Book Adventures with Zelda and Ivy
Zelda and Ivy was first published by Candlewick Press in 1998: three short stories about two fox sisters in one picture book format. Both the text and illustrations seemed to drop into my lap: gifts. But with further thought, I realized this material had been trying to become a book for a long time.
We all experience moments when life is larger than usual, moments full of emotion and humor that we recognize as the stuff of story. I gathered a critical mass of such times from childhood home movies and conversations with my sibs. I wanted to make a picture book that carried our growing-up experience: our neighborhood parades, and fairy dust and, maybe most importantly, our relationships. I am the middle of five children. I know what it is to be a bossy, imaginative big sister and an adoring, gullible little sister. I thought sibling rivalry could fuel the drama.
|The McGee family|
I first worked with this material in a project called Summer Shorts. Here’s the dummy. It included four little stories about a family with five human children. It made the rounds at publishers and was roundly rejected. Years passed while I sold other projects and got started in the picture book world.
Meanwhile, Pierr Morgan, a Northwest illustrator, showed me this cool medium called gouache resist (directions here). I liked how the reds popped. Why not revisit that sibling rivalry material – only with fox characters? I simplified, reducing the cast to two.
Kirby was at the table when I brought the first Zelda and Ivy stories to critique. [note from Kirby: I knew I was hearing the next Frog and Toad or George and Martha!] From that first reading, it seemed to have the juice. When it was published, Zelda and Ivy received lots of starred reviews and SCBWI’s Golden Kite honors in illustration and text. I was invited to do a sequel. Then a third.
When the fourth book, Zelda and Ivy The Runaways, came out in 2007, it had a leaner look. Candlewick’s marketing department had advised these stories belong in the early reader canon – thus we downsized to the standard 6 x 9-inch ledger size. That year the American Library Association chose it for the Geisel Award. It was the same year Kirby won the Newbery honor for Hattie Big Sky. We were both in the ballroom in downtown Seattle when our awards were announced. Pretty exciting.
Two more Zelda and Ivy titles have followed, and the earlier ones were reformatted from picture book to ledger.
By the time I got to the sixth book, I knew Zelda and Ivy’s world as well as my own. Thus when a second-grader wrote me, “Here’s an idea: Zelda and Ivy go to the movies. You take it from there,” I knew what to do.
All of this is to say that Zelda and Ivy have yet another exciting edition coming out this month. All six are now officially part of Candlewick’s Sparks series for early readers; each a slim paperback that, hopefully, will fit easily into the backpacks of young readers.
If you don't know Laura's Zelda and Ivy books, go out and get them. Right now. Each adventure of these charming fox sisters is a doozy; each book is as big-hearted and warm as its creator.