Today, Kid Lit Reviews is thrilled to have award-winning author V.S. Grenier here to discuss her book Babysitting SugarPaw. This book won the pretigious Mom’s Choice Silver Honoree for Excellence, and the 2011 League of Utah Writers Silver Quill Award
1. Is Babysitting SugarPaw your first book, or first children’s book?
Babysitting SugarPaw is my first children’s book and my first book as a standalone author. I have a few short stories, articles and crafts published in anthologies such as The Best of Stories for Children Magazine Volume 1, but there is something very different and exciting about having your name on the cover of a book. I would say writing and seeing this book published is the next best thing to bring my own children into this world and finding the man of my dreams.
However, this won’t be the last book by me or about SugarPaw. I have a couple of manuscripts I’m currently working on and fine tuning for publication, which SugarPaw will create mischief in along the way.
- Tell us a little about your book, Babysitting SugarPaw.
Well I won’t quote what the book blurb says already about the book as readers can go to Amazon or read your review to learn that. So I will share a few facts readers wouldn’t know unless they decided to shrink in size and climb into my head.
Babysitting SugarPaw actually started as a writing assignment back in 2005 when I was taking an online writing course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. The illustrator for the short story is also the same illustrator for the book, Kevin Scott Collier. He really liked the story and we started talking about how it could be trimmed down and turned into a picture book. It took a couple of years for that to happen. Almost three years from revision to publication to be truthful, but a great learning experience nonetheless.
The idea of the assignment turned short story to picture book came from a picture of little bears making a mess of a bathroom. From there I started thinking about the crazy things I used to do when I was left with babysitters. I also love watching the Max and Ruby cartoon on Nick Jr. with my kids and from there we discovered the wonderful books the cartoon is based on by author/illustrator Rosemary Wells. I took all that inspiration and crated the picture book. SugarPaw is little like me (from when I was kid) and Rosemary’s Max character. Bonnie Whiskers (the babysitter) is mirrored from Max’s big sister Ruby and my younger sister Alexandra.
The storyline is a combination from things I did as a kid and my kids. However, the lesson I hope children take away is honesty and learning to make new friends. This wasn’t planned but seems to shine as the words appeared on the page as I wrote.
3. What made writing a story about babysitting so compelling? (interesting, needed)
I really didn’t set out to write a story about babysitting exactly. The idea hit me after watching an episode of Max and Ruby with my kids. When watching the cartoon I realized their parents are never around and Ruby is always watching her brother Max. It made me wonder a bit about the relationship between Max and his sister Ruby. I didn’t want to write a story with the same type of characters so I decided SugarPaw would need someone other than a sister or brother to cause trouble for. This was when the idea of a babysitter hit me. Believe it or not, but I had a babysitter only a few years older than me growing up and she was later a bridesmaid in my wedding. We are still close friends today.
- SugarPaw is a little stinker. He says, “I don’t want a babysitter!” Other than thinking he is too old, is there any other reason SugarPaw dislikes a babysitter that makes him act so mean?
This part of SugarPaw’s personality is exactly what I was like as a kid. I was around 10 or 11 when Sheri (age sixteen) became my babysitter. I was stocked (sic) my mom felt I wasn’t old enough to stay home by myself when she was working late, etc. I also resented the fact Sheri was close to my age and bossed me around. I would go out of my way to make things difficult for her. This is where the relationship between SugarPaw and Bonnie Whiskers comes from.
SugarPaw doesn’t just feel he is too old for a babysitter, but also feels he should be able to go with his parents. Another thing I used to think as a kid when my mom headed out for the night. When I think back on my childhood, I was when my mom a lot and went almost everywhere with her. Even places most kids wouldn’t think very fun to go and would opt to have a babysitter. SugarPaw is the same way in thinking he should always be able to go with his parents or stay home by himself, when the fact is this isn’t really true because he is a kid and needs to be left with someone once in awhile. I guess you could say SugarPaw and myself wanted to grow up a bit faster than we were really ready to do. Much like kids try to do today with how they dress and act in certain situations.
5. What advice do you have for your readers on accepting and handling a babysitter?
Great question, as I wasn’t the best at doing this when I was younger. I’m happy to say my children are much better than I ever was. First, children (especially older ones) need to understand the babysitter is there to help and make sure they are safe. By letting your child know you trust them but want another person around that is there to help them take care of the house while you are gone will encourage positive behavior between them and the babysitter.
