Arts & Culture
10:47 am
Fri January 8, 2010

Wild Times at the Bed & Biscuit - Joan Carris

Wild Times at the Bed & Biscuit - Joan Carris

New Bern, NC – INTRO - It's children's book number 16 for Beaufort author and Public Radio East commentator Joan Carris with the release of "Wild Times at the Bed & Biscuit." It's a sequel to book number 15 but also shares a common goal with each children's book Joan has authored in her career. George Olsen has more.

When talking with Beaufort children's author Joan Carris in 2006 about her then-latest book "Welcome to the Bed & Biscuit" she told me her main motivating factor when writing for kids.

"I'm writing a book that I hope will be good enough that a child will read it, put it down and say I want to read another book. That's my goal as a writer is to try and convince them to be readers."

It's 2010 and the sequel to that book "Wild Times at the Bed & Biscuit" has just been published, and, just like that book's main characters return, so does Joan's primary purpose in writing the book.

"For children I am writing to show children that reading a book is so much fun they'll want to read another book. That's my whole goal."

Toward that goal of getting children to read another book Joan brings back all the main characters of her first Bed & Biscuit book Ernest the mini-pig, Gabby the mynah bird, Sir Walter the Scottie puppy and Milly the cat who all reside at Grandpa Bender's veterinary service and animal boardinghouse and pits their domestic ways against the wild nature of some new temporary boarders brought over from the wildlife shelter for treatment a pair of fox kits, a muskrat and a Canada goose.

"But the children's books that you tend to remember and say "oh man, that was a good book" have quite a bit of conflict and tension and what we call "peaks and valleys" everything goes o-k for awhile and then there's a bump and that might be resolved and then something else goes wrong. There has to be a reason for turning the page and for children of course, raised with television and video games, having turning out a page turner doesn't mean it will be a bad book but it will be a fast book."

So conflict abounds during "Wild Times at the Bed & Biscuit" the fox kits work on Sir Walter the puppy to set them free and join them in the wild, the muskrat is well, cranky and Zeus the Canada goose doesn't aid efforts to heal his wounds.

"On the way back from the house I don't belong here." Reads from page 78

In "Wild Times at the Bed & Biscuit" Zeus was brought to a wildlife shelter and then to the Bed & Biscuit because he was found with an arrow through his neck. In a book where a mini-pig helps run a kennel service and fox kits conspire to "break out," so to speak, the events surrounding Zeus the Goose did not have to evolve from the author's imagination.

"Somebody and I don't remember who because it was a long time ago in 1997, it was about that time or shortly thereafter it was reported in the Carteret News Times that a Canada goose had been found with an arrow through its neck about halfway in and halfway out, it was well-balanced, found in a pond and they brought him in and they managed to get him in to the wildlife shelter and a vet treated him, and a couple three weeks later they returned him to his pond and his mate was waiting. I just thought that was the most beautiful story, and the people who were there who returned that particular goose watched as the two geese re-united and apparently there wasn't a dry eye in the house."

While Joan is, again, writing for the purpose of convincing a child to become a reader, if they learn something along the way that's a good thing as well. So Zeus the goose isn't just some soulful invention of the author, he is, in fact, every bit a real-life goose as abounds in nature.

"Because kids can learn a lot about wild animals through a fiction book which this is and my fiction books are always very true to fact whenever possible. So the goose is a real goose. He pines because he's away from his home pond. He won't eat because he's missing his mate. Canada geese mate for life typically. If one is ill the other won't migrate with his troop to fly south. He'll stay with his dying mate and often he will die there later because he failed to migrate. Therefore they're similar to humans in that way in that they're faithful to a mate well, some humans some humans are less faithful than others, that's for sure, but in all animals I find many characteristics that are similar to our own family lives that are like ours."

Still, while Joan tries to make the mini-pigs and birds and dogs and cats and foxes and muskrats and geese who inhabit the Bed & Biscuit as true-to-their-nature as she can, she keeps in goal in writing for kids firmly in mind.

"There are lots and lots of kid's book and lots of picture books that are busy teaching manners and if they're very subtle I'm o-k, but if you're hammering the kid over the head with it I'm not o-k because they have textbooks. Those are didactic. Literature should be for joy. If we want them to read, then need to have fun. They're just kids." "We'll get them later when they're adults." "That's right. We'll get them in college."

"Wild Times at the Bed & Biscuit" by Beaufort children's author Joan Carris is published by Candlewick Press. It was just recognized as one of 2009's notable children's books by Smithsonian.com. I'm George Olsen.