Author Interviews

Johanna Hurwitz Interview Transcript

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Scholastic's Online Reading Club - created for young readers who aren't afraid to dive into literature! We feature amazing books and provide teachers and students with the opportunity to talk about the novels with other kids all across the country. The actual author always joins in the discussion!

Johanna Hurwitz was a guest in Scholastic's Online Reading Club. With the guidance of thought questions, students and teachers discussed her books Class President and Lexi's Tale. Then Johanna Hurwitz herself joined in the conversation. Hurwitz is the popular author of over five dozen books, including Class Clown, Teacher's Pet, and The Hot and Cold Summer. Class President tells the story of Julio, who campaigns hard for his friend but ends up displaying his own leadership, with unexpected results. Lexi's Tale is about the friendship between a guinea pig and squirrel who work to help a homeless man in New York City's Central Park.

Let's Talk with Johanna Hurwitz

About Class President

Discussion Question:
How was Ernesto Flores different from other teachers the students had in the past?

  • Student Response: He was different because he told the students his first name before they discovered it. He also started roll call with the boys instead of the girls. He held a class election. He said Julio's name differently than other teachers had. He allowed the students to spend $1 million in class. Finally, he was a man.
    Mrs. Crockett's 4th grade class
    Lakeview Elementary School
  • Student Response: Mr. Flores is different because he said, "I am your teacher for fifth grade. My name is Ernesto Flores."
    Icia
  • Student Response: Mr.Flores is different from the other teachers because he is a man. He is really nice, but his students aren't used to it. It is a new thing for Julio because last year he heard that the fifth grade teacher was strict and, as usual, a woman.
    T.J.

Discussion Question:

What qualities should a class president have? What qualities did Julio have that would make him a good president?

  • Student Response: A class president should be a good listener, be courteous, be open to ideas, should have a positive attitude, and should stand up for people.
    Icia
  • Student Response: A quality that a good class president should have is that they should not be afraid to stand up for the rest of the class. They should make responsible choices that everyone can agree with. They should never only care about one person and not every one else.
    Brittney
  • Student Response: A good class president should be nice and also stand up for his classmates and never be doubtful.
    Zachary
  • Student Response: They should set a good example for the class. The president should also be loyal and honest. They should also help their classmates solve their problems. Another quality we think that a good class president should have is for the class to make joint decisions. One last point is we think the president should support the class.

More Questions about Class President

Student Question: What inspired you to write Class President?
Johanna Hurwitz: My ideas come from everywhere: my life, observations, memories, newspaper articles, etc. The inspiration for Class President came gradually. First, Julio Sanchez was just a friend of Lucas's in Class Clown and Teacher's Pet. However, the more I wrote about him, the better I knew him. That gave me the inspiration to write a book in which he was the main character.

Student Question: How long did you take to write The Class President?
Deletra T.
Johanna Hurwitz: It took me six months which is how long it usually takes me to write a book (writing, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, etc.)

Student Question:
How did you come up with Julio's personality?
Johanna Hurwitz: Julio's personality developed gradually. He was in two previous books, Class Clown and Teacher's Pet, and the more I mentioned him in those books, the better I got to know him. I decided he had many good qualities even if he wasn't as smart as Lucas and Cricket.

About Lexi's Tale

Discussion Question:
What lessons could you learn from Lexi and Pee Wee?

  • Student Response: Friendship is very important. And don't get too excited about something until you know if it's going to happen.

Questions for Johanna Hurwitz

My name is Jerri. I was wondering why David Bernstein changed his name to Ali Baba in The Adventures of Ali Baba Bernstein.
If you read The Adventures of Ali Baba Bernstein, you'll find out that there were four Davids in his 3rd grade class. He changed his name to stand out and to avoid being confused with the other Davids all the time.

How many books have you written? Do you have any kids? Do you enjoy writing books?
I have written 64 books and have two kids. That's better than two books and 64 kids! Yes, I love writing books.

