The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Lisa Robinson and Review of The Sweetest Scoop

Lisa is a psychiatrist who works with children, teens, and adults and a children's book author. She has an MFA in Creative Writing for Young People from Lesley University where she now teaches an elective course, Creativity and the Unconscious Mind. She lives in the Boston area with her family and three cats. the Spice Cats—Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Paprika. When she's not working or writing, she's flying through the air with her daughters on aerial silks at her local circus studio.


For some basic information on Lisa, check out our earlier interviews (here), (here), and (here).


Her picture books include Were I Not a Girl: The Inspiring Story of Dr. James Barry (2020), Madame Saqui, Revolutionary Ropedancer (2020), Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten (2019) and Pippa’s Night Parade (2019).

Her newest nonfiction picture book, The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Revolution, released May 10th.

Lisa, thank-you so much for stopping by to talk about your newest picture book.


Did you find anything particularly helpful in keeping you inspired and writing these past couple of years?


When the pandemic arrived, I stopped writing altogether. My head was spinning with taking care of my patients and my family. . .I had no room left for creativity. I couldn’t focus well enough to read either. This was devastating for me. I slowly returned to writing by pledging to write “anything” for ten minutes a day which nudged me back into a writing routine. Ultimately, making sure that I was taking care of myself—exercising, meditating, and going for walks with friends—centered me and helped me to feel creative again.


I'm glad you found a way to center again. This has definitely been a crazy time. What was your inspiration for The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Revolution?

When I told my agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin, that I was searching for a new nonfiction book to write, she suggested Ben and Jerry’s ice cream business. She recommended a particular episode of NPR’s How I Built This podcast, one that featured Ben and Jerry discussing the origins of their ice cream business. I listened and was hooked: the combination of humor, determination, and commitment to social justice that went into building their business seemed a great topic for a picture book. And of course, I also love their ice cream.


That's a fun way to find out about a story. How did research and writing about subjects who are alive compare to creating your other two nonfiction books? What was the toughest part of your research and/or writing The Sweetest Scoop?


The process of researching and writing about Ben and Jerry wasn’t much different from my other nonfiction books. In fact, it was easier to write about them because there was so much available information, whereas with my previous subjects, both of whom lived in the 1800s, the resources were fewer and harder to track down. I knew it was unlikely that I would be able to reach Ben and Jerry for an interview, so I immersed myself in all the resources I could find to gather interesting stories about them.


The toughest part about the project was my worry about making sure I got the facts right. I was thrilled (and relieved) when my editor tracked down Ben and Jerry and sent them copies: they liked it enough to give us a nice quote endorsing the book!

That's so cool! Did you learn something particular during the researching or writing of The Sweetest Scoop that will help you with future books?


I wrote many versions of the book, including one with time travel, another with a factory tour, etc . . .and discovered that pushing myself to try so many versions was not only fun but also vital for finding the best approach to the story.


I'm curious about the time travel version. 😊 Were there things about Ben & Jerry that you did not include in the text or the back matter? Anything you wished you could have included?


There were so many interesting ups and downs on their journey to creating their ice cream business that it was hard to decide which stories to keep and which ones to omit.


I wished I could have included the fact that Ben has anosmia, a condition that limits his sense of taste and smell; most of the pleasure he gets from his food comes from texture – hence the widely varying chunky textures in many of their ice cream flavors. I couldn’t find a way to work that information into the story or the backmatter, though.


Wow, then I am so glad I asked and got to learn a special tidbit not in the book! Thanks. How long did it take The Sweetest Scoop to go from its spark to publication?


From spark to publication was three years. I started writing it in early 2019 and my agent sold it later that year.


Did anything surprise you when you first saw Stacy Innerst’s illustrations? Which is your favorite spread?


What surprised me most about the illustrations was the liveliness and energy! The art felt so well suited to the topic. I wasn’t surprised by how delighted I was with Stacy’s art. I suggested Stacy Innerst to my editor when we discussed a wishlist of artists for the project. I’ve always admired his art and so I was thrilled when he agreed to illustrate the book.

Text © Lisa Robinson, 2022. Image © Stacy Innerst, 2022.


I LOVE the final spread with the children eating ice cream cones with a cow. I think my second favorite spread is the one with Ben and Jerry smashing toffee bars for Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch Ice Cream. What’s not to love about climbing a ladder to drop a box of candy on the floor?!


I agree with you, but I'll leave the final spread for them to discover themselves. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


I’m excited about two more books coming out in the next couple of years. Forest Bath Right Down This Path, illustrated by Khoa Le, is about forest bathing. Gifts From Georgia’s Garden is a nonfiction picture book about Georgia O’Keeffe’s garden and the recipes she created from the fruits and vegetables she grew. The book was inspired by a news article I read in early 2020 about Sotheby’s auction of O’Keeffe’s handwritten recipe cards. Artist Hadley Hooper is illustrating the book.


What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

This is the perfect question to answer after the previous one because the setting for my forest bathing book is my favorite forest in Maine: Barred Island Preserve on Deer Isle. Every summer my family hikes through this lush, mossy fog forest that ends at the sea. If you go when the tide is low, you can cross a sandbar to a small island. It’s always a magical and rejuvenating experience. I was happy to send Khoa Le pictures and videos of the preserve’s tree, moss, and plant species. Acadia National Park, another annual excursion, is also a family favorite.

