Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday Artie Bennett - July 5

Happy Birthday Artie Bennett - July 5

It was back in December 2010 that I introduced you to Artie Bennett, author of The Butt Book.  This book was a blast to read to my kids and I thoroughly enjoyed communicating with this zany guy through email.  This week, I eagerly sent him an email just to check in and wish him happy birthday:

Hmm, anything new? Yes! The Butt Book just won the Reuben Award for Best Illustrated Children's Book, given by the National Cartoonists Society. Congratulations to my illustrious illustrator, Mike Lester.  I look at the five o'clock shadow on the eagle's butt now with renewed appreciation and respect.


And I've had a buttload of appearances since the prior posting, including visits to Coral Gables and Bal Harbour, Florida; Bethesda, Maryland; and Philadelphia.  I've also attended several festivals and at each The Butt Book was snapped up like cupcakes at a fat farm. I was a guest children's author (giving two animated readings) at a special needs kids fair recently, and the children were just tickled by the book.  And I was tickled to be there.


A librarian friend of mine who was attending a conference in Montreal excitedly emailed to say that she had just dropped into a trendy gift shop and was thrilled to see that The Butt Book was one of only ten children's books on display.  Le Hooray!


And I can mention that my "number two" picture book, fittingly called Poopendous! is due to come out in late March 2012. Be very afraid.


All the Best, Artie Bennett
P.S. And one more thing, to my utter delight, I've been invited by Butts County Georgia, to come and help celebrate their fall festival.

Thank you Artie for the update. We hope you have a wonderful birthday and wish you luck on the upcoming book!  Below is a repost of the interview that was conducted last December which includes a wonderful childhood birthday memory.

Happy Birthday Author: How does it feel to be a published author?

Artie Bennett: It's a great feeling, especially for a bibliophile.  It must have taken upward of three years or more from concept to actual book (considerably longer than the gestation period of an elephant!), and there were times when it seemed like I might not ever find a publisher, but when the book finally saw the light of day, I was elated.  I remember eagerly tearing open the box that contained my ten complimentary author copies to hold an actual copy in my hands.  Now, this isn't my first book.  I did write a couple things when I was a much younger man, but The Butt Book is my first "mature" work.  And it is my first picture book, which is something of a gold standard in children's publishing.  I'm proud as punch about it.

Happy Birthday Author:  Tell us a little about The Butt Book and how it developed.

Artie Bennett:  The Butt Book has a very interesting backstory.  I was familiar with Dr. Seuss's anatomical series.  I'm sure you know the Bright and Early Books.  There's The Foot BookThe Ear BookThe Eye BookThe Tooth Book.  They're delightful.  I love these books.  But something was missing.  And then I had a brainstorm: a butt book would make a great addition to this hallowed series. Now, because Dr. Seuss, sadly, passed away in 1991, he's no longer around to flesh out the series by writing about butts.  And besides, that was a different time and, perhaps he couldn't have written about butts then.  Well, times have changed. And somebody had to.  I guess it was cheeky of me, but I decided to do it.  His publisher passed on it, but the manuscript found its way to Bloomsbury Children's Books, where they got "behind" it. And I am glad they did.

Happy Birthday Author: How have children reacted to reading your book?

Artie Bennett: Children - and discerning adults as well - find it irresistible.  I'm bowled over by the enthusiasm of their reaction.  It's so heartening to feel you've given the gift of laughter to a child.  I had a hunch that it might get that kind of response the very first time I read it aloud.  One of my listeners was a glum little boy, who apparently rarely smiled or laughed.  But this boy transformed.  He was gaffawing and capering about with each verse - and as soon as I was finished, he insisted that I read it again.  The metamorphosis was nothing short of astonishing.  So I recommend a heavy dose of Butt Book therapy for the child in need of a pick-me-up.

Happy Birthday Author:  What would you say to parents that think your book is inappropriate?

Artie Bennett:  I'd simply say that it isn't.  This is the most wholesome of butt books.  And I'd encourage anyone who might think that it's inappropriate to please have a look.  Reviewers have uniformly pointed out that the subject, which is a potentially problematic one, is handled tastefully and in good humor.  In fact, many reviewers begin their reviews by saying that they opened the book expecting to encounter a degree of grossness but were completely disarmed by its utter absence.  Mike Lester's illustrations are so charming, as well as side-splittingly funny, that any fear of inappropriateness is instantly banished.  And at my signings, I often see parents delighting in the book even more than their children.

