John Himmelman's Stories' Stories
A Guest is a Guest
by John Himmelman
Dutton Books For Young Readers
The animals on the farm have moved into the home of the farmer family, the Beanbuckets. "A guest is a guest, and we must show them our best," is Farmer Beanbuckets oft-repeated refrain. Until it gets out of hand; then it's "When enough is enough, you have to get tough." Then the animals kick them out.
I was living on what was once a pig farm, which may have had something to do with the inspiration. We also had a bunch of dogs, cats, chickens, and ducks, which must have added some fuel. What I know for a fact, though, is that at some point the picture after the following one below popped into my head and I needed to write a story around it.
For Mom and Dad Shanahan
There are definitely some early shades of my "to the rescue" series that would come later with Holt Publishers. However, unlike the more recent books in which the farm animals are very helpful to the farmer family, the ones in this story are a huge pain, and quite inconsiderate.
It is in this book I begin to crowd scenes with characters attempting to steal your attention (although I did do this in some of the Buzby diningroom scenes), hoping to give the reader a reason to search the illustrations for various actions and characteristics. I do this more and more in books to come.
THIS is the picture that I wrote the story around. Having the human standing in line for the bathroom with a bunch of farm animals was just something I wanted to paint! From there, it was, "How do I get
to this point?"
That's often how it goes - a single scene - a single image - becomes the destination (for the author or illustrator) in the story, even if more important things are taking
place for the reader.
And they're out'ta there! The family eventually gets the animals out of the house by doing things the animals like to do when they're outside. They grow curious, and some, a little jealous, and move back out.
But the farmer family still love their animals. They're in the barn because that's where the TV was moved to get the horses and cows to follow. I guess today they'd all be on their cell phones.