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An Interview with Vicky Fang, Author of The Boo Crew Needs You!

 

 

AN INTERVIEW BY ABI CUSHMAN

WITH VICKY FANG, AUTHOR OF

THE BOO CREW NEEDS YOU!

(Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; $12.99,  Ages 3-8)

 

 

boo crew needs you cover Vampire Skeleton Ghost

 

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

Trouble’s come to Monster Town, and emergencies abound!

There’s no time to wait around… get the Boo Crew!

Get ready for a spooky interactive story experience with Lula, Bones, and Fang—a ghost, skeleton, and vampire team who need YOUR help fixing all the messes and frights of a Halloween night gone wrong! Whether it’s tapping the page to mend a broken pumpkin or turning the book to set a toppling haunted house back upright, the action prompts let kids join in on the fun and save the day.

 

Boo Crew Needs You Ring-a-Ling
Credit: Sourcebooks, Text ©2023 by Vicky Fang, Illustrations by Saoirse Lou

 

INTERVIEW:

Abi Cushman: THE BOO CREW NEEDS YOU! is such a fun Halloween story with a fantastic cast of
spooky characters. You and Saoirse Lou, who illustrated the book, did a wonderful job of making
this book really engaging. What inspired you to write a Halloween-themed story?

Vicky Fang: Aw, thank you! My kids LOVE Halloween. My little one thinks about his costume probably
year-round. I think it was inevitable that I would try to write a Halloween book! Of course, looking
at my drafts, my peak inspirations definitely came right around Halloween, so the annual
reminder kept me coming back to it.

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AC: I love the interactivity in this book. There are so many fun action prompts like pushing
buttons and switches, clapping, searching for objects in the illustrations, and more. Did the book
always include interactivity? And how did you come up with these interactive elements?

 

Boo Crew int1 what a sight
Credit: Sourcebooks, Text ©2023 by Vicky Fang, Illustrations by Saoirse Lou

 

VF: The book always included interactivity, though my first pass only had one, big interactive
moment. When I shared it with my agent, she suggested I weave interactivity throughout. Ouf, I
put it away for two years after that, because the thought was so daunting! But eventually, on
another Halloween when I had run out of NYTimes crosswords, I pulled it back out again and
tackled it like a difficult word puzzle!

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AC: Yes! I agree writing a picture book is often like solving a word puzzle. It must have been
incredibly satisfying to solve this one after two years! Now, this is your first rhyming book. Can
you tell us about your process for writing in rhyme?

VF: The book started with a rhyming phrase that popped in my head: “It’s a glitch! There’s a
hitch! Something’s screwy with this switch!” At that point, it wasn’t a Halloween story, but once I
decided to pursue that rhythm for my Halloween book, I needed to learn how to write in rhyme! I
signed up for Renee LaTulippe’s amazing Lyrical Language Lab course and learned and
practiced meter and rhyme. I highly recommend the course for anyone interested in writing in
rhyme.
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Boo Crew Needs You int2 yay_ ooray
Credit: Sourcebooks, Text ©2023 by Vicky Fang, Illustrations by Saoirse Lou

 

AC: I remember a Tweet where you mentioned how your 8-year-old complained that you only
wrote robot books. And I have to say, it’s true that you do have quite a flair for writing really
great robot books, like FRIENDBOTS and LAYLA AND THE BOTS. I noticed that THE BOO
CREW NEEDS YOU! has a distinct lack of robots. Did your kid’s comments spur you on to write
more non-robot books, like this one?

VF: Hahaha, the things we do to try to impress our kids! Well, it was a bit more of a desire to
prove to the industry that I can write more than just robot books. I love writing STEM books, but I
didn’t want to get pigeon-holed and I wanted to show a broader range as a writer. Of course,
now that I have seven non-STEM books coming out, I worry that I’m losing my niche as a STEM
author for my readers! In the end, of course, I don’t think it really matters and we just need to
write what inspires us—as you know!

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AC: Haha I think no matter what you do, people will definitely remember you have a knack for
STEM themes as well. In fact, even though THE BOO CREW NEEDS YOU! is not a robot book,
I think the interactivity element does give this book a STEM flavor because it shows kids that
one action (or input) yields a certain result. Can you talk a bit about why STEM topics interest
you as an author?

VF: I love writing STEM books because there are so many fundamental lessons that help all
kids, whether or not they want to specialize in STEM when they get older. I want kids to be able
to break down a problem, to brainstorm solutions, and to generate solutions. That lesson holds
across all of life! THE BOO CREW NEEDS YOU! fits into this as well, with the team working
together with the reader to solve problems and save Halloween. Ultimately, I want to inspire
creative and bold problem-solvers!

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AC: I love that! Your debut book, INVENT-A-PET (which definitely encourages kids to solve
problems) came out in 2020. Since then you’ve had 9 more books published, with 10 more to
come. Do you have any tips for writers who would like to be as prolific as you?

VF: I think what’s really helped me write so many books is writing across different categories.
Sometimes my ideas work better as a board book, or as a chapter book. Logistically, it’s also
easier for my agent to be pitching multiple books of mine when they aren’t in the same category.
Board books, early readers, and chapter books also are often sold as series. That would be my
practical advice for being prolific as a children’s book author—but I would add that it’s probably
best not to worry about the numbers and write the best book you can that comes from your
heart, because that’s what will make your book stand out to editors!

 

AC: That’s such great advice! And I think it works well on a practical level as well as a creativity
level. So speaking of being prolific, what’s next for you?

VF: I’m so excited for my new books launching this fall! Releasing in September, ALPHABOT
(MIT Kids Press) is a mix-and-match novelty book of robotics terms from A to Z that lets kids flip
the flaps to create their own robot. And then in October, the first book in my new early reader
series, BEST BUDDIES (Scholastic), releases! It’s about a dog named Sniff and a cat named
Scratch and their silly adventures at home. It’s illustrated by Luisa Leal and comes from the
same editorial team that was behind LAYLA AND THE BOTS!

I’m currently also working on a new chapter book series that I’m incredibly excited about, called
AVA LIN. It’s a heavily illustrated chapter book about an optimistic and creative six-year-old
Chinese American girl with a knack for getting into—and out of— trouble. I’m in the middle of
final art for Book 1, sketches for Book 2, and manuscript edits for Book 3, and I love working on
it, so I’m hoping readers will love it too! Keep an eye out for it in Spring 2024!

AC: Wow! I am so excited about all of these books. They sound super fun, and again, I see you’ve
got something coming out for a wide range of ages. I can’t wait to read them all.

Thanks for sharing your process and writing tips with us, Vicky! Congratulations on the release
of THE BOO CREW NEEDS YOU!

 

BUY THE BOOK

Support a local independent bookstore and purchase a signed copy below.

(type in the comments how you’d like the book inscribed):

https://www.lindentreebooks.com/the-boo-crew-needs-you.html

or here: https://vickyfang.com/books/the-boo-crew/

LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA FOR VICKY FANG:

Website: https://vickyfang.com 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/fangmous

IG: https://www.instagram.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fangmousbooks

 

Author Bio:

Vicky Fang is a product designer who spent 5 years designing kids’ technology experiences for both Google and Intel, often to inspire and empower kids in coding and technology. She started writing to support the growing need for early coding education, particularly for girls and kids of color. She is the author, and sometimes illustrator, of nineteen new and upcoming books for kids, including the Layla and the Bots series, Invent-a-Pet, I Can Code board books, Friendbots series, and the forthcoming Ava Lin series, Best Buddies series, AlphaBot, and The Boo Crew Needs You! You can visit Vicky at vickyfang.com.

 

 

 

Illustrator Bio:

Saoirse Lou is a freelance illustrator from the seaside town of Poole in the UK. When she’s not
drawing, she loves reading books, walks in the countryside, drinking lots of tea, and snuggling
down under blankets with her family to watch movies. Saoirse enjoys using color and texture to
bring warmth and emotion and diversity to book characters, in particular, she loves drawing from
her experience as a mother to bring sensitivity to her artwork. See more of Saoirse’s work at
saoirselou.com or on Instagram @Saoirselouscribbles.

