The canon of children’s books, of literature in general, is littered with authors who worked in wildly different fields before getting published.
Theodor Geisel wrote advertisements for Standard Oil, GE and NBC before becoming Dr. Seuss. After serving in Japan and Korea, Shel Silverstein submitted cartoons to magazines while employed as a Chicago ballpark hot dog vendor. Beatrix Potter was a natural scientist before writing The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
So bourgeoning children’s book author Robin Newman, a former New York attorney, is in good company as her first book, A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery: The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake (Creston Books, ages 4-8), nears its May 12th release date. The innovative book is a whodunit with mouse detectives who track down a carrot cake thief on a farm, including a carrot cake recipe by famed New York Times bestselling cookbook author Mollie Katzen at the book’s conclusion, and a downloadable curriculum guide available for classroom use, teaching problem solving, logic skills, and storytelling; it’s already been named Kirkus Reviews’ April’s Best Bets pick for Children’s Books.
“It was a hard sell, I’ll be honest. It didn’t fit the box,” Newman says, recalling the reluctance of publishers. “But persistence is key.”
Though Newman’s journey has been an over-the-river-and-through-the-woods story—from practicing attorney, to legal editor, to developmental editor—she doesn’t think her foray into law was a mistake.
“[In college], I wasn’t very confident,” Newman admits. “I was surrounded by extremely gifted writers and thought that I was the worst writer in the world. If I hadn’t gone to law school, I never would’ve realized that I actually like writing. I’m very grateful for it sort of pushing me in the right direction.”
Newman will be on hand at Elm Street Books on May 7th, from 3:30-5:30 P.M., as part of the Children’s Book Week celebration.
“Elm Street Books have been absolutely wonderful. I’m a huge, huge supporter of the independent bookstores and what they do for communities.”
She talks about preparations for the day at Elm Street as if she were preparing for court: “I have these little evidence bags. I’m going to bring detective badges and I have a Polaroid camera so they can take mug shots of themselves. I also have fingerprint activities for the kids; the dusting powder is actually candy, so once they’re done they can lick their fingers.”
She pauses a moment. “Oh, I will be bringing carrot cake. How can you not bring carrot cake when you have a book about a carrot cake?”
Newman might be out of the courtroom, but she’s certainly didn’t leave her savvy behind.
A Second Helping
If you’re looking for a gift for a young reader, there’s one book that Newman can’t stop raving about: Cece Bell’s graphic novel memoir El Deafo, which follows a child with a hearing loss on her struggle to fit in at school. “It’s the first graphic novel to get a Newberry Honor! I’m thrilled about this book because it’s semi-autobiographical, and for kids who just don’t have the attention span yet, it’s heavily illustrated and seems to capture a lot of stuff. It’s an amazing, amazing book. My second-grader loves it, couldn’t put it down.”