What happens when a favorite picture book author asks you to do a cover reveal of his newest book? You say yes, of course! I am so excited to host the reveal of Josh Funk and Billy Yong’s My Pet Feet
It was an absolute honor when Josh Funk, one of my family’s favorite children’s book authors, reached out to ask if I was interested in hosting the cover reveal for his newest book, My Pet Feet. It didn’t even take a minute for me to shout, of course!!
Josh has written many brilliant picture books, three of which are huge favorites in our home, and all of which are cherished in our school library. In particular, my boys and I simply adore Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, How to Code a Sandcastle, and Dear Dragon.
Now Josh has a new book coming out, and it’s not only fabulously fun, but it’s wickedly creative, too. Here’s the synopsis:
Imagine waking up one day to find out that a symbol of the alphabet you thought you knew so well has vanished! Suddenly, you have pet feet. Flocks of cows fly in the sky above. Cabs scuttle on the beach. Even a best pal becomes a fiend. “What happened to the 18th symbol of the alphabet?” you ask. Did it get lost? Was it stolen? You don’t know how to fix this, but you have to save the town – and those pet feet – somehow!
Ok, friends and fans…
Are you ready?
Here is the fabulous cover of My Pet Feet!
I’m so in love with this darling cover, and even more in love with this fun and zany picture book. I loved it so much, in fact, that I had to sit down for a Q&A session with Josh. After all, how on earth can you write a book without using the 18th letter of the alphabet?!
Read on to learn all about it! And to get a copy of My Pet Feet, you can use this link to preorder on Amazon now! Even better? Contact your local indies and preorder from your favorite bookstore!
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Here’s our exclusive interview with author Josh Funk about all things writing, reading, and the inception of My Pet Feet.
Q&A with Author Josh Funk
Q: Josh, Where did you come up with the idea for My Pet Feet?
A: First, thank you so much for your kind words. I am so glad you and your family are enjoying my books! As far as My Pet Feet goes, I got the idea from a typo/autocorrect on my phone. I meant to type the phrase my best friend but it came out as my best fiend. And that got me thinking – what would a book with the title My Best Fiend be about? Which led me to wonder, “What happened to the R in friend that made it become fiend?” Which led me to wonder, “What would a world without the letter R look like?” If a friend became a fiend, what else would go through transformations? Crows would become cows. Crabs would become cabs. And most importantly, a pet ferret would become pet feet.
Q: Tell me about writing a story without using the most common consonant of the alphabet!
A: It was a lot like a puzzle. Once I figured out the concept of the story (a book without the letter R), I began making lists of words that, if you took out the letter R, became another word: carp, cord, crow, drab, hurt, mart, propped, spar, started, tier, torn, warded, burst, arched, stray, sprout, tripped, grab, trap (hint to writers out there – using Scrabble websites was especially helpful). Not all of the words listed above work, of course – each sentence had to make sense with BOTH versions of the word – with and without the letter R.
And yes, according to the Concise Oxford dictionary, which includes root words only, the order of letter frequency in the English language (from most frequent to least frequent), is EARIOTNSLCUDPMHGBFYWKVXZJQ (for you word nerds like me – check out this wikipedia article for more info on letter frequency use). As you can see, R is the third most used letter besides E and A – which made finding words that have removable R’s easier – there were lots of words to choose from.
However, the fact that R is the third most used letter made it significantly HARDER to write the rest of the book – because all other words – those without removable R’s – couldn’t have R’s at all. Which meant I couldn’t use the words letter, word, or disappear in a book about a letter disappearing from words! It meant I couldn’t say in the text that the pet feet used to be a ferret – that had to be artfully shown by illustrator Billy Yong. It meant we couldn’t say written by or words by Josh Funk and illustrated by or art by or pictures by Billy Yong on the cover (notice it just has both of our names). It means that this is a rare Simon & Schuster book that doesn’t say Simon & Schuster on the spine (it says Simon & Schuste).
So, long story short – it was both easy … and hard … to write a book without the letter R. A challenge. A puzzle. And a lot of fun.
Q: What was it like working with Billy Yong, the illustrator?
A: Truthfully, when I wrote the story, I had no idea how pet feet were going to be illustrated – and I never really thought too hard about it. I always just pushed it off assuming the illustrator would figure it out. I didn’t know if the feet would be human feet, animal feet, cute feet, gross feet, big feet, tiny feet, or what. But somehow, against all common sense, Billy created the perfect pet feet.
Billy’s art is hilarious (the Age Against the Machine poster cracked me up immediately). There are so many little details in the book that he dropped in, I know readers will love poring over the pages again and again. But he’s also great with the emotions – on all the characters – including the feet – which really puts this book over the top.
Q: My Pet Feet seems so different from your other picture books. Do you feel similarly?
A: It’s interesting that you say that. I hope that means I’m growing as a writer.
But I do think My Pet Feet has a lot in common with much of my other writing. Most of my books have some fantasy element to them (dragons, fairy tales, anthropomorphic foods/statues/pirate-dinosaurs) – and a world without R’s and with pet feet is definitely fantastical. And most of my books are about friendship, too, as is My Pet Feet – albeit about the friendship between a girl and her pet ferret.
Additionally, My Pet Feet stemmed from the same love of language and humor that many of my other stories have. My rhyming books (like the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney) all rely on the rhythm and sounds of the alphabet – and while My Pet Feet doesn’t rhyme, it does heavily rely on playing with vocabulary and language. And My Pet Feet also relies on multiple word meanings leading to miscommunication and humor – similar to Dear Dragon (illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo) – although in this case, the miscommunication is between the world without R’s and the characters in the story. And I think some of my other stories are funny, too.
Q: What’s your favorite part about My Pet Feet?
A: Ooh! That’s a tough question. I think I’m just so thrilled that I was able to write a whole book with only 25 letters of the alphabet – and the whole team was on board. Billy Yong’s illustrations are fabulous. The editor and art director were awesome every step of the way. The summary above (clipped from the inside flap), was written by the folks at Simon & Schuster without any R’s. Even the legal department okayed removing the R in Schuster. It was a whole team effort – that’s my favorite thing about it.
Q: Did you write as a child? When did you realize you wanted to create books, and why did you decide to write for children?
A: I actually did enjoy writing as a kid – but I didn’t realize I did until I started getting asked this question. I never thought of myself as much of a writer in school. I was never the best in English class. I wasn’t a great reader (although I did like to read when I found the right book).
But looking back on things, I wrote a lot outside of school – just for fun. I made up my own Garbage Pail Kids cards in kindergarten. I wrote poetry about my favorite athletes in second grade (Larry Bird, Roger Clemens, Ray Bourque – I grew up in Boston in the ‘80s). In middle school I used to hang out with my friend B.J. Novak and we wrote silly stories together. In high school I wrote absurd editorials for the school newspaper. And in college, despite studying computer science and taking almost exclusively math and science courses, I played guitar and wrote my own songs.
I didn’t even think about writing picture books until I had kids and started reading to them. We had so many favorites when the kids were little (Olivia, No David, The Gardener, Vunce Upon a Time, Chicken Cheeks, The Curious Garden). And in 2011, just over a decade ago, I stayed up late one Friday night and wrote my first (really terrible) picture book manuscript.
Q: So that’s when you wrote your first book? Was this book ever published?
A: Oh, no. Definitely not. First off, it was too long (probably around 1500 words). I think I fell asleep reading it to my kids at bedtime. But my wife found a class about writing for children in our town and she encouraged me to sign up. That became my first critique group. And from there I joined SCBWI, found my way to The Writers’ Loft in Hudson, MA, went to conferences, attended workshops, took classes and wrote many more stories. Eventually, after learning a lot more about the craft of writing and the children’s publishing industry, I was finally able to find someone interested in publishing one of my manuscripts.
Q: Where can readers preorder My Pet Feet?
A: Everywhere books are sold! I love shopping at my local independent bookstores whenever possible, of course, and it’s also available right here on Amazon. It will be released on August 23, 2022
Bio: Josh Funk writes silly stories such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series (including The Case of the Stinky Stench, Mission Defrostable, and Short & Sweet), the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series (including How to Code a Sandcastle and How to Code a Rollercoaster), the It’s Not a Fairy Tale series (including It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, and the forthcoming It’s Not the Three Little Pigs in the fall of 2022), the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series in conjunction with the New York Public Library (including Lost in the Library and Where Is Our Library?), Dear Dragon, Albie Newton, Pirasaurs!, A Night at the Bookstore: A Barnsie & Noble Adventure, and coming soon: My Pet Feet in the summer of 2022 and Dear Unicorn in the fall of 2023!
Since the fall of 2015, Josh has visited (or virtually visited) over 500 schools, classrooms, and libraries and he is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA.
Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts.
Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.