Calista: Do you remember what it was about this manuscript that made you go, “I want it,” when you read it on submission?
Maria: Not only did I think, “I want it,” I also thought, “I love it!” A huge percentage of the submissions I receive are written in rhyme. And a huge percentage of those manuscripts just don’t scan. I loved that this book would appeal to both boys and girls. After all, who doesn’t love a dragon? I also thought the burp moment was deftly handled with just enough “eewww” and humor to make me laugh out loud.
Calista: What comp titles* did you reference when you were acquiring this book? Why?
Maria: I’m personally drawn to cumulative tales. I think repetition and good rhyme are excellent traits for a picture book text, especially one that will be read aloud. And DRAGON is a text that begs to be read aloud. The other key ingredient is humor, one of the most difficult qualities to pull off in a universal way.
I actually comped this to the first book I ever signed up as an editor years ago, The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood. When I mentioned this to Penny, it was pure serendipity that she was in touch with someone trying to locate Don in order to return a piece of original art from the book. We made the connection and the oil painting is back with Don in Hawaii. I know this piece meant a lot to him because Don always said that illustrating a picture book was like having your very own personal art gallery!
Calista: How – if at all – did the text change during the making of the book?
Maria: Penny and I discussed “It’s not polite!” versus “It isn’t right!” for the key line. Perhaps because it was such an important line, I wanted to make sure we settled on the right one. Penny actually presented me with the two options. At first, I chose “It isn’t right!” but when I re-read the manuscript six months later, I knew “It’s not polite” was the one.
Calista: What’s your favorite line from this book?
Maria: That’s too hard to answer. I would say: “clippity, clippity, lippity clop.” It’s brilliant and original and adds an unexpected dimension.
* Comp title = “comparison title”. Frequently an editor will be asked to provide comp titles for a book when presenting it to the acquisitions team at the publishing house, to give the sales and marketing and publishing teams a sense of where the book will “live” in the marketplace.
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Calista Brill is a writer and editor based in New York City. During the day she edits award-winning graphic novels, and at night she writes stories for children about pixies, pirates, princesses, and pterodactyls. Her first picture book will be published by HarperCollins in 2016.