Welcome to the Latest Reader’s Club Newsletter (Blog Archive)
This issue we meet up with Celia Straus, an award winning writer and the author of Bobo Finds a Friend.
Why did you want to write your book?
I’ve always wanted to write children’s books and being a visual person and having written for TV [PBS in the United States], it seemed natural to collaborate with my friend, Tina Salvesen, on a picture book. I am also actively involved in wildlife preservation, so the idea of an orphaned baby elephant came to me after donating to the Sheldwick Wildlife Trust. Plus I love Charlotte’s Web, so giving BoBo (like Wilbur) a mentor in Iris, the Egret, seemed perfect.
How did you begin?
Tina and I brainstormed until we agreed on the basics of the story. Thirty-four pages, less than 800 words, and keep the themes focused. We decided to start the BoBo and Iris books by telling how BoBo lost his mother to poachers and then found a new friend at the sanctuary, Iris the Egret. Each book has two parallel themes: the behaviour and challenges of young elephants in the wild and the behaviour and challenges of young children as they learn about loss, sharing, trust, loneliness, friendship, obeying rules etc.
Are you a methodical planner or fly-by-the-seat writer? How did your book grow? How did you begin?
I am a methodical planner. Tina and I plan out the story and how to combine picture and text down to the last detail. She “story boards” each book using a rough draft of my words, and then we go through draft after draft to get the right tone, meaning and to make sure the pictures and the text carry the story forward with energy and surprise for our audience of 4 to 7 year olds.
How would you sum up the book and your creative method?
I was a story teller ever since I was a child. BoBo and Iris and our other current book, If an Elephant Can Wear a Mask, are stories that express my passion for animals and for children, especially young children who have the innocence to experience wonder and whimsy.
Celia Straus has written hundreds of award-winning shows for television receiving a 2020 Emmy nomination for Kids Speak Out, a YouTube series on Youth and the pandemic. She created and wrote the Emmy winning Memorial Day Concert on PBS and ADL’s annual Concert Against Hate at the Kennedy Center. Her love for children and dedication to their well being inspired her YA poetry trilogy including the national best seller, Prayers on My Pillow, Ballantine 1998. Celia lives in Washington DC with her husband when not visiting her two grown daughters and four grandchildren.