The Scoop: A Q&A with ‘Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish’ Author Viola Butler

News / FBNews March 24, 2020

Credit: AFBF 

“Tales of the Dairy Godmother: Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish” is the most recent release from Feeding Minds Press, the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s publishing venture.

In this “dairy-tale,” a young boy named Chuck wishes for all the ice cream he can eat, prompting his “Dairy Godmother” to show up to grant his wish with a dairy farm, where he gets a firsthand look at all the hard work and care that goes into producing his favorite treat.

Read on to learn more about “Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish” author Viola Butler, including what inspired her to write the Dairy Godmother book, the book editing process and her favorite part of Chuck’s dairy-tale.

How did you come up with the idea for the “Dairy Godmother”?

I was talking to my best friend about story ideas and I asked her, “What if a kid wished for all the ice cream in the world and then gets granted a dairy farm?”

She said, “That would be my kind of fairy godmother!”

And can’t you just see how the story fell into place from there? There are several nods to Cinderella in the book, including Chuck washing the floors in a ballgown and getting a special spoon at the end of the book for doing a good job. He actually keeps this spoon when he gets sent home, just like Cinderella got to keep her shoe.

Tell us about submitting your story.

After I wrote my original draft, I submitted it to the Feeding Minds Press open submission page. I was very surprised and delighted when Feeding Minds was interested in pursuing the book.

How did the editing process go?

Oof, the editing process is a real process! “Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish” started out as over 1,500 words – way too long for a picture book, which usually runs about 500 words or less.

I owe a big thank you to the editor, Emma Dryden. She really helped me get Chuck’s voice right and pare down the story to make it better suited for young readers. For example, the longer edition of the story talked more in-depth about things like what milk is tested for and what kinds of grains and forage cows eat, but those details, while interesting and important, didn’t add much to the narrative. Those worked much better as links to more information on the book webpage, allowing curious readers to explore on their own.

There is also a fun detail about Chuck. My original character was named Billy. Then I learned there was a farmer in Maryland who called himself an “ice cream farmer.” His name is Chuck Fry. We thought it could be fun to rename the character Chuck so that readers might be able to “meet a real farmer named Chuck” at the end of the story – making the story come to life in a way. (See video below.)

Do you live on a dairy farm?

No, but I have visited several dairy farms. I truly appreciate the hard work and care dairy farmers put into their products. Farming isn’t an easy job, especially for dairy farmers, who have to wake up early and milk several times a day.

What is your favorite part of the book?

My favorite part of the book is when the Dairy Godmother gives Chuck the shovel. I went back and forth over using the word “poop” in the story, but at the end of the day I think young readers find that word really funny, so I had to add it in!

I also love that instead of stars in the “POOFS,” illustrator Ward Jenkins added little cheese wedges – that makes me smile every single time.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

It is really funny that I wrote this book, because I don’t actually like ice cream all that much. Cake is my dessert of choice. If I had to choose a flavor though, I would pick soft serve vanilla with sprinkles.

Do you have any advice for accurate ag book writers?

Yes, join your local Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators chapter! They have all the resources you need to start writing. I would also suggest trying to tour some farms, meet some farmers, and read other accurate ag books. The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has a recommended list.

Meet Maryland ‘Ice Cream Farmer’ Chuck Fry

Enjoy this video introduction to Maryland “ice cream farmer” Chuck Fry, inspiration for the title character’s name.

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