Like all toddlers, sometimes my daughter can be completely irrational. (I’m hoping that changes when she turns four next month. Somehow I know that’s wishful thinking!) Teeny-tiny things get blown out of proportion. Every day we struggle with what she wants to do by herself vs. what she can do by herself. Battles involving tears and raised voices often ensue. Of course, those spats are always followed by hugs, because toddlers are quick to forgive (and quite cute).
Betty Goes Bananas is the story of a gorilla, Betty, who finds a bananas but cannot open it. Try as she might, she cannot peel the banana, so Mr. Toucan steps in. While Mr. Toucan can help, Betty wants to peel her own banana by herself. As I flipped through the pages of this adorably illustrated book, I found myself thinking: This could totally happen in our house. Therefore, I knew I wanted to interview the author, Steve Antony, to learn more about the making of Betty Goes Bananas, his debut picture book.
Stacey: Please share your inspiration for Betty Goes Bananas. I’m thinking a short-fused child inspire this story since I saw a little bit of my three year-old in this book (and not just because she wears a bow, like Betty). Is there a real-life Betty in your life?
Steve: I’m so glad to hear that you can relate to the book. I love it when people say that they know a Betty.
The story was actually inspired by a drawing in my sketchbook. It was of a goofy gorilla about to slip up on a banana peel. The name, Betty, popped into my head. I imagined what might happen if Betty slipped on the banana peel. My guess was that she’d be pretty upset about it, and that’s when the alliteration ‘Betty Goes Bananas’ came. So I had this amusing character and a catchy title; all I needed was a story! My UK publisher for Betty suggested that I explore temper tantrums as her theme. It made perfect sense. I borrowed two big books about managing temper tantrums from a friend, I tried remembering my brothers’ tantrums, and I recalled the tantrums I had as a child. My niece, now 17, used to have epic tantrums as a toddler, so there’s probably a bit of her in Betty too. I think we all know a Betty.
Stacey: What do you think parents can learn from Betty’s, shall-we-say, expressiveness? What can toddlers learn from Mr. Toucan’s patience and rationale explanations?
Steve: I just wanted to make a really simple, fun, amusing and relatable story about tantrums, something we’ve all had to deal with at some stage in our lives. But I wanted it to be told through the eyes of a long-suffering parent/guardian figure: Mr Toucan. This way, we empathise with poor Mr Toucan. We see how exasperating and needless tantrums often are. But we can also empathise with poor Betty as she tries to cope with her frustration. Toddlers might learn from Mr Toucan that patience and perseverance pay off, especially if they like bananas, and that tantrums are maybe sometimes just a little bit silly. Adults might learn from Betty’s expressiveness never to buy bananas! Ultimately, I wanted this book to be both fun and useful, which is why at the end the reader gets to decide what happens next.
Stacey: Please tell us about your process as the author and illustrator of this book.
Steve: With Betty, the picture came first, but generally it all starts with a concept. If an idea leads to a concept that inspires me, I’ll start doodling or writing. I’ll jot down words and phrases, and once I’ve got a story, even if it’s just a basic outline, I’ll draw a storyboard. While storyboarding, I refine the text. Eventually, once I’m happy with the story’s structure, I’ll start drawing the final illustrations for the book.
Stacey: Seeing as Betty Goes Bananas is your picture book debut, how will you celebrate its release today?
Steve: I’m celebrating by holding a contest to win a signed copy of Betty Goes Bananas. The details are on my website.
Stacey: What are you working on presently?
Steve: The book I’m currently working is very detailed and very funny, but I’m sworn to secrecy! I can tell you that I’ve recently finished a second ‘Betty’ book: Betty Goes Bananas in her Pyjamas! I’ve got details of all my picture books, including future releases, on www.steveantony.com.
This giveaway is for a copy of Betty Goes Bananas. Many thanks to Random House for donating TWO copies of this book for two readers. For a chance to win a copy of Betty Goes Bananas, please leave a comment about this post by Tuesday, December 30th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Thursday, January 1st. Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact at Random House will ship your book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.) If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of RAISING A LITERATE HUMAN – Betty Goes Bananas. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
Comments are now closed. I used a random number generator to select the winners. They are Amanda and Dana. I’ll pass along your contact info to my contact at Random House.