Mary Pope Osborne
Bulletin Board Discussion
Mary Pope Osborne was interviewed by Scholastic students, parents, and teachers. She answered questions about her retold fairy tale, “Kate and the Beanstalk,” and the process of writing.
Why did you want to be an author? What is your favorite subject to write about?
I love using my imagination. I love writing about animals.
Did you always know you wanted to be an author?
No, I didn't really figure that out until I was a grown-up. I just knew that I loved to read — and I loved using my imagination.
Which authors have inspired you? Which authors were your favorites when you were a child?
I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett who wrote The Little Princess and The Secret Garden. And I loved the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Will you write any more fractured fairy tales in the future? If so, which stories are you writing about?
Yes, I'm working now on another fractured fairy tale that will be illustrated by Giselle Potter, the astonishing illustrator of “Kate and the Beanstalk.” We're redoing the Grimm's fairy tale of “The Brave Little Tailor.” We're calling it, The Brave Little Seamstress.
Where do you get your ideas for a story? Do you have any fun suggestions to help in the creative process?
I get ideas from my own personal experiences, from my imagination, and from my research and from old stories. Here's a fun suggestion: Choose a familiar fairy tale. Be a minor character in the tale and tell us the story from your point of view.
How'd you choose the name Kate? That's my name too?
One of my best friends is the children's book author, Kate McMullan. I named the character after her.
Do you have any children? If so, what are their names? Do you use your family for characters in your book?
I don't have any kids; but yes, I do put members of my family in my books. My nephews are in book #24, and my dog Bailey is a character in books #17-20.
How do I develop a character in a children's book? And what makes a book appealing to a kid?
If you're interested in reading my advice on writing, I suggest that you check out the Readers and Writers Club on the Magic Tree House Web site. My husband Will and I give lots of writing tips on that Web site: how to do research and how to develop characters, settings, and plots for your own writing.
Do you write from pictures in your head?
Yes, I see pictures in my head of the action in a story. But I also “feel” and “hear” the story.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I love reading all kinds of books. I usually have about ten books going at any one time - books about the past, the present, novels, non-fiction, poetry, mythology, religion, etc. Reading is my favorite thing to do.
Are you going to make a movie about any of your books?
I don't know. Right now, I just want kids to read, read, read.
Your Magic Tree House series is full of a lot of great reference information. How do you going about doing the research that goes into each book? Do you have tips for students learning how to do research and then for how to expand as they get older and the research becomes more involved? Thank you for your great writing and for opening up the world of non-fiction to young readers!
I'm glad you like reference information. All the questions you've asked are answered in a new nonfiction series that my husband Will and I are working on together: The Magic Tree House Research Guides. So far we have published guides on Dinosaurs, Knights and Castles, Mummies and Pyramids, Rain Forest — and soon to come out: Space, and the Titanic. In the books, we give lots of research tips and information.
We are a second grade class. When we studied dinosaurs, we read Dinosaurs Before Dark. We love Jack and Annie and now all our book reports are from The Magic Tree House series. We have talked about Jack and Annie's personalities and everyone has decided if he or she is more like Jack (a thinker, a scientist) or like Annie (impulsive, adventurous). We would like to know, “Are you more like Jack or Annie?” We would also like to know, “Which book in the series do you like the most?” We hope to read your new book soon. We have already tried to write our own versions of fairy tales and would like to try another.
I'm a little like Jack because I really love books and learning new things. I'm a little like Annie because I'm impulsive and I really love animals. I regret to say, though, that I'm not as smart as Jack, or as brave as Annie. Right now, of all the books in the series the one I most like is Earthquake in the Early Morning, because my two nephews, Peter and Andrew, play a part in the story. I also really like the new Magic Tree House book that's coming out in October (2001): Christmas in Camelot. In that book, Jack and Annie ride on the back of a white stag to the Otherworld to save the kingdom of Camelot.
Which book of yours was your favorite to write? Which book was the most challenging? Why?
My favorite and most challenging book to write is the same: It is Adaline Falling Star. I fell in love with the character and with her dog. I hated to leave them when the story ended.
My students and I love your book Favorite Greek Myths, but there is some confusion. The myths are accurate, but the names of the gods are Roman not Greek. We are curious about the reason for this.
I'm glad you like Favorite Greek Myths! As I explain in the back of the book, most of the myths in my collection were derived from stories written by the Latin poet Ovid. Since Ovid used the Roman names for the gods and goddesses, I felt obliged to do the same.
Do you come to schools for reading incentive programs like author day?
I used to go to many schools — and totally loved it. Over the last few years, I had to curtail my school visits because my publishing schedule has gotten so rigorous. I hope, though, to get back to it someday — I get lots of inspiration from talking to kids and teachers.
My daughter and I both love your Magic Tree House series and I wanted to know if there was anything you would like to share about the writing process or your feelings about children's literature? I feel that reading is one of the most important things anyone can do and it is especially important to instill a love of reading in children. This is what I feel your books do.
Being a children's book author is unbelievably gratifying. It involves all my favorite things: literature, old stories, the writing process, research, current events, human drama, history, animals, other cultures, digging up memories of childhood, and relating closely to wonderful kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and book editors.