It’s two-for-the-price-of-one today! That’s right! You get to hear about TWO amazing picture books in ONE interview that has only SEVEN questions.
Josh Funk has visited my blog quite a few times in the past. He writes silly stories such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series, the It’s Not a Fairy Tale series, the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series in conjunction with the New York Public Library, Dear Dragon, My Pet Feet, and more. Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts. Since the fall of 2015, Josh has presented (or virtually presented) at over 600 schools, classrooms, and libraries. To learn more about Josh Funk, you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
THE GREAT CAPER CAPER is another adventure with Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast. You might think that this series has no new ground to explore, but you’d be wrong! The fridge light has gone out and Sir French Toast is afraid of the dark. Throw in an Ocean’s Eleven mashup in a surprise new location and you’ve got another great book on your bookshelf! I can’t wait to get a copy for my classroom.
IT’S NOT THE THREE LITTLE PIGS is another fairy tale gone awry with fantastic hijinks and some wonderful new characters. This time there are FOUR little pigs and one of them is a girl who wants to write. Need I really say that I love her to pieces? The plot twists its way into unexpected chaos that somehow leads to a perfectly satisfying ending once again. These books never cease to make me laugh and marvel at the brilliant new takes on old stories that make them fresh once more.
Welcome back Josh!
Me: I never grow tired of seeing Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast. I’m constantly amazed at the stories you can spin them into. What gave you the idea to combine them with an “Ocean’s Eleven” type caper this time?
Josh: After the third book in the series, I realized that all of the books were sort of different ‘genres’:
- Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast was a race.
- The Case of the Stinky Stench was a mystery.
- Mission Defrostable was an action-adventure/spy-thriller.
Once I realized this, I knew I needed to keep up the genre-swapping in future books.
For book #4, Short & Sweet, I went with the Sci-Fi Comedy / Magical body swap (think Honey, I Shrunk the Kids / The Nutty Professor meets Big / Freaky Friday).
But what other genres could I potentially tackle? I began brainstorming. Treasure hunt? Alien invasion? Musical? Heist?
When I mentioned heist to my wife, she said, “You could call it The Great Caper Caper.” And that’s when the wheels started turning.
I thought back to my favorite heists like How to Steal a Million, Inside Man, Money Heist, and Ocean’s Eleven, and I thought about the large cast of characters who’ve been introduced throughout Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast’s previous adventures, and I realized that I could easily put together a large Danny Ocean-style heist team together, all with different skills, that would make for a fun team.
Me: Yes! I love that! I also absolutely love the animal cracker circus in this one, and of course the new singer (makes perfect sense for Las Veggies!). What’s your favorite illustration addition from Brendan Kearney this time?
Josh: Brendan’s illustrations are always brilliant and add so much humor to the stories. I think my favorites are the Groucho Marx glasses that Miss Brie wears while pretending to be a window washer – that cracks me up.
I also love the ‘Welcome to Las Veggies’ sign – it’s so perfect! It really should be a postcard.
Me: In your “It’s NOT fairy tale series,” the illustrations by Edwardian Taylor continue to be so playful. I love all of the details he includes in the background with characters from other stories. Were there any illustration surprises with this story that you just loved?
Josh: Eddie is a brilliant character designer. It’s amazing the range of emotions he’s able to portray in his characters.
But you’re right – the little details he adds are always so fun and clever. And in It’s Not the Three Little Pigs, as the story revolves around pigs building houses, he’s drawn a half-dozen sets of highly detailed and hilarious blueprint designs that require a magnifying glass to catch all the jokes.
Me: These fairy tales seem like they run amuck very easily and yet the conclusions feel very satisfying. Do you have a general idea of how the plot will go when you first set out to write them, or do you just let the characters do what they will and go along for the ride?
Josh: Great question. The answer is a little bit of both. Ultimately, I know that the subversive characters need to convince the beleaguered storyteller that their way can have a happy ending, even if the ending isn’t the traditional one that the narrator initially wants to tell.
All previous books in the series (It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, and It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood) end with the characters opening restaurants – and who doesn’t like delicious fairy tale foods?
While It’s Not the Three Little Pigs departs from the restaurant-ending theme, it does still end with the community coming together in a different way. I also think this new installment adds the emphasis of collaboration and working together as a bit of a message to the storyteller that hadn’t been explored before.
And of course, these books always poke fun at the ridiculousness of fairy tales in general. I mean, The Three Little Pigs is a story about pigs building houses – and failing! What is exciting about that? Why is this one of the most popular children’s fairy tales? It just doesn’t make any sense!
Me: LOL! I agree. Were there any surprises with either sequel that you hadn’t encountered before?
Josh: Well, COVID made these different, as they were both developed during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. Normally, I’m able to visit the occasional school and share sneak peeks of these books in person to see kids’ reactions to the books – and possibly incorporate any changes, especially if I’m sharing the books in sketch form when we’re still able to tweak the text and art.
But this time, while I was able to share the books virtually by sharing my screen, I was unable to see the audience reactions (as I was staring at the book on screen that I was reading). We’ll have to see if this change in experience changes the end product in any discernable way.
Me: Is there still room to explore in either of these series? Or are these books finales?
Josh: Yes. Or No. Or maybe. But I’m not going to tell you which of the questions each of those answers goes to. *wink*
Me: Are there any other upcoming projects that you can tell us about? What can we look forward to from you next?
Josh: Actually, yes. Dear Unicorn, a follow-up/spin-off to 2016’s Dear Dragon, this time illustrated by Charles Santoso is due out in the fall of 2023. Keep an eye out for a cover reveal some time soon!
Ohhh! I can’t wait to read that one. What a wonderful book to have a spin-off. Thanks for stopping by my blog again Josh.
Dear readers, these books are both worth tracking down, but you might need to wait a bit. IT’S NOT THE THREE LITTLE PIGS comes out November 1st and THE GREAT CAPER CAPER comes out November 15th. But trust me when I say that they are worth the wait. They are both funny (would you expect anything less from a Josh Funk book) and excellent additions to their series.