Congratulations to Barbara Bottner for her new book PRISCILLA GORILLA. Barbara has agreed to give do a book giveaway. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.
When a whole class goes gorilla, they learn the importance of balancing passion and creativity with cooperation in this charmer of a picture book from the New York Times bestselling duo, Barbara Bottner and Michael Emberley.
The day Priscilla gets a book about gorillas, she instantly becomes obsessed. She dances like them, eats like them, and wears her gorilla costume 24–7! There are so many things to love about gorillas, but what Priscilla loves best is how they seem to always get their way.
So when Mr. Todd tells all his students to dress up like their favorite animal, Priscilla’s choice is obvious. But dancing around and beating her chest when it’s not her turn sends Priscilla straight to the Thinking Corner. She is of course outraged—nobody tells a gorilla what to do!—and as her attitude spreads, soon the thinking corner is full of her classmates. Is Priscilla really channeling her inner gorilla, or is she just a troublemaker in ape’s clothing?
When I wrote Priscilla, I was still, as an adult, processing why I have trouble with authority. I have a knee jerk reaction to being told what to do. I don’t like this in myself. I try not to be obnoxious, but still, I have to admit, this tendency is still there.
I think when I sat down to begin Priscilla, I was writing a way out of this predicament, and writing it with love. In an earlier draft, there was a scene where all the parents got dressed up in costumes – just as their children had—and gone to school to support them. Editorial-and I agreed, felt this was going to far and it wasn’t completely believable. True. But it felt good and goofy to me, and I thought kids would love seeing a double page spread of parents in costumes, taking up their insurrection.
It turns out I didn’t need that, because Priscilla inspires her classmates in a first grade revolution and they sit together in the Thinking Corner, although it’s doubtful they’ve done much thinking.
I believe confronting what’s really going on is empowering. Saying ‘no’ to authority, even a benign first grade teacher like Mr. Todd can be important. Priscilla is brave, she’s not afraid of the effects her misbehavior will bring. She is standing in her truth. She’s not cowed. And yes, she continues to be a misguided leader throughout the story. That just makes me happy. We don’t have to worry that she will not be a critical thinker and consider things for her self.
My own obstinate nature has, in many ways, been a plus.
Then Priscilla sees the light. The story parallels my own path to understand that when I was squelched, it made me even more difficult, more of a problem. It made me a flame thrower. If there had been room to ‘disobey’ I would not have needed to push back so hard and I wouldn’t have grown up feeling quite angry.
I’m convinced from the story that Priscilla will grow up to be happy and well integrated and still retain her passionate nature. I hope that applies to the young readers of this story. And that parents can see the value in sharing it and perhaps even admitting that they experienced their own small moments of troublemaking.
Barbara Bottner began writing for children in the 1970’s, when she broke her leg doing off-Broadway Theater and decided to consider a different career. Having gotten a degree in painting, she began to hang out in the children’s book section of libraries and bookstores. She was amazed at the originality of the art and fell in love with picture books. Slightly fickle, she also wrote I Can Reads, eventually middle grade and YA novels. She stretched out into writing for television and film and also published essays and short stories in national magazines. She returned to writing books for children and Bootsie Barker Bites, illustrated by Peggy Rathmann, a classic, was translated into eight languages and animated for television. Barbara prevailed upon her MD husband, Gerald Kruglik, to co-write Wallace’s Lists, illustrated by Olof Landstrom, which was also animated, (Weston Woods) is translated into Swedish and is forthcoming in French.
Barbara collaborated with Michael Emberley, resulting in Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don’t). Anyone who’s ever struggled with falling in love with reading, or is the parent or teacher of a picky reader will rejoice in the way Miss Brooks handles a curmudgeon of a first grader. Miss Brooks Loves Books has appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List and is nominated for the prestigious Bill Martin Jr. Award. Barbara teaches writing and consults with writers all over the country; she was honored to receive the New School Distinguished Teaching Award in 1990.
Thank you Barbara for sharing your journey with us and offering one lucky winner your new book, Priscilla Gorilla.
For anyone who missed seeing Barbara’s illustrator feature, take a look at Michael Emberley’s Illustrator Saturday’s post and see some of the steps he took with Barbara’s book.