|Miriam Busch, photo by Larry Day|
Miriam Busch is the author of the new children's picture book Raisin, the Littlest Cow (illustrated by her husband, Larry Day). She also has written Lion, Lion, and she has worked at a variety of jobs, including as a weaver, a baker, a park designer, and a professor.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Raisin, the Littlest Cow?
A: Larry came home from work one afternoon with a photograph of a raisin, around which he’d inked a charming adult Holstein – the raisin was the spot on the cow’s back. (He draws advertising storyboards as well as illustrating picture books; this was from an ad campaign.)
“Here’s Raisin,” he said.
Ha. If that spot were truly raisin-sized, I thought, that would be one tiny cow. We had a moment of hilarity as we imagined this tiny cow running across a breakfast table, squirting milk into cereal bowls.
He handed me the art. “There’s a story here,” he said.
“Absolutely not,” I said. I probably backed away. (Let me just say: I was ear-deep in several manuscript revisions, but even if I weren’t busy, anyone – even my husband - suggesting story ideas sends me running for the hills. Screaming.)
I try to write every morning just to warm up – I usually just ramble around for a few pages before I get to work on my manuscripts. And in my rambling that morning, I wandered back to Raisin.
I found myself asking “what-ifs”: what if Raisin was a calf? What would she want? What if what she wanted was connected to her size? I was just playing around before getting to my other manuscripts, but all of a sudden I had a story. Raisin was a gift.
Q: What do hope young readers take away from the story?
A: The satisfaction we gain from figuring out how to boost ourselves (and others) up is worth any effort.
One of the things I love about Raisin is she’s honest about her feelings. Change IS hard. But she figures out that change can be good.
Also (and this might be a stretch): there’s room for everyone. Sometimes we have to change how we see our world, but there’s room.
Q: What do you think the illustrations added to the book?
A: Oh. Everything! I love the emotions Larry shows through character expressions and body language, as well as through color and line.
The picture book page-turn can be tricky. Larry’s pacing is terrific, both within each spread and how he visually directs the page turns.
Q: What were some of your favorite picture books as a child?
A: Mama, I Wish I Was Snow: Child, You’d Be Very Cold by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Ellen Raskin. Someday by Charlotte Zolotow. If Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover
My mother and some of my siblings spoke French, and there was on our shelves a French book: Le Petit Chien. I can’t remember the story fully, but there was something about a museum and a dinosaur bone situation, and I found it hilarious! I wish I could find it now and attribute the author.
We had lots of Jules Pfeiffer and Chas Addams – not picture books, but super great visual storytelling.
I was an early reader in a family of voracious readers, and the books I remember reading most are chapter books. I loved, so very much, the original Winnie the Pooh. An old collection of folk tales titled East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon, and Andrew Lang’s colored Fairy Books were my staples.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Revision number 7,694,851 of a middle grade fantasy and a picture book manuscript or three -- and Larry and I are working on non-fiction YA graphic piece about a mountain climber.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Because I’m pretty shy, I never dreamed I’d enjoy presenting to schools. Turns out, I do! Larry and I travel across the country, and we meet with everyone from reluctant readers to writing prodigies.
To me, story is story, and picture books are terrific vehicles for discussing structure, character arcs, etc., even with college students. Story can link across cultures and ages and all sorts of different beliefs – and I love that.
If anyone wants to get in touch, my in-need-of-updating website is a good bet. I’m a few-and-far-between blogger – so much respect and admiration for all the true writer/bloggers out there, including you, Deborah. Thanks so much for having me on your blog!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb