The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Charles Ghigna
Today, I have the honor to interview a friend and poet extraordinaire. He's kind and generous to others, prolific, and amazingly talented. Definitely living up to the moniker Father Goose!
Charles Ghigna - Father Goose® lives in a treehouse in the middle of Alabama.
He is the award-winning author of more than 100 books for children and adults from Disney, Random House, Schiffer, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Time, Inc. and other publishers, and more than 5,000 poems that appear in anthologies, textbooks, newspapers, and magazines ranging from Harper’s to Highlights and from The New Yorker to Cricket magazines.
He served as poet-in-residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, instructor of creative writing at Samford University, poetry editor of English Journal for the National Council of Teachers of English, and as a nationally syndicated feature writer for Tribune Media Services. Ghigna has read his poems at The Library of Congress, The John F. Kennedy Center, American Library in Paris, American School in Paris, the International Schools of South America, and at schools, conferences, libraries, and literary events throughout the U.S. and overseas.
Charles’ most recent books include Little Hearts, illustrated by Jacqueline East (2022), Fetch, Cat. Fetch!, illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde (2022), Love is Everything, illustrated by Jacqueline East (2021), A Poem Is a Firefly, illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde (2021), Once Upon Another Time, written with Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal (2021), Stop, Drop, and Roll! (Fire Safety), illustrated by Glenn Thomas (2017), Little Bee, Little Bee, Noisy as Can Be! (Father Goose: Animal Rhymes), illustrated by Ellen Stubbings (2017), Plan and Prepare! (Fire Safety), illustrated by Glenn Thomas (2017), Little Seal, Little Seal, Noisy as Can Be! (Father Goose: Animal Rhymes), illustrated by Ellen Stubbings (2017), and Dial 911! (Fire Safety), illustrated by Glenn Thomas (2017) and A Parade of Puppies, illustrated by Kristi Bridgeman (2016).
As well as poems in numerous collections, including For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day edited by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Helen Cann (2021), School People edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Ellen Shi (2021), Construction People, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Ellen Shi (2020), Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles (2019), A Bunch of Punctuation, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Serge Bloch (2018), One Minute till Bedtime: 60-Second Poems to Send You off to Sleep, edited by Kenn Nesbitt, illustrated by Christoph Niemann (2016).
For additional information on Charles, see our earlier interviews (here) and (here).
His newest picture book, The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry: 101 Favorite Poems for Children, releases this Friday!
What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written a manuscript or a poem (other than your treehouse, of course)?
Great question! I write everywhere and anywhere, but there’s something especially inspiring about flying. I’ve written many poems and book ideas at 30,000 feet. I even wrote a poem about jumping out of an airplane at 5,000 feet! The poem “Divers” is based on my first skydiving experience. It won 1st Place in the Writer’s Digest national poetry contest. I’ve also written a couple of picture book ideas at lunch breaks during my school visits.
I wrote the entire text of The Alphabet Parade during my lunch break on a school visit. I dedicated that book to the school librarian who let me use her quiet office during my lunch break. I arrived early to one of my other school visits and wrote the entire text of one of my most popular books for Random House, Oh My, Pumpkin Pie! What was especially fun, was that I used my rough draft as a writing prompt during that school visit. I let the students make suggestions for the title. I picked three of my their favorite suggestions and let the students vote on the final title. Oh My, Pumpkin Pie was the runaway winner!
Probably the most unexciting, but productive location for me is waiting in the car for my wife while she grocery shops at our local Piggly Wiggly. And last, but not least, I like to write in my head during my daily walks. I’ve had neighbors ask why I was mumbling to myself when they pass me on the sidewalk.
If you see me walking by
And wonder what I said,
Please forgive my mumblings—
I'm writing in my head.
These are awesome! And I think many of us participate in "Write Walking" - thanks for sharing this poem with us. What was your inspiration for The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry: 101 Favorite Poems for Children?
This new baby has been in the works for many years, ever since teachers, librarians, and parents began asking me for a collection of my poems for children. The dedication page begins with this statement:
Thanks to the following editors, publishers, and friends without whose generous encouragement, guidance, and love this treasury of poems would not have found its way to you here today.
I am glad you put together this treasure. How long did it take from writing the first poem to creating the compilation and ultimately publication of The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry?
The Treasury includes poems such as “Mother of the Night” that I wrote forty years ago, along with some recent poems that will be brand new to the readers. I included fan favorites and gathered them into seven sections: Home, Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Animals, and Poetry. I guess you could say that book took me forty years to write.
