If you’re looking for a great story with lots of heart, you should check out the wonderful book FREDDY THE NOT-TEDDY. Find out more in my interview with Kristen Schroeder. Illustrations by Hilary Jean Tapper.
📚What was your least favorite food as a child? Do you still dislike it?
My least favorite food was liver. For some reason, my mom would serve that up about once/month and I could barely look at it. I even signed a contract with my parents when I was seven years old that I would eat anything EXCEPT liver. I still hate liver.
📚Who has been a mentor in your life? Or if you could have anyone as a mentor who would it be?
I dedicated FREDDY THE NOT-TEDDY to my mom. The dedication says, “To my mother, Marlene, for sharing her love of books with me.” My mom was an English teacher before I was born and she is the biggest book lover I know. She definitely instilled a love of books in me during my childhood. We made weekly visits to the library and I always had a book on my bedside table.
📚What school subjects did you like best? My favorite subject in elementary school was spelling.
I practiced and practiced for our annual spelling bees and even won the Spelling Bee Champ title in fourth and sixth grade. That meant I got to compete at the district-wide spelling bee, but I didn’t win there. I still remember misspelling the word “receipt”.
📚Now, let’s talk about FREDDY THE NOT-TEDDY. What inspired you to write this story?
My son had a favorite stuffed animal named Freddy. He was bright yellow and some kind of duck or chicken; we weren’t sure. One night I referred to him as “Freddy the not-Teddy” and it sparked the idea for this book.
📚Jonah and Freddy have a wonderful friendship. Can you talk about this a little bit?
I had quite a collection of stuffed animals growing up, and I always thought of them as having their own personalities and feelings. I wanted to portray this type of closeness between Jonah and Freddy. I was thrilled to see how Hilary Jean Tapper illustrated the close nature of their friendship through imaginative play and adventure.
📚Freddy is such a unique and lovable stuffed animal. How can Freddy encourage kids to be themselves?
There’s a wonderful quote by Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Freddy is just Freddy, and Jonah loves him. I think Jonah’s role in being a brave and supportive friend reinforces the message of being true to yourself.
📚This book has lots of heart. What advice would you give to writers who are looking to add more heart to their stories?
This is a tough question for me. My first picture book, ALIEN TOMATO, is a humorous, slightly silly tale. Most of my writing tends to be more on the funny side. Similar to humor, I think heart is something that can’t be forced. It naturally appeared in FREDDY THE NOT-TEDDY as I was writing the story. I don’t have a magic formula to share unfortunately.