It’s book launch time again, and we’re so glad you’re joining us, to celebrate the release of Penny Dreadful, Laurel Snyder’s third middle grade book (which has lovely interior drawings by the talented Abigail Halpin). The book has gotten great reviews so far, from all the usual suspects, including a bright shiny star from Booklist, who did a great job of summing up the premise of the book:
Penelope Grey lives a lovely life in the city, with a stone mansion, servants, toys, and plenty of books. Perhaps she is a little short on friends. And her parents are very busy. But lovely. Then one day, her father comes home and informs his family he has quit his job. This declaration of independence leads Penelope and her parents to Thrush Junction, Tennessee, where Mrs. Grey has inherited a house, but as they quickly learn, it comes with a massive second mortgage and lodgers, who, according to the terms of her aunt’s will, can live in the connected apartments without paying rent…
Sound like something you’d like to read? Sound like a book you’d like to win a FREE COPY OF? At the bottom of this interview you’ll have your chance.
In the meantime… let’s sit down with Laurel for a little interview…
Hey, Laurel! Great to have you here with us today. We’re curious, how did you come up with the idea for Penny Dreadful?
That’s a funny question, actually. Because the idea for Penny Dreadful was very different than the book I ended up with. Initially, I imagined Penny as a darker book, more ironic. It was to be called “Penny Dreadful’s Favorite Fears, and she was going to be this odd little character, who had a series of– for lack of a better word– neuroses. And the book was going to be the story of how she overcame them. I wanted it to be a little Dahl-esque, maybe a little Snickety. But also, I had Mrs. Piggle Wiggle in mind when I began. I wanted each chapter to be an episode, a neurosis. Then, naturally, the book that came out was entirely different! Much softer, sweeter. Who was it that said, “You have to get out of the way of the book that wants to be written?” Someone smart said that!
You mention Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. What kinds of books did you like to read when you were a kid?
Oh, all kinds of books, but most of all I loved books with just enough magic. I wasn’t into high fantasy. I liked books about regular kids who stumbled onto magic, where the magic was only part of the story. I also loved books about non-magical adventures that felt magical. I loved Eager and Enright and Dahl and Thurber. I loved L’Engle and Lewis. In fact, a lot of those books are in Penny Dreadful, because Penny is a total reader, and that’s part of her story. The book actually opens with Penny bored and hunting around in her bookshelf, for ideas for things to do. Penny, in the beginning of the book, doesn’t know how to do.
Interesting. In light of the fact that Penny’s such a reader, do you think there’s a way Penny Dreadful could be used in schools? Could she tie-in to literacy stuff, maybe.
Absolutely! In fact, I’m making a booklist right now, for kids who want to read along with Penny! The book is full of literary references. It’s littered with titles and mentions of moments I myself loved from children’s books. But also, it’s structured in sections that relate to a grownup poem (though nobody has caught that yet!) I’m hoping to do a book club program, where I offer to skype into classrooms and libraries, to talk with kids about the “Penny’s Picks” books they’ve been reading. I think it’s a good thing for kids to talk about books in relation to one another, and not just as isolated experiences.
That sounds great, and speaking of other books, we’d love to know– what are you working on now?
Well, I’m just finishing a new book, a novel called Bigger Than a Breadbox. It’s hard to explain, but it’s about a girl whose parents are splitting up, and she happens to find a magical wishing box with a funny trick to it. It’s more serious than anything else I’ve done, and maybe a little bit older. It’s rooted in my own childhood memories, in a way nothing else I’ve written has been, and it’s been both very easy, and very hard to write. Also, it’s full of seagulls, and Baltimore references, and Bruce Springsteen.
So far as I know, it’s the first magical middle grade book about a Bruce Springsteen song!
Well, we’ve certainly never heard of one! Thanks so much for being here, and Happy Book Release!
Readers, if you’d like to a chance to win a hardcover of Laurel’s new book, leave a comment below, and our random generator will choose a lucky winner on Thursday. You’ll get extra entries for sharing a link on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter (please mention each link in a new comment).
And don’t forget to check out Laurel’s other books, Any Which Wall and Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, available in bookstores and online. To read reviews or excerpts from her books, visit Laurel’s website!