English professor Liz Rosenberg reads from her new children's book Tyrannosaurus Dad at Barnes & Noble in Vestal on June 12.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
English professor introduces young readers to a larger-than-life father
June 20, 2011Tweet
More than a decade after honoring her mother in the children’s picture book Monster Mama, English professor and author/poet Liz Rosenberg has returned with another out-of-this-world relative story: Tyrannosaurus Dad.
The 40-foot-high, 15-foot-long, necktie-wearing, workaholic title character was inspired by her father-in-law, George Bosnick.
“My father-in-law was an incredibly tough guy,” Rosenberg said. “He was a longshoreman. He was in special ops in World War II. He was 6’4, built like a truck, worked two or three jobs and would wear this Russian hat that added a foot to his height. The first time I met him he was an intimidating guy. In his later years, he got much gentler, as I think ferocious people often do.”
Rosenberg said the dinosaur dad also has characteristics of her own larger-than-life husband, David Bosnick, such as gentleness and protectiveness. The book, released in May from A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press, is dedicated to both men.
In the book, Tyrannosaurus Dad’s young human son Tobias is trying to get his hard-working father to pay attention to him and take part in Field Days at his Elmwood Elementary School. T-Dad surprises Tobias by showing up for Field Days, umpiring a baseball game challenged by the Chickenbone Gang, and even providing shelter during a picnic that gets rained on.
Featuring strong visual details from illustrator Matthew Myers, Rosenberg’s fun story and “family first” message will resonate with both children and adults.
“I still read children’s books for pleasure myself,” Rosenberg said. “A great children’s book grows with the child. And I know that as a parent, if you have to read the same children’s book over and over to a child, you owe it to the parent to give them something that’s not going to make them crazy.”
“Picture books are like poems because they are about the essentials: friendship, independence, family, loss, first love, things like that,” she said.
Tyrannosaurus Dad is also resonating with booksellers and buyers. It is a Children’s Book of the Month Club bestseller, has been featured as a top pick for Father’s Day by Barnes & Noble and has landed in Amazon.com’s Top 10 for children’s books about dinosaurs, sports and family. After only a month, it’s already gone into its second printing.
“I always say that I’m prepared for anything except success,” Rosenberg said. “I’ve been stunned by the success of Tyrannosaurus Dad.”
A key to the book’s success, Rosenberg said, is her editor’s discovery of Myers, a first-time illustrator. Rosenberg kept driving her editor crazy by turning down several illustrators until she saw Myers’ work, which she said had a “great sense of humor, a clear vision and a wild energy.”
“When I saw his work, I thought ‘I trust this guy,’” she said. “He’s smart, funny and fantastically gifted. I feel unbelievably lucky to be working with him. … I’ve literally looked at the book’s pictures with a magnifying glass. That’s how much great stuff Matt has put in it.”
Myers, of Brooklyn, spent 20 years in advertising before turning his attention to painting. He got into picture books after galleries told him that his painting style would work well in the field.
“I was itching to have more people see my stuff,” he said. “The idea of a child seeing something I created that would make the imagination grow a little bit is really exciting to me.”
Myers said he was immediately impressed with Rosenberg’s story and was surprised by how much freedom he was given to illustrate.
“I thought they’d be telling me what to draw and where to put it,” said Myers, who added that he and Rosenberg were kept apart during the creative process. “It’s almost like directing a movie. You’re basically casting and figuring out what the kids look like. Then you run it by the editor and Liz sees it, too.”
For Rosenberg, one of the biggest surprises came when she saw the cover Myers created: Tyrannosaurus Dad carrying Tobias on his shoulders while mowing the lawn.
“When we saw the cover (my husband) asked me: ‘Did you tell him about that?’ Our son rode on his father’s shoulders while he mowed the lawn. We looked at that cover and said, ‘Matt Myers really got it.’”
Rosenberg and Myers have become friends and are even doing Tyrannosaurus Dad readings together.
“Liz keeps sending me e-mails like ‘It’s No. 634. You don’t know how good that is,’” Myers said. “I don’t know. It sounds worse than 633 to me!
“It’s a great feeling to have someone who has invented a nice story and wants to see if you can pump it up. And it’s a lot easier for me: She has to come up with something out of thin air, while I have something to go by.”
Rosenberg is preparing a third “relative” picture book and is hopeful that Myers will illustrate that, too. She also is finishing a more somber adult novel about a medical legal case. Her first adult novel, Home Repair, was released in 2009 to strong critical acclaim.
“I’m a writing addict,” she said. “When I’m between projects, I feel like a lost soul. I don’t know what to do.”
Rosenberg said she would someday like to write non-fiction and perhaps a movie screenplay. A children’s novel also is high on her wish list.
“That’s how I survived – reading books like A Wrinkle in Time, Little Women and Charlotte’s Web,” she said. “I owe this generation a novel, but I’m not going to do it unless I can do a great one.”
Until that time comes, Rosenberg is delighted to continue to bring happiness to children and adults through her picture books.
“If you get to do what you love and you get to entertain, amuse or comfort a key part of the population, you are extremely lucky,” she said. “To be able to write for kids and have kids as an audience is a huge blessing.”