Today, I bring you one of my favorite blog guests talking about two of his latest picture books.
Josh Funk has written numerous picture books, several of which have become series like one of the books we will talk about today. If you’re not familiar with him (or his work), you can learn more about him at his website.
“Lost in the Library” is a book about the two stone lions that stand guard outside of the New York Public Library and what happens when one goes missing.
“Mission Defrostable” is the third book in the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series. It involves a daring dash by the eponymous into the cold depths of the freezer.
Welcome back Josh!
Me: It seems inevitable that Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast would eventually end up the in the freezer. And yet this book held many twists I wasn’t expecting. Was it hard to come up with a fresh storyline for these characters for the third book? Once you knew there would be a sequel did ideas just start popping up for the series?
Josh: The real impetus for this story was that Baron von Waffle was peeking out of the freezer in the gatefold on the final page of the first book, Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast. Truthfully, that gatefold was a complete surprise to me, as the text actually ended two spreads earlier. So it was really Brendan Kearney’s decision to put Baron von Waffle in that specific location in Book 1 that led (in part) to the creation of Mission Defrostable.
The way I see it, book #1 was a race. Book #2 (The Case of the Stinky Stench) was a mystery. Book #3 is an action/adventure/thriller. My goal is to continue switching up genres to keep the stories “fresh” as you put it – maybe Book #4 will be a sci-fi/comedy?
Me: Ha! I didn’t even notice the pun there. Brendan Kearney’s illustrations are fantastic once again. I love the new characters and landscape additions. Did you have any illustration favorites in this book?
Josh: Well, Agent Asparagus is perfect. And I love all of Brendan Kearney’s foodie bands (last time it was Spuddy Holly and the Croquettes, this time it’s The Peach Boys).
Honestly, though, the flashback scene (without giving away spoilers) is probably my favorite…
Me: Do you foresee any more adventures in the fridge with these characters or are you happy with this one as a finale for the series?
Josh: I can almost guarantee there will be more… wink (see above)
Me: I love the characters of Patience and Fortitude. But even more, I love the fact that the story lures you in to the NY Public library. What gave you the idea for this story?
Josh: This story was actually conceived by folks at the New York Public Library in conjunction with the editorial team at Henry Holt / Macmillan. Through a lucky set of circumstances, I was made aware of the project and submitted a sample text based on the storyline they were looking for, and a few months later I found out my sample was selected.
So, while I did write the text, I was given the guidelines that Patience goes missing in the library, and Fortitude was to go in and find him, getting a tour of the library along the way.
Me: Ahh! I see. Fascinating approach though. The illustrations by Stevie Lewis really brought the characters to life. Were there any illustration surprises for you in this story?
Josh: Stevie’s use of light in this story is amazing. As it takes place at night, she expertly used different lighting effects throughout the story. The scene when Fortitude finally finds Patience – the glow from the window behind always blew me away, all the way back to the first sketches I received.
And the scene with the maze-like Escher stairs – that is one of my favorites! It’s no wonder that they used that spread as the secret image ‘under the book jacket cover.’
Me: I thought of Escher too when I saw that (but how could you not?). And I agree, her use of lighting is stunning. What surprised you in writing either story that you hadn’t encountered in your writing before?
Josh: This was the first story I had written that took place in a real-world location. While it’s not non-fiction (or is it?), the Schwarzman building on Fifth and 42nd is a very real – and well-known – place. So the story had to stick to certain facts.
But it was actually a lot of fun to map out Fortitude’s search in a way that logically made sense. Hopefully kids (and adults) can use Lost in the Library as a guide and follow in Fortitude’s footsteps as he goes up the North front stairs, past the statuette, to the reading room, portrait room, water fountain, map room, Escher stairs, and eventually into the … well, I don’t want to give away the ending…
Me: What other stories can we look forward to from you in the future?
Josh: In March, Edwardian Taylor and I have It’s Not Hansel and Gretel coming out (a companion to It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk). In this book, our beleaguered storyteller can’t seem to convince the children that their parents do want to get rid of them, that the witch is not a sweet old lady, and that the story is called Hansel and Gretel, not Gretel and Hansel.
And next September (2019), the second “How to Code” with Pearl and Pascal is coming out: How to Code a Rollercoaster – where we learn about coding with variables at the amusement park.
And if I remember correctly, I think there’s another “It’s Not” fairy tale already under contract. Thanks for stopping by again Josh.
Thank you so much for inviting me back to chat, Jena!
Dear readers, if you haven’t had a chance yet to check out these two picture books, you must. I was surprised by how touched I was while reading “Lost in the Library” and how surprised I was by the twists of “Mission Defrostable” (usually I see all the twists coming when there’s a mystery afoot!). They’re both fun reads.