21 Jun 2012 9 Comments
My debut picture book, Otto Grows Down, was published by Sterling in 2009. I was lucky to be paired with the illustrator, Scott Magoon, a fabulous artist who has gone on to illustrate a bunch of wonderful books, including Spoon, Mostly Monsterly, and Chopsticks. Scott was a delight to work with, and Otto turned into a true collaboration.
Otto may not have won any awards, but it sold well, and it won the hearts and minds of many children and parents across the country. It has been gratifying to hear from parents, booksellers, and librarians that kids adore the story. In her blog post titled “What is Your Kid’s Favorite Book?”, Carissa Rogers wrote:
“I hope I can say this clearly enough. My little boy LOVES this book.
No. That was pathetic. Let me try again.
–He sprinkles this book on his cereal for breakfast.
–He sleeps with it.
–His older sister likes it just as much and often BEGS to read it to him!
–I’m not exaggerating. He would forgo a trip to the park, for an extra reading of Otto Grows Down.
–It travels on vacation with us.
–He plans to name his firstborn child Otto, regardless of gender.”
A college student was so taken with the story that she wrote a song about it and performed her creation on YouTube.
For those who never read the book, it’s the story of a boy who becomes trapped in backward time after making a birthday wish that his baby sister was never born. Like Crashing Eden, the central theme involves guilt and remorse over mistreating a sibling, and the wish to repair the damage.
Both stories probably emerged from my own remorse for having teased and harassed my younger brother. This theme of having harmed a sibling is such an abiding part of my psyche that at times I’ve wondered whether I’m a “womb twin survivor.” That’s someone who started life as a twin but was born alone, perhaps resulting in unconscious survivor guilt. (Yes, I realize that sounds bizarre, but who knows?)
Anyhow, it’s with some sadness that I announce that Otto Grows Down has gone out of print. Yet I take some comfort from Einstein’s belief that the past, present, and future coexist simultaneously, and that “the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” If this is the case, then as Otto bows out he simultaneously arrives, and will exist eternally.
Here’s a poem I wrote that never quite made it into the book:
What Is Time?
What is Time? What is Time?
Can anybody say?
Can you go to sleep tomorrow night
And wake up yesterday?
Will last Tuesday ever come again?
Or next year come round twice?
If summer never went away,
Now wouldn’t that be nice?
What is Time? What is Time?
Have you solved the riddle yet?
Can you stuff Time in your pocket?
Can you catch it with a net?
The Past is now behind us
And the Future’s yet to show.
Let’s celebrate the Present—
It’s the only time we know!