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Big Digital Fox

Posted by CBethM on February 19, 2024 in Author Posts |

9781662620195 7

Years ago, in the middle of the night, my older brother Gregory said something so silly it made me laugh until my belly hurt.

He and I were young then and not alone in our shenanigans that evening. In my room slept my sister Daphne. Greg shared the middle room with my two brothers, Regenald and Larry.  I believe there was a bunk bed in their room then. It was the sixties and like now the world was filled with so much turmoil, confusion and promise. Everyone needed a good laugh, I’m sure. That night, through the darkness, came one young boy’s voice, bringing joy to our little part of the world as only Greg could. In a singsong manner he talked about a boy eating beans.

You’d have to be a kid to appreciate his comments. For even now, none of us, including Gregory, can understand why it struck such a cord with us that night. But hearing him repeat the ditty again and again brought the giggles out of us, filled the house full with them, along with my father’s deep, disappointing voice.

“Go to sleep!” Dad shouted more than once. We did not comply. “Didn’t I tell you all to be quiet?” I don’t recall that working either. When parents get upset, sometimes it just makes kids misbehave all the more. And so did we until he had finally made his point. Even then, I put covers over my head and laughed uncontrollably.

We grew up in a home filled with laughter. My parents and grandparents would sit around our kitchen table and nearly bring us to tears with their jokes, sayings and stories of life in America. For Black people, that could only be survived with a huge dose of humor. Even now, our family is among the funniest people I know. A gathering is an opportunity to be filled with the joy of laughter no matter the state of the world.

I am always hopeful that readers will see bits of humor in my work. It is there in every book because Roberta and Henry Flake, my parents, gave us more than their last name. They gave my siblings and I the gift of humor and storytelling, lights that shine even on the darkest nights.

The characters in my new picture book, You Make Me Sneeze, would fit right in our family.

It’s one reason that I love Duck and Cat. Anna Raff, the illustrator, played such a huge role in bringing these two to life. When I first set eyes on them during the creation of our debut picture book, You Are Not A Cat, I had to hold my breath. How could she know so much about them having not written a word of the book?  But illustrators have their own way of connecting to the souls of characters, of writing their stories through pictures.

Watching Duck and Cat’s antics, hearing their voices, reminds me of how much joy I get from what I do and how much these two are like children we see in our own lives. But do not ask Cat and Duck to be other than who they are, they simply can’t. No more than my brother could.  They love to talk, to bicker a bit, to be in one another’s company. They say some of the darndest things. Duck and Cat are curious, but never mean. When You Are Not a Cat debuted, a young mother sent me a videotape as she read the book to her child. What I loved most was how much the little girl laughed as she listened to her mother read.

You Make me Sneeze was written to bring out the giggles. To encourage readers and their audiences to snuggle together or gather in a classroom joyfully. It is also for reading simply for the fun of it as Duck and Cat scamper across the pages unencumbered, free to be themselves.

SHARON FLAKE_CREDIT SHARON G FLAKESharon G. Flake is the author of The Skin I’m In, which has sold over a million copies worldwide and has been translated into numerous languages. Since its publication, Flake has authored over a dozen books, winning multiple Coretta Scott King Honor Awards; ALA Notable and Top Ten Recommended Books citations, and an NAACP Image Award Nomination, among many accolades. She has been writing books from her home (and Panera’s) for over twenty years.

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ANNA RAFF_CREDIT SYMON CHOWAnna Raff is an award-winning illustrator of many books for children including WORLD RAT DAY, IF I WERE A KANGAROO, YOU MAKE ME SNEEZE!, and the forthcoming PARTY ANIMALS—due out in Spring 2025. Her book THE DAY THE UNIVERSE EXPLODED MY HEAD was a Kirkus Best Book of the Year and New York Public Library Best Book.

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