Cue the drumroll, please, because I’ve been looking forward to sharing this particular pie-of-the-month with you for a very long time!
Amy Schwartz has had a long and illustrious career in children’s books, and I was over the moon when I found out that she had agreed to illustrate my very own BABYBERRY PIE. (Which is no longer MY very own, of course — now it’s OUR very own!) She’s stopping by today to talk about the book, about her process as an artist, and about pie, too, of course.
Love that Raggedy Ann, Amy. I had one just like her when I was growing up.
I know very well what you’ve been cooking up for readers, but can you explain a bit about how it came about, and about your illustration process?
BABYBERRY PIE was a delight to illustrate. The story is a lighthearted and poetic telling of what happens when Baby’s parents attempt to put him to bed, to tuck him (or her!) into a Babyberry Pie.
The story reminded me of those sometimes long evenings putting my own son to bed when he was little. I remember one night, when we were in San Diego at my mother’s house, just giving up entirely and taking him outside to look at the stars.
I wanted to tie the pie theme into the story as much as possible. I interwove a little side story involving a freshly baked pie, and I also tried to use a palette reminiscent of a berry pie, purples and blues and lavenders. I used berry patterns, and tried to use round and pielike shapes. I personified my moon, hoping to reinforce the dreamy quality of the story.
And may I just say here that I absolutely LOVE how you did all this! As a writer, particularly one who can’t even draw stick figures, it’s thrilling to see your artist’s eye at work — how cleverly you’ve extended the story and played with it and breathed visual life into it. Pure magic. You’re a genius as far as I’m concerned.
So what else are you cooking up for readers at the moment?
I’m now working on WILLIE AND UNCLE BILL for Holiday House. This book is comprised of three little chapters detailing what happens when Uncle Bill comes to babysit his nephew, Willie. The stories are based on the experiences of my family when my sister Debbie babysat my son, such as our returning to find our three-year-old with much shorter hair than when we left, or finding a pot of Icky Stew on the stove, made with Aunt Debbie’s secret ingredients.
Also, I’ve just completed the interior art for a book that’s made for a nice follow-up to BABYBERRY PIE. Lucy wakes up at night, can’t sleep, and WIDE-AWAKE LUCY (Roaring Brook Press) tells the story of what ensues.
They both sound delicious! 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?
When my first book, BEA AND MR. JONES was published, my editor’s assistant personally delivered my first copy, along with a bottle of champagne, to my Brooklyn apartment. But perhaps the best part of the whole experience was returning to California and talking about the whole process with my parents, who were so excited for me.
Has there ever been a moment in your career when you had to eat humble pie? (I did, big-time, when I showed up at a major chain bookstore once 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…)
Back when the book business was all pretty new to me, a publisher invited me to a dinner at ALA. I had a conflict with another publisher’s event, and phoned to turn down the invitation. There was silence on the other end of the phone. The dinner had been organized in my honor. I quickly rectified the situation.
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?
I have wonderful memories of pies my mother made — a strawberry chiffon pie, a grape pie, and my favorite, zwetschenkuchen, a German plum pie with a yeast crust which can only be made when damson plums are in season. There was also one pie I loved specifically, I think, because my mother didn’t made it–chocolate cream pie, which I was sure to order in any coffee shop we went to.
Yum. I want to eat them all right now.
AMY SCHWARTZ’S MOTHER’S STRAWBERRY CHIFFON PIE
Graham cracker crust
1½ graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c. sugar
6 T. butter
Mix ingredients. Pack into tin. Bake at 375 for 8 minutes. Chill.
3 c. quartered strawberries
¾ c. sugar
1 packet gelatin
¼ c. cold water
½ c. boiling water
1 T. lemon juice
2 egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
Wash, hull, and quarter strawberries. Cover with sugar. Let stand ½ hour. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water. Let stand 5 minutes. Add boiling water and lemon juice to gelatin. Pour over berries. Stir well and chill until mixture begins to thicken, about ½ hour. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff. Fold egg whites and salt into gelatin mixture. If desired, fold in ¼ c. or ½ c. heavy cream. Pour into baked graham cracker crust. Chill until set. Garnish with whipped cream and strawberries.
Thank you, Amy, for everything — your delicious recipe, your willingness to be a “pie-of-the-month,” and most of all for your beautiful art!
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As part of an ongoing celebration for a pair of pie-related books of mine that are hot out of the oven (BABYBERRY PIE and PIES & PREJUDICE –learn more here), I cooked up “pie-of-the-month club” to showcase new books by friends and colleagues. To read other selections on the menu, check out my interviews with these pies: Jane Kurtz, Toni Buzzeo, Lisa Schroeder, Jennifer Ward, Susan Blackaby, Jennifer Jacobson, Frederic Hunter, Kimberley Griffiths Little, Stephanie Burgis, Andrea Beaty, and Susan Fletcher. Be sure and drop by again soon, because throughout the rest of the year 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!