The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview Rebecca Kraft Rector and Shanda McCloskey + Book Review

So today, I get to interview the author and illustrator of a really fun fractured fairy tale.

Rebecca Kraft Rector has lived in Maryland, Georgia, Florida, and Virginia. She’s a twin and the oldest of four children. For as long as Rebecca can remember, she’s loved reading and writing stories and poems. So, it’s no surprise that she became a librarian and writer. But she’s also worked as a cleaner, babysitter, shampoo girl, filer, typist, reading and study skills teacher, and elementary school network manager.


She loves animals, especially cats and horses. Her cats Ollie and Opal keep her company while she writes. Since she doesn’t care for coffee, her writing is fueled by dark chocolate chips, often eaten on graham crackers.


Rebecca is the author of more than thirty fiction and nonfiction books for children, including The International Space Station (2022), Squish Squash Squished, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte (2021), Constitution Writers (2020), Let’s Learn About Space Series (2020), Let’s Learn About Matter Series (2020), Shawn Mendes: Singer-Songwriter (2019), Investigating Biodiversity: Zoom In On Reptiles (2019), Looking To The Stars And Beyond (2019), Sculpting Landscapes (2019), Amazing Animal Senses (2019), Let’s Find Out! Where Plants Grow (2018), Natural Wonders: Amazon Rainforest (2018), Natural Wonders: Grand Canyon (2018), Natural Wonders: Great Barrier Reef (2018), and Natural Wonders: Sahara Desert (2018).

Shanda (rhymes with panda) McCloskey comes from a whole family of different kinds of artists and entrepreneurs! She studied art in Atlanta and New York City. But before writing and illustrating kids’ books, she taught art to high schoolers. Shanda now lives in Ball Ground, Georgia with her husband, daughters, and dog. She is also co-creator of the Author Visit Podcast and Author Visit Central. She invites you to visit her at https://www.shandamc.com/.


Shanda is the author/illustrator of T-Bone the Drone (2019), Doll-E 1.0 (2018), and the illustrator of Bedtime Ballet by Kallie George (2021) and Fire Truck vs. Dragon by Chris Barton (2020).

Their newest picture book, Little Red and the Big Bad Editor, releases September 6th.


Welcome Rebecca and Shanda,


Thanks for having us here today, Maria.


Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write and illustrate? How long have you been writing and illustrating?)


REBECCA - I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote poems, stories, and plays in elementary school. Now, I usually write at my desk, but I definitely have been known to write in bed. Mostly I use my computer but I’ve been known to jot down ideas in a notebook first thing in the morning or late at night.


SHANDA - Hi there! I write, illustrate, and visit schools full time (since 2018), but I started writing, illustrating, and trying to break into the biz for about 10 years before that! I started on my kitchen table, but now I do my work in a shed in my backyard outfitted by my sweet and talented husband. 😊


What is something no one (or few) knows about you?


REBECCA - My teacher “quarantined” me in third grade for talking too much.


SHANDA - You asked for it … I have a really bad potty mouth at home 😊 My kids get onto me constantly for saying bad words. Teehee!


Oh my, Rebecca! Shanda don't let them learn about a swearing jar; sounds like they could bankrupt you! Rebecca, what was the inspiration for Little Red and the Big Bad Editor?


REBECCA - I was playing around with folktale titles and came up with Little Red WRITING Hood. I laughed when I thought of having Little Red write a thank you letter to Granny and the Big Bad Wolf would point out all her mistakes.


It is a really funny premise. Shanda, what about the Little Red and the Big Bad Editor manuscript appealed to you as an illustrator?


SHANDA - I laughed and smiled so big when I read the manuscript! So my decision was easy – YES!!


*Smiling* What's something both of you want your readers to know about Little Red and the Big Bad Editor?


REBECCA - I had so much fun writing Little Red. I really enjoyed coming up with the sounds (Splish, splash, sploosh!) and with the food similes.


SHANDA - Writing letters (especially thank you letters) will NEVER go out of style! This book helps little writers and big writers (like my middle-schooler) to format a lovely letter.


Anything to keep letter writing alive! Shanda, many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in Little Red and the Big Bad Editor? Could you share one or more with us?


