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Bernard Wtber at his drawing table: "I think that animals do show courage. Using
animals ... offered me the opportunity to treat a situation seriously but lightly"
JN: In your book, you not only show
children and adults in situations that
call for courage, but animals as well.
One page features the sentence,
"Courage is breaking bad habits,"
and is illustrated with a sketch of a
dog growling at a cat. In another
page, the same dog learns to deal
with sibling rivalry. While his owners
embrace the family cat, a grimacing
pooch grits his canines to these
words: "Courage is trying to cover up
your mean, jealous side." Why did
you show animals exhibiting courage?
BW: I think that animals do show
courage. They have to go to the vet
and sit stoically while they are poked
and given a shot. Using animals in
certain situations offered me the
opportunity to treat a situation seri-
ously but lightly. Had I used humans
[in those illustrations], it would have
seemed preachy and sermonizing.
JN: Does being a writer take courage?
BW: Yes. Most writers go through a
lot of rejection and so you have to
love it. There's this dichotomy.
Writers are sensitive but they have to
be strong and develop triple hides to
take the rejection and continue on
Writing involves a lot of highs and
lows even if you are an established
author. You get wonderful reviews —
and sometimes you don't — and you
just go on. When a book is published
and it's seen by others and critiqued
... it's like your child. You want to
hear nice things about him and if
someone picks on him, it upsets you.
JN: One of the final pages of Courage
shows a mother and her two children
watching an airplane streak off into
the sky. The drawing is twinned with
the words, "Courage is sometimes
having to say goodbye." Was this def-
inition of courage influenced by the
terrorist attacks of Sept. 11?
BW: I illustrated the entire book this
past year but didn't think of that par-
ticular illustration in the context of
Sept. 11. I suppose it can be inter-
preted by the reader as saying good-
bye to a grandparent [after a visit] or
as a metaphor [for the goodbye that
follows the death of a loved one].
JN: What are your hopes and aspira-
tions for Courage?
BN: I have been thinking of ways to
use it with kids. I'm making a visit to
a school in New Jersey and will take
the book along. What I hope for
Courage is that it will be an interactive
experience. I hope that it will elicit
responses from kids about their own
instances of courage. I'd like to hear
what they say about courage.
Bernard Waber will visit Book
Beat, 26010 Greenfield, Oak
Park, 3-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.
Information: (248) 968-1190.
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