As part of an ongoing celebration for a pair of pie-related books that I have coming out in the fall (“Babyberry Pie” and “Pies & Prejudice” – learn more here), I started a pie-of-the-month club to showcase new books by friends and colleagues.
On the menu this month: Jennifer Richard Jacobson, who stopped by to talk about her new Andy Shane book and to share her favorite recipe for — what else? — pie!
Jennifer — or JJ, as she’s known to her friends — wears a lot of hats. She writes fiction for children and young adults, travels the country speaking as an educational consultant, blogs, and publishes a newsletter for primary teachers (Monday Mini-Lesson), among other things. Today, she’s got her children’s author hat firmly in place as we talk about what she’s been cooking up at her desk lately.
My newest book for young readers is Andy Shane, Hero At Last (Candlewick), in which Andy has a secret wish: to be a hero. But being a hero isn’t something you can plan for, so he comes up with a second goal, one he has a little more control over: winning the bicycle decorating contest in the Home Sweet Home parade. The question is, what will he do when his two dreams collide?
This book is the sixth in a series of beginning readers about Andy Shane and his nemesis, Dolores Starbuckle. All of the stories have grown out of my own memories of childhood. Like Andy, I decorated my bike, hoping to win a parade contest! (Mine was Dolores’s bicycle built for two.) But unlike Andy, I’m still waiting to be a hero.
How about your favorite pie-in-the-sky moment as a writer? Have you had one of those “I never dreamed it would really happen to me” moments that was special to you?
The wonderful thing about being a writer is that there are so many firsts: first encouraging rejection letter, first call from an editor, first starred review, first award. It’s lovely really. But what has made me happiest is hearing that my books have been a first: “The first book I ever read by myself!” or “The first chapter books series my daughter couldn’t put down!” Nothing makes me fly higher than hearing news like this.
Has there ever been a moment in your career when you had to eat humble pie? (I did, big-time, that time I showed up at a major chain bookstore for what I thought was just a signing and found to my chagrin was educator night – dozens of shining faces looking at me expectantly, and I hadn’t prepared a talk…)
Ha! Which moment shall I pick? Here’s a favorite. Many years ago, when I was teaching first grade, I decided that I wanted to be a children’s author. I told the students in that year’s class that I was going to write right along with them. I was going to teach them everything I knew about writing, and they would teach me everything they knew about good children’s books, and we would try to get the book published. Despite the immense wisdom of my class, the book I wrote that year will never be published. But what none of us knew was how long it can take to break into the children’s publishing field. When my first trade book (as opposed to books I also wrote for reading programs) was published, some of those students came to my first signing. They were seniors in high school!
Now let’s REALLY talk pie. What’s your favorite kind? Do you have a favorite pie memory? How about the recipe you’re sharing – can you give us a little background on it?
My favorite parade is our town’s annual Memorial Day Parade. And although I’ve never participated in the bike contest (I’m a little too old for that now) I have run the “Memorial Day Mile.” One year I ran the race and then returned home to change before going back for other festivities. When I returned many folks told me that my name had been announced: I had come in second in my age group! I was thrilled to have placed, and thrilled to have won a pie. Later, after I returned to reality, I tested a hunch online. Sure enough, my hunch was correct. There had only been two runners in my age group that day! But the (humble) rhubarb pie was delicious!
I adore the puckerish taste of rhubarb and fortunately, spring has come early to Maine this year. Here is the height of my rhubarb already!
And here’s my favorite rhubarb recipe:
JJ’s Rhubarb Custard Pie
3-1/2 c. rhubarb, diced
2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. milk
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tbsp. butter
Pastry for 2-crust pie
9 or 10 inch pie pan
Put bottom crust in pan; pour rhubarb on top. Blend next 6 ingredients together. Pour over rhubarb. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust. Brush top crust with milk lightly and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until crust is nicely browned and juice begins to bubble through slits in top crust. Temperature 400 degrees for 10 minutes then 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Bake 40 to 50 minutes.
Oh man, I’m drooling! *wipes off laptop keyboard* Rhubarb is one of my all-time favorite things — put it between pie crusts and I’m in heaven. I’m going to the grocery store right this instant to rustle some up. Thanks, JJ!
To read other selections on the “pie-of-the-month club” menu, check out my interviews with Jane Kurtz, Toni Buzzeo, Lisa Schroeder, Jennifer Ward, and Susan Blackaby. Be sure and drop by again soon, because throughout 2010 I’ll be serving up more stellar books by some of my favorite authors and illustrators.
Oh, and pie is on the menu, too, of course. Pie is ALWAYS on the menu here on my blog. Enjoy!