I last interviewed Katherine Applegate about THE ONE AND ONLY BOB, the sequel to her Newbery Award-winning book THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. I am thrilled to report that a main character in both books, Ruby the Elephant, now has her own story–THE ONE AND ONLY RUBY. In addition, Katherine co-wrote an upcoming Middle Grade book with Gennifer Choldenko, called Dogtown, which has an expected publication date of September 19.
Ruby’s story picks up a few months after the events of The One and Only Bob. Now living in a wildlife sanctuary, Ruby’s caretaker from the elephant orphanage in Africa where she grew up is visiting. Seeing him again brings back a flood of memories – both happy and sad – of her life before the circus, and she recounts the time she spent in the African savannah to Ivan and Bob.
Katherine also answered some follow-up interview questions:
What, in your opinion, is the most difficult part of writing books in verse?
I had to think about this for a minute, because I find writing in free verse such a great writing experience, for the most part. (And let’s face it, writing always comes with its share of not-so-great moments.)
One challenge is coming up with metaphors and similes that are fresh and nuanced. I’ll go back dozens (hundreds?) of times to a phrase and try to blow away any cobwebs. Honestly, I love that part, though. I could rewrite forever. It’s the blank page that terrifies me.
Writing action can pose challenges, too. Because they’re often written in a close first-person voice, free verse novels are wonderful for getting deep into the soul of a character. But it’s important to keep the story moving, and to be sure that each poem serves a purpose.
That said, I think every writer should try their hand at free verse at some point. It’s liberating. It’s energizing. And it’s just plain fun.
Sounds like it! THE ONE AND ONLY RUBY puts readers in the mind of an elephant, Ruby, who we were introduced to both in The One and Only Ivan and The One and Only Bob. Without giving away spoilers, what did you learn while writing Ruby’s point-of-view that surprised you?
Writing in Ruby’s POV was so delightful. She funny and silly and innocent, but her backstory is complex and sometimes quite sad. Balancing those light and dark moments was challenging. The more I delved into Ruby’s background, the more I admired her courage and resilience.
I’ve always admired those things about her too. I was intrigued by the premise of your upcoming book DOGTOWN, especially since it’s co-written by another author I love, Gennifer Choldenko. How did this collaboration come to be, and what did you enjoy most about it?
Gennifer and I actually lived for years in the same town in the California Bay area without realizing it. When we finally connected, we found we had so much in common and totally clicked. We were both middle-grade writers, we’d both adopted daughters from China, and we both loved dogs.
We knew right away we wanted to write a book for young readers about dogs, and when we added the element of robot dogs in a shelter setting, the story just took off like, well, like a hound chasing a squirrel.
The best part of collaborating? We got to laugh. A lot!
Laughter is the best! In our last interview, you said, “Good books remind us that others have been through challenging times. They encourage us to be kind. To listen outside our comfort zone. And to feel hope, even on the darkest days.” In what ways do you think kidlit might expand on this as it continues to evolve?
These days, especially as we watch attempts at book banning all over the U.S., I think it’s vital to remember that children need to see themselves in stories. Sometimes that first glimmer of self-acceptance—that a-hah! moment that tells a kid she’s not alone in the world—comes from the pages of a book. No one has the right to take that away.