I recently watched a book trailer for a picture book about some bears going to Grandma’s house to bake goodies with her. Here it is:
I was captivated, and submitted my request to the author to be part of a fun giveaway. I was so gratified when she told me that she liked my blog.
Now, I’m delighted to be interviewing Anika Denise, author of Baking Day at Grandma’s, on the blog today!
I had lots of fun with the book, and hope you’ll have fun with the very special giveaway Anika is offering readers. But first, here’s the interview:
VS: It’s not too common for an author to choose their illustrator, and I love that you are a husband-and-wife team. How were you able to pitch the idea to publishers when you first decided to write books as a duo?
AD: Christopher’s first big break in publishing came from Patti Gauch, acclaimed author and former vice president and editor at large at Philomel. For years she’d encouraged him to write his own books. But he’d been so busy on other projects, he never felt like he had the time to put into his own writing. He mentioned to Patti that I’d been developing some manuscripts over the past year, and she agreed to take a look. We put together the dummy for our first book, Pigs Love Potatoes, and Chris brought it to a meeting in New York. A couple of weeks later, I had a two-book deal. It was very exciting and very surreal. I know the long road most people have to publication and I realize how fortunate I was to have Chris pass my story on to his editor. But I did work at it. I spent a great deal of time writing terrible drafts until I hit on something that worked.
VS: The cover and the images on the first page of Baking Day drew me in right away. Then the text captured me. Do you and your husband work together side-by-side as you create a book, or do you write the text first, without his input?
AD: Generally, I write the text first, then bring it to Chris. Writing is solitary work for me. I like time to tinker and play. When I think it’s in decent shape, I show Chris and if he likes and responds to it, then he begins to sketch and pace it out. That said, sometimes the initial spark of an idea will come from something he’s drawn. For Pigs Love Potatoes, Chris drew a Mama Piggy on a Mother’s Day card and I liked her so much, I knew she needed a story.
For Baking Day at Grandma’s, I shared with him the idea for a story based on baking with grandma, and told him I envisioned woodland creatures in a wintry Adirondack setting, because of our connection to the region. Then I wrote a first draft. The text came together rather quickly when I sat down to write, but in actuality I’d been writing it in my mind for some time. “It’s baking day, it’s baking day, it’s baking day at grandma’s,” that little sing-songy refrain, had been dancing around in my head for weeks. Then the rest flowed from there.
VS: How hard is it to write a book in rhyme? The rhythm in this one flows on every page, but I know it’s not as easy as it looks to write good rhymes. What’s your process for creating your rhyme schemes?
AD: Like anything else, it takes practice—though I do think some writers just have an ear for it. As a child, I read a lot of Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. In high school and college I studied English and wrote poetry. So, I cultivated that ear, and perhaps it comes a tiny bit more easily to me because of it. As for process, I always read rhyming texts aloud. And I ask others to read them aloud, too, so I can catch where they stumble, and identify where the meter is off and needs tweaking.
VS: You obviously have very fond memories of baking with your own grandma. Can you share a specific memory with us?
AD: Gosh, there are so many. One of my favorites though has to do with a baking snafu. We were making chocolate chip meringues and something went wrong; they didn’t set up quite right. But instead of getting upset, she just laughed it off, tossed them out, and started over. “Offer it up,” she said to me with a wink. It was an oft-repeated phrase of my Grandma Rose when something didn’t go your way, or you had to do extra work. There have been many moments in life, not just in baking, where I hear my grandmother’s voice saying, “Offer it up.” And I do.
VS: What is your all-time favorite food to bake?
AD: Well, Grandma Rosie’s Chocolate cake, the recipe in the book, is pretty high on the list. It’s so simple, and it’s always a crowd-pleaser. Besides that one, I’d have to say classic chocolate chip cookies are my favorite to bake and to eat. I’m forever on the lookout for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. Lately I’m into ones with dark chocolate and sea salt. A great cookie and an ice cold glass of milk = perfection.
VS: One last question, because I have to ask everyone this question: What’s your favorite children’s book and why?
AD: So, you know it’s near impossible to pick just one. But for you, Valerie, I shall try. The book that throughly captivated me as a kid, and the one I continue to revisit throughout my life, is From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. It had everything I wanted in a book as a young reader: smart, precocious, empowered children; a mystery; rich descriptions of life inside an art museum, beautiful prose and endearing characters. I loved Claudia and Jamie Kincaid’s ingenuity, their resilience, their humor. No magic wands were necessary to make this book utterly magical to me.
What great answers, thanks very much for sharing, Anika (especially the nearly impossible…)! By the way, when it comes to cooking, I have to mention that a favorte on my own shelf is The Redwall Cookbook, illustrated by none other than Anika’s husband, Christopher. Just saying…
And now for the special giveaway:
The giveaway includes a SIGNED BOOK (courtesy of Penguin) with an ORIGINAL BEAR SKETCH drawn on the end papers, along with a MIXING BOWL filled with goodies for a baking day, including:
– a mixing spoon
– cocoa & sprinkles
– recipe cards, a set of gift tags & treat bags
[VS: I’m pretty sure I got all that right!!]
To enter to win, make a comment on this blog post by Friday, December 12 at NOON. I’ll announce a winner at 12:12 PM PST, on 12/12.
*EDITOR UPDATE: So sorry, forgot to include that it’s shipping to US addresses only…*
Anika will share the winners on her blog December 19, but the sooner I can share my winners details with her, the more likely that you’ll receive your package before Christmas.
So please: comment! I leave you with this fun baking video from Anika. Check it out!
Then check back at 12:12 on 12/12 when I’ll announce my winner. Thanks again, Anika and Christopher for the opportunity to share your lovely book with my readers. I really enjoy getting to pay the love forward.