My favorite quack is back!
Jackie Urbanovic, author/illustrator of the wildly popular picture book series about Max the duck, has stopped by today to share some fabulous news. Some of you may remember my two-part interview with Jackie last year, where she gave us the scoop on her creative process, extolled her love for comic books, and revealed a surprising fondness for Gobstoppers.
Well, the first two Max books, Duck at the Door (2007) and Duck Soup (2008), both New York Times Bestsellers, have been chosen to be part of Kohl’s Cares for Kids® campaign! During May and June, both books will be available at stores across the country for the amazingly low price of just $5 each! And there’s more – both Max the duck, and Brody the St. Bernard, have gone three dimensional! They’re now available as adorable, cuddly plush animals, also at $5 each. Best part is, 100% of the net profits from the sale of these items will support health and educational opportunities for children in your own community!
Max has just whipped up some soup for us, so let’s slurp and find out more from Jackie:
We’re thrilled at the good news, Jackie. Can you tell us a little more about Kohl’s Cares for Kids®?
This campaign raises money to help kids keep healthy through hospital partnerships and education. Kohl’s has donated money to create new therapies for childhood illnesses and have sponsored nutrition programs, fitness events, and more. They also award scholarships to young adults who’ve been exceptional volunteers in their communities. Since 2000, Kohl’s merchandise sales have raised $126 million to support kids’ health and education.
Brody, Max, and Irene’s entire menagerie are proud to be part of this. As you already know, they believe in helping dogs, cats, cockatoos, rabbits, ducks, and alligators. What you may not know is that, like me, they especially believe in helping kids.
How do Max and Brody feel about their newfound fame?
Max said, “It’s QUACKALICIOUS!!” And Brody, well, Brody is just delighted.
How do books get selected to be part of this wonderful program?
The mechanics of the process aren’t clear to me, but I know it helps to have a great agent and a book on the Bestseller List.
Tell us a little about the third book in the series, Duck and Cover, which just came out in January.
In this book, an alligator named Harold comes to the door seeking refuge. He’s big and his appetite is even bigger. But his heart turns out to be biggest of all.
You’ve said that most of the animal characters in these books are based on real pets either you or your friends have known. What about Harold? Is his personality based on anyone in particular?
First off, let me clarify: I’ve never lived with or known any alligators! So, his personality is part English gentleman and part me. Just as the cooking side of Max comes from my love of food, so does the eating part of Harold. I DO believe that a little bit of everything is always tasty!
I’m thinking, on one hand, since you know your characters so well, it would be easy to keep writing more stories about them, but on the other hand, it might become more challenging to retain that high standard of excellence and perfectly pitched comedic timing you’ve already attained. Overall, what was the experience like creating this third book?
The basic idea came to me in the middle of a fiction writing class. The teacher said that if you knew your characters well enough, you could put them in any situation and create a story from their responses. Then he suggested that a powerful way to approach this is to challenge your character’s most valued beliefs. Well, this household’s most valued belief is that everyone should be helped and taken care of.
So, I thought, what if someone in need and also dangerous shows up at the door? The teacher was right, it created the strongest story I’ve worked on so far. This concept made possible a wonderful series of running jokes: Harold and his love of food matched with Max’s love of cooking, along with the cat’s desire to keep Harold continuously fed so that they wouldn’t be his next meal.
I did have trouble resolving the conflict, and both my editor and my friend Susan helped me with their insights. Originally, I had the family taking a road trip to Florida so that they could return Harold to the wild — the Everglades. Even though there were a few good jokes in it, it kept falling flat. I found making fun of a Florida trip difficult because there are so many tourist stops that are really and truly surreal and funny; it was hard to parody them. It was my friend Susan who suggested the costumes and I am forever grateful for such a surprising and elegant solution.
Finally, what are you working on now?
A recent project, now in bookstores, is a collaboration with author Elizabeth Cody Kimmel – an incredibly funny book titled, Glamsters. It’s about Harriet the hamster and her sister Patricia. Harriet is staying up nights worrying about never being adopted. She comes up with a scheme to make herself irresistibly GLAMSTEROUS, and ends up scaring her sister witless!
Upcoming projects for 2010 include a fourth Max the duck book titled, Sitting Duck. It’s a babysitting story and the baby is bigger than the sitter! And, there’s If You’re Hoppy, a book I’m illustrating for April Pulley Sayre.
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Jackie. I love that in addition to being rollicking funny stories, all the Max books display a genuine compassion and caring for other living beings.
Thank you, Jama, for this interview and your compliments!
Okay, enough quacking for now. Be quick about waddling down to your nearest Kohl’s store and scoop up a bunch of Max and Brody books and plush toys. They’re such an incredible bargain and a great way to help kids. I stocked up on Christmas gifts, and may go back before the end of June for shower, baby, and graduation gifts. Max and Brody are baby-soft, and the books are trade hardcover editions with dust jackets. If, by chance, you don’t live near a Kohl’s store, you can order the merchandise via their website.
In case you’re not familiar with Duck at the Door or Duck Soup, peek inside the books at the publisher’s website here.
To learn more about Kohl’s Cares for Kids®, click here.
*Spreads from Duck Soup, Duck and Cover, and Glamsters posted by permission, copyright © 2009 Jackie Urbanovic. All rights reserved.