Published 7 months ago
One of the featured books in our Bookroo chapter book box this month is a special 3-in-1 edition of the furry and fun Animal Inn series, created by Paul DuBois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender. We had the opportunity to do an interview with Jennifer and Paul, and we are thrilled to share our interview with you.
Jennifer and Paul are a wife and husband writing team based in Massachusetts. Jennifer taught school in Houston and New York City before turning to writing full-time. She also develops curriculum materials for students and teachers. Paul was a Henry Hoyns fellow at the University of Virginia, where he earned an MFA in poetry. In addition to collaborations with Jennifer, Paul has co-authored four books with musician Pete Seeger.
We hope you enjoy the interview and the chance to learn more about Jennifer and Paul and their work! You can also learn more about them on their website .
Bookroo: Animal Inn is a very enjoyable series, and we’re excited to share the first three books from the series with our Bookroo community. How did you come up with the idea for the series?
Jennifer & Paul: The original idea for Animal Inn came from our awesome editor, Karen Nagel. She suggested the general concept and characters, and we took it from there.
Bookroo: Did you know when you started how many books would be in the series, or did it develop over time?
Jennifer & Paul: If memory serves, the series originally started with three books. Then we added #4: Bright Lights, Big Kitty and eventually #5: Whoooo Done It? Each story in the Animal Inn series is told by a different pet, and as the Tyler family has five pets, it made sense to have five books—one story for each of them to tell. But actually, how could we forget pets #6 and 7? The gerbils! We hope that at some point in the future, Fuzzy and Furry might get their own story. We think it would be funny for them to write a rather wacky “Guide to Animal Inn.”
Bookroo: Within the first three books (and avoiding any spoilers!) what is one of your favorite moments in the series?
Jennifer & Paul: Our favorite book is #3: The Bow-wow Bus , probably because it’s a school story and we love school stories. We don’t have a favorite specific moment, but we especially love how things turn out for Lucky, the dog and Blub, the goldfish in this story.
Bookroo: We’ve had the chance to meet other husband and wife teams who create books together. What is a rewarding aspect of collaborating as husband and wife on your books?
Jennifer & Paul: We’d say the biggest benefit of collaborating with a partner is that “two heads are better than one,” as the saying goes. Also, when you’re feeling especially stuck or having a serious case of writer’s block, you can just hand it over to the other person. Here—your turn!
Bookroo: What is a challenge of working together?
Jennifer: Oh, him again?
Paul: Oh, her again?
Bookroo: What other interests or hobbies do you enjoy?
Jennifer & Paul: We love to travel. Jennifer likes to knit. Paul likes to play basketball.
Bookroo: What does an average day look like for you?
Jennifer & Paul: It depends on the day. We have other work projects that take up some of our time. We also have two kids and a dog and a cat, so like the family who runs Animal Inn, there’s a lot of juggling that goes on. For example, today school was delayed due to “extreme cold” (yes, it’s January in Massachusetts). After a few phone calls and lots of emails, it’s time to revise a new story that’s due in a few weeks. Today’s goal is to get through Chapters 4 and 5 before it’s time to pick up our daughter at school and get her to her babysitting gig. Luckily, the dog is currently sleeping and not asking to be walked. (See note re: extreme cold.) Oh, the workers just arrived to check the furnace. (Again, see note above.)
Bookroo: What are you currently reading?
Jennifer: Our ten-year old and I are currently reading The Terrible Two Go Wild. It’s the third book in a series about two friends who like to pull pranks. It’s very funny! We also like to listen to the Wayside School books by Louis Sacher. Also, I’ve been reading a lot of Science Fiction lately. The Sci Fi book club at our local library always picks interesting books and leaves a stack right at the check-out desk.
Paul: I’m reading Nancy Willard’s Swimming Lessons: New and Selected Poems. Nancy is perhaps better known as a children’s book author. Her works include the Newbery Award winning A Visit to William Blake’s Inn.
Bookroo: Do you have favorite children’s books?
Jennifer & Paul: How much time do you have? Some of our favorite books from when we were kids are The Westing Game, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Bridge to Terabithia, My Side of the Mountain…
Bookroo: What advice do you have for parents and others who are trying to raise readers?
Jennifer & Paul: Don’t skip the picture books! Since picture books are meant to be read aloud and together, they give kids a chance to hear new vocabulary and discuss new ideas. True reading is more than the ability to decode; just like writing is more than the ability to spell, which is a good thing since we are both pretty bad spellers.
Bookroo: We’re a community of book lovers. Do you have any recent or upcoming books you can tell us about?
Jennifer & Paul: Yes!
For older readers (8-12), Jennifer has a middle-grade novel coming out in May. Solving for M is the story of Mika and her first year in Middle School. One rather quirky teacher has the students keep a journal… in Math. But as challenges arise at home, Mika finds her Math Journal helps her work through problems, and not just the Math ones.
For younger readers (5-8), we are working on a new series called Mack Rhino, Private Eye. (See note above about story to revise today.) For cases big or small. For items lost or found, Mack Rhino, Private Eye is your guy. Or… rhino.
All images courtesy of Paul DuBois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender
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