KBN: Why did you choose to write The Girl Who Wouldn’t Talk book?
BOB: I was a teacher in the Bronx, where almost all my students were children of color. The hero of this book is based on two African American students of mine, both of whom were so bright and curious about learning. But they often got bullied from students who appeared to be jealous of them. I wanted to write a book about how important it is to stand up for yourself, especially after being put down. No child should forget how much he/she matters.
KBN: Will you be doing any book tours?
BOB: Because of the fear of the omicron variant, I don’t see any book tours for the first half of 2022. But I hope to be speaking at my city’s local schools, the main bookstore, and the central library.
KBN: How do you promote literacy?
BOB: I write stories that I hope inspire children to want to read my books over and over again. In addition, I am planning a podcast and YouTube show where I focus on a) the joy of getting lost in a story and b) the creative thrill of a child writing her own children’s book. I will be showing children how to set up a simple structure they can use to start off their journey to writing their own stories.
KBN: What are your thoughts on the new technology for reading a book?
BOB: I’m all in favor of any technology that gets books (digital or physical) into the hands of young people. E-readers are such a boon to children who may have financial limits on how much they can spend on books. Although I still love the idea of a child holding a physical book and turning physical pages, on balance, I like being able to disseminate books to a greater number of young people.
KBN: What advice do you have for parents on getting their kids’ reading?
BOB: My wife and I always encouraged my own children to become lifelong readers by telling them really cute stories around the dinner table. Sometimes they were true, sometimes totally fabricated. We even did improvisational theater stories by asking, ‘And then what happens?’ to every part of the story. Also, I recommend parents surround the home with books and to make sure they read books themselves. For the sheer joy of it. Have a time set aside to talk about various stories or books you’ve all read that week, for example.
KBN: Why did you choose a family for the adventures in your story?
BOB: For my book, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Talk, the girl in the titular role could not figure out in a vacuum how to break away from her choice to not talk because, for her that could mean someone else would find fault with her. Her parents, her doctor, and finally, her grandmother play important roles in her growing out of that negative behavior.
KBN: How long did it take you to get this idea to where it is now?
BOB: I started this book about four years ago, when the memory of my Bronx students was much more vivid. But I put it on a back burner when I moved to my new home in Washington State and had many other ideas. Then I began the story all over again in the summer of 2021 and it got published in November.
KBN: What will kids love most about your book(s)?
BOB: Kids have said they like that my books tend to give them stories that make them care about the main character, as well as stories that make them laugh or feel good about having read it.
KBN: What will parents’ and teachers love most about your book(s)?
BOB: I like to think that what we wrote on my website is true: “Mr. Z writes children’s books even their grownups will love.” We say that because children can relate to the story of the main character and how he, she or it grows and changes during the story. They will also enjoy the language, especially the humor, and parents and teachers like Mr. Z books because every story has a message of some kind; like “be yourself” and “each moment is precious” and “joy comes to you without trying to get it.” Teachers will like that there are so many ‘teachable moments’ embedded in the story. I often include story elements with ideas of enduring importance, the kind of ‘big ideas’ that help encourage children to develop their important thinking and creative gifts.Thank you so much Bob for taking the time to answer these questions. If you would like to learn more about Bob "Mr. Z" Zaslow just click on the links below. Be sure to visit The Neophyte Writer to see his interview on his writing process.
Read my reviews of Bob's books.