't bother you...  but this one does???  I think "Wolves in the Walls" is the scariest children's book on the planet!
Isaac:  It is probably the scariest children's book on the planet... but it's cool!
Dad:  And Gracie, "Crazy Hair" is the one that freaks you out?
Gracie:  It's just kind of creepy...
Dad:  What -- his hair was creepy, or the book was creepy?
Gracie:  The book.
Dad:  Which part?
Gracie:  It was freaky all along, but then at the end it got really creepy.
Dad:  How about you, Lily?  Did it freak you out?  You're the youngest one here...
Gracie:  That doesn't count!  She's the toughest, bravest one in the whole family!
Lily:  I thought it was cool.  But it does have a scary tiger with red eyes.
Dad:  Well, before we go any farther, how about you guys give us a recap of the story...
Isaac:  It's about this girl...
Gracie:  Bonnie.
Isaac: ...she's walking by, and she sees a guy who has this crazy, really long, extremely long, crazy hair.  And he tells her all about this stuff living in his hair.
Gracie:  That's just -- Okay, that's just wrong.  He's got people dancing in his hair.  And he doesn't care?
Dad:  I would love to have people singing and dancing on my head.
Isaac:  You would?
Dad:  Sure.  Then you'd always have music with you -- you wouldn't have to have an ipod.
Isaac:  That's true.
Gracie:  There are parrots, and pirates, and acrobats living in his hair.  And octopuses.
Isaac:  And hot air balloons and lions.
Lily:  I bet he even has an elephant in his hair.
Isaac:  I bet there were wolves in his hair-walls.
Dad:  He probably has a little of everything.
Gracie:  Does he have a pool?  And a jacuzzi?  Does he have a roller coaster?
Isaac:  Then Bonnie tries to comb the guy's hair, but a big fist of hair comes out and grabs her and pulls her into the hair.
Lily:  How did Bonnie all of a sudden shrink small enough to get in there?
Dad:  It's crazy.  The hair isn't logical.  But she doesn't really mind it.  She has adventures in there.
Isaac:  She does stuff like teaching the lions to rhyme.  Digging for buried treasure.  Teaching parrots naughty words.
Gracie:  Oh, that's bad.
Isaac:  I think these guys should keep making more books.  Just don't let Gracie see them.
Gracie:  I like "Wolves in the Walls" and "The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish."
Dad:  So what about Rapunzel?  She had crazy hair.
Gracie:  Rapunzel's hair does not have lions, circus people, and parrots that say naughty words in it.
Dad:  That's true.  But Gracie, there's gold coins in his hair!  Treasure!
Gracie:  How would the people in his hair use it?  There's nothing to buy in there.
Dad:  Carousel rides.
Gracie:  You can get those for free.  Money wouldn't matter... unless he's got a Walmart in his hair.
Dad:  Maybe he does.  He's got everything else.
Isaac:  It is kind of freaky hair.
Dad:  Now, is it the poem that freaks you out, or is it the pictures?
Gracie:  If you had illustrated it, you would have done it in bright colored pencils.  This guy does it in weird chunky thingies.
Dad:  The poem is just as strange as anything Dr. Seuss wrote.  But Dr. Seuss pictures are silly.  If someone had illustrated this with silly pictures, would it still have freaked you out?
Gracie:  No, not really.
Dad:  Aha!  So maybe it's not so much the words, but the pictures?  Maybe it's not Neil Gaiman.  Maybe it's Dave McKean who is freaky...
Isaac:  Where do you think the illustrator got all this hair?
Dad:  Do you think he used real hair in the illustrations?
Isaac:  I think so.
Dad:  I'm wondering if it's computer hair.
Gracie:  I'm just still wondering how that guy's hair got so long.
Dad:  Tell me about these illustrations.
Lily:  Do you want to know my favorite picture?  It's the one with the little, cute bear in the hair... the bear with the comb.  Cute.
Dad:  So not all the pictures are "freaky."
Gracie:  In some parts it looks like the artist cut things out.  In some parts it looks like he drew them on the computer.  And some parts it looks like paint.
Dad:  Do you know what that's called?
Gracie:  Collage.
Dad:  I was going to say "Mixed Media."  That means it's not just one material.  He probably mixed lots of things together to make the pictures.
Isaac:  Yeah... that hair looks digital.  Dad, I think you are right.
Dad:  So you've seen their three books... "Wolves," "Goldfish," and "Crazy Hair."  Is there anything those three books have in common?
Isaac:  They are all kind of...
(long pause)
Gracie:  ...Odd.
Isaac:  Strange.  Different.  Crazy.  Good crazy.
Gracie:  Are you sure no one will be offended?
Dad:  What do you think... Is it okay for people to have differing opinions?  Or does everyone have to like the same things?
Gracie:  Well, I like chocolate, and Andrea says she doesn't like it.  Chocolate is one of my favorite things!
Dad:  And besides... Isaac, Lily, and I all like this book.  Three against one.
Gracie:  Hey.
Dad:  People can have different tastes.  We can still all get along!
Gracie:  Not all books have to be sweet and cuddly.
Isaac:  There's a place for weird books.  Weird books are cool books.  I like these books.

