Best known as the creator of SkippyJon Jones, the frisky Siamese who thinks he’s a Chihuahua, Judy Schachner has added a new member to her family of animal characters. In Dewey Bob (Dial, Sept.), the title character is a raccoon who lives alone in a house overflowing with beloved objects: buttons, wheels, furniture, and bric-a-brac that he finds and fixes, turning trash into treasures. When he realizes there’s one important thing his collection is lacking—a friend—Dewey Bob sets out to find one.
“I’ve always loved raccoons,” says Schachner. “In fact, I shared my first apartment with a family of raccoons. I’d hear them in the walls right behind my bed at night—quite an otherworldly sound! And then the raccoon parents would bring their babies to the window and hang on the screens outside. I fed them Oreos, and they ate them just like human children do, separating the two sides of the cooking and licking the frosting.”
Making Dewey Bob an amasser of “lost and tossed things the world no longer has use for” was a natural move for Schachner, who shares that proclivity with her character. “Like Dewey, I am a collector of various things that I like to repurpose and rearrange,” she explains. “He knows that the one thing he’s missing is a collection of friends, but as a nocturnal animal, when he meets other animals in broad daylight, they get nervous and run away from him. So he has to find a creative way to make a friend.”
Though forever devoted to SkippyJon Jones, Schachner is pleased to switch gears with Dewey Bob. “This is a much gentler story, with a very different story line and style,” she says. “I still have stories to write about Skippy, but I have so many other stories inside of me to tell that if I spent the rest of my life just writing about Skippy I would not be a happy camper. And Penguin has been so gracious and generous giving me free rein to create this lovely character of Dewey Bob.”
Schachner, who is working on a new Dewey Bob book, hopes that diehard SkippyJon Jones fans—especially teacher members of what she calls “the Skippy cult”—embrace her raccoon character as well. “When I first created Skippy, I had done a number of books that did not involve animal characters,” she says. “But SkippyJon was the character who caught fire. It made me realize that animal characters go directly to the hearts of kids—they don’t leave anyone out. I hope readers identify with Dewey Bob in the same way.”
Schachner autographs copies of Dewey Bob at a ticketed signing at Table 2 today, 11 a.m.–noon.
This article appeared in the May 29, 2015 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.