Sunday, April 26, 2009

In the Coop with Jill Esbaum

We hope you've had as much fun as we've had celebrating National Poetry Month. As we sail into the final week of April, we thought we'd go out with a bang by inviting one of our favorite children's book authors to the coop. Jill Esbaum is the author of several fun books for kids, including Stink Soup, Estelle Takes a Bath, To the Big Top and Ste-e-e-e-eamboat A-Comin'! Now she's combined funny + poetry in Stanza, a delightful book about a tough street dog who secretly loves to pen poems. Illustrated by Jack E. Davis, Stanza is sure to please underdogs and poets of all stripes: secret poets, exuberant poets, reluctant poets... perhaps even poets-who-don't-know-it yet.

As if being a fabulous author weren't enough, Jill lives on a farm! And drives a tractor! And kisses piglets! (Don't believe us? Check it out!) Welcome to the coop, Jill!

How do you know when what you write is funny?

If it makes me laugh – and feels too clever to have come from my head. Unfortunately, after the first few drafts, lines that once had me ROFL feel about as fresh as a last summer’s roadkill.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?

Only if I reveal it in secret code: Put the funniest end of the sentence at the word(s).

Has being funny ever gotten you into or out of trouble?

Not since junior high, when I underestimated the sensitivity of my phys ed teacher’s ears and learned that his sense of humor wasn’t compatible with my own.

What are some of your favorite funny books?

My current favorite is Mary Amato’s Chicken of the Family. I read it aloud at a picture book workshop last summer and had to keep stopping because my audience was hysterical.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?

Hmmm. I already live inside Stink Soup, so I think I’d like to visit Stanza’s alley. We could have some kickin’ poetry slams.

Who do you like more, The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?

Animaniacs, a hybrid of both.

What was your best Halloween costume?

My costumes must not have been too exciting, because I can only remember one: Jill. Like, of Jack and Jill fame? I know, real original. One of my friends was Jack, and we wore the costumes to walk in our small town’s Mother Goose-themed parade. Actually, we looked pretty good – down to the big silver buckles on our shoes. Too bad that, directly ahead of us, some farm girl was riding a cock horse to Banbury Cross.

What is your Dream Job for a Day?

I already have my dream job. But if I could try something else for a day, I’d like to give Editor a shot.

Clown V. Mime Deathmatch. Pick your winner.

Clown, definitely. Those shoes were made for stomping.

Funniest dead person you’d like to meet?

Ogden Nash. His poems have inspired me since I discovered “The Termite” in 4th grade:

Some primal termite knocked on wood

And tasted it, and found it good!

And that is why your Cousin May

Fell through the parlor floor today.

- Ogden Nash

Is there anything that you do on the sly (like Stanza) that we should know about?

Write novels. So far, I’ve done a spectacular job of keeping that a secret. Yeah, baby!

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