If you’re here for the book tour, come on in, make yourself at home… and come meet Stacy Nyikos, a writer who says she’s “hooked” on writing kids’ stories.
As a children's writer, I get to create worlds as spongy and delicious as marshmallows, soar through green oceans with talking sharks, and float on misty air currents riding the backs of ancient dragons. It's an amazing place to live in. And it changes on a daily basis.
You can see why she’s had such success so far.
Stacy’s new book, Toby, illustrated by Shawn Sisneros (Stonehorse: 2014), is about the journey of a turtle hatchling, who emerges from his egg to find himself all alone. Where are the other turtles? Toby’s journey gently explores the often-perilous reality facing a solitary baby sea creature, but with fun verse that really works well with Shawn’s appealing illustrations.
As you’ll see, sea creatures are a bit of an obsession for Stacy, and with very good reason.
She has previously published 3 other picture books about sea creatures: Squirt, Shelby and Dizzy (all from Stonehorse), as well as the aquatic western Rope ‘Em and the novel Dragon Wishes (Blooming Tree: 2008).
Stacy is currently working on a YA (young adult) novel, but took the time to answer my usual three short questions about her taking on writing for kids.
WriteKidsBooks (WKB): How is a kids' book different from an adult book (the most important difference(s), in your opinion)?
Stacy Nyikos (SN): Wow. Now that is an interesting question. Not many people take the time to compare kidlit to adult literature. I think Tim Wynne-Jones puts it best. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially he says that kidlit is about getting a grip and adult lit is about letting go. Within that, my impression is that kidlit tends to be more uplifting, magical, glass half full. After all, my audience is trying to figure stuff out, not say goodbye to it. Which results in a certain playfulness and awe toward the world around us. Everything is special and unique. When I write picture books and middle grade, ultimately, I approach my story from that angle, from the specialness of everything I am describing, and the play that can be found in something as simple as a pebble.
WKB: What is your favourite children's book of all time?
SN: Just one??? Hmmmm....Well, the only book I ever voluntarily re-read as a child, teenager, and adult was Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit was okay, but I double-heart Lord of the Rings. It's my all time favorite "any age" book. I say "book" singular since it was written as one book and only broken up over three because the publisher didn't think they could sell a 900 page tome to kids. How times have changed!
If we're talking picture books, when I was little I couldn't get enough of Curious George. The first book I hunted across half of Chicago to find and buy as an adult - not because I had kids but because I thought it was amazing - was The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Jon Scieszka, I can't spell your name, but I will misspell it as many times as I have to to find your books!
WKB: Sea creatures are perennial favourites with kids of all ages... beyond their popularity, however, what is it about them that you find yourself drawn to in the stories you create and weave around their natural lives?
SN: Oh man, where do I start...or stop? It's pretty much everything. They're magical. Well, magical for your ordinary land-living, air-breathing biped. Many sea animals breathe water. WATER! Others are mammals, which means they breathe air, but can hold their breath a REALLY long time. Hours. The record for a human is a measly 22 minutes. Some sea animals live hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean, under what would be for us a bone-crushing weight of water. Some light up like fireflies. Some change colors. Some can control their pigmentation to mimic any pattern around them. It's all so incredibly cool. And it's just the tip of their coolness. When I dip my head below the surface of the ocean, the world I see there is much like the way kids see the world above it - incredible, breathtaking, worthy of awe. It helps me remember how cool our world is, and how cool it is to be a part of it.
Stacy’s next book will be Waggers; for a change, a book about a dry-land critter – a dog. That book is slated to come out in November 2014.