crazy hair about to grab Bonnie, by Gracie

crazy hair guy, by Isaac

taking a treasure chest to a Walmart inside the crazy hair, by Lily

Author: Neil Gaiman
(see Neil Gaiman read Crazy Hair)
Illustrator: Dave McKean
Published, 2009: Harper Collins
Like it?  Find it...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Review #60: You Are Special

Lily (age 6):  "You Are Special."
Isaac (age 11):  By Max Lucado.
Gracie (age 9):  And illustrations are by... Sergio Martinez.
Isaac:  That's a long name.
Gracie:  I love this book.  It's got a sweet ending.  It just makes me feel happy inside.
Lily:  It's about a little wooden guy named Punchinello.  He is a Wemmick.  A Wemmick is a wooden man that this carpenter makes.
Isaac:  The carpenter builds all the little Wemmicks.
Gracie:  He's their "Maker Dude."
Isaac:  He's their creator.
Gracie:  How did he make them come to life and talk and stuff?
Isaac:  With his magic touch.
Lily:  Punchinello has a big nose.  And no one likes him.
Gracie:  People don't like him because he doesn't know any tricks.  He can't say big fancy words.
Isaac:  And the Wemmicks put gray dot stickers on anyone they don't like.
Lily:  They put big stars on the people they do like.  Stars are for people that are cool.  Dots are for not-cool people.
Dad:  And Puncinello was covered in dots.
Lily:  They put big, big, big gray dots on him.  He thought he had not a speck of special.
Gracie:  Punchinello doesn't give anyone else dots or stars.  I wonder why?
Lily:  The Wemmick in this page is my favorite.
Isaac:  He looks like a little robot.
Lily:  He's a cute dude.
Gracie:  I think all the Wemmicks are cute.
Isaac:  I like that blue one.  He has a weird head.
Dad:  He's getting a lot of dots too.
Isaac:  Wow.  Maybe he's just blue from dots.
Dad:  So, what happens to poor Punchinello?
Gracie:  When Puncinello goes to see the woodcarver, he feels like no one wants him.
Isaac:  The carpenter said, "It doesn't matter what they think.  It only matters what I think."  Because the carpenter really loves all the Wemmicks.
Lily:  He was special because the carpenter made him.
Gracie:  Then Punchinello gets all happy.  He feels really happy.
Dad:  The woodcarver loves the Wemmicks, not for what they can do, but because he made them.  Because they belong to him.
Isaac:  It's like God.  Even though people might not like you, God made you and He loves you.
Gracie:  Yeah, it doesn't matter what other people think.  It just matters what God thinks.  Because He made us.
Dad:  Does it work the other way too?  What if people praise you for the things you do, but God isn't happy?  Whose opinion matters in that case?
Gracie:  It just matters what God thinks.  What about that guy in the Bible who turned into an animal?
Dad:  King Nebuchadnezzer?  Yep, he thought he was hot stuff.  Not because of God's love, but because of his own pride.  And did it matter if he thought himself great?
Gracie:  Nope, because he turned into an animal.
Dad:  Not an actual animal.  He turned into a wild man and crawled around like an animal.
Isaac:  And ate grass.
Gracie:  And he let his hair flow.
Dad:  So good or bad, whose is the only opinion we should concern ourselves with?
Isaac:  God.
Dad:  So that deals with how we view ourselves...  Can we also learn anything about how we should treat others?
Isaac:  Treat them specially.  Don't make fun of people.
Gracie:  The next person is just as special as us.
Dad:  Who would this be a good book for?
Isaac:  For people who think they are not very special.  God loves us, and this book reminds us of that.
Gracie:  And if you've got a sweet heart and you like little cutie guys, this is a good book for you too.
Dad:  So Lily, are you special?
Lily:  Mm-hm.
Dad:  Why?
Lily:  Because God made me.  Actually, Jesus and God made me.  They worked together.

