Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interview with The Circus Ship author and illustrator, Chris Van Dusen

KN: Why did you choose to write The Circus Ship in rhyme?

Chris Van Dusen: I wrote The Circus Ship in rhyme because I wanted to the tone to be light-hearted. As you know, the story is loosely based on a terribly tragic event, so to distance my story even more from it's horrible past, I thought rhyme would be a good choice. I was also thinking about sea shanties and other historic events that are told in long rhyming poems, and I hoped to capture a little of that feeling, too.

KN: Why did you decide to make Tiger the hero of the story?

Chris Van Dusen: The tiger's rescue, to me, is the link that brings the whole story together. Not only does he save the day, but this is the first time the people see that these animals are special. I chose the tiger because his circus talent is jumping through fire. He HAD to be the one to rescue little Emma Rose!

KN: You did a great job camouflaging the animals. Were some of the animals harder to hide than others?

Chris Van Dusen: It wasn't too hard finding ways to hide the animals, in fact it was really fun. I wanted to mix it up though. In other words, I didn't want all the animals dressed as people. I also wanted to make some animals really obvious like the gorilla in the foreground, and some animals really hard to find, like the alligator and the leopard. Have you found those two yet? If you have, congratulations!

KN: Those two animals were really fun to find! I read you live in a little town in Maine. Have the residents of your town ever worked together to solve a problem like the animals and residents in The Circus Ship?

Chris Van Dusen: Fortunately, our town has not been overrun by exotic animals! I live in a beautiful, small, coastal Maine town, and I feel very lucky to live here, but I can't think of a specific incident when we've had to band together to solve a big problem. Probably the closest thing to that is when we worked hard to save a wetland area from being filled to build condominiums. We succeeded, by the way. It's now a wildlife preserve.

KN: Our small town succeeded in preserving land from a developer, too. It feels great to work together. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?

Chris Van Dusen: I'd just like to add that The Circus Ship is different from my other books in a number of ways. While it's still a rhyming picture book, this is the first time I've attempted an historic story. It was fun to do research for the book. It's also the first time I've added a villain to one of my stories, which was a lot of fun. There's so much you can do with a bad guy!

Thanks again, Kate.

KN: Thank you, Chris.

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