I am excited to welcome my friend and Kidlit Clubhouse pal, Dazzle Ng to the blog today with her picture book debut, WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO. Children are going to love Little Elephant and relate to his elephant-sized feelings to the word no. Keep reading to learn where this idea originated and for your chance to win a manuscript critique from Dazzle.
AH: Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
DN: The big moment is a little elephant throwing a tantrum upon hearing Mommy’s NO, but the book is really about how complex this tiny word is. Page after page of Estrela’s phenomenally fun illustrations, Elephant encounters NO after NO. Most elicit not-so-nice emotions, yet their contexts and the reasons behind them vary.
As Elephant starts to see that a NO could be a NOT YET or many other things like OH MY! or PLEASE FREEZE, the story shifts a little to touch on the power of saying NO.
AH: Who knew such a small word could mean so many things? I love the way you explore the power and meanings of this tiny word through Little Elephant's actions and reactions.
AH: What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
DN: The idea came from a knee-jerk NO to my son at bedtime. I really meant “Let’s do that tomorrow,” but failed to say so. I realized then that NO comes so quickly and conveniently to a parent’s lips. This must be so frustrating and puzzling for the little ones!
AH: You are so right! A "no" can come out easily instead of the words that more accurately reflect our intentions. I appreciate that you were able to recognize this in your own interaction and flip the perspective to how this must have felt to your child.
AH: How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
DN: I started and finished the draft that night! The words kept tumbling out as I thought of all the NOs children must hear in a day. (So sorry, kids.) I felt that a book like this could help them handle NOs big and small, by learning that there are different intentions behind them and getting to know some of those.
I’m so happy to share that a few hours after I first read Elephant to my 5-year-old, he asked me, “Oh Mommy, is that a NOT NOW?” when I told him NO. Things really came full circle!
AH: Your book does a wonderful job at illustrating the multiple differences of what no can mean. This is a valuable tool for parents and teachers with young children. This can be a challenging concept to grasp, but as you saw with your child, when empowered with the right resource, such as WHEN AND ELEPHANT HEARS NO, kids are quick to grasp the nuances of this word.
Did WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO undergo any major changes/revisions from the original version? If so, what led you to make these changes?
DN: Yes. When Page Street Kids showed interest in the manuscript, it was an R&R (revise and resubmit). The challenge was to make it less didactic and to get to the action faster. So a part that got cut was Elephant asking again and again—as toddlers/preschoolers do—in vain, along with the build-up to the meltdown.
AH: I am glad that Page Street liked your R&R and that all of us readers now get to meet and learn from Little Elephant.
AH: Are there any books/authors that you feel influenced your work on WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO?
Crankenstein by Samantha Berger and Dan Santat had also just been read aloud in my son’s online class. I loved how Frankenstein’s traits provided leeway for the child to express negative emotions through grunts and groans. Sometimes, the feeling from a NO can be so big, even a body as big as an elephant’s can’t contain it!
AH: Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
DN: They truly come from everywhere (even an email, once!), but I find that there’s a frequency you can tap into, where so many things in your day, in your world, suddenly call out to you as story ideas.
This usually happens to me after getting lost in the picture book world…like when I fall into a rabbit hole of new releases, read a stack, critique a manuscript, or spend time in the bookstore.
AH: Yes! There is totally I mindset we can find ourselves in that leaves us primed for picking out the sparks of inspiration in any and all places.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
DN: When an Elephant Hears NO officially launched yesterday. Woohoo! That’s my headline, and I love that today we get to do the backstory.
AH: I am thrilled that WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO is officially out in the world and available for all to enjoy. I am quite certain Little Elephant will quickly be finding his way into classrooms across the country.
Where can people connect more with you?
DN: Find me [@dazzleng.books] on Instagram. :)
*Fun fact: There is one YES in this interview and 16 NOs!
AH: Readers be sure to connect with Dazzle on social media and while you are at it please consider supporting Dazzle and WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO in any way you can.
This could include:
- ordering from your favorite indie
- marking as want to read on Goodreads
-leaving a review
- making a library request
Dazzle thank you so much for sharing WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO. I loved getting a peek at what inspired this adorable book!
Dazzle would love to give away a picture book critique (fiction, non-rhyming).
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Post about this interview on social media and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT DAZZLE NG
Dazzle Ng is a Chinese-Filipino storyteller based in Metro Manila, Philippines. She’s the author of When an Elephant Hears NO and the forthcoming When a Rhino Has to Wait, both published by Page Streek Kids and illustrated by Estrela Lourenço.
When her kids ask if Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or unicorns are real, she tells them that 100% of the planet hasn’t been explored yet, so who knows? She believes that one must always leave room for magic.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew Hacket is a writer, second-grade teacher, and father of three. He is also the author of the upcoming Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea, Curlilocks and the Three Hares, and Hope and the Sea. Andrew recognizes that being a kid is hard and he writes to create ways for kids to see themselves in stories and characters, to accept and overcome their insecurities, or to escape for just a little while through the power of their imaginations.