Interview with Jen Arena

Time for another #ChatWithThePBLady 🥳🎉

Today, I’m chatting with Jen Arena about her fun book ACORN WAS A LITTLE WILD. Illustrated by Jessica Gibson.

📚If you were a milkshake, what flavor would you be?

Mint chocolate chip, the kind where all the chips fall to the bottom. You have to dig deep to get to the really good stuff. 

📚Do you have a favorite family recipe?

I’m a big fan of Pfannekuchen, which my stepfather used to make for the family. They’re fluffy German pancakes that you spread with jam, apples, peanut butter, or Nutella then roll up, slice, and eat. And then the next day, you cut the leftover pancakes into thin strips and make a soup with them. Kind of odd, but delicious!

📚If you had the whole day to spend outdoors, what would you do?

I’d pack a lunch and a book, leash up my dog, and go for long wander. I’m definitely more of a forest person than a beach person. In the woods, it’s cool and shady, and I love looking for moss and mushrooms and wildflowers and interesting trees.

📚What’s your favorite animal?
Hedgehogs! I once saw a hedgehog crossing a hotel parking lot in New Zealand and couldn’t believe how adorable it was. I wanted to slip it in my pocket and take it home!

📚Let’s talk about ACORN WAS A LITTLE WILD. Where did you get the idea to write a book from an acorn’s point of view?

When people hear I live in Florida, most of them immediately picture palm trees. But mypart of the state is full of huge, twisty old oak trees with hanging Spanish moss. I walk my dog every day in the park near my house and she’s obsessed with squirrels, so I’ve spent a lot of time watching them, too. One day, we were watching a squirrel with an acorn in its paws and the sentence “Acorn was a nut” jumped into my head. I wrote it down and for about half a year didn’t know what came next. Later I wrote about six more lines and put it away for another six months. The next time I opened that file, the whole story popped out. Sometimes stories just take their time. I’m so happy with the way the book turned out and have to give a shout-out to Jessica Gibson’s amazing art. Her rendition of Acorn is so endearing—he’s just so expressive. It seems that everyone who sees the cover falls in love with Acorn just like I did.

📚Tell us about Acorn. What makes him wild?

Acorn is wild at heart in all the best ways, 100% open to the world and everything in it. He’s not satisfied with hanging around doing nothing or letting others take the lead. He wants to explore and have adventures. Acorn embraces whatever life sends his way, both good andbad, and when he grows up and settles down, he doesn’t lose his wild side or his positive attitude. He still laughs, throws parties for his friends, and has a roaring good time.

📚How does Acorn face the challenges that come his way?

Acorn goes ALL IN on everything. He’s the first acorn to jump off the tree even though Oak warns him not to. When a squirrel grabs him, he’s not afraid. He loves the rush of Squirreljumping from tree to tree. Even while his world is at its darkest, Acorn appreciates the coolthings going on around him. To him, any challenge can also be an opportunity. 

📚This book has nature and stem themes. Can you talk about this a little bit?

I love that teachers are coming away from this book with STEM and nature lessons in mind! I didn’t plan that when I was writing Acorn Was a Little Wild, but since the character is a tree nut, STEM themes are definitely embedded in the story. Reading this book can be a great way to teach kids about the life cycle of a tree. It’s also a fun jumping off point for talking about how trees contribute to our communities, by providing shade, food, shelter for animals, and oxygen. I’ve even had friends point out that it might help kids who worry about growing up or who are going through difficult times.

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