Today is the launch day of my newest–and first 2017–book, Tooth Fairy’s Night. It’s a Level 1 Step into Reading, written for the newest readers. And here is how it came about.
In the spring of 2015, I was restless and in need of “filling the well,” as most long-term career writers must do from time to time. I went to New York City by myself, not to attend a conference or sign books at a convention (something I hadn’t done in years anyway), but to find my own New York.
I had written two Step into Reading books for Random House, Pumpkin Day and Apple Picking Day. So I arranged to stop by Random House and met with Heidi and Anna, the SiR editors. They asked me to write a Level 1 (the hardest!) on the Tooth Fairy.
I gulped. Fantasy and imaginative writing is not my thing. All of my books are grounded in reality. But I have long admired children’s writers who reach for the impossible, who make something out of nothing, who don’t need a bit of research. I said yes.
From there, I went to the American Museum of Natural History for the first time ever. My other RH editor, Frances Gilbert, urged me to go and told me I’d be astounded. She was right. From the first second I entered the AMNH, I knew I’d found my New York. I stayed till closing time. The next day I was there when it opened and again stayed till closing.
The exhibitions in the museum are very much grounded in the real world, but it took the imagination of many naturalists, scientists, and artists to make this one of the most famous, and most attended, museum in the world.
As I roamed the halls, I thought about my assignment. What about the Tooth Fairy? The practical side of me compared her to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny who only work one night a year. The Tooth Fairy, however, works every night. And she doesn’t have a bunch of elves to help her!
The Tooth Fairy, I decided, was a shift worker. She carried a lunch box (union rules state she must take a break). She had to pack her supplies. She had to feed her pet. Before she left her cottage, she checked to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything.
And off she went to work.
Meanwhile, back at home in Candice’s Office/Workshop (also without elves), I got ready to go to Hollins for a summer of teaching. After I’d been at Hollins a week or so, my SiR editor asked how the Tooth Fairy book was coming.
I gulped. It wasn’t coming at all. I hadn’t even started it! Random House would like the book to come out in time for Dental Health Month in 2017. But if I couldn’t do it, my editor assured me, then 2018 would be okay.
What would the Tooth Fairy do? She never slacked off because she was busy with something else. Nope, she showed up, every single night because it was her job and she couldn’t disappoint all those children.
I told my editor she’d have a manuscript by Tuesday. This was Friday. Then I stayed in my apartment on campus that weekend and wrote and wrote and wrote. Draft after draft. Level 1 readers must rhyme, must use meter, and–clearly–must make sense.
By Monday I had a draft to send to my editor. It needed work, but we would make our 2017 deadline. When we were finished, I was thrilled with the story.
Now it’s out with Monique Dong’s cheerful illustrations that show the impossible.
Of all the books I’ve written, this one–and my new picture book coming out this summer–make me feel like a children’s book author. The kind that can write stories from the imagination.
Update from Monique Dong, illustrator:
“Working on Tooth Fairy’s Night was a dream come true for me as a new illustrator! The story was so sweet and charming and drew me in from the first read. It’s such a creative take on the tooth fairy concept that will delight children for years to come!
I had the wonderful opportunity in this project to work with Random House. They were supportive and encouraging, from the rough sketches through to the final colour. I’m so excited to see this book on the shelves!”