Bulldozer is Back! Interview with Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

If you haven’t met Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s Bulldozer, you need to fix that! The delightful sequel released just a few short weeks ago, and here to chat about it are my dear friends Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann.

Hello, Candy, hello, Eric! Thanks for stopping by!

Hi, Dylan.  We’re thrilled to be here.  It’s always good to talk with you.

Tell us a little bit about your new book, Bulldozer Helps Out.

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Bulldozer Helps Out came about, in part, because the characters from Bulldozer’s Big Day stayed with us, charmed us.  We’d gotten to know them in the first book, and felt there were more adventures to be told.  We really wanted to find out what would happen next in Bulldozer’s life.  Sequels, however, are always hard because they have to be better than the first book, or at least different enough to distinguish themselves.  And we didn’t want to repeat ourselves.  Then I hit upon the idea of Bulldozer being too little to join his truck family in the rough, tough work of the construction site.  As the former mother of little boys, I clearly remember the frustration my guys experienced when they couldn’t help paint the front porch, or cut up carrots.  “I’m big enough!” they’d cry.  “I can do it!”  As so does Bulldozer.  Worn out by my little ones’ pleas, I would eventually some way for them to help out – stirring the paint, washing the carrots.  And so does Bulldozer’s truck family.  They give him a small job, away from the dangerous work.  They believe he can manage it.  I don’t want to give it away, but the story has some surprises not typically found in books with construction truck characters.  This was purposeful.  Both Eric and I wanted to break away from the tropes a bit.  We wanted kids to see themselves in Bulldozer.  After all, he might be a truck, but he’s got the heart and mind of a Kindergartener.  And like all Kindergarteners, he wants to help the grownups in his life (who, in this case, just happen to be bigger trucks).  Will he succeed?  The ending, we hope, is both sweet and satisfying.  And little Bulldozer?  He ends up with the roughest, toughest job of them all… taking care of little ones.

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Tell us a little bit about your process of working together.

Our collaborative process is pretty simple.  Candy writes something and shows it to me.  We talk about it.  Then I make some sketches and show it to Candy.  We talk some more.  Once the finished manuscript is hammered out to candy’s satisfaction, I start on the finished pictures.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

We were both storytellers as kids.  I made mine with words.  Eric made his with pictures.  We’re still doing that.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

For both of us it’s the exploration and discovery – trying something new.  That explains why we make a lot of different kinds of books; tell a lot of different kinds of stories.  We’re both excited by the opportunity to do something we haven’t done before.

What inspires your creativity?

What inspires our creativity?  Everything!  Dog walks, people we meet, movies we go to, books we read, food we eat, trips we take.  Anything that happens in our lives has a chance of making it into our books.  We’re just filling our need to make something, to tell a story, to connect with readers.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I am a searcher and collector.  I like to walk beaches and woodland paths, picking up arrowheads and fossils and beach glass… especially beach glass.

Eric is obsessed with dinosaurs and Star Wars and has been keeping a sketchbook/journal for twenty years.

If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Eric: architect, zookeeper, playing left field for the Cubs.

Candy: museum curator, history teacher, Broadway star.

What can readers expect from you in the future? More Bulldozer?

Right now we’re working on two books.  The first is an illustrated novel (65 paintings!) called Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen based on the true story of the first movie star dog.  Schwartz-Wade is publishing it.  The second is a nonfiction science picture book called Honeybee.  That’s a Neal Porter Book.  Bet you can guess what that one’s about.  As for more Bulldozer, we hope so.

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