Cover Reveal & Interview: Bob Shea Talks Up Unicorn Is Maybe Not So Great After All
When I am a good little blogger, and I mind my Ps and Qs, and catch all my spelling errors, and rein in my less than charitable attitudes for at least a good four hours, then once in the while the Blogging Gods will smile down upon me and I will be granted a boon. Today, that boon comes in the form of Bob Shea’s next book. No, not any of his 2018 titles (lovely though they might be). I’m talking about a sequel years in the making. A book that I didn’t know I needed until I understood that it was on the horizon. A book so good, and so funny that I am literally bouncing in my chair as I type this (necessitating that I go back and make more spelling corrections so that the Blogging Gods keep me in their favor).
Ladies and gentlemen . . . there is to be a sequel to Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great!!!! After all these years! The original came out in 2013, a whopping five years ago. Now the time is right, the planets have aligned, and today we are going to get to see the new cover for Unicorn is Maybe Not So Great After All.
But wait! There’s more!
You also get to hear from Unicorn creator Bob Shea himself. Y’know. The guy behind those funny picture books in your library. The ones you hand to the kids who want honestly funny stuff from a consistent source. Well, it turns out that the man gives a good interview. I should know. I got to pepper him wildly with queries and he only got one thing wrong (re: chocolate chip cookies – Obviously he’s right about browning the butter but if you increase the ratio of the brown to white sugar at a 3:2 ratio you’ll avoid floppy cookies, thereby creating a superior chewy product and . . . oh, let’s just interview the doggone guy).
Betsy Bird: You’ve made a whole slew of memorable picture book characters over the years (Dinosaur, Ballet Cat, Floyd Peterson, etc.) but I’m gonna come right out and say it. The dude I relate to the most is Goat. Now not only is Goat back (he had a nice Ballet Cat cameo, but one can always use more Goat in their lives) but so is Unicorn! Did you always plan to follow up UNICORN THINKS HE’S PRETTY GREAT or did you have to wait for an imaginative hook to come to you?
Bob Shea: It’s funny, most people relate to goat. I certainly do. It’s hard to stand out in a world filled with ostensibly perfect people living ostensibly perfect lives going around using words like, “ostensibly”. I’ve wanted to do a follow up for a few years but never had the right story. My original idea was much darker, with Unicorn on a lost weekend shuttered away in his Citizen-Kane-style mansion reading UNICORN THINKS HE’S PRETTY GREAT and cursing those who had wronged him.
My editor said no. My editor is smart.
BB: One of things I love about Unicorn is that he’s one of those people that gets accustomed to loads of attention naturally. Then, when all that is taken away, he’s completely unprepared for being treated like a regular person. Is Unicorn based on anyone you’ve ever known personally, or it is more the case that we’ve all got a bit of a Unicorn attention-seeker inside of us somewhere?
BS: I have a weird relationship with attention. I don’t seek it out and I shake it off like I walked into a spider web. Thankfully, I don’t get a ton. Unicorn isn’t based on any one person but if it was it would be Sergio Ruzzier. I hate that guy so much. I’m just kidding, Sergio is my friend and one of the nicest people in the world. Did you know he’s from Italy? It’s true. What were we talking about? Oh, attention seeking. You know, I don’t think it’s in everyone, but it’s in plenty of people. Unicorn finds out the hard way that seeking attention can mess up the things that are really important. Like cake. Oh, that’s the next question.
BB: One of my son’s favorite books is I WILL CHOMP YOU which may contain the greatest collection of cakes in children’s literature. In this book you’ve got flaming birthday cakes. Give it to me straight, man. What’s with you and cake?
You’re onto me. I love baking. The first thing I do when I land in a new city on tour is Yelp a local bakery.
“Is this a crispy or soft chocolate chip cookie town?” I think. I prefer (as do smart, popular, kind people) the crispy ones. The brown sugar and butter caramelize and you get way more flavor than the sweet sugary ball of under cooked dough. I’m getting angry just thinking about it. When kids at school visits ask what I would do if I didn’t write books I tell them I would open a bakery. I’m probably lying though, it seems like a lot of standing. Plus people would ask if I had any soft chocolate chip cookies and I’d flip out on them bad. I’d be in the paper and everything. So yeah, I guess if I weren’t an author I’d probably fake a hard-to-verify back injury and collect some type of disability and watch TV all day. That’s what I’ll tell the kids from now on.
BB: Not to give it away, but there’s a rubber band / Silly Bandz running gag here that I really appreciated. You do a lot of school visits. Have you ever found yourself in Unicorn’s shoes, trying to do a talk, only to be ignored in favor of rubber bands?
BS: Not rubber bands, but whatever the latest obsession is pops up in the Q and A all the time. I’ve been asked numerous times (and have declined) to dab. I notice the younger grades are usually a couple years behind the trends. It’s a trickle down theory of popular culture. Then again, I usually show up in a flannel shirt like it’s Seattle in 1994 so I’m not one to talk.
BB: This is only going to fill the growing, gaping need for more Unicorn/Goat books (which I wholly approve of, since the world has been waiting for a classic picture book unicorn character for DECADES). With that in mind, do we dare hope for a #3?
BS: That’s a good question for my editor Stephanie Lurie whom I love dearly. So maybe everyone can write her a brief note.
Maybe write something like this:
Thank you for publishing those wonderful books by America’s Favorite Author™ Bob Shea. One time he did something nice for me, the details aren’t important. What is important is that he keep cranking out those charming unicorn books! I haven’t read them, but I hear good things. Give yourself a raise or at least load you bag with office supplies before you head out tonight.
So when’s this bad boy hitting bookstore and library shelves? That would be September 9th . . .
That’s right! It ain’t a real cover reveal unless it’s coming out in more than a year, baby!
I’m not giving anything away. Truly, I cannot. I’ll just say this. In this story Unicorn discovers on the first day of the new school year that no one is paying attention to him because there’s this rubber band craze sweeping the school instead. In an effort to get back his former glory, he takes things to an extreme level. The book later contains what is now, officially, my favorite two lines from a picture book of all time: “Just look at this mess. Did a clown explode in here?”
Now let’s show you that cover, shall we?
And because I love you, and because Bob Shea loves you, and because Bob Shea’s publisher loves you, you’re gonna get yourself some interior spreads as well. First up, this is what it looks like when Unicorn is trying to think up a new look that will make everyone love him again:
Now I know you can’t see it unless you blow up the image, but if you take a close look at the different designs Unicorn is working on, you’ll see one listed as Ska, one has sort of a country western flavor, and under his hoof is my favorite one: Emo. Coulda been a whole different book right there.
I think if the television show Arrested Development taught us anything, it is that glitter is more weapon that portable sparkly joy.
Many thanks to Bob and the good folks at Disney Hyperion for the reveal. Looking forward to seeing this one in 2019! And for those of you who are curious, here’s an edelweiss link to the book. You betcha.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
SLJ Blog Network