I am so very honored to welcome Newbery medalist and beloved kidlit author, Sharon Creech, back to the blog! Her newest picture book, A SMART, SMART SCHOOL, delightfully illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan (Harper Collins) released on June 13th.
With an oh-so relevant message about creativity in the classroom, it’s a companion book to Creech’s NYT bestselling A FINE, FINE SCHOOL, illus. Harry Bliss, also from Harper Collins. (Readers will be happy to know Tillie, Beans, and Mr. Keene are back!)
Time for some Questions!
Q 1. What inspired this wonderful companion book to A FINE, FINE SCHOOL?
Sharon Creech: A FINE, FINE SCHOOL was born out of my teaching, my headmaster husband’s and my children’s—immersion in boarding school life. Sometimes our lives seemed to be all-school, all-the-time.
In the years following, as I traveled as book-author, visiting schools all over the country, I kept hearing teachers and students bemoan all the required tests-tests-tests, at the expense of the arts and of other experiential learning. And so: A SMART, SMART SCHOOL was born. In this case, it’s not too much school that is the challenge; it is the relentless testing.
Which Came First?
Q 2. I LOVE your character names. Mr. Tatters is perfect for the substitute principal. And it’s great to see Mr. Keene, Tillie, and Beans return. Thinking of both books here–Did the names come to you first, the characters themselves, or the story?
Sharon Creech: The story idea came first (‘too much testing’.) The characters (principal, student, etc) quickly emerged, along with their names and attributes. For example, what would be a good name for an over-zealous principal, someone overly keen to have more and more school? Mr. Keene! For one who scorns indulgence of any sort? Tatters! He shreds good will into tatters.
Q 3. What surprises did illustrator Anait Semirdzhyan bring to the creation of A SMART, SMART SCHOOL?
Sharon Creech: Anait had some special challenges, in that A FINE FINE SCHOOL was illustrated by a different artist (Harry Bliss, who has a distinctive style.) Since A SMART, SMART SCHOOL is a companion/sequel, the style needed to be similar while still allowing Anait to bring her own impressions and ideas to the story. I love all of her work in this book, but especially the touches of humor in the expressions (both facial and physical) of each character and each scene.
Q 4. When you were Tillie’s age, who was your favorite teacher? OR –what was your favorite subject in school?
Sharon Creech: Although I don’t remember my early elementary teachers very well, my fifth and sixth grade teachers were especially inspiring and compassionate, and reading was always my favorite subject. Surprise, surprise!
Educators, Parents, and Grandparents–Oh MY!
Q 5. In what ways do your previous career as an educator and/or parenting & grandparenting experiences influence your books or your writing process?
Sharon Creech: I’m a firm believer that every experience feeds future ones. For me, mothering, teaching, grandparenting all fed into the way I see the world, what I care about, and what I can offer others. I needed all of those phases and experiences to be who I am and to write what I write.
Happy #BookBirthday to A SMART, SMART SCHOOL!
To read more about the amazing Ms. Creech, here’s an earlier #BookBirthday post.
Happy #SummerReading, friends–
Coming soon on the blog:
Mitali Perkins’ new mg, HOPE IN THE VALLEY,
(receiving starred reviews!) from Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).