Monday, October 24, 2022

Teddy, Let's Go! A Debut Picture Book Review, Author & Illustrator Interviews, and a Giveaway!

 Today, I have the honor and delight to introduce a fellow Matthews, North Carolina writer, Michelle Nott. Michelle is celebrating the publication of her debut picture book, Teddy, Let's Go (Enchanted Lion Books: December 2022). After the review, make sure you read my interviews with Michelle and Nahid Kazemi, the illustrator. It'll make you want to pass this sweet multi-generational book along to your child or grandchild.

REVIEW

I have reviewed hundreds of picture books, but I can't remember any that open with three wordless pages. These pages depict Teddy's "birth." 

Here is one of the spreads:


Following these sewing scenes, the reader meets Teddy's creator. "The wavy-haired woman with love in her eyes pulled me close and whispered in my ear."

Teddy "floats" into his new home and is introduced to his owner. "This...is Teddy," the wavy-haired lady says. 


A nose as small as mine rubbed against my cheek.
We were made for each other.


Teddy goes everywhere with the little girl.  They eat mushy vegetables together and both need a bath. They celebrate their first birthday with cake and party hats. When she begins to talk, Teddy names her.

She soon had a name for everything. "Here's my Rabbit and my Giraffe
and my Teddy and my...my...my."
So I called her by her favorite word: My.

No matter what they did together, Teddy always listened for his name and knew what would come next, Teddy, let's go."

My grows up and...


One summer, I climbed into My's backpack
and we rode a bus to camp.

Teddy was often left behind in the cabin (which he guarded) and tried to figure out what he was supposed to do next. He watched and the screen door sprung open, and laughter blew in. (I had to include that line because I love it!)

Teddy and My return home after camp and Teddy hiked to the top of her dresser. 


Some days I didn't see much of My. 
But when she noticed me alone, she always
 reminded me how strong I was 
and how high and how far I could go.
And when it was time to settle down, I listened.
"Teddy, let's go!"

After their seventh birthday when "Teddy whispered happy dreams in her ear," he felt something different. Days and nights passed. He listened. Then one day, A small voice cried. My went still. I stretched out my arms and legs so My would know I was still there.

My scrubs Teddy and sews some loose stuffing back inside of him. Then she says, "Teddy, let's go!" She closes one door and opens another.

"This," she said ,"is Teddy."


I floated down to our first bed and to a new baby. This was our moment. 

I listened...and whispered happy dreams in his ear. 

                                                    ****

I love so much about this sparsely written and beautifully illustrated picture book. I love how the author brings the story full circle in the same way that Bevan, A Well-Loved Bear did. I love Michelle's lyrical language, her use of repetition, and the threads that connect the grandmother to her granddaughter and then connect My to her baby brother. And as a daughter who learned to sew on my mother's Singer sewing machine and has made her share of stuffed animals and pillows with my own daughters and granddaughters... I love how My sews up Teddy just like her grandma. 

As a special treat, you are going to hear how both Michelle and Nahid drew from their own childhood experiences to write and illustrate Teddy. AND you'll also hear how their vision for the wordless pages was exactly the same without ever consulting with one another. 

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Carol: What was the inspiration for Teddy, Let's Go!

Michelle: I was inspired to write this story by the teddy bear that my grandmother hand-made for me when I was born. I still have it right here on a shelf in my office. But I was sitting in my children's bedroom, when they were around kindergarten age, with them and Teddy when I started to think about all the adventures this bear has been on through my childhood. I then envisioned different scenarios that he may experience with my own children. Although the book is not autobiographical, it is heavily inspired by childhood imagination, milestones, and intergenerational love. 


Carol: What was your path to publication?


Michelle: As mentioned, the idea for this story occurred when my children were quite young. At first, I wrote it as a bedtime story for them. Once I discovered SCBWI and CBI, I revised and shaped it in hopes of publication. After querying it for  a couple years, I often read that it was lovely but "too quiet." So, I put it away. 


Fast forward to my daughters in high school, I queried Essie White with a middle grade novel who really liked my writing and asked if I also wrote picture books. I sent her three --two that were more commercial and Teddy Let's Go! She signed me for Teddy. A couple years later, she sold the manuscript to Enchanted Lion Books with Nahid Kazemi as the illustrator. I could not have been more thrilled!


In a very early draft, I had paragraphs describing the grandmother sewing and stitching Teddy together. All that description was lovely for an oral story at bedtime, but entirely too much for a book. Nor would it be necessary. I cut it all before submitting it to agents. I didn't even add an illustration note. And then, I saw the PDF of the final art by Nahid. She had brilliantly illustrated in the first wordless spreads just what I had imagined in my head.


ILLUSTRATOR INTERVIEW


Carol: What medium did you use? I love how the images are soft and almost pastel-like. How did you achieve that effect?

