Cover Reveal: Good Rosie! by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by Harry Bliss

Hello, Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss! Happy Tuesday! I'm honored to reveal the cover for Good Rosie! The genesis for this book is a little unusual. Can you tell us about how the collaboration started?

Harry Bliss: Kate and I had worked on a picture book previously, and some years later I’d wanted to work with Kate on a book of dog poems, inspired by a poem she’d written for another book that I’d made an image for: “Snow, Aldo.”

Kate DiCamillo: That painting is hanging on my living room wall. I’m looking at it as I type these words. Ever since then Harry and I have wanted to do a dog book together. And about four years ago we were both in South Dakota for a festival, and I said, “When are we going to do that dog book?”

Harry: Time passed and I kept nagging her, sort of, not really, but every six months or so I’d think to myself, “Hey, I wonder why Kate hasn’t written a dog manuscript yet?” Then one afternoon I got Good Rosie! and I was off and running.

Can you discuss why the graphic storybook format with the panels that progress through the story works so well for this particular book?

Kate: Harry is probably better suited to answer this question than I am. All I know is that we both wanted kind of a Charles Schulz feel to things — that heartbroken, wise, hopeful quality. And once you start thinking about Charles Schulz, you start to think in panels. Plus, I like how the panels contain things, make them feel safer, more approachable.

Harry: I’m a huge fan of the comics, and I wanted this story to move in a very specific way. The space between each panel allows the reader to use their imagination to fill in their own narrative, which is essential to the comic form. Words and images together activate lobes of the brain in the deciphering of the narrative, but when you break down a traditional picture book into comics, an additional layer is then added. It’s actually been proven that various lobes are essentially more “fired up” when the comic format is employed. I can’t speak to why I chose this form for Rosie. Perhaps it’s my way of revisiting my comic book–reading childhood. Plus, it’s just fun to spend time in these boxes. . . .

There are a lot of ways into this story, a lot of layers for children and adults alike about having new experiences and meeting new friends. Did you see any themes emerge once you stepped back from your work and took it all in together?

Kate: I never think about messages when I’m writing, and it’s only afterward (when the book is done)that I can start to figure out (with other people’s help) what a book is about. I think that maybe Good Rosie! is about how we all need to find our people (or our dogs) and that those friendships are necessary and maddening and wondrous.

Harry: I will say that after finishing Rosie, I like the way these three dogs find friendship. It’s not always easy letting your guard down, letting someone into your world of insecurities, and I feel this book touches on that in a very intimate and “real” way.

What do you think having a pet brings to our lives?

Kate: All I know is that I can’t imagine life without a dog. They constantly remind me of the art of being well-and-truly present, and they also show me how to be joyful, how to concentrate on joy.

Harry: I’m an animal person. I’d throw myself in front of a car to save my annoying dog, Penny. I tell my shrink that when Penny dies, I’ll be a wreck for at least six months. What do animals bring to our lives? Empathy.

Can you tell us a little about your own dogs?

Kate: Well, right now I am on borrowed time. Ramona is on her back with her feet in the air, in front of the fireplace. Any minute now she will insist on me getting off the couch and taking her out into the world. Into the joyful present — which smells like squirrels and snow.

Harry: My dog is a scruffy mini poodle, twelve years old and absolutely wonderful. Her paws smell like corn chips and her breath is like a trash can, but she has me tied around her flea collar 24-7.

Look for Good Rosie! on September 4, 2018. 


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