Have You Seen My Duckling? Author's Note
Nancy Tafuri's Author's Note for:
Have You Seen My Duckling?; What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees; I Love You, Little One; The Donkey's Christmas Song.
When I was asked to write a muse about a book for Scholastic, I looked at the titles they had chosen and realized that each one of these books marked extremely different times in my life and I wanted to share each one with all of you.
We had just moved to the country when my husband and I went down to the pond in a meadow behind the house. There we spotted a family of mallards with eight little ducklings. We sat quietly and watched these fuzzy little creatures exploring their small world. Tom turned to me and said, "There's a book here for you!" Have You Seen My Duckling? was created with watercolors, ink, and pastel pencils for the soft feathers and in 1985 received the Caldecott Honor.
What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees came nearly 13 years later, and now I'm a mother of a little 6-year-old girl. Reading to her at bedtime and watching her sleep under the glow of the full moon shining across her cozy body made me say to myself, "What does the moon see? Sleeping children!" Then the sun wanted to get into the act, and I thought making the book flip around would be great fun for all awake children.
I Love You, Little One marked my first book with Scholastic. This book practically drew itself; it had all animals with their babies, children and nature. It was certainly a wonderful beginning in my relationship with Scholastic Press.
The Donkey's Christmas Song was perhaps one of the most difficult books. Many years ago I wanted to do a lullaby book with the special baby, but it came on the heels of Asleep, Asleep, a book by Mirra Ginsburg that I had illustrated, and my manuscript was turned down. After years of sitting in my files, I pulled it out again and reworked it before showing it to Lauren Thompson, my editor at Scholastic Press. It was greeted favorably but Scholastic wanted to be sure how I would handle this book for the very young. So, I set out doing detailed sketches of the cow, sheep, chicks and hen, doves, goats, mice, donkey, and the special baby. I felt if they saw the sketches, Scholastic would get more of a feeling of what I was trying to do. Even I needed this to set the stage for all the animals. That was the first of many book dummies [mock-up of the book] - until that fuzzy, brown-eyed donkey pushed himself front and center and told me, "Hey — I want top billing." And he was right!
I reworked yet another dummy, but this time everything fell into place. The Christmas Welcome became The Donkey's Christmas Song — the donkey was happy, the baby was happy, and Scholastic Press was happy, and I didn't have to do any more dummies, so I was very happy. I feverishly started to work on the color artwork and was able to deliver in time to keep the book on the 2002 fall list.
To keep a book simple, direct, with the most meaning is at times the hardest chore to achieve in picture books for the very young — but they're worth it, and I just love doing them.