by Lara Neel, Trade Marketing Manager
Everybody barfs. Dogs, cats, chickens, alligators, and even you. It happens to everyone, and sometimes it even happens . . . at school.
In Sometimes You Barf, Nancy Carlson helps young readers through what is often a scary and embarrassing rite of passage. Sometimes you barf. But it’s OK. You get better!
We reached out to Nancy and asked her a few questions about how she got into writing, the Minnesota weather and what goes into being a guest author and illustrator in a classroom.
You’ve said that you knew what you wanted to do back in kindergarten. What do you credit with sparking your desire to “Make pictures and tell stories!”?
I would have to say my parents should take the credit. They read picture books to me and my siblings each night. My mom also signed me up for summer reading at the library so I became a reader. She also bought us Golden Books (to keep us quiet in the grocery store) which I loved. The illustrations in those books were so amazing back in the 50’s and 60’s. I was exposed to all these wonderful picture books and I decided that was what I wanted to do too. My older sister loved to draw too so we would sit on our twin beds everyday after school drawing and telling stories with our artwork. My parents also gave us lots of paper and art supplies.
I also have to give credit to my amazing art teachers all through school who encouraged me to be an artist. No one in my life ever said don’t go into art. Lucky me!
You’re a life-long Minnesotan. Do you think that influences your work?
Yes I believe because of our weather I tend to work a lot! Also my books take place just where I grew up. A safe a simple place. My art often reflects the seasons we experience here in Minnesota.
How do your stories help kids learn how to overcome challenges?
My readers see my characters overcome challenges and realize they can too. The use of animals to tell a story is a good way to get the child interested in the story and it’s message. Sometimes when you use human kids the children reading the story think it’s just that character going through something and they often don’t relate as well. Using animals you don’t need to show different races or even sexes. Many boys don’t know Harriet is a girl dog…or they don’t care because she is a dog. I also believe kids are more entertained reading a book with animals, so they read the book over and over again. That’s where the learning comes in.
What goes into being a guest author and illustrator in a classroom?
Respect and caring about children is number one. Understanding the development of children.
Whats works for a third grader will not work for kindergartners or sixth graders. You must know crowd control. Children love to know the expectations of them. When you tell them what you expect from them as an audience they are a much better group. You also can’t be scared to also communicate those expectations to teachers as well. I enjoy speaking to children and I think they know it.
You’ve been writing for decades now. How does it feel to have multiple generations of readers?
It is pretty awesome. At every school visit now a child will bring a book I signed for their mom or dad. I also hear stories of how much my books meant to them at during tough times in their lives. Recently a dad came in with his Loudmouth George book all worn out from reading it over and over again. He had trouble reading and the book got him to like reading. He also said he was naughty during my presentation and I asked him to be quiet and sit down flat. I said “oh sorry and he said “No don’t be sorry I needed to be told to be quiet and behave!”
All these old books I sign make me proud I have made a little difference in their lives.