Happy Book Birthday! The Teacher's Pet and Fall is for School!

As the school year comes to an end for us in New England, it's time to start thinking about next year! The Teacher's Pet, by Anica Mrose Rissi, and Zachariah Ohora and Fall is for School by Robert Neubecker are both incredible back to school books.  

The Teacher's Pet will evoke discussion about science experiments gone awry, and what really happens in the classroom.  The idea of an inappropriate classroom pet is hilarious. This book is filled with surprises in the text and the colorful illustrations enhance the fun of the story. The title is a clever word play that makes perfect sense, yet will make parents chuckle. I especially love the diverse cast of children, animals, and of course, the oblivious adult. I love how the kids are the characters in the book that understand the truth of the situation and know how to deal with it, whereas the teacher is absolutley clueless. People of every age will love this rollicking read aloud.

Fall is for School does a great job of showing a conversation between a sister who is excited about school, and a brother who is not! Periodically, the rhyming text is appropriately interrupted by the brother which adds to the humor of the story. For example: 

Recess is for playing games:
We'll run and jump and climb!
Let's go right now and join the fun.
You really must not whine!

The illustrations are darling, using a fall palette that helps us get excited for the upcoming school year.   The endpapers feature a tree at different seasons, and different colored texts show us who is talking.  As the sister eventually gets her brother excited about school, the illustrations show the kids' imaginations coming to life.  

This story will resonate with all types of children and learners and may even help the un-enthusiastic kids laugh about their trepidation, and process how they're feeling.   

Each of these stories is a great way to get excited about and prepared for a new school year!

What are you favorite back to school books?

Interview of Author Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Elizabeth's books are compelling and creative. I'm excited to share her thoughts!

Kirsti Call: I've read many of your YA books. Your characters are authentic and engaging. Cogling is one of my favorites.  What was your inspiration?  

Jordan Elizabeth: At the time, I belonged to the Utica Writers Club, a local group.  I was a member, vice president, and then president.  Another member, Aaron Siddall, is a professional illustrator.  We met up at a local cafe and brainstormed a steampunk project where I wrote and he illustrated.  Unfortunately, his illustrations weren't included.  However, we have another steampunk collaboration coming out sometime this year from Oloris. The tentative title is FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD.  

KC: I can't wait to read that one! You infuse a lot of humor in your books as you tackle difficult subjects. As you write the story, how do you gauge when to be serious, and when to infuse humor?  

JE: Honestly, I just write.  I don't even realize something is funny until I'm rereading and chuckle.  I get an idea and just start writing.  I go for walks a lot, and that's how I flesh out my plots.

KC: What is your favorite book that you've written?

JE: Each book means a lot to me, but in a different way.  There is a book I've written that I love, but it hasn't found a publishing home yet.  Other than that book, it would have to be TREASURE DARKLY.  I laughed so hard while rereading the parts about Amethyst.  

KC: What new projects are you working on?  

JE: I'm working on a kid's story for my baby about a boy growing up in the 1960s.  So far I'm only on chapter 3.  I have to keep rereading to make sure it is appropriate for beginning readers.

KC: What advice would you give to aspiring kidlit authors?  

JE: Keep going.  I queried so many agents and publishers.  It can be daunting.  So many people told me to just give up.  Eventually you become numb to the rejections and it just makes an acceptance letter that much sweeter.

KC: Thank you Jordan! I'll be looking for your young reader story for my children!

Jordan Elizabeth, formally Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, writes down her nightmares in order to live her dreams. When she’s not creating art or searching for lost history in the woods, she’s updating her blog. Jordan roams Central New York, but she loves to travel. 

Jordan is a young adult fantasy author represented by the Belcastro Agency. 

Interview of Frank Cottrell Boyce, author of Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth

I've always been a fan of award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce's books.  

In Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth, Cottrell Boyce seamlessly weaves humor into a story about a boy named Prez who hasn't spoken since his grandfather was dragged away. This book masterfully covers the issues of select mutism, Alzheimer's, grief, loss, foster-care, and the power of the the choices we make. Prez is an endearing and imperfect protagonist who longs to find his grandfather and live with him again. He meets up with an alien and together they try to find grandfather and save the world. Their adventures provide endless fun and laughs for the reader and also help us understand how remarkable our lives really are. This book made me think about my childhood, my relationships and how grateful I am to be on this earth. 

I'm thrilled to interview Frank!

Kirsti Call:  I love Spunik's Guide to Life on Earth.  What was your inspiration?

Frank Cottrell Boyce: Thank you! I honestly think the inspiration was Sputnik himself. I was driving my daughter to her Saturday-morning sports club. I stopped at the traffic lights and the idea seem to just step - uninvited - into the car.  I turned to my daughter - Heloise - and said “How about a lonely kid meets a little loud mouthed person in a kilt.  Everyone else sees this person as a dog.”  She said,  “That’ll work.” I went home and started writing. It’s the only time that’s ever happened to me. I’ve driven up and down that road a hundred times since.  I’ve even lingered at the traffic lights,  hoping it would happen again. But it hasn’t, sadly.The setting of the book - South West Scotland - is just a place that I really really love.  Hardly anyone goes there.   But we spend a lot of time there as a family.  The Cow Palace is a real thing and it really does look like Hogwarts for cows. Here it is …

KC: You do a wonderful job of infusing humor into your books as you tackle difficult subjects.  How do you decide when to be serious, and when to be silly as you're writing your books?

FCB: Oh Gosh.  That’s a tough question to answer in life as well as in art!  My father suffers from dementia - like Prez’s grandad - and he’s living with me at the moment. In some ways it’s incredibly painful - he gets confused about everything - but it’s also often very very funny. Like when he insists that I chase the monkeys out of his bedroom and I have to pretend to be chasing monkeys. The very worst things are often funny if you see them from a different angle.  And seeing things from a different angle is what art is all about.

KC: What is your favorite book that you've written?

FCB: Well it’s always the next one really.  I have very fond memories of Millions because it was my first and it was written quickly and easily.   Of Framed because I’m just really proud of it.  But in the end I guess it’s Cosmic because it’s set in space and anyone of my age is - whatever else they’ve achieved - a disappointed astronaut.  I was alive when Man walked on the Moon!  No one told me it was only going to be just a handful of men and not all of us. I fully expected to be astronaut by now.  Writing Cosmic was my chance to imagine that.

KC: What new projects are you working on?

FCB: Happily I’m working on the movie of Cosmic.  And on a new book of course.

KC: What advice would you give to aspiring children’s book authors?

FCB: I would give the same advice to aspiring children’s book authors as I would to aspiring chefs,  or engineers, or astronauts,  or parents, or mathematicians or brain surgeons or carpenters or plumbers -  read a lot!  Anything you do you will do better if you read a lot. Obviously that’s extra true of writing.

Thanks Frank!  I'm completely agree that reading improves everything!

Frank Cottrell Boyce is the author of Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth, The Astounding Broccoli Boy, Cosmic, Framed, and Millions, the last of which was a New York Times bestseller and was made into a movie by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle. His books have won or been nominated for numerous awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, and the Whitbread Children's Book Award. Frank is also a screenwriter, having penned the scripts for a number of feature films as well as the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. He lives in Liverpool with his family.