What a delight it is to host Elizabeth Rose Stanton today. Henny is one of my granddaughter’s favorite picture books so I am well familiar with Beth’s work. So pleased that she is here today to celebrate a brand new book!
THE POWER OF AN IMAGE or
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY WORDS
One day, not long after I came up with the idea for my picture book, HENNY, I doodle-painted—or, as I like to say, procrastidoodled (because I’m often doodling when I should be doing something else)— a pig. I threw him out to the Internet as one of my “daily” sketches, and left it at that.
Next thing I knew, my editor at Simon & Schuster wanted to know the story behind the little piggy with the red cowboy boots. The problem was, I didn’t have one.
I took a hard look at him. I decided a good start would be to name him Peddles since there he was standing on his own two feet. OK, so now he had a name and he had feet. Were they people-feet? No, I quickly realized that wouldn’t do. It was too close to the premise of Henny, my little chicken born with arms and, lest I be known as the author/illustrator of mutant farm animal stories, I’d better not go there, as they say. So I thought, instead of having people-feet, he would want people feet.
Now Peddles and I were off and running (pun intended)!
I pulled together a rough manuscript and book dummy, and soon had a new picture book deal.
Then things started to get complicated. I had Peddles wanting feet because he wanted to do things he saw people doing: swimming, riding, jumping, climbing, flying and dancing, and I felt I was on a roll with some funny scenes like, “If little girls could have pigtails and Mr. Butcher could have pig’s feet, why couldn’t Peddles have people-feet?” I was getting attached to these amusing pieces of the story but soon discovered, as I worked back and forth between the manuscript and book dummy, it was getting harder and harder for them to fit together in a way that made sense. I was stuck.
So I went back and revisited that little first painting. As I looked at it, I realized I’d been focusing on the wrong thing. It wasn’t about feet, or Peddles wanting them. It was about his ideas and his desire to try something new . . . and those little red cowboy boots were the vehicle.
Suddenly things made sense, especially when I remembered I had modeled the boots after a pair my son wore every day in preschool until he grew out of them. They represented for him the promise of doing something bigger and better than perhaps he was capable of, and I realized this is exactly what was going on for Peddles. The boots were his ticket to realizing his Big Idea.
I saw that I in fact had all the pieces. I just needed to change the focus, and rearrange things a bit. And, at the end of the day, all it took was to circle back to where I started.
Of course, things didn’t turn out for Peddles quite the way he’d anticipated, but Peddles’s discovery and love of those little boots proved to be the link not only to his big dream (to dance), but to his community of friends and, ultimately, to what it means to express and feel gratitude—big ideas, indeed.
Thank you, Kirby, for inviting me!
Elizabeth Rose Stanton began her grownup life as an architect. Now she builds picture books, and is having a blast! Her first book, HENNY (Simon & Schuster), is on the Kids’ Indie Next List, was named a best picture book for 2014 by the New York Public Library, and was a finalist for the 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award (Western Region). Her second book, PEDDLES (Simon & Schuster) was released in January, 2016. Elizabeth lives in Seattle with her husband and three Scottish Fold cats.