Punchinello, by Isaac

covered in dots, by Gracie

stickers bounce off! by Lily

Author: Max Lucado
Illustrator: Sergio Martinez
Published, 1997: Crossway Books
Like it?  Find it

Monday, February 8, 2010

Review #59: If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now

Gracie (age 9):  Why in the world is this book called "If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now"?
Dad:  I was just going to ask you guys that.  What do you think?
Gracie:  I don't know.
Dad:  Usually when you see that phrase on signs or bumper stickers it means: "This is a good place to live -- don't you wish you lived here?  Ha ha, I live here, you don't."  That kind of thing.
Gracie:  What does that have to do with a giant monster?
Dad:  How about this...  we'll talk about the story first, and then maybe you'll be able to answer that question.
Gracie:  Okay.
Dad:  This book is by Ed Briant.  What did you guys think of the words in this story?
Lily (age 6):  They were blank.
Gracie:  There were no words!
Dad:  Yep, so it's a wordless book.
Gracie:  The characters do talk, but there are pictures inside the word bubbles instead of writing.
Isaac (age 11):  This was a graphic novel.
Dad:  I don't know about that...  It was kind of short for a graphic novel.  "Novel" usually signifies something longer...
Gracie:  It's a "Graphic Short-el"
Isaac:  The story is about this boy who reads a book about a forest.  He knows where that forest is, so he runs over there, but he can't find any animals.  Then he sees a giant leaf pile, so he jumps in it.  But it actually wasn't a leaf pile.  It was a Leafy Beast.
Lily:  A monster man!  A monster dude!
Gracie:  They jump in leaf piles together.  They read a book together.
Isaac:  Then he asked if the monster could show him where all the animals were.  They find the animals, but there was a boom and a crash and all the animals ran away.
Lily:  People were cutting down all the trees and turning it into buildings.  They were turning the forest into a town.
Gracie:  The boy tells his mom and dad "I found a Leafy Beast!"
Isaac:  The parents think their son is a weirdie.
Lily:  Then the boy grows up.  He doesn't remember about the leafy monster any more.
Isaac:  Now he has a kid.  He takes his kid to different forest, but they still can't find animals.  Then the kid hears something -- it was all the animals.  Then the kid turns around, and there was Leafy Beast.
Dad:  Why do you think only kids can see him?
Gracie:  He hides when adults come.
Dad:  Why?
Gracie:  They might scream and shoot their rifles at him.
Dad:  What did you like best about the book, Lily?
Lily:  My favorite part of the book was the leaf monster.
Dad:  Why?
Lily:  Because he's a monster.
Dad:  It's fun to create monsters.  You can design them any way you want.
Lily:  Yeah, because they are not real.  But they might be real.  No one knows...
Dad:  How about you, Gracie?
Gracie:  I like the way the illustrator paints.  He doesn't do it very careful.  Sometimes he gets a little bit out of the lines.  And sometimes he doesn't go all the way to the lines.
Dad:  Does that make you feel good knowing that grownups paint like that?
Gracie:  Yes.
Dad:  On purpose even!
Gracie:  There's something I didn't like.  I didn't like the fact that they had to turn the forest into a city.
Dad:  That happens sometimes, doesn't it.  I'm sure before our house was built here, this would have been a woodsy area.
Isaac:  Well, we have a little area in our backyard that is saved for nature.  Remember all those trees?  It's like a little tiny forest in our backyard.
Dad:  Yeah, it's good that the people who built this house didn't tear all the trees up.  Do you think there are any leaf monsters back there?
Isaac:  No.  I've been back there too often.  I would know.
Gracie:  I've searched every part of that forest, and there's not.  I wish there was though.
Dad:  So back to your original question...  Why do you think this book is called "If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now"?  Any ideas?
Lily:  Because I wish I lived with a leafy monster.
Isaac:  It has to do with the forest.  If you lived in the forest, you'd be there already.
Dad:  What about you guys?  Would you rather live in a big city, or out in nature?
Gracie:  I'd like to live out with animals.  But every year I would have to order twenty thousand shipments of bug spray.
Isaac:  These are mostly guesses about the title.
Gracie:  Maybe the author can tell us what it means.
Isaac:  Exactly what it means.
Gracie:  I have words for Mr. Ed Briant.  Can you, like, email us or something and tell us what in the world the title has to do with this book?  Or something?
Isaac:  We're still trying to figure it out.

