I just want to let you know that this was my first phone interview, and I had a blast. Denys Cazet is as whimsical and passionate as his books.
1. I love the alliteration in the title The Perfect Pumpkin Pie. Did you choose to feature pumpkin over apple because of alliteration?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that the fall season lends itself to Halloween. An apple pie simply doesn’t have the same power as a pumpkin pie.
2. Mr. Wilkerson speaks in fun rhyme which balances the bitterness of his words. Could you please tell us about how Mr. Wilkerson came to speak in rhyme?
Rhyme is funny. When Mr. Wilkerson dies, he gains a slight sense of humor even though he remains aloof. He’s dead but doesn’t know it, and he reduces all the aspects of life into one thing—an insatiable appetite for pie. Mr. Wilkerson is wandering because he left something undone in his past life, and he’s lying. He’s not going to go away whether or not Jack and Grandma make him a perfect pie. In fact, I’ve thought about writing a sequel where Mr. Wilkerson becomes a part of Jack and Grandma’s family.
3. Jack’s grandma is a strong, spunky character. She’s determined not to be out done by Mr. Wilkerson. She’s not afraid of him, she’s not afraid to taste a pie he’s smashed his face into, and in the end she succeeds in baking the perfect pumpkin pie. In a biography written about you found at the following link http://biography.jrank.org/pages/1785/Cazet-Denys-1938.html , it mentions that your characters are always based off the wonderful people in your life. Is Jack’s grandma based on one person in your life or a conglomeration of different people?
I had two grandmothers. One was very sweet and according to her the sun rose and set on my shoulders. After all, I was the only boy in a large extended family. My other grandma was a very strict, no-nonsense kind of lady. She ran the show, and nobody questioned it. She had one of those looks that said, “Don’t say another word.” Even though she was strict, she still made me pancakes in the morning.
4. I also that you saw a real estate ad for an old farm, formerly owned by bakers, listed for $1 and you asked yourself what if they sell the farm and the bakers’ ghost still lives in it? At the time the work in progress was Halloween Pie. Am I correct in assuming that’s the one and only book we’re talking about, The Perfect Pumpkin Pie? Could you please tell readers about your revision process?
Yes, it’s the same book. The baker apparently disappeared in the late 1800’s. However, every year lo and behold around Halloween, people could smell pumpkin pie baking on the property. I love Halloween and the Mexican celebration of The Day of the Dead.
I write many drafts. Then, I revise more based on suggestions from my editor. After I’m holding the book in my hands, I wish I would have revised it two or three more times. Sometimes I think The Perfect Pumpkin Pie is too long to be classified as a picture book, and that the book is better classified as a story book. I love writing and storytelling, although both arts differ from one another. In this book, I tried to include an element of storytelling so that when the book is read, it feels more like a story being told.
5. Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Please read my book Will You Read To Me. A little pig writes a poem and asks his parents if they’ll read it to him, but the parents are too busy eating. So the pig walks to a lake where he sees his reflection and reads to himself. In so doing, his belief in himself is reinforced.
As a teacher, librarian, parent, and a writer, I feel that what’s happening to children’s literature is very disturbing. As mentioned in this New York Times article, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/us/08picture.html picture book sales are down 25-30% because parents want their children to read longer books. There’s an assumption that picture books are inferior to chapter books which means that people don’t understand what a picture book is. Picture books often have more advanced vocabulary than chapter books, and the visual clues help students figure out unknown words. When I was a school librarian, the pictures in the Tin-Tin books helped reluctant readers become fluent readers.
School testing is narrowing choices for teachers and students, which means that as a country we are drifting away from a liberal arts’ education. We need to expand choices to improve education, not narrow them. Furthermore, we are all different. When we test, we’re looking for similarities and if someone is different and doesn’t fit a certain definition, they’re labeled as deficient.