Sybrina Durant Discusses Cleo Can Tie a Bow
The Children’s Book Review in partnership with Sybrina Durant
Cleo Can Tie a Bow is a part of the A Rabbit and Fox Story series that teaches kids how to tie knots. Can you share a little bit about the series and how Cleo Can Tie a Bow fits into it?
Many years ago, I learned of a little mnemonic that illustrated a simple way to remember how to tie a necktie. It went like this: A fox chased a rabbit around a tree – two times. The rabbit darted under a bush with the fox close behind. Then, the rabbit jumped over a big round log and into the safety of his rabbit hole. The fox was too large and could not follow the rabbit there, so the fox would go hungry that night. Nearly 30 years later…it almost sounds gruesome. But back then, most people weren’t quite as sensitive to that type of imagery as many are today. I, personally, was charmed by the story and turned it into a song in 2009; and shortly after…a little animated video. In 2012, I took it a step further and developed the first picture book in the Rabbit and the Fox Learn To Tie Series. Donna Naval was the illustrator for that book, which is available in English, Spanish, and Tagalog. I always wished I could think of a similar story for teaching how to tie a bow and had very nearly given up until nearly 8 years, Cleo’s story finally made itself known to me.
Learning to tie various knots (and bows) is a confidence-building, developmental milestone that improves fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Why did you decide to write books about this specific life skill?
Learning knot tying used to be one of the most important developmental milestones for children to achieve. Every parent spent lots of time and energy teaching their child how to do it themselves because there was no other real option until the late ‘60’s when Velcro was introduced with Puma tennis shoes. That began a trend that never ended and it has really disrupted the development of that particular skill in at least half of the shoe-wearing population today. But before that, wearing neckties had also begun to be very unpopular with the younger set. In the 80’s they made a little come back but today, nearly no one wears that accessory in the workplace. Just about the only place you will see them now is at a wedding or maybe a funeral. Needless to say, I really don’t know why I felt I had to document either of those skills—tying necktie knots or shoelaces. You might even say I’m a little bit of a fish out of water in these times we’re living in. But if future generations decide they want to learn how to tie either, maybe my books will still be around for someone to find…and hopefully, enjoy.
Kids can often feel overwhelmed when learning a new skill. However, this lesson is wrapped up in an enjoyable story. Is there a real little girl out there that inspired the character of Cleo?
I don’t know a single “real” Cleo but I’ve seen a lot of them on Pinterest! I have four granddaughters and none of them are the bow wearing type. Now, if this question was about one of my other books, “Yarashell Abbily and Her Very Messy Room”; they would all fit that description. In fact, I combined their names for the little girl in that book. But Cleo is truly a figment of my imagination.
The ‘how-to’ information is presented with text and illustrations that readers will be eager to try out. Have you heard from readers on how they enjoy the book?
A lot of readers have told me that their kids love the book so much that they are bound and determined to learn how to tie a bow from the directions presented in there. I’ve been told the book has generated a lot of excitement – especially with the friendly fox helping out the little rabbit. I’ve actually seen a couple of videos where I got to really study the expressions on the children’s faces as their parents read the book with them the first time. I must say I was thrilled to see how their eyes widened and how their faces lit up with smiles or expressions of suspense; as well as how the book managed to hold their attention until the end. I actually got to see a 3 and 1/2-year-ol tie a bow around her waist on the first try. That was very gratifying.
Cleo Can Tie a Bow is sweetly illustrated. Can you tell us about your experience working with illustrator Pumudi Gardiyawasam?
Pumudi and I found each other at exactly the right time for this book. You will be surprised to learn, this was her very first effort at creating an entire book. Working with her was and still is like a dream. I’m the kind of author who gathers a lot of inspiration pictures for my illustrators. I even provide them a pseudo-script with scenes and directions. I have a pretty good idea of how I want things to look and she was able to capture everything I asked for and more. Even beyond the book illustrations, I contracted with her to provide transparent backgrounds of certain images for various uses in marketing and promotions. She was happy to work with me on any request I had. I truly can’t say enough good things about her and her exquisite artwork.
The story ends with a catchy song that readers can listen to and watch on YouTube. Was this an element that you always planned to include in the book?
