Special thanks to Sue Ganz-Schmitt for answering 6 questions about her recently featured book – Planet Kindergarten
Children’s book author, mother and philanthropist, Sue Ganz-Schmitt, is passionate about helping children and families both in the USA and globally. She is co-founder of an AIDS orphanage in Haiti, has traveled to China to help medically challenged orphans, and set up a birthing clinic in rural India. Yet, her writing is inspired by her own childhood as well as local children. Planet Kindergarten is Sue’s third book, and was inspired by her mother’s enthusiasm over rocket launches and the moon landing when Sue was a kindergartner. Her visits to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Elon Musk’s SpaceX also inspired her writing of this story. – Adapted from Sue’s Homepage
#1 – What was the impetus for Planet Kindergarten?
When I was in kindergarten, there were many Apollo rocket launches and ultimately the landing on the moon. The awe and wonder of that event has always stayed with me. That combined with watching my daughter and her playgroup enter kindergarten – some brave some fearful. It made me think of the journey as astronauts launching into space and landing on a new strange planet.
#2 – Why do you think the space exploration metaphor makes such a great way to explain going to kindergarten for the first time?
It takes a great deal of bravery and preparation to be an astronaut and launch into the unknown. Launching off to kindergarten is very similar for kids. No matter how prepared they are – many still worry about what could go wrong, the strange new environment, the kids who seem alien to them. Metaphors and similes are great ways to ease kids fears about a situation.
#3 – Your illustrator Shane Prigmore has a keen sense of humour with some of his illustrations. Did you have any input with the visual elements?
Picture book authors usually don’t have a hand in choosing the illustrator, but my amazing editor, Melissa Manlove at Chronicle Books invited me into the process of choosing. I was able to select Shane, but then had no communication with him directly. Melissa showed me his incredible illustrations along the way and asked for my input – but there wasn’t much because his work is absolutely brilliant! He is a two time Annie Award winner (sort of like the Oscar’s for animation). He has created every character in Coraline and others in Megamind, How to Train Your Dragon, The Croods and the Lego movie. So when it comes to humorous illustrations in Planet Kindergarten – it was all him!
#4 – How did you progress with the book. Did you road test your book with any little people in your life?
I wrote it when my daughter Jensen was in kindergarten while observing her friend Dylan and his difficult transition from pre-school to kindergarten. Then I put it in a drawer for a while. A couple of years later Dylan’s mom Jill invited us to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I went a little reluctantly (it was either NASA or another day at the Disney park). When I got there – I realized it was even better than Disneyland – rockets, mission control, spacesuits, a moon rock, and real astronauts. My love of space was reignited. I went home, found the manuscript, finished it, and tried to remember that name I had come up with for it. My daughters have to hear my manuscripts a lot! I burst into the middle of their play, or dinner and say “what about this?!” I always get good input. If their friends are over they have to listen through it too. Jill always gets my early drafts to read to Dylan and his sisters. I also get these kids involved in musical appearances ( Planet K Theme Song by Galaxy Girls) as they are very talented. I produce kids musical theater so love to bring that element into my book events.
#5 – What has the response been to the book? From adults? From kids?
It has been great! It was recently picked up by Scholastic for their book club – that is a dream come true for a children’s book author.
#6 – Are you working on any new projects/books you can tell us about?
I am super excited about the next book coming out with Chronicle, Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit, which is a fun romp through the celebration of a kindergartener’s 100th day of school. I have just seen Shane’s sketches and they are just as fun as the first book. This will be out next summer.
[Image Credit: http://static.wixstatic.com/media/124ccf_40630086e6ea44d19b7bddf1fcd25f0d.jpg, and Author Supplied]