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Say What?

By Angela DiTerlizzi, Joey Chou

Behind the Book

Behind the Book piece
Say What?
by Angela DiTerlizzi

I wrote Say What? when our daughter, Sophia, was just under a year old, and my days were happily filled with reading aloud books by Dr. Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown, Eric Carle, and Ruth Krauss and Mary Blair's retro masterpiece, I Can Fly. I loved their repetition, their rhyme, and their seamless marriage of simple, yet stylized illustrations.

At the same time, our little one was busily learning about cows, roosters, kitties, and the noises they make. I wondered, what are animals really saying with their everyday sounds? And, can animals understand their babies MOOs and BAAs like parents differentiate between their baby's GOOs and GAAs? While rocking Sophia in the nursery one early morning, I heard a horse whinny from the farm behind our Massachusetts home. I thought to myself, when a horse says NEIGH, does she really mean HAY?

Then I began to write.

I shared the manuscript with my husband, Tony, and he encouraged me to show it to his editors at Simon & Schuster. Much to my delight, they loved the concept and passed the story along to Allyn Johnston and Andrea Welch, the amazingly talented duo of editors at Beach Lane Books.

Enter the ubertalented illustrator Joey Chou. A designer/friend/agent shared his work with me, and we thought it was the perfect fit. His crisp, colorful illustrations and perfectly anthropomorphized animals were exactly the style of artwork I was hoping would be paired with my text.

From the manuscript's earliest stages, I have had the wonderful and enlightening experience of reading Say What? aloud to children in libraries and classrooms, including our daughter's preschool class. I am always delighted to hear kids anticipating the rhyme, giggling at the illustrations, and hollering out their best animal impersonations. Indeed, when writing, I strive to create an interactive and engaging experience for readers to share and enjoy--and to encourage reading and a love of words from the earliest of ages. With Say What?, I hope I've done just that.