Nearly every book I write has a song! I just can’t help myself. Unlike the Tie A Tie With The Rabbit and the Fox song, this one does not teach how to tie. It is just a cute little ditty that I think will stick in most people’s minds after they hear it once or twice. I am in love with the singer, Beephemy’s, childlike voice. And the music by Audio Coffee hits just the right notes of fun. I am not a musician. I’ve attempted to sing in the past but now I’d rather hire someone whose voice is more suitable to the message I want to get across. I am a big proponent of hiring others to help with the entire book process. Illustrators, editors of all kinds, beta readers, people who create videos, file preparation, and conversion experts, and even marketing and promotion experts are all valuable resources for potential authors. I hire resources from many sources but most of the service providers I work with are from Fiverr.
Should we expect to see more stories published in the A Fox and Rabbit Story series?
I think Cleo is my last Rabbit and Fox story. But as I mentioned earlier, I never really thought her story would be written either so who am I to say for sure. In addition to Learn To Tie A Tie With The Rabbit and The Fox and Cleo Can Tie A Bow; look for Ned Knows How To Knot A Neck Tie and Nellie Knows How To Know A Neck Scarf, too. They are also part of this series.
What part of writing this series have you come to appreciate the most?
Oh, I must say…the beta readers and the editors. Every time I get finished with a first draft, I think it’s perfect! But of course, I soon find out I am sorely lacking in a myriad of areas. They have set me on the right path over and over again. I also enjoy teaching others about the many surprising aspects of the self-publishing business. Most people, just entering the fray, have no earthly idea what awaits. It can be a challenging yet wonderful process. We all have a sphere of influence. We just need to recognize it and work to increase it little by little.
What’s a book written by an author other than yourself that you’ve been gripped by recently? Why did it captivate you?
I have a book review blog and with it, I receive opportunities to read a lot of unique books by independent authors like myself. My favorite reads are fantasy books. I particularly enjoyed one in the Middle Grade genre called “Edison Jones and The ANTI-GRAV Elevator” written by Michael Scott Clifton. My headline for that review is “one is only truly handicapped by their intelligence and imagination”. You can read the entire review to see why it captivated me.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about yourself, your writing, or Cleo Can Tie a Bow?
Most of my writings inspire me to pursue other entrepreneurial enterprises. I guess that’s all part of what happens to a mind that is always thinking of marketing and promoting. My Blue Unicorn series of books inspired me to catalog every single unicorn book I could find and present them to readers by age categories. Did you know there are literally thousands of books about unicorns? Yes, there are and you can find them and hundreds of unicorn related gifts at Sybrina’s Unicorn Book Store. My Learn To Tie Books also inspired online book and gift shops. There’s the Rabbit and Fox Book Store which features rabbit or fox themed gifts along with tons of other rabbit and fox books…plus a few Learn to Tie books by other authors thrown in the mix. That online store also features gifts that help improve manual dexterity. Finally, Cleo has her own online store called the Girls Love Bows Gift Shop. Of course, it features hundreds of bow-themed gifts for bow lovers of all ages. Check them all out at my blog. Just click on the menu to browse any of them. Prepare to be amazed!
Written by Sybrina Durant
Illustrated by Pumudi Gardiyawasam
Publisher’s Synopsis: Cleo loves bows. She wears her hair in a bow and decorates her room with bows. Cleo is bow crazy. Learning to tie a bow is very difficult for some people but Cleo remembers how to do it from a cute story she once heard. It is about a little rabbit with very long ears and a very helpful fox who shows her what to do to keep them clean. This is the story of how Cleo learns to tie a “bunny ear” bow. Exercises in manual dexterity build self-esteem in children. Knowing how to tie shoe-strings, scarves and more into a bow is a useful and rewarding skill.
“Thanks to adorable doe-eyed characters, a clear-cut delivery, and a catchy song, kids are sure to remember this story every time they tie a bow.” — The Children’s Book Review
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Sybrina Publishing | ISBN: 978-6978197225
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About the Author
Sybrina Durant writes both factual and fanciful books. Her works include the Blue Unicorn series as well as the Learn To Tie With The Rabbit and The Fox series. Her entrepreneurial enterprises include several online book and gift shops inspired by her books. Unicorn Reader/Unicorn Writer gifts which can be purchased at Sybrina’s Unicorn Book Store. Bow-themed gifts can be purchased at the Girls Love Bows Gift Shop. Browse both shops at https://sybrinapublishing.
This interview—Sybrina Durant Discusses Cleo Can Tie a Bow—was conducted between Sybrina Durant and Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Author Interview, Fairy Tales, and Picture Book.
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