Q: What inspired you to write My School Stinks!?
A: As someone who has struggled with anxiety, I tend to catastrophize everything. Even though things rarely turn out to be as scary as I imagine, there are still times when it’s hard to calm my anxious thoughts. I wanted to address that in a humorous way.
When I wrote this manuscript, I lived at a camp in the middle of a forest in Northeast Pennsylvania where wild animal sightings were a regular occurrence. Watching my children’s fear over backyard bear sightings turn into excitement was what inspired me to plop Stuart into a classroom full of wild animals.
Q: What do you think Julia Patton's illustrations add to the story?
A: Julia’s illustrations are everything! They add so much humor and heart to this story. When I first saw her character sketches, I immediately fell in love.
Stuart’s facial expressions convey so many rich emotions and add depth to the narrative. She perfectly captures his nervous energy and his classmates’ unique personalities.
I also love all the fun details she adds to her illustrations, like eyeglasses on the pigeon. I find something new every time I read it, and it always makes me smile. I feel very fortunate to have collaborated with Julia on this book, and I’m thrilled we get to make a second book together.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story, especially about going to school?
A: Mostly, I just want kids to enjoy the story and hopefully laugh! But also, I hope they realize things are not usually as scary as we imagine them to be. I remember that anxious feeling I had before the start of every school year, but by the end of the first day, it was gone. None of the things I worried about ever happened.
Fear has a sneaky way of planting doubts and anxious thoughts inside of us. But if we face our fears, good things can come out of almost any situation. You might even make some unexpected friendships along the way.
Q: What first got you interested in creating children's picture books?
A: After college, I worked as a children’s bookseller at Barnes & Noble for a year. During that time, I fell in love with children’s literature, and in particular picture books. Almost all date nights with my husband ended at the bookstore café with a giant stack of new books piled between us.
After my children were born, I rediscovered my love of picture books during our three-hour bedtime routine. When they finally started sleeping, I started writing.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: This past year I finished edits on my second and third books. This Field Trip Stinks comes out in 2022 and How to Get Your Octopus to School comes out in 2023, both from Penguin Random House’s new imprint Flamingo Books.
I also completed several other picture book manuscripts, two of which are currently out on submission. I’m always working on at least a couple different picture books, but I also started exploring other formats, such as board books, chapter books, and early readers.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I love connecting with parents, teachers, librarians, and other writers on Twitter and Instagram. You can find me here:
You can also sign up for my quarterly newsletter or contact me through my website, which can be found at https://beckyscharnhorst.com/.
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Deborah!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb