The making of a labor of love: ‘GRANDPA GROUNDHOG.’
My lifelong interest in storytelling has taken me from puppet shows behind my parents’ couch to content production behind the scenes at the Walt Disney Company — creating movies and series for international audiences.
The birth of my daughters inspired me to take my storytelling back to a more personal level. I founded Peewee Frog in 2017 and have published four children’s books: “THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM,” “BONNY BUNNY’S BABY BROTHER,” “O IS FOR OCEAN,” and “TEN.”
My latest book — “GRANDPA GROUNDHOG” — was inspired by an unlikely relationship that formed between my Dad and a large groundhog that took up residence in the backyard of our Ohio home a few years ago.
I remember Dad grumbling: “Look at that guy! He acts like he owns the place!” And I imagined the groundhog having the exact same observation about my dad. Dad came to respect the squatter as a “fellow grandpa”’ when he discovered signs of the groundhog’s family. Then one day the groundhogs were gone. Ironically, Dad misses them.
Despite the inspiration, it took a while to find the “voice” of the book — thematically, textually and artistically.
After watching my young daughters face the loss of three beloved relatives within the span of a year, I knew that I wanted “GRANDPA GROUNDHOG” to address the cycle of life and death. I also knew that this would be a “third rail” for many publishers. Indeed, a few otherwise favorably-inclined editors passed on the book when I wouldn’t dodge the subject.
Love the story and the artwork, but wish that Grandpa wouldn’t die in the end.
It’s kind of a bummer. If you’re open to changing that, we can discuss publication.
Fortunately, the folks at Yorkshire Publishing appreciated what I was trying to address — especially in context of the discussion guide at the end of the book.
“GRANDPA GROUNDHOG” is a bittersweet tale to be sure, but one which I believe is universally relatable: a tribute to the enduring power of love and the unbreakable bonds that connect us all.
In gardens where earth’s treasures grow
Live folks above and folks below
Different creatures with shared needs
Staring straight across the weeds
When my wife read the first draft of “GRANDPA GROUNDHOG,” she was pleasantly surprised to see that it was written in rhyme. Children’s book authors are typically advised to avoid working in rhyme unless they know what they are doing.
However, my entire creative career — from embracing CGI to living and working overseas — has been predicated upon diving into things without knowing what I was getting into. So, why break with precedent?
“GRANDPA GROUNDHOG” spoke to me in rhyme from the start, and the fact that rhyme was “ill advised” only intrigued me further.
In his book jacket testimonial for “GRANDPA GROUNDHOG,” producer Don Hahn graciously wrote:
“Kevin Geiger takes the simplest story idea and illustrates it in a minimalist style that is almost child-like. The result is a book with wisdom, warmth and charm like no other.”
I appreciated this acknowledgment all the more because the “child-like” quality emerged from a series of sketches and visual explorations ranging from realistic to stylized, from lush to minimal.
Ultimately — drawing upon the DNA of my early days as an abstract artist — I chose a spare visual vocabulary of geometric shapes and limited color palette overlaid with unembellished line drawings, with the intent of allowing my readers’ imaginations to fill in the blanks.
I’m very thankful to Yorkshire Publishing for believing in “GRANDPA GROUNDHOG,” to my friends Don Hahn, Glen Keane, Tom Sito and Tiffany Lin for their wonderful testimonials, and to my family and friends for their advice and support throughout the creative process.
Check out the book teaser for more…
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