Q: What inspired you to write Good Night, Alligator?
A: This book is my most autobiographical book. As a child, I HATED to go to bed. I always felt like I was missing out on something special that was happening after my bedtime.
I can clearly remember being 3, 4, and 5 years old and getting up time after time for a drink of water, a trip to the bathroom, or to tell my parents something. So this book is dedicated to my parents, with apologies for my nocturnal habits.
The inside story of this book is that an editor gave my agent an illustration of an alligator riding a bus and asked her if she knew someone who could write a story to go along with it.
So I wrote a story called Alligators Do NOT Ride the School Bus, all about the things alligators do not do, like go to fancy restaurants or wear ballet tights.
That editor passed on it, but in submissions, another editor suggested it could be a bedtime story, so I changed it. After several revisions, it went out again.
It had SO many close calls, going to senior editors and acquisition meetings, but being passed up because, apparently in 2017-18 alligators were the new vampires, and EVERYONE had an alligator book in the works.
The text finally sold to Roaring Brook Press. It became Alligators Do NOT Go to Bed, and finally Good Night, Alligator.
Q: What do you think Mike Boldt's illustrations add to the story?
A: Don’t you just LOVE Mike’s illustrations? He has perfectly captured both the reluctant child and her patient, inventive parents.
Just look at that boneless slump when Dad pulls out a sweet bedtime book, and how Mom wrestles her little alligator into the bathroom, only to delicately brush her teeth. And speaking of teeth, be sure to notice how Mike painstakingly painted all 80 teeth in the alligator’s mouth!
Q: The Kirkus Review of the book called it "Possibly a new nighttime favorite for both sides in the battle for bedtime." What do you think of that description?
A: I hope the book does just that: speaks to kids who are reluctant to go to bed, and gives their parents hope (and maybe a strategy or two) for dealing with kids who don’t want to go to bed.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: Honestly, I hope kids just love the story and laugh at the antics of the alligator as she tries to avoid bedtime. It’s my goal as an author and as a teacher to write and share stories that make kids say, “Read it again!” and learn to love books.
I hope the takeaway for the parents is to deal with bedtime routines in a creative and fun way. If it takes a little longer, that’s okay. A happy alligator is the goal, after all. And eventually, even the most nocturnal kids do go to sleep.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m revising several projects, and I’d like to begin a middle grade novel.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Look for my next book to come out in Spring of 2024. It’s being illustrated now by G. Brian Karas. It’s called The Power of Yeti.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Rebecca Van Slyke.