Friday, September 26, 2008

Blog Book Tour - Deborah Hopkinson

Welcome to another Blog Book Tour. This time I am going to be talking to Deborah Hopkinson about her new book Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A tall thin tale. You can read my review of this title on the Through The Looking Glass Book Review website.

1. How did you find out about this story from Abraham Lincoln’s childhood?
I was very excited about the idea of writing a book about Lincoln as a boy. I scoured many of the early biographies for ideas, but some of the best ones had already been incorporated into books. Then I came across Austin Gollaher, Abe’s childhood friend who saved him from drowning. The incident is mentioned frequently but so far as I know has never been the subject of a picture book before. And so ABE LINCOLN CROSSES A CREEK was born!

2.Did you have to do a lot of research to get the few details that are known about this event?
While I did a fair amount of research, finding old, rare books and looking at Lincoln research sites online, it soon became clear that there really are few details available.

3.Where did you get the idea to write the story in this wonderfully engaging style?
Well, it became clear that I was actually going to have to do something different and fun to make the story interesting. I think the lack of details of the boyhood incident combined with the story of how Abe and Austin never met again but apparently remembered one another made me think about how frustrating historical research can be.

As I explored that, it seemed to me a perfect way to introduce historical literacy techniques to young readers. I hope ABE prompts children to look at other historical incidents -- and rather than take them for granted, ask questions.

4. The artwork and text in the book are very closely entwined in this book. Did you and the illustrator talk about what you were going to do in advance and/or during the writing process?
As a matter of fact, I had no contact with the illustrator whatsoever – but I love John Hendrix’s art. The text was developed as we envisioned the role John might play, and then editor Anne Schwartz and art director Lee Wade worked with him. Hard to believe this is his first picture book!

5. You specialize in, and are very good at, writing books about historical events and people from history. Have you always been interested in history, and how did this writing focus begin?
Actually, looking back on it, I probably was always interested in history as a child, perhaps without even realizing it. I loved to read historical fiction, for example. As a young woman I became interested in women’s history. When I began writing for children I started with lots of talking animal stories, but somehow I began to gravitate toward historical fiction, even in my first published stories in magazines.

6. Do you think children should learn about the past?
Absolutely! I think it’s important not simply to learn facts about the past, but also to learn the tools of research – to learn how to study and think about history.
We live in a rapidly changing technological society, where historical literacy, scientific literacy, and media literacy are all linked, and will all be important to children. Learning to make sense of the past helps us to learn to think critically about the present and the messages we get from advertisers, the media, politics, and films.

7. Is there a particular time in history that you find especially interesting?
Yes, indeed! I continue to be fascinated by the 19th century and have written about several aspects of it: immigration in the north (Shutting out the Sky), the cotton industry (Up Before Daybreak), the underground railroad and the Civil War (Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, From Slave to Soldier), the emerging role of women in education (Maria’s Comet, A Band of Angels) and the Klondike Gold Rush (The Klondike Kid series). My middle grade novel, Into the Firestorm, takes place during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Keep On!, a new picture book coming out in January, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the North Pole in 1909.

8. Do you write every day or is your schedule more flexible?
I have always had a full time job, so I tend to write on weekends more than daily. I would love to have more time to write!

9.What was your favorite book when you were young?
When I was very young, I loved Make Way for Ducklings, and I still have the copy my grandmother gave. Later on, I’d have to say my favorite book was The Secret Garden. And it’s still a favorite!

You can find out more about Deborah Hopkinson and her books on her website.


Nicole said...

hey, I tried following the link and it did not work. I have noticed that this has happened several times before... just a heads-up.

Nicole said...

oh! very good interview too! : D

Marya Jansen-Gruber said...

I fixed the link. Thank you for telling me about it.