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Kids’ Q&A: Susan Patron

Describe your latest project.

In Lucky Breaks, Lucky is just turning 11. She's ready to be transformed and poised to grow up, but feeling her way. In the process, she risks her life, puts her new pal in jeopardy, and betrays her oldest friend. And in trying hard to figure out the mystery of the universe, Lucky discovers that the answer is both in the stars and close at hand.

What is your favorite family story?

At age eight, my job was to give my four-year-old sister her bath each night. To pass the time as we waited for her toes and fingers to get wrinkled (meaning she was clean enough for the bath to be over), I told her stories. They were made-up stories that had rubbed off people's skin onto the clothes stuffed into the bathroom's built-in laundry hamper; at least that's what I claimed at the time. (Many years later, when my sister shared her memory of these storytelling baths with the editor of my three picture books, he turned to me and said, "It's a novel. Go write it." I did, and a year or so later Maybe Yes, Maybe No, Maybe Maybe was published. It has just been released in paperback by Atheneum.)

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.

"A writer either speaks to adults and bores kids, or speaks to kids and upsets adults." —Lois Lowry

I also love this:

For all our conceits about being the center of the universe, we live in a routine planet of a humdrum star stuck away in an obscure corner...on an unexceptional galaxy which is one of about 100 billion galaxies....That is the fundamental fact of the universe we inhabit, and it is very good for us to understand that. —Carl Sagan

And this:

You know, since nobody reads these pages, we figured they'd be a good place to insert subliminimal messages: Think for yourself. Question Authority. Read banned books! Kids have the same constitutional rights as grown-ups!!! Don't forget to boycott standardized testing!!!" —From The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby by Dav Pilkey

What is your favorite breakfast cereal?

Trader Joe's granola with plain nonfat yogurt and half a banana, sliced thin.

What was your favorite story as a child?

A folk tale called "Little One-Eye, Little Two-Eyes, and Little Three-Eyes." It is about three sisters, of which only the middle one is normal, with the right number of eyes; she is also the cleverest. As the middle of three sisters myself, I thought that story hit upon a profound truth.

What do you do for relaxation?

I'm a compulsive computer solitaire player.

What is your idea of bliss?

A picnic that includes hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and basil, goat cheese, a baguette, pears or tangerines, my husband, a warm day, a shady spot, no traffic sounds, and very cold champagne in glass flutes.

Tell us about your pets.

At 130 pounds, Gandalf is a big lug of a Ridgeback, sentimental and dramatic. When he's hungry, he flings his huge hard-plastic food bowl into the air, aiming it to land at my feet with a clatter. He loves to do this when we have company, to show them that he would starve if he had to wait for me to remember to feed him. When I'm writing, if he wants to go for a walk he pokes his nose under my right wrist, flipping it off the keyboard. If I try to keep on typing, he'll gently knock the mouse aside. He has an impressive aural vocabulary in both French and English, includingcarotte (which makes him stare at the exact spot where, on the other side of the fridge door, his carrots — his favorite snack — are stored) and "Pas dans la cuisine!" ("Out of the kitchen!").

÷ ÷ ÷

Susan Patron specialized in Children's Services for 35 years at the Los Angeles Public Library before retiring in 2007, the same year her novel The Higher Power of Lucky was awarded the John Newbery Medal. As the library's Juvenile Materials Collection Development Manager, she trained and mentored children's librarians in 72 branches. Patron has served on many book award committees, including the Caldecott and Laura Ingalls Wilder Committees of the American Library Association. She is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Higher Power of Lucky Used Trade Paper $4.95
  2. Lucky Breaks Sale Hardcover $6.98
  3. Maybe Yes, Maybe No, Maybe Maybe New Trade Paper $5.99
  4. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby
    Used Trade Paper $3.95
  5. The Higher Power of Lucky
    Used Hardcover $6.95

Susan Patron is the author of Lucky Breaks

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