 

Interviewer Bio:

Abi Cushman is the author-illustrator of Soaked! (Viking, 2020), and Animals Go Vroom!,
worked as a web designer for over 15 years. She runs two popular websites of her own:
MyHouseRabbit.com, a pet rabbit care site, and AnimalFactGuide.com, which was named a
“Great Website for Kids” by the American Library Association. Abi lives in a small Connecticut
beach town with her family. In her spare time, she enjoys running, playing tennis, and eating
nachos. (Yes, at the same time.) Learn more at abicushman.com.

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Picture Book Review – What Do You See? A Conversation in Pictures

 

WHAT DO YOU SEE?
A CONVERSATION IN PICTURES

Written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg

Photographs by Jamie Lee Curtis

(Creston Books; $18.99, Ages 3-7)

 

What Do You See seashell in sand chicken

 

 

Junior Library Guild Selection

There are so many terrific books out there and so little time to review them all that occasionally it’s “better late than never” when I share an older book that still merits my attention. Such is the case with What Do You See?: A Conversation in Pictures written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg with photographs by Jamie Lee Curtis. How late is this? Well, Saltzberg’s had another book released since I received this one, and Curtis has won her first Academy Award meaning I couldn’t let another week go by without sharing my thoughts on why this picture book appealed to me.

 

What Do You See interior art1 dry seaweed
Interior photo by Jamie Lee Curtis from What Do You See? A Conversation in Pictures by Barney Saltzberg with Photographs by Jamie Lee Curtis, Creston Books ©2022.

 

I love picture books that spark children’s creativity. Even my own. So when I first found out that real-life friends Barney Saltzberg and Jamie Lee Curtis had collaborated on a picture book, I knew I had to read it. What Do You See? has a simple concept which is explained on the first page. It’s also effectively told in the third person which has a tender quality about it, like watching a friendship grow.

“She took photographs of things she loved and sent them to him.”

“He drew pictures on her photographs of things he saw and sent them back.”

The rest is sheer enjoyment. From Jamie Lee’s photo of a friendly seagull, Barney saw a “friendly monster …”

Sometimes they imagined the same thing: a metal coil becoming a snail. Other times they saw things quite differently. That is what makes each page turn a treat. That is what makes friendship, and life so interesting.

 

What Do You See interior art2 seaweed becomes fish looking at worm
Interior photo by Jamie Lee Curtis with added art by Barney Saltzberg from What Do You See? A Conversation in Pictures by Barney Saltzberg with Photographs by Jamie Lee Curtis, Creston Books ©2022.

 

Best of all, he loved what she saw and photographed and she loved what he drew. They respected their differences and cherished their similarities. “That’s part of what made them friends.” In addition to the delightful photos of fruit, flowers, vegetables, spaghetti, and a friendly seagull included throughout and at the end to prompt children’s imaginations, there’s also an activity guide that provides inspiring, creative crafts, and guides children on how to look at things in everyday life from an imaginative new angle, or via a new lens so to speak.

I got a kick out of the collaborators depicted as parking meter people on the paste-down page at the end. Find more activities on Barney’s YouTube channel. And Jamie Lee is generously donating all proceeds from the book to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles so I hope you’ll get your copy to enjoy and make a difference. If you need your spirits lifted, look no further than What Do You See?

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

 

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Children’s Picture Book Review – Busy Feet

 

BUSY FEET

Written by Marcia Berneger

Illustrated by Susanna Chapman

(Starry Forest Books; $14.99, Ages 0-3)

 

 

Busy Feet cover all kinds of kids feet

 

Do you know a child with busy feet?  The kind of feet that never miss the chance to dance, run or jump? Then take a look at Marcia Berneger and Susanna Chapman’s new picture book Busy Feet.

 

Busy Feet int art1 wakeup time
Interior illustration from Busy Feet written by Marcia Berneger and illustrated by Susanna Chapman, Starry Forest ©2023.

