Sunday, December 18, 2022

Q&A with Helen Lester




Helen Lester is the author of the new children's picture book Bravo, Bucket Head!. Her many other books include Tacky the Penguin. A former second grade teacher, she lives in upstate New York.


Q: What inspired you to write Bravo, Bucket Head!, and how did you create your character Mousetta?


A: All of my books are based on my second graders I taught. The kids come back to haunt me! [The characters] all are patterned after kids I knew or things that happened in the classroom. Mousetta follows that, being shy. For a long time I sat on it, and finally it did come together.


Q: What do you think the illustrations, by your longtime collaborator Lynn Munsinger, add to the story?


A: They add everything. She’s always surprising me. We’ve become good friends. I pitch lines to her—a sheep at a costume ball—and one is dressed as a wolf, one as an elf, and one as Elvis!


On the page with the field mice in the field, I thought, that’s really cute, and then I noticed that some in the back have cell phones!


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, in part, “This cute, humorous story, promoting the idea that shyness isn’t a flaw, could embolden skittish youngsters; the point is made that, for some, bravado might mask fearfulness.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope kids take away from the story?


A: There used to be kids in our high school who were really popular but really loud. I wanted to be popular, but I was shy like Mousetta. That’s where the surprise is—[the other characters] are masking their shyness. It gives kids a chance for an aha! moment.


Q: What do you see as the role of humor in your stories?


A: It’s absolutely crucial. I take a serious thing and treat it with humor. There are tales of revenge and heroism. I like to giggle at what I just thought about.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m trying a poetry book.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: [The book] is fun to do out loud. I’m at an age where I don’t like to drive much, and my husband drives me [to book events], and he brings a slide whistle and drums. We keep ourselves entertained!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Helen Lester.

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