Monthly Archives: May 2012
Today we have the pleasure of introducing you to Tim Carvell, debut author of the uproariously funy middle-grade novel PLANET TAD. You can read a FREE, NICE AND HEARTY EXCERPT HERE. Yesterday we gave you a few words from Tim’s editor, Rosemary, and today we hear from the man himself…
(I mean… how great is this? If that mottled blue/gray background doesn’t pull you right back to middle school, I don’t know what will!)
Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?
When I was 9 or 10, I loved “A Cricket in Times Square”, but I think I loved its sequel, “Tucker’s Countryside”, even more, because I’d much rather read a book whose hero is a talking mouse with a cricket sidekick than a book whose hero is a talking cricket with a mouse sidekick.
As for what I’m reading now, I just finished “Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street”, by Michael Davis, which is pretty great — not just because it’s got weird tidbits like the fact that Oscar the Grouch was originally orange, but also because, for some reason, it’s got a whole chapter that’s just behind-the-scenes stories about Captain Kangaroo’s love-hate relationship with his writers.
What is your secret talent?
I can wiggle my ears. (It’s not so much a “secret talent” as “a talent I have that I’ve been asked not to do in public”.)
Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.
A talking animal. I don’t know why, but it does.
My current obsessions are…
Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time with Finn & Jake”, because it’s got such a simple premise, but it keeps finding new directions to go, and new sorts of jokes to tell. Jenny Slate’s “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” shorts, which are very, very funny but come from a place of pure sweetness. And Jon Klassen’s “I Want My Hat Back”, because the drawings are hilarious, and it manages to tell a perfectly-paced joke in book form.
Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?
Just keep writing — the more you write, and the more feedback you get, the sooner you’ll get better at it, and the quicker you’ll develop your own voice. Also, don’t write a book about an orphan who goes to a British wizarding academy. It’s been done.
Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…
Actually, that’s about 90% of what I’d hope for right there — that a person would read my book. But if I could ask for more beyond that, it’d be that a person reading my book would laugh.
Tell us more about how PLANET TAD was born.
The original idea for “Planet Tad” came back in 2005, when two editors at MAD suggested that it might be fun to do something in the voice of a young blogger; after I’d written the column for a few years, the book came about thanks to Rosemary Brosnan at HarperCollins, whose sons really liked the column. She asked if I’d be interested in expanding it to book length, an idea that really appealed to me, because it was a chance to explore Tad’s world a little more fully, and tell stories in a little more depth. Writing the book was a lot of fun, both because it was a chance to do writing that’s both a little more personal and a little lighter than my day job, and because it was a chance to revisit my awkward younger self. Tad’s pretty much a younger version of me, and I have really vivid memories of my middle school years — and not just the classrooms or the hallways of my school, although those are pretty much what I picture when I’m picturing Tad’s environment. What I remember even more vividly are the emotions of what it was like to be in, say, eighth grade — that weird mixture of not wanting to feel like a kid anymore, but being confused, daunted and hopeful about the adult world, all at the same time. Hopefully, a little of that — alongside the jokes about video games and lemurs — comes through in the book.
Thanks Tim, for sitting through our grueling, sweat-inducing, pulse-poundingly hard-hitting barrage of questions!
Based on a MAD Magazine blog of the same name, PLANET TAD is a seriously funny look inside the mind of twelve-year-old Tad, nerd extraordinaire. Capturing one full year in the life of Tad, this laugh-out-loud illustrated (by Doug Holgate) novel—written in a captivating blog format—will capture the hearts of everyone who reads it. One day at a time.
- “This book will make you laugh. If you’re not into that sort of thing, consider yourself warned.” –Stephen Colbert
- “Hilarious to anyone who ever went through, is currently in, might go to, or flunked out of middle school.” –Jon Stewart
And if those glowing endorsements are not enough to make you ask CAN I PLEASE GET MY HANDS ON THIS EXCITING BOOK?! (the answer is yes, it’s on sale now!), consider these words from Tim’s editor, Rosemary Brosnan:
I have a confession to make: For years I have raced to the mailbox to filch my son’s copy of MAD Magazine before he has a chance to read it. I’ve been reading MAD since I was twelve, and it’s an addiction I can’t give up. One of my favorite features has been the blog PLANET TAD by Tim Carvell, which has appeared in the magazine since 2006. Fresh and funny, its perfectly on-target voice and humor capture the life of a nerdy middle-school boy—his awkwardness with girls, the travails of living with a clever little sister, his funny takes on popular culture. The author, Tim Carvell, is the head writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has won five Emmy Awards writing for the show. It seemed natural for me to call Tim and ask him to write a PLANET TAD book. Perhaps then I could stop stealing my son’s copies of Mad.
When I met Tim, I found him to be extremely likable…and I thought perhaps he had been a little bit like Tad when he was a kid. How else would he have come up with this blog? Happily, Tim agreed to write a PLANET TAD book; he wrote about two-thirds new material, and we took the other third from the published MAD pieces. PLANET TAD is a hilarious look at a year in the life of twelve-year-old Tad, revealed in his own blog. It’s a year-in-the-life you’ll never forget, in which Tad takes a summer job wearing a hot dog costume, has an unwilling turn onstage in his little sister’s school play, learns a painful lesson about sunburn, attends an embarrassing Halloween party, and is ignored by every girl in his school.
I think this is the kind of book kids are going to pass around to one another. I would have hidden it inside Johnny Tremain myself. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Cory, a seventh grader, says:
“You will laugh your head off, and if you don’t you probably didn’t read or if you did you didn’t understand it.”
Return tomorrow when we Open The Book with Tim Carvell, and post a free excerpt of PLANET TAD. In the meantime, take a peek at the video trailer here!
This Wednesday, we plied our local librarian friends with coffee and treats to meet us very very very early in the morning to hear about our Fall 2012 titles, straight from the mouths of our truly masterful editors. Our attendees live-tweeted under the hashtag #harperfallpreview and it was really exciting for us to see those enthusiastic tweets roll in. Thanks, guys!
Everyone with their listening caps on.
Now, for some great This Meets That’s:
- “Dan Brown for 10 year olds” — THE SECRET PROPHECY, by Herbie Brennan.
- “Scott Westerfeld meets Lauren Oliver” — THE LOST GIRL, by Sangu Mandanna.
- “The Goonies meets The Walking Dead” — GRAVEDIGGERS: MOUNTAIN OF BONES, by Christopher Krovatin.
- “My So-Called Life meets Twilight” — DRAIN YOU, by M. Beth Bloom. (full disclosure… this one killed me!)
Can you believe that in a little more than a month, we’ll be at the ALA Annual meeting in Anaheim, California? Because we sure can’t (cue folders flying, frantic packing). But if you’ll be there too, please make sure to stop by, say hello, and grab galleys of the titles above. Booth #2558– see you there!
Meet Christopher Healy, author of the uproariously funny THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM (read an excerpt here!). In case you missed yesterday’s post about the book, be sure to check it out for some words from Christopher’s editor, Jordan Brown, along with a downloadable activity for the book. And now, let’s Open the Book with Christopher himself…
It depends on what age of childhood . . . Back when my mom was reading books to me, my favorite to hear was Winnie-the-Pooh. For first reading on my own—and drooling over the illustrations—it was probably The Rainbow Goblins by Ul de Rico. Once I was into meatier stuff, I think it would be Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game. (By the way, I think my answer on this question changes every time someone asks it.)
Right now, I’m in the middle of Book III of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (The Unseen Guest) by Maryrose Wood. Those books are just delightful. So much fun.
What is your secret talent?
I like to write and record songs as gifts for my family. I’m a terrible singer, though, so I make sure they’re never heard outside the house.
Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.
My current obsessions are . . .
The Walking Dead, dark-chocolate-and-sea-salt-covered almonds, and that Gotye song, “Somebody I Used to Know” (that xylophone riff plays through my head like a constant soundtrack now; I’m actually getting to the point where I wish it would stop).
Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?
Revise. If you think you’re done, go back and read it again. You will find something you can improve.
Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book . . .
How did you come to write this book?
I’d wanted to write about Prince Charming for a long time. In all those classic fairy tales, you learn so little about the princes. Those characters were ripe for the plucking. I have a son and a daughter, and I felt that boys and girls could both use some fleshed-out Prince Charmings in their fairy tales. Boys are supposed to want to be the prince and the girls are supposed to want to marry him—but he’s always incredibly boring. So I sat down with a lot of old fairy tales, culled together whatever Prince Charming “facts” I could extract from them, and pieced together fully-realized personalities for four of the most famous princes. Once I’d created these princes, I just sort of let them run free and watched what developed. The plot went into places I’d never expected when I started.
Thanks so much, Christopher!
Now that May is here, it’s officially summer, right? Well, it’s at least right around the corner, and you know what that means . . . a new round of New Voices!
We’re excited to start off the summer leg of our program with a spotlight on debut author Christopher Healy. His book THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM went on sale this week, and we’re confident that you’ll think it’s hilarious. (We certainly do!)
Read an excerpt of this story-behind-the-story fairy tale here, and meet Prince Liam, along with Prince Frederick, Prince Duncan, and Prince Gustav (can you guess which princesses these three saved?).
And, for a hint of the story behind the story behind the story, here are some thoughts from the book’s editor, Jordan Brown:
I’ll be honest: Chris Healy’s THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM isn’t the first retelling/reimagining of classic fairy tales that we’ve read—and odds are you’re probably thinking the same. In fact, when Chris’ agent first called me about the book, and told me how funny and original and fresh and inventive it was, there was still a part of me thinking it sounds great, but . . . another fractured fairy tale?
And then I started reading.
From the first sentence on the first page, Chris Healy’s hilariously funny, completely original, totally fresh, endlessly inventive debut novel is anything but typical. Here, “Prince Charming” is not one prince, but four—the princes who rescued Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty—and they’re none too happy about having been glossed over in the bards’ songs and stories. You see, this is a world where the difference between being famous and being infamous depends on how easily the bards can find things to rhyme with your name, where tales of evil curses and magic teardrops and glass slippers make their way through the countryside like so many viral videos, where the real story begins after happily-ever-after. And it’s in this world where these four princes and their four princesses need to overcome their various neuroses and shortcomings and learn how to be real, honest-to-goodness heroes.
Chris told me that his inspiration came from reading classic fairy tales with his kids and finding out that the most interesting bits of the tales aren’t even included. “Prince Charming” is completely anonymous, all the princesses look and sound the same. He wanted to find out who these people really were. And in doing so, he has created one of the funniest, most heartfelt books any of us had read in a long time. Not to mention spurring a debate that’s still going on here at Harper: who is your favorite prince? (I’m on Team Gustav.) I guarantee you’ll have your own by the end of the book.