About Eileen Spinelli
I, Jerry Spinelli, am writing this myself without help from my wife and fellow author, Eileen, because I need to do some bragging about her. It was her idea that led to our first book together: Today I Will. She remembered reading daily devotionals, and it occurred to her that young readers might like a day-by-day book based on literature.
There's a page in Today I Will for every day in the year—that’s 366 pages/days, including leap year. Each page starts with a quote from children's or young adult literature. Then comes a commentary on the quote, followed by a resolution—that is, how you can apply the message to your day. The idea is that you take a minute to read the day's page when you get up in the morning. It helps to give your day a little direction.
Today I Will is just the latest in a long parade of ideas that Eileen has blessed me with. The sequel to Stargirl—Love, Stargirl—is one. The Stargirl Journal is another.
Speaking of Stargirl, I guess you could say she gave me the idea for that one too, even though she never realized it. Listening to her talk about her childhood over the years, and getting to know this special person I happen to be married to, I found myself using Eileen again and again as my model as I developed the character of Susan Caraway, who names herself Stargirl. Two examples: Stargirl keeps notes on other people, so she knows when their birthdays are, what they like to eat, etc; and Stargirl has a “happy wagon.” I lifted both of these features from Eileen’s personal history.
She does more than supply me with ideas. She’s my first reader and editor. When I finish a chapter, I put it on her desk. (We each have an office in our house.) She tells me if it’s good (I go, “Yes!”) or not (I re-write). I do the same for her. It works so well for us, I sometimes wonder how any author can manage without a writing spouse.
Sometimes we get asked: “Do you compete with each other?” The question always surprises us. The fact is, we are each other’s biggest cheerleader. If Eileen writes a bestseller, I’m probably happier about it than she is. There are no losers in our house.
People who know we have seventeen grandchildren (at last count) often want to know if we get ideas from them. The answer is: Yes, we do. But there are many more sources to get stories from. We get story ideas from each other and from reading the newspaper and from memories of our own kidhoods and just from ordinary everyday life.
With all this writing stuff going on in our House of Two Authors, you might wonder that it took us this long to write a book together. Actually, we did try it once before, years ago. It was a story about ideas in the form of cute, furry little creatures running around the house. That story was one idea we could have done without. It flopped.
About Marjorie Priceman
In the age of Mapquest and global-positioning systems, I still love the Rand McNally road atlas. The whole, crazy country is contained between its two covers. The strange place names and geographical quirks, the weirdly shaped states–as well as the orderly square ones. The fact that you can plot a trip from here to anywhere and get there eventually.
Picture books, I think, can be a thrifty form of travel. Without leaving the house you can cross a continent, venture out to sea (or under it), go back in time or into space. How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. was my attempt to write a sequel to How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World that didn't just repeat the same formula in a new locale with a different dessert.
This time, I began with a recipe. This time, the baker has all the ingredients–but is lacking the bowl, spoons, and other cooking tools to complete the cherry pie. The result is part road trip, part tutorial–a "scenic" jaunt around the U.S.A., if not exactly the shortest route.
I harkened back to the family vacations of my youth. In the backseat of the Chevy Malibu, counting cows or playing tic-tac-toe, stopping at all the roadside attractions. Scenic overlooks! Snack bars! Petting Zoos! Souvenirs!
We visited historic sites, museums and monuments, planetariums and movie studios, national parks and amusement parks. We went to the seashore and drove up at least one snow-topped mountain in summer. From the car windows, we saw farms, forests, big cities and small towns, oil refineries, skyscrapers, and bridges.
But we also toured the symbols of American industry–Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Corning Glass factory. We volunteered for quality control at the Hershey Chocolate works. We panned for "gold" at Knott's Berry Farm.
The book attempts to tell kids where stuff comes from (aside from Wal-Mart, or China) and how our natural resources are turned into everything we use in our daily lives. How a plastic spoon or toy starts out as crude oil from deep underground, or the raw materials for glass are found in the sand on a beach. There is a very subtle message on recycling (see if you can find it), but that is not the purpose of this book. Of course, one hopes that as kids learn that real trees, mountains, and earth are used up to make common household items, that will help them understand the importance of conservation.
Although its purpose is to inform, I've tried to include enough oddball humor and detours along the road to prevent it from being just another "educational" vacation (we've all had those). In the end, the task at hand–collecting the materials to make the tools to bake the cherry pie–is also an excuse to travel this amazing, captivating country, an expansive and surprising America that no 32-page book can ever hope to capture or contain.
A Kirkus Reviews Best of Children's Books 2012
A Booklist Best of Children's Books 2012
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2012:
“A community caught under the pall of a weeklong cold snap comes together in this cozy, old-fashioned story that is high on both charm and appeal.”
Starred Review, Booklist, September 1, 2012:
“A delight for sharing, especially one-on-one.”
SELECTION 2015 Missouri Show Me Reader Award