Hi, Math is Everywhere Readers,
I hope you’re all ready for a special treat because today, we get to meet a super scary, super hungry, super adorable monster: Dennis from Brian Gehrlein’s debut picture book THE BOOK OF RULES, illustrated by Tom Knight.
Description of THE BOOK OF RULES from the publisher (Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux):
An interactive picture book with dynamic illustrations, in which readers have to follow the rules or risk a run-in with a monster—with a gentle approach to mindfulness along the way.
Beware! This book has rules. You must follow all the rules. If you break the rules . . . Dennis the monster will eat you. And you don’t want to be Dennis-food—do you?
With a laugh-out-loud, interactive style, The Book of Rules invites you to get your sillies out before it’s time to focus and listen to directions. And you better get started, because Dennis can’t wait to eat—or, um—meet you!
Kaitlyn: Hi, Dennis, I know you’re usually used to waiting in the margins, but we’d love for you to come on out and say hello!
Dennis: Yes, Kaitlyn. I am mostly relegated to the margins (and at times, the gutter). I wait there. In the darkness. Alone. For the most opportune moments…to pounce…on reckless little rule-breakers. It’s not a very flashy strategy but 60% of the time, it works every time. Glad to be out in the sunshine for this interview. It’s always nice when Brian and Tom let me stretch my legs and tail a bit. So, thanks for that.
Kaitlyn: My pleasure, and might I say, what a wonderful tail it is that Mr. Knight created for you! Can you start by sharing how you met Brian and gave him the idea for this brilliant book, of which you are the star, of course!?
Dennis: Absolutely. To start, anyone who’s read Brian’s work will quickly find out that I’m the real brains of the operation. Brian himself…not so much. So, yeah, I basically gave him the idea and pretty much dictated the entire story to him word for word. He was a receptive little writer. He just sat there, drone-like, in a trance (with an embarrassing amount of drool oozing out of his mouth) while my brilliance flowed into his human ears. Brian had been working at an elementary school at the time and noticed that rules and the following of them framed most of the student’s days. He thought there should be a silly, interactive book that playfully helped students have more fun with the concept of following the rules—and get some sillies out in the process. That’s when I first whispered the opening line to him… “this book has rules. You must follow all the rules.” If the kids don’t follow the rules…I eat them. Simple, no? While the book was inspired by groups of kids following the rules, Tom designed our story to work well at bedtime too. Wherever you read The Book of Rules, I will eat you if you break the rules. Make no mistake.
Kaitlyn: Whew, great to know it wasn’t my friend Brian who was the brains – I hope you feed him more awesome books in the future, too. Now, Dennis, most kids think that monsters are things you should be afraid of, but in this book, you show that kids should actually be thanking monsters…like… always! Can you share why books like this are so important to share with our little ones?
Dennis: Make no mistake, Kaitlyn. I am to be feared. You must fear the Dennis. Respect the Dennis. Do not break rules while in close proximity of…the Dennis. We all know my name strikes fear into even the toughest kids, right? They hear my name and they just quake (and it is NOT laughter!). DENNIS…scary. However petrifying I may be, I suppose my book does have a positive message to share. One reason to share this book with little ones is that it provides a unique experience for listeners. They have to suspend their disbelief and play pretend. They have to imagine that if they don’t play along with the rules of the book, a terrifying monster named Dennis will eat them (because I totally will). And while they engage in this fun make-believe, they move from unfocused to focused, silly to mindful. The book gradually deescalates and helps kids settle. My favorite part is toward the end, watching kids practice mindfulness by listening to the room, feeling their heartbeat, and taking time to breathe deeply together. It’s always a calming moment for me to watch. I am conflicted, however, because I am secretly hoping at least a few kids outright refuse so I can eat them.
Kaitlyn: You know, Dennis, I got calmer just reading that, and maybe – hear me out here – an adult will refuse and you can have a super BIG snack! One can hope, right? Now, if you had to pick, what is your favorite scene of this book?
Dennis: My favorite scene in the book is when I almost get to eat a kid. It’s rule number 5: “Do not smile! Do not laugh. Do not even think about smiling or laughing! There’s nothing funny about being eaten.” For whatever reason, kids feel the need to let down their guard in that moment and both smile AND laugh. It’s almost as if Brian wanted them to break the rules at this point of the story to raise the excitement a bit…not really sure. Whatever the reason, I almost get to eat some kids so it’s really exciting for me.
