Monday, August 17, 2015

An Interview with Author, Josh Funk

Each summer, I have the privilege to attend nErDcampMI.  This is a professional and social highlight of the year. This summer, my Nerdcamp experience was made even better because I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with author Josh Funk.  Josh's debut picture book Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (Sterling) comes out on September 1, 2015.  While at Nerdcamp, I got an electronic sneak peek of this delightful book (read by the author himself).  Let me tell you, I could not wait to have a real copy in my hands and know that book will be a favorite of kids and adults alike.

Josh was kind enough to sit down with Kids Talk Kid Lit for an interview.  As always, he was kind, passionate and, of course, funny!  I hope you enjoy!

Hello, Mr. Josh Funk!  Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today.

Thanks for having me!

I am so excited that Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast will be available for everyone on September 1.  Is it hard to believe that this is finally happening?

Yes. It’s completely surreal. For the last several years I’ve dreamed of getting a book published, having something I wrote at the end of the F shelves in libraries and bookstores, but I never actually imagined that it would happen.

Where did you get the idea for the story?

Well, Kurt, it started like most good stories - with two children fighting. One Saturday morning, I asked my two darling children what they wanted for breakfast. One said, “Pancakes!” The other said, “French Toast!” “Pancakes!” “French toast!” “PANCAKES!” “FRENCH TOAST!”

As the bickering continued, I checked the freezer and saw that - as you probably suspected - all we had left were waffles …  To top it off (literally and figuratively), the syrup bottle had enough left to fill about 1 square on a waffle grid.

It was on the way to the diner that I came up with the idea.

You have such a gift for writing in rhyme.   Did you know it was going to be a rhyming book from the beginning or is that something that happened as the story developed?

Thanks for the compliment. Like many beginning writers, I started off writing everything in rhyme. Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast was a rhymer from the start. Only lately have I started writing a bit more in prose.

I play guitar (or used to), and in college I wrote songs that often had quirky and clever lyrics. I never became a rock star (or haven’t yet), but those same quirky clever lyrical skills came in handy when I refocused on a different audience: kids.

Have you had the opportunity to read Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast to kids?  How did it feel to see their responses to YOUR book?

I have had a few opportunities to read it to kids, but I have to admit, I’ve been paying more attention to getting the words right and pages turned properly than I have to the children’s reactions. At #nErDcampMI’s Nerd Camp Junior, I had the opportunity to do 3 rotating school visits with different groups of kids and they all seemed to like it. I think I’m still a little nervous ‘performing’ in front of folks. I haven’t yet mastered the ability to assess my surroundings. I’m not a trained educator (I’m a software engineer by day), so the experience of working with large groups of children is brand new to me.

Brendan Kearney's illustrations are so perfect for the text.  How did you feel the first time you saw them?  Did you get any sneak peeks?

When my editor at Sterling told me they were interested in Brendan, I checked out his website and knew he’d be perfect. A few months later my editor sent me these character sketches:

They were beyond anything I ever imagined. Literally. I never considered what Lady Pancake’s hair would look like, or if Sir French Toast would wear a hat.

It’s the strangest feeling seeing your idea drawn by someone with such talent. Like I said, I’d dreamed it, but never actually imagined it.

The book trailer for Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast is so fantastic...and you did it yourself.  Can you tell us about that process?

As I mentioned, I used to write songs back in my younger days. For the trailer, I used the GarageBand app on my phone to record the all of the music, and then I used high-resolution images supplied by Sterling to create a slideshow-style video using iMovie. That’s pretty much it. I was interviewed by Kidlit TV about the making of the trailer (click here) if you want a LOT more info.

Let's get to know Josh Funk a little better.  Please finish these sentences...

I love it when... it rains.

If I could... make more hours in the day, I would increase the number to about 27.

