[ This is the text from the interview that was published in the December 2017 issue of Story Monsters Ink Magazine, check out the magazine here! ]
Stacy McAnuity is BRAVE. Not just “brave” (as in the regular old lowercase version) but really BRAVE. The kind of BRAVE that leads the team! The BRAVE that never gives up! The BRAVE that fights the toughest battles, and faces – gasp – kindergarten school groups! She’s also the author of Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, Beautiful, Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite, 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, as well as The Dino Files and the Goldie Blox series.
I reached out to her after reading her latest release BRAVE (didn’t see that coming did you?) and I had to ask how it all came about. And also, how does one have “2.5 dogs”? These are the burning questions that keep me up a night, you know!
- Stacy, I loved BRAVE! It is just the kind of book you want to share with all the kids of all the world! On your website you mention you are a mom of three, was there an incident or event that sparked the idea for BRAVE?
Thank you! I love sharing my book with readers. I can’t say that there was one specific incident that sparked Brave. But as a mom of three, I get to see almost daily how bravery is different for every kid. My one daughter gets very nervous speaking in front of the class. My other daughter hates heights. I wanted to show how being brave is different for each of us but also kind of the same. We will all be faced with challenges and choices. No one is exempt.
- BRAVE is so beautifully distilled into bitesize concepts of kindness and self esteem, what was your process in creating your BRAVE recipe?
Brave is a follow up to my 2016 title, Beautiful. The editor for Beautiful asked me to create my own definition of beauty. So when we started working on Brave, I wanted to do the same thing. Now my definition is not of Merriam-Webster caliber. This is simply what it means to me, and what I was trying to show in the book. Brave: listening to your heart and doing the right thing, especially when nervous or afraid. I used this definition along with super-hero language to create the text.
- The text and illustration go together like cake and ice-cream- how much say did you have in choosing the scene for each page?
What a yummy analogy! Joanne’s art is delicious. She’s done a fabulous job bringing Brave and Beautiful to life. In the manuscript, I did make a suggestion for every page. I had to do this for me, to help me visualize the book. I’m not certain how many of my illustration notes were shared with Joanne. Some scenes match what I’d pictured, and some are completely different (and better!) than I imagined. Brave is a collaboration of writer, illustrator, editor, and art director.
- I noticed you worked with the same illustrator (Joanne Lew-Vriethoff) on Beautiful, are there additional collaborations in the works?
The final book is this definition series is Love. That will be out in late 2018. In Beautiful, the text sounds like an old-fashion etiquette guide for girls, then we twist it to give it a modern meaning. Brave uses super-hero lingo but shows kids stepping up. In Love, we tap into Valentine’s-Day language and redefine what love means.
- Your website does a great job of showcasing your work as well as providing resources, but I have to admit I got tripped up. Do you have 2.5 dogs (as mentioned in your bio) or 3 dogs (as mentioned in your “About Me”)? Might one have been halved in some hopefully painless fashion or is just half the size of the other two? Is the dog ok? Your fans need to know!
You’re right! Readers do want to know. When I go to schools, I’m always asked what I mean by 2.5 dogs. The half refers to our new puppy. When Munchkin joined the family in January, and she was only four pounds. Now, she’s twenty-two pounds, but since my other two dogs are over seventy pounds, she’s still half a dog by our household standard. Rest assured, each dog has a head, four legs, and a tail. And each is ridiculously spoiled.
- What kinds of reactions are you getting from schools about BRAVE? It is so perfectly timed with the anti-bullying movement gaining awareness.
It is fun and interesting to talk about Brave with students. I share the book and my definition, and then we dig deep into what it all means. Because each art spread stands alone, I ask the students, what they think is happening. How are the kids in the art being brave? What choices are being made? How do we think that kid is feeling? There’s so much to discuss and think about. There is one scene that deals directly with bullying, and it has several kids in it. We can dissect this picture and look at the roles each character is playing. It can bring up many tough questions.
- Your school visits look like so much fun – do you have any favorite questions you have been asked by students?
There are two questions students always ask me. How old are you? (Answer: 42) Which is your favorite book that you wrote? (Answer: I don’t have a favorite. Read Mr. Fuzzbuster for more on that issue.)
Then I get the funny questions. Did you know my grandmother writes books? (Answer: No, I didn’t know your grandmother writes books.) Why are your teeth so big? (Answer: Ummm… the better to eat you with. Kidding! I’ve never threatened to eat a student.)
But the best question was asked last this month, and it was posed by a kindergartner. Do you ever get frustrated with your job? (Answer: YES! But I wouldn’t want any other job. Being an author of kids’ books is simply the best!)
Stacy McAnulty is the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats Book New Writer Honor Recipient for her picture book Excellent Ed and lives in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 2.5 dogs, and 1 husband. She can be reached through www.stacymcanulty.com
|Julianne Black has written and illustrated several books, including Sleep Sweet the multi-award winning Augmented Reality picture book. She is an internationally recognized graphic artist, fine artist and author. She can be reached at www.julianneblack.com