Guest post by author Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, I always dreamed of having a puppy. Through weekly trips to the public library, my puppy existed in the many books and stories I read voraciously. But with one story the librarian pressed into my hands, I felt closer to my dream than ever before. When Henry found his beloved dog Ribsy and carried him home in a cardboard box, it gave me hope as a reader that I might one day have a real puppy, too. Henry became my soulmate, and his dog, Ribsy, became my favorite puppy. If only I could find a dog –– a dog who followed at my heels, a dog who listened to my every word, a dog to share my adventures with! Fast forward about twenty-five years and I am happily hosting a “puppy sleepover” with my young daughter. Our guest of honor is a neighbor’s large, tawny dog who is too excited to settle down and go to sleep. My daughter brings a bedtime snack, a blanket, and a doll to our rambunctious guest. She bestows hugs and kisses and … more hugs and kisses. She offers to read him a bedtime story. Most importantly, she converses with the dog as if he understands every word she is saying. And when he finally pads into the bedroom at her heels … woosh –– I am whisked back to my childhood bedroom where I pore over my worn copy of Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary again and again.
It is at this very juncture of time that the seeds of Biscuit are created. When I sit down the following morning to put pen to paper, it is my daughter’s gentle voice and patient actions that guide the story. It is my childhood dream of having a dog, perhaps a somewhat universal dream, that fuels the emotional life of the young child that cares so lovingly for Biscuit. And knowing that the fluid imagination of a child believes a beloved pet can understand every word spoken to them, the words “woof, woof“ not only become the voice of a small yellow puppy, but of every reader’s invention as well. Indeed, those woofs can mean anything and everything!
Pat Schories, illustrator extraordinaire, created a young girl as Biscuit’s loving owner, but in my mind, that character could have been any boy, any girl; anyone who is a puppy lover. For that reason, the “little girl” remains unnamed. To me, she is every child. Twenty years later, I pinch myself that I am still happily creating new tales for “everyone’s favorite little yellow puppy.” We did eventually get a puppy of our own. With each story I write, I recall the sleepover, I remember the character that nurtured my imagination, and hopefully I share the joy I feel when our puppy follows at my heels.