NahidI use chalk pastels in a way that looks like watercolor. In order to get this effect, I've made them powdery. For the red, I used cotton instead of a brush. When I illustrate, I use stuff like cotton, brushes, tissue paper, and cotton swabs.

Carol Out of curiosity, why did you picture the grandmother with a very old Singer sewing machine? The story appears to be a contemporary story except for the hand-turned machine. (Reader: this illustration is not pictured in my review.)

Nahid: Your question about a hand-turned Singer sewing machine is very good. This machine belonged to my mother when I was a kid and we made a lot of creative stuff with it. 

Carol:  I was wondering about the wordless pages in the beginning. Was that something you and the art director came up with?

Nahid: It was my suggestion. I wanted kids to know how Teddy was born. Indeed, I wanted to depict giving birth to Teddy so that it might be a metaphor for giving birth to the baby. This book was a very challenging book. It took a few years to work on the illustrations and I changed most of them a few times in order to get the best result.
                                                    *****
Now you know some of the layers that went into creating this special book.

PREORDER! AUTHOR SIGNING!

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, you help authors when you preorder their books. You can find Teddy, Let's Go at your local bookstore or here and here

If you live anywhere near Charlotte, NC, come meet Michelle and purchase a copy of her book at Park Road Books on November 19

GIVEAWAY

If you are interested in winning this book (and who wouldn't?) please leave a comment by October 27. This time, if you are a parent or grandparent OR are expecting a baby or grandchild in the near future, I'll put your name in twice. U.S. addresses only. Remember, if you are new to my blog, don't forget to leave your name and email address! 

Congratulations to Emily Weitz, a new subscriber to my blog, who won Bug On the Rug from last week's blog.

24 comments:

Joyce said...

“Teddy, Let’s Go” is a perfect second baby gift. I love the heartfelt wordless opening pages. Congratulations on this bundle of joy.

Carol Baldwin said...

You're right, Joyce! I need your email address to enter you in the giveaway.

Antoinette said...

Such a sweet story. The illustrations look amazing! Thanks for the post.

Barb Seregi said...

“Teddy, Let’s Go” sounds and looks lovely! And, yes, I do have a new grand baby expected Dec. 4th with my daughter and son-in-law and they have an almost 2 year old little boy that would love this book! Congratulations. I can’t wait to see it in person - that is the book and the baby! We don’t know if a boy or girl.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you, Barb. Your name starts the list--twice!! And congratulations in advance!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Antoinette!

Danielle H. said...

I love my teddy bear still and it travels with me on road-trip vacations. This story melts my bear-loving heart. Congratulations to the author and illustrator for a beautiful book many parents/grandparents will enjoy sharing over and over.

Carol Baldwin said...

I LOVE the fact that your teddy bear travels with you, Danielle! You would love this book.

Emily Weitz said...

This book looks so cute! In addition to being a librarian, I am a mother to a 4 and 5 year old! And they have to sleep with their bears every night (along with a million other stuffed animals, but the bears are the most special to them). They would love this.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you, Emily. Your name goes in twice! I have granddaughters who also sleep with a million animals...

Unknown said...

What a cute story! Our girls like Emily’s children thoroughly enjoy their stuffed animals. What started out as simply named animals like dog, puppy, bear are now getting other names. What always amazes me is how they rarely forget where they leave them and so can resonate with the story of restuffing the animals that develop a hole and start to get misshapen!

Carol Baldwin said...

Whoever posted the last comment, THANK YOU! But i need your name and email address to enter you in the giveaway.

Marci said...

What a lovely origin story for Teddy! This looks wonderful!!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Marci. It is!!

Brenda Christmas said...

I think my little granddaughters would love this book. They love the great big teddy bear that sits on my bed! (that was given to me by my daughter)

Carol Baldwin said...

I bet they would! Thanks for commenting- your name goes in twice, Brenda!

Kathy Cannon Wiechman said...

This one brought tears to my eyes. We have passed down many well-loved items in my family. My little brother had a stuffed chimp, which he gave to my kids when they were small. When they outgrew him, I replaced a torn ear and filled him with some new stuffing, stitched him up, and presented him to my brother on his birthday. That brother just turned 70, but his chimp still sits in a special place in his home.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathy. You would love this book. Since you're a mama--(and most likely grandma) you go in twice!

Storylady said...

Would love to share this book with a couple of grandchildren I know and love. Thanks for the opportunity

Carol Baldwin said...

Gwen, I was thinking of how much you would love this book! You're in twice since you're a grandma!

Esther M. Bandy said...

Carol,

Thank you for sharing this wonderful book with us. The story and the illustrations are delightful!

Esther

Carol Baldwin said...

You're welcome, Esther. Your name goes in twice--you're a mama too!

Grannyjo said...

The picture of the sewing of the bear drew me in as I sew and have made a few dolls anD animals over the years. It was interesting to learn of the illustrator’s methods.

Carol Baldwin said...

YOu're in twice, Granny Jo!

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