One of the books we've featured in our picture book Bookroo boxes is the clever tale of Land Shark, which was written by Beth Ferry. Today we’re excited to bring you an interview with Beth so that you can learn more about her wonderful work as a children’s book author.
Beth is the author of three children’s books, with eight more in the works. Land Shark recently received the Chickadee Award, a children’s choice award for picture books. She lives in New Jersey and is the mother to three kids.
Bookroo: We love Land Shark. It captures so well the closed-mindedness and stubbornness children can sometimes demonstrate, but also their cleverness and open hearts. Can you tell us more about how you came up with the story?
Beth: Land Shark was inspired by a friend’s new puppy. Our dogs were full-grown and I had forgotten how much destruction puppies can wreak. I’m not sure how I forgot, but I did. Sitting on the beach one day, the idea popped into my head that dogs were a lot like sharks, especially when it came to biting. I did some research and found lots of similarities and learned a lot about sharks! I love adding bits of nonfiction to my books if possible, such as tiger sharks eating garbage.
Update on Land Shark: We now have a five-month old bulldog named Chaucer and I have found that I’m living my own book! He has chewed our kitchen wall, 5 electrical cords, all my kitchen stools and any shoe he can get his teeth on! He is truly a little land shark.
Bookroo: We know you live close to the beach, so are you a dog lover or shark lover?
Beth: Dog lover for sure. Ever since I saw Jaws as a kid, I have been afraid to venture too far out into the ocean. Silly, but true.
Bookroo: Now you’re a three-time published author. You have another book, A Small Blue Whale, coming out this October, and seven more books in the works. How are you feeling about the path ahead?
Beth: It is hard not to be over the moon! Each book is so different, but just as exciting. I think most authors feel this way. The most exciting part of being a picture book author is working with the amazing artists who bring the books to life. The art in A Small Blue Whale is luminous. Lisa Mundorff’s colors are lovely and she drew penguins using beach shovels in the snow. How fun is that? And a bit of nonfiction included in this book: Whales can actually make rainbows from their blowholes.
I have seen sketches for a few other upcoming books and am waiting for a few more. Getting sketches feels like Christmas morning!
Bookroo: Your stories all seem very distinct and unique from each other. Where and how do you find inspiration for new stories?
Beth: I find I get most of my ideas from playing with words. I love all kinds of word play. One of my books is called Sealed with a Kiss and it’s about being kissed by a seal. I love the play on words there! And I love the art. Here is a glimpse of the seal courtesy of Olivier Tallec.
Another book idea came from the word scarecrow. I wanted to play with the idea that if there is a scarecrow, there must be a scared crow, so I wrote a story about that unlikely friendship.
Swashby and the Sea is another unlikely friendship story. In this book the sea erases certain letters from messages left in the sand, changing those messages into something completely opposite. It was fun (and challenging) to find combinations of words that worked.
But real life also gives me ideas, just like in Land Shark. The idea for Squirrel’s Family Tree came from just looking out my window. I did lots of squirrel/acorn research, learned tons, and put all that into a story. Ideas are truly everywhere!
Bookroo: What have you found are the best parts about being a children’s book author? What are the most challenging?
Beth: The best parts all have to do with the kids. Reading to them, hearing their reactions, answering their questions and hopefully inspiring them. Kids are so smart and perceptive. Every week I read to classes of Kindergarteners and 1st graders and it is the highlight of my week. I love hearing them laugh. My kids are older now and I don’t get to hear kids laugh on a daily basis. I miss that.
The most challenging part of being an author is waiting for the book to be published. From the time I write the story, it is between two and four years until the book is published. Talk about anticipation! And patience!
Bookroo: When you’re not writing children’s books, what are some of your favorite family activities?
Beth: Well, we all love the beach. Is that considered an activity? I hope so! Our family also loves to play games. As I’ve said, my kids are older now, so our current favorites are Catan and Power Yahtzee! I love Scrabble, but usually don’t get any takers. We are also all crazy readers so we do a lot of that. None of us go anywhere, and I mean anywhere, without a book.
Bookroo: Do you have a favorite picture book?
Beth: My favorite picture books include Room on the Broom, Library Lion, Little Pea, Owl Babies, A Visitor for Bear and everything by Sandra Boynton.
Bookroo: We’ve heard that you only grow pumpkins in your garden—very appropriate for the upcoming season. Why pumpkins, and only pumpkins?
Beth: From past experience, I have discovered that I am a lazy gardener. I often forget to weed, water and harvest. Pumpkins are hardy and take a long time to grow. Plus, I am a big fan of Halloween, so pumpkins just make sense.
Bookroo: We’ve mentioned that you have some additional books in the queue. Can you give us a sneak peek of anything you want our community of book lovers to watch for?
Beth: Tom Lichtenheld and I have a book coming out called Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish about which I am extremely excited. Here is a sneak peek at a piece Tom is working on.
Thank you so much for asking me all these fun questions. I hope readers enjoy Land Shark!
(All images courtesy of Beth Ferry)