The Story Behind the Story
The following originally appeared as part of an interview by Cynthia Leitich Smith on her website:

What was your initial inspiration for creating this book?
From the time I was five years old—and newly arrived in a very crowded Dearborn, Michigan neighborhood, mobbed with kids of all ages—my best friend was Mickey, the boy who lived next door to me. We spent hours together as kids, playing alone and with the gang. Our favorite way to spend time, though, was to dig to China. We each had a big spoon and, to my father’s credit, he let us dig huge holes under the elm tree in my backyard. We dreamed big dreams as we dug—and worried about the one problem we didn’t have a solution for. How, we wondered, would we make ourselves understood to the people we’d encounter as we surfaced on the Asian continent? After all, they didn’t speak English, and we didn’t speak Chinese! I like to tell kids, when I visit schools, that it points out how sorely lacking was our science education. We never once worried about getting through the earth’s core, but that language barrier was always on our minds.
Fast forward. Mickey (Mike) and I both grew up, but we remained friends. In fact, we added a new level to our relationship when I married his big brother, Ken! Mike left Detroit for Arizona a few years before Ken and I left Detroit for Maine. But the geographic distance didn’t put any distance between Mike and me as friends. We’ve remained close over the years.
When my son, Christopher, now 20, graduated from high school in June 2000, Mike and his wife Pat came out to Maine for Chris’ graduation, along with our cousins Justine and Carlos Pena. After the ceremonies, we took a family trip up the coast of Maine to Phippsburg and stayed at the Rock Gardens Inn, owned by our friend Ona Barnet. It was there that DAWDLE DUCKLING was conceived.
On our first morning there, Mike came charging into our oceanside cottage to relate something he’d just seen. It seemed that a mama duck and her little ducklings had gone swimming by in the cove, all of the little ducklings following Mama in a straight line…all except the littlest one on the end, who was zigzagging back and forth, paying no heed to the movement of the line. Suddenly, Mike said, something scared the mother, who sent out an alarm to her babies. All of the ducklings hopped up on her back, even the littlest dawdler!
“Wow!” I said to Mike. “That’s a children’s book.” And indeed, it was!
What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?
I began to write the story immediately, reaching for a pen and a pad of paper in the very next moment. I spent our four days of the trip writing and re-writing several drafts of the text and reading them aloud to family members to solicit opinions. I’m sure that they grew tired of my obsession with the story, but no one complained. Upon my return home, I shared the story with my critique partners. Jennifer Jacobson, Jane Kurtz, and Franny Billingsley were especially helpful in my ongoing need to refine the structure, verse, rhythm, and word choice. Over the next three months, I altered the text on a very fluid revision path, one draft blending into the next.
When I first met my agent in October 2002, this is one of the pieces I submitted to him, and it was one of the first manuscripts he sent out for me—to my editor, Lauri Hornik at Dial Books for Young Readers. She bought it just about a month after it was submitted. Lauri chose the wonderful California illustrator, Margaret Spengler, to bring the story to life, visually. Her charming and lively pastel art is the perfect complement for the text!

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Dawdle Duckling
by Toni Buzzeo
illustrated by Margaret Spengler 
Dial Books for Young Readers 
ISBN: 978-0803727311
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