Happy Father's Day, papas everywhere: This day is for you! I was lucky to spend this Father's Day with my dad, Bill - doing the things that our family loves most: boating, floating, grilling and chilling. The lake is our happy place. Love you, Dad!
Father's Day also provides a great opportunity to spotlight a writer whose work is shaped by his role as a dad. I hope you enjoy this Author Spotlight on Alastair Heim.
Alastair and I met on Twitter (a fantastic forum for published and aspiring authors), and we connected as picture book writers, Kansas City fans and proud parents of three daughters. Without question, Alastair's daughters are the driving force behind his picture book work, and he has three awesome titles that reflect his love of kidlit and, most of all, his girls.
Here are Alastair's 3 fantastic books:
The Great Puppy Invasion will be published by HMH/Clarion Books on October 3rd, 2017 (illustrated by Kim Smith). This title is about what happens when a horde of puppies shows up in Strictville, a no-fun town that has never seen pups before.
Now, it's my pleasure to share a bit more about Alastair and his books...
Finishing each other's sentences is a hallmark of father-daughter closeness. What has fatherhood taught you about what kids need from their dad? How does your book LOVE YOU, TOO demonstrate this?
Thank you, Anitra, for the chance to answer these questions! Being a dad has been the greatest privilege and learning experience of my life. I couldn't have anticipated just how much my kids would influence EVERYTHING my wife and I now do - down to the simplest decisions we make (what color of cup do you want for your milk?). I think what my kids need most from me, other than my unconditional love and goofball ways, is consistent and open communication. While my children are still pretty young, they have good days and bad days and, when I get home from work, I want to hear about all of it. If something went wrong at school, I try to make sure they know they can always tell me about it. When things go well at their various activities or practices, I want to celebrate those achievements with them, too - even in the tiniest of ways.
We all get busy with the daily grind of parenthood and some days are harder than others. But I think spending a little time, each day, one on one with my kids is super important. I'm not always perfect about it, but it's always top of mind for me. LOVE YOU, TOO is really an aspirational reflection of how much time I wish I could spend with my kids all day, every day. But, the world doesn't work like that for most of us, which is why this book is so, so special for my family and me. Especially when we read it together at bedtime.
Kids love pretending to be in our big-person world, but they are also the first to giggle in the face of our stuffy rules. In NO TOOTING AT TEA, potty humor delivers the laugh. Did you hesitate before jumping into a toot book?
The inspiration for NO TOOTING AT TEA came directly from an imaginary tea party I was lucky enough to be at - which was also attended by two of the loveliest little ladies I've ever known (wink). The hostess was throwing a perfectly proper party when, all of the sudden, one of the other guests broke the most sacred of tea party rules - they TOOTED. Without hesitation, the hostess calmly declared that, "There's no tooting at tea," and I excitedly declared, "That's brilliant...I need to write a book called THAT!"
The reality of things, and anyone with daughters will tell you this, is that girls TOOT, too. Always have, always will. TOOTING has been the source of uproarious laughter in our household and I never, for a second, have thought it was a subject reserved solely for one gender. While it's true that most books written on the matter have been targeted toward boys, my story always featured girls as the main characters. And to be completely honest, I don't consider NO TOOTING AT TEA to be a flatulence book for the pure sake of flatulence. If you're really paying attention to the story, it's a book about sibling dynamics and, ultimately, sisterly forgiveness - with a little bit of tooting along the way. Okay, A LOT of tooting. I have been absolutely thrilled and humbled by the responses to the book, especially from parents of girls.
In THE GREAT PUPPY INVASION, puppies show up in Strictville and (presumably!) turn the town's frowns upside down. How does humor play into your family's dynamic? And how does it find its way into your books?
Humor is, by far, the most abundant natural resource in our family (besides love, of course). Laughter is the common language we all speak as humans, and cracking jokes has always been my trusty go-to to ensure that frowny faces disappear - even from a very young age. I use humor a lot in my daily life to connect with people, relate to others and, oftentimes, to diffuse tension. I am a huge fan of comedy and draw a lot of humor from my surroundings - especially from my friends and family. When it comes to making new friends, in fact, I can usually tell pretty quickly whether I'm going to gel with someone or not, just by what they find funny. And when it comes to family, I knew I wanted to marry my wife right when we first started dating, after she thought a t-shirt I was wearing was funny. The shirt had a cartoon on it that I found hilarious, but no one (before her) had EVER found funny. The more I have in common with people on the "HA-HA" scale, the better. I still have that t-shirt, too.
Because humor is such an important part of my life, I think it naturally shows up in my writing. Having read hundreds of picture books to my kids over the years, I've learned a lot about what does and doesn't make a good read-aloud experience. Because of that, I'm always trying to make my stories as clever and enjoyable as possible - for parents and kids alike.
My family loves puppies. Who doesn't really? While we don't currently have a dog in our household, my wife and I had three dogs before our kids were born. While THE GREAT PUPPY INVASION was ultimately influenced by my late Whippets (Pike, Daisy and Dopple), the inspiration for the story came from a piece of art I happened upon a few years ago. There is a sculpture of six dogs, stacked "cheerleader pyramid" style, where I work. One day, I looked at it and thought, "Hundreds of puppies suddenly show up in a town that has never seen puppies before." I got home and immediately started writing the manuscript. The thought of how ridiculous puppy behavior is (when you really stop and think about it) and how confusing it would be if you were experiencing puppies for the first time, was hilarious to me. I am really proud of how this book turned out and cannot wait for people to read it.
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Thank you, Alastair, for sharing these fantastic insights and stories! You can order copies of Alastair's books at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, IndieBound and Books-A-Million, and through the websites of each book's publisher.
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