Children seem more mature at a younger age nowadays;
you find this affects the children’s books of today?
Yes, I think children's books today tackle much deeper
than they ever did in the past - everything from
disease to child abuse and homosexuality
often subjects for today's books for children and/ or
yet each of these subjects is handled in a way that
age-appropriate for the intended reader.
2. The Disney Classics, the Secret Garden and Dr. Seuss
still seem very popular as is the Trixie Beldon and
Drew stories—but are there others that are destined
become classics for the new generation?
I think the Junie B. Jones books will be around for a long
Junie B. is the ultimate kindergarten kid in the
books and the ultimate elementary school student in
newest books in the series.
Children will continue to love the Harry Potter books, too,
course. And, the American Girl series books are
classics, of sorts. I love the American Girl novels
What do children’s book editors consider a provocative
for a children’s book. I’m sure age plays a part in
elementary students differ from a book designed for the
adult set — but what kind of "hook" would you suggest?
I think most children's books need to start with a
who has an age-appropriate problem that he
she) can largely solve, or at least resolve, himself -
a lot of help from an adult or other well-
For the very
young child, problems like a lost pet, or a
who is going to move away, are examples of good
problems to start a story.
4. Does an interesting setting translate to a foreign
– or how would you define what constitutes an
setting? I notice you write about several different
– did you visit them before you wrote the books?
I think any setting can be interesting as long as the
uses a variety of sensory details to make the
feel he is being transported to this place.
Many stories for young children take place in
places like classrooms, homes, and regular
It's the details that bring these
to life and make them interesting.
I traveled to parts of Mexico, including the Yucatan
before I wrote the books about Mexico
the Ancient Maya. I also lived on Guam when
was a teenager, and many Filipinos lived there, so
helped when I was writing the book about the
But with television, movies, videos, and the Internet,
it isn't essential for a writer to actually travel
a setting he wishes to use as the background for
story. It is very important to make sure the writer
thorough research on any setting he chooses
Here's an example of what I mean. One of my
students through the Institute of Children's
lived in Trinidad. She had never been to
United States, but she decided to write a story
took place in New England during a snowy
In one scene, the main character was
fireflies in his backyard. I had to inform
student that this wasn't possible because
don't come out in the snowy wintertime.
are only seen in warm weather. She didn't
this because she had never lived, or traveled,
a snowy climate, and she didn't realize this was
she needed to check out before she wrote
You just need to be extremely careful if you're
about someplace you have never visited
It's so easy to make mistakes.