Today I’m excited to have Jill Esbaum on my blog. Jill has written a slew of amazing picture books and Frankenbunny is her latest release. It is a delightful book that I have read many, many times since it arrived in the mail.
Jill has agreed to have a conversation about Frankenbunny. But first, the synopsis:
“You know monsters aren’t real, right?”
Brave is easy in the sunshine. Brave is easy near Papa. But can Spencer the Bunny learn to be brave ALL the time—even when his big brothers try their best to scare him?
Spencer the Bunny’s big brothers ALWAYS frighten him with scary monster stories. And the most terrifying beast of all is Frankenbunny, with his crusty fangs, flashing red eyes, and ginormous paws. But when Spencer discovers that his brothers made the whole thing up, he hatches a plan to turn the tables on them and conquer his own fears . . . forever.
Any child who has ever worried about a monster in the closet or felt scared in the dark will love this humorous story about learning to be brave.
And this nice snippet from Kirkus Reviews:
“A good choice for younger sibs terrorized by older ones or for kids who need a reminder that monsters aren’t real.”
Now for the inside scoop from Jill 😀
Penny: I’m impressed at how expertly you captured the universal childhood fear of monsters. Even though as children, we’re told they aren’t real, and logically we don’t “think” they are real…all it takes is a sibling (or a kid in the neighborhood or a kid at school) to raise doubts. I have three sisters and I can tell you that there were plenty monster stories creeping around our house. So I can relate.
Jill: Oh, man. Me, too! My older brother was soooo good at making me rethink truths … like the fact that I KNEW there was nothing in our basement at night that wasn’t also there during the daylight hours. But ask me to go down there alone after dark? No way! Not after the time he sent me down there for something, then flipped off the light, slammed the stairtop door, and called a spooky, “Wooooooo…” to freak me out. Forever after, I was afraid something would grab me down there, even in the daytime. When I HAD to go to the basement, I’d get whatever I needed (quickly) and be halfway back up the steps, congratulating myself for surviving, when it would occur to me that somebody/something could still reach BETWEEN THE STEPS to grab one of my ankles. My feet could not carry me up fast enough! I went around with skinned shins more often than not.
Penny: Frankenbunny is a genius title. When I think of bunnies, I think “cute and cuddly,” which is the exact opposite of monsters. Because of that, the thought of a monster bunny seems unconventional and funny. It’s a title that drew me in and made me want to read the book and find out more. So how/why did you decide that the big, bad, crusty-fanged, ginormous-pawed, red-eyed monster would be a bunny?
Jill: Thanks, Penny. I’ve wanted to write a “scary” story for a long time. But every time I tried to write one with human kiddos, it got TOO scary. Finally, I decided to try one with the most harmless creatures I could imagine – sweet little bunnies. That’s when the title came to me. A bunny-monster, I hoped, would be terrifying to bunnies, but not so scary to kids.
Penny: One of the hardest things about writing for children is making the story relatable. These lines are some of my favorite lines in the book!
“Brave is easy in the sunshine.”
“Brave is easy around Papa.”
“Brave is hard in the dark!”
They’re perfectly placed in the story and are seriously relatable. Also they bring so much “heart” to the story. I’m curious. Did these lines come to you in early drafts, or did you find your way to them as you revised?
Jill: Thanks, Penny. Those lines didn’t come to me until many, many revisions into the story, when I realized it needed a framework, and yes, more heart. Honestly, I worked on this one for a couple of years before I got to a manuscript that felt right. Older versions were submitted and rejected. Rejection: the great revision motivator.
Penny: Along the same lines … “heart” is the thing that brings readers back to a picture book for multiple readings. It’s the elusive element that every writer strives for. Do you have a way of assessing your manuscripts for the “heart” factor? Or any tips for those writers who struggle with bringing “heart” to their stories?
Jill: Yikes, good question! Heart is a tough story element. It isn’t something you can just stick it in somewhere. It needs to be infused throughout the story. The best way to find a story’s heart is to really put yourself into your main character’s head. You have to feel the emotions s/he’s experiencing. Get your protagonist’s false belief/fear/yearning in line, and heart will arise organically.
Penny: The illustrations in this book by Alice Brereton couldn’t be more perfect. They’re incredible and fit the tone of the text to a tee. Most of the time the editor at the publishing house picks the illustrator. Was that the case with Frankenbunny? Did you see early sketches or did you see the art later in the process? What was your reaction when you saw the art?
Jill: Yes, my editor picked Alice to illustrate this story. When I saw her early sketches I was overjoyed – and, of course, trying to picture them in color. I could do that, sort of, by looking at Alice’s work on her website. She has an uncanny ability to capture whimsy and darkness simultaneously. Exactly what FRANKENBUNNY needed.
Penny: Now that you’ve all heard about Frankenbunny I’ll be you are thinking what I’m thinking . . . Frankenbunny would make a great Christmas gift for a child!! And speaking of books for children, one thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been immersed in the world of children’s books is that many people aren’t familiar with newer titles. I have friends that are constantly asking me for picture book suggestions for their children or grandchildren. In the spirit of the season, I thought it would be fun for you to spread some cheer by recommending current books by other authors that could be wrapped up and put under the tree … along with Frankenbunny, of course 😀
I know there are a bunch of great ones, so how about giving us five recommendations?
Jill: My current favorite is Creepy Pair of Underwear. For other favorites, just read back through my posts on my group blog, Picture Book Builders.
Penny: Wow! If you read through Jill’s blog posts over at Picture Book Builders you will find plenty of book recommendations.
Thanks for coming by and telling us more about Frankenbunny, Jill.
Jill: Thanks, Penny. I always love visiting with you!
GIVEAWAY! Lucky readers! You can win a copy of Frankenbunny. All you have to do to be in the drawing is leave a comment below by midnight December 21st. (CST)
Those who enter must have a US address.
You can learn more about Jill Esbaum and her wonderful books on her website. http://www.jillesbaum.com/