My sweet friend Helen Ketteman and I have known each other longer than dirt’s been around. In our early writing careers, we were part of a magical group called The Write Sisters, meeting each summer for an annual marathon critique session and pj party prior to the summer SCBWI conference in LA. I learned one of my biggest writing lessons from Helen. She was bringing solid manuscripts to group and then, one day, she said she had something really different for us. The minute she started to read, we were all hooked! By tapping into the rhythms of those stories heard growing up in Georgia, her work began to bounce. She was my true-life example of what it means when you find your voice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Bubba The Cowboy Prince or Heat Wave to my grandkids. Helen can spin a yarn, y’all! So happy she’s here to talk about It’s Halloween, Little Monster, illustrated by Bonnie Leick (Two Lions).
My new book, IT’S HALLOWEEN, LITTLE MONSTER (Two Lions), came out in mid-July of this year. It is the third book in the Little Monster series, published by Two Lions Press in New York and my 27th picture book. The illustrator, Bonnie Leick, has done a marvelous job of inventing all forms of monsters that, somehow, aren’t so scary, even though they’re monsters. The books are the same experiences that young children experience, and the feelings the same feelings, made fun through the eyes of monsters.
The idea for Little Monster came from my own childhood. I thought there were monsters under my bed. So, as I thought about that one day, I asked myself, what if there were a Little Monster who was afraid there could be scary children under his bed? And the story took off from there. It was quite successful, and the publisher wanted another, which became Go To School, Little Monster, a first day of school book, in which Little Monster is shy about going to his first day of school. His teacher, Mr. Drool, assigns him a seat next to Fang – a monster, with sharp-looking teeth. But in the end, all’s well that ends well.
It’s Halloween, Little Monster is the latest Little Monster book, and it’s about his first trick-or-treating experience. In the book, Little Monster is not quite sure about wandering around in the dark with scary-looking creatures lurking about. But with Dad’s gentle guidance, he discovers the fun of trick-or-treating.
Because it’s written for very young children, it’s in simple rhyme, with very few words. Little Monster’s character is a little reluctant to try new things, though when he gathers his courage, with Mom’s or Dad’s help, he realizes what was dreading is good and fun.
I think these books are good gentle lessons for children who might be reluctant about new experiences, as I was sometimes when I was a child. Gentle encouragement in the form of a fun story with great art.
Helen Ketteman grew up in the South listening to stories and songs, which gave her an ear for music and language. She studied English in College and taught for a couple of years before having children. She has two grown sons, but, alas, no grandchildren to read to. So schoolchildren became her audience, and she has traveled extensively all over the country visiting elementary schools full of “grandchildren.”
She began writing in Seattle, and has continued through several moves to Dallas, San Francisco, and Sanibel Island. Her books have won several state children’s choice awards and been on many lists, including the New York Public Library’s 10 Best Picture Books of the Year and ALA’s Pick of the Lists.
Several of her books have over a million books in print, including her classic Cinderella story, set in Texas, “Bubba the Cowboy Prince.” Some of her well-known books include Armadillo Tattletale, Armadilly Chili, Not Yet, Yvette, and There Was Once an Old Cowpoke, The Three Little Gators. Most of her books are available on Amazon.com.