Since my 12-year-old son absconded with your book as soon as it arrived at our house, I thought I’d give him a chance to ask the first couple of questions. So:
Son would like to know why you chose to write your book in this comic-illustrated style?
KO: I’m a mom with three boys. Guess what their favorite books are? Sure, they’ve read and liked oodles of great novels and series…Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Inkheart, anything by Roald Dahl. But which books do they reach for ad nauseum? Their comic books! If the Book Welfare Society raided our house, we’d be in big trouble, because all our Calvin & Hobbes and Bones and Wimpy Kids have their covers half-torn off from so much use. I hoped to create a series that kids would read and reread until they literally fell apart, too.
Son would also like to know how you came up with the names you used in the book…specifically Aldo Zelnick and Goosy?
KO: From the beginning this was planned as an A to Z series. So for the main character, I wanted an odd (but real) first name and last name that bookended the alphabet. I scoured baby name books and phone books until I found something I liked the sound of. For Goosy, I wanted a name that’s as eccentric and fun-loving as she is. Somehow I came up with Goosy (maybe Mother Goose played a part?) then, afterwards, invented the back-story that’s attached to her nickname. Aldo is the one who started calling her Goosy when he was little because he couldn’t say her real name, which is Grandma Lucy.
When I finally got my turn to read it, I saw the attraction. This book is fun and fresh and a great lure for reluctant readers. After reading it, I came up with a few questions of my own.
What made you think of adding the "A" word glossary? Was this some sort of ploy to get grown ups to look past the "Artsy-Fartsy" title? Great job attracting adolescent boys, by the way!
KO: Actually, the alphabetical vocabulary was really the spark that fired up the whole series idea. I’m a word nerd. I just think cool words are fun—fun to say, fun to read, fun to write. I asked myself how I could create a series that turned kids on to great vocab at the same time it delivered great stories. And regarding the title…I have to admit that while I thought kids would pick up a book called Artsy-Fartsy, I also feared push-back from parents. I’m thrilled to report that parents, teachers, and librarians alike aren’t offended by the title, after all (whew!). We did get one phone call from a grandmother who said she liked the book, but why oh why did we have to use that phrase as the title?
How do you feel about comparisons of your book to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and similar books?
KO: The popularity of the Wimpy Kid series was certainly something I considered when I was still noodling the format of the Aldo Zelnick books. What I like about Wimpy Kid and other similar books is that, unlike true comic books, they allow for longish chunks of text. I also had Aldo’s voice in my head long before I started writing it down, and he was funny! A funny, sort of curmudgeonly 10-year-old. Being rendered as a cartoon, and allowing him to draw his own cartoons, brings out the best in him. I also thought more could be done with the format than I had seen so far, such as the vocabulary and richer character development.
How do you think Aldo Zelnick felt about girls by the end of the summer?
KO: Now there’s a question that would make Aldo blush and say, “Oh c’mon. I don’t know! Girls are just…weird. Sheesh. Abby’s OK, I guess, even though she’s basically a girl.”
What’s Aldo up to now? Will readers be seeing more of him soon?
KO: Aldo’s creating his own comic strip and learning how to do yoga. In the C book, he gets to go to the State Fair and pig out on everything fried on a stick. Summer’s over, so he also has to go back to school.
What about his creator? What are you up to, and what will we seen next from you?
KO: I have a day job writing things like feature articles and brochures. I’m also squeezing in lots of school visits, talking to kids about Artsy-Fartsy and Aldo Zelnick. Kendra (the illustrator) and I just finished up the second book in the Aldo Zelnick series, Bogus, which will be available in late May. That means it’s time to start the C book!
And we can't wait to "C" it, Karla! Thanks for talking to us about Aldo, and thanks to you and Aldo's wonderful illustrator, Kendra Spanjer, for creating a book kids can love!
For those interested, my official review of Artsy Fartsy can be found over at YA (& Kids) Books Central!