The wonderful and funny Josh Funk joins us today to celebrate the release of his newest book IT'S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK. Thank you Josh for answering a few questions and sharing about your new book.
Thanks, Alyson, for having me. I’m a big fan of your site and have been for years (as I think you know). I think the work you do for the world of children’s literature and for children and educators is invaluable - and I think I can speak for all book creators when I say, “Thank you!”
1. It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is a fun variation on the original story. Since there are a lot of fairy tales, how did you decide on this particular one? Will there be more variations on other fairy tales?
I actually put a good amount of thought into which fairy tale I wanted to play with. It had to be familiar enough for the majority of readers so they’d know things weren’t going according to plan. For example, I probably couldn’t have used Hans My Hedgehog as it isn’t that well-known despite being part of the Brothers Grimm collection (there is a cute picture book version retold by Kate Coombs and illustrated by John Nickle, for what it’s worth).
But I also knew that I didn’t want to go with Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, or Goldilocks and the Three Bears, as there are already sooooo many great retellings and fractured versions of those stories in the picture book format.
So I was really deciding between two: Jack and the Beanstalk and Hansel and Gretel. There are certainly some retellings of each - but I found there were fewer (and probably for good reason - it’s really hard to get around the violent deaths of the villains in those two).
You can probably now guess the answer to the second part of your question. It’s Not Hansel and Gretel will be coming out sometime in 2019. Illustrator extraordinaire, Edwardian Taylor is already hard at work on it!
2. I loved that the book didn't quite go like I thought it would. I also enjoyed the narrator's interaction with the characters. Did the story turn out like you intended or did the characters surprise you?
I’ve always thought about how many ridiculous and literally unbelievable things happen in fairy tales - and often how unintelligent the main characters are. For example, in the traditional tale of Jack and the Beanstalk:
● Jack sells his cow for a handful of beans.
● Jack decides to climb a beanstalk that grows into the clouds.
● Jack thinks it would be a good idea to steal from a giant.
And so on.... Every fairytale has ridiculous things like this. (Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t recognize that the TALKING wolf she met in the woods earlier is dressed in her grandmother’s clothing despite noticing her enormous eyes and teeth? Come on!)
So I thought, “What if Jack had some common sense? What if he decided not to do what the storyteller said? What would happen then?”
And that’s what I wrote. At some point the story was bound to go completely off track. The characters certainly took over, but that’s exactly what I hoped would happen.
3. What is your favorite spread in the book and why?
One of my two favorite spreads is the second to last one, mostly because Edwardian Taylor went to town and had so much fun with - well, I wouldn’t want to spoil it.
My other favorite spread is when Jack sees the beanstalk for the first time and argues with the storyteller when he doesn’t want to climb it. Jack has so many great facial expressions which consistently crack me up.
4. What tips would you give to teachers doing a writing unit on fairy tales with their students?
First let me say that I am not a teacher - so I am in no way qualified to suggest how a teacher should teach.
What I can suggest is to do what I did - think about what you would do if you were the main character in a fairy tale. Would you have followed the traditional story? Would you have done something differently? Would you have argued with the storyteller?
One thing that helped me while writing this was reading the story out loud in script form. My kids and I would share it with friends and at family gatherings - I played the role of storyteller while my kids played the roles of Jack and the Giant (so if the narrator comes across to you as a bossy parent - now you know why). Acting out the story really helped us get into character. Perhaps it would help students figure out how they’d act in certain situations if they were literally acting out the story. (note: this can be done in stories that aren’t fairy tales, too)
5. Letters from young readers (or questions during school visits) can be both emotional and/or humorous. Is there a particular favorite that sticks out and can you share it?
My favorite are the truly honest ones. Like the letters in this tweet shared by Tina Moricz, a third grade teacher in Tuscon, Arizona:
Logan thinks the story is weird. And Nico liked the part where Jack rhymed about the giant’s bum. Clearly, this classroom gets me (and they make me laugh).
