About the Holiday
Today we celebrate those lowercase letters that make up a predominance of our sentences (and nearly all of our texting). The lowercase letter has a proud history, dating back to the earliest development of script and writing. The terms “lowercase” and “uppercase” come from the era of the printing press, when individual letters were inserted by hand into plates that were then inked and pressed onto paper. The tiles etched with each letter were kept in trays conveniently located for the printer to set them into the plates with capital letters found in the upper case and small letters arranged in the lower case. To learn more about the history of our script was developed, visit My Modern Met. You’ll find rules on using lowercase and uppercase letters at Gammerly. And to discover the fun you can have with the letters of the alphabet, read about today’s book below and meet its creators!
My Pet Feet
Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Billy Yong
A little girl wakes up on a glorious morning. The bees are buzzing and the palm tees (no, it’s not a typo, you’ll see…) outside her window are standing tall. First job of the day is to feed her pet ferret, Doodles. She goes to his cage only to find two very long feet and a very sad face looking up at her. “‘What happened to my pet feet?’” she cries. “‘I mean my pet feet. Why can’t I say ‘FEET’?’” She looks all over her room for an answer and then spies something suspicious. Her alphabet banner is missing the ‘R.’ She quickly assesses the situation and realizes that without the letter R, her beloved pet has become simply FEET. Immediately, she decides she must do something and calls her best friend Lucas to help her.
But when she left the house, she discovered that the missing R wasn’t just affecting Doodles, but the whole town. On the way to find Lucas at his mom’s bake shop, she had to avoid “a bunch of kids on go-cats” and a policewoman on the back of a galloping hose.” Then when she found Lucas, her bestie had turned into a fiend. What was worse is that no one acted like anything was wrong.
Everywhere she went there was pandemonium, strange hybrid creatures, and weird machines. The girl wanted to find out “what happened to the eighteenth symbol of the alphabet. Could someone have taken it? “But who? And why? …I don’t want to have pet feet until the end of time!” Distressed to hear this, Doodles ran away, and even though she chased him “by the old babbling book, down a tail, and into a gassy field, the girl couldn’t find him.
But then, faintly in the distance, she heard familiar footsteps and followed the sound until she found him at the seashoe …ummm…at the beach, which was not quite the way it used to be. Still, she found Doodles and apologized for hurting his feelings. He gave her a big hug, but then was off again—this time into the sea. The girl dove in too. Could Doodles be leading them to the answer for the missing R’s? Could life eally etun to nomal … ummm … Could life actually go back to the usual? To find out, jump in and paddle along! You don’t want to miss the supising esolution … I mean the astounding ending!
In My Pet Feet, Josh Funk has carefully crafted a grammatical mystery that will keep readers (both kids and adults) marveling over the cleverness of each word transformation and how they add to the richness of the story. As the little girl races to restore Doodles to his normal cuddly state, readers become totally immersed in the laugh-out-loud, fantastical R-less world even as they empathize with her dilemma. The pitch-perfect ending comes as a real surprise, one that is sure to please readers of all ages.
Perfectly matched to Funk’s comedic talents is new picture book bright light Billy Yong, who brings a fresh, vibrant, and hilarious sense of humor to this story. Readers will want to linger over every page as Yong infuses each spread with a wealth of astoundingly clever details in depicting not only the R-less words provided in the story but in creating a whole town and outlying regions in which every element is flawless. Yong’s illustrations set up an irresistible game of search-and-find for all the visual puns, and the before and after images of the town make for an engaging find-the-differences puzzle.
A joy from beginning to end, My Pet Feet charms on many levels. The book is laugh-out-loud fun for the whole family as well as a way to engage kids in lessons on the alphabet, sound recognition, spelling, and grammar for teachers. Both avid and reluctant readers will love the silliness that makes this a must-have addition to all home, classroom, school, and public library collections
Ages 4 – 8
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534486003
I’m thrilled to be talking with Josh Funk and Billy Yong today about My Pet Feet. So put up your feet and get ready to learn about the amazing journey this story took from an initial idea to an instant classic!
Meet Josh Funk
Josh Funk writes silly stories such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series (including the forthcoming The Great Caper Caper, November 15, 2022); the It’s Not a Fairy Tale series (including the forthcoming It’s Not the Three Little Pigs, October 1, 2022); the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series (including How to Code a Sandcastle and How to Code a Rollercoaster); the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series in conjuction with the New York Public Library (including Where Is Our Library? and Lost in the Library); Dear Dragon, Albie Newton, Pirasaurs!, A Night at the Bookstore: A Barnsie & Noble Adventure, and Dear Unicorn, coming in the fall of 2023!
Since the fall of 2015, Josh has visited (or virtually visited) over 500 schools, classrooms, and libraries and he is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Hudson, MA. Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts.
