When bestselling author-illustrator Peter H. Reynolds speaks at schools and children ask him about his favorite book, he tells them that Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is number two. “Then I pull out a blank book and say, 'this is my all-time favorite book,' ” he said. “It takes them a while to get it. Then I tell them it could be a place for your art or for your own story. It can be anything you want. I tell them their life is a blank book, and they can write their own story, or someone will write it for [them].” So to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of Reynolds’s picture book The Dot, about a girl whose teacher encourages her to make her mark, Candlewick is including a blank book as part of its promotional package.
On September 15, the press will publish The Dot: Make Your Mark Kit, which includes a hardcover copy of the original Dot book, a hardcover blank book whose cover also offers space to draw on, and six watercolor pencils, all intended to spur children’s creativity. Reynolds used Caran d’Ache watercolor pencils as a child, and despite what he called his recent “dabbling” with digital art, he’s still a fan of watercolors. “There’s something about watercolors and paper that can’t be beat,” he said. The kit’s publication falls on the book’s original pub date, which is also when the fifth annual International Dot Day will take place.
The brainchild of Iowa teacher Terry Shay, who saw The Dot as an invitation for teachers to develop their students’ creativity, Dot Day quickly caught on. By year two, 17,500 people had registered to participate; in 2012 the number had climbed to upwards of 850,000. This year’s goal is to get more than one million people to register on the International Dot Day Web site. Reynolds will mark the occasion at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass., which as part of its Dot Day celebration will show the award-winning animated film version of The Dot.
As Reynolds noted, “The dot is a metaphor to get started, whether it’s writing a book, starting a business, or beginning a relationship.” For him, embracing the dot has meant a variety of new ventures, including co-founding a children’s bookstore with his twin brother, Paul – The Blue Bunny in Dedham, Mass. – one month after The Dot was published. Another project is his latest picture book, The Smallest Gift of Christmas, which he originally conceived as a tiny novelty book; Candlewick is publishing it as a full-size picture book on September 24.
But that’s only one of the many projects Reynolds, who also illustrates the Judy Moody books, has on his desk. He keeps what he calls an “imaginary catalogue” of 400 book titles and covers, a roster he finds daunting. “I’m starting to do the math,” he said. “I’m worried.” If the ethos behind Dot Day has the desired effect, he needn’t be concerned; the next generation will pick up his creative mantle.