A Visit With Toby

In the spring of 2015, I saw an announcement of a mentor program offered by the Nevada chapter of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I started reading about the program, then reading seriously, and finally applied and was accepted to the program. I came out of the six month experience with a vastly expanded and improved graphic novel, an agent, and a bunch of new friends, writers and illustrators all! I expected to work hard, get my butt kicked in the process, and hopefully come out with a manuscript that might be viable.

I did not expect to emerge on the other side of the program with talented and loyal friends whose work I could celebrate and share, and who would share mine when the time comes. And so, when publication of Hazel Mitchell‘s new book Toby was announced, and she said she was looking for blogs to visit during the book’s launch, I asked the pandas if they would be interested in a visit, and they all said yes!

They also said, would Hazel bring cuppycakes and maybe a box of Binky Bars, and some boo beer, and I said I’d check. Pinky offered to interview Toby, and I said “yes”, although not without some trepidation. Pinky never does anything without some ulterior motives, and Toby is kind of a shy poodle, but she promised she would be kind, so I said okay. Don’t let me down, Pinky!

Keep reading, because at the end of this post, we are announcing how you can win a bunch of really cool stuff from Toby and Hazel!

It's good to have friends...even ones like Pinky!

It’s good to have friends…even ones like Pinky!

Princess Pinky: Today we have a very special guest at the Panda Chronicles! Welcome, Toby. I understand you are not a Panda.

Toby: I don’t think I’m a Panda. I don’t have any black spots. Except when I roll in the mud. Is a Panda a Poodle with black spots, kind of thing?

Hi, I'm Toby, and almost as cute as a panda!

Hi, I’m Toby, and almost as cute as a panda!

PP: No, we’re not poodles, although we’re fluffy like you are. We are much more special than that. So …what are you doing here?

Toby: I’m promoting. (Which is not as rude as it sounds.) I got a book. (Which is not a disease.) My people made it with a place called Candlewick Press. People are pretty useful in general. Especially with those can opener things. They are VERY good with those.

PP: I don’t know about can openers. hmmm…I’ll have to look into that.
Oh! Right! You have a new book coming out. Is it about me? I’m running for president, you know.

Toby

Toby!!!!

Toby: No! It’s about ME! But I hear you might be in a book, too? What’s President? Do you get treats? I like treats, pepperoni is best. Do you like pepperoni?

PP: I’m hoping when I am president, I can have any kind of treat I want. when I was a baby, mommee stole all my treats.  The president is like the boss of everyone and you have to do what they say.

So, if it’s not about me, could you tell us a little bit about your book?

Toby: Well, it’s 40 pages and it’s  paper and it costs $16.99. Oh wait, my people are saying you mean the STORY inside the book. Arf. So, it’s about me, but me with a different family (which is called fic-tion-al-i-zing, which is hard to say). There’s a boy and a dad and they’ve just moved house and the boy is lonely and he rescues me and I’m scared and I’m a bit naughty and dad is mad and I might have to go back to the shelter and that would be sad. My people say I just used too many conjunctions. I think that is uncalled for. I’m not an editor after all! I HAVE an editor, she is called Liz Bicknell and she sent me treats. So, she’s cool. WOOF!

PP: Do you mean to tell me that there are dogs and cats that no one wants?

Toby

So many dogs to choose from! Pandas never have to worry about being adopted!

Toby: People are very hard to understand sometimes. Everyone should want their dog or they shouldn’t be allowed to have them. Only sometimes things happen to the people and they can’t keep the dog and that’s sad, too. But cats, I completely get that. Only don’t let my people’s cat, Sleep, read this. He’s ok. Kind of. But, well, you know. Right?

PP: Well, I can tell you, that never happens with pandas, but I soooo agree about cats! I am having problems with a cat named Mittens, but I…um…fixed him good a few weeks ago. So tell us a little about your real life…who do you live with now?

From "Toby" by Hazel Mitchell, by permission of Candlewick Press

From “Toby” by Hazel Mitchell, by permission of Candlewick Press

Toby: Pandas must be VERY special. Almost as special as Poodles? I live with my people. There’s a girl people, called Hazel Mitchell, and a boy people, called Mike Mitchell. We live in a house in Maine. I have a step sister called Lucy. She’s MASSIVE. They say she’s a standard poodle, but a poodle that size is just unnatural. Anyway, we have this cat called Sleep. He does that a lot. Sleep, I mean, goes to Sleep. (Get it?) Sometimes he does it in my bed. That’s annoying and rude. Which is why I can understand people giving cats away. Right?

