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Picture Book Review and Interview for The Great Caper Caper ‘Great Virtual Virtual Tour’

 

 

THE GREAT CAPER CAPER

Written by Josh Funk

Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

(Union Square Kids; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

 

 

The Great Caper Caper Virtual Tour Image

 

 

REVIEW:

Welcome back to the fridge, home of the popular food pair, Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast. It’s an honor to be part of this virtual tour packed with passionate kidlit people helping to promote Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney’s latest picture book, The Great Caper Caper, #5 in the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series!

 

The Great Caper Caper int1 bedtime ladypancake sirfrenchtoast
Interior art from The Great Caper Caper written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Brendan Kearney, Union Square Kids ©2022.

 

When the story opens (see above illustrations), Sir French Toast awakens during the night only to discover everywhere is draped in darkness. But we’re not talking about ordinary nighttime darkness. No this was the dreaded fridge light darkness.

A glowing light leads the curious characters to Las Veggies where Lady P and Sir FT try to enter Las Veggies Tower but are initially held back by security. Soon they confront tower owner, Count Caper. “‘I haven’t stolen a thing,’ he lied.”

 

 The Great Caper Caper int2 Las Veggies
Interior art from The Great Caper Caper written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Brendan Kearney, Union Square Kids ©2022.

 

Adding to the urgency to recover the light, readers learn that Sir FT is scared of the dark. This convinces Lady P, in a nod to Ocean’s 11, that she must assemble a crew including Baron von Waffle, Miss Brie, Tofu, Professor Biscotti, the Fruitcake, the Beets, and Inspector Croissant. No crummy collection of pros here.

 

The Great Caper Caper int3 LadyPancake shares plan
Interior spread from The Great Caper Caper written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Brendan Kearney, Union Square Kids ©2022.

 

A plan is hatched, disguises are donned, and solving the great caper caper is underway! Zero hour is scheduled to take place during the Tower show. The team, tasked with distractions, and more amusing antics involving Animal Crackers, and an asparagus accomplice, recover the stolen light. But, while celebrating their success, the food friends learn Count Caper’s M-O was a relatable one, and it all boiled down to friendship. With a little introspection, the briny bud “sees the light” so to speak, and can now count Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast, and the whole crew as pals.

Yet again, Funk and Kearney have delivered a readable, rhyming picture book that will entertain parents as much as the kids due to witty wordplay, careful plotting, and of course, the movie inspiration. From the minute I saw Las Veggies was the destination in this story, I was hooked, eager to see how the heist was handled. Multiple readings will be requested to study the whimsical spreads that Kearney clearly enjoyed designing. The Great Caper Caper is a fast-paced, funny, action-packed tale that children will love adding to their bookshelves.

 

Q + A:

GoodReadsWithRonna: I asked Josh a few fun questions that popped into my head as I was reading The Great Caper Caper.

Josh Funk:  Thanks so much for inviting me to chat! I’m a huge fan of Good Reads with Ronna!

GRWR: Aww, thanks, Josh! You’ve described The Great Caper Caper as Ocean’s 11 in the fridge. It’s got the Las Veggies location, the crew of 11, the hotel vault to break into, and huge stakes. In this case, there’s a fridge light to recover not millions of dollars or an ex-wife to win back. Were there other elements of the film you wanted to recreate but just couldn’t fit into a rhyming picture book format?

JF: Actually, I was able to get pretty much everything in that I wanted – even more than I originally planned – especially the final page at the fountain! Brendan Kearney’s art is sooooo perfect for this series and this book – it’s brilliant.

GRWR: Can we talk Julia Roberts as Lady Pancake and George Clooney as Sir French Toast?

JF: If we’re gonna go with a Julia Roberts film, I think Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast’s relationship is more like Julia and Rupert Everett from My Best Friend’s Wedding. They’re truly just friends – they might find romance elsewhere, though.

And if you happen to know anyone in Hollywood that might have interest, please do let me know. The film rights are available!

GRWR: Was this the hardest plot to pull off?

JF: This is a great question, one that I haven’t really thought about in full until answering it right now.

I always like changing up the genres in each book. Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast is a race. The Case of the Stinky Stench is a mystery. Mission Defrostable is an action-adventure spy-thriller. Short & Sweet is a sci-fi comedy / magical body-swap (think Honey, I Shrunk the Kids meets Big or Freaky Friday).

