Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Q&A with Amy Gibson

Amy Gibson is the author of the new children's picture book Never Trumpet with a Crumpet. Her other books include Around the World on Eighty Legs. She lives in California.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Never Trumpet with a Crumpet?

A: When my children were young and learning table manners, I used to remind them, “You never know when you’ll be invited to dine with The Queen.” 

So, my mind started running: what if invitations to tea with The Queen accidentally found their way to the zoo? 

Q: What do you think Jenn Harney's illustrations add to the book?

A: Jenn Harney is brilliant. She brings such humor and energy to her work. So many exquisite details. There’s a wonderful look-and-find quality to each spread, much like the Richard Scarry books I pored over as a child. She helps create tension between the restrained voice of the narrator and the exuberant illustrations, as each animal tries its best to mind its manners and fight off its own animal instinct, and well…you’ll see.

There’s also a marvelous give and take between author and illustrator in a picture book, as it becomes a brand-new thing. When you write in verse, it can take many, (many!) revisions to get the text just right, every word precisely in place. But it’s also the author’s job to let go of whatever you had in mind to make room for the illustrator’s creativity––and sometimes to let the text respond to the art.

So, when Jenn drew a Prince, I wrote him into the story. And look who she came up with for The Duke! I went happily back to revising more than once, and the book is so much better because of it. 

Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?

A: Courtesy and manners are always in style. 

Leave room for possibility. You never know what might show up in your mailbox. 

Try your best, but even practice rarely makes perfect. Elephants and orangutans make mistakes. So do children. And that’s perfectly okay.

Q: What are some of your favorite picture books?

A: I’m drawn to books involving animals––whether animals being animals or animal protagonists behaving like people. As a child, Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad were like dear friends. Bonny Becker’s A Visitor for Bear is one of my all-time favorites. The text and pictures work together seamlessly to weave storybook magic. 

From across the pond, I love most anything from Lauren Child. She’s so clever and utterly one-of-a-kind. We love to read her books aloud and try to give the characters British accents. Cressida Cowell’s That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown is another read-aloud favorite. I adore Neal Layton’s expressive art and the way the story crisscrosses between real life and make-believe. Much like childhood.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My first published book, Around the World on Eighty Legs, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Scholastic Press), was a whirlwind trip around the globe to meet some of the extraordinary animals who call Earth home. It’s an animal book that’s a cross between non-fiction and verse––poetry incognito. But there are so many more creatures to discover. I’ve got a few more animal poetry collections up my sleeve.

I also love stories about unlikely friends and books that question “what if?” I’m revising a handful of picture books and tinkering with one that might turn into an early chapter book. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I went to London to visit The Queen! Really and truly, I just so happened to be in London on the day of her birthday celebration parade. Although she’s born in April, her “official” birthday is celebrated in June, when the weather is fine.

In America, I’m not a celebrity watcher, but after standing for hours next to families who’d traveled from far away to catch a glimpse of Her Royal Majesty, my heart got quite fluttery seeing her in her bright turquoise outfit as she drove past in her carriage. I’ve heard she dresses in bold colors precisely for that reason––so people like me can say, “I saw The Queen!” 

I must say, I was rather in awe. It was a long, tiring day for everyone, and at age 92, here she was still doing “her duty.” I so respect the way she’s carried herself for decades––all those ceremonies and events, all that meeting and greeting and standing and waiting, all because it means a great deal to someone else. To me, that’s the essence of courtesy. She has my total admiration. 

Speaking of admiration, thank you so much for having me here, Deborah. What a resource you’ve created––I’m honored to be in such great company!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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