Happy Summer! At the Lamp-Post, our summer thoughts are filled with books that are playful and fun! Can books be part of play? Of course! Especially Wendy Orr’s Nim’s Island and Vivian Vande Velde’s 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos. It turns out that writing these playful books is fun, too!
In this laughter-filled interview, we discuss the importance of play: how characters and stories become the raw material for creative play and children’s growing expressive language. Living on a tropical island with an iguana as a playmate or cavorting with the classroom pets in an elementary school at night – these stories are the stuff that sets the stage for wonderful, dramatic play.
We also learn about the serious (and not so serious) work of naming characters and places in books for children. From a motherly sea lion named Selkie to a pair of wise-cracking science geckos named Galileo and Newton – naming choices are intentional and essential to the story-telling. Here are some highlights from the interview:
Wendy on the importance of play:
“I just love it when you see kids acting out something they’ve seen in a book, making it their own, taking it further. … One of the greatest joys you can have as a writer is seeing kids…in spontaneous play that they’ve carried on from your story. And they’ve embroidered it, they’ve changed it, they have become the characters. … That is just the best form of learning to be in the world.” (3:40-5:24)
Vivian on the revision process as a form of play:
“When I am making revisions, I am trying to take something that I have written that’s OK and trying to make it be more fun, more exciting, or whatever the emotion is that I’m going for.” (31:25-34:04)
Wendy on naming characters, including Selkie the sea lion from Nim’s Island:
“Selkies are from Celtic mythology, and they are seals that become women or women that become seals. … Names are so important. … The whole sound of the name. Adorabella is not Jane.” (46:06-49:43)
Vivian on how different life experiences lead to different stories:
“Everybody has different life experiences which means that everybody has different stories inside of them.” (57:41-58:07)
Vivian and Wendy ended our conversation with anecdotes from their lives that found their way into their books.
Vivian on wearing glasses as a child (52:12-53:30)
Wendy on receiving an aerogram from her mother visiting the Galapagos Islands (54:29-56:09)