A huge thank you to Andrea Wang (a recent Friend Friday guest) for introducing me to Sheri Dillard, so that we could celebrate the publication of Sheri’s first picture book, Cowhide-And-Seek, illustrated by Jess Pauwels (Running Kids Press) today for Friend Friday. I always love learning about a particular book’s story seeds – and Sheri’s story below is a reminder that sometimes the best stories are hiding right in plain sight.

Sheri Dillard

One of my favorite memories of my oldest son Michael happened during a game of hide-and-seek. Tucked into a coat rack, this 3-year-old expert hide-and-seeker was trying his very best to stay still. And oh, how hard that must have been since he had just found what was, obviously, the perfect hiding spot. The only problem – (a problem he was blissfully unaware of) – was that the coats only came down so far, and I could see him completely from the knees down.

I remember this moment so clearly— his watchful eyes and excited smile peeking through the coats as I unsuccessfully “looked” for him. And actually, I doubt it would have mattered if he had known his perfect hiding spot wasn’t quite so perfect. He was in the moment, enjoying the fun of playing the game.

When I share this memory, I always hear charming stories of young children trying to hide. And I have more stories of my own to share, like this cute pair of hide-and-seekers at the preschool where I work.

Preschoolers playing hide-and-seek

In my picture book COWHIDE-AND-SEEK (Running Press Kids, Illustrated by Jess Pauwels), the main character, Bessie, has a similar style of hiding. Like young children, she doesn’t realize that simply standing behind something is not enough. We might still be able to see her.

Bessie hiding behind cat

As well, during her search for the perfect hiding spot, Bessie accidentally leaves the farm. So now, Bessie is trying to hide in places where one normally wouldn’t see a cow. Imagine the chaos. Someone shouting, “I see a cow!” is a surefire way to give away that cow’s hiding spot. Bessie patiently tries to explain the importance of being quiet, but it just comes out, “Moo.” And she must mooove on.

As I wrote, I wondered what readers would think of Bessie’s hiding spots. Would kids get the joke? Did it matter? I love humorous stories that can “grow” with the reader. As long as not getting the joke doesn’t make things confusing, the story has something for everyone.

I remember thinking about this as I got ready for a storytime at my local library. The librarian mentioned the crowd would be young. Very young. Would the story still be fun for them if they don’t get the joke?

The storytime went well, but my biggest (and favorite) memory from that day happened afterwards. I was talking with a young mom when her daughter came over, sat in her lap with a copy of COWHIDE-AND-SEEK, and wanted her mom to read it to her. I watched and listened as the mom read, and with each turn of the page, the young daughter happily pointed to Bessie. “Cow!” she’d say. It didn’t even matter if Bessie was hiding or not. “Cow!” With each page turn, pointing, “Cow, cow, cow!” And the mom said, “Yes! There’s Bessie!”

So back to Bessie. What’s an earnest cowhide-and-seeker to do? Would it matter to Bessie if her perfect hiding spot wasn’t quite so perfect? Probably not. Just like my son and those preschoolers on the playground, Bessie is in the moment, enjoying the fun of playing the game.

Bessie hiding with other cows

Sheri Dillard is a children’s author and preschool teacher/librarian. She lives in Atlanta, GA, with her husband Mark, three sons, and a 100-pound puppy named Captain, who is not so good at hiding. Cowhide-and-Seek is her first book. To learn more about Sheri visit her website, Twitter or Instagram.