HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8Amy Hest & Lauren Castillo on Their Writing Inspiration for “The Reader”

Amy Hest & Lauren Castillo on Their Writing Inspiration for “The Reader”

By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: November 9, 2012

Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Amy Hest and critically acclaimed illustrator Lauren Castillo share their delightful stories of how the dogs in their lives have (and still do) inspire their creative minds on a daily basis.

“A small boy …

a dog …

a snowy day …

a big hill to climb …

and inside a suitcase,

something special to share.”

Amy Hest

Amy Hest

There’s a dog named Billy in my life. He is six years old, 28 pounds, and like terriers everywhere, this one has a mind of his own.

To be perfectly honest, Billy isn’t my dog. Not in the official sense. In the official sense, he belongs to my daughter, Kate. Kate and Billy live right here in New York City, in an apartment of their own, about ten blocks from me. We three have a fairly unconventional arrangement. The arrangement begins at 7:15 weekday mornings. Which is exactly the moment you will see me rushing out of my house, half-running, half-walking to the subway station at 72nd Street and Broadway. If you were watching carefully, you might see Kate and Billy rushing from their house as well. At precisely 7:25 (IF no one is late . . .  but of course someone is ALWAYS late), we all meet up with a great deal of glee at the station. Kate says hello-and-have-a-nice-day-writing-your-book to me, and then she says good-bye to Billy. I say hello to Billy, then have-a-nice-day-teaching-first-grade to Kate. Then she goes in the subway and Billy and I go to Central Park. We walk and run and have a snack and sometimes I sing. Billy doesn’t care all that much for my singing, but he loves the cookie-treats in my pocket.

The Reader Illustration copyright © 2012 by Lauren Castillo

There is no day we like more than a snowy day, though. We make beautiful tracks and sometimes we make crazy tracks and we trudge up and down the hills. Afterwards, we go back home to my house. I settle down to writing that book and Billy settles, too. His bed is right next to my desk, where the heat comes up. On cold winter days I wrap him in a cozy old towel and he sleeps away the mornings while I type. He snores sometimes, and talks in his sleep sometimes, and I look at him often. Because there’s a dog named Billy in my life, I find myself writing A LOT about dogs these days.

The dog in THE READER is loyal (like Billy) and sweet (like Billy) and he loves snowy days (like Billy). We are good friends, Billy and I. Best friends!

Amy Hest‘s many acclaimed children’s books include the New York Times bestseller Kiss Good Night. A three-time winner of the prestigious Christopher Award, she lives in New York City. She claims to have absolutely no hidden talents, unless you count an uncanny interest in coffee ice cream and certain dogs in the Wheaten Terrier or Airedale family. Amy likes to take long walks (in the city), ride a bike (in the city), and swim (also in the city). She likes movies and reading, of course!

For more information, visit her website at http://amyhest.com/.

Lauren Castillo

Lauren Castillo

Dogs are some of my favorite things to draw, so even if I’m not working on a book with dogs in it, I’ll try and find a way to sneak one in. Chauncy, my childhood dog, was around for 15 years of my life, and we were ‘two good friends’. Inseparable, just like the boy and his dog in THE READER. So when I read Amy’s sweet story, and the way she portrayed the special, loving relationship between a child and his dog, I could absolutely relate. Chauncy was a true mutt— poodle, terrier, shih tzu. An adorable and loyal little scrappy dog. And I wanted the dog in this book to have those same qualities. My dog Chauncy and the dog in THE READER may not look identical, but they both make a pretty perfect best friend.

Lauren, her brother Jonathan, and their dog Chauncy on a snowy day in Bel Air, Maryland, 1989.

Lauren Castillo grew up in small town Maryland, but now spends her time in the bustling borough of Brooklyn, New York, writing and illustrating books for children. She likes exploring the city, daydreaming in parks, doodling in cafes, and spying cute dogs on the street.

Visit her website at www.laurencastillo.com and her blog at laurencastillo.blogspot.com. Drop by and say “hello” any time!

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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