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Jane Yolen Interview with Jane, October 2007

Award-winning author Jane Yolen went back to school this fall with a picture book featuring kids' favorite animals-dinosaurs. How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? (Scholastic, July) is the newest offering in a sequence of wildly successful books that began with How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? The books, for kids ages 3-5, have sold more than 3 million copies. How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?, with art by Mark Teague, features a rollicking, rhyming text and exuberant illustrations that follow young dinosaurs into the classroom and onto the playground. There they learn a thing or two about how to behave-and how not to behave-in school.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen - 20th Anniversary EditionThis fall marks the 20th anniversary of the Caldecott-winning picture book Owl Moon (September). To celebrate, the publisher has issued a special 20th anniversary edition of this classic story about a child and parent who embark on a snowy nighttime search for a great horned owl. Letters from author Jane Yolen and illustrator John Schoenherr and a silvery cover will entice longtime fans and introduce a whole new generation of readers ages 4 and up to this timeless tale.

In Baby Bear's Big Dreams (Harcourt, August), illustrated by award-winning artist Melissa Sweet, an endearing young bear makes big plans for the future. His dreams are full of carousels and toy trains, honey cakes and tea, exploring in the woods and playing tag. And of course, when he's a BIG Bear, he'll get to make all the rules! Kids ages 3-5 will flock to this third book about Baby Bear, which "centers on his wishes for what he will get to be when he grows up," according to Yolen. "I love these three little books, their gentle coziness that shows in full bloom the self-importance of a 2-3 year old (It's all about me!) And of course, the wonderful illustrations. Melissa Sweet is a genius."

Shape Me A Rhyme: Nature's Forms in Poetry (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, September) brings together twelve poems about the shapes and forms of the natural world with evocative photographs by award-winning photographer Jason Stemple. Poems and pictures celebrate circles, crescents, ovals and other shapes found in nature, as well as the emotions they evoke. An author's note challenges readers to respond with their own poetry.

For older readers, Yolen offers up The Rogues (September), the final installment of the Scottish Quartet, written with Robert J. Harris. Kids ages 10 and up will thrill to this suspenseful adventure set in the Scottish Highlands during a time of intrigue and danger. When an unscrupulous laird suddenly evicts everyone in his village, Roddy Macallan must find a way to fight back. Aided by the bonny high-born lass Josie McRoy and a Robin Hood-like rogue who roams the hills, Roddy encounters challenges that test both his wits and his will.

How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?
Written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague
Ages 3-5

Owl Moon: 20th Anniversary Edition
Written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr
Ages 4 up

Baby Bear's Big Dreams
Written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Ages 3-5

Shape Me A Rhyme: Nature's Forms in Poetry
Written by Jane Yolen, illustrated with photographs by Jason Stemple
Ages 10-12

The Rogues
Written by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris
Ages 10 and up

FOILED [A quirky, fast-paced urban fantasy by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mike Cavallaro. Graphic novel. Aliera Carstairs just doesn’t fit in. She’s always front and center at the fencing studio, but at school she’s invisible. And she’s fine with that . . . until Avery Castle walks into her first period biology class. Avery may seem perfect now, but will he end up becoming her Prince Charming or just a toad? Ages 13+

ETC: Owl Moon is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Why do you think this book has been special to so many people over the years?Jane Yolen

YOLEN: Three things, really--it is a positive family story. It's about a girl and her father. Usually stories of a little girl are with her mother. It is gentle yet adventurous, quiet yet full of sound.

ETC: You write in many different genres. What do you think is the common thread that connects your books?

YOLEN: Honestly? Me. My interests, my passions. You will see a lot of nature, strong women, adventures, travel, fantasy, mystery, poetry, folklore, Arthuriana, and history--all things I love myself.

ETC: How would you describe your growth as a writer over the years?

YOLEN: Slowly developing away from my safe spots. Always willing to look at something new, except--alas--hard science which makes me immediately fall to sleep. Realization that growth is good. Learning to plot. Learning to STOP research and get on with the writing. Going outside to smell the grandbabies.

ETC: Are there books that you consider keystones of your career?

YOLEN: My first collection of art fairy tales--THE GIRL WHO CRIED FLOWERS. My first folkloric picture book (with an Author's note)--GREYLING. My first major award book, a Caldecott Honor for Ed Young's amazing illustrations--THE EMPEROR & THE KITE. My first historical novel-- (about the Shakers in the 1850s) THE GIFT OF SARAH BARKER. My first adult novel--C ARDS OF GRIEF. First trilogy--The Pit Dragon books. My first Yolen-Stemple family story--OWL MOON. My best Arthurian book--SWORD OF THE RIGHTFUL KING, and ALL the books done with my children Heidi, Adam, and Jason Stemple.

ETC: Is writing for children different today than it was when you first started?

YOLEN: Absolutely. Teen books are rawer. I can't imagine THE RAINBOW PARTY back in the '60s which is when I began publishing children's books. Historical books are more accurate, My first book was PIRATES IN PETTICOATS about women pirates who did NOT wear petticoats by the way, and had made up dialogue. Folklore books are well cited. I like to think I had something to do with that. Subjects are tackled that were not even hinted about back then: gender issues, sexual taboos, positive books about blacks, tribal people, all kinds of different cultures star in books.

ETC: What age group do you most enjoy writing for?

YOLEN: I think I am always writing for me, and the age for the book gets dealt with after. I am 68 with the heart of a 10 year old who remembers her childhood with much happiness.

ETC: Can you tell us about the book or books that we can look for from you in the near future?

YOLEN: Next year I will have quite a variety of things. Picture books: NAMING LIBERTY about the building of the Statue of Liberty while at the same time the story of a Jewish girl and her family traveling from the Ukraine to America (as my father's family did.) JOHNNY APPLESEED (Harper) about the truth and folklore of Appleseed's life. Both books illustrated by the marvelous Jim Burke, who did MY BROTHER'S FLYING MACHINE. Possibly UNCLE EMILY, a story about Emily Dickinson and her nephew if Nancy Carpenter gets her illustrations in on time. Possibly my first graphic novel, FOILED (First/Second) if--again--the illustror gets his work in on time. And the novel DRAGON'S HEART, the fourth part of the Pit Dragon Chronicles.

ETC: What are your goals as a writer at this stage?

YOLEN: To live long enough--and with my brains intact--to finish twelve projects I am passionate about--three collections of stories and poems with Jane Dyer for S&S; two historical novels, two historical picture books about Ben Franklin and Honus Wagner, two picture books with my photographer son Jason, the revision of a non-fiction book called BAD GIRLS with my daughter as well as the novel GHOUL SCHOOL with her, and a novel about the Golem with son Adam.