A Match Made in Kiddie-Lit Heaven: Hill Author and Artist Collaborate

Christine Vinegard and Christopher Datta Work Together on Book About Independence

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Two Chrises collaborated on "Christopher Fries an Egg," a children's book about independence --and its limits. Courtesy Photo

A spark was struck at last year’s Literary Hill BookFest when author Christopher Datta and illustrator Christine Vineyard got seated next to each other. As Datta tells it, he really liked the artwork in Vineyard’s book. “I got to talking to her about a children’s book I wrote about 40 years ago,” he relates. He had gotten some interest from publishers at the time, but the book never got published. “Anyway,” he goes on, “I asked Christine if she would be interested in illustrating it, and she read it and agreed.” It was a match made in kiddie-lit heaven.

Christopher Datta (left) with his wife and pup. Courtesy: C. Datta

Their collaborative effort, “Christopher Fries an Egg,” is now a published book. In it, Datta brings to life a day when a little boy’s mother decides he’s old enough to stay home alone for the day, “free to do whatever he wanted for the very first time.” Everything goes swimmingly at first.

To show that he can take care of himself “just fine,” he cleans his room, vacuums under the sofa, and even washes the breakfast dishes. The furniture compliments him—”I’d like to say how glad we are that it’s your house now,” says the sofa—and the appliances are all humming with approval. Emboldened by his success, he scoffs at the refrigerator’s suggestion of a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and decides instead to fry himself an egg. And that’s when all hell breaks loose.

Christine Vineyard at Literary Hill Bookfest. Courtesy: K. Lyon

Artist Christine Vineyard’s whimsical illustrations perfectly capture the action, as the once-friendly household objects turn on the hapless boy. Datta’s sweet but scary fantasy becomes “peopled” with beds and stoves that talk, and a fried egg that stages a coup, sprouting arms and legs and stalking poor Christopher all over the house, bent on avenging its fate. “’Here’s Christopher!’ bellowed the egg. ‘And it’s his turn to sit in the frying pan because now the house is mine!’”

“Christopher Fries an Egg” will charm parents and children alike with this lively story of a boy who discovers the limits of his new-found independence and finds help in a very unlikely ally. Whether it will inspire kids to clear their rooms is another story. Christopher Datta is the author of four novels for grown-ups—“Touched with Fire,” Fire and Dust,” “The Demon Stone,” and “A Perfect Disguise”—as well as two memoirs, “Guardians of the Grail: A Life of Diplomacy on the Edge” and “Run Scout Run.” Christine Vineyard is the author of “Good Jokes Bad Drawings” and her art is also available at www.lidflutters.com.