Tell Me a Story

I’m a late blooming book nerd. I returned to children’s books in my 20’s. Though I had read books as a child, it wasn’t until I read them again as an adult that I felt moved by an indescribable “something.” Now I can’t get enough. When I was a kid, the stories I remember best, the stories I begged to hear, were my Mom’s stories. I used to lay in bed with her and ask her to tell me a story. She always had something to share about her own childhood. For years I’d hear some of the same stories over and over again. One of my favorites was about her father, my grandfather, whom I’d never met. When she and my Dad were first married, my Mom’s father lived with them in their two-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia. There was a courtyard where all the kids would play. One day, my Mom looked out into the courtyard and saw my Grandfather lying on the ground, his shirt open. The kids where gathered around him. Panicked, my Mom ran downstairs. When she approached, she saw that the kids had a toy doctor’s kit out and my Grandfather was the patient. They were all laughing and having a wonderful time!

I begged my Mom to tell that story over and over again. And each time I wanted more details—Why did my Grandfather love kids? What did his laugh sound like? What time of year was it? Was he lying on the grass? Was he wearing an undershirt? Was it dirty? I was desperate for details. I loved the details. Ordinary details, but they made my Mom’s story about my Grandfather special.

As an adult, working in Children’s TV animation, I learned to love the details in character and story all over again. That’s when I rediscovered picture books. During my lunch breaks from work, I’d find a local bookstore, sit on the floor in the kids’ section, and reread some of my old favorites with a new appreciation. Who wouldn’t love that incredible party tree in Go, Dog. Go!  And in Richard Scarry’s world, adorable little animals live like humans in populated towns and it isn’t weird! (Where else could you find a worm in a bow tie and one red sneaker?) Margaret Wise Brown warmly wrote about a baby bunny that challenges his mother that he’s going to run away. But no matter where he decides to go, his mother’s always there. And then, on the final page, the momma bunny says, “Have a carrot.” The end. I just read that story to my three-month old son and laughed out loud. The Runaway Bunny is the perfect combination of ordinary and sweet with a little bit of quirk.

Children are sensitive to the world around them. They notice things that adults miss. I think a good children’s book sees the world through those big eyes. Working as an animator and now as an author and illustrator of picture books, I’m learning to keep my big eyes open and savor the ordinary little details, just as I did when I was a kid.

I’m a nerd for anything with strong characters and story — A Chuck Jones cartoon, any Roald Dahl story, NPR’s This American Life, Mad magazine, Ollie & Moon. In fact, I still bug my Mom to tell me a story now and again.

DIANE KREDENSOR is an Emmy award-winning children’s television director and artist. She’s thrilled to set her second Ollie & Moon adventure in the city she calls home, where they make the best pizza pie in the whole world. Fuhgeddaboudit! OLLIE & MOON, FUHGEDDABOUDIT! debuts May 22nd from Random House Children’s Books.

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Be sure to check out the trailer to OLLIE & MOON, FUHGEDDABOUDIT! by clicking on the link below.

Want to learn more about the amazing life and career of Diane Kredensor? Check out her interview with Mr. Sharp.