Have you ever wondered why there are so many bears, mice, and pigs getting star roles in children's books? It's because they lend themselves so well to being upright. When I first showed my drawing of Stella to my editor, Amy Lenex, she and her savvy editorial team, wondered if using a pig for the non-Jewish character of Stella would detract from the story. People sometimes ask if I mind when a publisher thinks I should make a change to my story or art. If I follow their suggestions, am I compromising something by doing so? The answer is almost always NO! It is a privilege to work with an art and editorial team who are experienced in the art of bookmaking, and who will give me thoughtful suggestions to improve my story.
Amy and Felicia Macheske, my art director, had some brilliant ideas that made my book better! We considered some other animals. A kangaroo was a nice upright animal. But, Stella is from Italy, so a kangaroo wasn't logical. Then we considered a mouse. This posed some interesting and amusing illustration possibilities because the size difference between her and Boris would be enormous. But would this work through out the entire story? In the end, I decided Stella should be a bear too.
It took a few sketches to get Stella's clothing right. She needed to be feminine, and girly, but the feather boa felt too much like dress up. I also wanted her clothing to be minimal so that she could remain more bear-like. We went shopping for her on our computers! Felicia found a perfect, little sweater with loops of yarn around the collar. I changed it to a ruffle so it would read more clearly against her fur. Then we changed the flower in her hat to a daisy for a younger look.
Pssst … The pig character I first drew has a new name now, Lottie Da. Watch her dance on my website's "about" page!