It’s almost time for one of my favorite holidays: Valentine’s Day! Why is it my favorite holiday? Because we get to give and receive LOVE! That’s right, I said it. It doesn’t have to be romantic love. It can be friend love and family love and even pet love. And what better way to celebrate all that love than with a new picture book all about monsters trying to create the perfect valentine? RIGHT?
Diana Murray has graciously agreed to visit with us for yet another Simply 7 interview (her fourth interview!) about her latest book “Groggle’s Monster Valentine” illustrated by Bats Langley. It’s SO cute and sure to win over many new readers. If you want to learn more about Diana, you can find her at her website. You can also search the “Simply 7” tag to read her past interviews about her other picture books. If you’d like to learn more about Bats, you can find him at his website.
Welcome again Diana!
Me: This book, “Groggle’s Monster Valentine” is both cute and gross. Was the final product everything you hoped it would turn out to be?
Diana: Yes! I think Bats captured the characters so perfectly. They’re both monstrous but adorable. And I love Snarlina’s punk rock flare! If I were a monster, I’d want to be just like her. Bats did a great job creating something that can appeal to both boys and girls–which can be tough with Valentine’s Day books. The gross factor keeps things light, and funny, without getting too sappy.
Me: That’s exactly what I was thinking. Boys AND girls will like this book. It’s my understanding that your work was illustrated by Bats Langley before: a wacky poem you wrote for Spider Magazine that was his first author illustration. Can you share the poem with us? What was it about? Do you know what he illustrated to go with your poem?
Diana: Here is the poem, which is called MYSTERY DINNER. When I saw the illustration I could see that Bats had a flare for dark yet playful humor.
Me: Thank you! I love it! It is the first perfect pairing for you two. Speaking of that pairing, Monsters are a very unique approach to Valentine’s day stories. What gave you the idea?
Diana: My agent suggested I look at Bats’ portfolio and see if anything inspired me. I was enchanted by this illustration of a monster eating a Valentine. The idea sprung from there. Like Bats, I tend to love dark, offbeat humor.
Me: It sounds like this might have been a unique author to illustrator experience. Which came first? The idea or the illustrator?
Diana: It was indeed very unique. This was the first time I submitted a manuscript together with a specific illustrator, as a package deal. Also, this is the most closely I ever collaborated with an illustrator.
Me: I can only imagine. What a great privilege. What is one thing that surprised you in writing “Groggle’s Monster Valentine”?
Diana: This is the first time I combined prose with verse. So that made it a different sort of experience.
Me: Wow! I never thought of it that way. That’s truly awesome. You also have a book coming out this summer. Any exciting tidbits you want to share with readers about it?
Diana: Yes, I actually have two books coming out this summer! The first will be DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS. It’s about an enthusiastic dinosaur who’s really into books, but her rambunctious little brothers keep interrupting her to go play with them instead. In the end, reading and playing go perfectly together.
The second book is a sequel to GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH. It’s called GRIMELDA AND THE SPOOKTACULAR PET SHOW. She wants to enter her cat, Wizzlewarts, in the pet show, but she’s afraid he isn’t “spooktacular” enough. The story is full of twists, turns, and surprises. Grimelda’s messiness causes trouble, but ends up saving the day.
Me: Ohhhh! Wow! I can’t wait to read them both! Groggle worked really hard to create the perfect Valentine in this story. I have to ask what was one of your favorite Valentines?
Diana: I like when Groggle praises Snarlina’s “green teeth”, “tangled hair”, and the way she stomps and drools. Snarlina is big, and hairy, and ferocious–and she’s absolutely perfect! I find it extra fun to bend gender stereotypes.
I loved Snarlina and her response to getting the Valentine. It’s hard to find a book to read to kids for Valentine’s day that isn’t about romantic love. This is a truly unique book that will appeal to everyone. I think it perfectly describes all of our battle to find the perfect way to express all of the complicated emotions we feel.
I’m currently trying to figure out how to do that for my husband in a few days for our first Valentine’s day together. I know whatever I give him will be perfect in his eyes, but I still want to work to make it even better than he can imagine. Isn’t that the Valentine’s day tradition we all face? How do you say “I love you” or even “I like you a whole lot” in the best way that is unique to us all?
I hope, dear readers, that you will find a way to share your love with those closest to you. I also hope that you will track down this wonderful and wacky picture book to read and share as well. I fully intend to read it to my classroom of students this week as I share my love with them as well. =)