Meet the Author:
Casey W. Robinson
Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.
Our June Author of the the Month is Casey W. Robinson. Casey is an author of children’s books and poetry. Her debut picture book, Iver and Ellsworth, is featured in Elephant Books subscriptions this month. Iver and Ellsworth is a New England SCBWI Crystal Kite Finalist. Keep reading to learn more about Casey and her book!
Iver and Ellsworth is all about two friends, an inflatable rooftop bear named Ellsworth and a diligent factory worker named Iver. Iver and Ellsworth spend lunch breaks together atop the factory building and watch the busy world below them go by, enjoying the view together. When Iver retires from the factory, though, the two soon discover a new view.
Your book Iver & Ellsworth is the story of two old pals: a man named Iver and a big white rooftop bear named Ellsworth. How did the idea for a story about this unique pairing come about?
I was driving with my family through Worcester, MA on our way to NYC. We passed by the Polar Seltzer factory, which sports a large inflatable bear on its factory roof. I’ve driven past this factory a hundred times but on this day for some reason I thought to myself, I wonder if that bear has any friends? I jotted the idea down in the Notes app on my phone and wrote a first draft of the story a few days later.
Iver and Ellsworth’s friendship is a gentle and caring one. They rely on one another for company, can appreciate a good view, and are there for one another through all seasons. Can you describe your creative process when developing these characters?
I had a strong sense of both main characters—their personalities and their relationship with each other—right from the beginning. But I didn’t know what would happen in the story. So I concentrated first and foremost on trying to capture and convey the feeling of the characters and their gentle friendship, and then I let the story unfold from there.
This narrative proves that great friendships stand the test of time and can adapt in moments of change—a message that is sure to resonate with parents and children alike. What inspired you to share this idea with your readers?
I didn’t set out to convey any particular idea with this story, I just wanted to share these two characters whom I had great affection for right from the beginning! I had a sense that they were gentle and caring and loyal, and I tried to stay true to those qualities as I played around with what might happen in the plot. The story just felt right for these characters.
The soft and charming illustrations work wonderfully with your words to tell Iver & Ellsworth’s story—especially in the account of Ellsworth’s migration across town. What was it like collaborating with Melissa Larson on this book?
I feel so lucky that Melissa Larson illustrated Iver & Ellsworth! As is typical with most picture books, Melissa and I didn’t communicate with each other while she was working on the art. That way she had full creative license to visually develop the story. The first time I saw an early character sketch, I was in love with how she depicted my characters!
There are several wordless spreads in Iver & Ellsworth, where the story continues through the art only. Originally, I had words on these pages, but my editor suggested it might be more powerful to take the text out. Melissa really brought the story to life on these pages (with very few editorial notes from me), and it was fun to see all the details she came up with.
We love Iver’s perspective as he overlooks beautiful scenery: “Everyone’s going somewhere [. . .] We can see the whole world from up here. That’s enough somewhere for me.” It serves as an encouragement for us all to slow down and appreciate what’s in front of us. Which places or experiences in your life inspired this reflection?
I grew up in Maine, and every summer I go back to spend time with my family on Bailey Island. It is my favorite place to slow down and be in the moment, and I look forward to these trips every year. Also, my experience being a mom to my three daughters has taught me how to find delight in small things – my girls have helped me learn how to find stories everywhere.
What is the best thing about being a children’s author? Who were your favorite authors as a child?
I love so many things about being a children’s author! One of the best things is definitely meeting kid readers, and talking with kids about their favorite books or the characters they love. Writing books for kids means that I need to continue to be curious about the world myself the way kids are naturally, so these conversations feel like a gift.
My favorite authors as a child were Rosemary Wells (Max and Ruby), Arnold Lobel (Frog and Toad), and A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories. When I was a bit older, I loved Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery.
When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges for parents or opportunities to address?
I think the biggest challenge to kids and reading currently is book banning and efforts to censor books in libraries and schools and limit kids’ access to books. All kids need access to a diverse array of stories and perspectives, and all kids deserve to see themselves represented in stories. This is especially important for kids from historically marginalized backgrounds. Books are one of the best tools we have to foster empathy and understanding, and the freedom to read needs to be protected.
Do you have any upcoming books we can look forward to reading?
I do! Thanks for asking. My next picture book is called Small Things Mended illustrated by Nancy Whitesides. It’s coming out on March 19, 2024 from Rocky Pond Books/Penguin. It’s about the healing power of community, and it’s perfect for fans of A Sick Day for Amos McGee and Last Stop on Market Street.
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