A Book Review
[I did receive a free copy of this book in return for my review but all opinions are my own.]
Recently I have been overwhelmed with reading the same Llama Llama books. Don’t get me wrong – I love them BUT they can get old after reading 100 times a day! I recently discovered the book Otis Grows by Kathryn Hast that is a children’s book speaking to adults. The rhyming holds Rhory’s attention but the underlying message of going out and being successful, despite everyone’s differences. We, as a society, don’t always see eye to eye but regardless we have to learn how to push forward. The world is not always easy but we have to teach our children how to overcome challenges and obstacles! I got a lot out of the book as I was reading it to my daughter and my students also enjoyed the read! As fifth graders they were definitely able to pick up on some of those underlying messages.
Illustration Sneak Peek
I love the illustrations as much as the words! They fit perfectly with the message that Hast is trying to convey. The story follows the life of Otis, an onion, whose parents are VERY opposite and constantly fighting. He struggles to see the beauty in the world around him but finally Crystal helps him realize his potential and the beauty of the world.
I love reading new stories but I also love interviewing the author! Usually I have the opportunity to communicate with them directly and I always jump at the chance to send them some questions. Kathryn has two kids under four and so I am so impressed with her writing a book! She also shares my same dread of the same childrens books 100 times over, especially when life is moving at lightning speed! Ha! Check out her website here for more information! Also find her on Facebook, Instagram, AND Twitter!
1. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
I have two kids under the age of four, so yes! I think that as moms, we’re all so busy, so much of the time, so that when we do have a moment to stop, it can feel unnatural to slow down, to have quiet. There’s also the issue of commitment. Clearly, we all know that books are our friends, but when life gets hectic, it can feel like an over-extension to pick up that new title.
Honestly, though, that’s one of the reasons I worked on Otis Grows. I began to recognize that the most reading I actually was doing was with my kids. I wanted to provide parents with an opportunity to enjoy literary ideas, while still creating something fun and engaging for the little ones.
2. What other authors are you friends with and how do they push you to become a better writer?
The three years I spent in Boston at Emerson’s MFA program yielded some good ingredients that are important for any author. First and foremost, there’s competition. Even among friends. Some of my classmates have been quite successful, and others are still banging it out. At the risk of name-dropping or proclaiming winners, I think it’s fair to say that we’re all still aware of each other, and that’s a good kind of pressure.
Beyond that, and to emphasize the friendship part, I definitely find inspiration when I reflect on the fun we had. Conversations were quirky. We sparred. We laughed a lot. We were quick to point out beauty. I guess it’s about understanding each other at a deeper level than you actually talk about. When I feel alone or bored as a writer, I know of friends who can pull me back in.
3. What was the inspiration behind Otis Grows?
It was a dream my dad had. Right down to the boots and boxing gloves. He was visiting us in Asheville, North Carolina. I’d taken the day off from work, and he told me about this dream from the previous night–over a BLT, as if it were nothing. I remember wondering if genetics would dictate that I too would start having weird, antagonistic, cartoon dreams someday. I ribbed him about it later in a Father’s Day card, re-creating it as a poem, because it sounded even crazier in verse. That’s how it started.
Then, for a couple years, I added more and more to that original scribble. Slowly, it turned into something that was mine. And then, in 2013, I had my first child, a girl. And I guess that was the final inspiration–to really go after it. I wanted to show her that there was more to the world than all the conflict you see on TV.
4. Does your family support your career as a writer?
I should be quick to point out that writing is not my career. I spend my days in the world of education. I get my paycheck from a local college, where I help ensure that online materials are accessible for everyone, including people with disabilities.
As for my family, they’re great. A few months ago, I was in the basement working on my next book, Batty Betty. To be clear, that means my husband was upstairs watching both kids. I heard my daughter ask where I was. “Mommy’s not here,” he said, “she’s making you another story.” My daughter wanted to know what the book was about, and when she could see it, and if I would read it to her class. That’s a pretty awesome feeling.
5. What is your favorite childhood book?
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. As a kid, I read and re-read it–in pieces, of course–and each time, it was different because it made me consider the world and the people around me in different ways. Come to think of it, I’d say that’s a pretty good definition of literature.
Be sure to get your copy of Otis Grows!