In his picture book adventures, Bob Shea’s roaring red Dinosaur has taken on bedtime, the potty, and the library. Next, the invincible young dino goes up against a familiar jolly old elf in Dinosaur vs. Santa, due from Hyperion in September with a 75,000 first printing. “I know from my school visits that kids just love anything Christmas related,” Shea says of the genesis of his new story. “And I know from watching my own son that the runup to Christmas is a crazy, happy time for kids. On Christmas Eve, kids have two responsibilities: to fall asleep and stay in bed. Well, Dinosaur doesn’t do that. Instead—spoiler alert—he sneaks downstairs to try to see Santa. Then he hightails it back to bed in fear that he’s broken the rules and Santa will take his presents away. He’s a wreck but finally falls asleep. Of course it all works out in the end!”
Before writing children’s books, Shea, a graphic designer, worked for several TV channels, including PBS Kids, Comedy Central, and Nick Jr. Inspired by onetime PBS Kids colleague Richard McGuire (author of The Orange Book and What’s Wrong with This Book?), he also dabbled in writing, including humorous essays for adults and a children’s book. After a lucky encounter at BEA eight years ago, his publishing aspirations crystallized.
“I’d compiled some of my humor writing into a booklet in hopes of selling it to a publisher at BEA,” Shea says. “That was of course entirely inappropriate, but I didn’t know then what BEA was all about. While I was checking out the signing corral, I saw Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith autographing Science Verse. I thought, ‘This is awesome—I love their work!’ So I took a chance and handed them samples of my writing. Lane e-mailed me a few days later, saying that he thought I was funny. And when I said I’d written a children’s book, he asked to see it.”
Smith liked the book—New Socks—and mentioned it to Megan Tingley, who got in touch with Shea and acquired the picture book for her Little, Brown imprint. “Even though I was brand-new to this business, I knew that this is not how it usually happens,” Shea acknowledges. He later sent Smith the text of Big Plans, which he’d planned to illustrate himself. “Lane said he loved it—and wanted to illustrate it,” Shea says. “I fell out of my seat. I know Lane gets embarrassed when I say this, but he is the nicest person in the world.”