Bud McClure's new book aims for 'Wild Things' quality

"Divine Daisy" is all at once simple and anything but. The book, Bud McClure's first for children, tells the story of a golden Labrador, her magical relationship with rabbits and a boy whose life is changed by both. "We had a dog named Daisy, a L...

"Divine Daisy"
One of Ginny Maki's many illustrations for Bud McClure's "Divine Daisy." Submitted art

"Divine Daisy" is all at once simple and anything but.

The book, Bud McClure's first for children, tells the story of a golden Labrador, her magical relationship with rabbits and a boy whose life is changed by both.

"We had a dog named Daisy, a Lab, and that was really the genesis of it," the author told the Budgeteer. "Some of the frame of the story comes from her, our own home life, my son and Daisy's relationships with rabbits. ... No matter where we were, she would take off after them. Even when she got older, she would chase rabbits. She could no longer give a good chase -- she could never catch them anyway -- but she always gave it a shot."

On the academic front, McClure, a professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, subtitled his narrative "A Transpersonal Tale." Needless to say, it's a little deeper than "Walter the Farting Dog."

What's more, "Divine Daisy" came to McClure in a dream. While most people struggle to remember the simplest plot points when they wake up, the "production" staged in the theater of his subconscious was so vivid that he was never able to shake it.


"I was looking for a creative project to do at the time, and this came to me," he said. "I thought, Oh, geez, what? Do what? So I just pushed it away. For maybe a month or so, I said, I'm not doing this; it doesn't make sense. Finally, it just kept reappearing -- and the story came to me almost fully formed. ... From beginning to end, I had a real sense of what it was going to be like, what it was going to say and the nature of the story. So I gave into it."

Vision committed to memory, McClure required an illustrator to bring it to life (and to the masses). He searched months for help in that capacity to no avail. In fact, he was about to give up completely when he walked into UMD's Tweed Museum of Art and had a revelation. No, it wasn't one of the masters of the field that reignited McClure's drive; it was the work of a student, Ginny Maki.

"I instantly knew she was going to do this book -- just an instant connection," McClure said. "In fact, when I approached her and asked her to do it, she didn't even hesitate."

And the synergy between the two only grew.

"The first images she drew were very similar to the ones I dreamt about early in the morning," McClure said. "The whole thing was just an uncanny process, one of those things where the work takes on a life of its own and kind of carries you on."

The professor credits much of the process' smoothness to the strength of his original visions.

"I don't think any work I've ever done has been this clear," said McClure, who also has three academic titles under his belt. "I've never had such clear images and a clear sense of the storyline ever."

Ironically, when McClure first met his wife and he was only doing academic writing, she told him that he ought to write children's books.


"It was an off-handed remark," he said, "but now I can tell her, 'I've arrived where you saw me years ago.'"

Whatever prompted the author's future wife to say something so prophetic, he's definitely risen to the challenge. McClure understands that it takes a lot of creativity to write something simple enough to appeal to differing age groups (and reading abilities) -- a quality that, as unfair as it sounds, isn't all too common in the world of children's books these days.

"I think there are magical books, like (Maurice) Sendak's 'Where the Wild Things Are,'" McClure said. "Here's how I think you would determine a good children's story: that there is something greater than the sum of its parts that emerges. In other words, if you read a children's story, you should come away with a sense that, with all the pieces and the parts of that puzzle, there is something greater that emerges out of it. To me that is what 'transpersonal' is: something that we hadn't expected, something serendipitous that we find in the work."

Another favorite of McClure's -- and one he liked to share with his kids -- is Chris Van Allsburg's "The Polar Express."

"There was something magical about those books that transported you beyond yourself," he said. "... And there aren't many stories like them today. A lot of the children's books today are so commercialized -- you know, they're so two-dimensional. That's just a critique, not a criticism; they're two-dimensional in terms of how polished the images are and how the illustrations have a lot of digital stuff going on and are cheaply made.

"You lose that possibility of something emerging in the work."

While "Daisy" was only recently released, readers have been responding favorably and its appeal transcends that traditional children's-book crowd -- even though it's not the most happy-go-lucky book available.

"Without exception," McClure said, "when adults read it, they cry."


In fact, one woman told him, "I just wept when I read this story."

McClure isn't worried about whether or not its themes of death and loss might be too heavy for younger readers, however. (Spoiler alert: Daisy, the lab at the center of the story, gets run over by a truck.)

"I read it to my granddaughter when I was working on it last summer -- she was 7 at the time -- and she got it," he said. "Kids get the magic of it ... the story doesn't end when the dog dies."

Bud McClure's "Divine Daisy: A Transpersonal Tale" is available now. See for more information.

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