The story is about Babette, a cute little Frenchie, the first to arrive in her new home, the sole landlady of her territory. She was swaddled by the constant affections of her new human parents. Life couldn't have been better for an alpha pup until her primary parents decided that she needed a companion to ease the solitude she must have felt when left alone.
Introducing her new playmate, Moby didn't go over as hoped. Babette immediately bristled at Moby's arrival. She growled and barked and, in no uncertain terms, informed Moby of her right to maintain the alpha status in the household. Eventually, an understanding of the dog pecking order was established, and play amongst the pups emerged. The author and artist, Sergio, now had the arc of lovable kids' stories to write and illustrate, from a happy solo life to conflict, resistance, and finally, acceptance of a new sibling.
Sergio was raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, located on the edge of the Hudson River, directly across from Manhattan. Its close location to New York City permitted frequent family trips to museums exposing him and his twin brother to a world of art from an early age. Luckily, they were both born with the talent for drawing pictures which their elementary school teachers recognized and further encouraged.
Sergio began working as an illustrator in publishing, creating cover art for many genres in paperback books in the early 80s shortly after leaving Parsons. His favorite books to illustrate were children's trade novels. "Welcome" is his first authored and illustrated picture book. It was inspired by watching and caring for two French bulldog puppies with his spouse, James. "The joy and fun of watching two puppies play and fight over toys were reminiscent of toddler sibling rivalry," Like on Welcome, Sergio recalled his childhood experiences of competing with his twin brother for the affectation and attention of his mom. Welcome, was a project that took years to create because of the difficulty and time spent caring for his spouse, who passed away, and now with your support, this book will be published.
"It was a bit of a challenge to illustrate," Sergio describes. He was accustomed to working in the realist style of adult paperbacks, and transitioning to the light-hearted cartoon style of most kids' picture books was different. It required creating simplified caricatures to evoke humor and appeal to kids.
He also needed to create illustrations for the mom characters and requested the help of a good friend, an occasional drag queen who modeled for both moms. Aided by the photos taken and many pencil sketches, Sergio realized that he finally had the cast of characters that would inhabit his story.
Sergio decided to focus on the characters of the puppies to propel the story and to minimize the mom characters. He chose to make the moms in "Welcome" incidental and made the story less about gay parenting and more about siblings' jealousy. "At its heart, I wanted to convey to children that Gay homes headed by LGBTQ+ parents are commonplace, ordinary, and no big deal."