Monday, 19 June 2017

Perfecto Pet Show by Pepper Springfield

Today, I’m very excited to feature Pepper Springfield (aka Judy Newman, President of the Scholastic Reading Club) as she talks about her life and her journey to becoming a published author. Please enjoy. 

I always wanted to write books. It just took me many decades to get up enough courage and self-confidence to actually sit down and do it. 

Successful published authors often attribute their success to reading and I agree. 

All kinds of reading—aloud, alone, together—were firmly baked into my childhood. I grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and so we read local picture book favorites such as Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal virtually every night before bed.


Clearly, here I was not too thrilled with sharing reading time with that small bundle (aka my sister-and-now-friend-ally-and-confidant, Emily) in my mom’s arms!

However, I was thrilled when years later I got to meet Robert McCloskey at his home in Maine and record an audio interview with him about his writing life for our school book clubs. I asked him about the inspiration for Make Way for Ducklings. He, along with so many other authors, truly inspires me.

I did write one “novel” in fifth grade: Danny Sompedia Around Town, in which Danny and his dog are left to fend for themselves after a car accident kills the adult Sompedias. I have judged many student writing contests over the years and I now know that killing off the parents in a fatal car accident is a very common device in budding writers’ work.

I was a competitive reader and I liked to be the kid who read the most books during our Newton Free Library summer reading challenge. I rode my blue banana bike to the library every day, took out as many books as I could fit in my bike bag, and meticulously wrote down every title I read. Somewhere in my parents’ house, I still have those handwritten records.


This isn’t a photo of me, but it easily could’ve been. (From the collection of the Newton Free Library in Massachusetts)

Each year, when we moved up a grade in elementary school, my parents would take we three kids to Louis Strymish’s New England Mobile Book Fair. As a reward for graduating, we would get to pore over the stacks of books (many piled on pallets since Strymish was a book “jobber”) and get to choose titles we wanted for summer reading.




Running through these aisles was almost like a treasure hunt—it could take hours but I would always find that perfect book (Courtesy of Boston University)

I continued that tradition with my own children and, as you can see, their noses were buried in books all summer long.


John and Becca, my two children, reading wherever they found a space!

I divide the world into book people and non-book people. And it is book people—readers, publishers, bloggers (like March of Time Books…), and authors—that I have always been drawn to. I was practically born a reader. My chosen career is book publishing. I read blogs and recently started writing one (JudyNewmanatScholastic.com) and, at last, I am thrilled to be a published author, too!

It was quite a stressful journey.

Usually on weekends, I would go to my desk to write and I would get so anxious, I would fall asleep. But l learned to give in to that, take a little nap, and just keep going. And so, page by page, my manuscript came together. I was determined to write a chapter book in rhyme because I am passionate about trying to find high interest, funny books for kids who don’t feel confident about reading.


I stare at these bookshelves, which are in my office at home, trying to get some inspiration for my own books. 

I cannot draw at all, so once I had a reasonably coherent manuscript, I needed to find an illustrator to collaborate with. I went on the SCBWI website and found Kristy Caldwell. I didn’t know Kristy before, but now we are working on our third Bobs and Tweets book and I cannot imagine a creative life without her.

Clearly this childhood photo of Kristy shows her unique blend of thoughtful intelligence, creative fun, and dislike of napkins!
Kristy’s interpretation of the two wacky families who star in my book series, the messy Bobs and the neat Tweets—along with the main protagonists, Dean Bob and Lou Tweet (who are NOT like the rest of their families!)—was so close to how I imagined them. Together, we are bringing these characters to life. And with each book, the world of Bonefish Street (where these characters live) gets richer and richer. I am hoping for an animated series some day!

Even though I have worked in children’s book publishing for more than two decades, I am still learning so much about what it takes to be an author—and get readers to discover my book. I use the pseudonym, Pepper Springfield, because until very recently, I was terrified of being exposed as a fraud.

I worried that if my Bobs and Tweets books got bad reviews or didn’t sell, my whole professional credibility would be challenged (I am supposed to be an expert in children’s books!). But I am gradually getting over that. I did an interview with Publishers Weekly explaining that there are lots of good reasons to use a pseudonym, but fear is not one of them.

Now I am determined to not let fear stand in my way. I am writing about my experience (as I am here), just signed up to do my first bookstore signing (gulp!), and am not above “photo bombing” and putting my Bobs and Tweets titles right up there on top shelves!


My Bobs and Tweets nestled in with some great classics!
It is such hard work, but a true privilege to be able to share my ideas and my characters with readers. After all these years of working in children’s book publishing, it is inspiring and humbling to see the world from an author’s point of view.
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Last spring, debut author and illustrator team Pepper Springfield and Kristy Caldwell introduced readers to two distinctive families, the Bobs and the Tweets, in a new series BOBS AND TWEETS. In its enthusiastic review of the first book, Meet the Bobs and Tweets, Booklist said, “Antics abound, and kids will be eager for more in future adventures.” Now, just in time for summer reading, theescapades continue in BOBS AND TWEETS: Perfecto Pet Show (Scholastic; June 27, 2017; 9780545870733).

