May 19th, 2009

books

Interview: Carolyn Hennesy

Carolyn Hennesy's books for kids reimagine Pandora as a young teenager who's really super sorry about what happened with the box. The gods on Mount Olympus order her to retrieve the evils she accidentally unleashed, causing Pandy and her best friends to go on a memorable trip around the world. There are three books in the series so far: Pandora Gets Jealous, Pandora Gets Vain, and Pandora Gets Lazy. They are light and fun picks for the elementary school crowd. For similar titles, check out my It's All Greek to Me booklist.

Now, onto the interview - with thanks to Anna at Bloomsbury for making it possible.

Have you always been fascinated by Greek myths? I enjoy them a great deal, perhaps second in the line, as Ancient Egypt has always been my favorite Ancient civilization. What drew you to Pandora's story?

I have been entranced by Greek mythology since I was about 11 years old. I started studying it in a summer school program taught by a big, blowsy, blonde goddess of a teacher who read straight out of Edith Hamilton . . . nothing sugar-coated. I was blown away not only by the heroics, magic and grandeur but also the pettiness and triviality of their personalities and of what the gods considered a punishable slight or offence. I also loved the fact that the ancient Greeks used mythology to explain their world; one of those stories being the release of all evil and setting that hideous gaffe squarely on the shoulders of one woman . . . Pandora. Ridiculous and unfair.

How much liberty do you allow yourself to take with the original myths?

In my books, one of things I endeavor to do is, in my own way, set the record straight i.e. just as it could have happened that way, it could have happened this way. As far as liberties go, I tend to stick pretty closely to the "acknowledged" traits and trappings of the gods, heroes, and other known characters, but I have as much freedom as I want to place them in any situation. I'm not writing historical fiction, but fantasy.

Though the story takes place in ancient times, the main characters (Homer especially) sometimes have, like, totally contemporary speech. How do you tap into tween talk?

I roam the aisles of H&M with a tape recorder. And I think back to the way my brother's girlfriend used to talk back in 1985 (my ears used to bleed) . . . then I realize that it hasn't changed that much at all.

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Visit Carolyn's website.

Today's SBBT Schedule
Maya Ganesan at Miss Erin
Amber Benson at lectitans
Carolyn Hennesy at Bildungsroman
Jo Knowles at Hip Writer Mama
Sherri Winston at Finding Wonderland

Learn more about the GuysLitWire Book Fair for Boys.
Lucy Woodward, happy

Family: Courtney Sheinmel

A few days ago, the two-year-old son of one of my dearest friends was rushed to the hospital. (Before I go any further, let me just tell you that the baby is fine; he got an absolutely clean bill of health.) Moments after the ambulance came, my friend's husband called to tell me what was going on. I dropped the phone, ran outside, got a cab, and raced to the hospital. On the way over, I started to think about what I would tell the receptionist at the ER. I desperately wanted to be with my friend and her son, and I was afraid the emergency room staff wouldn't understand that we were such close friends that really we were family.

The thing is, I've always had a really broad definition of family. I don't think you need to share DNA or be legally related to someone to be their family. Tonight, just before I sat down to write this, I looked the word "family" up in the American Heritage College Dictionary. It was a pretty long entry, so I'm not going to reproduce the whole thing here, but this was my favorite part: "Two or more people who share goals and values, [and] have commitments to each other. . . ."

There are a lot of people in my life who fit this definition, people who are my family in the truest sense of the world, people for whom I am grateful every single day.

When I got to the hospital, I went straight back to the pediatric ER. I spotted my friend sitting on a gurney, the baby asleep in her arms. I sat down next to her, just like I belonged there. A few minutes later, a nurse came over to take the baby's vital signs. He woke up and started to cry. "It's okay,” the nurse said. "Settle down. Your family is here."

Yes, I thought. We are.

- Courtney Sheinmel

Follow the series of family posts.
Read my 2008 interview with Courtney Sheinmel.
Read my 2009 interview with Courtney Sheinmel.
Discover Courtney's definition of hope.
Read my review of Courtney's first novel, My So-Called Family.
Read my review of Courtney's second book, Positively.
Read my review of Stella Batts Needs a New Name by Courtney Sheinmel, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell.