Chicken Butt! by Erica S. Perl is a fun, new book that plays off of the saying, “You know what? What? Chicken butt!” Will your kids like it? Mine did! Check out my three year old laughing his way through the book. Erica has graciously answered some questions for the Maw Books readers (check out the details at the end of the interview so you can win your very own copy of Chicken Butt!)
Maw Books: Where in the world did you get the idea to write a book that’s well . . . mainly about a chicken butt?!
Erica Perl: I always thought the nonsequitur joke “You know what? Chicken Butt!” was funny, and I wanted to figure out a way to put it in a book. Originally, I thought it could be a board book (with flaps) for hipster parents. But then, when I worked on it, the voices of parent and child just came to me, and it became more of a book told from both a kid and a grown-up’s perspective. I like writing books that both kids and parents can enjoy, so I was pleased at the direction this one took… it ended up feeling like the scene at our house! Minus the chicken, that is… we don’t have one.
Maw Books: Describe you new book in just one word.
Erica Perl: Cluck!
Maw Books: Chicken Butt! is a great read-a-loud book. It must be so much fun to do school visits and presentations. What are some of your favorite experiences from sharing Chicken Butt! and your other books with young readers?
Erica Perl: I LOVE doing Chicken Butt! with school groups. Basically, I divide the group in two and assign one group the role of “kid” and the other group the role of “grown-up”… they immediately start throwing themselves into it, hamming it up on both sides. And without realizing it, they do all the reading… I’m just the conductor. Also, I always pause between the page turns and ask kids to guess the rhymes. I’ve gotten some great ones, like “chicken stew!” and “chicken hair!” So we go over the concept of rhyming, which kids love to play with. And then I always encourage everyone to read the “chicken” lines… everybody loves to read the “Chicken Butt! Chicken Butt! Chicken Butt!” page together.
Maw Books: I bet that gets really loud! Could you talk with us a little about why books with a tempo/rhyme are excellent choices for young readers learning how to read.
Erica Perl: Rhyming books are great because kids can anticipate the rhyme, which helps emergent readers decode more easily. And rhymes are fun – kids love to play with words and have more ease than grown-ups, who get caught up in what is a “real” word. Also, I always talk to kids about meter, because I like to make the connection between rhyming verse and musical rhythm. It’s important that the tempo of a piece is consistent (as you see in Dr. Seuss, for example) so the reader can really lose him or herself following the beat of the words. This is one of the reasons I like to sing my book NINETY-THREE IN MY FAMILY with kids, and I always point them to the recording of the song, which can be found on my website: www.ericaperl.com (it is on the “and more” page).
Maw Books: Did you test your book out on any young readers before submitting it for publication? Do you have certain young reviewers in your life that you trust?
Erica Perl: I always read everything out loud, alone and to kids. I trust my own kids, but I try to read to other kids as well… classmates and friends of my kids. And I get kids to read stuff aloud, to see how they read it. Always a lot of research before I take a book to the next step.
Maw Books: Reading out loud definitely makes a difference. And now you saw how I read it! Have you had any feedback from parents, librarians, or booksellers expressing dissatisfaction with the subject matter of Chicken Butt! Personally, I thought it was cute when my three year old starting repeating the words chicken butt back to me and laughs real big at the monkey butt. But I’m sure not all parents would say the same.
Erica Perl: So far, no complaints. I too am waiting for it, but the teachers and parents I’ve met have been very positive about it. One parent did tell me that her daughter was surprised that “the governor” would let me put “BUTT” on the cover of a book. But no complaints from the authorities yet either!
Maw Books: Phew! So much of a picture books personality comes through its illustrations. What is it like when you first saw your words put to the illustrations and are you happy with the way they turned out?
Erica Perl: Extremely happy. I love Henry Cole and was thrilled with his illustrations.
Maw Books: What is it with you and chickens anyways?!
Erica Perl: I’m not sure. This is my second chicken book. I guess I can’t run that fast… the chickens always catch me!
Maw Books: Ha, ha! One of my regular features in my author interviews is to ask for a recipe, either one featured in their book or a family favorite. Later I make that recipe and blog about it. I didn’t think Chicken Butt, gave me much to work with as far as recipes but then I saw your adorable Chicken Butt! cookies that you made on your blog. They are so cute! Can you share the recipe with us?
Erica Perl: They are gingerbread cookies and I made a royal icing for them (egg whites, powdered sugar, lemon juice and a drop of glycerin, which you can buy in specialty stores, for shine). They were yummy!
Maw Books: What are some of the challenges and rewards of being a children’s picture book writer?
Erica Perl: I love writing my books and sharing them with kids! The hard part is how long it takes for a book to come out… I’m impatient and it is hard to wait. But worth it!
Maw Books: What’s your earliest reading memory? And a few picture books that you think nobody should miss?
Erica Perl: I have always loved books and my childhood favorites included SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE and BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES. I am currently doing a bunch of book events with Ayun Halliday, whose new book, ALWAYS LOTS OF HEINIES AT THE ZOO is terrific, so definitely check it out!
Maw Books: I saw Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo on display at a bookstore with your book! Great idea to market them together! If you could choose any illustrator, dead or alive, to illustrate your next book who would you choose and why?
Erica Perl: Perhaps James Marshall, who I love. Or Simon James, or Emily Gravett (I’m partial to British illustrators, for some reason). I also love Matt Phelan’s work. And I’m very excited about JULIA DENOS, who is illustrating my next book, DOTTY!
Maw Books: I love Matt Phelan! What’s the last book you read, the book you’re reading now and a book that you are looking forward to reading?
Erica Perl: I just read KARATE PIG, which is an adorable board book, and THE GREAT PAPER CAPER, by Oliver Jeffers – fabulous. I’m also reading THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, which is NOT for children but is highly enjoyable if you are a grown up.
Maw Books: Share with us what it was like to serve on the Cybils judging panel for picture books.
Erica Perl: It was so much fun and I was thrilled that Bob Graham’s HOW TO HEAL A BROKEN WING was our winner – what an amazing book!
Maw Books: Going off of the Cybils question, what role/influence do you think book bloggers are playing in the book industry?
Erica Perl: Kidlit bloggers rule! I always tell parents that this is THE place to discover great new (and old) books for kids!
Maw Books: They do rule! What do you enjoy to do outside the world of books?
Erica Perl: Cooking, running, going to the zoo and embarrassing my children.
Maw Books: So what’s next? What are working on right now?
Erica Perl: My first YA novel, VINTAGE VERONICA, comes out next spring from KNOPF! Until then, I’m writing more picture books and shaking my CHICKEN BUTT! wherever they’ll have me.
Maw Books: A YA novel! How awesome. I look forward to it. Anything else that you’d like to add?
Erica Perl: You know what?… Just kidding!
Maw Books: Thanks Erica!
Erica Perl: Thank YOU!!!
Erica will be on tour the rest of the week at Tales from the Rushmore Kid, Motherreader, A Pen and a Nest, Hen Blog, Fuse # 8, Write for a Reader, Chicken Spaghetti, and Three Silly Chicks. Erica is celebrating with a prize drawing of Chicken Butt! and other fun prizes. To register for the prize drawings, all you have to do is visit any of the participating tour blogs during the week (including this one!) and then leave a comment on Erica’s blog.
Erica S. Perl’s website & blog.
Genre: Picture book, ages 2-8
Published: Abrams Books for Young Readers, April 2009
Hardcover, 32 pages. ISBN: 978-0810983250
Chicken Butt! is available from your independent bookstore, Powells and Amazon.