5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: Michael Rex

When I was a kid my dad was a long haul truck driver. He would be gone from 4-10 days at a time. Each summer I would spend a handful of days with him in his rig traveling the country. One of my favorite things about his job was when he would bring the truck to school. All my classmates got to move through the truck and check out its amazing features.

I fondly remember the days when my dad was a trucker. When I first saw With Any Luck, I’ll Drive a Truck my heart was taken back to riding around in a big rig listening to the Beach Boys. I’m very confident that kids are going to dig this one. Trucks are awesome (so is this book)!

I’m excited to share my interview with illustrator Michael Rex. He did a wonderful job with his illustrations in With Any Luck I’ll Drive a Truck.

5,4,3,2,1 Interview

5. Can you tell us a little bit about With Any Luck, I’ll Drive A Truck?

It’s a really fun rhyming book about a little boy who grows up loving trucks that was written by David Friend, and illustrated by me! I spent many hours researching the trucks to make them as accurate as possible. When I could, I took pictures of real vehicles at construction sites and parking lots. I wanted to give the readers as much information about trucks as I possibly could in the drawings. The three little stuffed animal friends that the child has in the book were inspired by seeing real stuffed animals tied to the fronts of trucks.


4. What’s the hardest part of being an illustrator?

The drawings in this book are very detailed, and time consuming. While I love to draw, as I get older, the long days spent at my draft table are harder to get through. There are so many things I want to write about, or other things that I want to draw, that I sometimes have a hard time focusing. But in the end, all of the hard work is worth it.

truck interior 2.jpg

3. What advice do you have for the young creators in my classroom?

Try to do things the way you think they should be done, even if you end up being wrong. Your main goal as an artist is to put something unique and individual into your art. If you are only thinking about what others expect you to do, you’re not being true to your work.

truck spread 1.jpg

2. What is best part about being an illustrator?

The best part of being an illustrator is seeing an image in your head and being able to get it onto paper without too much struggle, or too many mistakes. That, and listening to music all day long.

1. If you could spend one day living in the world of a book, which book would you pick?

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams!

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: Erica Perl

ferociousfluffity 2

We were very lucky to have Erica Perl attend Nerd Camp last week. She was amazing with our junior campers. Erica is a gift to children’s literature. Erica answered a handful of my questions about her new bookFerociously Fluffity.

5,4,3,2,1 Interview

1. Can you tell us a little bit about Ferociously Fluffity?

All the kids in Room 2-D are desperate to hold Fluffity, their adorable new class pet, even though their teacher, Mr. Drake, tells them to wait. When an opportunity presents itself, the students give in to temptation and quickly learn the wisdom of Mr. Drake’s warning. Fluffity bites kid after kid, and her chomping leads to a wild chase through the halls. Who will stop the haywire hamster, and how? Especially when her next victim is… Mr. Drake!


2. What is best part about being a writer?

Sharing my books with kids! Plus, my publicist said she’d bake me a delicious rhubarb pie when I finished this book.


3. What’s the hardest part of being a writer?

Apparently, my publicist was kidding about the pie. 


4. If you could spend one day living in the world of a book, which book would you pick?

Hmm, that’s a hard one. Actually, it’s not. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


5. What advice do you have for the young creators in my classroom?

Read everything! Write the kinds of things you love to read, even if you’re convinced that no one else will want to read them. Drawing, dancing, running and all kinds of non-writing activities can give you great “aha!” moments for your writing… just make sure you write them down before they escape. Don’t be tempted to edit while you write – editing interrupts the flow of your writing and works better if you come back and do it later.


The Yarn is Joining School Library Journal


Yesterday, School Library Journal Executive Editor Kathy Ishuzuka announced that The Yarn is joining SLJ. The show will pretty much be the same. We may have an ad or two in some of the episodes, but we will still have complete control of the content. Hopefully the ads will help Travis and I cover some of the expenses we have from running the show. It will be fun having our own spot on the SLJ site. It should help our listeners find episodes easier.

Thank you all for supporting our audio show. We love making it, and we can’t wait to see what stories we get to share in the future.

10 Minute Review: Wish by Barbara O’Connor


I often make the mistake of reading middle grade novels with awards in my head. Thinking about what the National Book Award Committee or the Newbery Committee might think about a book is fun, but it often taints my reading experience.

The time I spent with Barbara O’Connor’s Wish was magical. I never once thought about what award committees will think of this book, not because it doesn’t deserve consideration, but because this book is so obviously perfect and important for kids that it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. Wish contains so much of what I love about middle grade fiction: an engaging plot (the word engaging doesn’t do it justice, but I’m too tired to think of something better), a main character that readers will fall in love with, unforgettable supporting characters (not an easy thing to do), and a setting so real you feel like you’ve been there.

I don’t really have anything else I’d like to say about Wish, but I would like to say that Barbara O’Connor is one heck of a talented writer. My students love her books. Reading them aloud builds community, empathy, and it is just plain fun.

I hope you’ll check out Wish when it comes out August 30th.

Guest Post: “Colors” by Rebecca Mock


I am pretty fascinated by today’s guest post from Rebecca Mock. My favorite part is when she talks about her mom helping. Moms are the best. Below the banner you will Rebecca’s guest post. Happy reading!


I had been heavily referencing a lot of French comic artists, and I imagined the best color style would be flat, bright shapes, with only minimal shading to enhance dramatic lighting. We originally wanted to hire a colorist, but it was hard to find the right fit. After going through a couple, Hope and I had an emergency pow wow. I had never really colored my own comics, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted, and all it would require was time.




Top to bottom, from Isaac the Pirate by Cristophe Blain, and Miss Don’t Touch Me by Hubert & Kerascoet


I remember the conversation I had with Hope when we decided I would color the book myself. We considered our due date–the publisher wanted the book by the end of 2013, so I only have about 2.5 months. Hope said “Do you think you can?” And I did the math in my head. “Yea. Sure. That’s like….20 pages a week? Yea? I think so?”





I tried to keep it simple, but I still used a lot of shading


To save time, we needed the book flatted with outside help. But we had no budget to hire anyone else, and we were short on time. So we put out a call for help–anyone who could volunteer to flat a few pages or more, for free. Many people came to our rescue! I also flatted a fair number of pages. One of my biggest helpers was actually my mother! Once I explained the process to her, she ended up flatting 20 or so pages for me. This book wouldn’t have gotten done without all the help we received. Thanks guys.


from my flatting guide

I tried to base each scene in 1 or 2 main hues, with accent colors. This was a historical story, so I used earth tones and sepia for any parts I was unsure of.


Coloring this book ended up being very interesting. Some scenes came together perfectly, as I had imagined the colors of a scene from the beginning, while other scenes were so difficult I was re-coloring them up to the day before the book went to print. In particular, I struggled with the whole rainforest scene. I loved all the scenes that took place on ships, I think because I loved those bits of character development, the color “mood” felt easy to choose.

Rebecca Mock is an illustrator and comics artist. Her work has appeared  in various publications, including theNew York Times and the New Yorker.  She is co-organizer of the Hana Doki Kira anthology. Compass South is  her first book. rebeccamock.com