Benjamin Chaud is the author and illustrator of The Bear’s Song, The Bear’s Sea Escape and The Bear’s Surprise
What inspired you to write this book?
I had a second child. I wrote the first book, The Bear’s Song, when I had my first child, and that had been a creative way to explore how I felt as a new father. In The Bear’s Surprise, I wanted to capture what it was like to be a new dad again, and what it would be like for a young child to welcome a new family member.
What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?
The biggest challenge was continuing the series without being repetitive. I also needed to have the courage, yet again, to create so much detail on such large pages. I added cut-outs this time to bring in a new dimension, and to introduce a new way to read. This feature introduces a new visual game since there are passages between the pages. We follow Little Bear in his journey this time, not Papa Bear.
What do you want a young reader to take away after reading The Bear’s Surprise?
Pleasure. I want readers to enjoy the story and the experience of sharing it with an adult. This book touches on feeling alone, growing up, and what it means to be a big brother, as well as part of a family.
As the illustrator as well as the writer, do you see the pictures in your head all at once while you are writing or do you create different illustrations many times and see what works? Do the pictures or the story come first?
The idea comes first. For The Bear’s Surprise, it was the idea of a new character—the little brother—and the cut-outs. I think about the story next. I draw all of the book’s moments, and I try to see how they might best be structured—how one page leads to another. Then I spend a lot of time looking for details—little parallel stories—and I try to fit everything into the picture as if it were a puzzle. It’s great fun—when it works. Then, I go back to make sure that the story holds together. Of course, I finalize the drawings and add color.
What do you love best about writing for children?
I like writing for children but also for adults. I want adults to take pleasure in reading the books, too. And, because I’m an adult, I always try to have fun while working. I like to build a world in my books that speaks of serious things lightly, and of light things seriously. This approach gives me the most creative freedom.
What are your plans for your next book?
My next book for Chronicle Books is a continuation of the character’s adventures in I Didn’t Do My Homework Because… and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School… This time, he travels the world on his summer vacation. There are a lot of fun, catastrophic situations, and there are also echoes of adventure books I read when I was younger, like Jules Verne, as well as Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and One Thousand and One Nights.
Read an excerpt from The Bear’s Surprise