Greetings from the frozen north! (Yes, we had a snow visitation recently.)
’Tis the season to be jolly as the well-known Christmas carol goes. And I can guarantee some jolliness when you check out the following picture books by the erudite and extraordinary Eric Pinder.
Both books were illustrated by Stephanie Graegin and published by Farrar, Straus Giroux. Eric is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette. Stick around till the end of the interview to learn about the giveaway. Ho-ho-ho!
Kitty dressed as Santa? Perhaps she has something to do with this giveaway?
El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Eric: (1) Once upon a time, I worked at an observatory on top of a mountain and commuted home—well, partway home—by sled. As job perks go, it’s hard to beat an eight-mile sled ride.
(2) The last time I bought a new vehicle, it was a unicycle.
(3) My summer job in high school was working on a dairy farm. But the cows there couldn’t type.
(4) I still want to be an astronaut when I grow up.
El Space: You’ve written two books in the sharing with a bear series. They are utterly delightful! What inspired this series?
Eric: Thank you! Building blanket forts and blanket caves with nephews inspired the setting of the first book. Usually character or plot comes to me first, but this time the first thing the Muses gave me was a clear image of the setting for the opening scene. I could picture the room, and the cave, and someone reading inside it by flashlight.
For a long time, the working title of what became How to Share with a Bear was just “Cave.” I didn’t have any idea yet how the story would end or even who all the characters were. But I knew right away it would start with a blanket cave. And what lives in caves? A bear!
The themes about sharing and siblings developed from there.
El Space: Picture books have had a resurgence in publishing lately. Why do you suppose that is the case?
Eric: Picture books are such amazing works of art that adults often appreciate them too. At craft fairs and book signings, sometimes adults will wistfully browse the picture books and confide, sounding almost embarrassed, “I wish I had grandkids, because I still love picture books.”
Of course, the elaborate pictures and design also make them expensive to print, which probably makes publishers and readers alike choosier when budgets are tight. I don’t know, but I’d guess the resurgence is a combination of the economy improving and the Millennial generation starting to have children and looking for good books.
El Space: What drew you to picture books?
Eric: Until almost age 30, I had no inkling that I’d someday write books for children. In high school, I wanted to write science fiction like Ray Bradbury. In college, a class about nature writing introduced me to writers like Annie Dillard and Barry Lopez, and since I’d always liked the outdoors, that became my focus. Then a funny thing happened: everyone in my circle of friends started having kids. Suddenly, their houses were full of books by Seuss and Boynton.
There’s a poetry to picture books—a kind of music. While hiking with two friends and their six-month-old on the Imp Trail in the White Mountains one day, I heard them recite from memory the entire text of a Dr. Seuss book. The humor and the rhythm of the words, and the obvious delight of the audience—their toddler—gave me a real appreciation for the work and lyricism that go into picture books.
I just wish I had the talent to illustrate them, too. I admire and envy those who do. At the end of one book signing, when things were slow, I was absentmindedly doodling on a scrap paper. A customer across the room noticed the book cover on display, and her eyes lit up. “Ooh!” she said excitedly. “Are you the illustrator?” Then, walking closer, she noticed my drawing, frowned, and said, “Oh. No, you’re not.
El Space: Oh my goodness! I guess she didn’t realize how rude that sounded. . . . In an interview awhile back with CNN, famed picture book author Mo Willems was asked how to create a timeless tale. Is that something you think about when you write a picture book? Why or why not?
Eric: I like that quote by Mo Willems, “Always think of your audience, but never think for your audience.” I think there are certain universal emotions or experiences, like sharing or anxiety or trying new things, that can help keep a story timeless even if it’s presented in a topical way. A century or two from now, I’m sure, there will be kids who want to drive the family spaceship instead of the bus. But I’d bet Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus would still resonate with them, because it’s not so much the topical vehicle that matters—it’s the underlying idea of imagining a pigeon or a child driving something big and bulky and thus capable of fun mayhem, which usually only the adults get to drive, that’s amusing and timeless.
El Space: What advice do you have for budding picture book authors?
