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by Mike Allegra

Eeyore inspired me.

To be clear, the Eeyore that inspired me was not the iconic, morose burro of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books. I was inspired by an Eeyore stuffed animal.

My wife, Ellen, had bought the little guy in a Disney Store and he was cute as a button. He was dressed for Christmas in green flannel jammies and held a plate of cookies. Also, he had a Christmas stocking dangling from his mouth.

The genesis of my inspiration began with that stocking. The folks at Disney clearly meant the stocking to represent Eeyore’s humble request for presents, but I preferred to think of it as Eeyore’s weapon. I don’t know why I felt this way, but I did. As far as I was concerned, the stocking dangling from that burro’s maw made him look a little tougher than a typical Eeyore. This Eeyore, I decided, was a take charge kinda guy. This Eeyore, I also decided, wouldn’t tolerate it if my wife overslept her alarm. No way, no how!

“Get up! Get up! Get up!” Stuffed Eeyore scolded as he whapped Ellen on the head with his teensy, mighty stocking. “Or next time I’m gonna hit’cha with a sock full of nickels!”

Ellen (once she was fully awake) found this amusing.

With that whapping, aggressive sock, I had sorta kinda created a new Eeyore. I liked this new Eeyore. I liked him a lot.

A new Eeyore needed a new voice, so I came up with something faster and higher pitched and more malleable than the cartoon. My Eeyore was more childlike, more cantankerous, and slightly mush-mouthed with his “r” sounds. It was a fun voice to use and, from that point on, I used it often.

Eeyore soon became part of a silly nightly ritual. In the moments before Ellen and I would drift to sleep, I (as Eeyore) and Ellen (as Ellen) would chat a bit. Ellen would ask Eeyore questions about his life. And I’d reply with whatever foolishness popped into my brain. In one of these nocturnal Q&A sessions Eeyore declared himself to be a Bed Guardian, whose job was to protect our bed against “Pirates, Ruffians, Scalawags, Nogoodniks, and Counterfeiters.”

“Counterfeiters?” Ellen asked through a yawn.

“Yup,” the burrow nodded. “Counterfeiters are people who sneak into our kitchen and have fits on the counters!”

“Ah,” Ellen replied.

“And then I whack ‘em with my sock full of nickles!”

The ritual continued. Week after week and month after month, Eeyore’s personality and backstory grew. He would start a feud with the yellow stuffed bunny that we put out for Easter. He would develop verbal ticks, saying things like “What the hey, now?” He became a hoarder of Ellen’s hair clips and would decorate his floppy ears with dozens of them. He also developed a habit of telling dubious stories about his childhood in Parsippany (pronounced “Parsnippity”) and how he designed and built the Garden State Parkway’s Driscoll Bridge.

Little did I know that the silliness I spouted would serve as the foundation for a picture book, but it did. Ellen and I had created a pretty cool character—a cuddly, curmudgeonly defender of beds with a sock-whipping violent streak, and a propensity for telling tall tales. How could I not write a story about this guy?

My picture book manuscript, The Bed Guardian, wasn’t easy to write, but it was a joy nonetheless. The Bed Guardian of the story wasn’t all that similar to Stuffed Eeyore (the book’s Bed Guardian had a far mellower personality and was a lion instead of a burro), but the story would never have existed had I not been willing to stay up a few extra minutes each night to be a little silly.

I didn’t find a publisher for The Bed Guardian, but The Bed Guardian got me an agent. That agent went on to sell 16 of my other manuscripts, including the forthcoming picture book SLEEPY HAPPY CAPY CUDDLES (Page Street, September 2022)—another book that benefitted from unleashing a little silliness whenever the mood struck.

So if you need inspiration in these final days of Storystorm, I suggest you give yourself permission to get silly whenever you can. I’m living proof that it works. After all, I owe my writing career to acting—literally and figuratively—like a jackass.

Mike Allegra is the author of the picture books SLEEPY HAPPPY CAPY CUDDLES (Page Street, 2022), SCAMPERS THINKS LIKE A SCIENTIST (Dawn, 2019), EVERYBODY’S FAVORITE BOOK (Macmillan, 2018), and SARAH GIVES THANKS (Albert Whitman and Company, 2012). He wrote the chapter book series KIMMIE TUTTLE (Abdo Books, 2021) and PRINCES NOT-SO CHARMING (Macmillan, 2018-19; pen name: Roy L. Hinuss). SCAMPERS was the winner of Learning Magazine’s 2020 Teacher’s Choice Award and was selected for inclusion in the Literati Kids subscription box. His most recent picture book, PIRATE AND PENGUIN, was recently sold to Page Street and is scheduled for a late 2023 release. Visit Mike at mikeallegra.com. He’s friendly!

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Coming soon:


TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 26, 2022

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