 

Berneger’s created a lively, interactive read-aloud that invites participation from even the littlest of readers.

Feet wake up, 

time to play.

Happy feet 

out all day!

From the moment they wake until bedtime arrives, these bustling, busy feet can be found moving every which way at home, in the park, and at the beach. Most scenes include a pair of freckled feet and a pair of brown feet and in one spread there’s also a friend in a wheelchair getting into the groove. An added precious pup’s appearance joining in the activities is an added treat for animal lovers. There are occasional glimpses of faces, but in keeping with the title, the illustrations focus primarily on the feet which makes reading all the more fun. It’s an entertaining perspective to share and just right for this story.

 

Busy Feet int art2 kids and dog on tire swing
Interior illustration from Busy Feet written by Marcia Berneger and illustrated by Susanna Chapman, Starry Forest ©2023.

 

Chapman’s swirling art uses vibrant colors that add even more energy to Berneger’s upbeat rhyme of opposites.  This book shouts read me loud and read me at story time so I can get up off the floor and mimic everything the characters in the story do. In fact, when I asked Berneger (Full disclosure: she’s a friend) what her 2-year-old grandson thinks of Busy Feet she excitedly replied that he loves it and asks for it every time he visits. So, whether it’s up the slide or down, fast or slow, Busy Feet will make children ready to go, go, go!  Oh, and don’t miss looking under the book jacket for a little surprise!

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

 

 

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Children’s Activity Book – This Is How I Do It

THIS IS HOW I DO IT:

One Day in the Life of You
and 59 Real Kids from Around the World

Written and illustrated by Matt Lamothe

(Chronicle Books; $12.99, Ages 5-8)

 

 

 

This Is How I Do It  by Matt Lamothe is a great activity book to open kids’ eyes to the lives of children around the world and get them thinking about their own. Following the success of his picture book, This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World, Lamothe was inspired by how one teacher in particular in Fiji was using the book to have children document their lives. The result is this unique activity book that focuses on different aspects of 59 real children’s lives from countries as varied as America to Vietnam, Bangladesh to Uruguay. 

 

This Is Me int
Interior illustration from This Is How I Do It written and illustrated by Matt Lamothe, Chronicle Books ©2019.

 

This hands-on 56-page book not only documents almost 60 kids’ lives from around the globe, but it provides an opportunity for young readers to get introspective and fill in the blanks about their daily life (when not in a pandemic). There’s even a die-cut opening in the cover, an inviting feature for children to put in a picture of themselves or draw one. Kids will also find the cool looking postcards and stickers in the back matter appealing for use in their own artwork or on the postcards Lamothe’s designed. A bonus is a fold-out map both in color and labeled with all the countries covered in the book. There’s also a blank map kids can fill in with the names of the places where they’ve visited, lived or want to see in the future. Parents or teachers might want to share with kids/students the website www.thisishowwedoitbook.com where “great resources for communicating with other kids” can be found.

 

Who I Live With int
Interior illustration from This Is How I Do It written and illustrated by Matt Lamothe, Chronicle Books ©2019.

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From the very beginning of the book, in the “This is me,” illustration, Lamothe welcomes readers into the book with the warm faces of four international children. This is followed by a spread of “Hello” labels featuring the greeting shown in different languages from China, Kenya, Ukraine, Israel, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Greece. Readers will see different types of housing, beautiful views from out the windows, as well as assorted clothing the kids wear, what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, how they get around, where they learn, who their teachers are, how their food is cooked, and what they get up to in the evening.

