Monday, January 31, 2011

Interview #9: Nancy Shaw

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 will post one interview today and one tomorrow -- so for all our loyal Monday visitors, be sure to check back in tomorrow for more :)

Up first is our interview with Nancy Shaw (whose portrait here was drawn by Gracie).  Nancy Shaw is probably best known for her many wonderful "Sheep" books: "Sheep in a Jeep," "Sheep Out to Eat," "Sheep in a Shop," "Sheep on a Ship," etc, etc. (illustrated by Margot Apple).  Before we share the interview, we'd like to take a moment to highlight another of her books.  This one is called "Raccoon Tune" and is illustrated by Howard Fine...

Dad:  Who can tell us what happens in "Raccoon Tune"?
Lily (age 7):  The book is about these raccoons looking for food.  And they check in trashcans.  But their trashcan rolls down the hill and goes in the lake.  They lose their trash, but they catch lots of fish in the can instead.
Gracie (age 10):  Pretty funny book.
Dad:  What are some ways that this book is similar to the Sheep books?
Lily:  They both rhyme.
Gracie:  She writes in swift short sentences.
Lily:  Short and sweet and cute.
Dad:  What are some ways Raccoon Tune is different from her other books?  Besides the lack of sheep.
Isaac (age 12):  "Raccoon Tune" sounds like a song.  It sounds very musical.  And in "Sheep in a Jeep" there is one main rhyming sound.
Dad:  "Eep."
Isaac:  Yeah.  But in Raccoon Tune, the rhymes are always changing.
Gracie:  -ite, -ite, -ite... -eep, -eep, -eep... -orage, -orage, -orage.
Isaac:  It goes on and on.
Gracie:  And Dad, look at this: "Deep in BINS we always forage / cracking TINS we find in storage / apple SKINS and maple porridge."  It's got rhymes within the rhymes within the rhymes.
Dad:  Yep.  Both internal rhymes and end rhymes.  Thanks guys!  And now we'll travel back in time, to the day of our interview:

Lily:  I have a question.  What is your favorite book that you wrote?
Nancy Shaw:  My opinion changes from time to time.  But it rotates among three of them.  One is "Sheep in a Jeep" which is the most popular and the simplest.
Dad:  That was your first one right?
Nancy Shaw:  Yes.  Another one I like is "Sheep Out to Eat."  I just really enjoy the plot there.
Gracie:  Yeah, that one is funny.
Nancy Shaw:  And I love "Raccoon Tune."  Partly that's because of the wonderful things the artist Howard Fine did to it.  Of course, the artist for the sheep books, Margot Apple, is wonderful too.
Isaac:  After making all these sheep books, was it kind of hard to make a raccoon book instead of a sheep one?
Nancy Shaw:  The raccoons came from a different place than the sheep.  The sheep books have always come from the sounds.  The first one started when I was bored on the highway.  I was in the back of the car with my two little kids.  We had been reading a whole bunch of library books, and one of them was filled with rhymes.  So I had a contest with myself to see if I could come up with some rhymes in the same form.  And then I thought, "This could be a story."  It often takes me quite a long time to work out how the story is going to fit with the rhymes I've come up with.  It takes me many, many tries.
Dad:  We wondered if the rhymes came first.
Nancy Shaw:  Yes, for the sheep books.  But the raccoon book started with the story.  It came from having our garbage cans knocked over.  I wasn't very happy with the raccoons, but I had to admire their work ethic.  They kept at it, and they were very clever.  So I was wondering how they would feel about all this, and I thought they might want to brag.
Gracie:  Once my mom was taking out the trash, and she almost put the trash bag right on top of a raccoon.
Dad:  He was right inside the can!
Nancy Shaw:  I think I would have backed off then.
Gracie:  The book is called "Raccoon Tune."  But why does it say "tune" if the story is about raccoons trying to get some food?
Nancy Shaw:  I think because when I started writing it, a tune was going through my head.  It wanted to be a rhythmic book.
Dad:  It sounds a lot like music doesn't it?
Gracie:  Yeah, it does.
Nancy Shaw:  The amazing thing that happened with that book is that an actual tune was later written for it.  You can go on my website and hear a sound clip from it.  There was an orchestra concert with the Ann Arbor symphony.
Gracie:  Awesome!
Nancy Shaw:  We had an absolutely wonderful singer, actor, dancer.  He acted the Raccoon.  And the drummers actually played garbage can lids and wore raccoon masks.
Gracie:  That would have been awesome!
Nancy Shaw:  It was awesome.  There was an instrument I had never heard of.  It makes a burping noise when you squish on it.  The composer thought that after the raccoons ate that much fish, they would want to burp.
Gracie:  There were a lot of trout in the book!
Isaac:  Usually you don't get that many trout when you go fishing, so that was a really, really good catch!
Dad:  One last question, anyone?
Isaac:  After getting used to the same artist for all the sheep books, was it strange for you to have someone completely different do the raccoon book?
Nancy Shaw:  I wouldn't say it was strange.  Margot Apple is wonderful.  Howard Fine is wonderful in a different way.
Dad:  Thanks so much!
Gracie:  I have one more...
Dad:  Only if it's short.
Gracie:  It's a short one.
Dad:  Okay then.
Gracie:  Don't you think Margot Apple has the most awesome last name ever?
Nancy Shaw:  Apple?  It's a good last name.
Gracie:  It's the awesomest ever!
Dad:  Ha, ha, alright then.  Thanks for chatting with us, Ms. Shaw!
Gracie:  Yeah!
Isaac:  Thanks!

raccoon at night, by Isaac

trying to blast the lid off, by Gracie

raccoons and fish, by Lily

Author: Nancy Shaw
Illustrator: Howard Fine
Published, 2003: Henry Holt
Like it?  Here it is


Ticia said...

I love their drawings. Particularly the first one, but they're all so expressive.

April said...

Those raccoon drawings are great!

Coming through from stART

Unknown said...

The drawings are so cute. I have loved this author for years. The new book looks wonderful.

Julie P. said...

Great post for so many reasons. Your kids should be illustrating and writing their own books -- so cute and so much talent!

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Thanks for joining WMCIR! I love reading about books you discover. Your kids are not only talented, they are also very smart.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

What talented kids! Mine love to draw too and it's a favorite passtime in our house.