Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Q&A with Miranda Paul

Miranda Paul is the author of the new children's picture book Are We Pears Yet?. Her other books include One Plastic Bag and Water Is Water. She lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Are We Pears Yet?, and did you need to do any research to write this book?

A: I wrote Are We Pears Yet? several years ago. My husband and I were prepping our children for an upcoming 2,000-mile road trip. One day, while waiting to pick up my daughter, my son kept expressing his impatience. Why did we have to wait SO VERY LONG for her to come out? (We were only in the car for 10-15 minutes, by the way). I worried we’d never make it through a 15-day trip.

So I injected humor into the situation. I said, “Are we there yet?” wouldn’t be allowed on our trip. Then I began brainstorming acceptable alternatives. “Are we bears yet? Are we chairs yet? Are we pears yet?” I suggested. He giggled.

I realized there might be a book idea in that last one, and began making up a story on the drive home. Once I’d written the book and revised it, I’m happy to say my agent and editor loved it immediately.

My editor Neal Porter even wrote, “Soooo....Having just told an author that among the inanimate objects that should never talk are fruits and vegetable, I'm ready to break my rule.” It’s fun to break rules.

Although that all sounds so rosy, I did do a fair amount of research (thanks for asking!). I had to learn how long it would take a pear seed to grow into a tree, for starters. Since most pears these days are grafted, I included that in the author’s note along with facts about pears in the back matter.

Since illustrations proved a special challenge for this kind of book, the text did change from the original submission. I have a newfound appreciation for pears of all kinds now!

Q: Who do you see as the perfect audience for this book, and what do you hope kids take away from the story?

A: The “pear”fect audience? Kids who love theatre or acting, or humorous picture books. It’s also useful for teachers in grades K-3 who teach about plant growth and life cycles.

In addition to the science connections, there are the underlying themes of patience and tolerance. The two pear seeds are not alike, but must learn to get along and they eventually become a pair of friends. I like my books to be well-rounded. (Ha! “Pair” of friends! Well-rounded!)

Q: What do you think Carin Berger's illustrations added to the book?

A: Carin Berger is incredible. An artist in the true sense of having a vision and executing it with style. This book wouldn’t be set on a literal stage without her vision and diligence. Imagine cutting out dozens of tiny little shoes and buttons, etc. All of the art in Are We Pears Yet? is three-dimensional and the shadow boxes were staged, lit, and photographed.

I know humorous books (especially with an educational tie-in) aren’t always looked at for awards, but I hope that people will look at the art and realize what a production it is. What an extraordinary model for children to study!

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My husband, Baptiste Paul, and I recently completed a book that includes 14 extraordinary stories of children around the world who have a very interesting journey to get to school. It's called Adventures to School, and it's scheduled to come out May 1, 2018. 

I just saw final art from Paige Kaiser for a book called Mia Moves Out. It’s about a girl who outgrows a shared room with her little brother. It will be published in Fall 2018 from Knopf Children’s at Penguin Random House. And it’s just adorable and sweet!

I’m also in final stages for two 2019 nonfiction books—one called I Am Farmer, co-written with Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (Lerner), and a book called Nine Months with Jason Chin (Neal Porter Books).

Now that I put it all out there, it seems like a lot of projects! But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love making books for children, and it keeps me focused in a world full of unhealthy distraction.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Yes! First of all, thank you to anyone who reads or shares my books, or gives me feedback on how they are used in the classroom. I am grateful for all the support and encouragement as well as all forms of feedback.

I’d also like to let educators know that there are many resources for librarians, teachers, and homeschooling parents on my website. From science and social studies activities to new vocabulary quizlets, there are dozens of ways for students in PreK-grade 5 to interact with my books. Those resources are online at www.mirandapaul.com/for-teachers.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Miranda Paul.

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