Saturday, April 1, 2017

Students Interview Aaron Reynolds

Perhaps you’ve noticed I haven’t been posting for a while. There is an exciting reason!  Two other speech therapist and I are starting a new business, SpeechFix, providing literature based material for home and school. That is taking up a large chunk of my “free” time but it is well worth it. Our first project will be a package of activities to accompany the book, Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds. 


It was a natural choice since the book is already a favorite with my students. And since it is such a favorite, we decided to request an interview with Mr. Reynolds. Lucky for us, he readily agreed!

Welcome, Mr. Reynolds. My students and I love your books and Creepy Carrots! is one of our favorites. We’d all like to know, what inspired you to write this story?

I love getting creeped out and did when I was a kid. So much so, that I used to watch a TV show called The Twilight Zone every Saturday night. I loved it because it was creepy, but not terrifying. Spooky, but also kind of funny sometimes. I decided one day that I wanted to write a picture book that was like an episode of The Twilight Zone. That idea became Creepy Carrots!

Student questions: 

Jackie: How did you make all those words in the book? (She is hoping to make her own creepy story where a rabbit family turns into creepy carrots.)

Aaron: I write all my stories with pen and paper, rather than computer. I find that a computer is too distracting when I'm trying to develop a story. Pen and paper also frees me to be messy, which is an important part of writing!
  
Brooklyn: Why didn’t the carrots just talk to Jasper? Maybe then he would stop eating them. (She is quite a diplomat in her Kindergarten class.)

Aaron: There was something much creepier about the carrots never speaking. Just that mysterious tunk-tunk-tunk that let you know they were coming. 

Jose: How did the carrots get out of the ground to follow Jasper?

Aaron: Anything is possible in a picture book!

Sierra: How did you make this book? 

Aaron: Once I had the essence of a story, I began to put the story together into words. As the story took shape, I often went back to cross things out and change them to better things. I did this until the story was my very best work. 

Bella: Can you write a next story about Jasper and the carrots?
There is another adventure for Jasper coming this fall! A brand new book! But this sequel has no carrots in it. It is called CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR! 



That sounds fabulous – my students can hardly wait to read it!

Eleanor: Can you make an even creepier book about Jasper?

Aaron: You may find CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR! to be just as creepy, if not creepier than CREEPY CARROTS!

Ravel: Why did you think of a story that's so creepy?

Aaron: Let's be honest, it's kind of fun getting creeped out! Am I right?

99% of my students say you are definitely right.

Bella: How did you know how to spell all those words?

Aaron: Spelling is a big part of being a writer. Thankfully, I also have a tool called SpellCheck to help me out once in a while.

Azul: Why did, when his parents looked at what Jaspar saw, they weren’t there?

Aaron: I wanted you to wonder...is Jasper really seeing Creepy Carrots? Or is it in his imagination? How come nobody else sees them? 

You certainly accomplished that! My students had some great discussions on the imagination vs. reality aspect of this story.

Alexander: How did the carrots transform so quickly into other stuff?

Aaron: I never imagined that the carrots were turning into those things. Either Jasper's imagination is running away with him, or the carrots are trying to make him think that he's losing his mind. Which is maybe creepier than the carrots actually being there!

Autumn: Do you like carrots?

Aaron: Carrots are okay. They are a good source of beta carotene!

Melody: Do you like rabbits?

Aaron: Rabbits make great easily spooked out characters.

Eleanor: Does Jasper ever eat anything other than carrots?

Aaron: Not that we know of. Perhaps he should try canned carrots, though I can think of ways to make those creepy too.

Azul: When is your next story coming out?

Aaron: April 24th! I have a brand new picture book coming out called SEA MONKEY & BOB!



We’ll be looking for it! Thank you for inspiring these young scholars and for taking the time to answer their questions.

Below, you'll see artwork that accompanied student stories. From a tale of a Peaceful Pickle to one of Creepy, Sleepy, Sweet Peas - we had some riveting tales!


 



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thunder Boy Jr. Inspires

Back in August of 2012, I posted about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I loved the book then and still do. When I discovered Mr. Alexie had written a picture book, I rushed to get a copy. I can see why Publisher’s Weekly listed it as one of the best picture books of 2016. My students loved it—both the story and the bold, captivating illustrations by Yuyi Morales. 

Thunder Boy Jr.

I read the book, first, to a group of students that included a young boy on the autism spectrum. He was so enthusiastic, he insisted we read it again as soon as I turned the last page. The others in the group readily agreed. The following day, Calvin burst through my door and said, “let’s read my favorite book!” When I asked him what that might be, (although I was pretty sure I knew the answer) he said, “THUNDER BOY JR!” And he said it with thunder in his voice. He has requested the book many times since and he’s not the only one to do so. It was a hit with all of my students. 

The kids could relate to Thunder Boy Jr. wanting to carve out his own identity. But they laughed when they heard his ideas for a name that differed from his father’s: “Old Toys Are Awesome” and “Mud In His Ears.” When I read the line, “I want a name that celebrates something cool that I’ve done,” they didn’t laugh, they murmured, “yeah.” After we closed the book, my students decided to come up with new names for themselves, names like “Flying Through the Air,” “Firetruck Boy,” “Princess Sparkle,” “Peanut Butter Kid,” “I Can Do Anything,” and “Mr. Amazing.”

I especially liked those last two. As the new year approaches, perhaps we should all think of new names to give ourselves and those around us, names that celebrate hopes and dreams so we can “light up the sky” like Thunder Boy Jr. and his father at the end of the story and like Sherman Alexie does with his writing.