I am in the serendipitous position of having two debut picture books. I also am a bit unusual in that I co-write with my sister, Becky Cattie. I owned a children’s toy and book boutique in my previous life so I read and bought a lot of picture books. Because I was trying to merchandise books alongside toys and certain themes, I would see holes in the offerings. I always said I would try to write them myself someday, but three kids, a store, and a husband traveling for work, kept me too busy to do so. When my family relocated to the Charlotte area for my husband’s job, I no longer had the store and decided to try my hand at writing picture books. I sent my first story to my sister, who returned it half-changed. So, I realized I had a co-author on my hands.
Our first book is I Am Famous, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, which will have a sequel, I Used to Be Famous, releasing in spring of 2019. It is about a young starlet, Kiely, who is convinced she is famous. The paparazzi (her parents) follow her every move, documenting it all on cameras. It’s exhausting being famous, but someone has to do it. Then she gets her big break, performing at her grandfather’s birthday. When she flubs her performance, Kiely’s worried she’s lost her audience forever. But it turns out that her loyal fans still love her.
I am going to publicly concede my nerdiness here and admit that the idea spark for this book came from a Weird Al song, TMZ. It’s about the paparazzi harassing stars set to the tune of Taylor Swift’s You Belong to Me. There is a line about flashing your underwear and it made me think of today’s parents, constantly sharing pictures of their kids on social media. Becky was a drama major and has worked in casting in Hollywood so this story came naturally to us.
Our next book, is Shark Nate-O, illustrated by Daniel Duncan. Shark Nate-O is about a shark- obsessed boy, Nate. He reads shark books every day, watches sharks on TV, and talks about them nonstop. He even likes to pretend he’s a shark wherever he goes! However, there is one small problem …. Nate can’t swim.
When his older brother makes fun of him, Nate works hard to overcome his fears and learns to swim, finally making the swim team—the Sharks.
I had been considering writing a book about a shark-obsessed boy that I remembered from second-grade. He used to try to eat us as recess. I didn’t have the whole story, however, so the idea just hung out there for a while. Then my own son, Nate, really got into sharks and I found myself reading tons of non-fiction shark books to him every night. We had a shark-themed Christmas that year and my brother called my son “Shark Nate-O.” That was the spark I needed—a great title. And, combined with the fact my son was also in swimming lessons at the time, it all came together.
Thank you for reading!
I Am Famous written by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie. Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vreithoff
Albert Whitman March 1, 2018
Shark Nate-O written by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie. Illustrated by Daniel Duncan.
little bee, April 4, 2018.