© Stefani Eason


Thank you, Lisa for stopping by and sharing with us. It was great to chat with you again.

To find out more about Lisa Robinson, or contact her:

Website: https://author-lisa-robinson.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/elisaitw

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

Review of The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Revolution


I was so excited to see another biography from Lisa Robinson! As a fan of Ben & Jerry Ice cream, I couldn't wait to read a biography about them.


The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Revolution


Author: Lisa Robinson


Illustrator: Stacy Innerst


Publisher: Abrams (2022)


Ages: 4-8


Nonfiction


Themes:

Persistence, teamwork, social activism, and ice cream.


Synopsis:

A biography of the entrepreneurial, activist duo behind Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and their rocky road to success.


Chunky Monkey. Cherry Garcia. Truffle Kerfuffle. Legendary ice cream makers Ben & Jerry are behind some of the wackiest, tastiest flavors we know and love. It all began when two groovy guys, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, met when they were twelve years old. Ben liked art, Jerry liked science, and they both loved food . . . especially ice cream! They started a business together, and with no idea how to actually make ice cream, they made it happen with teamwork, determination, and an appetite for fun and experimentation. When the doors of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream shop finally opened, crowds flocked. But the pair would still have a rocky road ahead—and ambitious, activist goals to fulfill. Chock-full of facts and humor, this entertaining biography about two hardworking partners living their Americone Dream gives readers plenty to chew on. Through their inventiveness, passion, and activism, Ben & Jerry dreamed of making the world a better, more delicious place—one scoop at a time.


Opening Lines:

Close your eyes and imagine holding and ice cream cone.

Now take a lick...

What does it taste like?

Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry?

A cool swim on a hot summer day?


What about Wavy Gravy,

Truffle Kerfuffle,

or Chubby Hubby?


What's the scoop on

those wacky flavors?

Let's find out...


What I LOVED about this book:

Oh my gosh, if you're like me and have loved Lisa Robinson's previous books you are in for a sweet treat. I absolutely adore this book! What an awesome way to snag a reader's interest. How could you not be dying to turn the page? Even if you "don't like biographies," those funny flavors, wild and wacky illustrations, and Lisa's word pun should tease you enough to at least turn one page.

Text © Lisa Robinson, 2022. Image © Stacy Innerst, 2022.


And then you're hooked! Or are you coned? Either way, Lisa does a fantastic job introducing two boys who seemed different, yet discovered many shared pleasures - biking, camping, and pizza. I loved the way Stacy Innerst represented the scientist and the artist, through their bikes.

Text © Lisa Robinson, 2022. Image © Stacy Innerst, 2022.


So how does a mutual love of ice cream figure into their friendship? Okay, one more page turn. Viola, a summer job in an ice cream truck! As if to highlight Jerry's summer fun of scooping ice cream and telling jokes, we get photobombed by the punniest bovine you've ever met. "What does a cat like to eat on a hot day? A mice cream cone!" This adorable cow pops in and out adding dashes of puns and humor, like sprinkles on a sundae. These lighthearted illustrations masterfully play off Lisa's conversational tone and puns within the text. as "challenges churned their way."


Continuing with this light, easy-going touch in both the text and illustration, the book explores the amazing partnership of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield as they overcame rejections, brainstormed a business, blended their talents, and traversed the rocky road of corporate competition. While I knew of their delicious ice cream and some of their activism, it was fun to learn about the unexpected place where they first made ice cream. How the I.C.F.L.C. (Ice Cream For Life Club) started with a plumber. And the creation of a flavor graveyard.


With a fun bit of whimsy, opening day features a sea of wonderfully diverse floating heads and a cameo of the cow joking while changing an ice cream truck's tire.

Text © Lisa Robinson, 2022. Image © Stacy Innerst, 2022.


Lisa does a terrific job of showcasing the various ways that Ben and Jerry played to their strengths as a scientist (developing the correct formula/recipe) and an artist (unique way of creating toffee chunks for the ice cream) to make their dream come true. While Stacy's enticing watercolor illustrations deliciously highlight the wacky names and fun flavor combinations, they also poignantly and soberly capture the harshness of corporate competition and the societal angst of the 60's & 70's.


A deep desire to use Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream for social change, influenced how they treated their employees, made decisions on packaging, and created specialty flavors whose profits benefited causes of the Ben & Jerry's Foundation. Wait until you see the imaginative illustrations of these specialty cartons and the Foundation's board! As well as the sweet final spread.


This is a treat for the senses, both aurally and visually. A wonderful tribute to two creative guys who changed ice cream and continue to work to change lives. An author's note and timeline highlight other interesting tidbits about Ben, Jerry, and their ice cream. A biography sure to captivate a wide audience of kids and adults with its colorfully whimsical illustrations and conversationally punny look at what persistence, collaboration, and a conviction for social justice can accomplish.


Resources:

- make a fun ice cream craft.

- what's your favorite flavor of ice cream? Do you like it best in a cone or a cup? How does it make you feel?

- if you could create your own new flavor, what would it be? Draw, or describe the label you'd put on the carton.

- now create a flavor that you think would join "Wavy Gravy" and "Fossil Fuel" in the Flavor Graveyard.

- how can you join Ben and Jerry in finding ways to help the planet?

Decorative scroll design
Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Decorative scroll design

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