Bringing Miles and Miles of smiles! :)
Where it all Began!
Over the years, I had visions of creating a book series with a lot of fun characters and moving parts, similar to Richard Scarry’s Busytown book series. He created such a rich world full of fun, relatable characters and community where friendship, trust and playfulness existed. Mr. Scarry was such a pro at creating well rounded characters and making them interact in clever, inventive ways. The best part was that his books contained so much content that you could never get bored discovering new things that you hadn’t seen in earlier readings. That’s what I wanted Happy County to be.
In 2005, I started the process, and immediately fell flat. My brain could not wrap itself around all of the moving parts and how to make all of the ideas feel cohesive.
So I worked at my writing. I kept raising my family and focusing on managing my house and my business. I got better at keeping a lot of things going at once, becoming a master of time management and my calendar.
What it became!
Fast forward to 2016, when I finally had the guts to sit with Happy County again and make a real go of it. I took all my experience as as a writer, illustrator, designer and funny-guy and channeled it all into one series. It was exciting and challenging! I worked on the book dummy for an hour a day until it was complete. It took a couple months.
My agent, Paul Rodeen, pitched the Happy County concept and dummy to 15 different publishers. Many of them passed on it. After 6 months out in the world, Christy Ottaviano at Henry Holt & Co. in NYC made an offer on it. Christy has been exactly what this book series needed and I am grateful for her support and encouragement.
My idea for the world of Happy County was not to mimic Richard Scarry, but to look at what he'd done and put my own spin on it. What came out in my development of the series was my sense of humor, bold color and design, funny (and corny) puns, and hopefully, satisfying storytelling. I wanted it to appeal to preschool and early Kindergarten age children so I infused it with all sorts of early primer learning from colors and shapes to numbers and letters, as well as search and find, alliteration and onomatopoeia. These fundamental learning elements help set these book apart from other books that explore worlds. I tried to fit as much story, characters, humor and joy as I could into a 48-page book, and tie it all together, so that readers would feel satisfied and want to read the stories over and over again, just as I did with Richard Scarry’s books. It’s chock full of fun!
Where it’s headed!
Happy County: Hello, World! will be available in Winter 2020 and its follow-up book, Happy County: Sun and Moon Take Turns, in Spring 2020. The marketing and publicity machine will be in full swing. We’re also throwing around ideas for multiple books and Happy County spin-offs. Time will tell how those play out. Stay tuned!