And when brainstorming new ideas, my wife threw out the title The Great Caper Caper – which everyone immediately fell in love with. The title gave us the villain (a caper) and the genre (a heist). And the hardest thing about a heist is that the protagonists must have an altruistic reason to steal something. In Ocean’s 11, the reasons for the heist are revenge and greed – and those wouldn’t work all that well in a children’s book.

I figured the best reason would be if they were stealing something back from someone who stole it first. And in order to get others on board with the plan (in lieu of greed) was if the thing that was stolen also affected them. And the missing light bulb leaving the fridge in the dark was a perfect (and tangible) item to be the object of the heist.

But why is it up to Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast to solve this problem for all of the denizens of the fridge (other than the fact that this is their series and they seem to always find themselves in the center of every adventure)? Because Sir French Toast is afraid of the dark, of course!

So I guess it was a pretty hard plot to pull off, now that you mention it. Was it harder than book #6, though? No. That one was harder. You can ask me about that more in the fall of 2024.

GRWR: You’re one of the busiest, hardest-working children’s book authors I know. What feeds your soul and keeps you keeping on?

JF: Vanity.

I’m kidding (mostly). I genuinely like cracking myself up with silly things and sometimes those things also make other people laugh or entertained.

That, and reading so many amazing picture books that others create and release on a weekly basis. There are so many fantastic authors and illustrators out there that continue to inspire me daily.

GRWR: Any clues for us as to the duo’s next adventure?

JF: Clues … hmmmm…. I already gave you one (book 6 will be fall 2024). And I sort of gave you another (it will be a different genre than each of the previous 5).

How about this for a clue? There’s something/someone in book #1 (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast) that doesn’t belong in the fridge which sets off a series of events leading to book 6… And that’s all I’ll say for now.

GRWR: I really appreciate that you took the time to answer these burning questions, Josh. I’m heading back to the fridge to see if I can figure out book 6 from your clues!

JF: Thank you, Ronna!

 

 

 

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Meet Bug on the Rug Author Sophia Gholz and Illustrator Susan Batori

∼ BUG ON THE RUG BLOG TOUR ∼

 

AUTHOR SOPHIA GHOLZ

&

ILLUSTRATOR SUSAN BATORI

DISCUSS THEIR NEW PICTURE  BOOK

BUG ON THE RUG

(Sleeping Bear Press; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

 

 

Bug on the Rug cover

 

 

SUMMARY FROM PUBLISHER:

BUG ON THE RUG – Pug is snug on his rug. But what happens when along comes BUG?! With a claim to the rug?! The two engage in a hysterical, rhyming battle of wits and strength until Slug asks the necessary questions and helps them find common ground. Rhyming is an important developmental reading skill. It teaches phonics (decodable text) and helps young readers infer content. This is a fun story to build those skills–and is an epic read-aloud!

 

INTERVIEW WITH SOPHIA GHOLZ:

Welcome to GoodReadsWithRonna, Sophia!  I’m excited to have you as my guest to learn more about your wonderful new picture book BUG ON THE RUG.

GoodReadsWithRonna: I’ve read that as a child you enjoyed horses. I’m curious where pugs fit into the big picture—was it the rhyming potential, their utter adorableness, or something else?

Sophia Gholz: Thanks, Ronna! I’m excited to be here to celebrate BUG ON THE RUG with you.

I often referred to myself as a “barn rat” as a kid and spent as much time with horses as I could. To this day, the smell of a farm still feels like home. While there were always barn cats, dogs, and a slew of other characters in the mix, there weren’t any barn pugs, unfortunately. My love of little dogs actually came about in adulthood. When I lived in New York City, I had a Brussels Griffon who everyone mistook for a pug. I just adore little foofy pooches and their giant personalities. But pug love aside, the true inspiration behind this book is my younger brother. I have lovingly referred to my little brother as Bug for his entire life. I feel very lucky to call him one of my best friends. But much like Pug and Bug, it took my brother and me a long time (and a few trials) to reach best friend status.

 

Bug on Rug int Pages3
Interior spread from Bug on the Rug written by Sophia Gholz and illustrated by Susan Batori, Sleeping Bear Press ©2022.

 

GRWR: Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you’re a plotter, did you know the whole story before you set out to write it? If you’re a pantser, what was it that motivated you to tell this story and keep at it?

