Royalty has arrived! Queen Dog is coming out in early January to bookstores everywhere and will instantly charm her way into the hearts of children everywhere. Seldom are picture books this well done. Art and story work together in harmony to make a tale so lovable this book will become one of your favorites by far. I have read many picture books, but this one of the best. I was in love with it as soon as I saw it and it really is that good.
Title: Queen Dog
Author: Bridget Heos and Alejandro O’Keefe
Age: 3-5 (but fun for all ages)
Genre: Picture book
I asked the folks at Disney Publishing if I could interview the author and artist and both agreed! So much thanks to Bridget and Alejandro for letting us ask some questions:
First of all, I LOVE the book! It is just one of the most adorable children’s books I’ve ever read and Queen Dog is so lovingly illustrated she pops off the page and into your heart.
Bridget: Thank you! I agree about Alejandro’s illustrations. They are so full of sweetness and love! Stephanie Lurie (the editor) suggested that Queen Dog be a Boston Terrier, and I think that’s just perfect for such a proper lady! And, of course, Baby Catherine is adorable.
Bridget, it was brilliant how you told the story. How did you come up with the idea to write the story from Queen Dog’s point of view? And did you ever bring your aunt’s dog a present?
B: I love when people speak extremely politely, and you can tell it comes from a place of caring and kindness. (C3PO comes to mind.) I thought it would be fun to write a story in that voice.
To answer your second question, I’m horrified to say that I didn’t bring a present to my aunt’s dogs (actually three in all at the time, though I think it was little Sunny, in particular, who was enamored with the rubber ducky gift for my daughter)! I should have brought them something! I will say: they live a storybook life in my aunt’s care. My aunt runs a sort of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for dogs. Queen Dog would be sipping tea with those ladies in no time!
I read on your blog how your dreams of being a Broadway star were crushed, but you didn’t mention what inspired you to become a children’s book author. How did that come about?
B: Well, it started with nonfiction. When my oldest son was little, he only wanted to read nonfiction. No Giving Tree. No Velveteen Rabbit. Just facts. I learned a LOT about turtles that year. I was already freelancing for newspapers and magazines and started wondering who wrote all these nonfiction kids’ books. I learned that people like me—freelance writers—did, and so I joined a local children’s writers group. Through that group, I learned that Rosen Publishing was in need of a writer. My first assignment was a middle grade bio of Jay-Z. I wrote several books on assignment and also started writing nonfiction books of my own. Meanwhile, I’d always loved fictional picture books but didn’t think I’d be able to write one. Then one Summer, I read 100 picture books and came to understand them a little better. Soon after, I wrote Mustache Baby, and now, Queen Dog. I still write lots of nonfiction for kids, too!
What was your big break in writing children’s books? Were you always confident you would one day be a published author?
B: I think my big break was my first contract—Jay-Z, a middle grade biography for Rosen. I’ve also been lucky to have two agents who have believed in me and sold several books for me, Kelly Sonnack and Liza Voges. Once I landed in the world of children’s books, I knew I had found my dream job. Prior to that, I wasn’t sure where my writing career was going. I knew I loved to write, so I took jobs writing brochures and articles, hoping that, as in any field, I could learn through practice and step up the ladder. I’m actually amazed that my plan worked!
On your Facebook page mentioned that your stories are getting “sparklier” because of your daughter. How has having children influenced your writing? Do you write with them in mind?
B: Yes! My kids definitely influence my writing. All of Mustache Baby’s mischievous acts were things my three sons did as toddlers. Now, I’m seeing the world through the eyes of my very sparkly daughter. She likes to read about girls (not boys—she’s very clear on that.) As I wrote Queen Dog, I hoped she would like it, but you never know because all kids have their own tastes in books. When I read it to her, and she asked me to read it again, I was thrilled.
I love the pictures of your boys reading to your daughter and of all of you reading together. As a parent, how important is it for you to read to and with your kids? Did your parents read to you as a child or were you inspired in some other way?
B: I think reading with kids is so important! The world can be a big, scary place. Picture books show that there is a path of kindness, bravery, and love. (Not to mention fun!) I think that’s why they appeal to all ages, like Star Wars movies. I love when I’m reading to my three year old daughter, and I see my 11-year-old son’s and sometimes even my 14-year-old son’s ears perk up. They’ll wander over and sit on the arm of the chair to listen to the rest of the story. And it’s no wonder. Who doesn’t want a happy ending at the end of the day?
I still remember my dad reading us Richard Scarry and pointing out which character was each of our relatives. And my mom would laugh so hard at some of the antics of the characters in our picture books (especially Eeyore!) They seemed to love the books as much as we did!
Other than your own books, what three books would you recommend to parents to read to their kids or with their kids?
Some picture books we’ve enjoyed recently are:
Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Big Red Lollipop, by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Little Baby Buttercup, by Linda Ashman, illustrated by You Byun
Very Little Red Riding Hood, by Teresa Heapy, illustrated by Sue Heap
Alejandro, you have done a variety of work in all different mediums – comics, newspapers, and magazines. What made you want to illustrate children’s books?
Alejandro: Really I just love to draw, and I try to work for all the people, I don’t think that a good book is only for children, in fact I have read many picture books. I read some when I was child, then I return to read the same book after some years and I discover a lot of new things. I think that a good book is for all ages.
I started illustrating children books because that allowed me to feel like child again.
I love the look of Queen Dog! She is super adorable, but stylistically different than many other pieces of artwork you’ve done. What was your inspiration for her look?
A: I did, long time ago, a book with a version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and I enjoyed illustrating the dresses of the medieval court. So, Queen Dog deserves to be like that. She is a truly a Queen.
Who are your biggest artistic influences for illustrating children’s books and why?
A: There a lot of very good illustrators. I love Quentin Blake, John A. Rowe, André Francois a follow the list. I like to use humor as a communication tool with the children, then I follow the illustrators close to that, the humor.
Did you always want to be an illustrator and artist when you were growing up? Who has been your biggest inspiration in becoming an artist?
A: From childhood I knew that I wanted to draw. I’m very lucky because I had a dad who was an illustrator. I remember that when I was child, I used to play soccer with my friends, but also I would go to my father’s studio. Here I played with a lot of pencils, chalks, brushes, papers and paints and I had access to a marvelous world of images, magazines and books. My father opened to me the door to illustration. I remember to see with attention the comics drawings of Hugo Pratt.
Thank you both so much for taking the time to answer my questions! I really appreciate the time and hope to see much more of your work! Maybe a Queen Dog sequel?
Bridget: I hope so! I’d love to see Queen Dog and Catherine rule the kingdom together! Thank you so much—great questions!
- Queen Dog comes out in bookstores and online marketplaces like Amazon on 1/3/17.