Hi Gilbert! Welcome back to Twenty by Jenny, this time with HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLED.
Where did you first hear of Ruth Wakefield & the invention of the chocolate chip cookie? How did that story inspire you?
I was trying to write a “sequel” to The Marvelous Thing That Came From A Spring. By sequel, I mean that It had to be about an inventor of something as iconic as the Slinky. I wanted it to be a female inventor this time, but I wrote several different non-fiction stories and the publisher rejected all of them. Then after a night of tossing and turning I awoke and “cookies” appeared in my mind. I remembered browsing over a female inventor of the chocolate chip cookie earlier that week so I pulled up my laptop and discovered it was Ruth Wakefield. I quickly sent the link to my editor and the publisher loved it.
In HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLED, you explain that there are three possible ways the chocolate chip cookie could come about. 1. The Disaster, 2. The Substitute, and 3. The Mastermind. What version of the story do you believe?
In all likelihood, Ruth knew what she was doing when she first baked her chocolate chip cookies. But my research found differing stories that I suspect were fabricated during an era when people craved accidental tales that transformed a nobody into a somebody overnight. Some said the invention was a mistake, while others credited dumb luck. So I wrote several versions and my editor asked me to include all of them and to let the child decide what happened. Coincidentally, the whole fake news fiasco blew up after I turned the book in, so the story turned out to be rather timely.
How did you choose the color-palette when illustrating HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLED?
It wasn’t a conscious decision. But I did consciously illustrate it three different ways: the regular story is straightforward, the intrusive narrator pages are graphic with a flattened perspective, and the three invention stories are illustrated as 1940’s comics with halftone dots.
Why do you think non-fiction picture books are important for kids? This is your second to write, (following The Marvelous Thing that Came from a Spring), and I know you’ve illustrated more.
I write and illustrate all kinds of stories. Right now, there is a need for narrative non-fiction, so that is what I am trying to produce. I think it’s important for kids to read about real people and real events so that they not only know their history, but they gain wisdom for accomplishing their own goals.
What is your favorite cookie? Or better yet, if you had to invent a cookie flavor, what cookie would you invent??
I would want a cookie that was sweet and salty, like chocolate chip cookie with bacon bits.
Any other books baking in the oven?
I have two science books I illustrated coming out next year: ITCH and ROTTEN, by Anita Sanchez. One is 80 pages and the other is 96. They focus on difficult subject matter typically seen as gross, and break it down by chapter in a way that an 8-11 year old can understand. I combine photographed ephemera with multimedia illustrations inspired by 1930’s cartoons.
Thanks, Gilbert! For those of you reading this interview, go out and bake some chocolate chip cookies and eat them while you read this book!