SG: I’m a total panster. I find that if I plot out a story then the story no longer feels fresh and exciting for me. I like to write as a reader—learning something new with each page turn. So, I go off feeling, emotion, and what story I want to read in that moment. This often means heavy (and I mean, HEAVY) revisions later. But that initial excitement and mood is what I try to capture in the first draft and that same feeling is what keeps me going. With that said, I do a lot of mental pre-plotting and generally have a sense of where I want the story to go before I begin. I do sometimes start writing and realize I’m going in the completely wrong direction and have to start over. In those cases, I end up working out some plot issues or character problems before I really get going. But aside from the occasional false start, I don’t usually write anything out before I begin.

 

GRWR: Did you have as much fun, any LOL moments, writing this story as I had reading it?

SG: My goodness, yes! I had SO much fun writing this book. Like I mentioned above, I try to write as a reader and don’t really plot ahead of time. So, as those words were coming out, I was giggling along as the voyeur. One of the most fun moments I had while writing this was when Pug rethinks his day. I had a great time coming up with a ton of absurd things Pug might have done during his daily routine.

 

GRWR: I adore a rollicking rhyming read-aloud like yours. Does rhyming come easily for you?

SG: Thank you! Rhyme has always felt natural to me. When I began writing years ago, my first picture book manuscripts were mostly in rhyme. However, I admit that I wasn’t a trained rhymer. Once I really began digging into the varying rules of rhyme and meter, I grew very afraid. I was so scared that I’d unintentionally blow it that I fully stopped rhyming. It’s taken me a few years of practice and determination to come full circle with a rhyming text, and I couldn’t be happier. Rhyme is so much fun to play with and write!

 

GRWR: You have two new books, both humorous although one is nonfiction. What do you enjoy most about writing in each category?

SG: You know, I don’t really see them as different categories when I write. For me, I try to write nonfiction the same way I write fiction. The only difference is that I have preexisting pieces of the puzzle when I write nonfiction. But I like to write each with the mentality of just having a fun or interesting story to tell. That said, I do enjoy all the cool facts I learn while researching nonfiction subjects. Education never ends!  

 

GRWR: Sophia, this book is an uproarious and engaging approach to teaching phonics to children eager to learn how to read. Was that always your intention or did it just happen organically?

SG: When I first heard BUG ON THE RUG referred to as a great learning tool for emergent readers, I was so happy … and surprised! I did not initially have this in mind when I wrote the book. For me, it was about reading these words out loud and having a ton of fun. I’ve always enjoyed playing with sounds, alliteration, and tongue twisters. This book is a bit of an ode to that. But I understand how important teaching phonics in fun ways is, especially as I’ve helped my own little kiddos learn to read. With that in mind, I truly hope young readers have a great time with this book.

 

Bug on Rug int Pages8
Interior spread from Bug on the Rug written by Sophia Gholz and illustrated by Susan Batori, Sleeping Bear Press ©2022.

 

GRWR: Susan’s art captures both the heart and humor of your story. What did you think when and if you saw sketches or finished art? Which is your favorite spread and why?

SG: I am obsessed with Susan’s art! OBSESSED. Fun fact: I’d been eyeing Susan’s work online for a while and was a big fan before we worked together. So, I was thrilled when Sleeping Bear said they thought she would be a great fit for this manuscript. When I saw the initial sketches, I was flipping out. Seriously. Susan’s art is hilarious! Plus, she completely surprised me in the best of ways. For example, I originally envisioned Pug inside his home when I wrote the book. But Susan created the setting outside, and it made so much more sense. Susan added her own hilarious spin to this manuscript, and I feel so lucky to have worked with her. I think my favorite spread is probably the last page. Pug’s expression is priceless!

 

GRWR: What do you hope young readers will take away from BUG ON THE RUG?

SG: Humor aside, this book is ultimately about empathy, sharing, and taking ownership of our actions. I hope readers can see themselves here and know that people can have disagreements, but still be friends. Owning our mistakes is difficult. But it’s important to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others, just as it’s important to learn to forgive and move on.

GRWR: What can we expect next?

SG: I’d love to see more of Pug and his friends! In the meantime, A HISTORY OF TOILET PAPER (AND OTHER POTTY TOOLS), illustrated by Xiana Teimoy, is a humorous nonfiction picture book that’ll roll into bookstores this August. Everything else is still top secret for now. Stay tuned!

GRWR: Thank you, Sophia. It’s been delightful chatting with you. I wish you and Susan much success with BUG ON THE RUG.

 

INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN BATORI:

Welcome to the blog, Susan, and congrats on your latest picture book! I adored DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT! which I also reviewed here so I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to ask about your art in BUG ON THE RUG.

