I recently had the privilege of illustrating a wonderful book written by Patricia Newman called "Nugget on the Flight Deck." As is typical, Author and Illustrator didn't have contact with each other during the book's creation. We've emailed back and forth a bit since the project's completion, but we hadn't had a conversation -- until now. I thought for Bookie Woogie's One Year Anniversary, it would be fun for the kids and I to have a conference call chat with Mrs. Newman about our new book!
(Portait of Mrs. Newman by Gracie)
We've got a treat to start this post off... A few months ago Mrs. Newman wrote to say that she was putting together a trailer for the book, and she wondered if one of my kids would like to narrate. I taped both Isaac and Grace reading the script in order to give her a couple of recordings to choose from. Well, she couldn't bring herself to pick one over the other, and she ended up making two versions of the trailer! So before our review and interview, here are both the Isaac and Gracie versions of the trailer for your viewing (and listening!) pleasure:
Dad: Alright guys, why don't you first tell our readers about Mrs. Newman's two books, "Nugget on the Flight Deck" and "Jingle the Brass." One is about aircraft carriers, and one is about trains -- but how are they similar?
Isaac (age 11): You learn all about this stuff -- these fancy words. These books teach people about different words. Jargon.
Dad: Give me an example of pilot's jargon...
Lily (age 6): A "meatball" is this light that helps a plane to land. It tells the plane if it is too low and is going to bonk into the ship, or too high and pass over the ship.
Dad: What about the names for the different jobs on a carrier?
Lily: "Yellow Shirt," "Green Shirt," "Blue Shirt," "Red shirt," and "Grape!"
Gracie (age 9): You'd think they would call it Purple Shirt, but it's "Grape!"
Dad: Do you remember what job the Grapes do?
Gracie: Fill the planes with gas?
Dad: Woo! Good memory...
Gracie: I'm a lucky guesser, baby!
Dad: Mrs. Newman is very talented. It could have been boring writing about jargon...
Isaac: But it's really cool! She made "Nugget on the Flight Deck" into a story. A really exciting, cool story.
Lily: Nugget on the Flightdeck is about a little boy named Nugget.
Dad: Now, do you think his real name is "Nugget"?
Isaac: "Nugget" is his name because he is a new recruit. "New recruit" on the flight deck.
Gracie: But his real name is "Filipino McGravy."
Gracie: Ha ha ha ha HA!
Lily: The Lieutenant takes him around the ship. And then they sail off in a plane! Then another plane comes and they do a "dog fight."
Isaac: A "dog fight" is an air battle.
Dad: Yep - so there's another jargon word we learned. Would you like to go up in a plane and have a practice dog fight?
Gracie: I don't want to pull no G's!
Dad: Ha, ha, ha... Tell every one what it means to "Pull G's."
Gracie: A "G" is the force that brings you back to earth. Gravity. A "G" is also me -- Gracie!
Dad: So does "Pulling G's" mean I get to yank on you?
Gracie: Gravity is pushing on you. 1 G is gravity. So imagine 12 G's pushing on you!
Dad: So if you are pulling G's that means you feel the force of gravity extra strong.
Gracie: The force is with you!
Dad: Good job guys! Now it's time to share our interview... And who are we talking to today?
Gracie: Patricia Newman!
Dad: Yes, Mrs. Newman. It's nice to talk to you!
Patricia Newman: It's nice to talk to you guys! I have heard your voices once before...
Gracie: (Giggle giggle)
Patricia Newman: Do you remember when?
Dad: Remember when you guys did the trailers....
Gracie: I was talking about the book! With Isaac.
Patricia Newman: That's exactly right. Thank-you for doing that.
Gracie: You're welcome.
Dad: Did you guys like reading for those trailers?
Isaac: It was fun!
Dad: We had to record it a lot of times, didn't we?
Isaac: I kept sneezing.
Dad: And there were a couple of tricky words that were hard to pronounce.
Gracie: "Jargon." I could never say "jargon."
Patricia Newman: Well, I think you guys did a great job. And I've shown the trailer to a lot of my friends, and they love it.
Lily: Can I talk too?
Dad: Sure... you can talk. What do you want to say, Lil?
Lily: How did you learn about the plane stuff and the train stuff?
Dad: Oo - Lily is launching right in with a question, right off the bat.
Patricia Newman: The plane stuff and the train stuff... Well, let's start with the "train stuff" since that book came first. I live in Sacramento near a railroad museum.
Patricia Newman: I was walking around the museum one day, and I got an idea for a book -- but for much older kids, like a novel. So I started to do some research. I went back to the library that the railroad museum has, and I talked to a retired railroad engineer - a man who actually drove locomotives. He took me on a tour of the railroad yard...
Patricia Newman: And he started using all these cool words like "bending the iron" and "putting on the nosebag" and "eggs with headlights" and "on the plush." And I thought those words sounded really fun. So I put aside my long chapter book for older kids, and I decided to write "Jingle the Brass."
Patricia Newman: Then for "Nugget on the Flight Deck" I thought, "Well, train engineers have such cool sounding jargon - or lingo - or slang. Maybe pilots do too." So I called a friend of mine, Dennis Fitzpatrick, who was a pilot on board an aircraft carrier for the Navy, and he answered all of my questions. He's taken off and landed on a carrier hundreds of times. Plus, my neighbor across the street was an Air Force pilot, and he taught me a lot about flying.
Gracie: Wow - you were lucky to have all those people near you.
Patricia Newman: I was lucky. But you know, if you keep your eyes open, I bet you'll find people that you can use as experts for your ideas too.
Gracie: Do you like writing books?
Patricia Newman: I love writing books. I think it's a lot of fun. But it's a lot of hard work too. Sometimes when things are going really well, I make myself laugh when I write, and I think "Oh man! I'm having the greatest time! This is so much fun!" But on some days I think, "Oh, this is just too hard... I never want to do this again... I'm going to stop..."
Gracie: Does that mean you're not going to make any more books?
Patricia Newman: Oh -- no! In fact, I already have two more books that I sent to my agent.
Gracie: Writing is hard work for us too.
Dad: What if Mrs. Newman had quit? We wouldn't have these great books, would we?
Dad: Does that encourage you to keep trying even if it's hard?
Patricia Newman: I have a question for Gracie and Isaac and Lily... What do you think it feels like to land a plane on an aircraft carrier?
Lily: (starts bouncing up and down)
Gracie: It would hurt!
Patricia Newman: I don't know if it hurts -- because pilots are strapped in pretty well with their seat belt harnesses...
Lily: And their tight flight pants!
Patricia Newman: But it is extremely bumpy. I talked to one pilot... do you guys know what a blender is?
Gracie: Our grandma has one. She makes awesome peach smoothies.
Patricia Newman: Well, I talked to one pilot who said landing on an aircraft carrier is like being in a blender.
Gracie: That would hurt! A blender has sharp knives!
Dad: I don't think he meant painful -- probably just shaky.
Patricia Newman: What things are moving when a pilot lands?
Gracie: The plane.
Patricia Newman: Do you know what else is moving? The carrier is on the water, and the waves are rolling it back and forth.
Dad: Yeah guys, it's not like landing in a parking lot. The pilot is landing on a surface that is bouncing all over the place. There are lots of exciting things about flying a plane -- even the landing! So guys, do you have a favorite part from "Nugget on the Flight Deck"?
Gracie: The words.
Dad: (laughing) The words??? Hey now...
Patricia Newman: Do you mean the pilot jargon?
Gracie: Yes! Jargon!
Patricia Newman: I like those too, Gracie.
Dad: How about you, Isaac?
Isaac: Probably the jargon.
Lily: Yeah, I like jargon too.
Isaac: And the pictures.
Dad: Ha, ha -- Good boy... Now, I also love jargon. It feels so close to nonsense, and you know I love nonsense words. Why do you guys like the jargon?
Gracie: Because they are silly words!
Patricia Newman: What are some of the silly words in the book that you like?
Dad: What about the word "Nugget"? That word has special meaning for our family, doesn't it...
Gracie: That's what we called Elijah while he was in Mommy's tummy.
Dad: Yeah - that was our nickname for him while he was in utero.
Gracie: We called him Nugget! Nuggie, nuggie, nugget!
Dad: And the kids also have a second blog - an art blog - with "Nugget" in the title...
Gracie: Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty!
Patricia Newman: Chicken Nugget Lemon... what?
Patricia Newman: Tooty?
Dad: Ha ha... So there's some Zenz family jargon for you...
Patricia Newman: Yeah, I guess so!
Gracie: Did you ever get really worried about how the pictures were going to look because you weren't making them?
Patricia Newman: I have pictures in my head when I write my stories, but they are not very detailed pictures. So when I send my story to my editor, I trust my editor to pick out great artists... like Mr. Aaron Zenz...
Patricia Newman: ...artists who can make the stories come to life. So I have a lot of faith in the illustrators who are assigned to my books -- I know they are going to do a great job.
Dad: Do you kids have any particular memories of me working on this book?
Isaac: I do. You made me pose and keep changing poses for the very last picture.
Dad: That's right - I forgot -- you did pose for that one. So I could get the salutes right.
Isaac: You had to keep moving me and making me put my hand up higher... then lower...
Patricia Newman: Isaac, do you look like Nugget?
Isaac: Uhhh... Dad, do I?
Dad: Not really. Isaac is a blondie.
Gracie: Everybody in the family is a blondie. Except for Mommy and Daddy.
Dad: I gave Nugget red hair because most of the book is full of gray and blue -- all those cold colors of sky and ship and water. I was looking for every opportunity I could find to splash some brighter colors in there. That was the reason for giving him red hair.
Patricia Newman: Well I love his red hair.
Gracie: Dad! Is that why you made the outfits on the Red Shirt and the Green Shirt and the Yellow Shirt and the Grape so bright?
Dad: They are bright. Probably brighter than they would actually be in real life. But yes. That's to help add some popping color in there.
Patricia Newman: I visited a school the other day... I told the kids at the school that your dad used up 72 pencils and broke 161 pencil points drawing "Nugget."
Dad: Yep. That's become a quirk of mine... I always save the broken tips from each project and count them up at the end. I have little plastic baggies with the pencil tips from every project that I've worked on.
(Laughter from all)
Dad: I label them -- I have a "Hiccupotamus" bag full of broken pencil tips, and I have a "Nugget on the Flight Deck" bag full of tips...
Lily: And a "Howie" bag! And guess what - he has this little wooden wishing well thing, and whenever pencil tops fall off he saves them.
Dad: Yep - that's my spot for the tips from all my miscellaneous art that isn't for a specific book. That one is filled almost to the top by now.
Patricia Newman: Do you kids know which picture in "Nugget on the Flight Deck" is my favorite?
Lily: Which one?!
Patricia Newman: My favorite is the one where the aircraft is landing on the carrier. It's still in the air, it hasn't quite touched down yet... but it's coming in, and everything looks a little crooked and it kind of makes my stomach feel queasy...
Gracie: You mean the picture with the "meatball"? The light? The yellow light?
Patricia Newman: Yep - the one with the meatball.
Gracie: When we read the book earlier today I said, "What if the Grape Shirt was holding the meatball?"
Patricia Newman: (laughter)
Dad: She thought that would be funny... a grape holding a meatball.
Patricia Newman: That is funny.
Lily: I'm going to make a picture about that!
Patricia Newman: I'd like to see a picture of that too.
Gracie: I have one last question.
Patricia Newman: What's up, Grace?
Gracie: Which is your favorite book? "Nugget on the Flight Deck" or "Jingle the Brass"?
Patricia Newman: Well, let me answer your question with a question, and we'll see if you understand what I'm saying. Who is your father's favorite child? Gracie, Isaac, or Lily?
Gracie: I get it... (giggle giggle giggle)
Patricia Newman: It's too hard to choose. I love them both.
Gracie: Hee hee hee hee...
Patricia Newman: She's giggling... I can hear her.
Gracie: Thank-you for letting us interview you!
Patricia Newman: You are welcome! I'm really glad you guys called me today. Thank you very much.
Lily: Guess what.
Dad: Oh, I guess Lily's not done yet...
Lily: We got a new captain's bed.
Patricia Newman: A new bed?
Dad: Ha ha ha... that's random. Yep. The girls got a new trundle bed. We still have to put it together. The boxes are sitting in our living room.
Lily: It's called a "captain's bed"!
Patricia Newman: Well if it's called a captain's bed, when you get on it at night, you'll have to say, "Permission to come aboard, Captain?"
Dad: You can pretend you are on an aircraft carrier!
Patricia Newman: Right!
Lily: I want to be Nugget! I'm a nugget!
Author: Patricia Newman
Illustrator: Aaron Zenz
"Nugget on the Flight Deck" published Fall 2009: Walker Books
Like it? Please find it!
Time for a Giveaway!
How would you like to win a copy of "Nugget on the Flight Deck"? In celebration of the book's release and the 1 year anniversary of Bookie Woogie, we're giving away a copy -- hot off the press -- signed by both Patricia Newman and myself. To enter, just leave a comment on this post between now and November 15, and we'll randomly select a winner! Good luck!