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"I Learned That Writing Could Be Hilarious" Naseem Hrab on the Books that Shaped Her Writing Life

Naseem Hrab

Acclaimed picture book author (and beloved Open Book columnist!) Naseem Hrab knows a thing or two about friendship, and she captures that magic in her Ira Crumb series, the newest instalment of which is Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings (OwlKids, illustrated by Josh Holinaty). 

Ira returns to readers with his best friend Malcolm - laughing, playing, and having tons of fun. But when the two pals find themselves disagreeing about a game, Ira suddenly finds himself left all alone. Suddenly filled with bad feelings he's never encountered before, Ira has to sort out how he feels, how friends can disagree and work it out, and how to communicate about it all.

Packed with Naseem's trademark heart and humour, Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings is a great book to help kids understand their own. We're excited to welcome Naseem to Open Book today to discuss the books that helped her as a writer, reader, and person. 

She tells us about the book that expanded her brain, her "favouritest" book ever (it might be a favourite of yours too!), and a very relatable title for her imaginary autobiography.

WAR: The Writers as Readers series with Naseem Hrab:

The book I have re-read many times:

Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William Mckinley, And Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg. In this middle grade novel, Elizabeth really, really wants to believe that her friend Jennifer is a real witch and I’ve always really, really wanted to be a real witch, so this book has always really, really spoken to me.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:

Good Work, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish. This book literally expanded my brain when I was in grade two. I could feel it happening the moment Amelia cut up a bunch of sponges to put in sponge cake. I had never read comedy like that before!!! My child-sized brain was like, “HAHAHAHA?! OMG! WHAAAT, AMELIA?! MIND BLOWN!!!” and then I learned that writing could be HILARIOUS and my brain grew, like, ten sizes.

The best book I read in the past six months:

The Funeral by Matt James. Adults always seem to be afraid to let children read sad books that aren’t, well, didactic. I think that The Funeral is so stunning and so perfect. There’s something to be said for learning that not everything seems to happen for a reason and you don’t always get all of your questions answered. And that’s okay.

My go-to recommendation when someone asks for something great to read:

The Princess Bride by William Goldman. The Princess Bride is probably my favouritest book ever. It’s so playful and fun. IT SPARKLES!!! I beg you to read it ASAP if you haven’t already.

The strangest book I've ever read and how I felt about it:

The Girl in the Box by Ouida Sebestyen. In this YA novel, a teenager named Jackie is left in an underground cement room by an unknown captor. All she has is a box of stale donuts, some water, and a typewriter. This is the most haunting book that I read when I was a kid. I only read it once and I don’t know that I have it in me to read it ever again.

A possible title for my autobiography:

Sometimes I Feel Like a Potato: The Naseem Hrab Story.


Naseem Hrab is a writer and storyteller. Her comedy writing has appeared on McSweeney's Internet Tendency and The Rumpus. Naseem worked as a librarian for a time and now works in children's publishing. She's a fan of improv comedy and cheddar cheese. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Buy the Book

Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings

Ira and Malcolm are best friends: they always make each other laugh, always eat lunch together, and always play together. But one day, a disagreement about whether to play tag or hide-and-seek sees the suddenly über-popular Malcolm run off with a crowd of tag-loving kids—and Ira all alone.

Ira’s tummy hurts, his chin is wibbling, and his eyes are leaking. What’s happening?! Any efforts to cheer him up fall flat. When Malcolm finally returns and asks what’s wrong, Ira tells him: “I had all these feelings…and I didn’t have you.”

The second Ira Crumb book marks the return of an endearing character full of personality, humor, and heart. With lots of laughs and comics-style storytelling, it’s a funny, touching look at how feelings can be confusing, and how processing emotions can take time—and a bit of help from a pretty good friend.