Monday, September 12, 2011

My Smart Kid Actually LIKES to Read : How to Boost a Book (with author Laurel Snyder)

Okay, I've written the posts MY SMART KID HATES TO READ Part I and Part II.

But ... what if your smart kid actually LIKES to read. Well, first of all, that's fantastic news for the people who have smart kids who hate to read because liking to read can be contagious. So, seriously, think about starting a book club for kids ...

But also there are ways to engage a book -- to have it lead you to other books, to get to know the author (either through interviews or sometimes even live, via the wonders of technology), to make the book reading interactive through food, music, art projects, and by talking books in the house and with friends ...

So, to that end, I'll be posting a few interviews with writers of kid books to talk about how to BOOST the experience of reading one of their books.

Today's book pick is (DRUM ROLL) BIGGER THAN A BREAD BOX by Laurel Snyder.

QUESTION #1: If the parental types reading this book loved books by Zilpha Keatly Snyder and Eva Ibbotson in their childhood, they will dig books by Laurel Snyder, in particular BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX. Why do you think that is?

Wow. I'm just realizing that I'm not sure what the best comparison author might be for Bigger than a Bread Box. Usually, my books get compared to Eager and Enright, but this one feels different. It's very much a cross between an issue book (it's about parents who are separating) and a magic book. Several reviews have referred to it as magic realism, but I think they just mean it's a magic book set in a more realistic family. The Headless Cupid is the book that feels closest to me, I think.

QUESTION TWO: If you're listening to music while reading BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX, it should be Springsteen. Why?

Because in fact the book was partially inspired by the song Hungry Heart, which was deeply important for me as a kid, in the years when my own parents were splitting up. I've worked the song into the book (thank you, Bruce, for the rights!) But maybe it's better to say that people should listen to music that makes them a little sad, whatever that is...

QUESTION THREE: If you're going to EAT something and READ this book at the same time, you should whip up some gravy fries. Why? (Instructions necessary?)


The magic in this book takes the form of a vintage bread box, and all the wishes have to fit inside it. When Rebecca (our main character) finds herself unable to wish for what she really wants (her dad and her home in Baltimore) she consoles herself with the foods that remind her of home-- so the book is actually littered with references to UTZ chips and Berger cookies, Tastykakes (chocolate kandykakes, to be precise) and most of all GRAVY FRIES. Which I miss, living in Atlanta.

Gravy fries are very complicated to make. Take fries. Pour on gravy. Salt and pepper to taste. I don't know why you can't find them in the rest of the world!

QUESTION FOUR: If you're going to get a Kid Book Group together and read Breadbox, what's a fun something you can do to make it more fun?

This might sound goofy, but I actually really LOVE old bread boxes (which is how I came to write the book), and you can find them at most junk stores. I think this might lend itself to a really interesting collage project. Get old magazines and have the kids try to make art out of the boxes. A bread box makes a great keepsake box-- and kids like privacy. It's also an interesting jumping off point for a conversation about wishing. Wishing becomes more complicated when you limit it this way. I'd love to know what the kids would wish for if they had Rebecca's box!

QUESTION FIVE: For the TEACHERLY TYPES, if you read Breadbox as a read aloud in your class, will Laurel Snyder skype in for a few minutes to answer questions?

Of course! I've got a study guide ready for any teachers who are interested, and I'm skyping a ton this fall.

QUESTION SIX: Laurel, did you talk books in your household growing up?

Oh, wow, yes. My mom was an English teacher and my grandmother was a children's librarian. Plus, I went to the library after school every single day (Enoch Pratt FOREVER!) until my mom could come to get me. I read constantly. And anyone who knows me can tell you I TALK constantly. SO it goes without saying I talked books.

QUESTION SEVEN: Do you talk books in your household now?

Yes! Though my husband only reads nonfiction (if I'd known that, would I have married him? I wonder...) But we talk a lot about books. My sons are 4 and 5 and we're just getting to a place where we read longer books. Last week we read The Wonderful O as a family. It's really nice to be starting all over again, experiencing these books I love so much with my kids. We also talk a lot about comic books, I must confess. I'm an expert on the X Men.

QUESTION EIGHT: After folks read BREADBOX together, what should they read next?

If I ever finish the book I'm working on right now they can read that! It's a prequel to Bread Box, and follows Rebecca's mother on a time travel adventure, from 1987 to 1937.

Until that's finished, I'd suggest anyone who hasn't read Polly Horvath immediately read The Canning Season. That's my obsession right now. It's a wonderful book. I like sadness and adventure running alongside each other.

To read more from Laurel, click here.

Laurel Snyder is the author of three novels for children, Penny Dreadful, Any Which Wall and Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains OR The Search for a Suitable Princess (Random House) and two picture books, Inside the Slidy Diner and Baxter the Kosher Pig. (Tricycle). In addition to her books for children, Laurel has written two books of poems, Daphne & Jim: a choose-your-own-adventure biography in verse (Burnside Review Press, 2005) and The Myth of the Simple Machines (No Tell Books, 2007). She also edited an anthology of nonfiction, Half/Life: Jew-ish tales from Interfaith Homes (Soft Skull Press, 2006) A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Michener-Engle Fellow, Laurel has published work in the Utne Reader, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Revealer, Salon, The Iowa Review, American Letters and Commentary, and elsewhere. She is an occasional commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, but most of all, she is a mom.