When last seen, the Bobs and Tweets had moved across from each other on Bonefish Street at the recommendation of Mo, a wacky and wise community leader with a sense of humor. The problem: The Tweets are super neat and the Bobs are just plain slobs, and there just may not be enough room for the two families on the same street. But not all Bobs and Tweets are exactly the same! The two youngest members of these outrageous families—Lou Tweet and Dean Bob—have personalities all their own. When Lou and Dean meet at the town pool they become fast friends.

In Perfecto Pet Show, everyone is super-excited because Lou and Dean’s teacher, Ms. Pat, is hosting an afternoon of entertainment featuring kids and their pets. Anything goes she says, as long as each act runs for just three minutes. Lou decides on a rock-n-roll number with her cat, Pretty Kitty, and Dean plans to play the banjo with his pitbull, Chopper. When a giant bikecollision and a case of stage-fright threaten to ruin the fun, the Bobs and the Tweets have to depend on each other and the differences they once thought were intolerable. Will both families put aside their stubborn ways and save the day?

Written in rhyming verse that is perfect for reading aloud, and clever four-color illustrations throughout, BOBS AND TWEETS is an excellent series for emerging readers. The friendship between Lou Tweet and Dean Bob is a wonderful example of how opposites acting together are stronger than they are apart. More adventures will be here soon!

About the Author

Pepper Springfield (aka Judy Newman to close friends and family), was born and raised inMassachusetts. She loves rock ‘n’ roll and chocolate, just like Lou Tweet. And, like Dean Bob, she loves to read and do crossword puzzles. Over the years, Pepper has loved all kinds of pets: dogs, cats, hamsters, turtles, fish, a bunny, and an imaginary monkey. Judy hates the spotlight, but Pepper is getting used to it! If Pepper had to choose, she would be a Tweet by day and a Bob at night.

About the Illustrator

Kristy Caldwell received an MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts. She is a full-time illustrator and a part-time Tweet. While working at her art studio in Brooklyn, NY, Kristy gets her creativity on like Lou Tweet, drinks tea like Dean Bob, and hangs out with her energetic dog friend Dutch.

MEET THE BOBS AND TWEETS
Book #2: Perfecto Pet Show
By Pepper Springfield
Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: June 27th, 2017
ISBN: 9780545870733
Format: Hardcover and e-book
Price(s): $9.99 / $5.99
Page Count: 80
 # # #
What Do Teachers and Kids Say About the Bobs and Tweets?
 “My students absolutely LOVED this book!” – Jessie, Grade School Teacher
 “I want to read more Bobs and Tweets stories, [they are] good for kids who like Dr. Seuss. It makes reading fun!” – Sophia, 3rd Grade

42 comments:

  1. I so enjoyed your post Judy (Pepper) many thanks, Barbara.

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    1. Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. I really enjoyed writing this post and I am now a devoted subscriber! And WAIT!?!? I read that your family calls you "Bob"! How perfect! xx

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    2. It is perfect isn’t it? I like my nickname much more than my given name, but I would rather be neat like a Tweet than a slob like Bob! :-) Thank you so much for sharing your story with readers of my blog. xx

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  2. Great read today, I always wish all those who have the courage to publish the very best of luck. Reading was always important for me, I started at the age of 3 and have never stopped. Have a story book day! Hugs, Valerie

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    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate your kind words. And I'm with you: never stop reading! xx Judy (aka Pepper)

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  3. Nice to meet you Judy. What a wonderful life of reading you have had and now, to be writing as well. Enjoy the adventure.

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    1. Thanks so much! This is my first real blog post as Pepper and it is so much fun! I really appreciate your supportive words. xx Judy (Pepper)

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  4. Many congrats, Pepper and Kristy. I see much success in your future.

    Hi, Barbara. Thanks for hosting a lovely post.

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    1. Thanks Sandra. I know I speak for Kristy too when I thank you for your vote of confidence! We appreciate the support so much.
      xx Pepper (it's so much fun to sign with my pseudonym)

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    2. It was my pleasure Sandra. I love this post and will have to try harder with my own now! :)

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  5. I love the childhood photo of Kristy! And I also echo Bish's comment. Thank you so much for sharing, Barbara, your posts are always fascinating and enjoyable!

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    1. Hi Linda, Thanks for reading! I agree! Isn't that a priceless photo of Kristy. (I think if she could, she would wear that headgear today:) Best, Judy

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    2. Hi Linda, I feel lucky indeed to have such a lovely post to share.

