What kid (or parent) isn’t terrified by the first day of kindergarten? I adore the approach in PLANET KINDERGARTEN written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt and illustrated by Shane Prigmore. They turn the entire affair into an interstellar space odyssey - which is much easier to handle. Don't you think? Sue stopped by to answer some questions!
Q. Sue - I have to know how the idea for this story came to you. Are you all astronauts at your house?
A. No, so far I am the only one with astronaut aspirations. My daughters are more inclined to run off and join the circus – they defy gravity by climbing silks and hanging upside down Cirque Du Soleil style, and my husband Martin is in a whole different space – the automotive space. He founded a company called newcars.com – once we build cars that can travel to space then he might take more of an interest.
The inspiration for this story goes back to my kindergarten year when NASA was busy launching Apollo rockets. NASA launched Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 10 when I was five years old. Then, they landed Apollo 11 on the moon just after kindergarten ended in July of 1969. There was so much excitement in America at that time for our space program and it has certainly infused my life with excitement over space missions. There was a time when I was deciding between growing up to be a ballerina or an astronaut. I gave up early on ballerina, but I still have high hopes for astronaut. Virgin Gallactic is touting 2014 as the year for space tourism. SpaceX has just released their new Dragon V2 and is readying for space tourism as well in the next couple of years. Kids who are reading Planet Kindergarten today may very well take their first trip into space by college. Planet College…that just might be a sequel.
Q. Sue - The visuals are often very different from the images. So many writers wonder about adding illustration notes. What did you do with this manuscript?
A. I had only one illustration note in the manuscript and that was about splashdown being a bathtub scene as I felt the rest of the text would lead to clear visuals. When I write, the scenes are clear and strong in my mind – as if I am watching the story as a TV show. But I can’t really see what the characters look like. It is so much fun to see what an illustrator comes up with when he/she reads my words.
Q. Sue - You quote NASA in the book - “Failure is not an option.” Why do I get the feeling that has to do with more than kindergarten to you?
A. After I wrote Planet Kindergarten, I set it aside for many moons while working on other projects. Then I visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida with my family. That visit reignited my passion about space, astronauts, and the awe of rocket launches. We saw a rocket in the bay getting ready for a trip to space, and a launch control center that had the famed quote “Failure is not option.” When I got home I pulled out the (yet unnamed) Planet Kindergarten manuscript and added that line. I felt that it applied not only to NASA missions, but also to any child’s kindergarten journey.
Q. Sue - What was your reaction when you saw how Shane had interpreted your text. Was it anything like what you expected?
A. It was even better than expected. Again, I hadn’t imagined what the characters would look like. I still giggle when I look at them. The hero’s NASA eyebrows are simply brilliant, as are the scenes with the aliens from many planets, splashdown, and the shadowy parents. Oh, and the space lunch – fantastic! I imagined Shane’s illustrations would have great appeal to kids – as an award winning Dreamworks animator, I should have known that he would also be able to captivate the adults with his illustrations.
Q. Have you actually met Shane or will you? And how have you celebrated the book’s release? (Please share the kudos it’s getting!)
A. We were selected to attend and sign books at the Southern California Independent Booksellers dinner in April shortly before the release. It was so great to finally meet Shane and learn that he is as kind as he is talented. The weekend of the release we had our first book signing at a bookstore and set up a balloon rocket launches for the kids.
Planet Kindergarten launched a few weeks ago but has already been chosen as:
Amazon Kids Best of May
Amazon Editor’s Pick for Summer Reading (kids books)
IBooks Spring’s Biggest Books (kids books)
American Booksellers Association: The Summer 2014 Kids’ Indie Next List
I even love the dedications in the back. This is such a fun book. Congratulations to you both!
Chronicle books has kindly agreed to give a free copy of PLANET KINDERGARTEN to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win, enter below!