Feb 22, 2012

Meet Kelly Terwilliger, An Interview with the Author of Barnyard Purim

Kelly lives in Eugene, Oregon, which she says is kind of famous for rain. Luckily, she doesn’t mind rain too much, since she has a big red umbrella. She is a poet and a storyteller. In addition to writing, she works as an artist-in-residence in schools. She tells stories (from memory rather than reading them from books), and teaches story-writing, story-telling and poetry. She lives with her husband, two sons, and a flock of chickens. Her newest book, Barnyard Purim, is all about the hijinks that ensue when a group of barnyard animals decide to stage their own Purim shpiel. It is, of course, ridiculously fun. Let's ask Kelly some questions about her work, her inspirations and her newest book, Barnyard Purim.

What was your favorite book when you were a child? It is so hard to choose a favorite book! I loved lots of books as a child, and I still do: Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, The Phantom Tollbooth…and lots of others.

What’s your favorite line from a book? Hm. That’s a hard question! One that comes to mind is a quote from Commander Toad (by Jane Yolen): “Before you can be brave, you must first be very much afraid.” This is encouraging somehow, when I am not feeling especially brave.

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators? Elise Kleven, Tove Janssen, Arnold Lobel.

Why did you want to become an author?
I love playing with words and making up stories and poems. I’m not sure becoming a writer was something I decided to do. I just did it! But I did decide to send some stories to publishers, and that was because I thought it would be neat to be able to share them with lots of people, even ones I didn’t know.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
o what you love to do: write, draw, paint what delights you.
Where did you get the inspiration for Barnyard Purim?
I had two inspirations. One: I starting directing plays with a friend of mine and realized that lots of unexpected things happen when you put on plays! Two: I have a flock of chickens, some of whom have a LOT of personality. A chicken director seemed just right to me.
What are you most excited about promoting in your new book?I love the Purim story, with its unexpected heroes and its twists and turns. I think the world is full of unexpected heroes, and I’d like to cheer them on!
How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?
I hope it will encourage lots of play, and plays! Who knows—puppet shows? Talking toys? Dressed-up furniture? Purim is a holiday that invites topsy-turvy imagination.

What are some fun facts about you?I tell stories in loads of classrooms and frequently when I go to the store or the library I will see kids I know. Frequently they will ask me to tell them a story. Right there! In the parking lot, or wherever! Often there isn’t time—they have to hurry on to the next errand. But I have told some pretty fun stories on sidewalks or in check-out lines! I also make crazy hats. I have a collection of favorite words I write in tiny books, and I have a cloud collection. Right now it is in the form of photographs. Probably it will stay that way, but who knows?

Buy the book
by Kelly Terwilliger
illustrated by Barbara Johansen Newman
Purim is a topsy-turvy time, even on the farm. The animals decide to stage a Purim shpiel, and Chicken assigns the parts. Blushing Duck is Queen Esther, Silly Horse is Ahashuerus, and Bearded Goat is Mordechai. But when they try to transform Shy Little Sheep into mean-looking Haman, something unexpected happens.
Ages 5-9, Grades K-3
32 pages, 9 1/4 x 11

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