AS: Anna, congrats on your debut picture book, BAT COUNT! It’s a beautifully told story, jam-packed with interesting facts as well as the fantastic concept of “Citizen Science.” It’s also a big hit in my household! Thank you for answering some of my two-debut interview questions.
AF: My pleasure, Annie!
BAT COUNT seems especially appropriate for this time of year. Even though the actual bat counting takes place in August, Halloween is the time people most associate with bats (and vampires!)
I know, from a marketing perspective, the story’s timing is wonky — October has a complete monopoly on bats!!
Where did you get the idea for BAT COUNT?
My family has an old farm in central Pennsylvania, and a colony of bats lives in its barn. When we heard about white nose syndrome — and that scientists were asking people to track bat colonies – we decided to start a count. Jojo, the narrator, definitely has bits of me and my two daughters in her!
Tell us a little about what has drawn you to bats and what compelled you to tell this story?
Writing Bat Count and doing events with scientists who work with bats has taught me a ton about them; they are really cool creatures! But the citizen science aspect of the story always felt just as important. I’m a nature-geek, and have this hyper-awareness of the negative impacts that humans are having on the planet. Though any real fixes are going to have to happen at systemic levels, getting involved in citizen science makes me feel a little less helpless. Hopefully Jojo and her story can give kids a sense of hope and agency too.
If you could choose to live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be? Why?
The pond-portal in Joseph Kuefler’s Beyond The Pond leaps to mind. I love what that book captures about how imagination and new experiences can change the way we see the world. Plus: who wouldn’t want to have a day like Ernest D.’s?
If you could take credit for ANY other published PB out there, which one would you choose?
Jon Klassen’s This Is Not My Hat. That particular unreliable narrator, the perfect page turns, the eyes, the ambiguous ending… I find myself going back to that book over and over again.
Tell me about the pet/s you had growing up.
Our first pet was this snarky black and white cat named Rimsky. when he was a few years old his tail started drooping, and we discovered he had a degenerative neurological disease that was moving up his spinal cord and would, eventually, paralyze him. To save him, the vet removed half of his tail, and Rimsky ended up with a perky little stump that didn’t match his personality and — it seemed to me — embarrassed him. He was totally long-suffering.
Are you a fan of Halloween? Will you dress up this year? If so, what will your costume be?
I’m not a big dresser-upper, but my family does have a Halloween tradition that gets me to put on a pointy hat and robe: we live in a row house in downtown Philadelphia, on a corner, and we open the gates of our postage-stamp-sized back yard, push the furniture aside, and set up a table full of candles and jars of all sorts of gross things (mostly made of food): cat brains, dog eyeballs, baby fingers… We put a candy basket in the middle of it all and dare trick-or-treaters to stick their hands in one of the jars before they take any candy. The kids totally love it.
And I can’t resist – what is your absolute favorite Halloween candy? (and least favorite?)
SMARTIES. Hands down. Though I wouldn’t turn down a box of MILK DUDS either. And, despite loving coconut, I will never understand the appeal of MOUNDS.
Thank you for sharing your answers with us!
Thanks Annie! It has been great getting to know you and the other debuts at Picture The Books this year!
For Halloween enthusiasts in the NYC area, Anna will be reading and talking about bats at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Ghost and Ghouls festival on Saturday, October 28. It’s a huge event, with great music and activities, and a fantastic line-up of children’s authors!
Annie Silvestro is a lover of books who reads and writes as much as possible and can often be found shuffling piles of them around so she has a place to sit or someplace to put her teacup. She is the author of Bunny’s Book Club, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Doubleday), and Mice Skating, illustrated by Teagan White (Sterling). Forthcoming books include The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains, illustrated by Paola Zakimi (HarperCollins Fall 2018) and Bunny’s Book Club Goes to School, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Doubleday, Summer 2019). Annie lives with her family by the beach in New Jersey. Visit Annie online at www.anniesilvestro.com or on Twitter and Instagram @anniesilvestro.
Anna Forrester’s picture book, Bat Count (Arbordale), was released in February 2017 . Anna loves nothing better than to stumble onto a funny idea or a great question, and hold on tight as it leads her through books, her imagination, and unexpected nooks and crannies of the real world. She also loves words and stories, and many of her adventures find their way into the stories she writes. In her other life, she makes landscapes for play. Anna is a Missouri native, and now lives in Philadelphia with her husband, dog, and two daughters. Visit Anna on line at www.annaforrester.com, or on Twitter @annaforr.