We’re excited to have Big Bouffant, written by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, out there in the world as one of Carolrhoda’s Spring 2011 picture books. When young Annabelle decides to imitate her grandmother’s bouffant after seeing her classmates’ uniform hairstyles on the first day of school, a comical hair adventure ensues. Kate’s flowing, rhyming story about this industrious style maven is brought to life by Holly’s hilarious and richly textured (not to mention adorable) illustrations. Check out the book’s trailer here.
I caught up with Kate as she gears up for the book’s launch party at Books of Wonder in Manhattan, next Friday, March 4 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Read on for our interview, and visit Kate’s website at khosford.com for more on her and the book!
This is the first picture book that you’ve authored. Have you always been a writer (in one sense or another)?
We didn’t really have many creative writing opportunities in school growing up, but I was always an avid reader. My parents read me lots of pictures books as a child, and once I started reading on my own, I didn’t want to do anything else! I loved Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, E. Nesbit, Louise Fitzhugh, and E.L. Konigsburg, among others. I grew up in a small town in Vermont, but was always attracted to stories about New York City, where I now live.
When I started writing picture books, I was working as an illustrator. I started writing as a way to get more illustration work, but found that I actually preferred writing to illustrating. By the time I became serious about writing, I was already thirty-five. In January, I received my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. This program taught me more in two years than I was able to teach myself in eight years. It also provided me with a wonderful community of writers.
How did you come up with the idea for Big Bouffant?
I think everyone in my immediate family thought that ‘bouffant’ was a funny word. My younger son then started saying ‘big bouffant’, and I came up with the phrase, “All I really want is a big bouffant.’ Unfortunately, I then tried to write the story in prose for four years until I decided to try it in rhyme. Once I tried rhymed couplets, it came together pretty quickly.
Is Annabelle’s strong-willed and confident character based on anyone in real life? Were you like Annabelle as a little girl?
I didn’t base Annabelle on a specific child, but she might be a little bit like me. As a child, I would sometimes sneak into the bathroom and make mixtures out of toothpaste, soap, and anything else I could get my hands on. I was quite impulsive. Given the opportunity, I probably would have tried making a bouffant out of honey and butter, but I’m not sure I would have been able to brush off the opinions of the other girls quite as easily as Annabelle did.
Did you have a favorite book when you were Annabelle’s age?
I imagine Annabelle to be about seven. When I was seven, my favorite books were probably those in the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. I was fascinated with the Ingalls family, and felt a special affinity for them because my own parents are named Charlie and Carol (almost exactly like Laura’s parents!). My father even looked like Pa. I loved seeing the world through Laura’s eyes, and knowing that the stories were true made them that much more exciting. I especially liked hearing about mean Nellie Oleson.
What was your favorite part of writing the story, or of the whole book-making process?
My favorite part was getting to work with my editor, Anna. After spending years trying to get published, it seemed almost like a miracle to have someone who was smart, sensitive, and as invested in my story as I was. Seeing Holly Clifton-Brown’s progression from sketches to final art was also very exciting. Also, reading the book to a class for the first time, and hearing a child say in hushed tones, “She wrote it in rhyme!” I guess I have several favorite moments.
Have you ever made a bouffant with your hair? What hairstyles did you dream of as a kid? What’s the weirdest styling substance you’ve put in your hair?
I think it was mostly ponytails and braids for me, although I did learn how to do a French braid, and a bun with a hairnet for ballet class. The TV show ZOOM was very very popular when I was growing up, and one of the girls on ZOOM showed everyone how to make rag curls, which I tried. Later on, there were many embarrassing hair moments involving hot rollers and feathered hair. What can I say? It was the the eighties.
Probably the strangest substance I’ve ever put in my hair is silver spray paint. It looked really awful.
What kind of excitement can people expect at your Big Bouffant launch party next Friday?
We are planning to have a big party at Books of Wonder in New York. Lots of children are coming, and several brave moms have agreed to make hairdos for them. I’m envisioning crazy braids, mini mohawks, and maybe a bouffant or two. I predict that several new hairdos will be invented during the party. I will also be signing books and doing a reading. In March, I will go do a series of author signings and hair parties at stores in Northern California. I will post the details on my website.
And will we hear more from Annabelle in the future?
Yes, you will! Annabelle will get herself into even crazier situations. Stay tuned for more details!