I have a Christmas gift for my readers! Today I bring you an interview with author Bonny Becker 🙂
Bonny is the author of the fabulous Bear and Mouse picture book series as well as many other books for children. I can’t even describe how much I loved A Christmas for Bear or how excited I was that Bonny agreed to an interview with me.
Merry (early) Christmas!
Interview with author Bonny Becker:
I absolutely love A Christmas for Bear! I am so curious about what inspired the concept and how the book came about. Can you tell me a little about the development of this book?
Thank you, so much! This is the 6th book in a series of Mouse and Bear books. Usually Mouse is cheerful and ready to celebrate anything; grouchy Bear not so much. So in this book, I wanted to switch things up a bit and this time Bear is the one holding a party. A Christmas party.
I tried several different approaches to Bear’s Christmas party, including having him go way over the top and simply make Christmas way too big and too elaborate. But my editor felt there wasn’t enough tension between Mouse and Bear in that one. Mouse was just kind of a bystander.
So in this version I decide Bear’s idea of Christmas is to read a difficult poem, eat pickles with no presents necessary because I knew that would drive poor Mouse wild.
And I can’t get over bear and his Christmas pickle. That was such a surprise to me and really made me laugh. Is the Christmas pickle part of your holiday traditions or did something else inspire its inclusion?
Ha! No, there are no Christmas pickles in my life, either. But Bear likes pickles. In A Library Book for Bear, he only agrees to go the library so that he can get more books about pickles. Why pickles? Well, in the original draft of Library it was potatoes. I just wanted something boring and improbable for Bear to be interested in. But the illustrator, Kady McDonald Denton, wondered if I could please make something a little more interesting to draw than potatoes. That’s when I came up with pickles—which seemed perfect for my sour Bear!
I love the illustrations in your book and I am always curious about the working relationship between authors and illustrators. I see you and Kady MacDonald Denton have worked on a few books together in the Bear and Mouse series. Did you know each other prior to working together and how is it different working with the same illustrator multiple times versus working with an illustrator on only one project?
I love the illustrations, too. I don’t think anyone could have captured Mouse and Bear more perfectly than Kady. We didn’t know each other beforehand, but it’s been a delight to work with her. The main difference between a series like the Mouse and Bear books and a one-time book is that the author and illustrator get a chance to inspire each other.
For example, as the author, I knew Bear was grouchy and a loner, but I didn’t know he would live in a Tudor cottage, wear an apron and be rather dainty despite his enormous rear end. That all came from Kady. But as a writer, I could use this in future stories about Bear. I could make more of his fastidious nature and the layout of his house and so on.
I’ve had two moments of absolute delight as an author when it came to my illustrator. The first was with another Christmas book of mine, The Christmas Crocodile, when I first saw illustrator David Small’s drawings of the crocodile. The second was when I saw Kady’s illustrations of Mouse and Bear. Both had captured the characters so perfectly. They created what you hope for with any picture book—a marriage of words and art that is more than the sum of its parts.
I think A Christmas for Bear could become a holiday staple in many households. I know I would enjoy reading it every year. Are there any books you enjoy every year during the holidays? What were your favorite Christmas traditions as a child?
It’s rather embarrassing to admit, but actually The Christmas Crocodile has become a holiday staple for my extended family. I have a relative who reads The Christmas Crocodile every Christmas Eve at a big family gathering. He’s a wonderful reader and I laugh shamelessly at my own story every time.
As a child, my dad always read The Night Before Christmas; sometimes he would read A Christmas Carol. I loved putting up the tree and the excitement of trying to sleep the night before Christmas. I come from a family of six kids and on Christmas morning we would all gather in my oldest sister’s bedroom, and my brother would go downstairs, bring up our stockings and report on the massive pile of presents under the tree. I remember food, warmth, the satisfaction of at least a few awesome presents and family.
Have you always dreamed of writing children’s books and what was the road like to becoming a published author?
I’ve wanted to be a writer, pretty much for as long as I can remember, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write. I think originally I imagined myself writing the Great American Novel, but as I got older I remembered the books I had loved as a kid and realized those were the kind of books I wanted to write.
The road to becoming a published writer is pretty murky. There’s no clear, certain path. I’ve been a writer almost all my adult life—been a journalist, done corporate communications, freelanced articles and newsletters. When I realized I wanted to write for kids, one of the first things I did was join SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.) I can’t recommend it highly enough. For aspiring writers I would say: Write, don’t just talk about it. Take some classes. Join a critique group. You just have to somehow start. The rest will follow as you go along. Oh, and read, read, read!
Is there anything else you would like to share about your writing career or other projects?
I’m excited that I have another picture book coming out next fall (2018) that is very different from the Mouse and Bear books. It’s called The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael. It’s a macabre tall tale about a boy who gets on the #13 bus one dark and stormy night. I’m also working on a middle grade set in Africa and have a number of picture book manuscripts circulating.
A Christmas for Bear (2017, Candlewick Press, Picture Book)
From the publisher:
One frosty night, Bear hears a tap, tap, tapping on his front door. “Merry Christmas!” cries Mouse. Mouse is there for a Christmas party, and Bear has never had one before, but he’s certain that pickles (preferably from France) must be an essential component, along with the reading of a long and difficult poem. The problem is, whenever Bear comes back from the kitchen with more treats, Mouse has vanished — only to be found, small and gray and guilty-eyed, scurrying under the bed or rifling through the closet. Will there be even a tiny present involved? “Hogwash!” scolds Bear. Get ready for holiday anticipation and the best kind of surprises as the curmudgeonly Bear and a hopeful Mouse return in a warm, funny tale full of holiday cheer and true friendship.
A Christmas for Bear, written by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, is the latest book in the Bear and Mouse series. This book is absolutely darling! I loved it so much and think it could become a Christmas staple in many households. The illustrations convey so much emotion and set the mood for a quiet Christmas at home surrounded by friends and family. Children and adults will love the simple message of friendship and love what an unlikely pair Bear and Mouse make. Highly recommended for the whole family and children of all ages.
Thank you to Bonny Becker and Candlewick Press for the interview and for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.