Q: What inspired you to write The Ghouls' Guide to Good Grammar?
A: I am a total grammar nerd, as anyone who’s ever worked with me will tell you (usually with an eye roll). “Between you and I”; Happy holidays from the Jackson’s”; “Who’s turn is next”—these things drive me crazy! I am the product of some very exacting English and Latin teachers back in my school days.
But it’s not only that bad grammar sets my teeth on edge. I really believe it also gets in the way of clearly and concisely expressing thoughts. Plus, good writing is such a joy to read. This is a book I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time.
Q: What do you think Mary Sullivan's illustrations added to the book?
A: Aren’t Mary’s illustrations fantastic?! They’re the most marvelous combination of monstrous and hilarious. Look at the expression on the face of the monster who has decided that it’s “Time to eat Sylvester” (as opposed to “Time to eat, Sylvester”).
A shout-out to the designer, too, whose design makes all the grammar points even clearer.
Q: The Kirkus Review calls the book "A scarily fun addition to the reference shelf." Why did you choose ghouls as your main characters?
A: When you talk about grammar, the natural response is for people’s eyes to glaze over. So it was important to me to find a fun way to approach the topic, something that would make it more accessible for kids.
And using ghouls and other monsters made it much more fun for the author and illustrator, too. So many possibilities for silly misunderstandings!
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I hope that they’ll come away thinking that grammar—more specifically, good writing—can be fun. That grammar isn’t simply something teachers and older people invented as a way to torture kids.
I don’t advocate that everyone aspire to write like Shakespeare—clearly, I don’t!—but in order to find your own voice, you first have to know how to make yourself understood.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a few picture books coming out in 2022 and 2023. But mostly I have been working on my first middle grade novel, which I think (I hope) I’m almost done revising. It’s a very personal story, but that’s all I want to say for now.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: That my grammar is much better when I write than when I speak!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Leslie Kimmelman.