leaves and leafy beast, by Isaac

boy riding leafy beast, by Lily

drawing with leafy beast, by Gracie

Author/Illustrator: Ed Briant
Published, 2009: Roaring Brook Press
Like it? Find it

Monday, February 1, 2010

Interview #4: Sara Henderson

I have loved listening to the kids do these author interviews!  They are so much fun.  Just real people talking.  Real authors, real kids, and all the funny tangents that a person could never predict.

I'm delighted to share a conference-call-style conversation we recently had with Sara Henderson.  A couple of years ago Sara wrote a great series of "I Can Read" books about a little dog--her little dog--named Howie.  I had the pleasure of illustrating them.  After the first four books were finished up, we exchanged a few brief emails, but this is the first time we've ever spoken together.  And it was a hoot - Thanks Sara!

(Portrait of Mrs. Henderson by Gracie)

Dad:  Before we get to the interview, who can tell our readers about the "Howie" books?
Lily (age 6):  Howie is a little doggie who gets into lots of messes.  His fur is white and curly and he's really cute!  A kid named Emma is his owner, and everyone always says, "Emma! Your dog is getting into trouble!"
Dad:  Does Howie try to get into trouble?
Lily:  He just wants to have fun.
Isaac (age 11):  Or wants a hug.  Or wants to play.  Or wants to get out of a tea party.
Gracie (age 9):  He's a puppy.  It's his job to make messes.  It's how God makes puppies.
Dad:  What did we learn about Howie when we visited Mrs. Henderson's website?  Did she just make Howie up out of her imagination?
Gracie:  Howie is a real dog.
Lily:  And he lives with the creator.
Gracie:  Yeah, he lives with Mrs. Henderson.
Dad:  Anything else you want to say about the books?
Gracie:  The books have easy words.  They are beginner readers.  And each book has a verse at the beginning and a lesson about God at the end.
Lily:  And the books turned into Spanish.
Dad:  Yep, they later came out with bilingual additions as well.  But they changed Howie's name to "Fido!"
Gracie:  So if anyone out there can read Espan-u-el, you are welcome to enjoy the Howie books also.
Dad:  "Espan-u-el"?
Gracie:  Yeah.  That's how you say "Spanish" in Spanish.
Isaac:  Español?
Gracie:  Yeah.  Español.
Dad:  Thanks guys!  And now it's time for our interview with Mrs. Henderson!
Sara Henderson:  Hi everybody!
Kids:  Hi!!!
Dad:  We're excited -- we've been waiting all day for this.
Gracie:  Woohoo!  Woohoo!
Sara Henderson:  Is that Lily or Gracie?
Dad:  That's Gracie.  If you hear a goofball, it's probably Gracie.
Sara Henderson:  Then she is just like Howie.
Gracie:  Ha Ha HA!  Wait.  Is that supposed to be a compliment?
Sara Henderson:  Yes, it is...
Gracie:  Can we talk to Howie?
Sara Henderson:  Well, Howie doesn't really talk.  Howie whines a lot.
Gracie:  Can we whine to Howie?
Sara Henderson:  Ha ha ha...  Howie only does that when he wants to, not on command.  He was just right here...  Now he is probably in the other room sneaking into something he shouldn't get into.
Gracie:  In real life, does Howie do all the things that he does in the books?
Sara Henderson:  That's a great question.  Howie has been to one tea party, and he absolutely hated it.
Gracie:  Ha ha ha!
Sara Henderson:  My granddaughters dressed him up, and he had a feather boa, and they tried to put a hat on him, and he shook the hat off, and he put his legs on the tea table.  He did not like it at all.  When Howie started tearing things up, we took him out of there.
Isaac:  Was there something that inspired the grocery store book?
Sara Henderson:  He's never been in a grocery store, but he goes into the pet store.  Pet stores let dogs come in if they are on a leash.  And Howie runs around like a crazy man!  So I thought: What if Howie was in a people store?  And off a leash?  Oh my word!  He knocks stuff over in the pet store - I can't imagine what he would do in a grocery store.
