I love a good success story, don’t you? Today’s Simply 7 is with another debut picture book author.
Gabi Snyder is a reader, writer, and a lover of chocolate. Reader. Her debut picture book, TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, is out now (May 2020) from Abrams Appleseed, and her second picture book, LISTEN, will be out in spring 2021 from Simon & Schuster/Wiseman. Gabi lives in Oregon with her family, including one daredevil dog and the cat who keeps everyone in line. You can learn more about her at her website.
“Two Dogs on a Trike” is a hilarious spin on the counting genre. Here it’s all about dogs on wheels (or is it?). The cover kind of gives a hint of some of the side story told only in the pictures. As the number of dogs increase, so do the wheels (and the chase). This is a very entertaining read and the illustrations somehow manage to remind me of the 80s (despite one of the dogs dabbing). I’m not sure why!
Me: This is your debut picture book. Yay! What draws you to picture books?
Gabi: When my kids were little, we read together every day. Immersed in the world of picture books, I fell in love with that art form. There were some books that they loved, but I didn’t and others I loved, and they didn’t. The books we both wanted to read again and again were GOLDEN. Sometimes that was because the book employed humor that worked on two levels. Sometimes the book was simply fun to read aloud or encouraged the parent to employ hilarious voices. And sometimes it was an incredible lyricism in the text and transportive beauty in the illustrations. What’s magical about a good picture book is that the whole is so much more than the two parts!
Me: “Two Dogs on a Trike” is a fun take on the counting genre AND the battle between cats and dogs. What gave you the idea?
Gabi: The dog versus cat dynamic that plays out in TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE was inspired, in part, by my childhood pets. I grew up with a cat we called Kinko (named for his kinked tail) and an assortment of dogs. Kinko was the undisputed boss. Now my family includes one dog and one cat. (They take turns keeping each other in line.)
I think the counting component came from that old clowns in a car gag. I thought maybe I could do something like that, but with dogs on a trike. But then I realized it be more fun if they moved between different modes of transportation and if there was something – or someone – motivating the countdown.
Me: There is a very subtle rhyme woven throughout this story. Did you have a hard time writing that? Were there a lot of revisions?
Gabi: Typically, it takes me several revisions over the course of several months to get a story right. But drafting TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE was fairly quick and painless. I don’t think I wrote a draft with a rhyming text in mind, but, while writing, the subtle rhyme seemed to flow naturally. Of course, my brilliant critique partners still had suggestions for taking the text to the next level.
Me: The illustrations by Robin Rosenthal were absolutely wonderful. They are colorful, playful, and fun! Were there any illustrating surprises for you? Any favorite illustrations?
Gabi: I agree! I’m totally smitten with Robin’s illustrations. I love the humor in her dog and cat characters, and I especially love the 80s retro vibe of her wardrobe choices. The story escalates to “Nine daring dogs on a hot-air balloon.” But when we reach “Ten dogs,” there’s a revelation. That tenth animal is NOT a dog! And while my illustration notes made clear who that is, I did not specify where we are. Robin’s illustration there is hilarious and unexpected—a spaceship! I gasped in surprise when I saw it, and yet it seems like the inevitable “of course!” choice. I have several favorite illustrations, but my all-time favorite is probably that first spaceship spread because of the fun surprise.
Me: I saw that you and Robin did a book launch together recently. As this was such a sparse text, did you include illustration notes? Were you in contact throughout the creation process?
Gabi: Generally speaking, the author and illustrator are not in contact during the creation process. And that was true with TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE. Robin and I worked separately with our editor and art director. That way, Robin had the freedom to interpret the story in her own way and I wasn’t telling her how I wanted the characters to look.
I did include a few illustration notes about the cat character and her story arc that wouldn’t be obvious from the title or the text.
Me: Any advice for other new picture book writers and/or illustrators?
Gabi: Yes! Be gentle with yourself; don’t expect your first, or even your third, draft to be brilliant. And be especially easy on yourself right now when your attention is likely pulled in so many directions. In times of stress, it can be easy to fall back on bad old habits, like mindlessly scrolling through social media when you mean to be writing or taking meaningful action. Now it’s especially important to lean heavily on your good habits. If taking walks helps clear your head and let you focus, then keep taking walks!
And know that the more you practice – the more you read and write – the better writer you’ll become. You may have to write 20 stories before you write one that begins to match your vision.
Me: Wow, that is such good advice! Thank you for that. Which animal do you like better? Cats or dogs? Do you have a favorite character from the book?
Gabi: In the past, I’ve said that I’m a dog person. But I’m really both! I adore all the characters from the book. In terms of the dogs, I LOVE that pug! But probably my favorite character in the book is the cat. She has so much personality! Robin described her influences for the cat character as “part Garfield, part Grumpy cat, part cop from Terminator 2,” and I think that hilarious combination shines through in the cat’s facial expressions and body language. So fun!
LOL! That is the greatest description of a character in a picture book I have ever seen. Wonderful! That totally fits in with the feel of the book.
Dear readers, if you haven’t had a chance to check this one out yet, make sure you do. It’s a rollicking good read that is sure to give you the giggles.