Hi Josh! I’m so excited to be a part of your book tour for this comedic tour de force! Thanks for taking time to chat with me about My Pet Feet and how the story came to be! I’m sure readers would love to know a little about how you wrote this story. How much fun was it to find all of the convertible words? How long did your writing process take?
It started with a typo on my phone (or possibly an autocorrect). I meant to write the word ‘friend’ but it came out ‘fiend’ which led me to wonder … what happened to the R? Why would a friend become a fiend? Did other words also lose their R’s? Did ALL words lose their R’s? Why? And what would the world look like if there were no R’s? What silly illustratable shenanigans would occur in a book written without the letter R?
This led me to start searching for words where if you took away an R, it would become another word—especially word pairs that made for funny illustrations. Crows becoming cows. Babbling brooks becoming babbling books. The seashore becoming the seashoe.
But I still also needed a story. I needed a reason, an important reason, that someone needed to investigate the missing R’s … and needed to get them back. And rescuing a pet who had been transformed into something else was the perfect reason.
Once I had the list of words to play with along with the main character’s motivation, everything easily fell into place. JUST KIDDING! I wrote many, many, MANY revisions of this story both before and after it was acquired to get things in the shape they finally ended up in. And truly, nothing really came together until Billy Yong joined the team.
Speaking of Billy, what were your thoughts when you saw his illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?
As an author of picture books, I think I benefit from not thinking too visually, at least in specifics. By that, I mean, I had no idea what ‘pet feet’ would look like. Would they be human feet (with human toes? Ew.)? Would it be like a rabbit’s foot? Would the foot have a face? I honestly didn’t even bother thinking about these things—I left that for someone else to tackle.
And unsurprisingly, I think Billy’s visual creation of pet feet is amazing! I have no idea how he made ‘pet feet’ look cute. The concept is just so ridiculous, but he managed to pull it off.
As far as favorite spreads and images, I love the spreads with all the visual gags in the background, like the one in town with everyone acting like it’s just a typical day. But the best, without a doubt, is the gassy field. I had no idea Billy was going to illustrate a bunch of butts farting—but I totally approve. Like I said, I don’t think too visually—I just wrote ‘gassy field’ and assumed someone else would take care of it. And there are no buts about it—Billy did.
Meet Billy Yong
Billy Yong is an illustrator and character designer. Since starting out he has drawn storyboards, engaged in visual development, and has even voice acted for animation, games, and children’s books. When he’s not creating his professional doodlings, he can be found in a cafe drawing or painting in his sketchbook, in his studio developing his personal projects, or in the dojo teaching Japanese swordsmanship. Billy currently lives in sunny Singapore.
Hi Billy! I’ve been looking forward to chatting with you since the moment I saw my review copy of this book. First, I want to Congratulate you on your debut picture book! Can you talk about your previous work and how you came to illustrate Josh’s story?
Thanks Kathy! It is such a privilege to be debuting through Josh’s hilarious story. Up till then, most of my illustrative works centered around the Young Adults range. Now that I think about it, one of my most enjoyable school projects that brought me into the kid lit scene was The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
When I was first approached about the project, Josh, Kendra and Chloe (editor and art director respectively) said my sense of humor was what got me the role. At that time, I honestly struggled to understand what they meant, but never say no to great opportunities eh?
What were your first impressions when you read Josh’s manuscript?
Dude, I loved it. Probably not a good thing that I first read it just as I was about to turn in for bed (it was 02:32 in the morning since I live in Singapore). I couldn’t sleep for the next two hours because I was drawing scenes in my head haha.
Your illustrations are so ingenious, even including foreshadowing and visual puns that go beyond or riff on the “r-less” words in the text. I’m sure readers would love to learn a little about your process in creating them.
You’re too kind! First off, for anyone wanting to get into illustration, particularly with larger projects like these, understand that the process is more often a back-and-forth than a straight journey. I typically like to doodle on the script when I first read it, it helps to just spill out any ideas onto paper without restraint at the earliest phase.
Some of the earliest ideas featured the town name: Butterfield Shores -> Buttefield Shoes. Me being the adult that I am, figured why not a bronze statue, butt resplendent for all to see, with a sign sticking out his bum, and a shoe on his head, with a little flower growing from it.
Developments of bums are always a joy.
Another was around miscellaneous things we would encounter.
Even though they were never used, it helped kick off the vibe of this crazy world our heroes lived in.
Back on the main subjects, I’m usually drawn most towards characters, so that’s usually what I like to start off with after doodling on the script.
I loved that our main human was pretty nondescript, so that left a lot of room to create a cast of characters. I eventually settled on no.2, since her shapes felt quite a lot like our fe(rr)et, Doodles. Below are some other characters I drew during the development process:
When it came to laying out the pages however, my usual methods of working digitally lacked the grand overview and the bravery to push past mistakes. Ironic since the digital medium allows me to undo to my heart’s content, but that also means I don’t see my mistakes and move past them.
So, feeling stuck, I whipped out a giant A3 sketchpad with a sharpie and just went ham at it. No distractions, not even music in the background, just drawing at the dining table figuring out the flow and composition for Josh’s story. I think I managed to churn out the entire layout in 2 days because of this, haha.
(Initial doodles of the first couple of pages. When I liked a composition but didn’t like parts of it, I would paste a sticky note on top and just draw over it. It feels a lot more intuitive ideating like this compared to a digital drawing.)
This wouldn’t quite make sense to Josh, Chloe (art director) and Kendra (editor) though, so the next step was tidying up.
(I think the most important part about this sketch cleanup phase was not to be too married to the original sketches, so if it doesn’t work on cleanup, then it helps to go back to the sketchpad or just move on and revisit the spread.)
Once layouts were done, it was back to designing the characters. Doodles (or Feet) had the most rounds of back and forth. Ranging from foot-face, to a head on feet, ultimately to feet with a face, every interpretation brought us closer to what you see before you.
Doodles (Feet State) v.2 was what we settled on in the end.
Was there a spread that was particularly fun to illustrate? What made it so?
Haha, they were all a joy to do, but my favorites would be these three:
While the layout changed quite a fair bit from the original sketch, my goal of showcasing the go-cats and the topsy-turvy-ness of it all culminated in a winding road, with a subtle line at the top to lead the eyes back to the cat’s tail, ultimately to rest at the water splashing of the police ho(r)se.
While this was less dynamic than the previous one, it was really fun laying out the look and feel of the town. I think the biggest challenge was to make it feel populated without overloading the senses, and allowing the eyes pockets of rest in a spread so full of colors and information. I also sneakily snuck in my friends, who are getting married at the end of 2022, so even though I couldn’t be there, it’s my little wedding present to them.
The @-rats were also a suggestion of my wife (I think). Honestly in the thick of things I’ve confused ideas I’ve received from Josh, Kendra (our editor), Chloe (art director), my wife Rachel and myself. It really has been a team effort to bring this book to life.
Again with the swirly composition. (I’m starting to think I have a thing for these…) Also relatively simple, but I’m happy turning the tail into a device for our readers to traverse from left to right. Of course the gassy fields had to be a field of bums farting into the wind.
What do you like best about illustrating children’s books?
I enjoy the freedom of expression. It’s very daunting whenever you start a project like this, because said freedom means you often start on a very blank canvas, with only the story to guide you. You have to give yourself permission to be as wild as your skill and imagination can allow, and avoid listening to the doubts you have with certain decisions you make. When those doubts do manifest, I’ve found it useful to remind myself that this is a team process, and if the author, editor or art director don’t quite approve, they’ll let you know. Until then, go ham.
What’s up next for you?
Haha, I don’t think I’m allowed to say, but perhaps I could hint that it’s about a boy, his friends and a hammer. It’s quite the wild ride, and I hope when it’s released readers will enjoy it. I certainly have. Apart from that, just raising a baby girl with my wife. It’s an exercise in patience and endurance. I cannot wait to start drawing with her and learning from her. Perhaps I will become a better artist from that.
Wow! Thank you for sharing so much about how you brought My Pet Feet to life! Your awesome illustrations and sense of humor are going to keep kids searching for all the visual puns and laughing from beginning to end – and over and over again! I wish you all the best with this book and am really looking forward to seeing more of your work. And, since we’re talking about bringing the story to life, I think we have time for one more image ….
So, Everybody, jump on your Go-Cat and head to your local bookstore to pick up My Pet Feet to celebrate New Book Month in hilarious style!
My Pet Feet Virtual Book Tour Activity
Feet Pet Portraits
Feet don’t have to be just for walking, running, or dancing. As today’s story shows, they can make pretty awesome pets (even when it’s just a mistake). With this craft you can use your own feet to make a pet portrait to decorate your room!
- 1 Sheet of regular printer paper or heavy stock paper for the portrait
- 1 Sheet of colored heavy stock paper for the frame’s backing
- 1 Sheet of heavy stock paper in a contrasting color from the backing to make the frame
- Crayons or colored pencils
- Glue or glue dots
- Stand on the white paper with your feet together and trace your feet
- Now it’s time to get creative! Turn the paper toes up, toes down, or toes to the side and design your pet.
- After you’re finished drawing, color your picture in
- Cut your pet out
To Make the Frame and Frame Your Portrait
- Measure one inch around each side of one piece of heavy stock paper
- Cut out the middle
- Use glue or glue dots to adhere the frame to the backing
- Use glue or glue dots to adhere your feet pet portrait to the backing of the frame
Hang your pet portrait!
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