Children’s Book / Picture Story Book
Date Published: April 14, 2016
Birdie and his friends are back! All of Birdie's friends in the town of Ponderville are in for a treat. Someone new is moving to Ponderville! In this second picture book by Cindy Helms, everyone is curious to see who could possibly be their new neighbor. Part mystery and part matching game, Birdie and his friends track down and reveal “Who's New” with intriguing shapes leading the way. How well the newcomer will fit in? Will Ponderville be welcoming?
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
First and foremost I want my readers to enjoy the book. The kiddos are quite young and only just learning to love the magic and mystery of a book. Beyond that, the message in Who’s New is that is can be fun for everyone when someone new comes around. It’s fun for the ones who have been there all along as well as the the one who is new. It is an interesting event in everyone’s life, something everyone at one point or another will experience. New people are always coming and going. For the characters in Who’s New, newness is a matter of curiosity with a sense of welcome.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
In my work I challenge myself to use as few words as possible and let the illustrations do all the talking. Choosing these words can be challenging. I want them to be words that are on the list for new readers, so the kids can read too. This means that the illustrations need to pull all the weight by propelling the story line, conveying emotion and creating intrigue.
How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
I have written two books: Outside, Inside (also in a Spanish edition as Afuera, Adentro) and Who’s New. I love them both for different reasons. Outside, Inside represents the amazing culmination of a life-long dream and was personally a very satisfying project. Who’s New is really the launching point of the world of my Ponderville characters and I can’t wait to see what they will do next…there are many possibilities.
If you had the chance to cast your main character from Hollywood today, who would you pick and why?
That’s such a tricky question. My main character is Birdie, somewhat the leader of the rag-tag group the way Kermit the Frog is seen as a leader amongst the Muppets, only Birdie has more confidence and swagger, and is more fun loving than Kermit. For those characteristics probably Matthew Broderick would play a great Birdie, and AlphaBetty (she is Who’s New) I would give to Sandra Bullock.
When did you begin writing?
I began drawing and writing in kindergarten. I still have my little composition book where I would write sketches about my friends. At that time I never dreamed of being an author/illustrator, nor was I encouraged to be very artistic or creative. I grew up in a family of business people who wanted me to make money. All the way through until graduate school my writing was strictly academic. Fiction did not come along until my first son was born sixteen years ago and I discovered the world of Newbery and Caldecott Medal books. I was so inspired by the themes and artwork in the children’s genre. It was then I started to dream of the possibilities for my own artwork.
How long did it take to complete your first book?
My first book, Outside, Inside did not start out as a book at all. It started as two drawings I had sitting in a box full of hundreds of drawings. It never occurred to me to make a book until a friend saw the drawings and challenged me to “do something” with them,“How about write a book?” she declared, and the light bulb went on and a story came to mind just in that flash. But, I did not just want to make the book, I wanted to do every step of the process. So I had to learn the tools of the designer’s trade along the way. This book took two years to make because I had a very steep learning curve. I had to redo the artwork several times because I did not know what size the final book would be. Once I figured out the technical requirements for how to size the pages for publication, the artwork itself took about eight or nine months.
Did you have an author who inspired you to become a writer?
Oh, so many. I was definitely inspired by Avi. Mostly he is known for middle-grade fiction but when my son was around six he found Avi’s picture book Things That Sometimes Happen with illustrations by Marjorie Priceman and my son thought it was a book I had illustrated. He loved that pictures so much he cut them out and taped them to his wall, so proud of his mother’s artwork. The library was not too happy about that damage to the book, but it did plant another seed inside me. I also love Richard Scarry, Rosemary Wells, Jan Brett, Korky Paul, Maurice Sendak, Tomie de Paola, Lynn Munsinger, Nadine Bernard Westcott, Jack Kent and the list goes on…
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I love being involved, hands on, with everything. I enjoy the process. But my favorite part is the moment when it clicks inside me that I have a satisfying ending. I really can’t start the artwork until I know the entire story will work.
Describe your latest book in 4 words.
This probably describes both of my books: Clever, whimsical friendship stories.
Can you share a little bit about your current work or what is in the future for your writing?
Well, I have just completed and released Who’s New and I take most of the summer off to travel with my sons. Like most artists, though, I have multiple projects simmering on the back burner of my brain and once school kicks off again for my kids I will stir up one of the simmerings. I plan to continue with the Ponderville characters but add another group of antagonists to the mix. The basic conflict is how the residents of Ponderville deal with their badly behaved neighbors when they come to town one day. The idea came from when my kids would have play dates who were simply miserable kids to have over. We had to find creative ways to manage the relationships.
Cindy Helms is an artist based out of Centennial, CO. She has two sons and two cats. She loves road trips, camping, and being around friends.