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Author of the Month
2006 Archive
Jarrett Krosoczka
Jarrett Krosoczka
Author/Illustrator of My Buddy, Slug
ETC: What do you enjoy most about writing and illustrating books for children?

Krosoczka: I love that I can be a professional daydreamer. My imagination is my full time job and I'm very grateful for that! There are days when I wake up and I just think to myself, "Today, I'm going to paint farm animals playing punk rock." It doesn't get much better than that, especially for a guy who drew relentlessly as a kid.

I also love that I am able to share my talents and entertain so many young readers. There have been times when I have received photos of homemade birthday cakes with my characters on it. And that just blows my mind - what an honor!

ETC: A slug is a pretty unusual animal to pick to star in a picture book. What made you choose something so slimey and rotund for your latest picture book My Buddy, Slug rather than, say, a cute, fluffy puppy?

Krosoczka: My Buddy, Slug was initially conceived nine years ago while I was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. It started as a free-writing assignment in a class where we were writing and illustrating picture books. I began writing in this kid's voice and he was complaining about a slug. It really just came out of nowhere and then the story evolved from there. Slug became this overbearing, overly excited character and the fact that he was a slug only enhanced that feeling the reader would have of being both annoyed and endeared by him.

I don't think that would have worked as well with any other animal.

Tony Diterlizzi
Here's Tony... Tony Diterlizzi
ETC: G Is for One Gzonk! is an alphabet book with lots of tongue twisting rhymes, plenty of crazy characters and more than one number thrown in to the mix. What inspired you to write this rather unusual picture book about the ABC's?

Tony DiTerlizzi: I really like clever, well thought-out, alphabet books - I've quite a collection of them myself.

But I wanted to create a chaotic, disorderly alphabet book, where I could really mess with the format and have a lot of fun. There are so many ABC books out there, and I thought, "What if I did one that didn't really teach the reader anything, but mocked something they've seen before?" It's almost like an old Muppet Show skit where everything goes horribly awry.

Of course, this isn't the first time there have been silly ABC books. Edward Lear did this very thing almost 100 years ago. Dr. Seuss did his classic version, and even Edward Gorey did a funny, twisted one as well. So I wanted to add something in the tradition of those books…where the reader can be silly and have a lot of fun reading a book that is normally intended to "trick" the kid into learning. My trick is on the adult who thinks they are buying an imaginative alphabet book that will teach the ABCs.

Peter Brown, Author/Illustrator
Meet Peter Brown, Author/Illustrator of Chowder
ETC: The bulldog in your new book, Chowder, is a very interesting character. How did you come up with the idea of a dog that acts like (and is treated like) a human?

Peter Brown: We all know people who are obsessed with their dogs. They often talk to and treat their dogs as if they were babies, and most dogs understandably react to that treatment in a dog-like way. So I thought it would be funny if there was a dog, who was still clearly a pet, but who reacted to that babying with the personality of a curious, resourceful child. Once I had that idea everyday things, like waiting for his owners to return from work, became very interesting. How would Chowder spend his weekdays? How would other dogs react to his kid-like personality? What kind of toys would he play with? These kinds of questions led to the creation of Chowder.

ETC: And, what about his name? Where did Chowder come from?

Traci L. Jones
An Interview with Traci L. Jones
Author of Standing Against the Wind (Ages 12 and Up)

ETC: Every detail of the book feels true, especially the emotions Patrice has in her new neighborhood and the reaction of the kids to her. How did you achieve that?

JONES: I think there are some emotions that most preteens and teens go through, regardless of their economic status or their geographic location. I just tapped into some of the feelings I remembered going through and wrote about them as honestly as I could.

ETC: Did any aspect of the story take you in a direction that surprised you or made you realize something you hadn't before?

Robie Harris

Interview with Author Robie Harris, April 2006

My main interest in writing books for children is that I find children's behavior and the way they go through a moment, or a day, or a week, not only fascinating, but a mirror of what all of us experience as we go through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Young children are often dealing with feelings that all of us, including adults, continue to deal with throughout our lives -love, joy, anger, fear, separation. While my picture books deal with all of these emotions, each book has as an underpinning- the emotion of love. So it's no surprise that the children in my picture books feel so loved by their parent or parents, that they are able to express all of their feelings without the concern of losing that love.

Eileen Spinelli
An Interview with Eileen Spinelli
ETC: How did you become a writer?