Sketches for Toby by Hazel Mitchell

Sketches for Toby by Hazel Mitchell

PP: Cats can be very rude and annoying! What’s your favorite food? mine is cuppycakes with honey frosting!

Toby: I think I said already, pepperoni. Weren’t you listening? Oh, are Pandas hard of hearing? Never knew that. Oh wait, you have buds in. No wonder you can’t hear me. I quite like cupcakes, but I like chocolate frosting. Which is bad for me, apparently. And I like burgers. Now I am dribbling. You got a tissue?

PP: You weren’t talking about me so I forgot to listen. Is there anything else you want the readers of the Panda Chronicles to know? You really should do something about the drooling thing, by the way!!

Toby: Always look after your dogs! And cats! And Pandas. Although I guess Pandas got it made. I heard that they fly first class. That must be some big bird they got for you guys. Hey, I also saw a weird video of Pandas dating online with a load of people with cameras watching. Isn’t that illegal?

PP: Yeah, pandas kinda got it made, except for maybe the endangered thing and loss of habitat, and some of those photographers are really rude! They sort of have shelters for pandas too, in China. We get to fly in planes with our picture on them and can have all the peanuts we want!

And , oh yeah…where can they buy your book?

Toby: They can buy it in all good bookstores. In the High Street, or the Mall or on the Interweb. Or just contact my people. That’s why I have ‘em. To sell my books. WOOF! You want to hang out again sometime, Princess? You’re kind of cute.

PP: Yeah! we should totally do lunch or something at the Pinky House when I am president. (after I am elected, I am having the White House painted pink!) I’ll have my people call your people. Thanks for coming today, Toby, and remember to vote for Pinky! The only panda you will ever want for president! And buy Toby’s book! Dog treats don’t grow on trees!

Hey fans of making America Fluffy again:

Toby has offered us some really great swag, not to mention a BOOK! and we thought we would have a little contest to see who gets it! So, you have a week to make a comment on this post, and we will do a random drawing of the names of all the commenters to see who gets all this great stuff! Comments must be made by Midnight PDT September 21, 2016. The stamp is really cool! Sorry to our readers outside the US. We can only ship to US addresses.

Oh man! Look at all this great swag!

Oh man! Look at all this great swag!

Synopsis:

When a young boy and his father move from one house to another, they decide to adopt a dog from the local rescue shelter. But their chosen dog, Toby, is having a tough time adjusting to his new life outside the shelter—howling all night, hiding fearfully from his new humans, forgetting where to go to the bathroom, and chasing a ball through the flower bed. The boy has promised to train his new companion, and he’s trying his best, but Dad is starting to get exasperated. Will Toby ever feel comfortable with his new family and settle into his forever home, or will Dad decide he’s not the right dog for them after all?
A heartwarming story about the growing bond between a child and a new pet—inspired by the author’s experience with a rescue dog of the same name.

Bio: Hazel Mitchell has always loved drawing and still cannot be reliably left alone with a pencil. She has illustrated many books for children including Imani’s Moon, One Word Pearl, Animally and Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? ‘Toby’ is her author-illustrator debut from Candlewick Press. Her work has received several awards and been recognized by Bank Street Books, Learning Magazine, Reading is Fundamental,  Foreword Reviews, NYCReads365, Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles Charlotte/Mecklenburg , Chicago and Maine State libraries among others. Originally from England, where she attended art-college and served in the Royal Navy, she now lives in Maine with her poodles Toby and Lucy and a cat called Sleep. She still misses British fish and chips, but is learning to love lobster. Find out more about her at http://www.hazelmitchell.com and is represented by Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd., NYC.

Links for Toby:

http://www.hazelmitchell.com/toby

tweet@meetTobyhttp://www.facebook.com/meettoby/

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TgIF-6Yo1o

Buy it here http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780763680930 and here http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/toby-hazel-mitchell/1123282586.

A big thank you to Hazel  and Toby for coming by to visit us at The Panda Chronicles! Remember to pet your cat or dog (or panda) and if you are looking to give a forever home to a furry family member, check your local animal welfare group. Two of my favorites are The Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation on Whidbey Island and the Whatcom Humane Society in Bellingham WA.

All images of Toby (the book) and Toby (the dog) are courtesy of Hazel Mitchell and Candlewick Press. Thanks guys!

103 thoughts on “A Visit With Toby

  1. JoAnn

    I really enjoyed meeting Toby through the interview with Princess Pinky,although I think she found it hard to concentrate when he talked about himself and his family, because the conversation wasn’t about her (I laughed out loud). I think this is a book I would enjoy and maybe a book I might want to give as a gift to others as well. Thank to Princess Pinky and Toby for the entertaining interview. The Princess never disappoints!