Second, if you can, let your child meet the babysitter a day or two before you plan to leave them alone with them. If you cannot arrange a meeting before hand, have the babysitter come an hour earlier only if this is the first time they will be watching your kids. Most kids act up or cry when parents have someone strange show up to watch them as the parents leave out the door just like in my story. If you think about it, this is very frightening to kids and causes anxiety.
Third, ask your child to show the babysitter around the house and share the house rules. This not only helps them get to know the babysitter but also has them helping in sharing information on what does and doesn’t happen in their home.
Lastly, listen to your child and watch how they react to the person watching them. Some babysitters seem nice when the parents around but are totally different once the door closes. I know as I have had some really nasty babysitters as a child. Some really bad things happened I still remember just as if it was yesterday. I was lucky to have a mom who listened and was good about finding someone else fast. This helped to build trust between us and helped me understand she needed me to let her know what happened when she wasn’t there so she could provide a safe environment for me at those times.
- Your intended reader age is from three to nine, which covers two age groups. (2-5, 6-9). Can you give me your thoughts on why the intended reader age is so wide and is this why your main characters are cute animals instead of children?
The book covers a wider age arrange because this is the age arrange of most kids being left with babysitters or in daycare. Fewer kids 10 and up are with babysitters and in fact are helping to watch their own sisters and brothers or are latch key kids. (I have been both.)
I also would like to say this book is good for older kids, ages 10 and up to bring when babysitting others. It is a great way to open conversation with the children you are watching.
The reason why I used a bear and bunny is that age is less likely to be tied to the main characters. When you use people, their age shows. I wanted the book to cover a bigger age group and therefore animals seemed the better choice. I also loved the Max and Ruby characters and wanted my characters to have the same feel as Rosemary Well’s characters. I didn’t want both my characters to bunnies like Rosemary so SugarPaw and his family are bears and Bonnie Whiskers is a bunny. I will have other animal characters in future book SugarPaw books too.
- How long have you been an author? Why are you an author?
I have been an author since 2006, so a little over six years now. I have been writing longer than that, but this is when I was first professionally published and decided to make this my new career/calling in life.
- Tell us about your educational background. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Actually, before 2006, I had written a few poems (which may or may not see publication one day) and a monologue I also performed for my drama class in high school. I used to write songs when I was a young child and short stories too. However, I never really considered writing or publishing my work until 2004.
My educational background is in Marketing and Merchandising. I’m a Merchandise Marketing Major to be exact. Basically, I know how to advertise, display and package things in a way people will want to buy them. I also have training as a Fashion Buyer and used to be one of the people who helped set the clothing trends we see each year.
However, I did in 2005 go back to school and took online courses to hone my skills as a writer. I started down the road all authors take and where it ends…I have no idea, but I know I’m in good company and I’m always learning.
- What advice do you have for your readers (kids 3 to 9), should they want to become an author?
Read books like the ones you want to write. Read interviews like this one to learn how authors became writers and what steps they took to see publication. Go to your local library and see if there is a writing group in your area. Go to workshops, conferences and book festivals to learn as much as you can about writing and the publishing industry.
But most important, take time each day to write down the ideas popping into your head. The rest can wait once that is done.
- Is there anything else you would like to say to your Babysitting SugarPaw readers and future readers?
I invite you to learn more about me and my books at http://vsgrenier.com
Also, for those interested in writing, you can learn more at my company website The World of Ink Network at http://worldofinknetwork.com
We have radio shows with authors, tips with experts and much more on the site and sister sites.
Thank you Sue for having me and hope your readers will join me in The World of Ink for many more adventures by me and my fellow authors.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day. A review of V.S. Grenier’s book Babysitting SugarPaw is what I am working on next. You can see it after midnight tonight HERE!
No. Pages: 32 Ages: 3 to 9
If you would like to learn more about Ms. V.S. Grenier, and her career, here are the links.
For Kids: http://www.sfcmagazine.com/
The World of Ink: http://www.worldofinknetwork.com/
Halo Publishing: http://www.halopublishing.com/
Kevin Scott Collier: http://kevinscottcollierhomepage.blogspot.com/