Dasher by Matt Tavares

Hello, Matt Tavares! I am sweating, sweating, sweating right now after taking a 2-mile walk in 95-degree heat. I am going to cool off by celebrating DASHER’s book trailer. What should everyone know about DASHER before pressing play?

Matt: Hi, Mr Schu! Wow, 95 degrees. I hope you found some air conditioning! 

I did! Thanks! 

Matt: I guess people should know that DASHER is an origin story about how Santa’s reindeer became Santa’s reindeer. 

Scenario: You’re invited to participate in the 30-second Book Talk Challenge. You decide to book talk DASHER and RED & LULU in 30 seconds. Ready, set, booktalk! 

Matt: 30 seconds for BOTH?!? Alright, here goes…

RED & LULU tells the story of a pair of cardinals who live happily together in a big, beautiful evergreen tree, until one day when their tree is chopped down and taken away, causing them to become separated. Red sets out on an adventure to find his special friend. It’s a Christmas story, and a love story.

DASHER spends her days with her family under the hot sun in a traveling circus. She loves Mama’s stories about the North Pole, and wishes for a life where she is free to roam under the glow of the North Star. One night, when the opportunity arises, she takes off in pursuit of the life she wants to live.

DASHER is the story of a brave little doe with a wish in her heart who follows her star and changes Christmas forever.

There! 30 seconds exactly.

(If you talk really fast.) 

A++++, Matt! 

What planted the seed for DASHER?

Matt: After finishing Red & Lulu in 2016, I had a little brainstorming session with my editor at Candlewick, Katie Cunningham, about what I might do next. Red & Lulu was my first book where my main characters were animals, and Katie felt like it brought out something new in my work. She suggested I try to come up with another animal story.

A few months later I started thinking about Santa’s reindeer. It occurred to me that these animals are world famous, yet somehow I had never heard a story that explained how they were chosen for this important job. I wanted to tell that story.

At first, I was stumped. Then one day, during a ten-minute drive home from my daughter’s basketball game, the idea for DASHER appeared, almost fully formed (it doesn’t usually happen this way!).

When I got home, I started writing it all down, and three days later, the first draft of Dasher was done.

Please finish these sentence starters:

Did you know that male reindeer tend to shed their antlers in early December, while female reindeer keep their antlers all winter long? And since Santa’s reindeer are typically shown with antlers, it’s reasonable to assume that at least some of them are female.

That’s one of the reasons I decided to portray Dasher as a doe. Nothing against Rudolph, but “the most famous reindeer of all” has gotten more than his fair share of attention over the years. It’s time for a girl reindeer to get some of the credit she deserves.

Picture books are hard to make! Even though this story came together relatively quickly, I actually struggled quite a bit with the final art. There are lots of night skies in these illustrations, and at one point in the process I fell into this weird rut where I just couldn’t paint night skies. The paint wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do! I wasn’t sure what was happening. Had I bought a defective batch of watercolor paper? Had I forgotten how to paint? I bought new brushes, new paper... nothing was working.

Then one day, for inspiration, I decided to look at David Wiesner’s blog (he’s one of my heroes, but I don’t think I had ever visited his website before). And there, amazingly, was a post about how when he was working on his Caldecott Medal-winning masterpiece, TUESDAY, he had the exact same thing happen! He forgot how to paint night skies!

This made me feel better. If this sort of thing can happen to one of my all-time favorite illustrators, then I knew I would probably be okay. Eventually I got back in the groove, and I’m happy with how it all came out.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I’ll be traveling around much when DASHER comes out. I will! I’m going to be all over the place, starting in September. I’ll be in St Louis, Indianapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee… check out the full tour hereI’m excited to hit the road, and I hope some of your readers will come say hi!

Thanks, Mr Schu!

Thank you, Matt! Congratulations! 

Look for DASHER on September 10, 2019.


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