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Mon January 23, 2012
Author Interviews

A Ball (And A Caldecott) For 'Daisy' The Dog

Originally published on Mon January 23, 2012 5:44 pm

A Ball for Daisy is a story of loss — a little dog loses her favorite red ball to a much larger dog — but now it's also a story about winning: On Monday, Chris Raschka's book won the American Library Association's Randolph Caldecott Medal for best illustrated story.

It's not Raschka's first Caldecott honor; he won in 2006 for The Hello, Goodbye Window and was a Caldecott honoree in 1994 for Yo! Yes?

A Ball for Daisy is Raschka's first wordless picture book, and it was "certainly a challenge," he tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "It went through many, many variations."

It's not easy to draw the same dog, from different angles, page after page and make her recognizable.

"You can't imagine how big that wastebasket [of rejected Daisy drawings] is," Raschka admits. "In fact, sometimes I worry about the amount of paper I waste."

The story was inspired by Raschka's son, who had a beloved ball that was destroyed by a dog. "[It happened] when he was 4 ... and it was such a devastation for him," Raschka says. "It's kind of ... the first time he experienced something he loved ending, and that he couldn't get that back."

Raschka has illustrated children's books on wide-ranging subjects — from Charlie Parker Played Be Bop to Mysterious Thelonious to Arlene Sardine, the story of a fish who dreamed of becoming someone's breakfast. Raschka has a simple criterion for choosing his subjects:

"Anything that creates a strong emotion in me," he says. "Whether it's music, loss of something, loneliness or friendship — if that emotion is heightened in some way and painted to fit in between the covers of 32 pages, that can become a picture book."

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Every year, the American Library Association awards the Caldecott Medal to the most distinguished picture book for children that's published in the U.S. And today, the winner was announced and he is a past medalist. Chris Raschka. His book is called "A Ball for Daisy."

Raschka also won in 2006 for "The Hello, Goodbye Window" and he was the Caldecott honoree or finalist in 1994 for the book, "Yo! Yes?" Chris Raschka, did I get the inflexion right on that?

CHRIS RASCHKA: That's perfect. That's exactly right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Chris Raschka joins us from New York. And congratulations on the medal for "A Ball for Daisy."

RASCHKA: Thank you so much.

SIEGEL: I would ask you for a reading of the book. But alas, it has no words.

RASCHKA: It's my first wordless picture book. Certainly, a challenge and I went through many, many variations.

SIEGEL: With the proper spoiler alert, why don't you roughly tell us the story of "A Ball for Daisy?"

RASCHKA: Well, it's about a little dog named Daisy who has a big red ball that she loves very much and her owner, a little girl, takes her to the park and they play until this beloved ball is in a wrestling match with another dog. It is popped and comes to an end of its existence. And Daisy is distraught. And where we go from there was my - what I set myself as a task.

SIEGEL: It's the old dog has a ball, dog loses a ball.

RASCHKA: Exactly.

SIEGEL: A dog laments and...

RASCHKA: That's right.

SIEGEL: Eventually - well, if you're not listening, all three to seven year olds, gets another ball.

RASCHKA: That's right.

SIEGEL: That's what happens in the story.

RASCHKA: That's right.

SIEGEL: And this story - how did you decide to do this?

RASCHKA: Well, it does come from a real experience. But in this case, it was not a dog named Daisy. It was my son named Ingo, whose beloved ball was actually destroyed by a dog. When he was four, this happened and it was such a devastation for him. It was kind of almost the first time he experienced something he loved ending and that he couldn't get that back.

SIEGEL: Now, in years past, you have drawn - or I guess painted is more appropriate - children's books about some unusual subjects. "Charlie Parker Played Be Bop" is one of your books. "Mysterious Thelonious" is another one.

RASCHKA: Yes.

SIEGEL: And, on the other hand, "Arlene Sardine," the story of a fish who dreamt of becoming someone's breakfast.

RASCHKA: Yes.

SIEGEL: How do you settle on these subjects?

RASCHKA: Well, anything that creates a strong emotion in me, whether it's music, loss of something, loneliness or friendship, if that emotion is heightened in some way and painted to fit in between the covers of 32 pages, that can become a picture book.

SIEGEL: So here's the question that I have for you, having looked at "A Ball for Daisy," in which we see many pictures of Daisy the little dog. My question is, how do you, as an artist, manage to draw a character so many times doing many different things, seen from different angles, so that she's always perfectly recognizable? Is there a waste basket full of bad drawings of Daisy that don't make it in?

RASCHKA: You can't imagine how big that waste basket is. It is - in fact, sometimes, I worry about the amount of paper I waste and...

SIEGEL: You can do a story about a tree that wants to be somebody's book.

RASCHKA: Very sadly, I'm afraid I can. But - well, for me, finding that is that is the real challenge and especially because I like to be fairly gestural, that is, not repaired, kind of immediate. So, it either works or it doesn't work and that's the fine line defined, literally.

SIEGEL: Chris Raschka, thank you very much for talking with us today.

RASCHKA: Thank you so much.

SIEGEL: That's Chris Raschka, winner of the Caldecott medal. His book is called "A Ball for Daisy." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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