Dedicated blogger and author of the bestselling The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, Ree Drummond adopts a very different writing style in her debut picture book, Charlie the Ranch Dog, which is told in the voice of her family’s pet basset hound. Illustrated by Diane deGroat, the book, which is due out next week, is set on Drummond’s Oklahoma cattle ranch, where Drummond lives with her husband, their four children, and many animals—including one that is now a picture book hero.

Well, a hero of sorts. A delightfully delusional dog, Charlie is convinced that he’s a hard worker, yet devotes much of his day to napping and eating (bacon is a favorite snack). He leaves the chores to his fellow, decidedly more energetic, ranch dog, Suzie, reasoning, “I like to give her a chance to shine every now and then. It’s the least I can do.”

Kate Jackson at HarperCollins Children’s Books, a longtime fan of Drummond’s blog (which, launched in 2006, now receives some 20 million hits monthly), planted the seeds for Charlie. “I quickly got pulled into Ree’s blog, for her fantastic recipes and photographs, but also for her spirited, irreverent writing,” says Jackson, who serves as senior v-p, associate publisher, and editor-in-chief. “At the same time, I got pulled into her life on the ranch, and did what every editor does: I started thinking, ‘Where’s the children’s book here?’ ”

When Jackson began talking with Drummond, that children’s book soon surfaced. “We rapidly got to the idea of making Charlie the central figure,” Jackson recalls. “On Ree’s blog he has such personality. He’s goofy and loveable, and she writes about him in the first person—in such a smart and funny way. That translated so well into a book.”

Charlie Gets a Voice, an Illustrator, and a Recipe

Not surprisingly, Drummond had little difficulty finding her hound’s voice when she began writing Charlie. “His voice was very easy to come by, since I often put words into his mouth on my blog,” she says. “I know Charlie so well. He is so much a part of our ranch and our kids’ lives that I had a million scenes from his life that I could draw from. He is so flawed that he is relatable for children and adults. He can be very entertaining.”

Diane deGroat, who writes the popular series about Gilbert the opossum for HarperCollins, was a natural choice to illustrate Charlie, Jackson says. “Ree and I both thought that Diane was an artist who would not only get Charlie’s handsome basset-hound looks, but his personality as well. And she definitely, instinctively got who he was. She also got Suzie, and did a wonderful job portraying the ranch environment.”

Drummond agrees, saying she feels Charlie on the page is a perfect replica of real-life Charlie, though it took a few tweaks to make him so. “In the same way that my writing was a bit too precious in my first draft, when I saw Diane’s initial drawings I thought Charlie was too cute,” says the author. “I told her that he needed to be more pathetic. And she nailed it. In the final art, he has that pitiful quality that is so Charlie!”

True to her first calling, ardent chef and recipe-sharer Drummond includes instructions for making Pioneer Woman’s (and Charlie’s) favorite lasagna at the end of the story. “I knew I couldn’t not put a recipe in a book I wrote,” she says with a laugh. “It wouldn’t feel right. I didn’t want to do a dog-specific recipe, since that’s not my specialty. So I zeroed in on a good, solid, family-friendly recipe. And dog-friendly. Charlie does love lasagna.”

Drummond will appear on Today May 4 to promote Charlie the Ranch Dog, which has a 150,000-copy first printing, and will then tour five cities. And readers will have the chance to revisit Charlie’s ranch; the author has written a second, still untitled, picture book starring the hound. “In this story, a kitten comes to the ranch and Charlie has to acclimate to this new presence that he doesn’t understand,” Drummond says. “He has to find a resolution, and he does—in a funny, Charlie way, of course.”

Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond, illus. by Diane deGroat. Harper, $16.99 Apr. ISBN 978-0-06-199655-9