John Green, dad to now-three-year-old Henry and future dad to Eleanor-or-Alice, is moving into the sort of books his own kids can understand this decade. Dutton just announced a three-picture-book deal with Green and Jon Klassen, who will illustrate the (purportedly hat-free) trio. The first book, due out in Spring 2014, will star a puppy-sized elephant who frets whenever his mother, a potbellied pig-sized elephant, leaves the room. Green says the idea came to him during a game of peek-a-boo with Henry. “I realized that the first step to imagining people complexly is to understand object permanence,” he explains.
Green hints that the picture book will contain a few nods to Nerdfighter parents. “I can neither confirm nor deny that the puppy-sized protagonist will shout ‘French the Llama’ when his mom comes back,” he says. “This is first and foremost a picture book for young children, though. If there’s one thing I can promise, it’s no one will use French as a verb.”
It’s so easy for celebrities outside of the picture book world (and yes, Green’s writing is very much outside the picture book world) to write one as a novelty, but I don’t think that’s what this will be. It seems like he respects picture books and understands that they take more than five minutes and a vague sense that childhood is charming. Green has a long track record of taking on widely varied projects and approaching them thoughtfully, and I trust him to do the same with this.