This book will be released in April, 2018. You can preorder it now at this link:
Preorder on Amazon
And now to start the interview...Here we go!
Hi Denette!, Thanks for joining me. First of all, I notice that you include a lot of humor in your writing. What inspires your humor?
Hi Mindy, glad to be here. As a picture book collector, most of my best-loved stories are humorous. If I had to name a favorite book, it would be Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day--but at the top of my list would also be Mercer Mayer's Little Critter series, Helen Lester's A Porcupine Named Fluffy, and Jon Klassen's This is Not My Hat. I love humor, but kids do too--which make it an excellent vehicle for teaching biblical principles without sounding preachy or hackneyed.
I love humor, too. Do you have a favorite page in the story of I Want Your Smile, Crocodile that makes you chuckle each time you see it?
I brought a sneak peek into the book. Here it is!
Oooh! Thank you so much for bringing that!
The main character of I Want Your Smile, Crocodile is a spunky meerkat named Jack. Illustrator Jackie Urbanovic did a fantastic job of introducing the reader to Jack. With one illustration, she captured Jack's attitude, while making him cute and loveable. Her portrayal always make me smile.
Truly adorable. I can see why that is a favorite! My next question is in regards to writing technique. Do you have any writing techniques that you use that help you to add bits of humor into the story?
If you were to read any of my manuscripts as straight text, the humor would be intermittent. It is the complement or contrast between text and illustrations that generate humor on almost every page of my three books. My favorite humor is when the text contradicts the illustration. For instance, in I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, Jack believes if he has a crocodile smile, kids will "stand in line and wait" for him to grin; however, the corresponding illustration portrays chaos as zoo visitors flee his new look.
To create humor, I start by knowing my main characters, setting, and problem very well. I then imagine detailed pictures of unusual or unexpected circumstances for the character in his setting. Because much of my humor is reliant on these visualizations, I juxtapose text and illustration suggestions when submitting manuscripts. I don't think I would have sold any of my three now published manuscripts had I not relayed the pictures in my head. Of course, none of the humor would work without excellent illustrations. I have been blessed by two fabulous illustrators. Jackie Urbanovic and Gene Barretta, who brought to life characters and humorous situations through their wonderful, unique interpretations.
Thank you for sharing that helpful information. And I agree, you have had two fabulous illustrators! Another question I have is in regards to theme. In your previous books, your theme was "Loving Your Neighbor." What do you hope that your readers will take away from your newest book?
In I Want Your Smile Crocodile, Jack covets features of other zoo animals, but discovers that "God's great heart designed each part" of him. Every child is gifted by God for a purpose. My hope is that Crocodile helps readers understand that they do not need to imitate others, but are fearfully, wonderfully, and uniquely designed by their creator.
That is beautiful and such an important take away. I see that you are an elementary teacher. Do you use your books in the classroom?
I do! When I taught first grade, I used my Next Door Series books as read-alouds, at the listening station, and to help teach the concept of loving your neighbor. Now that I teach art, I use my books to talk about the career of illustrator. Also, at the beginning of each school year, I use the characters, setting, and plot from Pirates on the Farm to speak to third grade students about story elements and arc in fictional writing.
I bet your students love to see and hear about your books. I know I would if I were them. I can't believe its time for the last question already. I was wondering, do you have any other projects "in the works" that you are able to share about?
Although I don't currently have any other titles being published, I am working on new adventures for Jack...in hopes that readers love him as much as I do.
Well, best wishes in all that you do. I want your smile, Crocodile looks like a beautiful book full of heart and a great underlying message of truth for kids. I really appreciate you being willing to take the time to join me today on my blog.
If you would like to stop by Denette's website, here is a link.
Denette Fretz's passion is creating imaginative, engaging stories that help children understand and apply biblical principles. A veteran elementary educator, Fretz resides in Medford, Oregon with her husband, a sassy cat, and a spastic Jack-A-Bee.
Other titles by Denette Fretz: