Grandfather Knows Best
In the spring of 2016, a children’s book was published. Its main character is a grandfather who is excitedly preparing for the arrival of his first grandchild. But, being a children’s book, the characters are animals: cute, fluffy badgers, to be exact. Dick Maddrell ’73 MBA’74 is the owner and founder of Cottage Door Press, the publishing house behind Grandpa’s Wish List.
In 2010, after several decades of work in the publishing industry, Maddrell retired. Four years later, he launched Cottage Door Press, and the company has been churning out books ever since, primarily for children aged zero to three. When Maddrell and his wife, Jean, found out that their son Ben Maddrell ’01 and his wife were expecting their first child, the Cottage Door Press staff secretly decided to create something special to honor the occasion.
- Where did the idea for Grandpa’s Wish List come from?
- We did a series of padded books, and one was Grandma’s Wishes. This was sort of a tear-jerking book for new grandmothers to talk about what that grandma wishes that child’s life to be. We can’t print them fast enough. … After the success of Grandma’s Wishes, I had been talking to the staff about, “Well, we need a book for Grandpa.”
- How did you turn into the main character?
- The staff, independent of me, decided, “Let’s do this for Dick.” … So they put together the book, and it’s a wish list for what Grandpa wants his grandson or granddaughter to experience in life.
- What parts of your life inspired the plot?
- I’m a hobbyist woodworker. If you open the book, there’s a clock that I actually made. I played the trumpet back in Lodi [Wisconsin] in high school in the ’60s, and one of the spreads has me showing my little grandchild how to play. There’s one where I built a tree house, and I’m up there having tea. There’s a pennant [in the tree house], which had a Motion W, but now it has a paw print. The whole book was sort of … I don’t want to say a “tribute,” but it all sort of fit together.
- Who did the actual writing?
- Many of the books are penned by our own staff [and then] have a pen name. … Well, this one is Madison Lodi: Madison as a tribute to the fact that my whole family is so Badger red. I have three siblings — all four of us went to Madison; both my boys [Ben ’01 and Jeff ’07] went here; and then a number of nephews and nieces. Then, I really love Lodi. I grew up there. I’ve been gone forever, but I always come back.
- What was your reaction when you saw Grandpa’s Wish List for the first time?
- Well, they [worked on it] for maybe two or three months. Ginny [O’Donnell], the head of editorial, started to get nervous — then they brought me in. As a matter of fact, they showed it to me, and I didn’t even focus, initially, on the fact it was a badger. But I did notice my clock! “Oh, now I get it!”
Image courtesy, Cottage Door Press, Jim Schlottman