Congratulations to Wendy Wahman on her new book RABBIT STEW. She has agreed to participate in our book giveaways. 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.
Fox brothers Rusty and Rojo toil and till in their vegetable garden all summer long until they’re finally ready to make their splendid, scrumptious, marvelous rabbit stew. Then they begin to pick colorful ingredients one by one, from lean, green runner beans and crunchy orange carrots to fresh sprigs of parsley and roly-poly blueberries. Meanwhile, their pet rabbit watches with his bunny family, all of them getting more and more worried about what’s coming next. Finally the brothers have almost everything they need. All that’s missing is one… big… round… white… bowl! And in a deliciously sweet surprise ending, they use the bowl to serve the concoction to their favorite rabbit, Stew! And his family, too. The whimsical and vibrant artwork is filled with clever details, and every scene includes Stew, his three baby bunnies, and their mother, all trying to stay out of sight, creating a search-and-find element for every spread.
Making a book is a lot like making a stew. Inspiration lights a burner. Then you add ideas, suggestions, and, dare I say, sweat to the pot.
You stir and stir and stir some more. You let it simmer. You walk away. You come back and taste, add a little of this, a little of that, and stir some more. But the difference between writing and cooking is all the cutting, moving, and deleting from the pot you do while writing.
In 2009, I was riding in a taxi with my Don’t Lick the Dog and A Cat Like That editor,* Laura Godwin. We had a conversation that went something like this:
Me: “I have an idea for a story where some kids make their pet rabbit his dinner.** You know, like a stew for their rabbit.”
Laura: “Maybe it’s a color book. Each ingredient a different color.”
I threw that in the pot.
Me: “It could also be a counting book – from 10 to 1 where the last ingredient is the bowl for the stew.”
I threw it all in the pot and let it simmer. For years.
At an SCBWI sketch meet-up one day, I got to talking books and recipes with my friend and children’s book author-illustrator, Nina Laden.
Nina: “You could make the kids be foxes!”
I loved that and threw it right in the pot.
Suddenly the broth turned dark and exciting. Maybe a little too dark? So to lighten things up, I gave the foxes a little surprise of their own, and the rabbit a little backup support. I gave the rabbit a family that would stay hidden from the foxes until the last page. Rabbit Stew remains a bit of a thriller, not knowing if the foxes are going to add their ‘marvelous rabbit’ to the pot. But come on, guys, you know I would never do that!
My final ingredient list:
- Veggies and fruit that’s safe for real rabbits to eat and that humans could stomach as well. I left out dandelions and alfalfa.
- Each ingredient had to be a different color
- Count down ingredients from 10 to 1.
- The rabbit family: Strudel, Dumpling, Biscuit, Ragu.
- Two semi-vegetarian fox brothers, Rusty & Rojo
- A butterfly just because.
- A worm named, Lou. Lou is one of the search-and-find elements. He and one of the baby bunnies make friends on the first spread.
- The final ingredient? Readers!
What’s in the pot now? “Pony in the City,” published by Sterling Publishing, will be ready, Sept. 5th, 2017 and “Nanny Paws,” publishing with Two Lions, sometime Spring 2018.
*My editor for Rabbit Stew is Mary Colgan at Boyds Mills Press. Mary and art director Anahid Hamparian added plenty of spices to the pot, let me tell you. Thanks again, Team ‘Stew!’
**I make my dogs home-made food, and I like to encourage children and adults to eat healthily and take good care of animals.
I worked at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper until it’s closure in 2009. Now I mostly do children’s books and illustration. My first book, “Don’t Lick the Dog” was selected as a 2010 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, starred for Outstanding Merit and accepted to the Society of Illustrators Original Art show. Other books include “A Cat Like That,” “Snowboy 1,2,3,” “Rabbit Stew,” “Pony in the City,” and illustrations for middle grade non-fiction, “Your Body, Yourself: Q&A,” and “The Teen Body Book, a Guide to your Changing Body.”
Some awards: American Illustration Annual, Best of the West, Society of News Design International, Bank Street Books, Society of Publication Designers, Society of Professional Journalists, Society of Illustrators.
I hang out with my husband Joe Wahman, (he’s a writer) and our kids (who look and act like Standard Poodles). We live in a house in Tacoma with a magnificent Monkey Puzzle Tree.
I love yoga, and getting plenty of ‘rigorous exercise’ (as my Dad used to say). I occasionally meditate, I always draw and I always read. I love being with my friends and family, but I also like just thinking about them (I need a lot of alone time). But you can pry me out of the house for plays and museums. My favorite places in my old home town are the La Brea Tar Pits, the Temporary Contemporary and the Watts Towers. I prefer my coffee with chocolate almond milk and my favorite food is popcorn.
Thank you Wendy for sharing your journey with us and offering one lucky winner a copy of your new book, RABBIT STEW.