Jun 2, 2014

Talking Inventions with the Author of Ziggy's Big Idea!

This week's guest blog post is from Ilana Long, author of Ziggy's Big Idea, about a young boy whose persistent inventing leads to the creation of a favorite breakfast treat - the bagel! Check out the book trailer before reading her post, all about inventing (and writing too)! You can get a copy of Ziggy's Big Idea on the Kar-Ben website.

"Have you ever wondered how soap was invented?  Was someone thinking, “Hey! I bet if I mix some cow fat with some ashes from the fire, I could rub it all over my body and feel clean!” 

How exciting it must have been when popcorn was first discovered! After some very cursory and inconclusive research, here’s one scenario I can imagine: A young Aztec woman sits by the fire when she realizes that she waited too long to roast the corn she had picked.  It is all dried out!  Now, how is she going to eat that desiccated, hard corn?! “Oh, well,” she figures, “I might as well chuck that dried up cob into the fire.”
Suddenly –Boom!   Pop! Pop! Pop!  That corn explodes right there on the cob! Her heart races, she falls over backwards and for a moment, she is really scared.  Wouldn’t you be? But when the popping stops, she notices that some fluffy, puffy balls have shot out of the fire.  Carefully, she picks one up, sniffs it, and pops it in her mouth.   Wow!   Crunchy and delicious; She has accidentally discovered popcorn!  “Now, I just need to invent butter and the IMAX 3-D experience.”

Most often, inventions are created because there is a need for something that doesn’t even exist yet.  For instance, maybe there was a student walking around with a whole bunch of books falling out of her arms. Until one day, she thought, “Hey, I should invent a backpack!”
So how did I invent the story of Ziggy’s Big Idea?  It all started one evening when Grandma Evey, came by our house on her way home from a lecture at the Sephardic Jewish Society.  She was eager to tell me all about the interesting speaker she had just heard:  The speaker focused on the history of the bagel.  My first reaction was, “What?!  Why didn’t you invite me?”  My second comment was “Wow!  That would make an awesome story for kids.  I think I’ll call it Ziggy’s Big Idea.”

Actually, the title and the complete story came to me in teeny bits and pieces.  I knew I wanted to write about a kid who was the same age as my own twins.  Like Ziggy, my children are curious and creative, and I thought, “If I were a kid, what would lead me to make a bagel?”
So I did some research to find out the real history behind that yummy bagel, and it turns out there are a smorgasbord of possible ways the bagel came about.  The lecturer had suggested that, compared to ordinary breads, bagels were quicker to bake before Shabbat because the insides didn’t have to cook for a long time.  That was a key piece of information for me, as it presented an idea for a problem within the story.  Every story’s got to have a problem to solve!  

My favorite reasons for the invention of that beloved, baked treat were the ones that came from specific needs.  I learned that the baskets the bread vendors carried were heavy when filled, so some bakers made the buns with holes, so that they could be easily stacked and transported on a walking stick.   I thought that would be a great detail to include in my book.  So I had Ziggy stack the bagels on a broomstick to show Papi how that would work.  My kids weren’t crazy about that part of the story.  They worried that the bagels would touch the tops of the broom straws and get dirty.  I assured them that the broom was brand new, and had never been used.
Are you curious to know the some of the other possible histories?  Check out the back pages of the book, where you can read some other details about the bagel’s origin.   I was interested, for example, in finding out where the word bagel came from.  Can you find the two possible origins of the word bagel?  If you can, then you are on your way to becoming an etymologist - a person who studies when and how words are born.   By the way, it’s a great hobby, but you can’t make a living off of it, so don’t quit your day job.  If you don’t want to be an etymologist, you could become an entomologist and study bugs.  But, again, don’t count on making the big bucks.

I sure had a lot of fun writing Ziggy’s Big Idea.  I hope you find yourself inspired to create, to build, to discover, to invent and to develop your own really BIG ideas!"

1 comment:

  1. How insightful. Who knew? Thank you for writing this wonderful and fun book☺.