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  6. There's nothing so beautiful to see than a child engrossed in a book. What beautiful pictures. Great to read about your journey from reading with mom to writing your own stories.

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    1. Thank you so much for this. I saw my Mom (and Dad on Father's Day) and showed this post to my mother. She still, at 85, talks lucidly about the importance of reading to children. I really appreciate your kind words. All best, Judy

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  7. Living my dream Pepper! Congratulations on the books--they sound adorable.

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  8. Wow Pepper...congratulations on your success as a writer. Your books with Kristy sound just wonderful...being an avid reader all my life I so identify with the trips in the summer to the library. No finer way to enjoy a hot afternoon. Thank you Barbara so much for sharing Pepper and Kristy with us. Hugs!

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    1. Thank you Debbie. We have so much fun working on these books and are so grateful to Barbara (er..."Bob") for the opportunity to share our work with all of you. Very best wises to you. xx Judy/Pepper

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    2. Thank You Debbie, it's lovely to know you enjoyed it.

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  9. This is a truly lovely post. Thank you both.
    And perhaps, just perhaps, some day this bookaholic will become a writer.

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    1. From one bookaholic to another, thank you and I wish you the very best in your own writing journey. xx Judy/Pepper

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  10. Barbara! HELLO!

    As I type, it is raining outside. The forecast for our summer was that it would be a wet season, and so it is. But books make all the clouds go away.

    What a profound impact literature has had on many of us as children, right? I can remember the first few years as a preschooler, waving a pencil like a wand, putting the point to paper, and creating what I thought was my own book. Inspired by Madeline, Dr. Seuss and other American authors, I felt a sort of "permission" to follow suit. As an only child, my only siblings were those in my imagination, not those found in books. However, books invited me to play and to carry out this play in my encounter with dolls, playing house, and interacting with pencil and paper.

    What a sweet life. Enjoy a good book today and sail away....

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    1. Hello Anita, I wish I could send you some of our sunshine! Just imagine it and I’m sure you will feel the warmth.

      I did exactly the same thing writing stories full of damp caves, and mysterious goings-on in the dead of the night! Such was the influence of my favourite author at the time.

      I will be out in the garden this afternoon, book in hand enjoying the fine weather. Hugs to you my friend.

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  11. I love the pictures of the kids reading!

    Have a great one.

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    1. As do I Sandra, thanks for coming over.

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  12. What a fabulous post, dear Barbara! I particularly love the photos of her children reading - they're so cute. And I have to have to say that the children books is full of wonderful treasures! Hugs :)

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    1. I am honoured to be hosting Pepper on my blog this week, and pleased you enjoyed the post. Hugs Barbara

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  13. What a fun post! The old pictures bring back many memories as I'm very familiar with the Boston area and the Mobile Book Fair. And I'm SO envious of Judy's meeting with Robert McCloskey, what a thrill that must have been. Congratulations on following your book dreams!

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    1. Hello Marcia, I don’t know Boston at all but would love to visit one day. It must have been exciting indeed to meet Robert McCloskey.

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  14. The book looks super cute!

    You know you're in good company when someone chooses a book over a TV show. =) We're totally book people too. Every time we hit the library, we come home with 15 to 20 books. (Between 3 kids.) You want kids to succeed in life? You give them books.

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    1. They certainly do Crystal! Thanks for coming over.

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  15. Sounds like an interesting series! I can totally relate to being a competitive reader. I was always trying to read more books than everyone else for summer reading competitions (though there was never a prize- just the honor of winning).

    Thanks for sharing Judy/Pepper's journey and it was great seeing how she views things from the author side of publishing. :)

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    1. Thanks Stephanie, shame about the prize (or lack of one) :)

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  16. What a great post! Congrats to Pepper and Kirsty!!

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    1. I agree, it is a great post. Thanks for leaving a comment, Barbara

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  17. Such a lovely post, a great read.

    Reading is so enjoyable and should always be encouraged.
    I love sharing books with the grandchildren - although they are fast becoming great solo readers too!

    All the best Jan

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    1. Hello Jan,
      Reading with grandchildren is such a joy! My grandsons are grown up now, but I still get to read to my little granddaughters when we visit them in Australia. We are going next year, so I must look for a few good books to take with me.
      Barbara

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  18. You do have the most fascinating friends, Barbara! What an engaging post from Judy Newman. I love the photos! Yes- we are either Book People or not...

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    1. There are some lovely folks in the world Colleen, and I’m very happy to make their acquaintance. You are one such lovely person, and I’m very glad we got to know one another.

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  19. Thanks very much Barbara, so interesting and inspiring. I wish Judy and Kristy every success.
    Reading is such an intrinsic part of my life. We encouraged our children from a young age and that carries through the generations now.

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    1. I absolutely agree with you Sue. Thanks for visiting. :)

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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