Imagination at Work
Susan Hood brings children to a place where reality meets fantasy
photograph by Hugh Smith
“Tooth fairy? What’s a tooth fairy?” When Susan Hood was quizzing a little Parisian girl about what happens when she loses a tooth; the little girl’s answer surprised and inspired the author. In France (and lots of other countries too) kids with freshly gap-toothed grins are paid a call by the enterprising tooth mouse.
“Who knew?” says Susan, a Greenwich native and longtime Southport resident who is currently on a literary roll thanks to her knack for fictionalizing “those things that surprise me.”
Already the author of more than 200 titles, including baby board books and early readers, this summer Susan released three critically-praised children’s picture books—her first in that genre. There’s The Tooth Mouse (about that fairy-like rodent); the Halloween-themed Just Say Boo! and Spike, the Mixed-Up Monster—a fantastical account of a critically endangered Mexican axolotl.
Susan imagined Spike’s story—which includes a smattering of Spanish words for an authentic accent—after learning about the strangely adorable biological wonder. Axolotls can regenerate limbs and live on the biological edge in just one lake in the world. “If I’m surprised and excited about something, I think the kids will be too,” the Greenwich Academy alumna explains.
This “Who knew?” approach is working wonders for Susan, a former content director at Nick Jr. magazine, who was a children’s book editor before she attempted illustrated storybooks. Her new books were paired with drawings by the talented Janice Nadeau, Jed Henry and Melissa Sweet. “I was a little intimidated by it because I know how hard [illustrated storybooks] are to get published. It’s a tough genre for editors who have to read the manuscript and then imagine it illustrated.”
Her risk was rewarded when three publishers got in a bidding war over Spike’s manuscript. “I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a dream come true.”
Expect more Susan Hood titles soon. Although her two daughters are now adults, Susan constantly imagines new tales by keeping close tabs on the elementary set. It helps that her husband, Paul, teaches French at Wilton’s Cider Mill School and she’s the daughter-in-law of Dr. Bill Kueffner, a retired Fairfield pediatrician. “I have a lot of little kids on my block too. I read them all my books and they give me great and honest feedback,” she says. “But I think the real key is I just pay attention. There are stories all around us if we just take the time to stop, listen and observe.”
For more about Susan Hood visit her website