Thursday, June 27, 2024

Q&A with Drew Beckmeyer


Drew Beckmeyer is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book The First Week of School. His other books include I Am a Tornado. He is also an elementary school teacher.


Q: What inspired you to create The First Week of School?


A: The format was the inspiration really. I wanted to try to write stories for five or six characters that were all interconnected. Where each individual had an effect on the other's storyline, but they themselves never see this impact.


Initially, it was set in an apartment building where each of the tenant's lives are changed by an alien visitor that nobody ever sees. The plot was essentially the same, but switching the setting to a school made it much more kid friendly.  I've been teaching for over a decade, so I had a lot of little details to draw from. 


Q: Did you work on the text first or the illustrations first--or both simultaneously?


A: With almost everything I write, the text needs to be nearly done before I start doing any sketches or art. The last 20 percent is a bit of a push and pull with the art and text, where I'll tweak them back and forth, but in general art is the last thing that happens. 


Q: The School Library Journal review of the book says that it “[c]aptures both the magic and the mundanity of the first week of school.” What do you think of that description?


A: Haha, well I think out of context I might be a little confused by that quote. But that is essentially what school is to a kid, right? It can be the most boring place in the world and immediately switch into something exciting, or dramatic, or terrifying, or hilarious, and then go right back into boring again.


It happens probably 50 times every school day for most kids and classrooms, and the first week of school always amplifies all of that. 


Anyway, the whole thing was a really nice review though, from someone who seemed to really understand what I was trying to do. I'm appreciative. 


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?


A: Mostly I hope they think it is fun and funny. I hope there is a character for everyone to see a little of themselves in. I hope that all the school settings resonate with people's experience.


I hope it reminds people that we don't necessarily know the impact that we have on the people around us and we can't always see the impact that the people around us have on our lives. It's a cool social ecosystem we all live in and it's nice to remember that it isn't all about our own experience all the time.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now I am finishing the school year as best as I can and tying up loose ends on my next book, Stalactite and Stalagmite, which is out next year.  Beyond that, I'm just working on new ideas for more books. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I don't think so. Thanks for checking out the book. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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