I like that the examples given are never boring, sometimes unexpected, and always thought provoking. In “This is how I get around” children learn that Lurongdeji, from China, “lives with his mom and grandmother, who are both farmers. They use a modified motorcycle to get around.” The front is a motorcycle, but the back has been altered into an open truck bed for carrying crops, tools, animals or whatever! In a mouthwatering spread titled “This is a fruit or vegetable that grows near me,” I was surprised to see a picture of a red seaweed called dulse that is dried and eaten as a snack on the west coast of Ireland. My favorite illustration would have to be the one showing some favorite books read around the world with blank lines for kids to fill in with their favorite book, too. It’s nice that Lamothe ends the tour with bedtime and the places where some of the children in the story sleep at night. But this is anything but a bedtime book. It’s ideal for daytime reading and dreaming and will definitely give children stuck indoors a chance for interesting armchair travel.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Click here to read Dornel Cerro’s review of This Is How We Do It.

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Kids Interactive Picture Book – Welcome to Jazz

WELCOME TO JAZZ:

A SWING-ALONG CELEBRATION OF AMERICA’S MUSIC

Written by Carolyn Sloan

Illustrated by Jessica Gibson

(Workman; $24.95, Ages 4-8)

 

 

The week of March 16-22 is International Teach Music Week and April is Jazz Appreciation Month so the timing couldn’t be better for a review of this interactive picture book that will get kids’ toes tappin’.

Author Carolyn Sloan has written a joyous and swinging story that celebrates jazz, America’s music. Welcome to Jazz takes readers on a lively musical journey from the birth of jazz to present day.

 

Welcome to Jazz Interior3
Interior spread from Welcome to Jazz written by Carolyn Sloan and illustrated by Jessica Gibson, Workman Publishing ©2019.

 

When three cat friends visit The Ripe Tomato Jazz Club in New Orleans, they are curious about their new surroundings. One excited wide eyed cat tells his friends, “I can’t wait for the band to play.”

“What game are they going to be playing?” asks a second cat.

A third friend, decked out in cool jazzy sunglasses, clarifies the confusion by announcing, “The band will be playing musicjazz music.”

When the trio is invited to join in the music making, the fun begins. Readers will enjoy Sloan’s fast paced, fun dialogue between the feline friends and the likeable musicians in the band. The origins of jazz, a selection of instruments, musical greats and even the language of this swinging music are introduced through sidebar information on each page.

 

Welcome to Jazz Interior4
Interior spread from Welcome to Jazz written by Carolyn Sloan and illustrated by Jessica Gibson, Workman Publishing ©2019.

 

Gibson’s vibrant full color two spread illustrations, allow us to follow these three cool cats as they become caught up in the celebration and spirit of the music.

With interactive sound and technology, Welcome to Jazz brings the wonder of this music to life and a better understanding of the concepts in jazz like: beat, rhythm, improvisation and scat singing. With the push of 12 chips on the side panel of the book, readers will want to dance and sing along as they join the cool cats and the band in a lively procession out of the club and into the streets of New Orleans.

  • Reviewed by Lisa Saint

Lisa Saint is a writer, artist, educator and an advocate for the arts. She teaches writing, illustration, graphic novels and bookmaking. Lisa is a member of SCBWI. She is also the daughter of legendary jazz great, Gil Bernal.

Click here to read a review of another jazz related picture book.

 

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Book Love Blog Hop – Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds by Jim Stoten

 Share some book love today!

bunny
Image created by Dana Carey

We’ve joined up with this clever Book Love Blog Hop after being tagged by reviewer and blogger, Cathy Ballou Mealey. The goal is to spread some book love which we’re doing for an imaginative picture book from this past September ’14 called Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds (Flying Eye Books, $19.95, Ages 3-7) by Jim Stoten. The Blog Hop is part of Carrie Finison’s innovative Book Love Blog Hop, and we’re sure you’ll agree that it’s an absolutely brilliant concept!

The idea is to help promote children’s books worthy of positive social media attention. But with so many picture books competing for coverage, it’s difficult for every book to get their 15 minutes (or longer) of fame. As bloggers, we can help get the word out about terrific kidlit titles that may have been overlooked, and play our part in sharing some overdue shout outs.

