It made sense for Santa Clara author Kathy Ellen Davis to celebrate her June 26 picture book release at Hicklebee’s (www.hicklebees.com), a San Jose children’s bookstore where Davis works. Davis’s picture book, published by Chronicle Books, is titled “Ta-Da!” With lively illustrations, the 40-page picture book tells the story of a boy and a girl whose imaginations guide them toward exciting active play with each other.
“When I first moved out to California, I got hired to give interactive history presentations with kids and we did set presentations; the company I worked for was called California Weekly Explorer (www.californiaweekly.com),” Davis said. “In these presentations, I would say ‘dun dun duh’ a lot. I thought, what would the opposite of ‘dun dun duh’ be? I came up with ‘ta-da.’”
Davis shared the premise for her story.
“When I was younger, I loved creating stories with Fisher Price’s little toys,” she said. “I would create these epic stories where the people were adventuring. My youngest brother named Billy would play with action figures. He would hit them together in this destructive way and have them fighting. I thought if I put those two play styles together, what would it look like? At the beginning of the book, the girl is much more imaginative and the boy is trying to ruin the story. He is bringing more of the conflict and she is bringing the resolution. Within the book, the two characters later swap roles.”
The illustrator of “Ta-Da!” is Kaylani Juanita, who was brought on by the editor and art director of Chronicle Books for the project.
“I didn’t know her before the book got published,” Davis said of Juanita. “The first time I saw the roughest of sketches, I knew she was going to be amazing for the book. Kaylani and I met for the first time at the NCIBA’s (Northern California Independent Booksellers Association) Spring Conference, and we signed advanced finished copies of ‘Ta-Da!’ for our booksellers.”
Davis has also written picture books for Disney. Her Disney titles currently include books in the series for the Disney Palace Pets: Whisker Haven Tales such as “The Critterzen Clue Contest,” “The Cookie Boogie,” “Tutu Terrific” and “The Royal Derby.”
“My job was about adapting short videos into books,” Davis said. “I learned a lot doing that, about my style. It was great practice.”
Holding a degree in English with a minor in Journalism from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, Davis continues to put her love of words to work as she is currently tweaking about a dozen manuscripts. She also stays busy at Hicklebee’s, which has been a helpful resource to her as a writer.
“Being there and seeing all the authors that come through — I think that’s a great free education to meet people in the industry and support them,” Davis said. “Every time I go into work, I try to grab five to 10 new picture books and read through them and see what’s happening in the market.”