Reflecting on 25 Years of Biscuit

The Story Behind a Sweet, Yellow Puppy

Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, I always dreamed of having a puppy. Through weekly trips to the public library, my puppy existed in the many books and stories I read voraciously. But with one story the librarian pressed into my hands, I felt closer to my dream than ever before. When Henry found his beloved dog Ribsy and carried him home in a cardboard box, it gave me hope as a reader that I might one day have a real puppy, too. Henry became my soulmate, and his dog, Ribsy, became my favorite puppy. If only I could find a dog — a dog who followed at my heels, a dog who listened to my every word, a dog to share my adventures with!

Fast forward a number of years, and I am happily hosting a “puppy sleepover” with my young daughter. Our guest of honor is a neighbor’s large, tawny dog who is too excited to settle down and go to sleep. My daughter brings a bedtime snack, a blanket, and a doll to our rambunctious guest. She bestows hugs and kisses and…more hugs and kisses. She offers to read him a bedtime story. Most importantly, she converses with the dog as if he understands every word she is saying. And when he finally pads into the bedroom at her heels…woosh – I am whisked back to my childhood bedroom where I pore over my worn copy of Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary again and again. It is at this very juncture of time that the seeds of Biscuit are created. When I sit down the following morning to put pen to paper, it is my daughter’s gentle voice and patient actions that guide the story. It is my childhood dream of having a dog, perhaps a somewhat universal dream, that fuels the emotional life of the young child that cares so lovingly for Biscuit. And knowing that the fluid imagination of a child believes a beloved pet can understand every word spoken to them, the words “woof, woof” not only become the voice of a small yellow puppy, but of every reader’s invention as well. Indeed, those woofs can mean anything and everything! Pat Schories, illustrator extraordinaire, created a young girl as Biscuit’s loving owner, but in my mind, that character could have been any boy, any girl; anyone who is a puppy lover. For that reason, the “little girl” remains unnamed. To me, she is every child.

Twenty-five years later, I pinch myself that I am still happily creating new tales for “everyone’s favorite little yellow puppy.” We did eventually get a puppy of our own. With each story I write, I recall the sleepover, I remember the character that nurtured my imagination, and hopefully I share the joy I feel when our puppy follows at my heels!

Woof, woof! Happy 25th Birthday, Biscuit!

Warmly,
Alyssa

3 Comments

  1. Nancy Nelson on January 22, 2021 at 4:14 am

    Thank you for sharing the history of Biscuit’s conception. Over the years, I have collected the books to read to my Elementary school students. They all loved them and asked me to read them out loud frequently. I even found a stuffed animal, that looked just like Biscuit, that I sat on my desk! When I had children of my own, I would bring the books home to read to them but I had to remember to bring them back to the classroom. Fast forward, I followed this same routine with my grandson! I may have retired from teaching but Biscuit still remains a part of my teaching experience.

  2. Kate Vogel on February 8, 2021 at 6:30 am

    As a school librarian, I read a Biscuit book to my kindergarten and first grade classes most weeks. We used the Capucilli books to begin learning how to find books on the shelf since we had a whole shelf of them. After I retired, I have continued to read them at my grandchildren’s school weekly. I’ve given each of the teachers a stuffed Biscuit and the kids are allowed to take him overnight and read to him.

  3. VATSALA ZUTSHI on June 21, 2021 at 4:56 am

    As a storyteller i have used BISCUIT to work on their(children’s) FEARS of sleeping in the dark, To SLEEPING ALONE AND IT WORKED!!

    IT’S OK TO WANT TO SLEEP WITH THE LIGHT ON.
    TO SHARE THE ROOM .

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