By Jessie Levine
Special to the Palisades News
Perhaps living inside of a storybook setting like picturesque Pacific Palisades can spur creativity. Such could be the case for 26-year resident Betsy Rosenthal, who is about to publish her sixth children’s novel, Porcupine’s Picnic: Who Eats What?
Asked about the inspiration for her latest book, Rosenthal attributes the zoological theme to a lifelong love of animals and a childhood collection of animal figurines. “It was a natural progression,” she notes, from being an animal lover to writing a book about animals for children.
Having children of her own was the original inspiration for writing children’s books. When her children were very young, Rosenthal remembers reading to them and thinking, “Gosh, I could write a children’s book.”
She found that it is not as easy and whimsical to write children’s books as it may seem. While the sentences may seem short and sweet and the themes simple enough, that style of writing requires a certain balance and rhythm. With less words to convey important themes about life and learning, an author must choose his or her words very carefully.
“It’s challenging writing for picture books,” Rosenthal says. “You have a limited amount of words with which to entertain, and you don’t want to write down to children or be too didactic—you have to strike a balance.”
In Porcupine’s Picnic, which will be released on Feb. 1, as well as in its award-winning predecessor, An Ambush of Tigers, animal characters are employed to educate children about basic scientific principles.
Whether it’s the names for different groupings of animals or a breakdown of which animals eat what and why, children are in for a colorful, poetic and educational journey with many of their favorite animals in Picnic.
Rosenthal’s range as a writer is evidenced by her children’s books, ghost-written novels and memoirs for adults, and personal essays published in the L.A. Times and Mothering Magazine.
The former lawyer remarks that “creative writing is a welcome departure from legal writing,” and the flexibility afforded her is also are spite from a schedule in the legal profession. Now that her youngest child is out of the nest, Rosenthal has more time for writing. Next on her to-do list is another educational children’s book, this one about how animals move from point A to point B.
Discussing her expectations for Porcupine’s Picnic, Rosenthal emphasizes her hope that parents will continue to carve out time to read to their children, from actual, physical books, and not iPad or Kindle screens.
She’s also concerned that modern technology is “taking away people’s time and desire to read books.” This general loss of interest in reading books on a societal level is evidenced by the decline of independent book stores, a disheartening trend.
A book-launch party for Porcupine’s Picnic will be held at 2 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the independently-owned Children’s Book World (at 10580 W. Pico Blvd, near the Westside Pavilion).
Rosenthal and her husband, David, have three adult children: Adam, Sara and Joel.