Best pals Pierre and Paul might not speak the same language, but they've got no problem understanding each other!
Using their powers of make-believe to create daring adventures out of normal life, the friends decide to climb the Himalayas. But first, they need to build up their strength with a solid meal. Constructing a teetering, towering sandwich out of ingredients from the fridge, it finally topples over into a pile of ingredients, turning their once-beautiful creation into a boring salad (yuck!). It's not the lunch they hoped for, but fortune favours the brave.
Celebrated children's author Caroline Adderson's newest book, Pierre and Paul: Avalanche! (Owlkids) uses both English and French to tell its story, with plenty of playful visual cues that make learning a new language fun. With charming and spirited illustration by Alice Carter, the book will expand children's bilingual vocabulary while capturing their imaginations.
We're very excited to have Caroline at Open Book today to discuss how a manuscript written fifteen years ago is finally seeing the light of day, how to cope with rejection as a writer, and how she brings a Kidlit attitude with her wherever she goes.
Tell us about your new book and how it came to be.
When my son began kindergarten in French Immersion he had a pretty rocky start, so much so that I agonized about keeping him in the program. I wished that I had some engaging reading materials to help him, but all there seemed to be were French children’s books, which were too difficult, or picture dictionaries, which were boring. So, I decided to write some stories that used French the way he’d been introduced to it when we went to France one summer: a couple of kids (one French, one English) play together and manage to understand each other in context. I called them Pierre and Paul. My agent shopped these stories around and discovered that publishers and educators were quite strict about “immersion”: ie. no English allowed! So, I put the stories away.
Jump ahead fifteen years and the attitude has changed. Karen Li from Owl Kids Books contacted my agent and proposed this very concept. So, Pierre and Paul were finally released from my filing cabinet. Thankfully they are still 6 years old, unlike my son, who is now 21.
Is there a message you hope kids might take away from reading your book?
Generally, I’m not a fan of delivering messages to kids, but as I’ve already confessed, I had an ulterior motive for writing this story: to introduce the French or English reader gently to the other language. Perhaps I was also secretly hoping to make salad more appealing.
Did the book look the same in the end as your originally envisioned it when you started working, or did it change through the process?
One of the things I love about writing for kids, especially in the picture book genre, is that you have a co-contributor. I couldn’t ever have imagined anything as clever and whimsical as what the illustrator, Alice Carter, brought to the project. Certainly, a yak wasn’t on my radar!
How do you cope with setbacks or tough points during the writing process? Do you have any strategies that are your go-to responses to difficult points in the process?
Two of the biggest obstacles for a writer are the fear of rejection and coping with rejection when it comes. The only way to master the first is to write for its own sake and take your gratification from the process. If you do that, you are much less hurt if the finished manuscript doesn’t get published. You still enjoyed writing it. This is why I’m so thrilled about Pierre and Paul: Avalanche. It was rejected everywhere. The moral is: don’t throw anything out! Also, sometimes work is rejected, not because it’s not good enough, but because the timing isn’t right. Write on. Do it for the joy of it.
How would you describe the writing community in Canada in terms of authors writing for young people? What strengths and weaknesses do you observe within the community?
Here in BC we have a wonderful organization called CWILL-BC (Children’s Writers and Illustrators of BC). My impression of most kidlit folks, certainly those in CWILL, is that they are remarkably generous to, and supportive of, their writing colleagues. I also write for adults and that community can be less harmonious. I try to model positive kidlit values no matter which group I’m interacting with. This includes recruiting adult writers over to what I call “the sunny side.”
What's your favourite part of the life cycle of a book? The inspiration, writing the first draft, revision, the editorial relationship, promotion and discussing the book, or something else altogether? What's the toughest part?
My favourite part is definitely the inspiration. The book comes to me fully formed and perfect. A miracle! Then I sit down to write it and discover that transferring the shimmering idea onto the page is going to be excruciating. I also love the editorial process. I’ve been so lucky with my kidlit editors: the late great Sheila Barry, Shelley Tanaka, Yvette Ghione, Yasemin Uçar, Tara Walker, and now Karen Li. Promotion is the hardest part for me. I’d rather be writing! But I do love school visits.
What are you working on now?
A middle-grade novel about the Hospital de Bonecas, the famous doll hospital in Lisbon.
Caroline Adderson is an internationally published, award-winning author of books for readers of all ages. Her children’s books have won the Diamond Willow Award, the Sheila Egoff Award, and the Chocolate Lily Book Award. Her books have been nominated for various awards, including the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award, the Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award, and the Rocky Mountain Book Award. She lives in Vancouver, British Colombia.