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Well, you know how Pinky’s attention drifts when the conversation is not about her. I’ve had a sneak peak at the book and it is a very sweet story and the illustrations are wonderful.
      BTW, you are now entered in the drawing for Toby’s book and swag!

      Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Yes, I thought she was UNUSUALLY well behaved (ya know…for Pinky). I hope she will consider him for a Cubinet post.
      BTW, you are now entered in the drawing for Toby’s book and swag!

      Reply
  2. Joylene Bennett

    The story sounds great and the drawings are delightful! I can’t wait to see them all. I’m looking forward to meeting Toby!

    Reply
  3. Kate (aka Terpie Cat)

    Great interview Pinky! Toby sounds like an awesome poodle and I’m looking forward to reading all about him. But enough with the cat-bashing already! I’m owned by two of the coolest cats around and I know that cats are the best.

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Toby is an awesome poodle, but Mehitabel would agree that there was a little too much ant-cat verbiage thrown around. She says if SHE had been allowed to do the interview, that would not have happened!
      BTW, you are now entered in the drawing for Toby’s book and swag!

      Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      That would be a great post for Toby. Um…would it be okay if he sat under the table during meetings? that might be too many people (or pandas) for him.
      You are entered in the drawing!

      Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Well, but we knew that, right?
      You are entered in the drawing, even if you are voting for Bob. I won’t tell Pinky if you don’t.

      Reply
  4. Debbie Smee

    I love all the characters that are new to Princess Pinky! We are lucky to be able to share in all these lives. I see many adventures ahead involving this cute puppy Toby and all his friends.

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Pinky is happy to have new friends as long as they agree she is the boss of everything. We’ll see how this works out in the long run.
      Thanks for entering the drawing.

      Reply
  5. Suzanne Morrone

    I agree that no one should have an animal if they don’t take care of it. My dog, Blueberry’s best friend is a standard poodle, so we think even big poodles are really cool. And of course, so are pandas. We just don’t know any, personally. And Blueberry is sort of bitey, so pandas might not like him.Oh, and all my dogs are rescues. Two are actually real life and death rescues, not just from the shelter.

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      I love the idea of dogs having other doggie friends. Sometimes even cats have dog friends, but not Mehitabel. She doesn’t believe in dogs. What can I say?
      Thanks for commenting and entering the drawing!

      Reply
  6. Leslie

    Pinky: You weren’t talking about me so I forgot to listen! LOL – classic Pinky! I do think I need to have a discussion with both of them about the good qualities of cats …. and Toby will definitely have to visit the Pink House! #vote4pinky

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Mehitabel would be happy to join you and Sugar in explaining that cats are the best.
      That Pinky!
      You are entered in the drawing.

      Reply
  7. Carol Loveless

    That our Pinky was very well behaved and handled the interview with Toby like a true presidential candidate. I am partial to Toy Poodles as I used to have one so I think Toby is adorable. Pinky wants to include Toby in her White House Staff in charge of kissing everyone who enters the Pink House, dog kisses are famous.

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Pinky says that that would be an excellent post for Toby. Maybe it will help him get over being so shy!
      Thanks for commenting and you are entered in the drawing!

      Reply
      1. Winky Cat

        {sniff!} Toby, most of us are really nice, but there are a few rotten apples (like dat Mittens who was trying to run against Pinky!) Me hope we can be friends!

        Reply
        1. Panda in Chief Post author

          I’m sure if he met you Toby would like you! Thanks for standing up for cats and commenting. We don’t want you and Mehitabel picketing at Pinky’s rallies! Thanks for commenting and entering the drawing!

          Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      True dat, isn’t it. Mehitabel reminds me, “what about the cats? Don’t forget the cats!!!!” Yeah, whatever.
      Thanks for cming by and entering the drawing! Hope you are getting settled in your new digs.

      Reply
      1. DachsieDad

        We are loving it 🙂 Things could not have worked out better for us. So much fun time with Family and beautiful weather and scenery. We don’t miss the Midwest at all!

        Reply
        1. Panda in Chief Post author

          I’m so glad! Moving is always a huge amount of work, especially if you’ve lived in a place for more than a couple of years. I’m in the process of THINKING about it sometime in the future. Starting to weed out things that have accumulated just because I had space.
          I’m so glad this has been a happy move!

          Reply
          1. Panda in Chief Post author

            It is SO hard not to get distracted in the face of salmon treats. There is a company around here that makes the best freeze dried salmon treats, and when I see their delivery truck, I always picture herds of cats running after the truck and trying to hijack it.