Are you going to write any more books? I love the way you write, and thank you for taking time out to read this.
Absolutely yes! Thank you.

I think you should write another Ali Baba book because I like the name and because they are fun.
Guess what? I am working on a whole book of new adventures for Ali Baba Bernstein. I believe the title will actually be Ali Baba Bernstein Follows His Nose. It will include several other adventures that he has as well as the one you probably read in the September Storyworks Magazine.

Do you have any kids? Did you write when you were little?
I have two children and three grandchildren. I wrote my first book when I was 8 (of course it wasn't published).

I liked your book because it was funny. Do you write poems? I think I am going to like all your books.
Thank you! I don't write much poetry, but I do sometimes.

I like your books. They are very funny and very cool! Can I get your autograph?
I don't know how to send an autograph via internet. Is it possible?

1. How do you make writing fun?
2. Out of all the books you wrote, which one was your favorite?
3. What made you interested in writing?

  1. Write about funny things. When I write, I never know the ending and so it's fun to write and discover it just as you do when you're reading.
  2. That's too hard a question to answer. It's like asking your mother who is the favorite child in your family.
  3. My parents read stories to me. Then I began making up stories and telling them to my little brother.

What is it like to be an author? What was it like to be a librarian? Why did you become an author? What book are you going to write next? (We would love the inside scoop!)
Mrs. Crockett's 4th grade Class
Lakeview Elementary
Being an author was my dream since childhood. So having achieved it, it feels great. I loved being a librarian too because I love books and talking about them to others. Imagine, I was paid to do just that. I am working on a whole book of new adventures for Ali Baba Bernstein. I believe the title will actually be Ali Baba Bernstein Follows His Nose. It will include several other adventures that he has as well as the one you read in Storyworks Magazine.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Collecting names is one of my hobbies. I find names in the newspaper, when I meet people and in the letters I get from my readers.

If you were not an author, what job would you like to have? Do you write other books besides children's books? Were any of your books ever rejected? How long have you been an author? Thanks for answering.
I used to be a librarian and I loved that. I'd return to library work full time if I wasn't so busy writing.

All my books are for children, however, I've written magazine and newspaper articles for adults as well as a few short stories.

Yes. Just about every author (including J.K. Rowling) has had their books rejected. But we don't give up.

My first book was published in 1976 but I was writing long before that.

I have written several books. I'd really like to find out how can become an author and have them published. How did you get started in your career?
It's very hard to be published while you are still young. After all, you are competing with people who have graduated from college and have had loads more experience with life. So, look for contests and magazines that only publish works by people your age. Keep writing. Don't give up and someday, you will be a published author too.

Dear Johanna Hurwitz, Hi. My name is Trevor. Do you like sports? My favorite is baseball. Have you ever thought about writing a book about sports?
I'm not much of an athlete although I walk three miles every day and work out at a gym with weights. I do love baseball, however. As a result, I've written a book called Baseball Fever. Look for it in your school or public library.

Have you ever been to Lincoln Elementry School in Huntsville Alabama? If you haven't I would like you to come...
From: Monica
I've been to Alabama once and I had a great time. I spoke at a district wide Young Author Festival and not at an individual elementary school. Maybe someday I'll show up at your school.

How long have you been writing?
Thomas H.
I started writing when I was eight years old. However, it took until I was 38 for my first book to be published.

Have you ever thought about making a movie out of your best storybook?
Kenyatta T.
Oh Kenyatta, I would love to see one of my books made into a movie. However, I am a writer and not a filmmaker. Perhaps someday, someone in the film industry will read one of my books and decide to produce it. That would be great!

Have you ever traveled to help you write your books?
Dominique R.
Yes. When I wrote Baseball Fever, I took a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame to do some research. Sometimes taking a trip will give me an idea for a book. For example, my daughter lived and worked in Nicaragua for a year and I went to visit her. Out of my visit came the idea for a picture book for little children called New Shoes for Silvia.

  • Subjects:
    Plot, Character, Setting, Writing Process
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