Kaitlyn: That sounds super exciting and almost delicious! Can you share with us what your friend, Brian, is working on now?
Dennis: Unfortunately, Brian is working on other books and seeking to replace me. Sorry. I’m a jealous kind of monster. I think he’s working on a book with wolves in it. He’s got a weird thing for wolves that I’ve never understood. Or maybe it’s bears. Or dogs. I’m not sure. He has a lot of books and I think he’s currently waiting to see if any of them sell. I’m kind of hoping he gets rejected since he’s so used to that. And if he gets rejected, I can still be the special one. They say you always remember your first…but I want to be the only. The only character and book Brian ever writes. Honestly, I hope all of his other books epically fail.
Kaitlyn: I hear ya, Dennis, you are definitely the best, but I hear bears and wolves also like eating kids. I don’t know, but I’m just saying, you all might make a fun crew together. Now, Dennis, since you’re such a great listener, can you tell us some advice you think Brian would share with other writers?
Dennis: Brian does talk a lot and I do listen…sometimes. I think he talks a decent amount (ironically) about breaking the rules. About not being tied down too much by convention. He’d probably talk about avoiding formulaic writing and being okay with taking risks. And about not being afraid to stand out. To innovate. And to not apologize for your voice. Above all, Brian would say to have fun while you make picture books. Something I know I’ve heard him say is, “If you have fun writing it, we’ll have fun reading it.” Yeah, that. That’s what Brian would share with other writers.
Kaitlyn: Absolutely beautiful, and I’d have to agree with Brian, Dennis. I tell my clients all the time that I chose them to be on my team because they are unique and creative, so definitely something authors should aspire to! Thank you so much for stopping by to share about this wonderful book!
Dennis: Thanks again for having me! I can’t tell you how nice it is to step out and breathe every once in a while--books and shelves can be quite stuffy. The book is pretty wonderful. I’m really hoping more people buy it. The more people buy it, the more likely a kid will break the rules and I’ll finally get someone to eat…
Kaitlyn: It was my pleasure, and I’m crossing my fingers that all these blog readers will get their hands on a copy and review it so you get that change, Dennis!
Author Bio and links
Brian Gehrlein is a children’s author, theatrical wizard, and time traveler. He has written several books you love that you haven’t read yet (because they haven’t been written). Yes, in his frequent travels to the future, he has enjoyed watching you and your children and dogs delight in his prolific work. You’ll just love his next book! (you WILL love it, he has literally seen you love reading it). When he isn’t time traveling or making himself uncomfortably caffeinated, Brian can be found tweeting about wolves or writing posts for Picture Book Spotlight. When he isn’t doing any of those things, he’s probably teaching high school English or spending time with his wife, Katherine and their two boys, Peter and Albee.
Connect with Brian by following him on Twitter (@BrianGehrlein)
Check out his picture book literary blog, Picture Book Spotlight
Buy The Book of Rules and don’t forget to leave a review
Kaitlyn’s Review the book
This book is a wonderful book for everyone to read! Not only is it fun and interactive, but it’s tons of fun and also teaches some great mindfulness. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Giveaway- Brian is offering a zoom critique for a picture book manuscript!
To enter the random drawing, do any/all of the following options, then come back and write all of the things you did in ONE blog comment. (If you forget something, feel free to reply to your first comment ;))
1. Share that you added The Book of Rules to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
2. Share that you ordered a copy of The Book of Rules
3. Share that you did a purchase request for The Book of Rules at your library
4. Share that you left a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble5. Share that you retweeted or quote retweeted my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tagged some friends.
Thank you, all, for yet again supporting another wonderful book and its creators and for being loyal readers! I’m excited to share that the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest will be April 1st-3rd again this year. Ciara O’Neal and I are going to start sharing about the wonderful prize donors and our amazing guest judge very soon, so make sure you’re following both of us on Twitter (Ciara’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/CiaraONeal2, Kaitlyn’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/KaitlynLeann17), and feel free to peek at the rules and get writing – or Dennis might eat you up!