Hyena: Picture Book (Educational Childrens Books Collection) - Level 2 (Planet Collection 115)

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Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

Michael wrote me a lovely thank-you email and we became fast friends and critique partners. OTTO is the boy who wants his little sister to disappear, and she does. To my mind, what links Otto and Duckworth is that they both face dire circumstances which they must overcome without any help whatsoever from their parents. In contrast to Duckworth, Otto has a loving family, but must come to terms with an interloper: a new baby sister.

In order to overcome his understandable resentment and animosity toward Anna, he must grow up and become aware of his burgeoning love for his sibling. Duckworth is an only child and is faced with a far more difficult predicament: narcissistic parents who are utterly oblivious to his needs and concerns. Although Duckworth is as successful as Otto at conquering his life-and-death dilemma, the ending of his story remains bittersweet, as he is still stuck with woefully inadequate parents. Poor Duckworth, stuck with oblivious parents who seem like the despicable adult characters in a Roald Dahl story.

What is it about those dark humor books that you admire? Why did you want to pay homage to them?


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I guess I just like dark humor in general, and have featured it in both my picture books and novels. Dark humor presents unpleasant and taboo aspects of life in a satirical manner, taking the edge off and relishing in the absurdity of the human condition. They are dark and mysterious, with a retro European surrealist vibe. Maybe I think that because the mother looks like Salvador Dali? The gorgeous cinnabar of the cobra jumps out and bites you. Her style, sense of composition, and attention to detail are extraordinary, and perfectly complement the story. Not to mention that the mother, as I wrote her, is utterly devoid of maternal concern!

I expected Mr. Snodgrass, the neighbors, to look British, but they are decidedly Russian in appearance. So there were some changes and edits to the art. What about to your original manuscript? Did anything turn out differently than the version you submitted? I wanted an odd name, to parallel Treehorn, and I think I unconsciously selected Bowlby because of the famous British psychologist, John Bowlby, who did pioneering work on maternal deprivation. Was that a deliberate decision to make the adults in the book so hapless?

Superiority theory states that we laugh at the misfortunes and shortcomings of others because it makes us feel better about ourselves. But I think that Incongruity theory, the notion that humor derives from the enjoyment of a perceived or imagined incongruity, is a better fit here. Well, I think you use all those forms of humor brilliantly. You know I host Storystorm to inspire writers. Within seconds of regaining consciousness, the story came to me in a flash. One summer evening, while taking a stroll, an image passed through my mind of a snake that had swallowed a child.

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As I imagined the bulge working its way down the length of the serpent, it struck me as a compelling if somewhat macabre basis for a picture book. Although, as the prince notes, grown-ups all thought it was a picture of a hat. Just leave one comment below to be entered in the giveaway. Two random winners will be selected in mid-August. Abandoned by a cackle of laughing hyenas, Michael Sussman endured the drudgery and hardships of a Moldavian orphanage until fleeing with a traveling circus at the age of twelve.

A promising career as a trapeze artist was cut short by a concussion that rendered him lame and mute. Sussman wandered the world, getting by on such odd jobs as pet-food tester, cheese sculptor, human scarecrow, and professional mourner while teaching himself the art of fiction.


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  4. He now lives in Tahiti with Gauguin, an African Grey parrot. Visit him at MichaelSussmanBooks. This book is about our changing perspective as we grow, learn and achieve…and our place in the world through the stages of life. How did it originate? I noticed that there was a cluster of white flecks on the surface of the water that kept disappearing, then reappearing further along, then disappearing and reappearing again, and it occurred to me that they were probably caused by a pod of whales or dolphins or something.

    I see your other published book is about insects. Do your ideas often come from nature? We got him from a rescue organization. So we have no idea what kind of dog he is! He weighs 80 lbs. Without giving too much away, my dog stories were both inspired by this one silly thing that he does. But one is serious, and deep, and essentially social commentary, and the other is light and funny and very silly. Rocket is a cool name! Can you give us the story behind the unique choice? Finding a name for this character was a challenge! I went through several different names, looking for the one that was just right.

    At first, this character was a boy.