Author Susan Bearman is a writer, marketing communications specialist and reluctant pet-store owner. She writes children’s books, creative nonfiction and memoir. Susan lives with her family, a dog and two cats in the Chicago area. This is her first picture book. You can read her blog, Two Kinds of People, or find out more on her business website.
Illustrator Rebecca Hamlin is an artist based in Chicago. Her company, Chichonia Design, specializes in scenic design for theater, custom installations of all kinds, and unique event decor. She lives with her family, a canary and two guinea pigs. This is her first picture book.
Title: Animal Store Alphabet Book
Author: Susan Bearman, illustrated by Rebecca Hamlin
Page count: 32
Genre: Children’s picture book, hardcover, nonfiction
Tell us about your book:
A picture book for pet and animal lovers of all ages. From Amphibians to Zebra finches, the Animal Store Alphabet Book takes readers on a visit to the local pet shop. Striking colors pop off the pages and draw you in to discover realistic details of animals both familiar and strange. Lively verse is a joy to read, and interesting facts will satisfy even the most curious animal lover. Together, these words and pictures create a magical world children will want to explore again and again.
How long did it take to write the book?
I had the initial idea in late 2010, and the books rolled off the presses in December 2012. Along the way, we did a Kickstarter campaign to underwrite the printing and production of the book and companion materials. I wrote the the 28 verses and additional facts for each animal. Rebecca painted 28 original images. We did all the design and production work ourselves. We also created a companion coloring book and poster, as well as some related products.
What inspired you to write the book?
I’ve watched the publishing industry change almost daily, and wanted to design a project to be self-published, rather than using self-publishing as a fall back option. My husband owns a pet shop, so I asked him to bring home a list of all the animals he sells in the store. I quickly discovered that he had at least one animal for every letter of the alphabet and the idea for the Animal Store Alphabet Book was born.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
This book was a true collaboration. Rebecca Hamlin is a gifted artist and we worked on the concept together from the start. First, I developed the list of animals, making sure we had a balance of kinds of animals (birds, fish, reptiles and mammals) and that we didn’t have two of the same kind in a row. Then we Rebecca started painting and I started writing. Rebecca's paintings are visually stunning as well as representative of each animal’s personality and physical characteristics. The details are amazing.
I did a great deal of research on each animal. For the more common pets, I wanted to include little known facts that would bring new information to the table. Many of the animals, like the degu, were unfamiliar to me, too, and I was starting from scratch. Writing in verse is tricky. You want to use interesting words, choose rhymes that are not clichéd, and ensure that the rhythm and readability is flawless. I had a lot of beta readers along the way who gave me invaluable feedback. Our concept was to include a four-line verse for each animal, and three additional facts that run around the perimeter of the illustration for the more curious or older reader.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
I hope they love the images and the rhymes. I hope they are curious to learn more about these and other animals, and that it leads them to seek more information. Finally, I hope by seeing the wide variety of pets that people keep, they begin to understand the special, unbreakable bond between humans and animals.
Excerpt from book:
Welcome to the Animal Store
Where this is what you’ll see
The "who-knew zoo" just down the street
With pets from A to Z.
Amphibians seem quite confused
They don’t know where to dwell
First in water, then on land
Their webbed feet serve them well.
Where can we go to buy your book?
On Amazon: Animal Store Alphabet Book
Any other links or info you'd like to share?
Email: alphabet.animal at gmail dot com