SHANDA - Sure!

1. I put my own kids’ pictures up on Granny’s refrigerator

2. In the illustrations, I have Little Red stealing Wolf’s skateboard (maybe he stole it from someone else?) to get away

3. Little Red lives in the woods and Granny lives in a more developed area

4. There’s some nods to some of my other books on Red’s shelf in her room (ex: a fire truck and a snuggle bunny)


Thanks for pointing these out. So, as a child, who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book?

REBECCA - I was a big reader as a child. I loved so many books—family stories, mysteries, fantasies, science fiction. I especially loved the “shoe” books by Noel Streatfield (Ballet Shoes, Circus Shoes, Skating Shoes, etc.). Someday I’d like to write Horse Shoes.

SHANDA - One of my favorite books as a third grader (which also features the big bad wolf) was The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith! I was so captivated how they twisted that tale and wrote Wolf as a victim. 😊


Awesome books! What is the hardest thing for you about writing or illustrating? How about with Little Red and the Big Bad Editor in particular?


REBECCA - The hardest thing for me is overcoming procrastination. Even when I love what I’m writing, it’s hard to make myself sit down and write.


SHANDA - The hardest thing is simply the “slog” to complete the project. That’s always the hardest part for me with any project I do. I love generating ideas and sketching, but just putting my butt in the chair and finishing the work at hand, on time, takes extra big girl pants!


But you both do, eventually, get there. Rebecca, you’ve written fiction and nonfiction books, do you have a preference? Is one genre harder, or maybe easier for you?


REBECCA - My nonfiction books are written to a deadline. So I have to write—no procrastination allowed. In that way, nonfiction is easier. And I really enjoy learning new things. But I love to create stories and have fun with words. Fiction is my favorite.


Shanda, as an illustrator and an author/illustrator do you find one role harder or easier than the other? What do you like about illustrating other’s books?


SHANDA - Writing is harder for me hands down! But I LOVE doing it anyway. Illustrating someone else’s writing is helpful, because spending time with the words of a masterful storyteller can only train my tastes to be better and spill over into my own writing.


Rebecca, when you first saw Shanda’s illustrations did anything surprise or amaze you? What is your favorite spread?

Text © Rebecca Kraft Rector, 2022. Image © Shanda McCloskey, 2022.


REBECCA - Everything about Shanda’s illustrations amazed me. The colors, the sass, the characters! Shanda brought everything to life…and then some! I think my favorite spread is when Little Red is triumphantly flying through the air on the skateboard, having finally (we hope) defeated the Big Bad Wolf.


That is such a fun spread. Shanda, is there a spread that you were especially excited about or proud of? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Rebecca Kraft Rector, 2022. Image © Shanda McCloskey, 2022.


SHANDA - I think my favorite spread is right when Red jots down her thanks letter to her Granny. She’s so excited about her cape that her joy just spills over onto her paper. I think that’s a lovely place to start writing in real life.


I totally agree with you. Are there any new projects you both are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


REBECCA - I have several picture books that are close to being finished, as well as a middle grade novel or two.


SHANDA - My next illustrated book is about an underappreciated stuffed bunny that sets off on an adventure around the cul-de-sac looking for purpose. It’s called Nubby, written by Dan Richards, and it comes out from Knopf in January 2023!


Good luck Rebecca. And Shanda - that cover is amazing! I'm looking forward to reading this book. What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

REBECCA - I love any place with forests, lakes, and flowers. I’ve been to the U.S. Botanic Gardens and I’d love to visit others all over the country, or even the world!

SHANDA -I have a fondness for Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY where I once spent a year living that city life!


Thank you Rebecca & Shanda for stopping by to share about yourself and your newest picture book.


To find out more about Rebecca Kraft Rector, or contact her:

Website: https://rebeccakraftrector.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RebeccaKRector

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaKRector

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rebeccakrector/


To find out more about Shanda McCloskey, or contact her:

Website: https://www.shandamc.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShandaMcCloskey

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shandamc

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shandamccloskeydraws/


Review of Little Red and the Big Bad Editor


Okay, so now that you've got a little insight behind the scenes and a peek at a few spreads, bet you're excited to learn more about this spectacularly punny twist on a familiar fairy tale.