Gracie:  In the shopping book, he eats this whole tub of candy corn!
Sara Henderson:  Oh, if he could, Howie would eat so much candy.  But candy is not good for dogs.  He has gotten into Christmas candy before, and then he threw up everywhere.
Lily:  I just remembered something!  About Christmas!
Gracie:  That same thing happened to Lily on Christmas!
Sara Henderson:  Oh no!
Lily:  But it was cranberry tea.
Gracie:  She threw up all over everything.
Dad:  You guys are like Howie, huh?
Gracie:  It was gross!
Dad:  That probably wouldn't make a very good Howie book though.
Sara Henderson:  Let's see... "Howie Throws Up."  No, that doesn't sound like a good title...
Gracie:  "Howie at the Vet!"
Sara Henderson:  I do have a whole list of ideas for more Howie books, and one of them is "Howie Goes to the Vet."
Lily:  Yeah!
Sara Henderson:  Howie doesn't like the vet anymore.  He used to, but he had surgery last year, so now he doesn't like the vet.
Gracie:  I once had surgery.  I cracked a hole in my head.
Sara Henderson:  You had a hole in your head?
Dad:  Well, now...  it wasn't surgery.  And not a hole in your head.  Gracie can be a bit dramatic.
Sara Henderson:  I don't know...  I like that story.
Dad:  She can embellish a bit.  She made a small slice in her scalp and had to get staples.
Gracie:  I had gotten this new dollhouse, and there was a space in the middle of it.  I was really little then, and I could just squeeze my body through and put my arms out the windows.
Sara Henderson:  Like Alice in Wonderland... Ha ha...  Cool!
Gracie:  I tipped over and smashed my head on our side table.  I screamed, and Daddy rushed me to the doctors.
Sara Henderson:  Well, Howie had to have staples once too.
Gracie:  Me and Howie are more alike than I thought.
Isaac:  How did we get talking about this anyway?
Sara Henderson:  This is kind of fun actually!  It's like being in school...  like chatting with the kids during kindergarten lunch duty!
Dad:  We are going to have to put a warning label above this interview!  It's getting pretty graphic.  We've got blood...  we've got throwing up...
Sara Henderson:  Hey, that's fun stuff to talk about.  Isaac, have you had any injuries?
Dad:  Mmm... he had his tonsils out.
Gracie:  He also had a mole removed!
Sara Henderson:  Ha ha hah ha haa....
Lily:  And it was picture day at church.
Sara Henderson:  Oh no, on picture day!
Dad:  We've talked an awful lot about YOU kids in this interview so far...
Sara Henderson:  Oh, but I'm interested!  Kids are my thing, you know.
Gracie:  We can tell.
Lily:  Do you like hanging out with kids?
Sara Henderson:  I taught Kindergarten for 10 years, and I taught 2nd grade for 6 years, and right now I also teach 6th graders.  When I was teaching Kindergarten, some of the kids had trouble learning to read.  So I would write stories for them to help them, and that's where the Howie books came from.
Dad:  So Mrs. Henderson's students got to hear these stories before all the rest of us!
Sara Henderson:  Interestingly, when I read them the published books, they remembered the stories we used in class, and they said, "What happened to the real ones?"
Gracie:  What happened to the real what?
Dad:  Her first drafts were probably different from the published versions.  Editors make suggestions, so I'm sure there were changes from her first drafts.
Isaac:  Just like you have to keep re-drawing your sketches, Dad?
Dad:  Yep.  Changes happen on the art side of bookmaking too.
Gracie:  Do you remember how the first version went?  Can you tell it to us?
