Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: Guest Post with Seth Fishman

Recently, I listed my #mocksibert selections and placed A Hundred Billion Trillion on the list. This week, I am fortunate to have Seth Fishman stop by and share some thoughts about this book. Thanks Seth for stopping by and sharing your inspiration for the book. 

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A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars
by Seth Fishman; Illustrated by Isabel Greenberg
Greenwillow Books (October 3, 2017) 

Before my son, Weston, was born, I took a plumbing class. At the time, I wasn’t sure if taking the class constituted a pre-parenthood freak-out, but I certainly had him in mind when I signed up.

My own dad, well, I can’t even remember what specific talents he had or taught me, aside from loving to read and an expectation of higher education. I don’t mean that disparagingly, I loved my father, but he wasn’t athletic, didn’t know how to fish, camp, ski, build toy airplanes, play computer games, fix cars, garden, play music, woodwork, sing, paint, cook or fix the plumbing.

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When my wife became pregnant, I realized with growing terror that I, too, knew nothing. I admit that I partially blamed my dad.  I have friends who knew from a young age how to diagnose a problem with the family car. Friends who are familiar with classical music.  Friends who grew up water skiing and know how to use and maintain a boat. If only my dad cared about any of these things, made them family traditions, taught them to me.

This empty reservoir of abilities (and, potentially, talent) had me casting about for something I could learn, and fast.  Plumbing seemed within reach.  I took a course, I learned how easy (or at least, manageable) fixing things around the house could be. I felt more confident as a stereotypical father figure. I signed up for a wiring class soon after, and learned just how close deadly levels of electricity are in any given building or house. I changed the broken blinker light in our car, by myself.

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And then Wes was born. I knew nothing about raising a kid. But that was OK. My wife and I figured it out together. And one day, as his warbles turned slowly into words, I realized I wanted to be able to give him every answer to any question he asked. I realized that my dad knew lots of stuff.  That he could satisfy my curiosity with explanations and stories. I realized that I was a writer because of him.

I remember, without hyperbole, looking up into the sky one night and wondering how I’d answer a hypothetical question my son might present to me. He’d ask, how many stars are in the sky? And me, trying to know everything, discovered that beautiful number: a hundred billion trillion. 

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My picture book was born from its title, but grew out of a need to answer my child’s hypothetical questions about the world all around us.  And after giving him the biggest numbers that I could imagine, after showing him the world broken down into ants and bunnies and raindrops by the trillions, I wanted to make sure he realized that he was more than just another number. He was himself, special, his own pool of knowledge and talent and knowhow. Someday he’ll teach his own child everything he can. And that will be enough. 

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About the author
Seth Fishman can hold his breath for 163 seconds and likes to blink about 15,000 times a day. He has also written 2 books for teenagers and has two more picture books coming out soon. He lives with his family in Los Angeles, California and works at The Gernert Company, a literary agency based in New York City. He represents a wide-range of clientele, from adult literary to webcomics to picture books. You can find Seth Fishman at www.sethasfishman.com or on twitter: @sethasfishman

Look for a copy of A Hundred Billion Trillion at your local indie bookstore or public library.

Artwork by Sarah S. Brannen ©2017

Artwork by Sarah S. Brannen ©2017

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