What a wonderful treat I have for you today!! Anna Alter, author of the amazing, eco-friendly book for kids, What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe, has stopped by to answer some questions and share a little about this book.
Based upon the idea of reusing what we have around the house, Alter has created awesome craft projects for kids of all ages. Using old flip flops, shower curtains, berry baskets, and so many more things we can all find around our homes, our kids can create these really cool crafts that they will be able to use for a long time to come.
Read on in the interview and check down at the bottom for an awesome giveaway!
1. Hi Anna! Thanks so much for doing this interview with me! Before we start, can you choose where to have our interview and a food/drink we would be consuming? We could be eating candy canes at the North Pole, snacking on chocolates in Paris, pasta in Venice, or anything else you would like!
Hi Amanda- Thank you so much for having me on your blog! Hmm… I would love to have our interview on a sunny blue beach in Hawaii, with coconut juice to drink and chickens clattering in the bushes. But I may be more than a little influenced by the cold New England spring!
2. How did you come to be an author? Have you always written or was it just something you came upon by chance?
I have always drawn, but my writing life really evolved out of my love for telling stories with pictures. I went to art school to become an illustrator, and when I graduated soon discovered that it was much easier to get illustration work in book publishing if I also played the part of the author. I would send editors samples of my illustrations and they all asked if I had story ideas. So, slowly, I started to polish up some ideas that had been bouncing around in my head for awhile. I soon found that writing could be as much of a pleasure as painting and equally satisfying, though I will say I have always found it more challenging!
3. What kind of life do you, as an author, lead? Do you have a specific schedule for writing each day? Do you have an office where you go to write or are you just typing away on your couch? Give us a day in your life!
I am very lucky in that I get to work at home. Each day after I get up, eat breakfast, and feed my cats, I plunk down in front of the computer to check email and get a sense for what my day is going to look like. I am a chronic list maker. I think because I don’t have a nine to five job where I can check in with coworkers, I feel the need to constantly give myself little goals to achieve, and errands to check off so that I can see what I’ve accomplished. The creative process can be so amorphous and hard to nail down; I might spend hours rearranging a manuscript and feel like I’ve gotten nothing done. So for that reason I give my day structure with lists and errands and goals. And then I just hope the creative spirit moves me.
4. Your new book, What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?, is absolutely charming! How did you come up with the idea for a book on reusing household items in craft projects? Did you have any child input on the different crafts?
The idea for the book first started to form when I was a preschool teacher, doing art projects with kids. Our school didn’t have a recycling program, and it pained many of us teachers every time we saw a student scribble briefly on a piece of paper and then throw it into the trash. Such a waste! I don’t mean to say kids shouldn’t be encouraged to draw, I think making art is one of the most important things kids do. But I wanted to find a way to introduce the subject of environmental responsibility to kids that would at least make them think for a moment, before throwing things away that could be used again. Thus the idea for a recycling craft book was born. I realize I am not the first to think of this concept, but I hope I have introduced the subject in a way that will be really engaging to kids, and inspire them to develop good problem solving skills. Each spread introduces a question about reusing an object that kids could answer a number of ways, followed by the way I suggest the object find a new use.
I didn’t work with kids directly as I put together the craft activities, but I did draw heavily on my experience working with kids on art projects over the years, and a number of the activities I had taught to kids in some form.
5. Assuming you’ve created all of the projects in the book, which is your favorite? I think mine is the flip-flop stampers.
I had a lot of fun making all the projects in the book! The shoe planter was fun (I still have my little red shoe planter on the sill by my computer), and the crayons were a lot of fun too- I liked the creativity involved in layering the different colors of wax. For the holidays I made little packets of recycled crayons as gifts, there are pictures of the project on my blog here: http://annaalter.blogspot.com/2008/12/holiday-crafting.html.
6. Recycling and reusing are HUGE in my household; we do it everywhere we can. Do you have any additional “green living” tips for families?
One of the most important things we do in my household is choose products with reusable, or little, if any, packaging. I think the amount of plastic and paper we throw away is just appalling, and really completely unnecessary. At a convenience store they will often offer you a bag for as little as a can of soda! It may be a little extreme, but I have been known to bring Tupperware to restaurants and keep cloth bags with me always. It is such a simple, easy thing and can make a big difference.
7. What kind of research did What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe require?
I did a lot of experimenting with different materials, and different ways to accomplish the same activities. For instance, with the tin can lantern activity, I tested out a half dozen or so different kinds of cans to see which was the easiest to puncture and held its shape when the nails were hammered in. I wanted to make sure that it was easy for families to find the materials they needed to do the project successfully. Also, safety was a concern with some of the projects. I wanted to be sure that in the places where it was dangerous for kids to do a step it was clear in the book that an adult was needed. So I did the activities repeatedly to look for places where it was best for an adult to take over.
8. Do you have any plans in the works for new books? Can you give us any hints as to what we can expect from you in the future?
My next book is called Abigail Spells, and is coming out at the end of the month. It is a story about friendship and the joys of spelling as seen through the eyes of Abigail, an enthusiastic speller who enters a spelling bee. Her best friend George is at her side throughout the story: helping her study for the bee, watching her from the audience, and (not to give away too much) cheering her up when things don’t go her way.
I’m also working on a picture book about a rabbit named Greta and her special bond with her dad. Like just about all of my books, it is about the relationship between the characters, and how they help each other to grow. This book will be out in the summer of 2010.
9. Most of my blog readers come to read reviews of books I loved, getting suggestions for their own reading lives. Do you have any favorite children’s books you can recommend to them? Ones you just love…?
Some of the classics I often pull off my shelf for inspiration are The Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams, Higglety Pigglety Pop! by Maurice Sendak, and all of Beatrix Potter’s books. Some more contemporary favorites are Voyage to the Bunny Planet by Rosemary Wells, Little Bunny on the Move by Peter McCarty, Our Friendship Rules by Peggy Moss, Dee Dee Tardif and Alissa Imre Geis, and Robot Dreams by Sara Varon. Some recent novels I’ve enjoyed are Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin, and Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan.
10. One final question, just to have a bit of fun. If you could invite any three book characters to join us in our dining adventure from question one, who would they be? And why of course…
Hmm… tough choice! I would say Despereaux to tell us some stories, Curious George to get us additional coconuts, and Stillwater from Zen Shorts to help us contemplate the nature of things.
Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you Anna! I loved the book, feel it is extremely important in our world of overuse, and can’t wait to see what other wonderful books come from you.
-Anna also wanted me to let you all know that there is a really neat website devoted to this book, filled with curriculum guides, coloring pages, activity sheets, and some other cool things that can be used with this book. Go HERE to check out that website!
-She also has her own blog, just up and running that is worth taking a look at too. Go HERE to check it out!
Want to win your own copy of this fantastic, "green-living" picture book? Leave a comment on this post by Sunday night at midnight, mountain time to enter one of three copies.
Want an extra entry? Twitter the giveaway and/or blog about it. Leave a separate comment for each you do!