Geraldine's latest book is The Foxes' New Family, with illustrations by Beth Edmunds. Two foxes are dismayed to see a new family with young children move into a long vacant house. Their habitat borders the house's yards, and until now, they were free to roam the property looking for food. Now the foxes are afraid for their safety, but they soon learn the new family means them no harm. It is just the opposite in fact, as the people are kind to them. A tragedy strikes the foxes one night, and they learn just how kind the people really are to them. But will it take more than human kindness to save the wild animals? This book is based on a true story and is beautifully illustrated with colorful images which children will enjoy.
1. Would you tell us about the true story that inspired your children's book, The Foxes' New Family?
My son and his family moved into a new house. Even though it is in a neighborhood, they are at the end of the street and are surrounded on three sides by woods. Two foxes began to appear in their yard. They have a gazebo, and the foxes seemed to get comfortable coming out when my son worked in it. The foxes would lie close by while he worked, so he and his family decided to put stainless steel bowls out there, one with hard dog food and one with water. The foxes took advantage of the offerings. In the fall, they were observed playing with a deer, with leaves, and eating out of the bowl in the company of a deer. I thought all of this was very neat and would make a cute children's book, especially when it is based on a true story.
2. What age of reader/listener did you have in mind when you wrote this book, and what have you heard so far from kids/parents who have read it?
I aimed it at ages 7-12, but it has turned out to be popular from pre-K through old age. Small children like to have it read to them. I visited a school and signed copies of my book. All of the elementary children loved it, and I sold many copies. Adults have read it and said it was nice to read a book without violence, etc., and all ages have enjoyed the beautiful illustrations. I have a friend who knows a lady who read it to older adults with mental and physical challenges who live in a facility together. When she finished, they said they loved it and wanted to read it again! I was so pleased to hear that they had enjoyed it!
3. What was your process like in collaborating with Beth Edmunds, the illustrator of your book?
My son introduced her to me. Beth Edmunds had always liked art, but she didn't have any training. I was willing to let her try the book illustrations, and I am glad I did. She did a fantastic job. We live in separate states, but with email, I would send her my ideas for parts of the story, and she would come up with the illustration for it. It went very smoothly. She is a young woman, and this has inspired her to get some formal training and pursue illustrating further.
4. In writing for children, how do you draw from your experience as a retired elementary school teacher?
Over 34 years, my classes and I have read hundreds of books which fed into my desire to read. I began to know which books would appeal to them. Happy stories with good endings were their favorites. There were so many books for children where the animals died in the end which made all of us cry. So we chose those books that made us feel good, and I wanted to write that type of story about animals which had a happy ending.
5. Why do you think that true stories about wild animals are so compelling to readers of all ages?
Children normally love animals of all kinds, and they enjoy learning about all of them, but especially about wild animals and their habits. Perhaps that is true because wild animals are not often readily available for us to see except in zoos. Petting zoos are so popular because of this desire to touch animals they don't see every day such as dogs and cats. This love of animals carries forth in most of us as we grow to old age.
For more about The Foxes' New Family, view the book trailer below.