Little Red and the Big Bad Editor


Author: Rebecca Kraft Rector


Illustrator: Shanda McCloskey


Publisher: Aladdin Books/Simon & Schuster (2022)


Ages: 4-8


Fiction


Themes:

Fractured fairy tale, letter writing, editing, and ingenuity.


Synopsis:

In this clever and playful fractured fairy tale picture book, the Big Bad Wolf is so distracted by Little Red’s poorly written thank you note to her grandmother that he keeps missing the chance to eat her!


Once upon a time, Little Red received a bold new cape from her Granny. She wrote her a thank you note, packed a basket of goodies, and walked through the meadow to Granny’s house. But swish swash SWOOP, the big bad wolf stops her in her tracks, opens his mouth wide, leans in close and…​


Sees the note.


Mr. Wolf can’t believe how sloppy the letter is—Red can’t give this to Granny! He corrects her grammar but misses out on his dinner while he’s distracted each time he encounters Red on the path. Can she keep outsmarting the Big Bad Editor and make it all the way to Granny’s house?


Opening Lines:

Little Red was pleased as punch. Granny

had sent her a present!

Red ripped off the wrappings and removed

a cape as scarlet as a ripe tomato.


What I LIKED about this book:

Using a fun bunch of alliteration, similes, delicious puns, and a touch of education, this fracture swishes and splishes the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood on its caboose. Instead of heading off to bring food to an ailing grandmother, at her mother's request, Little Red, energized by the gift of a glorious cape, dashes off a thank you note, grabs some goodies, and "sashayed through the meadow to Granny’s house."

Text © Rebecca Kraft Rector, 2022. Image © Shanda McCloskey, 2022.


I love Shanda McCloskey's interspersal of full bleed full and half page spreads with elements of graphic books. Specifically the panels, action/sound verbs, and speech bubbles. Although, of course, there's a wolf with big ears, big claws, and even bigger sharp teeth, he's comically drawn with a pencil behind his ear wearing a turtle-neck sweater with a pocket protector and needing reading glasses. And just when we think Red is a goner...

Text © Rebecca Kraft Rector, 2022. Image © Shanda McCloskey, 2022.


Red says "cool as a cucumber" covering her head with letter. As the wolf leans close, with those big teeth...page turn... the wolf's editorial nature overrules his hunger for a "dainty morsel." He can't help it. The letters are all smooshed together. After adding finger spacing, he declares now it's "Time for dinner" and Red shoves a cinnamon muffin in his mouth and skedaddles.


I love the interaction of the narration, full of food puns, tongue-in-cheek humor, and jaunty phrases, with the colorful comic-like illustrations, full of giant leaps and super-human throwing skills. Each time Red is cornered by the wolf, he opens wider, leans in closer...and finds something else wrong with her letter - punctuation or missing opening & closing. And each time, with progressively wild efforts, Red throws a treat in the wolf's mouth and escapes. The book needs a warning - "Don't read when hungry."


Even the setting is flipped on its ear. After mastering hopscotch & Double Dutch, Red nears Granny's house in the City, when a spiky-helmeted, skate-boarding wolf "SKOOPS" onto the scene. She makes it to Granny's. Then suddenly the text declares, "Well, this was a fine kettle of fish" and the cat - who'd been about to eat from a smelly pot of fish - scoots across the room! The puns, word play, and lively illustrations continue all the way to the end where....spoilers. You don't want to miss this ending, so skeddadle out and find a copy.


This delightful fracture is so funny you forget you're learning pointers on good letter writing habits. It's also a wonderful mentor text showing that even often-told fairy tales can still be fractured in unusual ways. Overall, a howling good, entertaining read.


Resources:

- make your own thank you cards. Who could you write a letter or thank you card to?


- look at Little Red Gliding Hood by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Troy Cummings and Little Red Writing by Joan Holub, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Can you think of a fun way to change this or any other fairy tale? Write or draw your version of the tale.


- be sure to check out the educator's guide ~ https://www.shandamc.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Little-Red-Educators-Guide.pdf.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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