I first fell in love with Caroline's writing with the beautiful novel-in-verse, May B. I immediately bought it, knowing that it would be a book I wanted to share with my daughters (I've since read it with my oldest, and she loves it!).
Since then, I've eagerly awaited all of her releases, from the gorgeous and poignant Over in the Wetlands to her most recent middle grade novel, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine, a thrilling adventure set deep in the Yukon wilderness.
Read on for a summary of her latest picture book, RIDE ON, WILL CODY! and an interview about this exciting addition to Caroline's award-winning literature for children. A teacher's guide is available HERE.
Hi Caroline! This sounds like such a fun story and a great read-aloud! There are so many vibrant characters from the Frontier West. How did you decide to write a picture book about the young man who grew up to be Buffalo Bill?
In 2012, my family was on vacation in Colorado. I happened to notice a sign in Golden for a Buffalo Bill Museum and convinced my family we needed to stop in. As I walked through the exhibits, a story idea began to stir. I didn’t know the specifics, but I knew it would be about Buffalo Bill. The following January, I checked out a number of research books. I was pretty convinced my story would focus on Cody’s Wild West show, but his Pony Express work (if it happened at all — most historians now believe his Pony Express years were fabrication) was what really caught my attention.
Tell us one fun item that you came upon during research that did not make it into the book?
I love this quote from Buffalo Bill about writing. It sums up his no nonsense personality pretty well (and humors me as an author):
“Life is too short to make big letters when small ones will do; and as for punctuation, if my readers don’t know enough to take their breath without those little marks, they’ll have to lose it, that’s all.”
Writing about historical figures can be daunting. What advice would you give writers who are looking to represent a person from history with limited text and just 32 pages to work with?
Go deep rather than wide. A historical picture book isn’t meant to cover everything in a character’s life. Pick a moment and shine a light on the character’s response to the event. Show us her bravery or his curiosity, her commitment or his determination. Let us live the moment right alongside the character. Leave us feeling as if we’ve been there!
You’ve written prose and verse novels, nonfiction, and picture books. How do you ease from one storytelling voice to another? Do some types of writing come more easily than others for you?
I’m not sure I move from one storytelling voice to the next with ease, but I do think it’s important for the story to be in charge of its form and not the author. Each piece has one best way it can be communicated. I sometimes know if a book will be verse or prose going in, but sometimes not.
What’s really important, though, is not to force a form on a piece of writing because it’s what I’m most comfortable with or is what I want to try. I need to listen to the work — sometimes through trial and error — to find the best way to “show” it to the world.
Verse is absolutely easier* for me than prose. It somehow feels more natural (even though I wrote three prose novel manuscripts before writing my first book, the verse novel, May B.). I don’t want to rest on what feels most familiar, though.
*It’s important to point out no writing is every easy, at least for me!
I love your cover! Did you get to offer input during the illustration process?
I love it, too! The action and the colors are just perfect.
I had much more input with WILL CODY than I did with OVER IN THE WETLANDS. Perhaps it’s because I was with a different publishing house or because the story was historical fiction or maybe a combination of the two. I got to see early sketches and comments meant for illustration Joe Lillington from both the art director and my editor. I was also invited to leave comments about the depiction of the setting, historical elements — anything, really. It was so interesting to watch those sketches become the final art.
Caroline, thank you so much for visiting Falling Leaflets, and congratulations on another wonderful book! Readers, click on the links below to purchase RIDE ON, WILL CODY! for yourself, your friends, and your family: