Continued from The Way Home (part 4)
The book was now in production at MacMillan and it would be a year before we would see bound copies of The Way Home. There was a lot for the publisher’s staff to do; select and set the type, write the book jacket flaps, prepare the pages for the printer and arrange the printing in Hong Kong. Judy and I were so excited to see the first printing proofs. We felt this was also proof that our years-long project was really going to become a book!
I learned that producing a book is a lot more complicated than one might think. Everyone involved, the writer, the illustrator, the editors, the production staff and the sales department all play an important part. I was also impressed that everyone I met during the process truly loved children’s books.
In the spring of 1991, boxes of The Way Home arrived and Judy and I celebrated its publication at the Woods Hole Library, with a party and book signing. You can see an earlier post about the library quilt I worked on here. We shared the event with Molly Bang, whose book, The Yellow Ball, was coming out the same spring. Our friend, Terry (who gave me her daughter’s pants) made a cake for the occasion. She decorated it with marzipan elephants and a yellow ball made of frosting.
We were so proud of The Way Home and did what we could to promote the book. We had our picture taken with an elephant that came through town for the county fair.
We gave talks, did book signings and visited schools. Judy led banana poem workshops with children and I’d have them sew and stuff yellow felt bananas.
Our book did pretty well for an unknown author and illustrator and came out in paperback the next year. Later, Judy and I collaborated on a sequel, Come to My Party, which MacMillan published in 1993. In this book, the red bird character is named Harold and co-stars with Savi in another adventure.
Both books have long been out of print and I can remember how surprised Judy and I were to get the letter telling us the news. Being new to the book business, we did not know how common it is for children’s books to go out of print. We’ve since learned that only the very best sellers are reprinted and stay available.
All in all, the best part about publishing a book was when we heard from parents who said their children wanted The Way Home read over and over. Even today, we meet grown up children who remember Savi and the banana trail. I’m still friends with Judy and Molly and am grateful to have had their help and encouragement throughout the years, but especially in the beginning, 27 years ago, when we all were inspired by a little elephant named Savi.