It’s the spookiest time of the year and I have great Halloween reads to share with you all!
To kick it off, I bring you an interview with author Stephanie Shaw and a chance to win a signed copy of her book Schnitzel: A Cautionary Tale for Lazy Louts!
See the end of the post for details on how you can enter to win this fantastic prize!
Schnitzel: A Cautionary Tale for Lazy Louts (2016, Sleeping Bear Press, Picture Book)
From the publisher:
Apprenticed to a famous wizard, young Schnitzel is not known for his hard work. In fact, it’s just the opposite. He’s lazy and lacks motivation. So late one night, when a door-to-door salesman selling vacuum cleaners offers to help, Schnitzel sees an answer to his housecleaning woes. Little does he know, however, that this is no ordinary salesman and the vacuum is no ordinary dust-buster. In this retelling of the classic tale The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Schnitzel is about to find out why it’s never a good idea to invite a cape-wearing, fang-toothed stranger in after dark. Fortunately for him, there’s magical help ready to lend a hand.
Schnitzel, written by Stephanie Shaw and illustrated by Kevin M. Barry, is the perfect Halloween read! With stark illustrations and spooky scenes, children will be delighted with the disaster that befalls poor, lazy Schnitzel when he invites in a strange salesman. Children will immediately see that Schnitzel should have done his own work, and hopefully the message will sink into their own lives as they reflect on their own household chores.
Overall, a delightful story written in rhyme, and sure to be a Halloween hit with children ages three to seven.
Interview with author Stephanie Shaw
Me: I love your new book Schnitzel: A Cautionary Tale for Lazy Louts, and I especially love that it was inspired by The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Although, I must admit my first thought was of Mickey Mouse and not the original poem!
Which original fairy tale is your favorite and which retelling have you most enjoyed?
SS: I love fairytales so it would be hard to choose. As a child I loved the classics — Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel. And, folktales and fables were (and still are) favorites! There are several modern retellings of The Three Little Pigs that I think are super clever.
What is recently out is my fairy tale PIECE BY PIECE. It is an original story and once again Sleeping Bear Press took my breath away with the choice of illustrator. So, for the moment that’s my favorite retelling!
Me: People often wonder about the author-illustrator relationship especially when they might not know each other.
Did you know your illustrator, Kevin M. Barry prior to working on this project and what was the process like from your original text draft to the final product? Did you have any vision for what the illustrations might look like as you were drafting the manuscript?
SS: I have never met any of the illustrators for any of my books. It’s true that authors (at least I do) ‘see’ the story as they write it. As picture book and so much of the heavy lifting is done by the artist. Schnitzel is my third book with Sleeping Bear Press and I trusted the SBP team to choose the best illustrator to take on the text. But, wow! Did they ever surprise me! I remember the day Senior Children’s Editor Barb McNally asked me, “What do you think of the work of Edward Gorey?” Are you kidding? I love Edward Gorey! Then she explained how Kevin thinking of doing the art in gray scale with just a touch of color. I was intrigued and amazed. And, I am so very happy with what Kevin did.
I make it a point to not communicate with an artist during the development of the book. First of all, I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler and wouldn’t be any help at all. But, mostly I don’t want the illustrator to feel I am looking over his shoulder and pressuring him.
As far as the process of the text from start to finish, again, Barb is just a super editor. I don’t believe we changed the text much at all. But, then one day she contacted me. There was a spot near the end that was slightly confusing. As the story was coming to its finish, it read a bit like ‘it was all a dream’ (which was not my intention at all). So, Barb asked me to be sure to clarify that stanza. It was one small line but I did five rewrites before we finally settled on the phrasing that satisfied us.
Me: I love the back page activity where you encourage children to write their own retelling of a popular story. When did you first start writing and do you remember any stories you made up as a child?
SS: I began writing after working with children in schools for many years. I was an elementary principal when I took an early retirement in 2006 to care for my mom. I had always loved children’s literature and writing was something I turned to for fun between care shifts. I sold my first story to Highlights Magazine in 2011 and my first book manuscript in that same year. Honestly, I think the only stories I remember making up as a child were more ‘tall tales’ about the disappearance of the chocolate chips from the kitchen cupboard.
Me: Who or what would you say had the biggest impact on your writing career?
SS: Easy peasy! My parents influenced me by reading to my siblings and me every night. And, we had our library cards as soon as we could write our names. Saturdays were spent walking to the neighborhood library and carrying home armloads of books. Books were also given to me as gifts and I still cherish a copy of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice that was the very first picture book my dad gave me.
Illustration from original Sorcerer’s Apprentice picture book given to the author by her father. Written by Richard Rostro (William Morrow & Co. publisher, 1941).
Me: What advice would you give young writers or aspiring authors?
SS: Read the genre you want to write. Read what’s coming out but also read all those wonderful classics. Writing is no different than learning a language or sport or musical instrument. If writing is where your heart is, invest in that dream through classes and workshops. It will save you from so many mistakes (trust me). And, also join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It is a fantastic network of creative people and everything you ever want to know about the craft is available through SCBWI.
Me: With Halloween right around the corner, your book is a great story to share with little ones. Not too spooky, and lots of fun! What’s your favorite holiday and what’s your favorite holiday tradition?
SS: As much as I love Halloween (treats more than the tricks), I think my favorite holiday is Christmas. When I was small we went to bed on Christmas Eve without a single decoration in the house except our stockings hung on the mantle. But, in the morning Santa would have delivered a fully decorated tree and packages! How magical is that? My poor parents had to wait until we were asleep to do all the work, but oh it was so enchanting! Of course, as I got older I noticed other people had trees up before Christmas, so that part ended. But, absolutely no gifts ever showed up until Christmas morning. I still like that tradition!
Me: Is there anything else you’d like to share about this book or your writing career?
SS: Golly, I just want to say thank you so much for asking about Schnitzel and my writing. I love hearing from readers — kids, parents, teachers, writers. If there is anything else I can share I can always be contacted through Sleeping Bear Press or my website www.stephanieshawauthor.com.
Me: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions and share about your fabulous writing! It’s a pleasure to feature you on my blog and your book is perfect for the Halloween season.
Sleeping Bear Press and Stephanie Shaw have been kind enough to offer a copy of Schnitzel as a prize to one lucky reader. And not just any copy…a copy signed by Stephanie Shaw! No tricks here, just treats 🙂
Comment below with your favorite Halloween story or tradition.
Comment by Friday, October 27th to be entered for a chance to win. There will only be one prize awarded to one person selected randomly from the comments. The winner will be announced Saturday, October 28th on the blog. Once the winner is selected, he or she will need to provide mailing information and I will get the book sent out!
Don’t be shy, go ahead and comment!
Thanks for reading and good luck!
Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Thank you to Stephanie Shaw for allowing me to interview her and for providing a signed copy of Schnitzel to a reader of this blog.