Audrey Vernick’s truly funny “Completely Made-Up Story”

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Audrey Vernick and I may (OK, do) tend to provoke and fuss at each other like siblings, but sometimes that’s what you get from a pair of occasionally juvenile kindred spirits. (Especially when one of them is a babyhead.) Like me, she’s the author of both seriously researched picture books (She Loved Baseball, Brothers at Bat) and purely playful ones (Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums), among other things.

Audrey’s latest hoot of a picture book is Bogart and Vinnie: A Completely Made-Up Story of True Friendship. Illustrated by Henry Cole, it hit the shelves just this past week. One reader of Bartography Express (which you can sign up for in the yellow box on my home page) will win a copy of Bogart and Vinnie (Walker Books for Young Readers). Maybe it will be you. Maybe it will be your least likely friend. But first, let’s hear from Audrey about her new picture book came to be.

Bogart and VinnieCB: What made you want to write Bogart and Vinnie?

AV: When the first interspecies friendship book, Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, was published, I was charmed. And then they kept coming: nonfiction picture books sharing heartwarming stories of friendship — between elephant and dog; blind homeless cat and his homeless seeing-eye dog; orangutan and dog. They all shared a similar look and told a similar story.

At some point, I started to wonder how the authors of these books defined friendship. Were animals photographed together always friends? I thought it would be fun to explore what happened when an interspecies animal pair were mistaken as best friends. Vinnie, the crazy-happy dog, would be over the moon; he thinks Bogart the rhinoceros, his nose-friend, is the very best thing ever. Bogart, however, prefers quiet and peace. And would be happiest if Vinnie just disappeared.

CB: Tell me about the kind of child you think Bogart and Vinnie will appeal to the most.

AV: Henry Cole’s illustrations tell so much of this story, so I think one ideal reader for this book will be an observant one, or the kind of picture-book reader who gives illustrations their due. Bogart’s body language and facial expressions convey so much, way beyond the words on the page.

But I think that the children Bogart and Vinnie will appeal to the most are those who are Bogarts in some of their own relationships: I’m imagining older siblings in a house made noisy and hectic by younger ones. Any child who ever longed for a quiet moment to herself will share Bogart’s frustration. On the other end of the spectrum, the Vinnies of this world will likely be amused by Vinnie’s unfailing enthusiasm, good nature, and complete inability to read a situation/accept rejection.

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