Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book Trailer Premiere: Gator Dad by Brian Lies

Happy Wednesday! Thank you for stopping by on a regular basis to celebrate children's books and their creators. I am going to give you three fun tasks to complete today. Are you ready? 

Bravo, Brian Lies! I love all the personal touches you included in Gator Dad's book trailer. A++

I wrote the words in orange, and Brian wrote the words in black. Thank you, Brian! 

Gator Dad grew out of my own experiences as a stay-at-home Dad in the late 1990s, and my feeling that I wasn’t represented in picture books. Dads are generally depicted as amiable and loving characters, but they’re often a punch line, bumbling and incompetent. So GATOR DAD is a competent and committed alligator Dad with his three kids, making their way through a day together— from fishy pancakes, to a vast pillow fort, to the final tuck-in—not doing anything especially meaningful, but getting a lot done through their time together. I intend it to be a celebration of the energetic and sometimes unorthodox ways Dads do things, compared to many Moms (“If something’s gone bad in the fridge. . . I’ll let you smell it, too”). 

I have illustrated bats for a DECADE now! Hundreds of thousands of copies along, I still get e-mails from young readers and their parents about what the books mean to them.  However, I’ve been so involved in daily life—raising my daughter, working on the next book and visiting schools around the country—that I didn’t realize how much time had gone by until Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced a “Box of Bats” gift set of the first three bat books, coming out next year.  It will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the publication of BATS AT THE BEACH in 2006.

If you visited my studio you might be disappointed at how ordinary it is.  No vaulted ceiling, no collection of bones, odd things in bottles, or taxidermy.  Just a lot of books, a drawing table and computer desk.  People who visit think it’s more interesting than I do.  But the things in there are so familiar to me—the sketches taped onto the wall, my childhood books and some of my favorite childhood toys, as well as Post-its and sketches for a bunch of books I plan to do in the future—that to me it just feels like the place I go to work.  I tell students in schools that you don’t need a fancy or elaborate place to write or illustrate stories—you just need a place where you can concentrate.  And it helps if it’s a space that’s all yours—so you don’t have to clean everything up at the end of the day!

Picture books are the entry ramp to the highway of literacy.  They’re one important way we learn that one idea follows another, and another, and becomes a story.  Each picture book is a whole world tucked into 32 pages, sometimes spare, and sometimes complex. Great picture books are easy to underestimate—apparently simple, but often much more intricate and full of truths if you give them the time they deserve.

I’m disheartened when I meet younger and younger students who declare that they’re “out of picture books, and reading chapter books,” because though they see it as a sign of maturity and accomplishment, they’re missing out on a lot of great stories, as well as a firmly-grounded understanding of sequential storytelling, which will help them as they create their own stories.  I suspect there’s a lot of parental bragging going on about having kids who aren’t reading picture books anymore, too.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my last name, because you could have saved untold numbers of people from pronouncing it wrong!  The name came from Luxembourg around 1840, attached to my many-greats grandfather, and settled itself in Illinois.  It’s been handed down to people who will never be able to enter politics ever since.  Almost everyone in the U.S. with that surname is a relative.

. . . oh, and it rhymes with “cheese.”

I am giving away a copy of Gator Dad.

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 4/27 to 11:59 PM on 4/28.

2. You must be at least 13.

3. If you win, please pay it forward.

Borrow Gator Dad (after May 3) from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.


  1. I love Brian's art--can't wait to read this one!

  2. I am a huge fan of Brian and his books! GATOR DAD looks like another gem. I can't wait to get my own copy!

  3. I love a story about a stay-at-home dad! There are many families who have non traditional family roles! A welcomed diversity picture book which is so cute!

  4. I loved the book Raymie Nightingale as an adult reader! I can't wait to read it to readers who are younger than I! :)