It is my distinct privilege to speak to the amazing Erica S. Perl. She is the author of many books, several of my personal favorites. Her talent is indescribable as she has written early readers, picture books, and chapter books (my favorite being The Capybara Conspiracy which is a novel written in three acts) and now a series of early reader chapter books. Her newest books, the first two in a new series, are being released into the literary world on January 22, 2019. Check out my interview and then make sure to order her Arnold and Louise series for the young readers in your life!
Brian Smith Speaks (BSS): Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me about your new books! I have to start out by saying that I am so thankful to the wonderful Alison Morris for introducing me to your work and inadvertently bringing us together! I also want to say thanks for introducing me to your newest characters Arnold and Louise. I love the name Louise because the lady that I called my grandma, was named Louise and she was one of the best people that I've ever known. Where did the names come from and why were they right for this bear and chipmunk?
Erica S. Perl (EP): Thanks so much for having me! Louise is one of my favorite names, because it feels classic and yet spunky – perfect for this character. And Arnold was my great-uncle’s name (fun fact: he was also a writer who wrote the plays, based on Sholom Aleichem’s Tevye stories, that became Fiddler on the Roof).
BSS: I love that these best friends are so different but that their differences bring out the best of each other. I see that so many times each year teaching Kindergarten. The best of a student is often brought out through friendships. The opposites attract phenomenon lives on. What traits about Arnold's character did you feel fit a "big bear" and what character traits about Louise did you feel made them compatible with a "chatty chipmunk"?
EP: Louise is definitely a free spirit. She’s eager to try on new identities (like THE GREAT LOUWEEZIE) and make up new games (as she does in LOST AND FOUND), and she’s very eager to push her more cautious friend Arnold to do the same. Arnold, who is bigger and moves slower, helps keep Louise grounded and cheers her up when her grand plans flop. But it was important to me to avoid stereotypes and to let these characters grow. So, as the series continues – two books come out January 22, 2019 and two more books will be out later in 2019 - you’ll definitely see some role-reversing.
BSS: What was it about the story in Arnold and Louise: The Great Louweezie that made you certain this was the story that should introduce these wonderful characters to the world?
EP: I initially wrote four stories to launch the series, and each took place in a different season. The Great Louweezie is the Spring book, so it felt right to have it go first. Also, it is sort of an establishing story for their personalities and relationship. While each book can stand alone, this one is a great place to start.
BSS: I thought The Great Louweezie was a wonderful story and I loved how so much of the story is based on Louise's predictions and how some predictions come true and some don't and other come true in unexpected ways. Teaching students how to make predictions about books and that it's alright for your prediction to be incorrect can be tricky. Was that an intentional lesson?
EP: When I write, I lead with the characters, the humor, and the story. However, I also keep an eye out for layers and I know that predicting patterns, making estimates/guesstimates, and anticipating outcomes are important lessons for early elementary students. When teachable content emerges, I am always pleased, but never let it run the show. This way, the experience kids have with these books is pure enjoyment, which educators can use to circle back to the teachable content.
BSS: The first two books in the series are coming out now. The third is scheduled for an August release. Are there any more other books planned for Arnold and Louise?
EP: I am excited to write many more books about Arnold and Louise! The initial arc, as I mentioned, was four books – Spring (THE GREAT LOUWEEZIE), Summer (LOST AND FOUND), Fall (HAPPY FELL – yes, that’s not a typo!), and Winter (ALL THE FUN WINTER THINGS). But I am already sketching out more stories, so we shall see where things go from here!
BSS: How did you get connected with Chris Chatterton to illustrate this series?
EP: My editor suggested Chris and I immediately said yes! I love his work, but I also think it is the perfect fit for these characters and this series. I love how they feel simultaneously classic and modern, and I love how he captured their distinct personalities.
BSS: I think the illustrations really bring your characters to life in a fun way. What was the significance of using green in the otherwise black and white illustrations?
EP: Each book is rendered in black and white, plus one signature color. In THE GREAT LOUWEEZIE it is a spring green, in LOST AND FOUND it is a fresh teal shade, and I can’t wait to see what colors come next.
I truly appreciate Ms. Perl for taking the time to talk to me about Arnold and Louise. I think that Arnold and Louise could be great new friends for new readers. I hope that there are many more books to come in this fantastic series!