"The spice jars next in line to be used took up space in the kitchen. A great many more were on shelves in the basement, waiting their turn." ~ from The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse (written by Roy L. Pickering Jr., illustrated by Erin Rogers Pickering)
My darling daughter, who turns 11 this year, reintroduced me to the world of children's books. Since I had already entered the world of book blogging, it made sense to merge the two endeavors. In March of 2009 I posted a collection of mini-reviews of books written for miniature people. I began the post with these words: Having a child means getting to experience the wonderful world of children's literature all over again. I've been pleased to find out over the past few years that not only are the old standards as charming as I remembered, but plenty of great new books for little ones were written while I was busy growing up. Reading to my daughter on a daily basis allows me to revisit tales I fondly recall and discover new ones along with her.
Fast forward to 2017 and these days I don't do much reading aloud to my daughter since she now reads for herself. And yet the world of children's books continued to call out to me. My daughter's bookshelves are still filled with the books I read to her in her earliest years. They are a constant reminder in our household of a more innocent time and style of prose.
Several years back I wrote what was intended to be a rhyming board book for toddlers and their exasperated parents. It was inspired by the trying experience of finding the right daycare facility for my daughter. It's not half bad in my opinion, but I'm no Dr. Seuss and was not strongly compelled to bring it to the light of day. Some writing projects are destined to remain tucked in a drawer. I put the story/poem away and any career as a children's book writer I might have was put on indefinite hold.
Instead I threw full energy into completion of my second novel, Matters of Convenience. I somewhat improbably continued to write A Line A Day blog posts on an irregular schedule. My daughter changed from my baby girl to a beautiful young lady. Instead of picking her up at daycare with fingers crossed that it was a good day, I'm now a coach of her middle school basketball team hoping she'll work more on her dribble while being impressed by her post game. Still, the siren's song of children's books could be heard in quiet moments. And so it was that one day I set pen (or was it pencil?) down to paper and started to write what would become THE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING ADVENTURES OF AVA APPELSAWSE.
It's often been suggested to me that I do a follow-up to a novel or short story I've written. I've resisted the urge because they were meant to be standalone tales, even if ending in a way that makes readers want to know more about the characters down the road. For the first time I am now tackling a sequel. The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse was intended from the start to be a series. My wonderfully talented wife Erin Rogers Pickering is currently working on illustrations for the first installment while I have gotten started on book #2. Two and a half chapters of the first draft are done so far. I'm trying to figure out where the rest of the story is going, or else it will need to inform me. Either way works.
Do you believe that We Need Diverse Books? I do. Do you believe greater emphasis by the publishing industry on promoting books told in Our Own Voices by writers from various backgrounds is important? I do. But lofty causes aside, ultimately my wife and I are two artists you may not have heard of (yet) with stories to tell through words and illustrations that we believe you and your little ones will connect with.
While I'm crafting the Ava Appelsawse sequel, stay tuned for updates on the first book in the series which is scheduled to publish later this year. If you have kids, or know anyone with kids, or perhaps were once a kid yourself, then this is the book for you. And this time I'm not stopping at just one, not that I have a particular number of them in mind. The older I get the more things I realize I do not know...yet. I have no idea how many books and stories intended for various audiences are stored within me. But as a major milestone birthday approaches I am more determined than ever to put as many tales as possible out into the world and see how far they go. I hope you choose to accompany me on the journey.
"In a slightly crooked house with the address of 123 Oaktree Lane there lived a seven year old girl named Ava Appelsawse."
"It was excellent tomato sauce, possibly the best in the world, for it was made with love."
"Ava decided the hamster was a girl. It did not disagree and also did not complain about its name, perhaps because this was the most interesting thing about her."