In general, though, I love hearing that kids are excited about writing and reading after I meet with them, either in person or via skype. It’s so great that I can connect with so many classrooms using technology.
6. Are there any other projects that you are working on that you can share with us?
2018 is going to be a pretty busy year. I’m fairly certain I will have four picture books out between May 1st and September 4th.
The first is called ALBIE NEWTON (Sterling, 5.1.18), illustrated by Ester Garay. It’s about smart and creative boy who starts school, but doesn’t really have all the social skills down yet. His grand attempt to make friends causes lots of problems for his classmates, and - well, you’ll have to read it to find out how it ends. But I think lots of kids will relate to Albie Newton and the other kids in his class.
HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE (Viking/Penguin, 6.5.18), illustrated by Sara Palacios is being published in partnership with Girls Who Code - and I couldn’t be more excited about this one! It’s the first in a series of informational fiction picture books about a girl named Pearl and her robot, Pascal. In this first book, they use fundamental coding concepts to construct the perfect beach day using sequences, loops, and if-then-else statements - but using them in real world situations.
Later in the summer, I’ve got a book called LOST IN THE LIBRARY: A STORY OF PATIENCE AND FORTITUDE (Macmillan, 8.28.18), illustrated by Stevie Lewis. This is the first picture book about Patience and Fortitude, the two lion statues that faithfully guard the New York Public Library (in fact, this book is published in partnership with the NYPL). When Patience goes missing, Fortitude realizes that Patience has ventured inside the library. So for the first time ever, Fortitude abandons his post to search for Patience before the sun rises and we, the readers, get to explore the library for the first time alongside Fortitude.
And lastly (phew!), there will be a third book in the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series: MISSION DEFROSTABLE (Sterling, 9.4.18). In this action-packed adventure, the fridge is freezing over - and Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have to travel to parts of the fridge they’ve never ventured ... and need to enlist the help of one of their fiercest rivals. Dun. Dun. DUN!
7. What is your favorite Indie Bookstore and why do you love it?
In New England, I’m so fortunate that we have a plethora of independent bookstores. I have so many favorites and I could never pick just one, so let me share the one that I can walk to within ten minutes of my house: The Concord Bookshop. They have a fabulous kids’ section in the back, friendly booksellers, and a terrific bookstore smell. Plus, if you walk out the back door, you’re only ten steps away from my favorite coffee shop, Haute Coffee (yes, I can pick a favorite coffee shop).
8. My niece has dressed up as a "Jack" (Lumber Jackie, Jack-In-the Box, Jack & Jill sans Jill, etc.) for the past several Halloweens. We were talking about her dressing up as Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. Any recommendations on costume ideas? :-)
Start with a very sassy attitude. And definitely bring some sort of axe. Perhaps find some ivy to tangle around you like parts of the beanstalk? Do you know anyone who has a harp that magically plays by itself? And also, walk beside a really really REALLY tall person. If I think of anything else in the next month, I’ll let you know.
Thanks so much for inviting me to your site, Alyson! I really appreciate it!
Check out the book trailer:
About the author: Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as books - such as Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and its sequel The Case of the Stinky Stench along with It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk, Pirasaurs!, Dear Dragon, and the forthcoming Albie Newton, How to Code a Sandcastle (in partnership with Girls Who Code), Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude (in partnership with the New York Public Library), and more coming soon!
Josh is a board member of The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.
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.
Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.
For more information about Josh, visit www.joshfunkbooks.com or @joshfunkbooks on Twitter.
About the illustrator:
Edwardian Taylor currently works as a visual development artist and character designer for TV and animation feature film. His work can also be seen in mobile games, films, and commercials. He is the illustrator of the picture book Race!, written by Sue Fliess. Edwardian lives in Texas with his partner, their three dogs, and seven chickens. Learn more about him at www.edwardiantaylor.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @edwardiantaylor.
Two Lions is offering one copy of IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses).