Nathaniel Lachenmeyer is the author of the new children's picture book Octopus Escapes!. His other books include The Outsider and The Origami Master. He lives near Atlanta.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Octopus Escapes!?
A: I have always been interested in animals and animal behavior. My favorite book as a teenager was Jane Goodall’s classic about chimpanzees, In The Shadow Of Man.
I am especially intrigued by animal intelligence and the ways in which the dividing line between the intelligence of humans and other animals has shifted, as people learn more and more about different species’ capabilities.
I wanted to write something about octopuses because they are so intelligent, and so fascinating and strange.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: My goal with Octopus Escapes! was to create an exciting, fun read-aloud experience for kids and their parents, one that would be appealing to very young children as well as older kids.
I wanted kids to come away from the book intrigued by octopuses and the animals all around us. One of the key components of the book is the short essay at the end on octopuses.
My hope is that the combination of the entertaining light verse story and the accessible and informative afterword make for a rich and rewarding experience.
Q: What do you think Frank W. Dormer's illustrations add to the book?
A: I love Frank’s illustrations for Octopus Escapes! I have had a number of experiences in the past where the art was not a good match for the book. For this reason, it means even more to me what a great job Frank and the publisher, Charlesbridge, did with Octopus Escapes!
Frank’s irreverent and humorous style complements and amplifies the humor of the story perfectly. I also love how his visual inventiveness matches the inventiveness of the book’s subject—the octopus!
Q: You've written for different age groups. Do you have a preference, and does your writing process differ depending on what you're working on?
A: That’s a great question. I really enjoy writing for both kids and adults. The process definitely draws on different skill sets depending on the intended audience. But at its core, it’s always about story and finding something I enjoy and think is worth communicating.
There is something special about writing for kids, especially as a parent, that I don’t find with anything else. And writing for kids is an invitation to become one again, at least for a little while, and that’s a good thing for any adult!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am finishing up work on my first novel for adults, which is inspired by the themes of my first nonfiction book, The Outsider. I have also just finished a new picture book.
I am now working on a new all-ages graphic novel (my first graphic novel, The Singing Rock and Other Brand-New Fairy Tales, comes out in 2019 with First Second/Macmillan).
--Interview with Deborah Kalb