Today, as part of my free kids’ eBook list (the rest of the list, which has several great picture books on it, is at the bottom of this post), I will be featuring author/illustrator Dianne Miller. Dianne’s newest free book promotion is her back to school book Don’t Go.
I’m impressed by Dianne’s ability to take normal frustrations experienced by kids and show how they can be overcome through her adorable character Little Bunny. Dianne’s books may look simple at first glance, but as this interview shows, they are actually the culmination of years of work.
Q. Tell us about your background as an artist and writer?
After graduating in 1979 with an Art History degree from VCU, I worked for 8 years writing and illustrating interpretive programs for the National Park Service, the Virginia State Parks and numerous historical organizations. When we started a family I began painting plain aire landscapes as a “sanity break”. Eventually I combined my interest in writing for families and painting and started creating children’s books that involved elaborate full-color paintings. I received a few nibbles from publishing houses but none of the books were picked up.
I created the Little Bunny books solely for my daughters rather than as a commercial venture. I suspect that is why they ring so true. The stories filled our lives when my daughters were young.
I made stuffed Little Bunnies that had a habit of disappearing when other children came over to play. Through the years I made dozens of stuffed bunnies, as well as Little Bunny Advent Calendars, pillows, plates and cups, and even a Little Bunny clock. Little Bunny was always a “she” in our house, but I made sure the books never refer to Little Bunny as either a boy or a girl so Little Bunny will be relevant to all children.
Now that my daughters are grown I am working as a landscape artist again and contemplating possibly resurrecting some of the full-color children’s books, but the Little Bunny books will always be our true love.
|Dianne Miller, author of the Little Bunny series, working on her landscapes.
Q. What inspired you to write the Little Bunny series?
Each of the Little Bunny books is the direct result of something that happened with one of my daughter’s. They were created specifically to try to address the frustrations my daughters were experiencing as young preschoolers. For example, I Want was inspired by a trip through the grocery store with my two year old, who grew increasingly frustrated as we wound through the aisles each shelf lined with tempting goodies.
I thought often about the values I wanted my daughters to have in adulthood and tried to reflect those values in each of the books. After a trip to the playground when my daughter whined about not having a playmate, I thought about how I would want her to cope when she was an adult and going through a life stage without a lot of readily available peers. I decided I would want her to be confident and comfortable with herself and wrote Best Friend.
Rainbow Sprinkles was suggested by my husband after he spent a meal trying to convince our daughter that she could not have candy for dinner.
The whole series was inspired by my daughters and the experiences we had as a family.
|Dianne’s daughters holding their handmade little bunnies.
Q. Can you tell us about the process of writing a Little Bunny book?
I believe one of the most important jobs a parent has is to prepare your child to be a responsible and functional adult who can contribute to society even if the contribution is very small. I thought about that a great deal raising my daughters and that perspective is reflected heavily in the Little Bunny series. When I wrote each book I started with the behavior I wanted to address but then thought about what were the repercussions were for my daughter’s adulthood. The resolutions in each book reflect what I hoped my daughters would learn as they grew up. The books are very simple but I wrote and rewrote them many times trying to find the clearest way to deliver the message. In the first books there is more description of Little Bunny’s reactions and behaviors and in the later books I relied more heavily on the illustration to tell the story.
Toddler’s lives are constantly directed by the adults around them and I discovered my daughters found the books very easy to relate to. Because Little Bunny behaves very much like they did, the stories validated their feelings and experiences. It is the validation of their frustrations combined with a gentle caring adult who guides Little Bunny through difficulties that makes the books so reassuring to a young child. Despite their short length and simple text a lot of thought went into each book.
|Sketches from the Little Bunny series.
Q. What authors/illustrators have influenced your work?
One of my favorite illustrators is Julie Vivas. Her beautiful book The Nativity is considered by some to be controversial for its contemporary and down to earth portrayal of the sacred story. We also loved her Possum Magic. Two possums travel across Australia looking for the magic food. Not to give it away, but the magic food is Vegemite. We served Vegemite while reading the story for extra fun. Be sure to purchase the smallest container you can find, Vegemite is very strange to American palates despite it being the equivalent of peanut butter as a childhood favorite in Australia.
I love the work of Barry Moser, an accomplished artist and print maker of great renown, who has created stunningly exquisite works for adults. Just as magnificent are his illustrations for children, from the light hearted My Cats Nic and Nora to the breathtakingly beautiful Psalm 23. For an older child interested in world religions, In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World, recommended by Bethany a few weeks ago, is sensitively enthralling. For adults, his illustrated Bible was described by The New York Times as possibly “the Bible for our time”.
James E. Ransome has thoughtfully illustrated gorgeous books that range from Peepers a story about folks traveling to see the fall foliage in New England to Sky Boys about constructing the Empire State Building. But my favorite has always been Uncle Jed’s Barbershop for one illustration. The child in the story needs to see the doctor in the era of Jim Crow laws in the south. The illustration shows the sick and tired African American families waiting until all the white families have been served before they can be seen by the doctor. Through the doorway you see the white staff laughing and joking as the families wait in misery. It is a very gentle introduction to man’s inhumanity to man. A subtle portrayal of something every child eventually learns. It is a case of the illustration saying more than words ever could. The story ends on a joyful note.
On the lighter side, Lynn Munsiger’s illustrations are just a bucket of fun. Many of the books she illustrated were written by Helen Lester. We loved Tacky the Penguin and his many adventures as the loud, tacky odd-ball who manages to hold his own amongst the perfect penguins. Other favorites were Pookins Gets Her Way and Me First with plots completely obvious from the titles. The funny illustrations animate the story and the heartfelt resolutions. But hands down my daughters’ favorite Lynn Munsinger story was A Porcupine Named Fluffy. They found it hysterical and fell over with laughter as we read “Fluffy” over and over again. These are only a few of the many of the illustrators I find inspiring.
I just want to thank Dianne for taking the time to let us peek into her creative process creating this fun series of books for young children. Dianne’s blog (Little Bunny Series) is full of free printables and other information about her books so you should check it out. Dianne also let me know that this fall she is planning on offering her entire series in a bundle for half off of the price that each book costs individually. I will be sure to let you know when Dianne puts her book set on Amazon, in case anyone missed one of the free books and wants the entire set.
Dianne’s book Don’t Go as well as several other great picture books is on my list today. I am very excited to also have a fantastic picture book about manners, several fun new puzzle books, and a cute baby book on my list. Since I didn’t feature multiple books today, I put my favorites with an asterisk at the top of the list.
You can find my list on Amazon:
Don’t forget also that I am hosting a giveaway for the wonderful book Old Bear by Kevin Henkes. You can enter once a day!
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