EVERY SEASON there are new names in the publisher's catalogues, the names of first?time authors and illustrators. People wonder who these newcomers are; cynics and critics wonder if they have what it takes to stay in the business. Jo Ellen Bogart, author of last spring's Dylan's Lullaby (Annick) and this season's Malcolm's Runaway Soap, has four more children's titles awaiting publication. Obviously, someone likes what she's writing.
Born in Houston, Texas, Bogart has degrees in elementary education and psychology from the University of Texas, where she met her husband, Jim, a Canadian zoologist. Before their children were born, the Bogarts travelled through Central America to Peru to study exotic amphibian fauna. Bogart has taught school and is currently a supply teacher in Guelph, Ontario. In her earlier writing for Owl and Chickadee magazines the subject was usually animals, which Bogart confesses is her favourite topic. Her four forthcoming titles, all picture books, will present more animal characters.
Bogart is refining Sarah Saw A Blue Macaw for publication by Scholastic in 1989. "I'm including animals from a specific Amazonian area, and I have to be very careful that I have my information straight. Some animals are only active in the daytime, some in the night; I have to be sure they're doing the right things at the right time," says Bogart. "Sometimes an idea will jump on you while you're in the middle of another project. That's what happened in my Ten For Dinner. The story of 10 baby opossums at dinner gives all sorts of mathematical permutations of what they will do or want."
Not an "everyday writer" is how Bogart describes herself. "I'll think about an idea for two or three months and maybe write the book in one day. Sometimes it will be two months before I rewrite; most of the time the text is close to the way it was when I first wrote it." Ideas for her many projects sometimes come from "some little comment from a child." At other times Bogart is inspired by some little problem of her own. Malcolm's Runaway Soap stemmed from her own squishy soap sticking to the bottom of the bathtub. The story of Sarah and her blue macaw began when Bogart did some volunteer work with children who had minor speech problems. "I worked with them on grammar and rhyming and ended up with Sarah." Life experiences have also given this newcomer to writing for children the subjects for the other two titles forthcoming from Groundwood and Scholastic. And there seems to be no end to Bogart's enthusiasm and ideas: "There may be a novel in my future, though not now. Eventually I'd like to write a book of poems ?? I like every genre of children's literature." With six children's titles in two years, and who knows how many ideas brewing, the permutations of Bogart's possible output are astounding.?.