Eileen Spinelli: When I was six years old my father gave me an old black manual typewriter. He built me a desk from a wooden orange crate. My mother filled a box with paper. And that's how I began.

ETC: How did your childhood differ from your grandchildren's?

Eileen Spinelli: It was safer. I could go out and about on my own. To the park. To the fishing pond. To the ball field. To the library for books. To the deli for pickles. To the fire house for a climb on the big red fire engine.

On summer nights I could chase after fireflies.

On winter nights I could sled down Cobbs Creek Hill.

With friends. Or even by myself.

Things were cheaper. Ten cents got me into the movie theater. Five cents got me a candy bar. Fifteen cents got me a hot fudge sundae.

Michael Dooling
Meet Michael Dooling, Author/Illustrator

At a recent elementary school visit two students sat down with Michael Dooling and asked about his school visits, his new book Young Thomas Edison and his Ben Franklin postage stamp.

STUDENT: Why do you visit schools?

DOOLING: I spend about five months out of the year traveling the country with my History through Picture Book school program speaking to children from kindergarten through eighth grade. I talk about how I make the books and how children can make their own pictures better. But really, I visit schools to promote reading. Since my books are about history, elementary school teachers use my books to introduce a lesson plan. First and second graders use picture books to learn how to read while third through fifth graders learn about history. Even the sixth through eighth graders learn by reading my Middle Grade Novels.

STUDENT: Why did you write and illustrate the book Young Thomas Edison?

Linzi Glass
Meet Linzi Glass
Author of The Year the Gypsies Came
Linzi Glass' debut novel proves an utterly compelling classic-in-waiting. Set against the backdrop of Apartheid South Africa, The Year the Gypsies Came seamlessly intertwines the story of a fragmented and dysfunctional family with that of a fragmented and dysfunctional society. The Year the Gypsies Came is a beautiful, lyrical novel that will enthrall teenagers and adults alike.

Glass's incredible talent for storytelling takes us into the lonely, isolated world of twelve year old Emily Iris as she silently begs for attention from her self absorbed mother and distracted father. From time to time, her parents invite house guests to diffuse the tension in their unhappy home. One spring a "gypsy family" - an Australian wildlife photographer, his wife and two boys - comes to stay. Emily and her beloved sister Sarah find friendship and adventure with the boys, but when tragedy strikes - their lives are changed forever.

As Emily struggles to find happiness, she often turns to Buza, the family's old Zulu night watchman, for comfort. His lovingly told African folktales offer pearls of wisdom to Emily (and to the reader). These beautiful and exotic tales enrich an already amazing story - you can almost hear Buza's raspy old voice whispering to Emily as night falls! Ironically, Buza is the wisest of the characters, yet has the least amount of power and honor in the unjust world of apartheid.

E. R. Frank
Meet E. R. Frank
ETC: Your latest novel, Wrecked, is about a teenage girl, Anna, who is driving during an auto accident that kills her brother's girlfriend. How did that idea come to you?

Frank: When I was in high school, there were a number of fatal car accidents in my community. A few were unusually gruesome, and in some of them, by coincidence, passengers from different cars knew one another. Though I never knew the victims well, I was still pretty disturbed. I guess I often end up writing about things that disturb me.

ETC: We thought it was interesting that Wrecked is not a book about drunk driving or even a cautionary tale. In fact, the accident is only one aspect of the novel.

Frank: That's true. To me, the real story involves how the relationships within Anna's family change after this tragedy, particularly the relationship between Anna and her brother.


David Klass
Meet David Klass, Author of Dark Angel
ETC: Many of your books are about sports, and are clearly aimed at teenage boys. Was that a conscious decision?

DAVID: When The Atami Dragons was published, I was taken to lunch by an editor who knew far more than I did about YA books. She warned me that if I wrote books for boys I was committing professional suicide. "Boys don't read," she said. "We have them till they're twelve. And we get them back when they're eighteen. Between twelve and eighteen they don't read. So if you write books for them, no one will buy your work."

I remember feeling angry when I heard that. Boys do read. I was a bit of a reluctant reader, but I read. And those are absolutely crucial years, when a young man is figuring out who he is and establishing patterns that will last a lifetime. The real danger in what she said is that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If writers don't write books for boys, and editors don't publish them, then boys won't read. So I consciously tried to write books for boys in that age group that I would have enjoyed reading when I was in junior high school and high school.