A Children’s Author & Illustrator Who Makes Us Laugh…And Want to Eat Cupcakes

by Shannon Hembree on March 28, 2012

Here comes Peter Cottontail hoppin’ down the bunny trail. Hippity, hoppin,’ Easter’s on its way.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Sweet and cuddly little toy bunnies are everywhere. Stories of happy and helpful bunnies abound. But what about our friend Little Bunny Foo Foo? Was she left out of this cultural bunny phenomenon simply because she committed a few minor infractions like scooping up the field mice and bopping them on the head?

As our tagline states, we here at Mamas Against Drama are not out to judge. We don’t judge you for your parenting…eccentricities…and we won’t judge a little bunny with the alias of Foo Foo simply because she may have bopped a mouse or two on the head. We will even go out on a limb and say that if you came across a stray mouse, you may have taken similar – if not more aggressive – action. Again, we won’t judge.

Cori Doerrfeld is an author and illustrator whose latest book is called Little Bunny Foo Foo The Real Story. We won’t spill the jellybeans by telling you how the story unfolds. Suffice it to say that Cori is a bit of a twisted chick – or is that Peep given the time of year? Whatever the case, we definitely like her.

Here is an excerpt from the Little Bunny Foo Foo The Real Story book jacket so you have enough background to love Cori like we do.

“Poor Little Bunny Foo Foo is so misunderstood. You see, all she wanted to do was bake (and eat!) her cupcakes in peace, but those sneaky mice just kept stealing them away. Wouldn’t you want to bop them on the head too?”

Our favorite quote from the book jacket, however, has to be this: “No mice were harmed during the production of this book.”

Again, fabulous in a too-twisted-for-words kind of way. When the opportunity arose for us to interview Cori, we jumped at the chance. We were dying to ask her a million questions. Luckily for all involved, we have narrowed that number down to a handful. So here goes…

First, we asked Cori where she got the idea for this particular book. Here is her answer:  “Cupcakes! Don’t all great ideas start with something baked and gooey?” Um…yes, Cori, we think that they do. Cori did, of course, add this: “The idea behind Little Bunny Foo Foo The Real Story goes way back to when I worked as a toddler teacher at a daycare. I, along with a few other brave souls, was once in charge of around twenty two year olds for most of the day. Hence, we knew and sung every children’s song known to man. One of my coworkers loved to sing ‘Little Bunny Foo Foo,’ but for some reason she chose to turn the bunny into a monster instead of the traditional goon. The song is really quite bizarre to begin with, but I will never forget how those toddlers squealed with terrified delight at the thought of that bunny becoming a monster.”

Cori’s journey from having a concept in mind to having an actual published work is also full of twists and turns. She likens the first version of her book, which was printed out on her computer, to something more akin to Tom & Jerry. She brought this version to a comic convention she was attending with her husband who is a comic artist, and voila, she caught the eye of a publisher. Okay, not voila as in ‘end of story.’ Voila as in ‘can you edit it?’ Cori was asked if the mallet Little Bunny Foo Foo was bopping the mice on the head with (hence the Tom & Jerry reference) could be “something softer like an oven mitt.”

According to Cori, “I remember thinking okay….but why would the bunny have an oven mitt? Well, I use an oven mitt when I bake, I love to bake cupcakes, I sure hate it when people eat them before I get to have one…(I’m sure a lot of moms can relate to goodies disappearing in the house before we get our fair share)…so here was Foo’s motive. She just wanted to enjoy one of the cupcakes she spent all morning baking, frosting, and decorating. Is that really too much to ask?”

Cori goes on to say that the book is also about control, and more specifically, about losing and regaining it. “I think kids are constantly teetering between a place of having control and feeling utterly powerless. I know as a mom I feel the same way. There are days when I certainly feel like a frustrated rabbit (a mom) chasing after a bunch of sneaky mice (energized children) and some perfect know it all Good Fairy (other moms, grandmas, adults) keeps judging me. Throw a lack of comfort food into that situation, and of course you’re going to have one ticked off mom, I mean Bunny Foo Foo.”

Given that those of us at Mamas Against Drama are…mamas…and writers (we like to think so anyway), we were desperate to find out how Cori cares for her almost-four-year-old daughter and infant son and still finds time to write and illustrate. “There are times when I feel I excel at both,” says Cori, “and times I feel like an utter failure!” To strike a balance, Cori said that she and her husband came up with a system where they “essentially swap who takes over bedtime, and then we each get a day on the weekend to work. Being ‘Mom,’ however, means that my time to work gets interrupted far more often than my husband’s by a moody little girl, or a baby who just wants to nurse for another hour or so…but we do our best. Being exhausted is just part of the game, but I love my kids, and I love creating…so I do my best to make time for both.”

