Patricia MacLachlan is the author of the new children's picture book When Grandfather Flew. Her many other books include the classic Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal. She lives in Western Massachusetts.
Q: What inspired you to write When Grandfather Flew, and how did you create the family you write about?
A: When Grandfather Flew comes out of my family and our love of the birds and life on our mountain top. We banded birds and traced their migrations and took care of birds when they flew into our windows and couldn’t fly—then let them fly again.
One day my husband said, “When I die I want to fly away like a soaring bird.” One of our grandchildren smiled at the idea, and I went into the pantry and began writing this book on a recipe card.
Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, "MacLachlan creates deeply sympathetic characters in a few sentences, and invites readers to share in the lives of a family nurtured by the natural world—and comforted by it in their grief." What do you think of that assessment?
A: I love these words—they show a respect for children who know about sadness and loss.
Q: What do you think Chris Sheban's illustrations add to the story?
A: Chris Sheban shows the same sensitivity for children and their lives! His art shows this—and I love the way he drew birds through the book for children to see as they read. I’d love doing another book with Chris!
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I hope for children to dive into the book and see what Chris and I see. And that they enjoy what they see in their world—just today I saw a baby fox and 17 turkeys!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m writing a novel about a family whose house is filled with music—they are all musicians and have a cat who hisses at sour notes!
I just finished a novel about a little boy who wishes for a pet dog but gets triplet baby sisters instead! And a novel about a girl who finds words as she swims in a beautiful river.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I hope you love reading! And I guess I’ll have more to tell you in my next book!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb