Marla Frazee, who won Caldecott Honors for her own A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever and for All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, received accolades for her book illustration early on—as a fourth-grader, in fact. Her best friend announced that she wanted Frazee to draw pictures for a story she’d written. “She was very precocious and told me that if I wanted to illustrate children’s books, I should start with hers, ” Frazee recalls. “So I did. And someone at our school sent it to the California State Fair, and we won an award. We were asked to make a duplicate copy for the school library, and every time I saw it on the shelf, I was so happy that I was a published author!”

The real thing came some years later. Frazee worked as a commercial artist before breaking into children’s book illustration in 1990 with World Famous Muriel and the Magic Mystery by Sue Alexander. Over the years, Frazee has alternated between writing and illustrating her own books and illustrating the work of others. Asked whether she finds it more satisfying to tell stories in pictures or words, Frazee answers, “I love doing both things. I like it when manuscripts I haven’t written grab me, since it’s not anything that could have come out of my own head. I find creating my own books a more organic process. Working with a concept in both words and pictures, a book takes a while to form itself, and I love that.”

Indeed, Frazee’s newest solo effort, Boot & Shoe, took quite some time to take shape. Due from Simon & Schuster’s Beach Lane Books with a 100,000-copy first printing, the picture book centers on two puppy siblings who snuggle together at night but spend their days apart—Boot on the back porch and Shoe on the front porch. The title came first, explains Frazee. “My son’s girlfriend happened to mention that there’s a restaurant in the Bay Area called Boot and Shoe Service, located in an old cobbler shop. And I knew right away that I had a title for a book.”

Months later, an image popped into Frazee’s head of two dogs who are identical except that one has black legs and paws (bootlike) and the other has only black paws (shoelike). “And then I had my characters,” she says. “But it took a strange series of little epiphanies before I knew what was going to go on between the two dogs. I spent six or seven months doing thumbnail sketches before I figured it out.”