Mary Rand Hess is the author, with Gerry Ellis, of the children's book Little Larry Goes to School: The True Story of a Chimpanzee Who Learned to Reach New Heights. Her other books include Solo and Swing. She lives in California.
Q: What kind of research did you do to write Little Larry, and did you learn anything especially surprising?
A: [After working with wildlife photographer, filmmaker, and writer Gerry Ellis] it almost felt as if I had traveled to the Mefou Primate Sanctuary. There was so much I learned about Little Larry and his friends, and chimpanzees in general. It was interesting to learn that chimps use a complex language of sounds and gestures, and that humans understand at least thirty of the different vocal calls chimpanzees make.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: That you can do hard things...you can accomplish what may seem impossible by practicing and trying a little bit every day. Eventually, like Little Larry, you will succeed.
Q: You've written for different age groups--do you have a preference?
A: I LOVE to write for all age groups. It truly depends on the day and the project. Stories kind of command their own direction and age group. There’s a saying somewhere that goes “you’re every age you’ve ever been.”
I have been 5, 12, 18, 25, and well beyond. I get to observe my sons, their friends, and nieces, nephews, cousins, and students at various ages and stages. They provide a lot of inspiration, and it’s always there…and I’m reminded of every age I’ve ever been.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a book just released on Sept. 3 called The One and Only Wolfgang, with my friend Steve Greig. I’m currently at work on a screenplay and a novel, among other exciting writerly projects.
I have news I can’t wait to share, but I have not been given the green light just yet. It’s like being a kid with a secret, you want to blurt it out, but you have to wait.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Stop by and visit me at my website, or @maryrandhess on Instagram and Twitter for all the latest.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Mary Rand Hess.