Oh my goodness gracious. I am SO excited to finally release my children’s book, The Adventures of Pootsey the Wonderbug, and share this bit of joy I’ve been keeping to myself and my family & close friends for so long! (I’ve updated this post since I first wrote it: see the bottom for links to the media outlets that have featured Pootsey!)
This is a project I’ve been working on fairly diligently since February of 2015. However, the inspiration behind Pootsey began long ago. I’m excited to share behind the scenes of my new book! For several months, when I was about 10 years old, my dad wrote little stories about this little bug, Pootsey, who had adventures with our pets, my mom, my dad, and myself, and then he left the notes by my cereal bowl each morning for me to find when I woke up and got my breakfast. They were super simple stories – typically just a few sentences each. Here they are in original form!
Pootsey became such a lovable little character around our house when I was little. When I was an early teen, I turned one set of his notes – the ones he wrote in the month of February – into my own, um, special(?) version of a children’s book. My daughter, Elizabeth, is perusing the original book in these photos. Here it is in all its glory:
Yes, complete with a puff-painted cover and all.
Folks, I know what you’re thinking. Where did I get those graphic design skills at such a young age? Natural gift, I guess! 😉
For several years, my dad had been bugging me (uh, yes, totally pun intended) to turn his Pootsey stories into a real, publishable children’s book. After my first daughter was born, I finally got the inspiration I needed to proceed! So, about a year and a half ago, I set off to research the questions: How do you publish a children’s book? Where do I find an illustrator? How many pages does the average children’s book contain? What age group should I be reaching? And so on. I had about a thousand questions, and I’m a compulsive researcher. It’s the story of my life.
After doing hours upon hours (that turned into days and weeks) of research, I finally decided on a publishing option. After we began that process, I began spending hours and hours (that turned into, well, months) recreating and adapting my dad’s stories into something that I could turn into a standard children’s book. After going through his sweet stories again, I decided to take the stories and develop them a bit – I wanted to craft the stories with more expressive and creative language, as well as develop the characters and the plot a bit more. I got to challenge my brain and do some out-of-my-initial-comfort-zone writing, and I also found I had a fantastic excuse to dwell upon some punny humor as I honed my manuscript. How fun is that?!
I had been talking with a dear friend of mine about my new project, and she mentioned she had a talented friend who might be a good option as our illustrator. It didn’t take long to decide she was THE one for us and our project – I wanted classic drawings, and oh my gosh, did she deliver! Long story short, Katrina was a godsend to us. And, she was so fun to work with – neither of us had ever worked on a project like this before, so we were both learning together. Her imagination is out of this world, and I anxiously anticipated every sketch from her – we loved her work! (I will definitely be doing another post about the development and evolution of the illustrations! It’ll be fun to read!) She really brought my dad’s and my imaginations to life. She could not have depicted Pootsey, his personality, and his adventures any better!
So, then, after months of developing the manuscript, working with Katrina to develop the illustrations according to the story, working with the publisher, and tending to every little detail that went into this project before publishing, we are FINALLY HERE! Look how far we’ve come, y’all!
After lots of hard work and anticipation, we are so thrilled for Pootsey to make his debut so we can share him and his adventures with others.
For one, this is something my dad has been dreaming about seeing into fruition. Pootsey was such a sweet part of our lives for a time, and he felt like there was a lot of potential there to make Pootsey into something really special to share.
Two, Pootsey was something my dad randomly began as one more way to connect with me, even amidst his busy work schedule. You can see he even stayed faithful to continuing Pootsey stories on his regular travels to Washington, D.C. – he wrote some stories on his hotel pads of paper!
After sharing our story of how this book began, we hope that Pootsey is an inspiration to all parents to find creatively simple ways to connect with their kids, especially when life is really busy.
And three. Here’s the biggie. Reading to a kid can make a huge difference. I listened to this podcast last week about the value of reading out loud to kids. I’ve listened to several podcasts from the God-Centered Mom, but I happened to listen to this one just before I announced my book, and she affirmed one of the very things I am hoping to accomplish through launching this children’s book: life is pretty complicated, but one simple thing we can do that makes a HUGE difference is reading to our kids. (You know what, I literally just realized as I’m typing this that I was repainting my daughter’s bookshelf as I was listening to the podcast. The coincidence!) For one, reading aloud dramatically helps them academically and socially, and two, it helps us connect with each other through story.
I could go on and on, and someday I probably will in future posts, but for now, let me leave you with this. As citizens of the 21st century, we have an outrageous amount of resources at our fingertips. I’m quite thankful for them, but one thing that will always be of utmost value and can never be replaced with modern technology is the act of reading a book with a child. It’s probably one of the few activities that will always stand the test of time and never lose its effectiveness. Ever. It’s an activity that takes little time but makes a HUGE impact.
And we all know I’m all about the little things that make big impacts.
So, here we go. The former grad student in me feels the need to tie everything back to my thesis statement. The purpose, or thesis, if you will, of my blog is to remind everyone and encourage everyone (including myself), that we can do little things in our homes that can absolutely, hands down, positively change our country and our world for the better. Taking a few minutes to read to our kids regularly can make an astronomical difference in more ways than one, and I hope that The Adventures of Pootsey the Wonderbug might be one more book you can add to your collection that helps you look forward to setting aside a few minutes to do so!
If you have some time, go listen to that same podcast where Heather MacFadyan interviews Sarah Mackenzie of the Read-Aloud Revival – you’ll be so encouraged of the REALISTIC ways we can all take some time to read aloud to our kids – even the busiest of households. Sarah laughs at the idea that, when she reads to her kids, people would romantically envision all six of her youngsters calmly gathered around her at her feet as she reads to them on the hearth of a fireplace. No, she’s reading to them while they’re doing handstands, coloring, squirming, and perhaps even playing Batman in the corner. But they’re still hearing the story. They’re still challenged to use their imaginations. They’re still all connecting with each other.
I hope Pootsey can help you connect with some sweet kiddos in your life – whether they’re your own or you’re their treasured aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin, or mentor. I hope Pootsey can remind you that you can make a big difference in the smallest of ways.
And I think you’ll find he’ll help you laugh a bit on the way. He’s a pretty funny little guy!
(One of my favorite pages from the book!)
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Happy reading, and stay tuned! I’ll share more behind-the-scenes information in the weeks to come! I can’t wait!
See Where Pootsey’s Been Featured!
- Austin American Statesman, “This Year, Create Stories and Characters Your Child Will Remember,” December 29, 2016, by Nicole Villalpando.
- San Angelo Live, “Family Tradition Inspires San Angeloan to Publish First Book,” November 15, 2016, by Maura Ballard.
- SA Live/KSAT, “Father’s Daily Notes Inspire Daughter to Publish Book,” August 17, 2017, by Jen Tobias-Struski