Buglette, the Messy Sleeper arrived at my doorstep about two weeks ago. (Review copy provided by Tricycle Press.) I was immediately drawn to the book for the fact that I was notorious for being a messy sleeper throughout my childhood. Buglette, who is a bug, is a messy sleeper because she has BIG dreams each and every night. Her dreams make her restless and cause her to mess up her space in the family’s tree. Her messy sleeping would be all well and good if it weren’t for a crow Buglette’s family feared.
However, it was more than this little bug’s nighttime antics that made me fall in love with this book. The illustrations are exquisite as they’re both bright and detailed. The words the author, Bethanie Deeney Murguia, uses to bring Buglette to life are noteworthy since this book can certainly be used to lift the level of vocabulary usage in young children’s writing. In addition to its rich language usage, the climax of the story comes at the very end. The resolution is swift, but complete, which makes it an excellent model for writers who are inclined to write THE END in large, swirly letters at the end of their writing (without actually wrapping their story up well).
I had some questions for author and illustrator Bethanie Deeney Murguia about her book, her work process, and a few other things. Here’s a look at my interview with her.
STACEY: Tell me more about the inspiration for this story. Are you a messy sleeper who was made fun of by others in your family (Oh wait, that was me growing up!) or did this story come from your imagination?
BETHANIE: I am the neat sleeper in a family of messy sleepers. The “messy sleeping” concept has been in the back of my mind for as long as I’ve had to make messy beds in my house. More than once, I’ve (rhetorically) asked my daughter, “What do you do at night to mess up your bed like this?”
Probably somewhat out of frustration and somewhat out of jealousy (was I missing out by NOT being a messy sleeper?), I came up with the idea that the messy sleepers were having big dreams. Then I began to think about the possibilities for storytelling and character development through dreams. It took off from there.
STACEY: What came first: the writing or the art?
BETHANIE: I keep a “seed” notebook filled with things that catch my ear or eye: phrases, quirky behaviors, quick sketches of postures and so forth.
Once one of those seeds starts to grow, I usually begin with thumbnails. I think this is because I worked as a designer for many years. The thumbnails are primarily visual but they also have notes about the text. I map out some of the key spreads and action this way.
Bits of dialogue and text may accompany this stage. Once I’m comfortable that the thumbnails are fitting into a picture book format, I write the text. So, I suppose the answer is that the idea comes first and then it tumbles out of my head in a mess of words and sketches.
STACEY: I have a new baby who I often talk to like a nine year-old (I guess that’s what happens when you taught elementary school!). Therefore, I appreciated some of the glorious, descriptive phrases like “pillow teetered overhead,” “thrashed about,” and “flurry of feathers.” What made you select such vivid language even though your target audience is from ages 3 – 5?
BETHANIE: I think a picture book is a wonderful place to introduce children to language in all its glory. My daughter (now five) has always repeated phrases from books; it is obvious that she delights in the rhythm or sounds of particular words, even if she doesn’t know the exact meaning. I am the same way. I try to choose words that build fun sentences. Often, the illustrations help to make the meanings of words more obvious. And because a picture book is a shared experience, a child can always ask the reader to define new words.
STACEY: What inspired you to create a story about being different, dreaming big, and learning to be brave?
BETHANIE: I knew that I wanted Buglette to be quirky (messy sleeper), imaginative (big dreams) and powerful (brave). That is the type of character that I gravitated toward as a child. I still do. I think the world can always use more strong, creative, non-stereotypical female characters.
STACEY: What’s next for you?
BETHANIE: I am working on a picture book for Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic (Summer 2012) and a companion book to Buglette that will be published by Knopf in 2013.
Here are some wonderful spreads, which include some of the rich phrases I questioned Bethanie about (above), from Buglette:
Thank you to Tricycle Press for agreeing to sponsor a giveaway of one copy of Buglette, the Messy Sleeper, as well as five special “DO NOT DISTURB: Messy Sleeping in Progress” door hangers.
To win a copy of the book or one of the door hangers please leave a comment about this post, in the comments section of this post by Thursday, May 26th by 11:59 p.m. EST. A random drawing will take place on Sunday, May 29th. The winners’ names will be announced in a blog post later that day.
Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address and have my contact at Tricycle Press ship the book or the door hanger out to you. Please note: Your e-mail address will not be published online.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.