  8. Debbie McGinley

    I am so happy for Toby and all the attention he (and his people) are getting. It’s well deserved and very exciting! I’m also happy to see Toby and the Pandas working together, as in the whole is more than the sum of the parts (or however that goes). With talented, clever and very witty creator people behind them, Toby and the Pandas are destined for success. Sending you all wishes for a happy book birthday (Toby) and continued Panda-moium (isn’t it obvious!?). Cheers and congrats!

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Toby is having a good book launch, isn’t he? Pinky (and all of us at The Institute for Contemporary Panda Satire) couldn’t be happier. I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive, because you, know how apinky is, but I thought she was quite gentle with Toby.
      I’m so happy for Toby and his people.
      Thanks for coming by and entering the drawing. I love our mentor group!

      Reply
        1. Panda in Chief Post author

          Thanks for dropping by to talk to your fans! Pinky thought you were fun to talk to too! Be the bear, Toby and say hi to your people for us!

          Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      I’m sure she thought it was a chance to show her “sensitive” side. Pinky thinks ahead!
      Thanks for commenting and entering the drawing.

      Reply
  9. Diana Sutton

    Pinky through and through…..if the interview wasn’t about her, of course her mind and attention were elsewhere!

    This looks to be a great book. Toby illustrations are precious. I like this little shy guy already. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      It is a very sweet book! The illustrations are lovely and Hazel has told Toby’s story well. The real Toby is just as sweet. Thanks for coming by. I was proud of Pinky for holding it together so well, in the face of something that was not all about her. I am sure she will make up for that. Look out, Bubba!
      You are now entered for the drawing.

      Reply
  10. laurielyoung

    Two of my favorite furry friends, along with two of my favorite people! It’s a great day!
    Congratulations, Toby, on your first book. It looks wonderful and I can’t wait to have it on my shelf!

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Huzzah! Thanks for coming by Laurie! Hope all is going well with your writing project too!
      You are now entered for the drawing.

      Reply
  11. Karen Gulledge

    Toby is a cutie pie and Hazel’s illustrations are wonderful. I must commend Pinky for being so nice to Toby. At first I was almost afraid to scroll down to read the rest of the interview thinking she’d pull a fast one – but I must admit I’m proud of her.

    And thank you for sharing Hazel’s story.

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Thanks for coming by! I was a little worried that Pinky would have a melt down and be mean to Toby, but I must say she was very good. I think Bubba should watch out today, in case there is any backlash from being so nice to Toby.
      I loved Hazel’s story too, and the real one is no less special.
      You are now entered for the drawing.

      Reply
  12. zachjpayne

    I am so happy that Toby made it through the interview safely. I feel like Pinky should receive some cuppycakes as a reward for good behavior. Some positive reinforcement, perhaps? Actually, now that I think about it, cuppycakes for everybody!

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      It was a bit of a nail biter. I was proud of Pinky that once in a while she can be nice! Toby had a good time too, I think. They both got to say stuff about cats, so they bonded over that.
      You are now entered for the drawing.

      Reply
  13. Tuckerman

    The terror–oops terrier and I think Pinky did great with Toby. He didn’t seem scared or nervous. The rescued terrier would love Toby swag, while he didn’t as many issues as Toby, he can relate to being rescued and having to learn new things. It took patience, from all, and 5 years later, we’ve settled into family life.
    PS. Tucker has convinced me to vote for Pinky!!

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Pinky is soooo happy to have your vote! I am hoping this experience will show her that it’s okay to be nice (Pinky: “once in a while!) I once had a rescue kitty, but she never really settled in, although I had her the rest of her life. I would spend a little more time with my next rescue kitty. Glad you enjoyed Pinky’s interview. Toby says “woof!”
      You are now entered for the drawing.

      Reply
  14. Jennifer Durovka

    I think Pinky did a good job. Love that Toby finds Pinky cute! Perhaps Toby could visit SNZ for a behind the scenes tour and meet Bubba too?

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Meeting Pinky once was probably all the excitement Toby can stand. He really is a shy little dog. I’m not sure how Hazel would feel about letting Pinky be a bad influence on him. But I was relieved she did a good job and was nice to him. Not sure that she can maintain that!
      Thanks for coming by!
      You are now entered for the drawing.

      Reply
      1. Panda in Chief Post author

        Pinky: engaged? yuckky! Bubba is my liddle brother, but you can call him boo boo. It …um….drives him nuts!

        Reply
  15. Auntie Barb

    I think Pinky actually showed a great deal of restraint during her interview – except for the comment about drooling. It sounded like they got along quite well, all things considered. I hope Toby comes to visit her in the Pink House. Toby sounds like a wonderful canine.

