If there’s one seemingly universal truth about children, it’s their inquisitive nature.
Kathryn Dennis remembers being that kind of kid.
“I was one of those kids that asked a lot of questions,” she said. “And I still ask a lot of questions.”
Hence, the premise of Dennis’s new book, “Too Many Questions.”
The 32-page picture book follows a mouse with an endless array of them, until the creature finally gets directed to the place where they can get all the answers.
The process to getting published was a long one for Dennis. She wrote the book approximately five years ago.
“I just constantly sent it out, and I would get some positive feedback, but like everything else, it takes a while,” she said.
Eventually, she connected with a small publisher out of San Diego, Kane Miller Books (a division of the larger educational publisher EDC).
Dennis said that she “kind of knew who my little character was an what I wanted to do,” from early on, but when back and forth between writing out the story, and illustrating and designing the pages, with each element helping her refine the book as a whole.
Dennis’s mother was an early elementary school teacher. At the end of her day, in which she would be bombarded with questions from her students, Dennis would ask endless questions of her own.
“She used to say, ‘What is this? Twenty questions!”
So, in a nod to her, there are a total of 20 questions asked over the course of the book.
Formerly an art director in advertising, Dennis originally thought she would write literary fiction, but said a one-day workshop at Richard Hugo House on writing for children was a “turning point,” for her. After that, she joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and began attending local chapter meetings. It was through that group that she began to meet people that she could submit her book to without an agent.
“I think that you’re just always looking for something new,” she said. “I think a lot of creative [people] rarely stay in the same place, you’re always looking for, ‘How can I expand what I do or try something new that’s still in the realm of what I do?’”
Once her book was published, she also had the chance to visit her childhood grade school in her hometown of Walla Walla, to read her book to a group of kindergarten students and first graders.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “It really was, to go back, and it hasn’t changed really.”
Those kids also had some fairly creative ideas when it came to answering some of the questions in the book, including one on why zebras have stripes.
“One kid said it’s because they are so many stripes, and then when they’re moving, it kind of freaks out the other animals because they can’t focus,” she said.
While Dennis didn’t have representation when she was shopping “Too Many Questions,” next year she’ll start circulating her next book in January, this time with the help of agent.
In the meantime, you can find her behind the counter of Magnolia’s Bookstore. When she contacted owner Georgiana Blomberg about launching her book at the store, it just so happened that they also had an open position.
“I love being around books,” she said. “I mean, who wouldn’t?”
As for why parents should consider picking up a copy of her book, Dennis said it may be a way to slow down the steady stream of questions from their children
“Because the average four-year old asks something like 243 questions a day, which is a lot of questions,” she said. “This might be a way for parents to talk to their kids about how to figure out how to find the answers for yourself, so they’re not that constant, ‘Why, why, why, why, why,’ in the back of the car, asking you the question.”
“Too Many Questions,” can be purchased at Magnolia’s Bookstore (3206 W. McGraw St.) and at other local booksellers.