I highlighted Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue on yesterday's post, but if you missed it, you can watch a cute "Sneak Peek" video of the book below:
Molly Coxe's children’s books have sold 1.8 million copies. For Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue, she not only wrote the story, but also made the characters and designed the sets. The photos were taken by Olivier Toppin, a French photographer. “We were like two kids playing,” says Molly. “I’ve never had so much fun ‘working.’”
Molly graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in English Literature. She has taught pre-school and currently lives in Southern California.
It's been great getting to know Molly Coxe a little bit. She has most recently been working on fun early readers (doing her own photography this time!) which feature felted animal characters done in the same style as Benjamin and Bumper.
The first "short vowel adventure", Rat Attack, is currently only available as an e-reader (in English, and 8 different bilingual editions). There will be print versions of the English edition (and possibly the Spanish and Mandarin editions) of Rat Attack by next fall. Molly is already working on her second early reader, Princess Pig.
Here are some more things Molly and I talked about...pull up a chair, and listen in!
GoodBooks: How did you get started in this process of creating "stuffed" felt book characters and designing miniature sets for "Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue" and your early reader books?
Molly: My earlier books – Big Egg, Cat Traps, Hot Dog, etc. [go here to see a list of all her books available on Amazon] - were illustrated in a more conventional manner, using paint and pen on paper. One day I realized my drawing style had reached a plateau. I wasn't getting better, and I wasn't discovering anything new. I remembered how much I enjoyed playing with stuffed animals as a child. I created stories, whole worlds, using stuffed animals and scraps of fabric, bits of this and that. I started experimenting, and many wool and fabric mice and elephants later, I realized the characters were starting to feel "real," to me at least. At that point, I just needed to create an environment for them and set them loose to see what happened!
GoodBooks: It all seems quite involved, and the love you put into these projects shines through - the stories are so imaginative! Did you have any particular children in mind as your wrote them, or were you perhaps reminded of your own childhood?
Molly: Yes, as I mentioned above, I loved "imaginary play" as a child, and I also loved to write plays. The first one, about a lost giraffe, was "produced" in my second grade class. It was very simple, nothing at all spectacular, but I remember watching the other children assume their roles. Suddenly, the "real" world fell away, and with just a few simple props, everyone was a participant in an imaginary world. It was magical. My son, Will, now 26, also spent hours creating fantasy realms with characters he made out of sculpey clay. He just needed a bit of raw material, and his imagination supplied the rest. I'm so glad you can feel the love! It may sound odd, but I develop a relationship with the characters as I make them, and they begin to develop personalities. When I'm shooting the photographs, I find myself apologizing when I need to attach a pair of wings, or a a pair of trousers with a straight pin.
GoodBooks: What were some of your favorite children's books, growing up? How much have they influenced your own storytelling?
Molly: My favorite books growing up were all by writers who are much much better writers than I will ever be. I loved Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. I loved Winnie the Pooh. I love The BFG and Matilda by Roald Dahl. In college, I studied Dickens. I am really a visual storyteller. The illustrations do most of the work. I can string a maximum of five words together before I start getting muddled. That's why Picture Books and Early Readers are a perfect fit for me! You have to try to tell a fresh story in very very simple language, and you call on the images for backup!
Good Books: How did you find Olivier Toppin, the French photographer, who collaborated with you?
Molly: Olivier Toppin was the photographer for Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue. He lived in a village near where my parents live, in southern France. I am taking the photos for the BraveMouse Readers. I am fascinated by photography and how you can create a world with light. I think it's fair to say I'm pretty patient and willing to spend many many hours making "mistakes".
Good Books: I read that your mission is "to create books that young children and adults love to share together, and want to read again and again." What, in your opinion, is the secret to writing books that attract both children and adults?
Molly: Good stories, period.
Well, I couldn't agree more! And I know you will just love her well-told tale about Benjamin and Bumper - it's full of fun, friendship, and adventure! Here's how to enter for a chance to win a signed copy (remember, TWO WINNERS will be chosen):
- Sign in to the Rafflecopter widget (below) with your name and email. This is the only way to be officially entered into the giveaway!
- You will see a list of tasks with big green buttons next to them. Each task has a point value.
- Click on the ones you want to complete and follow the instructions. Please note that it is not enough to just click the green buttons; you must also complete the task to earn the points.
- The more tasks you complete, the more times your name goes in the hat to increase your chances of winning.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
- The giveaway will be closed at 11:59 p.m., Thursday, February 27, 2014 .
- Winner will be announced on Friday, February 28, 2014.
- In order to enter the contest, you must sign in to the Rafflecopter widget and complete at least one task. Winner is chosen randomly by Rafflecopter.
- Giveaway is open to residents of the United States only.
- The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter and contacted via email. If the winner does not respond with the requested contact information within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.