Kate Beaton translated her Web comic success with Hark, a Vagrant! into a budding career in children’s books with last year’s The Princess and the Pony. This fall, she releases her second picture book, King Baby (Scholastic/Levine, Sept.), a sendup of the reverence and adoration new babies evoke, with her keen sense of humor and style on full display
King Baby introduces a familiar character to kids and grownups alike: a new baby whose cuteness attracts all the attention in the room. “I first drew King Baby in 2011,” Beaton explains. “I was watching this baby at a coffee shop, and I began drawing him, because he just seemed so oblivious to the world around him. Everyone stopped and looked at him, but he was just, ‘I’m going to keep eating my hand.’ Babies are fun to draw.”
After that, Beaton herself became an aunt and saw firsthand how “that blind adoration is real.” Of babies, she says, “They’re just little tiny tyrants who are super ungrateful for what you do.” She is also sympathetic to what happens to siblings when a new baby comes along. “When you’re a kid,” she says, “it rocks your entire world and you don’t understand it.”
In the Beaton household, there’s a story “my mom still cries when she tells,” the author says. When her mother was pregnant, her younger sister, then a toddler, asked, “‘When the baby comes, where does the old baby go?’ She had this intense fear that she had to go away. Siblings go through that when a baby comes. But we were all king baby once. The book is very silly, but I hope it’s also sympathetic to a young reader who has a king baby in their life.”
Beaton’s move into kids’ books means an expanded audience, too. “I love my adult audience, though sometimes there can be a bunch of cynical jerks in the audience,” she notes. But when the author does school visits, the vibe is different. Recounting one recent event, she says, “I read The Princess and the Pony to a gym full of five and six year olds, and we drew a picture together. One girl asked a question, I knelt down to hear her better, and she started hugging me. And once one started hugging, the kids all started hugging me.”
“Indie booksellers have always been enormous pushers of my work, between hand-selling and window displays,” says Beaton. “I wouldn’t be here without those kinds of stores, whose booksellers have made me feel welcome, recommended me, and welcomed me into a community.”
Beaton is happy to be attending her first BEA, where she’ll participate in today’s “The Story Starts Here: Humor Edition” picture book panel, 11:30 a.m.–12:15 p.m., on the Uptown Stage. Following that, the author will sign f&gs of King Baby, 1–2 p.m., at Table 11, in the Autographing Area.
This article appeared in the May 13, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.