Sara Henderson:  I do remember.  The stories are very similar--they just use some different words.  They originally had rhyming choruses almost like a song.  When I first wrote the stories, the publisher said, "We love them!  Now... can you rewrite them without any rhyme at all?"  So I rewrote them and took all the rhyme out.  Then they said, "Well, we want you to put some of the rhyme back in."  So I wrote them again, and I put some of the rhyme back in.  And then they said, "Well... we were hoping you would put the rhyme in this place and not that place."  So I rewrote them again, and I put the rhyme in this place and not that place."  And then we still had to change it more times.
Dad:  Yeah guys, lots of work can be involved in crafting a story.
Sara Henderson:  Rewriting is very important.  In my school we have a Writer's Workshop unit, and students do a lot of their own rewriting.  They are not fond of it, so I talk to them about rewriting the Howie books.  I explain what a long process it can be and how important it is.
Gracie:  I know that you are a principal now too!
Sara Henderson:  Yes, that's right!
Gracie:  Since you are a principal, and you are also a book writer, how do you find the time to write your books when you are always in the principal's office?
Sara Henderson:  I am always in the principal's office.  You're right.  This is very sad, but it is hard to find time to write.  When I was working on the Howie books I wrote on the weekends.  Usually most weekends.  I haven't worked on any of my own writing lately because I have been writing curriculum for my school for the past year.
Lily:  Do you have any ideas for more Howie books?
Sara Henderson:  Oh, I have lots of ideas!
Gracie:  Yea!!!
Sara Henderson:  I thought we should have Howie in every season.  Because in the winter he is so crazy -- he goes on the top of the biggest snowbank, and falls through, and he can't get out, and I have to go outside and rescue him.  Then he goes back, and he dives in head first, and I have to go back out and rescue him again.
Gracie:  Hee hee ha!
Sara Henderson:  I thought we could have a book about Howie in the winter, and Howie in the summer... all the different seasons.
Dad:  Four more books right there.
Lily:  What about the fall?
Sara Henderson:  In the fall, Howie likes to run through all the leaves just like kids do.  Only he gets full of burrs, and he doesn't like that.
Gracie:  I once got burrs in my hair.
Isaac:  Once I was walking, and then I looked down, and I was covered with burrs five inches up my legs.
Sara Henderson:  Do you guys have a dog?
Lily:  No.  We don't have any pets.  All our pets died.
Dad:  And we have a pretty full house as it is.
Gracie:  We don't need any pets.
Sara Henderson:  Well, I was going to offer some cats to you...
Gracie:  Never mind what I just said!  I want a kitty!
Sara Henderson:  Howie is the best kitten babysitter you ever saw.  He lets them climb up him like a jungle gym.  And our little kitten wraps herself around his leg, and he walks around the house with her just hanging on his leg.
Gracie:  We do that with Daddy!  We sit on his feet, grab his legs, and he walks around the house carrying us.  And he does dances and it's awesome.
Dad:  Then I guess I'm like Howie too.
Gracie: I have a question.  What is your favorite book?
Sara Henderson:  I like Beverly Cleary's books...  Ramona...
Gracie:  Ramona and Beezus?!
Sara Henderson:  When I read those books to my students, they always loved Ramona because she did all the naughty things they would have liked to have done.
Gracie:  We like those books too!
Sara Henderson:  Howie is the Ramona of the dog world!  The publisher was reluctant to have him doing so many naughty things in the books.  But for me that is part of his charm--he never means to be naughty.  Just like Ramona.  When I explained how he was just like Ramona, they got it and left the parts in where he makes messes.  Can you imagine how the books would have been without them?
Isaac:  Which is your favorite Howie book?
Sara Henderson:  My favorite is the "Shopping" one.
Gracie:  Me too!
Sara Henderson:  The one that I thought was least exciting was "Howie Finds a Hug," but I think that one is selling the most!  I find that surprising.
