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First Look at A BEAR SAT ON MY PORCH TODAY by Jane Yolen and Rilla Alexander

November 8, 2017

Jane Yolen and Rilla Alexander are doing a book together!




I. Am. Pumped!


This will be the first picture book Rilla has illustrated that she has not also written. And it will be Jane Yolen's 365th book! There's a whole heck of a lot of scheming going on behind the scenes at Camp Stemple-Yolen on that last one. See below and the #Yolen365 info.


Let me get us all on the same page, lest my ineffable joy causes me to surrender to my enthusiasm and excitement that these two very specific individuals are coming out with a picture book together.


Rilla Alexander was on my podcast in August of 2014 to talk about The Best Book In the World, a story that reads like an incantation to readers and to libraries about the very special and personal act of selecting and reading a book (listen HERE).

I love Rilla's design aesthetic so so much. It's so editorial and so playful. Everything looks like it belongs framed or printed all over a kids' bedroom set-up at Ikea. She once designed a podcast logo for me back before the name change. 

 She has another book that I highly recommend.

And these two new board books she designed that Chronicle published have become essentials in the car when our family goes anywhere at all.

So maybe now you see where I'm going with all of this, because when you had a prolific and talented author and storyteller... (cue the Yolen book drop)

 ...what you wind up with is the potential for something engaging and playful and fun and colorful that a ton of readers will love.


And so I invited Jane and Rilla to share more with us about A Bear Sat On My Porch Today. The cover is already up on book sites so Chronicle thought you all might like a very special first look at some of the inside spreads. Of course, you'll have to scroll down to see them, but enjoy the book cover and some back story on the making and inspiration of A Bear Sat On My Porch Today,


JANE: Yes, a bear really sat on my porch. Black bear. Fully grown.


Of course I was in Scotland at the time but my eldest granddaughter Glendon (to whom the book is dedicated) was staying at the house and sent me an email note that said, "A bear sat on your porch today. The neighbors told me it stayed and stayed and wouldn't go away." Yeah--she handed me an entire book!


I wrote the first draft rather quickly. But then I put it aside for a few weeks and when I went back realized it needed more of a variety of animals, an arc, and I didn't yet seem to know who was speaking.


The thing about writing quickly is that you have to give yourself permission to write badly at first. Just to get all the ideas down. And then comes the serious hard work before you ever show it to an editor. And after that there is more hard work when an editor buys the book and asks even harder questions.


And then the editor gets a stalker to be your illustrator. OOOPs! I have outed Rilla. She'd better explain that part to you!


You might also want to know that books take a long time.In this case about ten years from start to publication. The granddaughter of that original bear has been bringing her own family by. Bears have great memories where food is concerned. Two summers ago she turned up with three cubs who climbed the horse chestnut in my yard while mom checked out the garage and the dumpster for food. (We were a massive disappointment.) She took the kids down the street, found a bird feeder and a different porch.


They seem to be ignoring porches this year.




PS All of the above is true.



People! Heidi Stemple (Jane's daughter and neighbor) shared some candids of Jane's house and porch visitors! Skeptics... BEHOLD!


And the porch upon which they sat:

And... um... friends of Bear?

Handing things over to Rilla to take it from here.



RILLA: I guess I should ‘fess up!I knew Jane’s story was true so I decided I needed to draw the real porch where the real bear sat that day. Jane and I hadn’t had the fortune of meeting yet, so what better way to draw her house that than to work out where she lives and look it up on Google street view? I was only disappointed there was no bear on the porch for me to zoom in on!


While I may be committed to (what I am now calling) “thorough research”, I am definitely not a stickler for realism. My bear turned out to be bright red, which was inspired by the red beanie I was wearing while I worked. I nicknamed the little human, who I purposely gave an ambiguous gender and ethnicity, “Bean”.


I sketched Bear and Bean quickly and repetitively, gradually refining them both into simple and iconic shapes. I worked in soft fat pencils which I continued to use all the way through to final art to try and maintain the energy of the original sketches.

Rather than drawing thumbnails, I drew Bear and Bean in the many poses and expressions I imagined they might need to act out the whole story. I thought of them like puppets on a stage (or, in this case, a porch). The cover of the book is the simplest example of this – there is a porch, there is Bear and there is Bean. The sun shines because it is “today”. It’s only the jumbled type that gives some hint of the mayhem that is about to ensue.


I can’t wait to show you!



So without further ado, here's a first look inside A Bear Sat On My Porch Today:

Phew! Bean does not look happy. I mean, no one wants to be on the receiving end of a skunk, but this is a moment I definitely can't wait to read with students! That rhyming text has all the workings of a refrain the whole class will want to read together!



Oh man! Talk about company! And look at little Bean snoozing amongst the company. Hilarious! The affect of the orange and white silhouette on pulling together all of these colorful animals is definitely a treat for the eyes.

Did you see that one coming? I love how Rilla's drawn the animals in such a way that they appear to be falling right out of the book and into the lap of the reader!


And just like that we have a cover and a peak at what's to come! I, for one, am certainly excited to get my hands on a copy of this book come March!




#Yolen365 kicks off at the start of March. Imagine! A Yolen book for every day of the year. That's quite prolific. Use the #Yolen365 hashtag to share your favorite Yolen books over social media. I cannot wait to see what stories will be swapped and what classroom projects will be shared over the hashtag in the coming year. Heidi Stemple will be creating a free downloadable calendar with a Jane Yolen book for every day of the year, and I look forward to welcoming Jane back to the podcast to talk about BEAR and BEAN and #Yolen365! (Listen to Jane's first visit to the podcast HERE). 


A Bear Sat on My Porch Today is currently scheduled to publish in March 2018 from Chronicle Books. 


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