Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mini-interview: the chutzpah of kids’ writer Cary Fagan.

image If you could interview any kids’ book author or illustrator living today, who would it be? 

Today, let’s talk about chutzpah in a mini-interview with Toronto writer Cary Fagan.  Last year, I had the chance to chat via email with him about his (then-) new kids’ book, Oy, Feh, So? image(illustrated by Gary Clement).

And then… well, life happened.  We moved across the ocean, and the interview sat in the can waiting for an opportunity to come to light.

  I’m so sorry, Cary!!!! 

But now it has come to light, for I shall share that interview with you, dearest readers, so you, too, can enjoy the wisdom of this witty author.

The good kind of busy

image Since I chatted with him, Cary’s been the very best kind of busy for any writer.

For one thing, he’s released a few more books, including the adult book A Bird’s Eye, which was named a Best Book of the Year by  Also, his 2012 children’s picture book, Mr. Zinger’s Hat, illustrated by Dušan Petričić (I image copy/pasted to get all the accents just right!), won this year’s Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

Here’s one of the sweet pictures from that book.


Busy guy!  Now that I’m blogging for a more international audience, I’m thrilled to be able to introduce this fellow Canadian author, and hope you’ll click through to check out his work as well as that of the talented illustrators with whom he’s collaborated over the years.

The Interview

WriteKidsBooks:  This book, Oy, Feh, So?, really captures the discomfort of visiting relatives.  Was this based on your own horrible experiences as a kid?

Cary Fagan:  Yes, it certainly is based in part on my experience growing up.  Some of my aunts and uncles were hard to talk to; a grunt or a groan, a complaint or a shrug was all you'd get from them.  I was also thinking about my great Aunt Fanny, to whom the book is dedicated, and who I was very fond of. She was a very no-nonsense, unsentimental person, no doubt because of her difficult years in Poland and then working in the garment district in New  York.  She was very much of a "So, what do you expect?" sort of person.

WriteKidsBooks:  This book appealed to my kids because of the ultimate chutzpah of the kids in the story mocking the adults around them.  As parents, how can we let our kids have fun, play out their fantasies a bit and STILL turn out as nice, considerate people?

Cary Fagan:  I like books that show kids as they really are. They're not always sweet as honey, let's face it.  Sometimes my characters let out their inner 'id' more than I would have in real life, certainly.  As for how to get our children to behave, etc--on that I've no more advice than anyone else.  After all, I'm a writer, not a child psychologist or an expert in child rearing. I don't think it's the job of fiction writers to tell people how to behave or raise their kids.  It's our job to reveal something true through the enchantment of stories.

imageI hope you find this advice – this challenge! – as enlightening, as liberating, and maybe as scary as I do.

Cary’s latest book will be released next week by Tundra Books, a reprint of his 2011 Ella May and the Wishing Stone, illustrated by fellow Canadian Geneviève Côté (another copy/paste job because of all the accents!).

You can follow Cary Fagan’s ongoing chutzpah over at his Carrotsticks blog here.

imageNow, back to my original question:  If you could interview (or READ an interview with) any children’s book writer or illustrator alive today, who would it be?


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