Ame Dyckman returns to the blog today to talk about her Ezra Jack Keats award winning sophomore picture book: Tea Party Rules.
Miss Print (MP): How did you come up with the idea for Tea Party Rules?
Ame Dyckman (AD): I’ve adored tea parties since I was very little, when I first heard of… ya know, that particularly mad one. I was (and am!) crazy about Michael Bond’s Paddington, which taught me a little bear could drop into my life at any moment. And I really, really love cookies. I think all these things rolled about in my brain for a bit, finally bumped into each other, and said, “Hey! Let’s write a story together!”
MP: Who came first in this story? The girl or the bear?
AD: Cub came first. If there were no one to desire the cookies, it wouldn’t matter if there were no cookies, right? (I think I read this in philosophy class. Or in a fortune cookie.)
MP: Which part of Tea Party Rules was your favorite to write? Which was the hardest?
AD: My favorite part to write was Cub’s interaction with the teddy bear he usurps at the girl’s backyard tea party. It was the hardest part to write, too. How much did Cub understand about his new acquaintance? What would his reaction be? And most importantly (always!), would kids get it/love it/laugh? My Super Agent (Scott Treimel) and genius Viking editor (Leila Sales) were a huge help with this.
MP: Was there a particular part that you were particularly excited to see illustrated?
AD: I couldn’t wait to see Cub dressed up and miserable in the girl’s tea party finery. (Sorry, Cub! Way to take one for the team!) Illustrator Extraordinaire K.G. Campbell captured this scene perfectly. I still laugh out loud every time I see it, and it’s a riot at book signings! The kids crack up when I crack up!
MP: Would you consider yourself more like Bear or more like the little girl?
AD: I used to be more like the little girl, especially when it came to the way I thought something should play out. I’d get an idea in my head, and be terribly disappointed when the reality wasn’t as fun as I imagined it to be. But lately, I think I’m more like Cub, willing to roll with things more—at least until I hit my breaking point. (Like when I see cookies I can’t have.)
MP: Ending with a hard-hitting question: What is your favorite kind of cookie? What would you want served at a tea party?
AD: I have an absolutely-can’t-resist-zero-willpower weakness for Oreos. (The scene where Cub gobbles the cookies? I think someone slipped K.G. footage of me with a package of Oreos!) But for a tea party, you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip cookies, especially homemade ones. They’re bliss-inducing and fantastic for sharing down to the last cookie—so long as each half has roughly the same number of chips!
MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?
AD: My next book, Wolfie the Bunny, hops into bookstores everywhere on February 17th. It’s the funny sibling story of a baby wolf adopted by a family of rabbits. Mama and Papa are thrilled with the new addition to the family, but daughter Dot is certain, “He’s going to eat us all up!” It’s adorably illustrated by the amazing Zachariah OHora. I’m over-the-moon to work with him and the fabulous folks at LB Kids, and can’t wait for everyone to meet Wolfie and the fam!
Thanks again to Ame Dyckman for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find more information about her books on her website.