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Lisa Kopelke
Excuse Me!
Ages 4-8

Agenda: BURPING
(gassamous-expellerous-grossamus)

Frog loved to burp. He’d been burping since his early tadpole days. Why? Because it made him happy. It was what he called “enthusiastic burping…not only feels good, but makes room for dessert!” Not everyone shared his enthusiasm for burping and he was exiled. Frog found a town full of gaseous frogs that made no apologies for burping, never said excuse me and even burped while they slept. He soon understood how he had offended his old friends and that it was time to go home. Would they accept him?

Be prepared for gobs of glorious gaseous gluttonies in this goofy comedy of bad manners.
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Tissue, Please!
Ages: 4-8

"Schnorrrkle!"

Frog and his friends can't stop sniffling. What's worse, they wipe their noses on their arms. Frog's runny nose is making it hard to concentrate in dance class, and it's disgusting his teacher, Miss Tutu. What Frog and his friends need are tissues!

Frog discovers nirvana when he finally uses a tissue to blow his nose. But what will happen when Frog is caught in the middle of his dance recital with a runny nose -- and no tissue? Lisa Kopelke's humorous text and exuberant art enliven this comedy of manners.
--Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - October 2004
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The Younger Brother's Survival Guide
Ages 4-8

IT'S NOT EASY HAVING AN OLDER SISTER.

Matt's sister calls him a pain. Matt's parents call them both wild animals. Matt calls it SURVIVING. That's why he wrote The Younger Brother's Survival Guide.

Matt shares his tips on how to avoid the infamous Mystery Shake and why you shouldn't run around the house in your underwear, and gives general pointers on coping with an older sibling. Before long, you two will get along great!

Just remember not to show this book to her. . . .
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Interview with Author & Illustrator
Lisa Kopelke - March 2003

Lisa Kopelke Lisa Kopelke was born in the sixties to parents who were “borderline” hippies. They lived in the suburbs of San Diego, California, in a typical house, but the collection of eclectic friends & neighbors made for a very atypical upbringing. Both her parents were artists and her father spent most of his time in his shack/studio doing hippie art stuff, while her mother expressed her own talents by cooking gourmet meals & sewing clothes. This was probably what set Lisa’s palette for good food and quirky art at an early age.

ETC: Have you always wanted to be a writer, and did your upbringing have a big influence on this?

Lisa Kopelke: I grew up always being an artist, but never thought about writing. I always had a ton of stuff in my head, but was pretty lazy about writing it down. Art was my main thing and I spent a lot of summers going to art camps. I never really thought about what I was going to “be” when I grew up, but I knew it would have something to do with my hands. I briefly thought for a time that I wanted to be a model, but I stopped growing at 15, and knew there probably weren’t too many modeling jobs for elves. I also took one of those career tests in high school and it told me I was going to be a cabinet maker, but I’m deathly afraid of table saws, so that didn’t work out either.

ETC: What did you do before you sold your first book?

Lisa Kopelke: I went to cosmetology school right out of high school because I thought hair stylists were cool. My teacher had a large salmon pink hair-do, and I knew I was off to a good start. I continued to cut hair for about ten years, but felt like there was more that I wanted be doing. I moved up to San Francisco to go to Art College, and soon found myself working for a rapid prototyping company called Plynetics. We made everything from wax castings of knee caps to cell phones, and Nike shoe soles to computer housings. This was a life changing event for me. It was the best thing I had ever done so far, so I quit college to work full time. I was learning more from my coworkers than I ever did in school. They were all very talented and came from various crafty backgrounds; carpenters, model makers, sculptors, even a cabinet maker (he got me to use the table saw!). I was a happy camper, but the company was bought out and shut down within several years. My daughter was a year old by then, so the timing was perfect. It gave me the excuse to stay home full time with my toddler. We soon packed our bags and moved to Las Vegas, where I finally decided to fulfill a secret dream.

ETC: How did you sell your first book? Did you get an agent?