Eric: Because picture books are real aloud, performed in a sense by the parent or teacher or babysitter, the cadence of every sentence and the sound of every syllable is important. I recommend reading poetry, as well as picture books, to get a feel for the sounds of words and the moods and nuances they can convey. I like to think of poetry as “using the language as a musical instrument, to convey emotion or meaning.” Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled is a funny, informative book about poetic meter. It’s helped me a lot with writing picture books. But the biggest help was taking the picture book semester at VCFA.
El Space: What will you work on next?
Eric: New ideas for picture books spring up all the time. Sometimes just witnessing a silly pet pratfall, or hearing a heartwarming anecdote, or noticing a strange word combination or phrase on a billboard can start the wheels in motion on a new story. Recently I’ve been revising a picture book about a little girl on Mars. I’m also finishing up a narrative nonfiction book about the joys and challenges of teaching in the era of standardized tests and student loans. When I teach nature writing at our college, we go on a lot of class field trips in the woods, so there’s a bear in that book, too.
My next picture book, The Perfect Pillow, is forthcoming in 2018. Surprisingly, that one does not include a bear, but there’s still a lot of sharing. And a dragon.
Thank you, Eric, for being my guest!
Looking for Eric? You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and his website.
You can find How to Share with a Bear, How to Build a Snow Bear, and other picture books by Eric Pinder at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Wal-Mart, Powells, and possibly on your own front doorstep. One of you will win How to Share with a Bear and How to Build a Snow Bear. Simply comment below, giving the title of a favorite picture book you had as a child (or now), to be entered into the drawing. The winner will be announced on December 15. Stayed tuned for more book giveaways and information on Kitty Santa!
Author photo by Jenn Pinder. Cookie photo by Eric Pinder. Book covers from Goodreads. Dr. Seuss image from cliparts.co. Snow and Kitty photos by L. Marie.
I like the notion of these books being read in a poetical, almost musical way. And that sled ride-beats rush hour in these parts hands down.
I think so too, Andy! I wish I had a job that involved that kind of transportation.
Seems like the world will always need picture books for kids. Now, was it a motorized or dog sled?
Ha, yes. I wondered that too. I would take either. 😀
Charles, it was a big plastic sled. And a whole lot of fun! Depending on snow conditions, the sled ride could take up to 45 minutes. Sadly, the sleds never worked on the way back up.
Gravity is always getting in the way. 😉
Thanks for introducing us to Eric and his wonderful books, L. Marie. His current project about a little girl on Mars sounds intriguing. Curious George was definitely my all-time favorite picture book.
Jill, if this is the book Eric read while we were both students, then it is as delightful as the others. 😀
Curious George is a favorite of many, I suspect. The kids I know love the animated series.
It isn’t all that often that I can smile through reading an interview, but, that is what I have done on the snow covered morning. Loved this. Loved it so much that I went ahead and ordered How to Share With a Bear for my grandson for Christmas, who will LOVE it, for he is forever building blanket forts and loves bears. 🙂 Since I’ve already ordered one Eric’s books and I’ve been the happy recipient of so many of your gift-aways, L. Marie, and am currently lost in trees, please exclude me from this one.
Right now, “the” picture book that the kiddos and I have been reading is The Book With No Pictures – and it is a hoot as the reader must read nonsense words much to the delight of the children.
I’m sure Eric will be pleased, Penny. It is a delightful book. I bought it for two little boys who love a good blanket fort. I used to build those with my brothers when I was a kid. 🙂
That picture book sounds very fun. I’ll have to find that one!
It is fun to read and even more fun to participate in causing childish glee as grownups say silly words.
I’m sure my dear grandson will enjoy it – and will probably get his grandfather to built a fort with him. 🙂
That would be lovely! On a cold winter day, a blanket fort sounds like a good plan.
. . . and it arrived and is perfect for my Ezra, who loves blueberries as much as the bear and will surely build some forts while visiting. 🙂 Really. Our gifts to him will swirl around this book.
Yay!!! That’s great, Penny! I’m glad to know he’ll love it!
I loved the comment about people wishing they had grandkids so they could still read picture books! I often think someone should set up a child rental business for those of us who’d love to go see kids movies but don’t have a handy kid to take… 😉 The books look like fun – I’d love to build a snowbear!
(L Marie – please don’t enter me in the comp, since I’m a childfree zone and the books deserve a better home!)
