Today I’m delighted to have my long-time friend and critique buddy, Jody Jensen Shaffer, here to share five fun facts about her newest picture book release, IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS!, illustrated by Claire Messer and published by Beach Lane Books. Take a peek at the lovely reviews Jody’s book has received from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, then climb aboard and enjoy as she shares five behind-the-scenes facts about the book’s creation. My favorite? Fact #1. It’s a good reminder that patience is the name of the game in this business. Happy reading, all!
FACT #1 The journey from idea to publication took eight years.
I got the original idea for BUSY BUS in October of 2010. I was brainstorming back-to-school stories [apparently, I like a challenge] and wondered how I could make mine stand out. When I landed on the idea of making it a school bus’s first day, I knew I was onto something. The story went through many, many revisions until it finally landed on Allyn Johnston’s desk at Beach Lane Books. Boy, was that a great day for me! In the months that followed, I worked with both Allyn and Andrea Welch.
FACT #2 I rode the bus to elementary school.
In the small town in which I grew up, the elementary school and my house were on nearly opposite sides of town. Sometimes a friend and I walked to school. But most of the time, I caught the bus in front of my house. I wasn’t always sure I would be safe riding the bus, however. There were icy mornings when I wondered if the bus would skid off the road. There were hills that I wondered if the bus could summit. To make matters worse, I was prone to motion sickness, so the shadows from the trees whizzing by my window made my stomach queasy. Thankfully, neither the bus nor I ever had an accident.
FACT #3 My school bus driver was also my neighbor.
In a small town, that happens. Taffy was my bus driver’s name, and he was also my next door neighbor. He and his wife, Dorothy, were grandparent-age, and I loved them dearly. I visited them regularly, and they always had some yummy treat to share.
FACT # 4 BUSY BUS is the “youngest” book I’ve published.
My previous picture books, PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW (illustrated by Steph Laberis) and A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK (illustrated by Daniel Miyares), both have more complicated plots and complex language than BUSY BUS. So to make a first-day-of-school book fit its intended audience, I needed to simplify the language and plot. That was tough! I kept thinking there wasn’t enough conflict in the book. But I reminded myself that conflict is in the eye of the beholder, and to children just starting school, there’s plenty to fret about.
FACT #5 I asked a local school bus driver how fast a bus goes.
Before BUSY BUS went to the printer, Andrea asked me if I knew how fast a school bus went. The illustrator, Claire Messer, was working on a spread that included the dashboard of Busy Bus, and they wondered if I knew what the top speed on a speedometer should read. So on one of my morning walks not long after, I saw a school bus driver parked in a parking lot. I explained I was writing a book about a school bus, and I needed to know how fast they went. She looked and said, “This one goes to 85.” I reported that to my editor, and the rest was picture book history!
Jody Jensen Shaffer is an award-winning poet and the author of more than 30 books of fiction and nonfiction for children, including PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK, IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS! and more. Jody’s poetry has been published in great children’s magazines like Highlights, Ladybug, and Clubhouse Jr. Jody lives in Liberty, Missouri, and is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. When she’s not writing, Jody can be found watching baseball or walking her rescue dog, Sophie. Visit Jody at jodyjensenshaffer.com or on Twitter @jodywrites4kids.