Lisa Kopelke: The move to Las Vegas was probably the main thing that got me started. After about three months of 115 degree temperatures, I said to myself, “what are you doing?” I decided right then and there to sit down at my computer to finally do some research on writing & illustrating for children. Plus I was a big fan of air conditioning by then, so any excuse to stay indoors was a boon for me. After a ton of research, and a stack of how-to books, I found myself in an online workshop about agents. I had never considered one, but by the end of the night, I knew for sure that that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want just any ‘ole agent either, it had to be this one. So I got my manuscript and dummy ready and sent it off. I don’t think I had any naïve illusions of grandeur, it was mostly about gut instinct, and coincidences. This agent was from my hometown, went to High School with my brother (though they never met), and his client list was filled with authors I admired. He phoned me within days of receiving my work and said all those dreamy words. I’ll never remember exactly what he said, I was so nervous and excited, but I do remember screaming a lot. After I hung up of course.

He set me up with some of his authors who he thought would get my humor and they helped me revise and refresh my manuscript, and get it ready to send out. Of the four publishers my agent sent it to, one didn’t “get it”, one didn’t respond, one wanted to see a revision before making any decisions, and the fourth was Simon & Schuster. The editor had specific revisions, and said they’d make a formal offer after they saw the new piece. I’m one of those people with an overloaded brain, so I was extremely grateful to be given a direction. I revised my manuscript keeping in mind their suggestions, and they came back with an offer. My first book was being published!


ETC: Your first book, Excuse Me! is about a burping frog that learns manners. Where do you get your ideas, and how did you decide on a frog that burps?

Lisa Kopelke: Most of my ideas come to me like the beginning of a thunderstorm. They’re never complete, but they will start out as a simple phrase, title, or a trickle of words that I like, then they explode into raging story. When I try to purposely sit down and come up with ideas, it never works. Ideas hit me when I least expect it. One time, after a very long, particularly hot day, I sat down with an ice cold beer, took a sip, and of course, burped. I commented to my husband & daughter that I sounded like a frog. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if frogs were actually burping instead of croaking? The thought stuck like glue. The next day I sat down and wrote the story out in one hour. It’s gone through a lot of revising, but the initial idea is still the focus of the book. Another time, I was sitting around thinking about my brother, Matt. I was mulling over how he thinks he knows everything, and wouldn’t it be funny to write a book called “Matt’s Book on How to Do Everything in the Whole Wide World”? By the time I got pen to paper, it quickly became “Matt’s Guide to Life”. The story turned into a manual on how to survive your mean big sister.

ETC: In your book, Excuse Me!, Frog’s eating habits lead to his excessive burping. He seems to eat a lot of really gross things. Did you do any personal research on recipes?

Lisa Kopelke: I actually get the heebie jeebies when I think about eating insects, but I know that in some countries, insects are a very good source of protein. Often, their only source. My husband has traveled a lot in Mexico and confirms that they do serve things like Cricket Tacos, one of Frog’s favorite foods. I would rather eat a cow tongue taco than a bug taco myself.

ETC: Your illustrations are quirky and have a lot of character. Do you have any strong influences on your style of art?

Lisa Kopelke: When I was in art college, I took a few art history classes. One of my favorites was 15th century art. I did poorly when it came to the tests, but the class really struck a chord with me. I love the look of old cracked oil paintings, the smell of them, heavy paint strokes, and of course The Masters themselves. Most of my modern day influences are all children’s illustrators. Maurice Sendak, David Shannon, Dav Pilkey, Maira Kalman, Dan Yaccarino, Chris Raschka, Lisbeth Zwerger, Elise Primavera, Lane Smith and Henrik Drescher, to name but just a few.

ETC: What is the message of your book? Is it about manners?

Lisa Kopelke: Excuse Me! was first written just to be funny. My editor really helped me find the message by seeing the bigger picture. We went through a lot of revising and found what we thought was the perfect message for children: It’s okay to burp, everybody does it, just be civilized about it. Saying Excuse Me is a good start!

ETC: Do you burp a lot?

Lisa Kopelke: I do now. When I was growing up, I was painfully shy. Even burping was really hard for me to do unless I was by myself. When I first met my husband, he used to tease me all the time. He said I was going to explode if I didn’t let it out. I bet he’s sorry he told me that! So now I burp when I need to, and say excuse me after I’m done.