Wellesley resident writes kids' book about spreading flu
When writing a children’s book, do not use rhyme — at least, that’s what Emily Redmond of Wellesley learned from the plethora of books out there on how to write for kids.
For her first book, “Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo,” geared for ages 2 to 5, she broke the rule. Rhyming holds the attention of children, especially younger ones, she said.
“Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo” takes the reader and the listener along with a drippy-nosed Felicity, who leaves her handprint of green goo on every animal she pets since she doesn’t have a tissue with her. By the time she leaves to go home, she’s spread her germs to all the animals, and the unsuspecting zookeeper wonders why all of his charges have a green cast to them, are lethargic and have temperatures that have risen above 102. What started off as a cold turns into a widespread “Floo.”
With cold and flu season here, the hilarious zoo romp is sure to capture their imagination and get kids washing their hands.
Redmond got the idea for her book after accompanying her young daughter to a petting zoo for a birthday party. The day was cold and all the kids, including her own, had runny noses. When they were surrounding the sheep, Redmond recalled, the animals started looking like large mounds of tissue to her. All the kids were wiping their red, runny noses with their hands. Redmond thought it was ironic that the hand sanitizer was mounted toward the exit.
“Ever since I was very small, I think it was something I was interested in doing,” Redmond said about her venture into writing and illustrating a children’s book. When she was young she drew characters and made up stories for them.
At the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford, she majored in graphic design and minored in illustration. For 11 years, she was a graphic designer at an ad agency.
“I loved it,” she said. “I loved the people, I loved how fast-paced it was.” She traveled all over, making television, radio and print ads. When she stopped working to stay at home full time with her daughter, she was a vice president and associate creative director for the agency.
“I wanted to be with them when they were very small,” Redmond said, referring to her daughter, now 5, and her son, 3. “For me it was a life choice.” She said that she has fulfilled her creativity through writing and illustrating her own work more than she ever did in the field of advertising.
Redmond said since it was her first book, it probably took her a little longer to do than it might have a more experienced author — she was stumbling through the process and finding her voice. Morever, she didn’t have a nanny or a sitter. She writes on her laptop anywhere her kids are or when it’s quiet, usually at night. Redmond said she writes first, and when the story is where it needs to be, starts drawing, which takes the longest.
She doesn’t have an agent. Instead she joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and bought the “Writer’s Market,” a reference book that comes out every year. “This is incredibly helpful because you’re sort of shooting in the dark,” Redmond said.
She did send out dummy books to two agents but didn’t hear anything. So she e-mailed Leslie Patricelli, a writer, whose books she had purchased for her children, asking her if she did indeed need an agent. When Patricelli responded, she told Redmond that she didn’t need an agent and she should try to find publishers who take unsolicited manuscripts.
Redmond sent Patricelli copies of her work. Eventually the author got back to her, saying she thought her work was great. She very generously asked if she could send the PDFs to her editor. A couple of months, later Candlewick Press offered her a two-book contract.
Since the release of her book in September, the nurse and her daughter’s kindergarten teacher at the Hunnewell School have asked her to come in to read. The Bates School has called on her as well, as did a kindergarten class in Somerville. She will read at the Lincoln School in Brookline this month.
Reaction has been positive, Redmond said. “Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo” been in the top 100 best-selling new releases since it came out, she said, with its highest ranking being nine at one point.
Her next book, slated to be released in spring 2012, will also have a little girl as the main character, but it won’t be Felicity. Publication will come about a year from the time she hands in the final illustrations. “I have to start drawing,” she said.