Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Interview with Eileen Spinelli

Earlier this week I reviewed Heatwave, a picture book by Eileen Spinelli. As I enjoyed the book so much, I decided to interview the author.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

My sister Tina and I were talking one day about "when we were young"--and how we grew up without air conditioning. That led to other memories--like our Aunt Rosewho used to keep her perfume in the refirgerator. I decided it might be fun for kids to hear about those times when one had to be rather creative about keeping cool.

The story takes place over a number of days, with the temperature rising all the time. Why did you decide to pace the story in this way?

Every story needs an arc. This story didn't have a big plot as the rising temperature seemed a good way to build "suspense".

In this story, the text is packed with images that are wonderfully vivid. Are these images ones that you have seen, heard, and felt?

Directly from my childhood. They were real.

Recently I experienced a short heat wave here in Oregon and it was interesting to see how people donned hats, paddled in the river, sought out shade, and walked slowly to deal with the heat. It just goes to show that we can still be affected by the weather. Do you think some of us are too cut off from the seasonal changes that unfold outside our homes?

I do. (Though I would be lying if I said I didn't appreciate air conditioning). I guess it's a matter of experiencing both. Spending time outside...splashing under a sprinkler...reading in the shade of a back yard tree...gardening...picnics in the park...heading for the beach...these and other activities like it are important ....lest we isolate/insulate ourselves too much. We need the sun, the light summer breezes, the camaraderie of being out and about with friends...the scent of garden mint...the sound of the waves...the sparkle of the river....the cool of grass under our bare feet...

How do you and your family enjoy the summer months?

We spend much of the summer at Chatuauqua Institution in New York State ...where there is a lake...and where most of the events and activities take place in the outdoor amphitheater and other open air venues. We eat meals on our balcony. We walk everywhere--no cars allowed! Children play ball and violins in the square. Adults eat ice cream cones. It's got an old fashioned feel to it in the best sense.

Have you considered writing a book about a winter storm?

I have a book coming out giving equal time to winter!

Thank you very much Eileen. You can find out more about Eileen and her books on her website.

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