I was meandering past the new picture book section in our local library when I saw it. A cupcake. On a pogo stick! What genius was this? Intrigued, I opened Peanut Butter & Cupcake (Philomel, 2014).
Peanut Butter is the new kid in town, and he sets out to find a friend to play with. But everyone seems to have something else to do. It’s going to take someone super nice, super special, and super compatible to be the perfect play pal for Peanut Butter. I wonder who it could be?
Accompanying the rhyming text are amazing photographs of 3-D objects. A slice of bread with a soccer ball, a hamburger walking a pair of hot dogs, a box of fries reading a book, an egg riding a unicycle. This could only be the work of artist, photographer, humorist, and now children’s book author, Terry Border.
Terry Border is the creator of Bent Objects, which started as a blog but lead to a number of art books, calendars, greeting cards, and jigsaw puzzles. Often featuring everyday objects with wire legs and arms, Border’s images are humorous, satirical, poignant, and in some cases, rather touching.
Can you tell us a little about the beginnings of Bent Objects?
Way back in 2006 I began making some tiny sculptures out of wire and household objects. When I realized that the final art should be a photograph and not an actual sculpture I knew I could use real food because things just had to last long enough for a photograph. Somewhere along the way I decided to make jokes and observations and much to my surprise other people “got” it and started sharing my work.
What type of wire do you use for most of your work?
Usually 20 gauge to 14 gauge wire that is available at a hardware store. Ordinary stuff.
What does your studio look like?
If it were empty you would swear that it looks like a small bedroom in a suburban 1980’s era house, because that’s what it is. It’s always terribly messy. The fun part of my work takes place in my head. Looking at where I actually make it a physical reality isn’t so exciting. I do have a Homer Simpson clock on the wall though.
What came first with Peanut Butter & Cupcake…the images? Or the story?
The story, although it was influenced greatly by how I visualized what could be interesting. That’s why I had Peanut Butter visiting so many other “kids” so that I could have lots of opportunities making small jokes about the different foods.
As a first time children’s book author, what was it like to write the story? Was it easier, or more difficult than you expected?
Writing the book was a lot more difficult than I expected to tell you the truth. Like a lot of people I thought it would be easy to write a children’s book. Well, it IS easy to write a children’s book, it’s only hard to write a good one.
My editor, Jill Santopolo helped a LOT with rewrites. She really helped put things together, shaped things up, etc. I couldn’t have done it without her help. I learned sooo much from this book. I think my second (which I’m working on now) will be better, and the third (if I get so lucky) will be much better than the previous two. I’m just now learning what I can do. :)
Did you test the story out on any kids and, if so, were you surprised at the feedback they gave you?
I’m not one for preview audiences! ha! I was confident in my ability to make some good photographs and hoped that would strengthen any possible shortcomings in the written department. Luckily (and like the old quote “I’d rather be lucky than good”) I think it worked out.
How many slices of bread went into the making of the book?
I actually baked small loaves half the size of normal ones to make him from, and not all of the slices made the cut (rimshot). I probably put arms and legs on 25 or 30 slices to make both him and jelly.
What was the hardest part about composing a scene for your book?
The big soccer match towards the end was the most difficult because it was so large with every character in it. Crumbs are constantly falling off the characters, and the more I move them around the more they fall apart. By the time I actually take the final photo the characters are usually barely able to stay together.
Can you give us your special cupcake recipe?
Just buy the cheapest cupcake mix you can. The extras will taste “okay”, and the ones that are the stars of the show won’t be so moist that they’ll fall apart as soon as they’re on set! I hollow out a bit of the cupcake and make a little hot glue core for some wires in there. All the food is really food except for something to keep the wires attached to it if needed.
What’s your next children’s book about?
My next book is to be called Happy Birthday Cupcake. It’s about Cupcake from the first book wondering what kind of birthday party she should have. Lots of funny pictures are being made for this one!
You can see more of Terry Border’s work on his website and his blog, including some amazing portraits of old paperback books. For those who have constantly told their children that a stapler remover is not, in fact, a dangerous creature, take a look at the second image below! Awesome.
All images are used with the permission of Terry Border. Images from Peanut Butter & Cupcake are used with permission of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group.