MrTweed-cvr.jpgMr. Tweed’s Good Deeds, a seek-and-find counting book from 1-10, kept me throughly entertained as I dove in to search the first wildly colorful two-page spread. I was on the lookout for 1 kite that had snapped its string. While trying to locate the kite, I noticed so many other marvelous and zany things the author/illustrator included in a park scene: trees resembling paper airplanes and another sporting sunglasses and a hat, an enormous purple dog, an over-sized snail, some ducks on bikes and even an enormous shoe.  Kids’ll have a blast pointing out the various items they notice as Mr. Tweed helps an unhappy little crocodile retrieve his lost kite.

“It felt good to help people,” Mr. Tweed thought to himself, as he left the park.

Next up Mr. Tweed volunteers to find Tibbles and Timkins, 2 adorable kittens belonging to Mrs. Fluffycuddle, that are hiding in a cottage garden. For Americans, the depiction of English scenery is a great introduction to another country although, apart from the double decker buses and no punctuation after Mr. or Mrs., it might be hard to realize the illustrator and book are from the U.K.

mr-tweeds-good-deeds-int-spread.jpg
Interior artwork from Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds by Jim Stoten, Flying Eye Books ©2014.

Kids and parents alike will have to use keen observation skills to spot the missing mice in the third spread which is a library packed with shelves and shelves of books. My favorite illustrations were of the pool, the market and the river, but I think youngsters will also enjoy the woods, the bustling street scene, the fair, and the big surprise waiting at the end.

Mr. Tweed’s kind gestures do not go unrewarded! Best of all, parents and kids will also be rewarded by the fun that is certain to be found exploring every inch of every single page in this cheerful, quirky counting picture book with its eye-popping artwork and its positive message. Try a little kindness and see how contagious it can be!

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

BOOK LOVE Blog Hop Instructions

1. Pick some books you love (any genre) that you think deserve more attention than they are getting.

2. Post reviews for the books you chose on Amazon/social media. The reviews can be brief – even a short review on Amazon helps. Posting on Goodreads or Shelfari is great, too, or Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. The more places you can publicly proclaim your love, the better!

3. If you want, you can also post the reviews on your own blog, or link your blog back to your reviews on social media.

4. Feel free to display the BOOK LOVE badge designed by Dana Carey on your blog – and if you want, link it back to this post so your visitors know what it’s all about.

5. Tag some friends to do the same! Tag friends through their blogs, or on Facebook.

That’s it! If you don’t want to wait to be tagged, you can jump right in and start reviewing and tagging yourself.

Good Reads With Ronna tags Danielle Davis, Mia Wenjen, Valarie Budayr and Catherine Friess. 

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Don’t Push The Button! by Bill Cotter

9781402287466Don’t Push The Button! written and illustrated by Bill Cotter (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, $16.99, Ages 3 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Halloween is over but there’s still monstrous fun to be had in Don’t Push The Button! written and illustrated by Bill Cotter. Larry, a friendly purple monster, has a red button in his book. The instructions for it are very clear: DON’T push the button. Seriously. Don’t even THINK about it.  But Larry does think about it, and what happens as a result is interactive, silly, and just plain good fun. The simple but colorful illustrations are absolutely fitting for the idea of the book and the age of the readers.

My four-year-old daughter loves this book—loves it! The allure of doing something forbidden, pushing the mysterious red button, delights her, and the results make her laugh. She especially enjoys being part of the action and being part of the reason that Larry … well, you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to Larry. Just be careful to not push the button!

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76 Trombones and Maisy, too!

Maisy’s Band: A Pull-the-Tab and Pop-up Book ($17.99, Candlewick Press, ages 3 and up) by Lucy Cousins, is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Strike up the band! Maisy and her friends are putting on a show, and we’re invited to attend. Throughout the 14 pages we assist Maisy and company in getting ready for their performance. Pull the tab and Plinkety-plonk! Tallulah plays the pink piano. Move the tab up and down, and Root-a-toot! Cyril plays on the trumpet. The penguins hum a tune. The last page features a 3D pull-out stage where all five band members perform. Illustrated in Lucy Cousins’ distinct style, this is a bright and engaging hands-on read for youngsters.

Fun Fact: Did you know that there are over 29 million Maisy books in print worldwide?

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