This Is So Bessie Will Stop Standing On My Foot And Telling Me What To Do

My first big goal for the new year is to make a two-year anniversary revision to my first-ever book, “Seasons Of Friendship.” Although I love that first book because it’s something I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to do, I have learned so much since 2019.

This revision started as only an update of the inside illustrations. Below you can see a comparison.

The drawing on the left is from “Seasons Of Friendship.” It was made using the Sketches app on an iPad Mini (with my finger).

On the right is a newer style drawing using the Affinity Designer app on an iPad Pro (with an Apple Pencil). This updated drawing uses the same line and fill techniques as “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” The lines are much lighter even though most of the colors are the same.

There are also more color pictures throughout the book. This was at Bessie’s strong recommendation.

“If people are going to pay for a book that is in color, then there needs to be color on almost every page,” she told me while standing on my right shoe. (She does this whenever she really wants to make a point.) “People want to feel like they are getting their money’s worth.”

I did not argue with this, but I did wonder how she ever found out about money.

I should also add that Bessie pecked my shoe as she told me, “And don’t try making it anything except sweet and wonderful just like Little Bunny because that’s what the readers want too.” (They do love Little Bunny, and this was Bessie’s even stronger recommendation.)

Another big change has been with the writing itself. “Seasons Of Friendship” was written as a story collection based on many of my blog posts. They were loose and rambling but all centered on some aspect of friendship.

Writing “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” helped me to learn more plot-related skills. So the revision now has a plot. Just like Pearl and the others learned what Christmas is about through a series of events, I will learn what A Most Wondrous Place is about.

All of these things make it an almost completely different book, and so the title has been changed to “How To Find A Most Wondrous Place.” (You might remember how last week’s post ended with “You know, Gracie, this really is A Most Wondrous Place just like you have always said.”)

What started as a one-time collection of stories just may be developing into a little series of books! But that will require some continuity throughout the series so the books look like they belong together. Back in 2019, I had not seriously thought of doing a series. It seemed just too monumental for me. But now, I want to give it a try with these 64-page full-color “How To” books.

If you have any feedback concerning the draft version of the cover for “How To Find A Most Wondrous Place,” please let me know.

You’ll notice the font has been changed to a more “chicken-made” style. I’ve reworked the background to one that can be more consistent but different by changing just the colors. (This one is green because spring is a great time to start raising baby chicks. But blue would be good for the book about Christmas.) The image on the front also appears within the pages of the book.

I would truly appreciate your thoughts about the font, overall design, color, and whatever else you may want to share. You are our loyal readers, and I want to hear from you. (And it will keep Bessie from standing on my right foot and telling me what to do!)

The New Ink Pen

“What are you doing?” asked Gracie.

”I’m trying out the new pen I got for Christmas.”

“That’s Pearl, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it’s a drippy and messy pen sometimes. Sort of the way Pearl can be. Even though it’s not perfect all of the time, it still makes beautiful lines. You just have to know how to look at them.”

“Messy but beautiful, just like with Pearl,” Gracie said with delight. “But who are the baby chicks? We don’t have any baby chicks here any more.”

“I know. Pearl wants to be a Momma Hen more than just about anything these days. She misses having Blanche at her side. She would like to have some baby chicks that look like her. So I made this drawing.”

“It’s like you’ve said before. Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way.”

“And that is how you and I will dance in the streets of Paris even if we never get to travel there together. But that is many drawings from now. I still would like to really go to Paris with you, Gracie.”

“Is there a reason why you did this drawing without any bright and pretty color? Besides Pearl being mostly white, I mean.”

“You and I both love pictures. And our readers love pictures too. But books with pictures in color are very expensive to print. So all of our books with color have to be short. No more than sixty-four pages. But it’s going to take more than sixty-four pages to tell some of the stories we want to tell.”

“So these books with black-and-white pictures mean more adventures?”

“Exactly right.”

“Even though you didn’t stay inside the lines all of the time?”

“For me it’s harder to go outside of the lines than to stay inside the lines.”

Gracie laughed, and we smiled together. It didn’t make much sense to either of us, but it didn’t matter.

“What kind of more adventures?” she asked.

“Adventures like Amelia flying to the moon and back. Adventures like you dancing at the Paris Opera Ballet. Adventures like maybe even Pearl having her own little family.”

“And some baby chicks wearing little tutus would be very nice. Can you draw that too?”

She nudged me with her head to make sure I was listening.

“That would make both Pearl and you happy, wouldn’t it? Yes, I can do that. But it will all take some time. A drawing that shows how much I love you takes time to get just right.”

“We can wait.”

“You know, Gracie, this really is A Most Wondrous Place just like you have always said.”

Gracie’s Best Ever Reading List-“Little Bunny’s Book of Thoughts”

I have been unsure what to have as a first post for a new year. Usually I will begin the year with a retrospective look at popular posts from the previous year, but 2020 was an odd year and this first week of 2021 has been an even odder week. And so I am beginning the year by sharing the book my chickens have been reading and reading again.

“Little Bunny’s Book of Thoughts” by Steve Smallman was a gift to ourselves for Christmas, and we couldn’t be happier! This is currently our newest, most treasured book. My chickens and I unanimously say, “We love you, Little Bunny!”

As you can see from the picture, it is a small book, about 6 inches by 6 inches. It is in the little maple rocking chair my grandparents bought for me when I was very young. I would have loved this book back then, even before I had learned to read.

The illustrations are charming and delightful. They beautifully express the emotions that are a part of life, both on a bad day and on a good day. You will likely want to turn the pages slowly to enjoy the short lines of poetry that accompany each drawing of Little Bunny. This is a great “pre-reader” book because a child can still read the pictures and make up the words that go with them.

This book is filled with wisdom as Little Bunny’s day goes from having a not-so-good day to having a phenomenally good day. Little Bunny shows us it’s all in how we look at things. We can turn an “ears-down” day into an “ears-up” day.

Steve Smallman, the book’s author and illustrator, has created what I believe will be a treasured classic. My chickens and I certainly treasure it! This is a book I wish I had written and illustrated, but there is only one Little Bunny, and there is only one Steve Smallman!

“Little Bunny’s Book of Thoughts” is what I call a “sit beside and read to” book. That is how it is best shared with very young children, but probably in a much bigger rocking chair than the one in today’s photo! They will enjoy the drawings. They will enjoy the rhyming words. They will love Little Bunny. And they will especially love you for sitting beside them and sharing this exceptional book.

You too are likely to find yourself saying, if only to yourself, “I love you, Little Bunny.” At least that’s what all of my chickens have said every time I’ve read this book to them.

“Little Bunny’s Book of Thoughts” is available through Amazon. You can use this link to see the Amazon preview of the inside of the book and order a copy as a gift…even if only for yourself!

Signed copies are also available through the publisher and there is also a great video that gives an idea of what the book is like inside on the publisher’s website.

Seriously, can you look at the cover of this book and not smile right along with Little Bunny? I bet you can’t!