A Father And Daughter's Tale Of The Obama Pet Which Puppy?, the new children's book by author Kate Feiffer and illustrator Jules Feiffer, was inspired by the Obamas' public search for a dog to join them in the White House.

A Father And Daughter's Tale Of The Obama Pet

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An esteemed literary critic, Elie(ph) Simon, who's six years old, recently said of "Which Puppy?" - the new book by Kate And Jules Feiffer - read it, please. And afterwards she said - read it again. A true compliment coming from a critic who's developed her literary tastes by reading Daniel Pinkwater books. "Which Puppy?" is inspired by the public search of the Obama family for a dog to join them in the White House. Kate Feiffer is the author of several books for children. She has done the words. Jules Feiffer is the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, illustrator, and playwright. He's done the artwork. Both Feiffers join us in our studios in New York. Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. JULES FEIFFER ("Which Puppy?"): Thank you.

Ms. KATE FEIFFER ("Which Puppy?"): Hi, Scott, it's great to be here. Thank you.

SIMON: You are not related, are you?

Mr. FEIFER: I have to tell you something.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FEIFFER: Yes, she is my first child.

SIMON: So - now what happened? You saw President Obama's acceptance speech from Chicago on election night, where he promised his daughters a puppy and turned to each other and said…

Ms. FEIFFER: Well, not quite, but of course I watched that and who knew then that the puppy would be the big news from the speech. But the next day my editor contacted me and asked if I had any ideas for a story about this. And I thought - yeah, sure. She asked if hamsters or any other animals would qualify for the puppy. And I thought I could play with this, I'd love to try. And so I took a stab at writing the story. That trick, of course, was how do we end it, because we didn't know what the puppy would be.

SIMON: Right. And you weren't writing a book about Bo, specifically.

Ms. FEIFFER: No, we had no - Bo wasn't in the mix then. So I had to write it very quickly, because he wanted it get it out before the first hundred days of the administration - handed it off to, well, we needed to find an illustrator. So I went to…

SIMON: Did you know of any?

Ms. FEIFFER: You know, I knew of a few. One when I met few years ago. And so I went I asked him and he said no.

SIMON: You said no, Jules?

Mr. FEIFFER: Yeah, let me make this clear. Kate has done, what, four, five, six books. I've done two of them in illustration, a third one will be coming up. But I thought it was important that other people do her books and she's had some wonderful illustrators, and I happened to be tied down with deadlines. But when she couldn't find anybody who would do this immediately, and this had to be done immediately, I got a pass from one of my publishers and sat down to work on this. So I went up to Martha's Vineyard, where she has a house, and I have a summer house, which is technically heated but not really, and turned on what is technically heated and then bundled up in all my clothes, and in 20 days, 21 days drew the book, and it was one of the great fun experiences of my working life.

SIMON: Now, when two are working together, do the words come first, then the illustrations? Do the illustrations suggest a change in words? What happens?

Mr. FEIFFER: The first thing you do with a kids' book - it's an interesting process, because there's a typed manuscript and that typed manuscript has to be broken down into 28 pages and there's front matter. So you have to figure out what goes on what page and how they relate to each other and then figure out what the pictures are going to be. So you do just the rough sketch of how it will all play. And whatever the picture is, it can be wonderful but if it doesn't carry the story, then it has no point.

SIMON: To convey some of the story a bit - it's not just puppies who want to be the White House puppy, is it?

Ms. FEIFFER: No, no, not at all. We have Kisha the kitten, who thinks she can be a contender. We have a turtle who takes barking lessons, and a guinea pig who says she can tell time with her tail.

SIMON: Kate, when you write a book, are you conscious of writing for young readers?

Ms. FEIFFER: Yes, I relate to kids very much on their level, I think, and when I'm writing, I'm right there with them. I'm trying to find a voice that they will connect with, a voice that I connect with, and a voice that I feel is authentic.

SIMON: I asked what it was like for a writer and illustrator to work together. What about a father and daughter?

Mr. FEIFFER: Hell.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FEIFFER: It would be fine if he had stayed in a nice warm apartment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FEIFFER: It's different, it's entirely different. When I work with an illustrator who I'm not related to, I don't see the work until it's pretty much finished. With him I see it when he does the illustration…

Mr. FEIFFER: (Unintelligible)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FEIFFER: You know, I go over there, I see it every day. That way I can check on him also, that's my excuse. And so it's entirely a different process. You get to see the book evolve and emerge and come to life.

Mr. FEIFFER: 'Cause Kate's writing, both in this book and the earlier one I did, "Henry, the Dog With No Tail", each of these books have a voice and a humor that is so akin to my inner ear that it's just a trip and a half to figure out ways of illustrating it. I mean it's - it's not work, it's just endless fun, and I can't imagine ever having more fun than I had on this book. I think it's the best job of illustration I've done. And I had a ball, although I was freezing cold the whole time.

SIMON: Is there a special sensation because you're her father? I mean do you recognize traits of your own influence or at least think you do?

Mr. FEIFFER: Every word.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FEIFFER: No, because I, it's not at all the way I would write. I mean she goes in for puns that I admire enormously but I wouldn't dare do them. In her book "Henry, the Dog With No Tail," Henry has a tail pasted on him which won't work until walking around he goes to Battery Park, which is full of batteries. And he attaches a battery from Battery Park and it works. Now, who would dream of Battery Park being full of batteries? It's just insane and hilarious.

SIMON: Kate, I don't to want to give away the, the ending of this book, "Which Puppy?" But to me the message seems to be everybody has a role to play.

Ms. FEIFFER: I really wanted in this book to reflect the spirit of inclusion that we saw in the Obama campaign. And without giving away the ending, I hope the end of the book does reflect that spirit.

Mr. FEIFFER: And I must say that her hirsute father, who's a political cartoonist, didn't get this point at all until after I finished the book and looked at it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FEIFFER: Fathers are always last. Well, Feiffers, thanks very much for being with us.

Ms. FEIFFER: Thank you, Scott.

Mr. FEIFFER: Scott, it was a great pleasure.

SIMON: Kate and Jules Feiffer, their new book, ostensibly for children, is "Which Puppy?"

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