It's Only Stanley: Jon Agee's 2015 BGHB PB Honor Speech

agee_it's only stanleyThank you to The Horn Book and the Boston Globe. And to Lauri Hornik and Lily Malcom, my wonderful publisher and art director. And congratulations to Marla and Oliver. (Great choices, judges.)

A few words about It’s Only Stanley:

This is a love story. There’s a lot of love in this book — blind, delusional, human love along with deep, primordial, canine passion.

It’s the story of the Wimbledon family — dog-owners — who, like many of us, treat their beloved Stanley as if he’s a human being. I’m guilty of this. I have a little, fluffy dog, and it rarely occurs to me that she’s actually descended from a wolf — until I try and take away her bully stick.

The Wimbledons, though — they’re exceptional. They have such boundless respect for their beagle that even when they’re jarred out of bed in the middle of the night, and find him stringing up wires, tubes, and pipes through the floors and ceilings, creating smoke and foul smells and general wreckage, they simply can’t believe he’s doing anything but routine repairs on the house.

And why is Stanley so busy? Well, he’s in love. And in order to fulfill this urge, he needs to fly to the moon using the Wimbledons’ conveniently-shaped house as a rocket ship.

It’s Only Stanley began as more of a mystery. In the early versions, the story simply ended with Stanley on his way to the moon. My editor lingered on that ending:

“Jon, could there be something on the moon that a dog might like?”

“A chew toy?”

“No, Jon. Something a dog might really be attracted to?”

Editors can be like psychologists, gently leading you to your own conclusions. Or, as on that day, they can blurt out:

“What if, on the moon, Stanley meets another dog?!”

Ah! It was the missing piece. This “other dog” became a pink, lunar poodle, and It’s Only Stanley became a genuine love story.

In fact, if the story had a message, it might be: “Love will find a way.” But it could also be: “Beagles who wear tool-belts should never be trusted.”

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more on the 2015 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB15.
Jon Agee
Jon Agee
Jon Agee is the winner of a 2015 Boston Globe-Horn Book Picture Book Honor award for It's Only Stanley (Dial).

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