Maybe A Bear Ate It!

“Unexpectedly irresistible”

The main character was named by me “Gatto” as a working name so we could talk about him since he has no name in the text…

Maybe a Bear Ate It! was the first fiction picture book done with long time collaborator Robie Harris, and was the first book done with editor Ken Geist over atlittle Orchard Books, a division, or “imprint” of giant publisher Scholastic. Ken was in love with the book from the beginning. Which is never bad for a book…You often hope for that, but don’t always get it strangely enough. Even though they are publishing the book, you don’t always get the idea an editor genuinely likes the book. They may think it will sell well, which is always the bottom line in a for-profit business, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily like it personally.

Published 2008 by Orchard Books New York, Edited by Ken Geist.

There are a lot of books in play at any one time in a big publisher, even on a single editor’s desk. There could be dozens of book ideas running through an editor’s mind on any given day. Some that are bound, finished,  and about to be published, some that are in process of being illustrated, some in manuscript form that are still being copyedited, some that are still just ideas with problems to iron out, and some that are submitted texts or ideas that the editor is still trying to decide to buy or not…

So there’s lots of things competing for an editor’s attention, and “book love”. It isn’t always possible to love all your books no matter how hard you try.But an editor loving a book on their “list”, is never a bad thing, even if the book never sells three copies. For one thing, it means they see the intent, even if the final book is less than expected. And this makes them fight for the book in the crowded battle for attention inside any big publishing house.

And a book has a lot to compete against, especially inside a huge corporation like Scholastic. All books, from all imprints, must be shown at a presentation, where an editor sells the idea of buying the book to those who ultimately sign the checks… and later, at a sales meeting, where the editor must project to the sales and marketing departments how great the book is, and all the great and easy ways to market the book. A book can make it all the way through the editing and production stages and still die a slow death if the sales people are not behind the idea, or just don’t “get it”.  It’s part of a good editor’s job to make sure everyone understands how great the book is, and not assume everyone will love it as much as they did when it was submitted.

text © Robie Harris/Bee Productions Inc.

The decision to make the character a vaguely animal/stuffed doll thingy instead of a child, I think was my idea. Always easier to be PC when it’s not human…And less hassles with reality to deal with. I had had enough of trying to balance reality and unreality in the last marathon project, Mail Harry to the Moon, partly because of Ken’s love of the book, and Robie’s simple text, the predict went pretty smoothly. There were quite a few changes in concept though, such as the silent panic looking for it at the end, and the idea I came up with to start the story before the words start, by showing the book being “lost”. I imagined the main character coming to bed with toys and book, yawning, and knocking the book out of sight. The stuffed toys reflect the imagined catastrophes to come.

text © Robie Harris/Bee Productions Inc.

Most books written in first person, have no stated name for the main character, which makes it difficult to talk quickly about the book when working. So named this guy “Gatto”, Italian for cat. Just to make it easier to discuss the book. usually there is a name of some kind that floats up as you spend hours drawing their features and movements and personality. So the name is Gatto, in case anyone asks.

  • A 2009 Children’s Choices Book, selected by the International Reading Association and the Children’s Book Council
  • A 2009 American Library Association Notable Book
  • A 2008 National Parenting Publication Gold Award Winner

Editorial Reviews

“wonderfully expressive cartoon illustrations that mirror the youngster’s emotions as he conjures up each possible disaster. Exactly right for preschool storytime or toddler bedtime, this story will tickle the funny bones of both readers and their audiences.” -School Library Journal

1 “The art here is also unexpectedly irresistible, not to mention moving, guaranteeing that for at least one child this will become a very special book of his or her own.”-Kirkus Reviews

“In this utterly delightful and very sweet picture book little children who love books can have a wonderful time sharing an adventure with the story’s hero. Where did his book go? Did something awful happen to it? The happy ending will make everyone laugh and certainly readers will be much relieved that a bear did not eat the little critter’s beloved volume. With minimal text and wonderfully expressive artwork, this is an excellent title for little children.” -Through The Looking Glass Children’s Book Review

“Harris and Emberley are clearly having so much fun that their enjoyment is infectious.” -Publishers Weekly

 “Emberley obviously knows just how toddlers move and react, and every feeling blasts right out across the page. The picture of the critter gleefully skipping across an empty white expanse with his book in hand is priceless. Even adult readers will be hard pressed not to smile when the lost is found.” Pair this with Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny books.”-  Stephanie Zvirin, Booklist(USA)

“…aside from the quick-to-read story, (there are) wonderful, colorful illustrations by Michael Emberley This book will teach kids to love books. It’s obvious that the little guy in the striped jammies can’t live without his book and will do anything to find it. He hugs it when he finds it, which just melted my heart. It’s a subtle message, but one that children will undoubtedly pick up on.

“If you’ve got a kid who hates to be put to bed but loves to have a bedtime story, “Maybe a Bear Ate It” is one he or she will ask for again and againAny 3-to-6 year old is going to eat this book up. — By Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Westerly Sun

Recommended reading

“Michael Emberley provides energetic illustrations. It’s perfect for story time, bedtime, or library time, and it’s a great book to introduce young readers to the vital importance of books.”– Lori O’Toole Buselt, The Wichita Eagle,