Tuesday, February 19, 2019

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Gretchen McLellan, Author of Button and Bundle, Illustrated by Gillian Flint

Button and Bundle is a story very close to my heart.  I was raised in a large, highly-mobile military family and moved more times than any young heart should bear. Some good-byes were tougher than others, but none as tough as saying good-bye to my first friend and the imaginative world we shared.  We both loved dolls and made clothes and furniture and homes for them.  After moving away from her, I can’t remember ever playing with dolls again. I don’t know what happened to my doll either.  Button & Bundle is the story of what happened in my heart. 

We can mark the changes in children’s lives by what they are playing with, as well as what they are ready to leave behind. Favorite toys are often vehicles for a rich imaginative life between young friends.  When children are abruptly separated, they lose this world of play too.  Button & Bundle shows how Button honors and finds a way to keep alive the uniquely personal world of play she created with her friend Bundle and how to move on. 

When I committed myself to writing for children, I was led by the beauty of the form of the picture book and a desire to give voice to the voiceless child. I never saw myself in print until I was an adult, not in a picture book, but in a sociological text about growing up military. That experience was profound, a homecoming and an awakening, and I pledged to give this experience to others to the best of my ability. I pledged to represent the experiences of the Third Culture Kid, particularly the military child, in literature, children who do not have a single home.  

Yet my stories are for all children. In an interview in Children’s Book Insider (March 2017), my editor was asked to describe a book that she knew right away that she had to have. She responded, “I recently acquired a picture book text that I fell in love with immediately. It’s the story of two little girls who are best friends, and one of them has to move away. The author managed to evoke so much emotion in such a spare, simple text that it blew me away.”

Later, in an email to my agent she wrote, “From the moment I opened this submission, I knew it was a special one. As I began to read … I knew this manuscript had everything I was searching for. It’s incredibly sweet and gorgeously written, with just the right amount of sensitivity. I love the way the author honors very young friendship, and accomplishes so much in the spare text.”

Button & Bundle is ultimately a story about the true meaning of friendship, how we learn to love from our friendships and carry this love forward. I am deeply grateful to my amazing agent, editor and her team at Knopf and my wonderful illustrator, Gillian Flint, who brought my Button & Bundle to life.

Button & Bundle is dedicated to my first friend and first friends everywhere.

Jacket copy:

“Button and Bundle are best friends. So are their dolls, Petal and Rose. From hosting tea parties to creating dollhouses to weaving daisy chains, Button and Bundle do everything together. But one day…Bundle has to move away. With a little imagination and a lot of love, Button and Bundle will learn that true friendship lasts, no matter how far apart friends might be.”

Author bio from back flap:

Gretchen McLellan is a picture-book author and former elementary reading specialist who now devotes herself to writing for children and visiting schools. Like Button and Bundle, Gretchen loved dolls and making homes for them with her first friend. And like Button, Gretchen had to say good-bye to her Bundle. After living on three continents, Gretchen settled in Washington State with her husband cat and dog, stunt squirrels, and a doll or two. She celebrates when her children and grandchildren come home. And she hopes you too find a home with her in her books. Learn more at gretchenmclellan.com and follower her on Twitter at @gmclellan5.

Gretchen is available for signings, readings, children’s bookstore and school events with interactive story times, puppets and crafts. Please contact her at 360 606-4099 or gretchenmclellan@comcast.net



  1. Such a tough life for kids, the military nomad existence. I'm glad you were able to work through those memories in the picture book. It sounds lovely. Congrats!

    1. Yes -- such a lovely book! Thanks for visiting, Jilanne, and don't forget to follow the blog. I finally got a follow button up!

  2. Great post! I’m not from a military family but I lived through two moves that separated me from a best friend. It’s heartbreaking for sure. I can’t wait to read Button and Bundle! Congratulations, Gretchen!

    1. Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground, Joanna and checking out Gretchen's wonderful book!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful book! I look forward to reading it. :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground, dear Jill. Always happy to have you here! XO