by Brandi Dougherty

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of being little. I am a little sister (my sister is five years older than me). Now that we’re adults and friends that difference is pretty much nonexistent, but when we were young, five years was the Grand Canyon. All I wanted to do was spend time with my big sister, doing the things that she got to do. And all she wanted to do was… anything else. I even wrote a story about it in second grade called “It’s Not Fair!”

That’s where I got the idea for my first picture book The Littlest Pilgrim. Well, truth be told, the title actually popped into my head during a meeting and I thought it was cute and wanted to write a story around it. But it didn’t take long for me to circle back to my memories about being little. So, I wrote a story about Mini who is the littlest pilgrim in her village and she just wants to help. Everyone tells her she’s too little for all the grown-up chores and duties, so she strikes out on her own and finds something she isn’t too little for: making a friend.

After The Littlest Pilgrim came out and hit the New York Times Best Seller list (you still have to pinch me about that one!), I was thrilled to be able to write another “littlest” book. As I started thinking about holiday themes, a picture of me in my first grade Christmas play popped into my mind.

I was one of the stars in the night sky (the yellow star in the green skirt, to be exact) leading Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. I had one line to recite in the play. And I was a very shy kid, so it was kind of terrifying to stand on that big, bright stage and speak my one line. I loved the idea of turning that around and writing about Max (the littlest kid in his class, of course). Max wants nothing more than to be the star of his school Christmas play and have a million lines to recite, but he ends up being the actual star with only one line.

So, as you can see I like to take memories of my own experiences from childhood and turn them slightly to the right or to the left – adjusting the lens a little bit and discovering a different character or story hidden there.

Now it’s your turn. Peruse a class picture from elementary school, dig through that box of handprint turkeys and leaf collages, or just reach back in your mind and find a childhood memory that you can turn to the right or to the left. Who or what is hidden there?

In addition to her two picture books, Brandi Dougherty is the author of three middle grade novels: Miss Fortune (Scholastic, 2010), The Friendship Experiment (Scholastic, 2009), and The Valentine’s Day Disaster (Scholastic, 2008). She worked in publishing in New York for eight years and now resides in San Francisco where she is mom to an adorable and rather spoiled dog. Visit her at