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      She did show a lot of restraint didn’t she. Just between you and me (and the internet) there were a lot of chewed fingernails around here, since Pinky refused to have us preview her questions. Any way, everyone is relieved that it went so well and hope that maybe she can think about a career as a talk show host if…um…she loses the election.
      Thanks for commenting and entering the drawing.

      Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Here I am! Pinky and Bubba have a new scheme to raise funds for Pinky’s cubpaign. Hee hee! Stay tuned. Mei is not going to happy. I can say no more.
      Thanks for commenting and entering the drawing.

      Reply
  16. Julie Knight

    Sweet Toby you did a brilliant job holding your own with Pinky! After all Pinky is a Princess and she is running for Prezydent! Then we can’t forget the “incident” with Mittens and the magical wand ??.

    Oh, and excellent choice in a plush companion, quite a resemblance to the beloved Mr. Bun!

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Toby did very well! I, for one, breathed a big sigh of relief when Pinky actually behaved herself. I thought her laspes in manners were fairly minor. As an aside, Mittens is comng back soon. The poofing was (unfortunately) not permanent, but he does seem even more confused and incoherant as a result of the poofing. I guess bunnies are universal stuffed toys of comfort. Pinky had to make sure that was not HER Mr. Bun before the interview could procede.
      Thanks for commenting and entering the drawing.

      Reply
  17. Vicky V

    That was so much fun! Pinky did great as an interviewer and Toby is just so adorable!!
    Love how Pinky remembered that her mommee stole her treats when she was young 🙂

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Pinky never forgets anything that anyone does, especially when it involves taking something from Pinky. She did do great at the interview and may provide a new interest if…um….she doesn’t win the election. Not that I’m saying that could happen.
      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      You can follow Toby on Twitter at @meettoby to hear all the latest on everyone’s favorite poodle! thanks for coming by and entering the drawing.

      Reply
  18. sweetg

    A delightful interview! Bravo to Toby and Hazel – their book sounds like a real winner and I look forward to reading it. And like everyone else, I’m so proud of Pinky for being on her best behavior and conducting a very professional interview. She certainly deserves some cuppycakes as a reward!

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Pinky has collected on her cuppycakes and mom is indulging in a big sigh of relief, as well as a double Bootini.
      Thanks for commenting and entering the drawing.

      Reply
      1. Panda in Chief Post author

        Mei Xiang, please don’t learn too many things from Pinky, my dear. My daughter has lots of ideas, but not all of them are good!

        Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      I must confess, that Pinky was unexpectedly nice and she MIGHT have taken it out on her little brother later by hiding Banky Pig. All is okay now. Mom found Banky pig and returned him to Bubba. Thanks for commenting and entering the drawing!

      Reply
  19. Gina Koo

    Just like everyone else, I was holding my breath while reading through Pinky’s interview with Toby. Even though she did bad mouth about cats, and dismissed Toby for a bit because he wasn’t talking about her, she did amazingly well in both behavior and speech. I guess it helped in that Toby was so shy and well mannered, which put Pinky at ease and not so self-centered.

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Yes, she behaved outstandly well for Pinky. I hope Toby continues to exert a good influence on her.
      Thanks for commenting. I have entered you in the drawing.

      Reply
  20. Andrea Hines Marshall

    How fun! I loved the interview and Pinky was great, even if she was a little biased about pandas being better than dogs. It’s only natural, right? This book looks adorable and win or lose I cannot wait to read it! It’s going on my never-ending list of books to read right now! So many books, so little time! Thank you for introducing us to Toby and thanks Pinky for the awesome interview!

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Huzzah! So glad you have enjoyed meeting Toby! (And so glad Pinky behaved herself mostly!) thanks for your comment (Pinky says “why wouldn’t i be biased toward pandas? We are da best?”) and you are entered in the drawing!

      Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      It is! I like books that are instructive without beating you ob=ver the head with the lesson. Fun because it is based on a real dog, with real dog issues!
      Thanks for commenting. You are entered in the drawing.

      Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Toby IS awesome! Glad you remembered to comment! Tomorrow, Mehitabel will pick the winning entry! Good luck!

      Reply
  21. Michele S.

    I think Pinky did wonderful job with her interview. It could have easily been all about her and her cubpaign. Kudos, Pinky! And good luck to Toby (I added that conjunction just for you since you seem to like them so much 😉 )

    Reply
    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      We…um…had to edit out a few things that were mostly about her and her cubpaign, so all in all, I think Pinky did very well. Actually it is surprising how much she did concentrate on Toby and his book, once I, you know, deleted the campaigning stuff.

      Reply

What does your inner panda think?