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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Corey R. Tabor, SIMON AND THE BETTER BONE

One day, down by the pond, Simon meets another dog just like him. And that dog has a bone just like his, only better! How will Simon ever get him to trade, when the other pup knows all the same tricks…?

Max's Boat Pick:


By Corey R. Tabor

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (May 9, 2023)

Hi Corey! Thanks so much for stopping by again. Can you share how Simon and the Better Bone came about? How did you choose Aesop's "The Dog and His Reflection" for your retelling? CT: "I ended up doing a retelling kind of by accident. I was walking around Green Lake in Seattle (which is one of my favorite places and actually where I would get the idea for my book Mel Fell a year or two later), and I was watching the swallows flying over the lake. When swallows are hunting they dive and skim along the water, catching bugs on the surface. The water was really smooth, which made it look like the birds were playing tag with their own reflections.

Sketch of birds by Corey R. Tabor:

Around that time I had been reading several books that experimented and played with the picture book form. Two of my favorites were The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee and Shadow by Suzy Lee.

As I watched the swallows I was thinking about those books and got the idea of doing a vertical book where the book’s gutter would be the dividing line between the sky and the water—about a swallow who befriends her own reflection.

I worked on it off and on for a couple of years but just couldn’t get the story to click. Then I remembered Aesop’s "The Dog and His Reflection" (a story I remember my mom reading to me as a kid) which I realized would fit perfectly with my reflection idea. So I decided to do a retelling of Aesop’s fable and, just like that, my swallow became a dog."

Early sketch from Simon and the Better Bone:

How wonderful that Green Lake inspired TWO of your books! I'm also amazed that you came up with the idea for Simon and the Better Bone BEFORE Mel Fell. I suppose that each book has its own way of coming together—in its own time. Are there any more retellings in the works? "I don’t have any other retellings in the works, but it was a fun and interesting way to write a picture book, and if the right idea comes along I could definitely see doing another one."

What are you most enjoying reading with your son these days? "We’ve been reading (and rereading and rereading) Search for a Giant Squid by Amy Seto Forrester and Andy Chou Musser. It’s a fantastic, beautifully illustrated, nonfiction choose-your-own-adventure picture book. We’ve read it so many times that I’m pretty sure we’ve done every possible storyline and found every ending."

What's next for you? "I’m just finishing up work on my next picture book, Ursula Upside Down, which is a format-flipping picture book about an upside-down catfish. And I’ve also got a new Fox I Can Read book called Fox Has a Problem coming out soon."


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