Friday, June 19, 2015

What James Said & author interview

What James Said
by Liz Rosenberg; illus. by Matt Myers
32 pages; ages 4-8
Roaring Brook Press

This is a book I chose by its cover. Who can resist Matt Myers's bright splashes of color and wonderfully drawn characters?

There's another reason, too.... I met author Liz Rosenberg a few years back, and always enjoy reading her stories. And this one is everything I want in a kid's book: It's fun. It's touching. It makes you slow down and consider how you treat your friends - even when you're mad.

The main character is a little girl who, on the very first page, declares: "I'm never talking to James again." They are in a fight. You see, James told Aiden who told someone else who told someone else who.... eventually told her something that made her mad, mad, mad.  And so she's not talking to James any more. They are in a fight. Even if James doesn't know it. Even if he asks "are you OK?" or slides her favorite treat onto her desk.

This is such a delightful tale of a typical childhood experience, and I love how Rosenberg reveals their realization that that true friendship can survive a misunderstanding. She was gracious enough to answer Three Questions.

Sally: What inspired this story?

Liz: How easy it is for people to misunderstand each other. As a little girl, I was always getting into "fights" with my best friends - I think girls are even more inclined to these dramas than boys. In a school situation it's so easy to unwittingly start a game of he-said-she-said "telephone", where what was really said gets garbled the further the gossip spreads. And I'd never really seen a picture book about that, but I think it's a very real and vital part of our experience. Then, too, I've been through rough patches as an adult. I've had some experience feeling like "I'm never talking to so-and-so again". Then, of course, you do - and if you're lucky the friendship is stronger than ever.

Sally: Your characters seem like kids we'd find in the local elementary school. Is there a secret to creating "real" characters?

Liz: I'm still a child at heart. I'm pretty darned childish - and of course I have children. I like being around children. That makes it easier to see you children "really are".

Sally: How closely did you work with the illustrator, Matt?

Liz: Matt and I had worked together on Tyrannosaurus Dad (2011), So I thoroughly trusted him - and my editor, the wonderful Neal Porter. There was no need for collaboration... everything is there in the story. I love every single choice that Matt made.

Liz just finished her final revision of her next book - a YA biography of LM Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables. "She led a fascinating, touching life, a life of checkered brightness and darkness," says Liz. "And she was one of my favorite authors as a child. Still is. So this biography is a debt of love. Maybe all real writing is."

I just finished listening to the recorded book,  Anne of Green Gables, so I can't wait to read Liz's biography on the author! 

If there were "perfect picture book Friday" today, we'd be there. But even though it's PPBF summer break, you can still check out recent posts at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksAdvanced review copy from the publisher.

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