We couldn’t let this opportunity pass without asking Cori what advice she would give to parents who want to get into writing for children. “Spend time really playing with your kids,” Cori told us. “I mean you get on the floor once in a while and actually put some effort into the role your daughter has assigned you in ’Ponies at the Beach;’ or you sit in that tiny plastic chair and roll out some play-doh snakes taking the time to give them eyes and even a minuscule forked tongue. Kids are a well of infinite ideas from what they say, to what they do. BUT, even more importantly, if you can somehow tap into the part of your brain that remembers being a kid…all your best stories are waiting inside.”

Cori may think our best stories are waiting inside, but our fear is that they are not waiting inside, but instead trapped inside…so deep inside that they may never come out. To distract ourselves from this troubling thought, we switched gears and asked Cori about parenthood. More specifically, we asked her if there was anything about parenthood that she had encountered that she hadn’t expected. Cori’s reply was, “the guilt.” She talked about the many years she worked in daycares and as a nanny and explained it this way: “Those children got the best of me, literally. They got the best of my energy, my creativity, my ability to use distraction to deter bad behavior with success! Now that I have my own kids, I feel guilty that I cannot give them the attention I gave those other children. I feel frustrated that my patience is a sliver of what it once was, and that my own daughter will think little of throwing a tantrum at a moment’s notice over a dirty purple skirt or missing her turn to ride the swing at the park. It must be my fault. She somehow knows that I secretly daydream of escaping to a nearby coffee shop or wine bar…something I never did as a nanny. But then I take the time to talk to another mom and I realize, it’s not my fault. The title ‘Mom’ is an entirely different genre than ‘Teacher’ or ‘Nanny.’ And although it is stressful, and luxuries like sleep are limited…there are those moments. For me, it is the piles of marker masterpieces my daughter has drawn just for me, or the fleeting, dreamy half-smile of my dozing baby boy that make ‘Mama’ the best job title in the world.”

When asked if she had anything she wanted to add, Cori closed with this, “It is so important that we mamas support one another. I know becoming a mom for me was quite isolating at first. I was one of the first in my group of friends to make the leap into parenthood, and I suddenly found myself with few to relate to. Since then, I have formed several friendships with other moms, and even a stay at home dad. They are my sanity, my humor, my confidants.”

We couldn’t let Cori off the hook without asking her what kind of cupcakes are her favorite. She says that it’s a “toss-up between a vanilla cake/lemon frosting combo and the truly evil red velvet cupcake.”  According to Cori, “There are few things in life better than cream cheese frosting.” She also adds, “Man I wish I had a cupcake right now!”

And now that you mention it, Cori…we do, too!

Cori has always loved stories: telling them, writing them, and most of all, drawing them. One of her greatest passions has been the art of animation and most of her illustrations reflect this inspiration. Cori received a B.A. in studio art from St. Olaf College, as well as her Post Baccalaureate in illustration from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She has illustrated Welcome to Your World, Baby! and It’s the Best Day Ever, Dad!, both by actress Brooke Shields (Harper Collins), as well as both Seashore Baby and Snowflake Baby by Elise Broach (Little, Brown). Cori currently has two self-authored titles, Penny Loves Pink (Little, Brown) and Little Bunny Foo Foo The Real Story (Dial). Cori lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is married to comic book artist Tyler Page, and together they have two storytellers in the making – their daughter, Charli, and their son, Leo. Cori is currently represented by Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency

You can learn more about Cori by visiting her website and her Facebook page. You can also read her blog and follow her on Twitter.  

{ 5 comments }

MRH March 29, 2012 at 10:26 am

This was great – I feel like I need to go out now and get this book and a GIANT box of cupcakes!

Jen Griffin March 29, 2012 at 9:21 pm

What a great interview! I am always looking for new authors and books to try out with the kids, this one sounds right up our alley. Just in time to add to an Easter basket.

Shannon March 30, 2012 at 7:40 am

Jen – just make sure to do an Easter basket for yourself…filled with cupcakes ;)

Heather Ayris Burnell April 2, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Great interview. Makes me both happy and sad that I have made it though that stage where my kids were so young and I lived on little sleep. I know there were days when I wondered how I was ever going to make it through. Cupcakes definitely help!

Shannon April 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Thanks! No cupcakes here today, but we did get an amazing delivery of Easter cookies in the mail!

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