Dad:  We have a 4-year old named Elijah, and "Howie Finds a Hug" is definitely his favorite.  He brings it to me over and over.  But he won't let me read the part where Howie is sad -- he tries to flip it to the happy page before I'm done.  He feels really, strongly, emotionally connected to Howie!
Gracie:  I have a question.  Why did you pick my Dad to illustrate your books?
Sara Henderson:  Well, if I had known about your dad I would have picked him.  But I didn't pick him -- the publisher did.  Didn't your dad do a nice job drawing Howie?
Gracie:  Yeah.
Sara Henderson:  I thought the pictures looked great.  I didn't have any idea what Howie would look like when he was drawn by the artist.  And when I got my first copies of the book, I was so excited to see how your dad made Howie look!  He looks just how he acts.
Dad:  When I first heard about the project, I didn't know Howie was any particular breed.  As you know, there's nothing in the text that says he's a Bichon.
Sara Henderson:  When did you find out?
Dad:  I sent puppy samples to Zondervan, the publisher... 3 different drawings, 3 different styles, 3 different dogs.  They liked the samples and told me, "Actually the author had a Bichon in mind, can you work up one of those?"  At that point we were on the other side of the country on vacation, and I didn't have my computer or scanner.  But I borrowed enough stuff that I could send a few sketches back, and I got the assignment.
Sara Henderson:  Well, I thought they were fabulous.  They look just like Howie did when he was a puppy.  That's very cool to me.  Howie is a cute boy.
Dad:  Well thanks!
Sara Henderson:  But do you know what kids?  And you can't tell Howie this...  Bichons are not very smart.  They are very friendly, but they are kind of doofy.
Gracie:  And cute!
Sara Henderson:  Very cute.  Kids love him.  He's very, very sweet.  He's just not a dog that can learn a lot of tricks.
Gracie:  So he can't jump through flaming hoops?
Sara Henderson:  No...  Ha ha ha!  He can't!  He tried to jump through the Christmas tree once.
Gracie:  Did that work?
Sara Henderson:  No.
Isaac:  Did you ever think that your books would be turned into Spanish?
Sara Henderson:  You know what I can't figure out...  If I went and lived in a Spanish speaking country, I would have my same name.  Why did they change Howie's name to "Fido"?
Isaac:  Maybe Howie's name means something else in Spanish.
Sara Henderson:  I thought about that.  I asked a friend of mine who runs an orphanage down in Mexico, and she couldn't think of anything.
Dad:  We thought that change was funny too.
Sara Henderson:  But no, Isaac, I didn't imagine the books being turned into Spanish.  Although, do you know what I did think they might be turned into someday...  a movie...  a video game...  a great big Howie balloon in the Thanksgiving parade floating above New York city...
Dad:  Dreaming big!  Let's hope so!  Well, what do you guys want to say to Mrs. Henderson?
Isaac:  Thank-you!
Sara Henderson:  It was a great pleasure to talk to all of you.  You are just wonderful.  I'd like to meet you in person someday.
Dad:  Hopefully we can do that!
Isaac:  That would be cool.
Gracie:  Yeah!  Thank-you for talking!
Lily:  Thank-you!
Sara Henderson:  You are so welcome.

Howie in the garden, by Gracie

Howie, by Isaac

Howie snoozing, by Lily

Author: Sara Henderson
Illustrator: Aaron Zenz
Published, 2008: Zondervan
Like 'em? Please find them

Time for a Giveaway!  We are happy to give one of our readers a set of the 4 Howie books, signed by both author and illustrator.  To be entered in the drawing, just leave a comment on this post.  On Feb 14th we'll randomly select a winning name -- and that person can choose whether they want the original Howie 4-pack or the bilingual Spanish/English 4-pack.  Good luck!

As a closing treat, here are a few photos Mrs. Henderson sent us of the real Howie!