Wednesday, May 6, 2009
THIS WEEK'S VISITOR
I guess I've been on the planet of knock-knock jokes because I'd never heard the joke, "Guess what? Chicken Butt!" Thank goodness, Erica Perl had. Something about that joke touched her funny bone because she is the author of the delightful book, Chicken Butt! Combined with Henry Cole's fun illustrations, Chicken Butt! proves a humorous read-aloud for kids and adults. I asked Erica a few questions about her process of writing this story.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
I always thought the whole "You know what? Chicken Butt!" joke was so funny and such a great goofy nonsequitur that I wanted to use it in some way. For me it just sums up what's so great about kids - certain words and ideas make them laugh spontaneously every time. Also, I really wanted to do a book that captures a classic parent and kid interaction from both perspectives. Because I can relate to being the kid who is having too much fun to stop AND being the parent who is struggling to wind things down.
The dialogue and rhythm seems to flow so naturally between the father and son. Did the words come to you that easily? If not, can you explain the process.
Thanks! I read everything I write aloud a LOT. I find that if I am fixing my words as I read them, I need to change them. I originally wrote this in two voices as just a simple exchange, since I intended it to be a board book for hip parents of toddlers. But in conversations with my editor, Susan Van Metre, we discussed making it into more of a picture book and emphasizing both sides of the story. Which was such a good suggestion because instead of just making jokes, the kid developed a voice and a personality. I've been doing this book at schools a lot lately, having groups of kids read the two parts, and they totally get it. The "kids" emphasize sounding innocent even as they trick dad into going a few more rounds. And the "parents" put on these great stern voices, shaking their heads and pointing their fingers. It is a lot of fun to do with groups… it's an extremely interactive book. And of course, everybody loves to read the "Chicken Butt! Chicken Butt! Chicken Butt!" page together.
Sometimes the artist's vision of the story is a bit different than the writer's. After seeing the early art, did you have to rewrite again?
Not at all. Henry Cole did such an incredible job. Originally, I envisioned the book as having pictures of just the chicken (I actually made several dummies of the book this way). But once Henry drew the dad and the son, it was clear to me that they needed to be there. And we had a lot of fun thinking up ways to play with the illustration, like having the boy put his red shorts on his head like the chicken's comb.
You're on a blog tour right now. Is there any question you wish someone would ask you?
I keep waiting for someone to ask me, "why are you encouraging kids to say 'butt'?" I guess my answer is that it is better to celebrate words and talk about their power with kids than it is to demonize them. Especially when you're using words to humor, not to hurt. You know why? Chicken thigh! (Sorry, Kimberly… I just couldn't resist.)
Tomorrow we'll take a peek into Erica's nest. Until then you might want to meet up with her on the tour. Here's where you'll find her:
5/4 MAW BOOKS BLOG
5/5 TALES FROM THE RUSHMORE KID
5/7 A PEN AND A NEST
5/8 HEN BLOG
5/11 School Library Journal's FUSE # 8
5/13 CHICKEN SPAGHETTI
5/14 THREE SILLY CHICKS
Posted by Kimberly at 4:00 AM