Kid Lit Book Review and Author Interview – Berkley: A Nose Tail by David Hillman

“It’s ok to be different, and to be able to take what some might see as a disadvantage, and turn it into an asset.”

In the words of David Hillman, author of Berkley: A Nose Tail, that is the message of his first book.  David was kind enough to conduct an author interview with me along with allowing me to review his book on the blog.  Enjoy.

In reading your mini author bio in Berkley, it seems that you were an artist first and then wrote a children’s book. Is that pretty accurate? What are some things you’ve done artistically before Berkley?

Yes. I’ve been a commercial illustrator for some time, and became a writer out of necessity. I have a lot of stories inside me that I want to tell through my illustrations, but in order to do that I knew I had to learn how to write as well.

Do you enjoy writing in general aside from children’s books? Could you ever picture yourself writing a novel?

As I continue to write I’m starting to enjoy the process more than I used to. While I don’t think I have a novel in me, I do have an idea for an ongoing series of chapter books for middle grade readers, but that’s still far down the road.

Can you take us through your journey a little bit on your way to becoming an author/illustrator? What were some important steps and moments throughout that process?

Illustrating children’s books has been something I’ve wanted to do for some time. I’ve spent the better part of my career drawing comic books and storyboards, as well as general illustration and I’ve enjoyed doing that. Now I’ve reached a point in my career where I want to leave behind something, something that readers will enjoy for years to come.

The most important step in the process is asking myself if the idea I have is a fun one, will it make me smile? If it’s fun and funny then I’m on the right track.

Berkley is your first book. Do you have any more in the works right now?

I’m currently working on the next Berkley story and I also have a few ideas for other stories. I’m also working on offering my skills to illustrate books for other authors.

Who/what was the inspiration for Berkley?

Berkley has been sniffing around in my head for some years. Just the image of a dog with a HUGE nose seemed pretty funny to me. It’s been only recently I started to wrap a story around him.

Has everyone in your family always supported you being an artist/author as a vocation?

Absolutely! My entire family has been very supportive throughout my career, but most especially my wife. She’s been incredibly supportive, and tolerant of my insanity, how she’s been able to put up with it is beyond me.

Who in your life has been your biggest mentor?

I’d have to say it’s been my father, a writer of children’s books himself, He used to give me some of his yellow writing pads for me to draw on, and I’ve been doodling ever since.

Sadly, he’s no longer with us, but when I’m having a problem with a story I’m working on I look at his picture and think to myself, “What would dad do?”

If you could summarize the message of Berkley into one statement for children, what is it?

That it’s ok to be different, and to be able to take what some might see as a disadvantage, and turn it into an asset.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring children’s book author like me?

Practice your craft because you love it, not because someone tells you should do it. Also, do the kind of work you feel inspired to, be true to your own style. Early in my career I had someone suggest that I should create illustrations of a certain type, and it just didn’t work for me. The work was stiff, flat, and I got bored with it very soon. Find what you really are interested in, and practice it every chance you get. Make the next story, or the next project better than the last, and the next, and the next…

My thanks to David for taking the time to do the interview with me and for allowing me to review his book, which I loved.

Overview

Berkley: A Nose Tail is a story about a dog who is born with a HUGE nose.  His nose is constantly getting him into trouble as he loves to stick it in places where it doesn’t necessarily belong.  However, when his owner’s friend is unable to find her cat, Berkley’s nose is the only thing that is able to help.

Outstanding Points

As I’ve done more and more book reviews, the diversity of illustrations and the obvious talent behind all of them irregardless of style is amazing.  The Illustrations in Berkley are fantastic.  The detail and intricacy of them are truly remarkable.  As you can see even from the front cover, just very excellent overall.  Mr Hillman, as you can read in the interview, began his career in visual arts and illustrating, and that fact is very apparent.

I love the message behind the book.  I enjoy books with messages but also enjoy that this one isn’t blatantly stated either.  I also love this particular message as it deals with an actual physical characteristic.  In the social media driven society that over-analyzes and scrutinizes every photo, a message of self-acceptance and self-appreciation is very appropriate and relevant.

There is another message, although much more subtle, that I also love.  Warning, I’m about to preach a bit.  One of the main characters is an African-American girl.  In the book, her father is a police officer.  I love that, although it is subtly ingrained, a person of color is painted (literally) in such a positive light.

The story itself is compelling and engaging.  I enjoyed reading it.  Although for an adult, the outcome is predictable, a child would definitely be locked in waiting to see how it will turn out.

From start to finish, the story and setup of the book is consistent.  There are about the same amount of words on each page appropriate to the age level the book targets.  The storyline is coherent and complete.

Discussion Points and Teaching Ideas

Becky, one of the characters in the story, automatically assumes the worst in the story.  I think it would be good a discussion about negative self-talk and imagining the worst possible scenario.  Talk about how many times we think the worst possible thing has happened when really it wasn’t anything like that at all.  Allow students to share stories from their lives.

Jeremy, Berkley’s owner, knew about how amazing Berkley’s nose was, even when most other people viewed it as a detriment.  So, when Becky needed his help, Jeremy jumped at the chance for Berkley to prove himself.  How can we be that way as friends, classmates, or siblings?

Is it easier to see the potential in others or in ourselves?  How do you think that this should affect how we treat each other?

Allow students to create an animal that has something crazy like Berkley’s huge nose?  Have them brainstorm how that animal might use whatever it has.

What should Berkley’s next story be?  How else might he be able to use his nose to help people?

Well, that’s all.  Overall, I really liked this book and was really impressed with the art in it.  You can find Berkley: A Nose Tail in several places.

You can go to Amazon at this link Here

It is also available from Barnes and Noble Here

Or you can go to the official Berkley web page Here

You can also follow David Hillman on Instagram at @dnahillman

I really do hope you will go check it out for yourself.  You will certainly  not be disappointed.  As always, thank you for reading.  I hope you enjoyed it.  If you want to follow the blog to receive email updated whenever I post something new, simply click on the link in the lower right hand corner of your screen.  Thanks again.

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