28 February 2011

Making a Splash in Washington

Earlier this month on the New York Times oped page, Colin H. P. Buckley reveals how politics, a children’s picture book, and compassion mixed as he served an internship in the office of the ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy:

The senator, she explained, had recently written a children’s book called “My Senator and Me.” The book depicts a day in his life from [his dog] Splash’s perspective. Someone — I’m not sure who — suggested including an e-mail address where curious young readers could reach the supposedly computer-savvy Splash.

That’s where I came in. Someone had to reply to Splash’s e-mails, in his voice, lest the children think the dog had let the thrill of being a published author and Washington power broker go to his head. . . .

But beyond Splash’s indiscriminate eating habits and love of tennis balls, he was little more than a furry mystery to me. What would he say in response to the hundreds of e-mails that came to him from children across the country? School simply hadn’t prepared me for this.

Most of his messages went something like this:
Dear Splash,

My teacher read us your book. You are so cute! Can you come over and play with my dog? What kind of dog food do you like? My mom says your senator is a great man. I hope he feels better.
After checking with the senator’s assistants on Splash’s preferred dog food brand, and then reading the book myself to better prepare for my role, I answered every single e-mail, ending each reply with the mandatory “WOOF WOOF!! Splash.”
(My Senator and Me is a “celebrity picture book,” a species unloved by children’s-lit critics and bloggers. It came out in 2006, with illustrations by David Small. According to a reader comment at the Fuse, Small was already working on his graphic memoir Stitches, though he didn’t start final artwork till mid-2008. My Senator and Me, and its celebrity-level royalties, probably helped Small carry out the much larger project of developing and completing Stitches, which will probably now have a longer life in print.)

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