The wife-husband creative team who first collaborated on 2012's Oh, No! has arrived at BEA to talk about their latest work together, Bulldozer's Big Day (Atheneum, May). Written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann, the picture book introduces a little bulldozer who's convinced that his work buddies have forgotten his birthday—but maybe, just maybe—he's mistaken.
Construction vehicles and a birthday are surely a winning combination of kid-pleasing themes—might that have inspired the plot of Bulldozer's Big Day? "I wish we were that smart and savvy to have seen the combination from the start," replies Rohmann, who won the Caldecott for My Friend Rabbit and Caldecott Honors for Time Flies. "As it happens, the idea surfaced when we were driving through Indiana, talking about memorable books for younger readers, and Candy's mind just started going."
"I had never written a book where the main character was an inanimate object," Fleming says. "And it had been a long time since either one of us had made a book for the youngest readers. I asked, ‘What do kids love?' and we found our way to a little bulldozer." Adds Rohmann, "Candy blended and mashed, scooped and stirred all this together and out rose a story. And I made bright, bold, and chunky pictures to illustrate it—pictures that look like carved wooden blocks."
Both Fleming and Rohmann have collaborated with other illustrators and authors in their publishing careers, and working together is not a different creative experience for them. "Of course it's always an advantage to be able to just call down the hall to discuss a book's progress," says Rohmann. "For Candy, it's pretty much the same no matter who makes the pictures. Good picture book writers create stories that simply fit in the picture-book format. They can hear the page turns and know what to leave in and what to leave out to make room for the illustrator's take on the story. When I get a manuscript from Candy, I always know where the text is placed and the page turns occur."
The couple has already dug into Bulldozer's second adventure, and the little machine may well reappear. "We believe that Bulldozer's world is rich with preschool adventures that we both want to explore," Fleming says. Yet another collaboration between the two is scheduled for fall 2017 release by Roaring Brook's Neal Porter Books, Giant Squid.
Booksellers curious to read Bulldozer's story will find Fleming and Rohmann signing copies of the book at the S&S booth (2620, 2621) today, 2–3 p.m.
This article appeared in the May 28, 2015 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.