I guess you could. So, what is the hardest or most challenging thing for you about choosing which poems to put into The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry? Why?
I’ve written thousands of poems. Imagine trying to pick out only one hundred of your favorites. It’s like picking out your favorite children. Sophie’s Choice comes to mind. I finally organized the poems into seven different sections based on themes and subjects. I’ve written more than one poem on many different subjects, but it was easier to choose my best poems based on those seven topics. I hope readers will recognize some of their favorite poems in this collection.
Maybe there's enough 'second' favorites for a Treasury of Poetry 2. What's something you want your readers to know about The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry?
Another great question! I think I can best answer that question with this statement that I recently made when asked, “Why do you write for children?”
The greatest reward for a children’s author is in knowing that our efforts might stir the minds and hearts of young readers with a vision and wonder of the world and themselves that may be new to them or reveal something already familiar in new and enlightening ways.
That is perfect. When you first saw Sara Brezzi’s illustrations in The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you?
Text © Charles Ghigna, 2023. Image © Sara Brezzi, 2023.
Like silver sails on silver ships
A fleet of clouds float by, then slips
Into its Milky Way lagoon
Beneath the lighthouse of the moon.
I fell in love with Sara’s art upon seeing it for the first time when my editor sent me a link to her portfolio. I knew immediately her style was the perfect choice to bring the kind of tone and mood I wanted for the Treasury. I absolutely love every single spread she has created. From the opening images of the book, the viewer senses they are in store for something special. They know they are stepping into a magical world of poetry, a wonder world of poetic magic unlike any they have seen in any other book of poetry for children.
They are definitely magical, imaginative, and stunning. I love this this image and its poem. Do you have a favorite poem in the collection? Or one you want to feature today? What makes it stand out for you?
Text © Charles Ghigna, 2023. Image © Sara Brezzi, 2023.
The Poet Tree House
Welcome to my tree house,
My free house,
My me house,
Where I come to ponder,
To look up at the sky,
Where I come to daydream,
To play dream,
To watch the clouds roll by,
Where the air is fresher,
Where treetops swish and sway,
Where I come to look at
The books that
Take me far away,
Where I come to travel,
My thoughts out of the blue,
Where I come to write out
The night out
In poetry for you.
Ha! The entire collection is made up of my “favorites!” Readers might enjoy reading the very first poem, “The Poet Tree House.” That spread serves as our introduction to the entire collection of the poems in The Treasury.
Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I’m excited to tell you I have two new picture books coming out next year! One is about a precious panda bear cub named Pandora who discovers a magic box illustrated by Jacqueline East who has illustrated several of my books. The other book is a very personal picture book about my great grandfather who came to America from Italy to make his living as a bookbinder. It is illustrated by the wonderfully talented Italian artist, Anna Forlati.
I’m also super excited about several other new other projects under way! I wish I could tell the world about them all, but I must keep those new babies under wraps until everything is signed, sealed, and delivered … with love.
These sound intriguing and I can't wait for their release! Last question, what is the best advice you’ve ever gotten - whether it’s regarding writing, poetry, or not?
My beloved mother was the most creative “kid” I ever met. She used to make up these most imaginative stories ever. Sometimes we’d put on homemade costumes and act out our stories, making them up as we went along with our little plays. Early on she told me to always, “Dream big. You will become your dreams.” She said that over and over again. I can still hear her voice in my head. It’s no wonder my daydreaming mind is still mindful of those magic words from the most imaginative kid I’ve ever known.
What an amazing way to grow up! If only that was the internal voice in everyone's head.
Thank you Charles for sharing with us a bit about yourself and your newest picture book.
Be sure to come back Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry: 101 Favorite Poems for Children.
To find out more about Charles Ghigna, or to contact him:
If you are in the area - take the KIDS (of all ages) to meet
Father Goose! 3 Events! 3 Dates! 3 Locations!
Apr 27 - Alabama Booksmith, Homewood, AL - 4 pm
May 13 - Little Professor/Pepper Place, Bham, AL - 9:30 am May 17 - Homewood Public Library, Homewood, AL - 4 pm Poetry is magic! It is a child’s first introduction to the joy of language and to the enchanted world of books. It is the joyous power of poetry that turns listeners into readers and readers into writers. Thank you for sharing your love of poetry with the children in your life.