Party Animals in the House Tonight: An Interview and Cover Reveal with Katherine Battersby
The week’s not over yet, folks! I don’t always post on Fridays but today we have a return visit from non other than Katherine Battersby. You may recall the last time she was here and we got a load of her Cranky Chicken. Welp, we’ve got a sequel on our hands and a couple questions to go with it . . .
Betsy Bird: Welcome back! And welcome back Cranky Chicken. I’ve gotta ask, but were you always planning on a sequel for CC? And can I call Cranky Chicken “CC”? So many questions.
Katherine Battersby: Yes. Well, no. Kinda! Plan is the wrong word – I really just stumbled across these two characters and couldn’t stop thinking about them. Chicken and Speedy made me laugh and reminded me so much of childhood and growing up and I just had to write / draw their story. These two goofs were always so vivid to me – they followed me around and wouldn’t stop talking to me. I have reams and reams of notes for them. So I didn’t necessarily plan it as a series, but it was very clear to me by the time I got to the end of the first book that there was more to tell. I hope I get to make many books for them. (and yes, call Chicken CC – I do!)
BB: Even just reading the description of the book I could feel Speedy’s need to de-escalate their friends’ crankiness. Naturally I must ask, are you the Speedy to your friends, are you the CC, or are you some kind of combination of the two?
KB: Definitely a combo. Outwardly I’m more of a Speedy. I think that’s how I’m likely better known to the world – I’m quick to smile, a little silly and at times quite excitable. And yes, just like Speedy I am always there to help when a friend needs me. Although I’d like to think I’m a slightly better listener than Speedy – their enthusiasm to help tends to outweigh their ability to tune into body language or social cues! Which is part of their charm, I think. But ultimately I am more like Chicken. We’re both introverts, so we need lots of time to think and process and figure out the world quietly in our heads. My friends understand that when I’m confronted with something new, my first response is to frown. Thinking takes a lot of energy! I also have an anxious chicken brain – in any situation I am always anticipating what could go wrong. So just like Chicken, I can see the potential flaws in any plan. Luckily it would seem I hide this all well, because I’m told I don’t at all present as cranky. I would say I nurture a deep inner crank.
BB: Hard question now. When I read picture books with my sister on our podcast she always selects one as the image she’d be happy getting a tattoo of. What image in this book would you say is most Tattoo Worthy?
KB: I love this question. I always used to say I’d know I had made it as an illustrator once someone got a tattoo of one of my characters. It was a huge thrill when the first person reached out to share their Squish Rabbit (my first book) tattoo and their connection with the book. It’s such a strange and wonderful thing – that something I drew is now permanently etched on someone’s skin. There are several other tattoos of my characters out there now, but no Cranky Chickens yet (that I know of!). While I’d never get a tattoo of my own character, Chicken does inspire me with her cranky confidence, so I’d choose an image of her that best captures my inner cranky girl. Her disco dancing has got to be a favourite (it’s both on the cover and in the book). There’s something about Chicken doing the John Travolta Saturday Night Fever dance with her serious cranky unibrow that cracks me up (and perfectly captures my love of daggy dancing).
BB: I need to check your chicken facts. Have you ever owned a chicken? Would you want to? And if you did, what would you name it?
KB: I think it’s safe to say there a very few chicken facts in my book (for a start, the central friendship is a chicken and a worm, which slightly pushes the boundaries of fact-like believability!). BUT my chicken knowledge does come from first hand experience. Several of my childhood friends lived on farms, so I grew up around plenty of broody chickens. The broody bit being the important fact where I was concerned – I found chickens kind of terrifying (I was chased more than once). So I never had any desire to share my space with chickens – they’re cranky and wild and unpredictable and rather flappy. And cranky. Did I mention how cranky they are? But I do feel like chickens and I have made a kind of peace with each other since I made the first Cranky Chicken book. I have developed a quiet respect for their cranky ways. I think nowadays I could even consider sharing my space with the right chicken. And I would call her Crankenstein.
BB: Finally, what are you working on next?
KB: More crankiness. There’s always more crankiness. I have just this morning finished illustrating the first draft of Cranky Chicken 3, which now goes to my editor and art director for comments. Now I’ll turn my eye to a couple of picture books I’ve been working on – one about some unexpected pigs and one about a bunch of animals playing where they shouldn’t. I’m also collecting ideas and sketches for a middle grade graphic novel I’m hoping to start work on. Each project is quite different, so there’s plenty to keep my busy mind busy.
Most excellent! Many thanks to Katherine for the interview itself. And now the grand reveal . . .
Party Animals is on shelves everywhere June 7th. Many thanks to Nicole Russo for setting things up!
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
SLJ Blog Network