Like My Co-Writer? I Made ’em!
The other day I got a nice email from someone about how much they liked Jules Feiffer’s book Bark, George. They then commented that they ran into the man’s daughter, Kate, at an event recently but, unfortunately, they spent the whole time praising her father’s books and failing to mention her own. I mean, we’ve all been there. You meet someone cool and end up using most of your time talking about someone else’s books entirely. Of course, this got me thinking about the collaboration Kate did with her dad back in 2011 on the book My Side of the Car (watch this kicky little video to get a sense of it, if you’ve a moment).
It’s just kind of neat watching a grown child collaborate with their parent, don’t you think? Periodically we’ve seen it done with different pairings over the years. Sometimes it’s overt, as when Jonah Winter and his mother work on books like Diego, or when Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley collaborate on stories like the mildly perverse (in all the right ways) Chicken Little. In such cases of these you get the sense that the child and parent are really having a blast making a book together.
Another time we think of parent/child collaborations when the parent is passing the mantle of a beloved character on to their child. Richard Scarry’s son Huck Scarry would go on to pen new adventures of all the Busytown characters. And Stan and Jan Berenstain passed on the Berenstain Bears to their son Mike Berenstain. In these cases there is a kind of royal chain of succession, with the child imitating the artistic style of their parents so perfectly you wouldn’t notice the difference if you didn’t look for it (content may be another matter entirely). It’s the same kind of thing we see a lot in syndicated newspaper comics. Like it or not, Family Circus will outlive us all.
In 2019 I did happen to notice yet another kind of child/parent pairing: Cases where the child is still a child! The first time this cropped up was when I saw Michael Buckley and his son Finn had penned the honestly hilarious Lenny the Lobster Can’t Stay for Dinner. If you haven’t seen it, it’s essentially a Choose Your Own Adventure picture book with only two potential endings. The utterly oblivious Lenny is unaware that the fancy dinner party he’s attending is filled with diners that presume him to be the main course. Now I’ve heard of authors being inspired by their children but to give them credit alongside you right there on the cover? That’s a rarity.
So who are your favorite child/parent collaborators? Emma Walton and Julie Andrews? Is it a collaboration if your dad drew you into a story, like John Steptoe did with his kids when he created Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters? Has a famous author ever gone the other way and collaborated with a parent? Lots of ways to go with this one.
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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.
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