Who is Miss Bindergarten, and why is she a dog?
I first met Miss Bindergarten on Halloween day, 1993.
She was introduced to me in a letter from the author, Joseph Slate. He wrote:
“Originally, I thought it was enough for children to see that Miss Bindergarten was just as ordinary as they; there is nothing mysterious or fearful about being a teacher. Last week I had a breakthrough. Why not make her as awkward and nervous as the children themselves? It would be more amusing, and they would feel a bit superior and far more willing to attend school with a not-so-perfect woman who keeps a cat and rescues a hamster.”
Clearly, Joseph Slate did not (yet) envision Miss Bindergarten as a dog!
But as I read and reread his enclosed manuscript, I began to see my border collie, Pumpkin, in the role of Miss Bindergarten, with a classroom full of alphabetical, animal students. After surprisingly few adjustments to the manuscript, made jointly by Joseph, Donna Brooks, our editor at E.P. Dutton, and myself, Miss Bindergarten became a dog! Pumpkin is a Border Collie.
Border Collies make perfect teachers: they are extremely intelligent, skilled at herding and willing to work like dogs!
Pumpkin had a long career as a model in my artwork. Long before I began illustrating books, Pumpkin became my “alter ego” character. Everything I experienced, she did too, only she made it look a lot more fun.
Before she became a teacher, Pumpkin was already a star:
She made her debut, carved in linoleum, in my first book, A Year of Birds. I’ve tried to include her, like a lucky talisman, in every book since. There are a few where Pumpkin just didn’t fit in, and several where she has only a cameo role.
She had her first starring role in A Garden Alphabet, by Isabel Wilner. Again, the character was originally meant to be human, but Pumpkin insisted that if the gardener’s best friend was going to be a frog, only she was right for the part of the gardener.
Pumpkin turned back the clock and became a puppy again in Come With Me. I based this on a walk in Vermont I took with Pumpkin when she was still a pup. This time, the setting is changed to the beautiful Mendocino Coast of California. My then-toddler son, Brennan, grew to a seven year old boy to take this imaginary journey of wonder and discovery. PS, Look for her in the beginning as BOTH the mother dog and one of the pups!
Pumpkin becomes Miss Bindergarten
When Pumpkin became Miss Bindergarten, I needed to transform her into a ‘Humanal.’
What is a ‘Humanal?’
It is a Human Animal, a Humananimal, a Humanimal… a Humanal!
So, if Pumpkin was going to be animal, I need a human too. I ask my dear friend Maria Thayer to be the human half.
She puts on her white blouse and green dress and poses in all the positions I need to bring Miss Bindergarten to life as a ‘Humanal.’
Here she builds with blocks and sorts toys.
Now Pumpkin has won the part of Miss Bindergarten. She sees her new job as her most important challenge to date, and hopes that all her experiences with children will help her succeed.
Miss Bindergarten has 26 different animals in her class. What are they?
Miss Bindergarten’s whole class is explained here!
Is Miss Bindergarten on The Web?
Miss B has over 10,000 friends on her Facebook page: Please join the lively conversation about Kindergarten happening there everyday.
Miss Bindergarten products on Zazzle!
There are fun, customizable Miss Bindergarten products available at Zazzle.
I have seen a Miss Bindergarten Doll. Where do I get my own?