Friday, February 15, 2008

Interview with Catherine Ipcizade

I recently had the opportunity to interview Catherine Ipcizade (pronounced ip-chi-zah-deh), author of recently released 'Twas the Day Before Zoo Day, a very cute book written in verse adapted from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Read my review here.

Thanks, Catherine, for taking the time to talk!

What inspired you to write 'Twas the Day Before Zoo Day?
A few things actually inspired me to write the book. Watching my own kids and the kids in my son's classroom "eat up" information about animals was exciting. They'd pick up any book that had an animal on the cover and devour it. But I quickly realized books fell into one of two categories--either they were exaggerated fiction or they were strictly non-fiction. All too often, the kids would pick up a book expecting one thing and be disappointed with too much "over their head" information. So I decided to do something a little different--to put a clever twist on non-fiction and to create a factually correct but entertaining book about animals. Sylvan Dell was the perfect publisher for the book because their books inform while entertaining.

Do you have a favorite zoo animal or a favorite zoo? Did you use a specific zoo(s) for inspiration when writing 'Twas the Day Before Zoo Day?
Ooh! Good question! I DO have a favorite zoo animal--giraffes! I've learned so much about them. For example, did you that giraffes have slimy, blue tongues that can reach 18 inches in length? And did you know that one the reasons their tongues are blue is to prevent them from getting a sunburn, since they spend so many hours eating each day? :)

In answer to your zoo question, I love all zoos. I think, no matter how big or small they are, they all have something special to offer and teach us. However, in my own area, I love the San Diego Zoo. You can't beat the setting and the wide array of animals. In some way, all the zoos I've visited throughout the my lifetime (San Diego Zoo, Orange County Zoo, Santa Ana Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, etc) provided inspiration for the book. All you have to do is take a walk around the zoo or take the tram tour and you'll see amazing things--lazy rhinos "tanning n the sun," monkeys hanging every which way, zebras in groups, appearing to "talk," etc. Once, at the San Diego Zoo, we passed a group of monkeys frolicking in the grass. One mother monkey was holding her baby and looking at the tram in this, "stay away, folks" kind of way. It reminded me that all creatures protect their young...and that message found its way into 'Twas the Day Before Zoo Day!

What was your first impression of the illustrations when you first saw them?

I adored the illustrations from the start. I had envisioned bright, bold illustrations for this book, and Ben Hodson couldn't have done a more amazing job. I was particularly amazed with the animal facial expressions--he captured the essence of the story flawlessly and added such clever twists to the text!

What do you love about writing? What is it about children's books you love?

I love writing because I loved reading. As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on--I'd even sneak hardware catalogs out of the Sunday paper and read them under my covers at night with a flashlight when I couldn't find anything else--it's true! Personally, I love to write because it's a creative release for my soul. I love writing children's books because they allow children to imagine themselves somewhere else, with character like themselves or completely different than themselves. Children's books are magical--writing them allows me to remember what it's like to be a kid, to imagine without boundaries.

What authors and/or books have influenced you the most?
When I was a kid myself, I couldn't get enough of Dr. Seuss. I must have read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish about a million times. In elementary school, I loved the Serendipity books, and those little Beatrix Potter books. As I got older, I became entranced with Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, and Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. And Judy Blume books! Oh, I devoured them every chance I got--brilliant! All decidedly different, these books had one thing in common--they reached me somehow, on some level, enough that they somehow became a part of me.

When you're not writing, what can we find you doing?
Besides writing, I'm the mom to two lovely kids, ages seven and four. I'm also back in school, working toward my Master's Degree in Education. In my spare time, you'll often find me with my camera, taking lots and lots of pictures, or in my kitchen--this writer LOVES to cook!

What can we expect to see from you next?
Ooh, lots of things are in the works. I just had three books released from Capstone Press (African Animals: Giraffes; African Animals: Lions ; African Animals: Zebras), which were a lot of fun to write. I'm currently submitting a picture book about a mischievous elf in a library and switching genres a bit to work on a novel-in-verse for middle-grade readers. I'm also working on some greeting cards for the adult market--the life of a writer is never dull!

Thanks for hosting me. It's been wonderful "chatting" with you.

No, thank YOU Catherine, and best wishes!

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