The perfect day... would be waking up in my castle on the Italian coast, followed by [spoiler alert: see below] for breakfast. I’d head to the movies for a comedy or action flick, burritos for lunch, take the kids swimming in the afternoon, a trip to the bookstore (mostly to socialize with booksellers), a date with my wife for dinner, followed by a private performance by City and Colour while we eat ketchup Doritos.

I wish I hadn't... waited so long before starting to write children’s books. The kidlit world is so welcoming, all the authors and educators are so friendly. But I can’t complain (too much). Things seem to be working out just fine.

I can't believe I... am being interviewed. At all. This whole experience is just silly.

and finally

This morning for breakfast... Waffles. Bwahahahahahahahahahaha!

Thanks for joining me today, Josh.  I can't wait for everyone to experience this great book!

Thank YOU, Kurt! Have a great school year. And don’t forget the syrup!

Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast is a thoroughly delicious picture book about the funniest "food fight!" ever! Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have a beautiful friendship—until they discover that there's ONLY ONE DROP of maple syrup left. Off they go, racing past the Orange Juice Fountain, skiing through Sauerkraut Peak, and reeling down the linguini. But who will enjoy the sweet taste of victory? And could working together be better than tearing each other apart? The action-packed rhyme makes for an adrenaline-filled breakfast . . . even without a drop of coffee!

Josh Funk was born in Boston, grew up in its suburbs, and graduated from UMass Amherst with a degree in Computer Science. When not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts in his cozy home in New England, alongside his wife, children, and assorted pets & monsters.

Josh is a board member of The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences. Josh is the author of LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling 2015), as well as the forthcoming picture books DEAR DRAGON (Viking/Penguin 2016), PIRASAURS! (Scholastic 2017), & more.

Find out more information about Josh at and on Twitter @joshfunkbooks.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Adventures of Dudley! (and how YOU Can Help!!!)

This is Dudley!

In my third year of teaching I purchased Dudley, bought him a nice travel bag and journal, and started sending him home with a different student each night.  The students would read a book to Dudley, help him write in his journal (from his point of view) and  return him to school the next day, sharing his adventures from the night before.  Dudley went home with students for TWENTY years. Because he was so well loved, he always returned (though one time he got left on the bus for a week and we had to write about "where in the world Dudley could possibly be". Incredible writing, by the way!)  I was always amazed at the excitement that Dudley caused...Younger sibling of former students would come into my class in the fall knowing that it was "their turn" to finally bring Dudley home and anxiously look for him. High school graduates would come back to visit and one of the first questions they would ask was "Do you still have Dudley?",  Every night for twenty years meant that Dudley visited a lot of homes, had a lot of adventures and did A LOT of reading and writing.

Students would often take photos of him to share with the class.

When I became a teacher-librarian, two years ago, Dudley took a spot on a library shelf.  Though students still love to read with him, the time has come for Dudley to embark on a NEW ADVENTURE.

Would you be willing to have Dudley visit you? your home? your classroom? your library?

I would like to send Dudley on a trip around the country this school year.  He would be delivered (via US postal) to you.  I would ask that you:

  • Take a picture of Dudley reading a book that you (or your students or your family) would recommend to my students. (Be as creative as you'd like...we'd even love to see Dudley reading by some of your local landmarks.) 
  • Either email or tweet the picture(s) to us so that we can chart Dudley's progress and compile of list of Dudley's reading recommendations.  
  • Then, mail Dudley to his next destination. 

Dudley will come to you with complete instructions, our email address/Twitter handle(s), and a list of names/addresses so you know where to mail Dudley next.

Please email me at or send me a message on Twitter (@strohreads) if you would be willing to participate in DUDLEY'S ADVENTURE (#DudsAdventure)

Thanks, in advance, for your help!!!

Monday, August 3, 2015

An Exclusive Interview with Zack Delacruz

Last week I had the distinct privilege to interview Jeff Anderson regarding his upcoming debut middle grade novel, Zack Delacruz Me and My Big Mouth (Sterling Children's Book).  Today I am delighted to actually sit down and talk with Zack Delacruz himself.  Enjoy!

illustration by Andrea Miller
Hi Zack!

Thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk with me.  I recently read about you in Zack Delacruz Me and My Big Mouth, and I've been anxious to have the opportunity to get to know you better.

I am here because Mrs. Harrington said I could have extra credit in English. I’ll do anything for extra credit. Do you have any snacks?

I know that you are in the sixth grade.  Tell me a little about your school.

Middle school is way different than elementary, let me tell you. Sometimes the noise at Davy Crockett Middle School cafeteria is so loud I’m afraid I’ll bust an eardrum. Have you ever been in a middle school cafeteria, Mr. Stroh? My advice is...don’t. 

Mrs. Harrington, my English teacher, said you were a librarian. Our librarian is a blast—to watch. Mrs. Darling is like a light show with all her colors and energy and movement, trying to get us to fall in love with the written word.

All the people like Janie, El Pollo Loco (that’s Jose’s nickname—according to him), and my best friend Marquis (this S is pronounced—but don’t ask Janie to pronounce it for you!) are all in the book. Maybe you should read that instead of just asking me questions, Mr. Stroh. Sometimes I try to get by without reading the book. But it’s easier if you just read it. The book will answer all of your questions.

You split your time between your mom and dad.  What is the worst part about living in two houses?

Mrs. Harrington said you wouldn’t ask me anything too personal, Mr. Stroh. I really don’t want everybody knowing about my parents living in two different places. Can you edit this part out or something? 

But if I were going to tell you, I’d say it isn’t easy. The worst part of living in two houses is one week I take one bus, and on the other week I take another. And that repeats over and over. And kids notice. I hate being noticed. It’s embarrassing. (Another worst part is Dad doesn’t get good snacks.) But I don’t want to talk about this anymore.

That’s ok Zack, we don’t have to.

How about this?  Please finish these sentences.

Marquis is…
That’s easy. He’s my best friend—and he’s good at Math.

My favorite thing about Janie is…
Well, I wouldn’t say I have a favorite thing, really. I mean, she gets bullied and I know how that feels. And she’s really kind of helpful if you give her a chance. Not many people do. She’s not my girlfriend or anything, though, but she’s not as bad as people like Sophia and El Pollo Loco say.

are hard to find in middle school.

Peanut butter…
is my jam.

When I think about chocolate candy bars…
I think about how I’ve got to get back to school and fix the whole big mess. Oh, boy. Me and my big mouth!

Here’s the last question, Zack.  
What would you say to kids who are being bullied?

Okay, I’ll stay for one more question because this one is important. I wish I knew the answer to that, Mr. Stroh. I really do. I’m still figuring it out. But I’d say you’re not alone. I get bullied, Janie gets bullied, but it doesn’t last forever. Dr. Smith-Cortez, our school counselor, says people who bully are miserable on the inside and they are just bullies because they don’t feel good about themselves. I don’t know. It seems to me bullies make other people miserable, and they can make kids feel miserable about themselves. My best advice is—don’t be a bully and steer clear of them. My dad always tells me,“Whatever they say or do, it doesn’t change who you are.” I guess that’s true, but it doesn’t always feel that way. The last thing I want to say to kids who get bullied is—I’m sorry. 

Mr. Stroh, I gotta get going. There’s some stuff going down at school, and now the kids are counting on me to fix it. Like I said, just read the book, Mr. Stroh. I think you’ll like it. Then you won’t have to keep interviewing people to find out about it. 

Thanks Zack for taking the time to talk with me today.  I do need to say that  I have read the book THREE times!

All right, Mr. Stroh. If you say so...

Cover design by Tad Carpenter

Zach Delacruz Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson will be released on August 4, 2015.

For more information:

On Twitter:
Zack Delacruz:  @thezackdelacruz  
Jeff Anderson:  @writeguyjeff

On Facebook: