Hi, Erica. Congratulations on a great new picture book. I love the Julia Denos’ cover. There was something about it that said "pick me up and read me now." I did and was rewarded with a wonderfully different story.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover diversity amongst Ida's classmates. (Yet another reason to love Dotty).
Thanks so much. Diversity in the classroom was really important to me and Julia when we discussed how the book would look. I was particularly thrilled that she also made Ida’s beloved teacher, Ms. Raymond, such a stylish and savvy African-American woman.
It's nice to hear that you and Deno's made a conscious decision to embrace diversity. I noticed Ms. Raymond right away, since there aren't many teachers of color featured in picture books.
Tell us about Dotty?
Dotty is a big, cozy imaginary creature who tags along with her best friend, Ida. As the school year continues, kids begin to outgrow their imaginary friends. All except for Ida, whose friend Dotty has no intention of leaving.
Who came first Ida or Dotty?
Dotty came first because when I was little I had two imaginary friends named “Sahti” and “Dahti.” They were twins but they weren’t the same age (a detail that always made my parents smile). So “Dotty” definitely came from “Dahti.”
Sahti and Dahti are great names.
When Ida starts school, everyone has an imaginary friend. In a few months they all disappear except Dotty.
Dotty sees no reason to go – she loves being with Ida. Yet Ida feels conflicted… should she say goodbye to Dotty, even though she really doesn’t want to.
What did you want young listeners/readers to take away from Ida and Dotty's relationship?
I wanted to whisper to readers that imagination can – and should – be a part of your life that you don’t need to outgrow. I don’t know about you, but my imagination is still a great friend to me… it makes me smile, keeps me from getting bored, and takes me to all sorts of unexpected places.
Although Dotty is about imaginary friends, I also see it as a book about the pressures kids sometimes feel to give up "babyish" things, especially when they start school. I firmly believe that growing up doesn't have to mean letting go of all the things that comforted you when you were little. In fact, I still have my old dog-earred teddy in my office.
Ida feels some of that pressure when her classmates begin to tease her about Dotty. Ida's dilemma, to stay true to herself or listen to others is one of my favorite parts of this story.
How does a child hold onto the belief in imagination?
I think adults need to be role models in terms of imagination. Just as we show children by example how to be kind or how to be careful, it is important to show them how to be creative. For me, this often manifests itself in silliness. I make up rhymes and reinvent songs with new lyrics and encourage kids to do the same. Writing and drawing games like Mad Libs and making three-panel creatures encourage imagination as well. It’s part of my general outlook as well. My kids have gotten to the age where they claim they don’t believe in things like fairies any more. But I tell them I do and I always keep an eye out. Because if you’re not looking for them, you’ll never see them. So – just to humor me, you understand – they end up keeping an eye out, too.
Erica, your lovely text and Denos’ beautiful illustrations complement each other so well. Thanks for writing a story that makes me smile every time I look at it.
You’re so welcome! Thanks for having me over.
Erica and Dotty will be visiting a few more blogs this week. So pick a date at random and enjoy. That's what I plan on doing.
9/1 Alison’s Book Marks
9/2 A Patchwork of Books
9/3 Jean Little’s Library
9/4 Pragmatic Mom
9/7 Links to Literacy
9/8 The Book Bag Blog
9/9 The Hiding Spot
9/10 Bookmark, The First Book Blog