Two-time Newbery medalist Kate DiCamillo and illustrator and New Yorker cover artist Harry Bliss are proof that the bonds between dog people run deep. The two met over “Snow, Aldo,” a poem DiCamillo wrote for the Thanks and Giving: All Year Long anthology, edited by Marlo Thomas and others. When DiCamillo saw the illustration that Bliss had created for her poem about an old man walking a dog in Central Park as snow falls, she knew she’d made a new friend.
A few years later, the pair collaborated on a picture book, Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken (2008), but they had long wanted to do a dog book. “When we saw each other at a conference in South Dakota a few years ago,” says DiCamillo, “we both said, ‘Let’s do that dog book!’ ” The result is Good Rosie! (Candlewick, Sept.), a graphic storybook about a puppy who has no canine companions except for the reflection in her water bowl. When her owner takes her to the dog park, Rosie has to figure out how to make friends with the other dogs.
As Peanuts fans, DiCamillo and Bliss settled on the graphic storybook format. They wanted to capture that same kind of “heart-broken hopefulness,” says DiCamillo.
Bliss views comics as a launchpad for reading books. “Comics can help a young reader get over the intimidation of words,” he says. “Also, in comic panels, I can slow down the timing of the narrative, take rests in the rhythm of the story, or leave some of the action out, allowing readers to use their imagination to fill in the story.”
Creating Good Rosie! was an organic process, with Bliss sending DiCamillo sketches of dogs to inspire her storytelling. “I looked at them and arranged them, and rearranged them, and rearranged them again, and then I felt a story coming on,” DiCamillo says. As for Bliss, he says, “It’s all about breaking down Kate’s words into visuals. How do I pull apart these words and visually construct a picture book? It’s not easy. Kate and I went through many pads of paper.”
Asked if the two intend to collaborate on any other projects, Bliss responds that he would like to work with DiCamillo on sequels to Good Rosie!—and even suggests some possible titles: “Rosie Wins the Stanley Cup; Rosie’s Feet Smell Like Corn Chips; Rosie at the Sorbonne; or Rosie Meets Tintin.” Woof!