When Lucy Rozier entered my 2011 children’s book writing class, I saw in her work two significant markers of success – original characters and a strong voice. I didn’t know that publishing a children’s book was “the biggest to-do item on her bucket list and a nagging regret.”
Within a year, Rozier had a story that was ready to market and I urged her to attend the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. Before she left, I told her to return with an agent.
At SCBWI’s “First Pages” session, attendees anonymously submit 200 words for agents and editors to review publicly. Rozier remembers hearing a string of stories about “teenage vampires, angst and dead parents.”
“The mood in the room became darker and darker, more and more morose,” she said. “Then suddenly the opening lines of my story began.”
“This here’s the story of Jackrabbit McCabe, who was born to run.”
Rozier came home from the conference with an agent who sold her story a few months later.
“Jackrabbit McCabe and the Electric Telegraph” (Schwartz & Wade, 40 pages, ages 4-8) will be in stores on Sept. 8, and Rozier will be speaking at area book stores in the coming months. (Catch her at The Regulator in Durham on Oct. 10 and at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Nov. 17.)
Folksy vernacular is the perfect vehicle for the tall tale of Jackrabbit, whose legs were so long at birth, “… they looped like a pretzel and his father had to add an extra axle to the baby carriage.”
Rozier’s story is infused with science and history and flavored with rollicking rhythms and wry humor.
By 18, Jackrabbit has beaten “every stagecoach, antelope and locomotive in the territory.” He seeks, and finds, a worthy competitor, a “newfangled contraption,” the electric telegraph.
Leo Espinosa’s retro illustrations capture time and place with as much playfulness as the author. He imbues his illustrations with movement that befits the hero. As Jackrabbit takes on his fiercest challenger, Espinosa uses a double-page spread to show the speeding stretch of the hero’s legs as a tiny spark of electricity zings along beside him.
Children will be satisfied with the ending, and parents will be happy with the Author’s Note, a little lesson that relates the history of telegraphs, explains Morse Code and offers a riddle to solve.
Rozier, who lives in Durham, still listens to the early morning muse that brought her Jackrabbit. She follows the learning that taught her “you have to put your behind in the chair every day and write” and she hopes that “lucky lightning will strike again!”
For more details on this year’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – Carolinas conference (Sept. 25-27 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Charlotte) go to carolinas.scbwi.org/.