GoodReadsWithRonna: I immediately noticed the lovely European-like city and snow-capped mountains in the distance. Did you set this story in Budapest where you live and if so, why? 

Susan Batori: Sadly there are no snow-capped mountains in Budapest. Originally, the story written by Sophia, was set in a small Swiss town. That is why I drew small, red roof European-ish houses and you can find a cable car which is often seen in Switzerland. The story was rewritten later but we decided to keep the drawings with the Swiss landscape.


GRWR:
When you read Sophia’s manuscript, what were your thoughts about how you wanted to illustrate the story?

SB: When I read Sophia’s manuscript I fell in love with it at the first glance. I felt this is my story too because I love the funny and witty tales, these are very inspiring and so easy to illustrate. After reading the manuscript I immediately saw the pictures, compositions, and the characters in my head. There was a little challenge because of the disparity of sizes of the pug and the bug, but I hope I solved it well.

 

Bug on Rug int Pages11
Interior art from Bug on the Rug written by Sophia Gholz and illustrated by Susan Batori, Sleeping Bear Press ©2022.

 

GRWR: What medium did you use to create the illustrations and was there anything about the story that influenced your decision? 

SB: I work on a computer and a digital tablet. I love them because they make my work much easier and the publishers like it too. It makes work simple. Besides I can imitate the aquarell feeling, paper textures, and the brush strokes. My digital illustrations are often mistaken for a “real” drawing.

 

GRWR: What is your process like from when you receive a new manuscript to submitting final art? 

SB: After reading the manuscript I use the internet for finding help about the characters or the background. In this case, I started to search pug videos. I try to figure out what kind of things make a pug a pug, or a slug a slug. I mean how they move or sit, what their colors are, what if I draw a smaller nose or shorter legs to them … etc. This is a very useful activity and it entertains me. So I start sketching the characters and show them to the client. Next, I design the composition of the pages and with the publisher, we try to find the best solutions. Then I am ready for coloring where I try to deliver some kind of atmosphere or feeling. In this book, I wanted to illustrate a summer-mountain feeling with a lot of greens. If everyone is happy with the colored pages I send them to the art director. That’s all. Easy peasy. :)

 

GRWR: The dynamic of the character interaction cracks me up, especially when slug shows up. Was any particular character, Pug, Bug, or Slug, especially fun to work with? 

SB: Haha! Yes, Slug is really a funny character. It was interesting because in each book I illustrated there was a character who was my favorite but here all three were my favorites. They have their own humorous personality.

 

GRWR: I loved your art in Robin Newman’s DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT!, and love it here, too. I see a common thread of a humorous conflict and sweet resolution in both stories. Do you enjoy illustrating humorous picture books? Are there any challenges you must consider?

SB: Aww, thank you! Somehow I am very good at illustrating feelings, especially humorous actions and facial expressions. I just LOVE working on hilarious books or stories, and drawing funny animals is my favorite job. It makes me happy and I believe if I am happy while I am working on these, the children will be happy too while they are reading them. 

I wouldn’t be a good illustrator without humour. 

 

Bug on the Rug int Pages16
Interior spread from Bug on the Rug written by Sophia Gholz and illustrated by Susan Batori, Sleeping Bear Press ©2022.

 

GRWR: Do you have a favorite spread?

SB: Sure!

The first page when Pug hugs his rug, I find it so cute.

Then there is the “rug-fight” scene. This is the most dynamic page in the book.

And I just love the very last page when everyone is on the rug. I think that is very funny.

 

GRWR: Any plans to write and illustrate your own books?

SB: I have a few ideas but there is no time for them … yet. ;)

THANK YOU FOR THE GREAT QUESTIONS!

GRWR: Thank you for making us smile!

 

BIOS:

Sophia Gholz Headshot
Courtesy of Sophia Gholz

Sophia Gholz is a children’s book writer, music lover, avid reader,
and the award-winning author of The Boy Who Grew a Forest and
Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! She lives in Orlando, Florida.

Website: www.sophiagholz.com
Twitter: @sophiagholz
Instagram: @sophiagholz
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sophiagholzauthor 

 

 

 

Susan Batori Headshot
Courtesy of Susan Batori

Susan Batori’s books include Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt and
Letters from Space. She worked in advertising before switching to
children’s book illustration. Susan lives in Budapest, Hungary.

Website: https://susanbatori.hu/
Twitter: @susanbatori
Instagram: @susanbatori

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