Ha ha! I agree! There should be a child rental place.
When a friend and I went to see Moana, we were probably the only adults in the theater without kids in tow. She wanted to see the movie to judge whether her kids would be scared by it. I don’t have kids, but wanted to see the movie. 🙂
Thanks, Eric and L. Marie, for a terrific interview! Count me in, though I’ll be buying several, anyway. I have SIX grandchildren. They all deserve the sort of book that makes a stuffed lion sit up and take notice 🙂
Glad to do so! I was able to coax Eric to the blog once he saw your interview. 😀
Wow! That’s a nice flock of grandchildren. I have you on the list!
Great interview! I laughed at that story about the customer deciding that Eric was not the illustrator. I wish I could draw too, because I always think of my stories visually first.
Lyn, why not draw anyway? I don’t consider myself a skilled artist. But I think visually too. Sometimes, sketching what I see helps, even if someone might judge my efforts as poor. 🙂
L. Marie. I left my contact info on the Facebook post. :-). I so admire picture book authors. Thanks for sharing Eric’s work.
I sent a reply. 🙂 I’m wondering which book to feature.
Tough one. When is the feature?
Next week hopefully.
I sent mine.
I have it! Thank you! Waiting on Andra now. 🙂
Lovely interview especially with his music insights informing his writing.
Then ending with the announcement of his next book entitled ‘The perfect pillow’…Yesss.that brought a random memory up from the depths of my brain.
I kept my childhood pillow into adulthood and had it with me through all three of my kiddos births….just an odd quirky thing, but it was so comfy! Of course by then it was quite ratty and limp so I guess some of its comfort was more emotional than physical HA! (It did get tossed shortly thereafter)
(There are others here with grandkids/young kids so please don’t enter me in the drawing.)
Wow. It’s great that you kept that pillow, Laura, for so long. My childhood pillows and blankets were gone long before I left home. 😦
But thank you. I’m always glad to feature authors and delightful book.
Is not it wonderful to keep like Eric the freshness of a child’s soul and also the powerful imagination of a child . Even without any talent I understand totally the spirit who pushed Eric to make tjhose pictures books .
I agree, Michel. To keep that childlike freshness is such a gift. Thank you for stopping by!
And thank for your birthday wishes for my wife Janine written in french .Bravo!
Wonderful interview! I love Eric’s story of how he came about to write picture books. It shows that if a writer is open to trying new things, he may create great things 🙂 And you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy picture books. A favorite of mine which I discovered in a bookstore is Menopaws: The Silent Meow. It’s written for women who are going through menopause with “tips” on how to deal with it. It is hilarious and was a great gift for a friend of mine. I wish more books (even the grown-up kind) included illustrations, although I understand how expensive that would be. Still, illustrations can lend an extra layer of magic to a story.
Ooo. That book sounds like something I might need to read. 🙂
Thank you, Marie!
lol … I think you can get used copies from Amazon. It is a fun book. I’ve been thinking of buying some more copies for my younger friends 😉
I will look on Amazon when I finish typing this!
Excellent interview! The poetry and rhyming, and the sounds that words create when read aloud…I love that part of the interview. Thank you.
Thank you, Jennie. I think your students would love these books. Thanks for stopping by!
You are welcome!
I’m glad to know that you’re so concerned about your students.
I always enjoyed reading picture books to kids and appreciated the illustrations. I hadn’t thought of it before but Eric is right, there’s a poetry or rhythm to the words. Both books look like good Christmas presents.
Well done Eric.
When I was in grad school, one of my advisors mentioned that writing a picture book was a good way of getting practice in writing a thesis statement. You have to be so concise with them. I wrote one, but it turned out to be three times longer than necessary. So I admire authors like Eric who can be concise and entertaining. 🙂
My favorite picture book as a ki was The Carrot Seed. It has inspired me to this day to pursue my dreams no matter the nay-sayers!
I’m glad it did, Sue! We can’t let the naysayers have the last word. Thanks for stopping by!
Correction : kid. Great interview that resonated deeply, down to “I still want to be an astronaut”.
Pingback: You’re a Mean One, Miss Kitty | El Space–The Blog of L. Marie