David Kirk, the creator of the one million-copy bestseller Miss Spider’s Tea Party and its sequels, has just published his first new picture book in a decade. Oh So Tiny Bunny, out this week from Feiwel and Friends, centers on a bunny who dreams he is as big as a dragon, a forest, and a mountain, yet realizes when he awakens that his tiny stature suits him best of all. This book project, which launches the Oh So Tiny World series, reunites the author with Jean Feiwel, who was editor-in-chief at Scholastic back in 1994 when that house launched Kirk’s Miss Spider series in conjunction with Callaway Editions.
“It was déjà vu all over again,” says Feiwel, publisher of Feiwel and Friends and senior v-p of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, of acquiring On So Tiny Bunny in fall 2011 as part of a four-book deal that involved Barbara Marcus, another Scholastic veteran. “At the time, Barbara was working at Writers House and was co-agenting David’s project with Ken Wright,” says Feiwel. They were shopping David around town, meeting with people at a number of houses, and the fact that Barbara and I had worked with him at Scholastic was very meaningful. We had seen something special in him way back when Miss Spider first came out, and it’s exciting to see him back at work again. He’s a unique talent and has lots and lots of ideas.”
Kirk is also pleased that Oh So Tiny Bunny found a home with Feiwel and Friends. “It was nice to go with someone I had a history with, and it’s been a delight working with Jean and [editor-in-chief] Liz Szabla,” he says. “It was also nice to work with Barbara again when she offered to help me find a new publisher. I had thought for a while that I might start my own company, but she said if I did that I’d spend all my time on the business side of it. I had a long list of projects I was interested in doing, and Jean picked several she wanted to work on. It was a great process working on Oh So Tiny Bunny. Jean and Liz made good suggestions and were helpful without being intrusive. It’s been ideal.”
Feiwel, who says that the initial challenge of working with Kirk on the new book was “helping him figure out what direction to go in,” is happy with the results. “The art is almost three-dimensional and has a luminosity about it that I think is amazing,” she says. “David truly understands a child’s sense of the world and sense of both awe and fear. There’s something in David’s worldview that is very specific to him and special. His artwork and his text are very pure.”
For his part, the author says he conceived of the characters for the Oh So Tiny World books years ago, “but I never got around to doing anything with them. The story came to me really quickly, but when I go to make the pictures, it’s never quick at all. I spend a couple of months developing the pictures, and then six months to a year making the art.”
Kirk’s contract with Feiwel and Friends includes a follow-up, Oh So Brave Dragon, scheduled for fall 2014 publication, as well as two books in a new series called Monstrux, which brings together monsters and trucks.
Before tackling Oh So Tiny Bunny – which Macmillan is supporting with an announced 100,000-copy first printing, author bookstore and book festival appearances, and online and print advertising – Kirk kept very busy during his 10-year hiatus from creating his own original books. His projects included working on a series of books based on Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends, a TV show that debuted on Nick, Jr. in 2004, creating a line of Sunny Patch children’s merchandise, and helping develop two Miss Spider apps.
But Kirk, who has also designed toys, is clearly pleased to be back on the book beat. “Doing all of those other things was very rewarding, and I’m proud of all that we did,” he says. “But working on those things, there is so much between you and the final product. Even when that final product comes out beautifully, there are so many steps and so many compromises. Working on my own books is a happier and cleaner kind of process. I’m always happy making my books. It’s a better fit for me.”
Oh So Tiny Bunny by David Kirk. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 Feb. ISBN 978-1-250-01688-1