Happy Birthday Author: Could you describe the research process for this book?

My favorite illustration!
Artie Bennett:  The book contains some natural history lore in verse form, but it also takes some whimsical liberties.  Because I have a bit of a background in natural history, I was familiar with the backsides of, say, baboon and skunks, both of which figure in The Butt Book. I've created a website - artiebennett.com, however, and on my "Butt Book" link, I have pages of fascinating butt trivia (in addition to other fun butt-related stuff), and that required gobs of research.

One very interesting thing is that the very first verse that I wrote for the book is the book's very last.  I knew this had to be the ending of The Butt Book.  It's a strong finish.  And then I worked my way forward.

Happy Birthday Author:  What is your favorite name for the butt?

Artie Bennett:  That's easy. My favorite name is "patootie."  Though "patootie" didn't make the final cut of The Butt Book, it's still my favorite.  The word seems to have an almost innate charm.  Whereas nearly all words derived from body parts are actively used as terms of ridicule, "patootie" is a term of endearment, my sweet patootie.

Happy Birthday Author:  Is there going to be a sequel?

Artie Bennett: Yes, happily, I'm going to have a second act.  It will be the perfect follow-up. It will be poop-related. A different publisher has bitten, and to my great delight, they'll be bringing back Mike Lester, who had so much fun illustrating The Butt Book.


Happy Birthday Author:  What types of reading traditions have you had with your family?

Artie Bennett:  My parents weren't big readers but, somehow, my sister (she's two years my senior) and I acquired a yen for books.  I devoured everything I could lay my hands on by Dr. Seuss and also read avidly about dinosaurs, baseball, and space exploration.  Had a book come out about a switch-hitting brontosauruses on Alpha Centauri, I would've been on cloud nine.

I was such a precocious reader that I can recall one day being asked to demonstrate my reading prowess before my sister's class.  Now, while I may have been an adroit reader, I was still a little hazy on familial relationships.  When I introduced myself as "Sydna Bennett's sister," the whole class howled with laughter.  I wasn't sure why they were laughing at first, but then I caught on.  Despite the undeniable trauma that this episode entailed, I never relinquished my love for reading.

My wife and I haven't (yet) been blessed with children, but we have enjoyed reading short stories to each other.  It's fun thing to do on a wintry or rainy night.  In particular, we've gotten our share of spooky thrills from the macabre stories of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe.

Happy Birthday Author:  Your birthday is July 5.  Could you share a birthday tradition or memory?

Artie Bennett:  I remember - and I'll always remember - the day my dad took me to my very first baseball game, at Yankee Stadium. There they were, my heroes on parade.  There was Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Bobby Richardson - and Babe Ruth (just kidding about the Bambino). I was so excited to be there (the grass was the greenest I had ever seen) and to be spending time with my dad. I remember he worked a lot, so I didn't see that much of him.  But this was a special day.  It was my birthday.  I can remember also telling my dad that I would bring a small tote bag to carry all the balls we'd catch that were hit into the stands.  My dad didn't have the heart to disabuse my need for the tote bag. Well, we didn't catch any foul balls, but the Yankees did win - and a father and son enjoyed a very memorable and lovely day together.

Happy Birthday Author:  Any other thoughts, life lessons, interesting things you would like to share?

Artie Bennett:  Hmmm, I can share two quotes that have a special resonance for me.  When Hamlet tells his hyperrational friend Horatio, "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy," it speaks to the many wonders we may encounter on life's journey and how it behooves us to be receptive to them. And I love the quote's pithiness and poetry - and great wisdom.

Emily Dickinson, who rarely left the confines of her home in Amherst, Massachusetts, wrote. "There is no frigate like a book.  To take us lands away." How true.  There's nothing that can stir the imagination like a good book.  Happy Reading!

Note: Images and pictures used with permission from the author.

Happy Birthday Author:  Artie, I am so happy that you contacted me to share your book.  This interview was very fun! You are passionate about books and the impact they can have with children.  I wish you good luck with your sequel and please keep in touch!  I am out of here, I think I hear my children calling me to their room for a dance party. Therefore, I must "shake, shake, shake my booty, you little cutie" (my favorite line from the book)!

If you would like to get more about Artie Bennett:
1.  Artie Bennett reads The Butt Book - YouTube
2.  Check out his website - www.artiebennett.com
3.  Review of The Butt Book - BookDads + More on Artie Bennett from BookDads

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