Alan Katz is the author of the new books Awesome Achievers in Science and Awesome Achievers in Technology, the first two in a new series. His many other books for kids include Take Me Out of the Bathtub and The Day the Mustache Took Over. He lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Awesome Achievers series?
A: I have twin boys, and one has always been a devoted reader of biographies, while the other remains partial to humor books. I once said to them, “There’s no book you can both read.”
It was then that I decided to do a series that would provide inspiring real-life stories as well as some giggle-causing content. The humor doesn’t in any way make fun of the achievers; rather, it entertainingly reflects on how their discoveries have impacted my life and the lives of my family members.
By the way, the Awesome Achievers books are my first nonfiction titles, and it was a joy writing them. I crave information! (In fact, I read so much that I was once a Phone-a-Friend on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.)
Q: How did you select the achievers to include in the books?
A: Once we decided to do Technology and Science as the first two books in the series, I researched achievers who’ve given the world innovations or accomplishments that would resonate with young readers.
Given that kids use Velcro, seat belts, the remote control, and other such devices I’ve profiled in the books, I thought it would be good for them to understand how those innovations were born. So far, readers are loving the inspiring stories of discovery about items that they use daily.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the books?
A: Many of the stories in the book are tales of courage and fortitude. Others tell of ingenuity and ground-breaking thinking. It’s my hope that young readers will embrace the sense that anything is possible, and that hard work pays off. (I also hope they’ll laugh a whole lot.)
Q: What do you think Chris Judge's illustrations add to the series?
A: I am in awe of the work Chris Judge has contributed to the books. He is an extraordinary illustrator, and his creativity helps underscore both the real-life stories and the fun. (I also like the way he’s included my image – especially in the section about Dr. Henry Heimlich!)
Q: What are you working on now?
A: The wonderful people at Running Press and I are finishing up a new book of short stories. I hope young people will find them ridiculously funny; the book is going to be called Really Stupid Stories for Really Smart Kids.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Three things: I really, really like the New York Mets. I very much enjoy cantaloupe. And I love talking about books—it’s the reason I visit more than 50 schools a year.
If kids, parents, teachers, or librarians want to share their thoughts on Awesome Achievers, I invite them to reach out to me at Alankatzbooks@aol.com. Thank you!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb