Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Interview #10: Debbie Taylor

During our hiatus this summer, the kids and I had the chance to meet and interview two more children's book authors.  They were lightning quick interviews -- less than 5 minutes each.  But we had fun and are so thankful these ladies took the time to visit with us!  We posted one of the interviews yesterday, so be sure to check that one out as well :)

Today we bring you our interview with Debbie Taylor (whose portrait here is drawn by Gracie).  But first we'd like to share a look at her book entitled "Sweet Music in Harlem" (illustrated by Frank Morrison)...

Dad:  What is "Sweet Music in Harlem" about?
Lily (age 7):  It's about this guy named Uncle Click who lost a hat.
Gracie (age 10):  He needs his hat because he is a famous musician and he's going to get his picture taken.
Lily:  So his nephew CJ goes to find his hat,
Isaac (age 12):  The kid goes around to all the places his Uncle Click went the day before in the Harlem neighborhood.  Like to a jazz club, to a diner, and to the barber.  I need to go to the barber.
Lily:  But he didn't find the hat.  He found all his uncle's other lost stuff.  His hankie.  His watch.  His bowtie.  It's the 'Rule of Three.'
Gracie:  While the kid is looking for the hat, he tells all these people about the photographer coming.
Isaac:  Everybody there follows him back to the house, and so the photographer takes a picture of about a billion people.  All famous musicians and stuff.
Gracie:  And it ends up being a really famous picture.
Lily:  It is based on a true story.
Isaac:  It's really cool how she tells it.  It's not like a history book.  It's more like a storybook.  And she uses lots of details.  It makes it interesting.
Dad:  She also used vivid descriptions.
Isaac:  Like, "When he plays his trumpet, it makes the wallpaper peel!"
Dad:  There are also lots of people talking to each other in this book.
Isaac:  It's not just the boy.  You get to hear other voices.
Dad:  Do you know what it's called when writers do that?  Dialog.
Gracie:  What's "dialog"?
Dad:  When you tell stories through the characters' conversations.  He said... she said... he asked... they replied.  So Isaac, was it cool for you to listen to this story since you and your friends have a band?
Isaac:  Yeah.  It's not that kind of band though.
Dad:  So you're not going to play your harmonica at a jazz club someday?
Isaac:  I don't even know how to play jazz on a harmonica.
Dad:  Do you ever make wallpaper peel off the walls?
Isaac:  No.  We accidentally chipped the walls a couple of times though.
Dad:  That must be some wild harmonica playing!
Isaac:  Heheheh!
Dad:  How would you describe Frank Morrison's illustrations in this book?
Gracie:  They are exaggerated.  But in a good way.  They are pretty awesome.
Isaac:  The poses in the pictures are very dramatic.
Gracie:  I can't even do some of the poses the people do in the book...  not without having to lean up against something.
Dad:  Thanks guys!  And now we'll travel back in time to the day of our interview....

Lily:  What is it like writing a book?
Debbie Taylor:  It is very exciting writing a book.  I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it.  It's fun because I get to choose just the right word.  You know how you choose just the right blouse or the right shirt or the right shoe?  Well, I go on a hunt to choose the right word.
Isaac:  Did you make up this story?  Or did you find it in a book?  How did you hear about it?
Debbie Taylor:  Great questions!  I made up the story, but it was inspired by an old photograph.  My husband was wearing this photograph on his t-shirt.  And I said, "Who are these people?"  He could tell me who the grown-ups were, but not who the kids were.  And that's how the story got started: I asked myself two questions.  What did those kids think about having all those stars in their neighborhood?  And who the heck were these kids?  It gave me the idea for a little boy running through the streets of Harlem trying to find his uncle's hat so he could be in the photograph.  And that's how the story started.
Dad:  So it started with a true story, but then you got to fill in the missing pieces with your imagination.
Debbie Taylor:  Exactly.
Gracie:  Oh, that's cool.
Debbie Taylor:  I thought it was cool too.  Now, almost all the grownups in the photograph have passed away, except for two people.
Gracie:  Which ones?
Debbie Taylor:  Let's see...  (pointing to the photo in the book) a gentleman up here... and this lady down here.  Those are the only two people who are still alive.  And I actually met her.
Dad:  So it must be an old photograph.
Debbie Taylor:  It is an old photograph.  Taken in 1958.  When I was three years old.  So how old does that make me?
(long pause)
Dad:  Ah, too much math...
Gracie:  Thirties?
Debbie Taylor:  Yes.  Yes.  That's exactly right.  35.  Ha ha ha...
Isaac:  When you first saw the illustrations for the book, did you like them or were you not sure about them?
Debbie Taylor:  I love the illustrations.  The illustrator is quite a young man.  Very, very young.  There is something special about the way he created the illustrations.  There is some movement in the illustrations.  I love the colors.  And see how he draws long, long arms and long heads?  Here's something wonderful -- he drew pictures of his children in the book, right here.  And I met his children.  And when I saw them, guess what!  His children had long, long arms and long heads just like-- No, not really.  Ha, ha.  I expected them to have long heads and arms.  But his children were just sort of normal.  Looking a lot like you guys.
Gracie:  Do you have any more books?  Or are you working on any books?
Debbie Taylor:  Well, I work for the college of engineering at U of M, and I wrote 2 engineering books.  And I'm working on more books like this one.  I wrote a basketball story.  And I'm working on one about urban gardening - about sunflowers.
Gracie:  I would read that.
Debbie Taylor:  Oh good!  Thank-you guys for your questions!  You are lovely children.

jazz, by Gracie

Uncle Click, by Isaac

Z-Kid jazz: Evie on maracas, Lily on recorder, Gracie on vocals, Isaac on harmonica, and Elijah on drums; by Lily

Author: Debbie Taylor
Illustrator: Frank Morrison
Published 2004, Lee & Low Books
Like it?  Here it is


One Woman's Thoughts said...

I really felt like we were all just hangin out together and talking while I read your interview. Your questions were right on point and I really love the artwork too.
I am a fan of your blog and came by to visit after reading a suggestion of 'jumpingcandlestick' blog. So glad I did. Two great blogs to read now.

One Woman's Thoughts said...

Oops!!!! That was 'JUMPING THE CANDLESTICK' blog, my apologies for the error!

Beth said...

I always get good book suggestions here, but the best part is the spectacular art work. Really amazing this week!

Ann Finkelstein said...

What a great interview!

Anonymous said...

Those illustrations are so great, they make the wallpaper peel!

Zoe said...

It's clearly going to be a jazzy day for me today - just read this great poem about jazz:


And now I come here for another treat. I shall go off now and put on some of my favourite Jazz - on bagpipes, played by Rufus Harley.