Don't miss this unique opportunity for a Reading & Booksigning: Celebrating Local Children’s Book Authors, Saturday, December 5th 11am at the Depot Bookstore & Cafe, Mill Valley as they host five inspirational local authors:
- “The Wolf Who Ate the Sky” by Anna Isabel Rauh & Mary Daniel Hobson
- “Ouch Moments, When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways” by Michael Gerhart
- “Grandma Wants to Eat My Baby Sister” and “Eat Your Breakfast or Else” by Jackie Broad
- “Phoebe Pope and the Year of Four” by Nya Jade
* One lucky Ronnie's Awesome List subscribers will win one a copy of “The Wolf Who Ate the Sky” by Anna Isabel Rauh & Mary Daniel Hobson. Winner will be notified by email.
Ronnie’s Awesome List presents a guest article by Mary Daniel Hobson, a mixed media artist who shares her experience co-authoring a children’s picture book with her 3.5-year-old daughter, Anna. Called The Wolf Who Ate the Sky, this three-generation project was illustrated by Anna’s grandfather, Charles Hobson, and was published this year by Heyday Books.
This book began with a question – one familiar to most parents. “Can you tell me a story?” My daughter Anna has always loved stories, and this question floated constantly through our lives together, surfacing most often while driving. We live in Muir Beach, and almost everywhere we go includes a 12-minute car ride over a curvy mountain road. At 3.5 years old, Anna would call that question from the back seat on our way to preschool in Mill Valley, “Mommy, can you tell me a story?” And I would say, “Yes, if you can help me. Once upon a time, there was a….” She would fill in, “A wolf.” Then I would add, “And this wolf was…,” and she would say, “Hungry!”
From there I would start a story, pausing throughout the tale to have her add in details. The basic plot would come out quick and fast, off the top of my head with Anna’s help. In The Wolf Who Ate the Sky, a wolf goes to bed so hungry that when he wakes in the morning he eats the first thing he sees – the sky – and the world goes black. Undaunted by darkness, a young boy with a flashlight and a team of animals sets out to recover the sky and bring back the light.
Anna and I made many stories in this manner – most were only told once. But there was something about The Wolf Who Ate the Sky that caught our imagination. Anna would ask me to tell it with her again and again. Then she told it to her father, and then to her grandparents. Every time it was told, it changed a little. For example, over time Anna’s concern about the sky’s safety prompted her to add more to the story’s ending. The wolf received a big bowl of oatmeal, and the sky was “screwed to the ceiling of the world” so that no other creature could ever eat it again.
After months of telling and re-telling The Wolf Who Ate the Sky, my father, artist Charles Hobson, recorded Anna one day telling the story (part of that appears in the book trailer video). He was so moved by Anna’s presentation that he asked me to write the story down so that he could turn it into a book. An artist famous for his limited-edition handmade books, he made his first foray into children’s book illustration with this project. As he describes, a key turning point in the illustration process was when he discovered he could use a crumpled sheet of paper to depict the swallowed sky. After completing the illustrations and design, he found a publisher in Heyday Books, a terrific nonprofit press in Berkeley that specializes in books on California culture and natural history.
The publication of this book still feels a bit like a dream. In creating this tale, Anna and I were just doing something parents and children have done naturally for centuries. Storytelling can make mundane experiences sparkle, it can make tedious times pass more gracefully, and it can inspire a sense of wonder. Each tale has a life of its own -- it unfolds in unexpected ways and has its own unique rhythm. All of this makes it a very engaging experience, especially with children.
For me as an artist, storytelling became a vital way for me to keep my creative mind active in the midst of the repetitive routines of motherhood. In all of this, somehow, Anna and I generated a tale that moved beyond the scope of our family and out into the larger world.
Since the publication of The Wolf Who Ate the Sky, I have been delighted to hear how much this book is inspiring other youngsters to create their own stories. For example, Anna’s former preschool has been using the book as a storytelling curriculum tool. One teacher there shared how she looks around the room at all the kids and says, “How old are you?” They may answer 3, 4 or 5. She says, “Anna was only 3.5 years old when she created this story – you can do it too!” Even older children have expressed a sense of possibility in knowing how young Anna was when she made this story. Happily, in today’s world of digital self-publishing, it’s relatively easy to take a child’s story and publish a hard cover book of it with services like Blurb, Lulu.com, or other online companies.
For me, as a mother, this book will always be a powerful touchstone of a time in Anna’s life that can never be recreated. Now age seven, Anna still loves stories, but she can read them to herself. Any book we created today would be altogether different. I am so grateful to my father and Heyday for making this book and thereby saving this story in our memory. I truly hope that The Wolf Who Ate the Sky will bring readers much pleasure and inspire everyone to tell more stories together.