It’s especially fun to talk about an upucoming release when the book is written by someone you know. Even better when it’s a critique partner! Introducing Button and Bundle (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019) by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan and illustrated by Gillian Flint.
The Story Behind the Story in Gretchen’s Words
Button and Bundle is a story very close to my heart. I was raised in a highly-mobile military family and moved more times than any young heart should bear. Some good-byes were tougher than others, but none as tough as saying good-bye to my first friend. We both loved dolls and made clothes and furniture and homes for them. After moving away, I can’t remember ever playing with dolls again. I don’t know what happened to my doll either. Button and Bundle is the story of what happened in my heart.
We can often mark the changes in children’s lives by what they are playing with, as well as what they are ready to leave behind. Favorite toys are vehicles for rich imaginative play between young friends. When children are abruptly separated, they lose this unique world too. In Button and Bundle, Button honors and finds a way to keep alive the world she created with Bundle. Button is resilient, like I was, and moves forward to make a new friend and create new worlds. And she learns, like I did, that true friendship lives forever in the heart.
When I committed myself to writing for children, I was led by the beauty of the form of the picture book and a desire to give voice to the unheard child. I didn’t meet myself in print until I was an adult and read a sociological text about growing up military. That experience was both a homecoming and an awakening, and I pledged to give this experience to others to the best of my ability. I pledged to represent the experience of the nomadic child, the Third Culture Kid, particularly the military child, in literature so they wouldn’t have to wait as long as I did.
Yet my stories are for all children. In an interview in Children’s Book Insider (March 2017), my editor was asked to describe a book that she knew right away that she had to buy. She responded, “I recently acquired a picture book text that I fell in love with immediately. It’s the story of two little girls who are best friends, and one of them has to move away. The author managed to evoke so much emotion in such a spare, simple text that it blew me away.”
Later, in an email to my agent she wrote, “From the moment I opened this submission, I knew it was a special one. As I began to read … I knew this manuscript had everything I was searching for. It’s incredibly sweet and gorgeously written, with just the right amount of sensitivity. I love the way the author honors very young friendship, and accomplishes so much in the spare text.”
Button and Bundle is ultimately a story for those who understand the true meaning of friendship. I am humbled and glad that this story will be in libraries and bookstores as of February 19, 2019 and deeply grateful for my terrific agent, Karen Grencik, my amazing editor, Karen Greenberg, and her team at Knopf and my extremely talented illustrator, Gillian Flint, who brought my Button and Bundle to life.
Button and Bundle is dedicated to my first friend, and to first friends everywhere.
What was the timeline for your book from writing it to publication?
Button and Bundle‘s life on paper began in March 2015 when I wrote the first draft longhand. I work back and forth between longhand and the computer, printing each draft to read aloud, workshop and revise. I submitted what I was calling The Cheer-up Yellow Balloon to my agent a month later. Our search for the perfect editor and house ended with an offer from Knopf in August of 2016. I wanted to shout my news to the world, but had to practice patience until my contract and the illustrator’s were signed. Knopf announced the sale in May of 2017 in Publishers Weekly. I got a sneak preview of Gillian Flint’s sketches that July and her beautiful final art in October, 2017. It’s always a huge thrill to receive the “folded and gathered” unbound pages of a new book. The F&Gs for Button and Button were in my hand in May 2018, and I got to hug the hardback book for first time in November 2018. Now I’m waiting to celebrate Button and Bundle‘s book birthday/release date on February 19, 2019 with small cakes and lemonade. I hope you’ll celebrate with me too.
Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan is a former elementary reading specialist who now devotes herself to writing for children and visiting schools as an author. She is an active member of SCBWI and writes chapter books and middle-grade fiction as well.
Gretchen grew up as a global nomad, daughter of a career Army officer, and lived on three continents. Gretchen had to leave many friends behind, but they lived on in her heart. She has settled in Camas, WA where she lives with her husband, cat and dog, stunt squirrels, marauding neighborhood chickens, and celebrates when her children and grandchildren come home. Children will find a home in her heartfelt books about community, courage and compassion.
When she isn’t writing or teaching, Gretchen can be found reading, playing word games, baking, sewing, hiking in the woods, cross-country skiing and attending plays. Please visit Gretchen at gretchenmclellan.com for more information about her books, events and author visits.
She is the author of Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 (Peachtree, 2017), I’m Done! (Holiday House, 2018), When your Daddy’s a Soldier (Beach Lane, 2020), and No Party Poopers (Little Bee, 2020).