Linda Ashman - A Lion & Dragonfly Interview

Linda Ashman - A Lion & Dragonfly Interview

Linda Ashman - A Lion & Dragonfly Interview

"I’d say the key ingredients (of a great children's book) are: drama, kid appeal, engaging language, and wonderful illustrations. Humor helps too!"

- Linda Ashman

The delightful Phoebe duPree is Coming to Tea has been a huge favorite in our Friendship! Collection this year. This adorable rhyming tale of a lovely tea party that goes comically awry helps children appreciate that parties don’t need to be picture perfect to be fun.  We were thrilled that author Linda Ashman took the time to answer a few of our questions.  We hope you enjoy the interview!

Can you tell us what inspired you to write Phoebe Dupree Is Coming to Tea!?

This one started with the title, which just popped into my head one day. I liked the rhythm of it and immediately pictured a young girl (Abby) anticipating a visit from a classmate she admires. Abby wants everything to be perfect, fearing Phoebe won’t want to be friends otherwise. I wondered: What happens if all her careful planning goes disastrously awry?

What is your favorite page of this book and why?

I’m partial to the post-disaster spread that begins with “The room is in shambles.” Alea Marley did such a great job of conveying the chaos of the scene. I love Abby’s expression, Phoebe’s body language, and Louie’s delight as he helps himself to one of the goodies that was flung to the floor.

What do you hope your audience takes away from this book?

I think many kids (and adults) can relate to Abby’s desire to create something wonderful—and her disappointment when things don’t work out as planned. I hope the story shows that perfection is a shaky ground for building relationships and that real friendships bloom with authenticity, laughter, and a little messiness.

What's your favorite part about being an author?

I like learning new things, so it’s been fun to research, say, where animals go during storms, the special talents of dogs, or the amazing qualities of plants and seeds. For my book Fire Chief Fran, coming out this December, I talked to female fire chiefs and learned so much about firefighting. (Did you know fewer than 10% of firefighters are female? And that two thirds of firefighter calls are for medical emergencies, not fires?) I also enjoy the challenge of distilling that information into a few hundred words and—in the case of Fire Chief Fran—turning it into a lively read aloud using rhyme and repetition.  

I also love the freedom and flexibility of writing. In contrast to my early professional life, I can wear comfy clothes every day, take daily walks, work in the garden, meet a friend for coffee and travel when I choose. 

What do you think are the ingredients for a great children’s book?

There are so many different kinds of kids’ books, but for most picture books, I’d say the key ingredients are: drama, kid appeal, engaging language, and wonderful illustrations. Humor helps too!

What’s the last book you couldn’t put down?

So far, my favorite book of 2022 is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. The Maid by Nita Prose was tough to put down as well.  

If you could have one superpower what would it be? 

Oh, boy. I would like to zap lies and disinformation at the source before they spread and cause harm.

It’s summertime.  We have to know: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Something nutty and chocolatey, please!

What is something not many people may know about you?

Among other tricks, I taught my dog Sammy—a super smart, funny, and soulful Lab mix—to count: “Spin once. Spin twice. Spin three times.” She died last year at age 14. I miss her every day.

What are your goals for the future?

After the challenges of the last few years, my planning horizon is pretty short and my goals simple. Keep writing, work on things I care about, travel with my husband, see our son play baseball (he’s a minor league pitcher), spend time with friends, and keep plugging away in the garden despite the impossibility of ever achieving perfection.

- Abby Gallagher with Linda Ashman

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