Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Poopendous by Artie Bennett

Welcome back to Author Artie Bennett

   Artie Bennett is the executive copy editor for a children’s book publisher and he writes a little on the side (but not the backside!).
     His itch to write gave us The Dinosaur Joke Book: A Compendium of Pre-Hysteric Puns (currently extinct) when he was a much younger man. The Butt Book, however, was his first “mature” work. The Butt Book was showered with praise and won the prestigious Reuben Award for Book Illustration. His “number two” picture book, fittingly, is entitled Poopendous! What more fertile topic could there be but poop!
     Poopendous! has already picked up some great notices, including this one in the Huffington Post. “For anyone who loved The Butt Book, you must immediately go and buy Artie Bennett’s follow-up, Poopendous! It appears there is no topic Mr. Bennett can’t make funny and educational.”     Artie was the youngest (at about age thirteen) person to originate and sell a crossword puzzle to the New York Times. He went on to sell several dailies and two large Sunday puzzles to the Times before he began college. It’s been downhill ever since.
     He and his wife, Leah, live deep in the bowels of Brooklyn, New York, where he spends his spare time moving his car to satisfy the rigorous demands of alternate-side-of-the-street parking.
     He is pleased to share the visionary promise of The Butt Book and Poopendous! with a wider audience.
     Visit ArtieBennett.com before someone else does!

Right off the butt—er, I mean, right off the bat—I’d like to express my thanks to Kathy for granting me this opportunity to talk about my pooposterous new picture book, Poopendous!. Now, before Kathy peppers me with a potpourri of fun questions, I’ll talk a bit about my books.
     Poopendous!, which just published on March 27, is the perfect follow-up to my first “mature” work, The Butt Book. The Butt Book, which was showered with praise and won the coveted Reuben Award (no, not a corned beef sandwich), was hailed as a “gateway book,” one that shows youngsters how much fun a book can be. And now comes Poopendous!After all, what more fertile topic could there be for one’s “number two” picture book!
     Poopendous! gently imparts a lesson in natural history in humorous verse. Children learn while having a ton of fun. Though boys are instantly drawn to my books, many intrepid girls find them delightful, too. My publisher, Blue Apple Books, matched me up with the virtuoso illustrator Mike Moran, and his immense talents are on display throughout. It was a match made in poop heaven.
     Poopendous! has already garnered some great reviews, including this recent one in the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/devon-corneal/summer-reading_b_1539291.html?page=3
     OK, Kathy. Fire away.

Interview:
One food you would never eat?

I’m an adventurous eater and will eat most anything. But I have to draw the line at cockroaches. Though I understand they’re a delicacy throughout much of Asia, and valued as a source of cheap protein, I don’t think I could choke one down. The crunch alone would defeat me. However, if it were smothered in chocolate syrup . . .

Pet peeves?

I’m afraid I’m a crank and have a panoply of peeves, but one of my most exasperating pet peeves concerns noisy and distracting moviegoers, who always surround me whenever I go to the cinema. Just the other day, I went to see a classic film. I settled into my seat with great expectations. Then . . . seated directly behind me was a giant of a man whose knees pressed into the back of my chair. On my right was a chatty couple. Right in front of me was an adolescent girl, more engaged with texting than the film. So far, so good, but then the topper. On my left was an elderly couple. Early in the film, the gentleman takes out a pencil and begins to tap, nonstop, on the bottom of his shoe. It must have been some bizarre nervous habit, perhaps a compulsion. At this point, though, it started to seem like an episode of Candid Camera, and I was the dupe. How much can one person take before he snaps. And after I erupt, we all share a laugh about it. But this was reality. And it’s one of the reasons I don’t get to the movies as often as I used to.

If you could meet one person who has died, whom would you choose?

I’d love to meet Dr. Seuss. In fact, I dedicated Poopendous! to him (to Dr. Seuss, my meuss). His books informed my childhood and taught me how delightful wordplay and creative use of language can be. I remember my excitement whenever I’d bring home a new Dr. Seuss book from the library, for I knew it would take me to the outer reaches of the imagination. And the fact that some reviewers have compared me, favorably, with the maestro— well, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Please tell us, in one sentence only, why we should read your book.

To give the gift of laughter to children is a blessing beyond words, even words like “poopendous!”

How did you know you should become an author?

My day job is copy editor. I do my darnedest to improve the work of other writers, to free them from errors, including the occasional doozy. After years spent tinkering with the work of others, I indulged the conceit that I, too, could be a writer. There were ideas percolating inside me. So, one day, I decided to step out from behind the curtain and try my hand at some serious versifying. I completed my manuscript but then was faced with the near impossible task of finding a willing publisher. I did, though it took some doing. And my first picture book, The Butt Book, was published by Bloomsbury in January 2010. I was an author—and I couldn’t have been prouder.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I have a serious ice cream habit—we’re talking twelve-step serious!—and I require three scoops of the glorious goodness before I retire for the night. To ward off incipient blimphood, I alternate my intake of dairy ice cream with soy-milk, coconut-milk, almond-milk, and rice-milk-based ice cream. This way I can indulge my vice to my heart’s—and cholesterol’s—content.

Favorite sport?

Swimming! I swim every weekday before work, and even get in the occasional “bonus” swim on weekends. I love swimming so much that I’ve even coined a term, “laphappy,” to characterize the swimmer’s high I strive for. And swimming is more than therapeutic. I find solutions to some of my most troublesome verses while I swim, though I’m forced to jot them down as soon as I finish, lest they slip back into the pool. I find swimming clears my mind, opening it up to inspiration. And while I often dread other physical activities—oh no, not the treadmill!—I never balk at my morning swim.

Apples or oranges?

Why, that’s just apples and oranges! Give me a banana, nature’s perfect food, any day of the week. When I was a lad, I even worked in a banana orchard on a kibbutz in Israel. Who knew that a bunch of bananas could be six feet long and weigh one hundred pounds? It was backbreaking work—but it was bananas, so it was worth it. I even had a banana tree land on my head, knocking me into the ground. Fortunately, my head proved harder than the banana tree, which lacks a woody trunk and is, in fact, the world’s largest herbaceous plant.

Favorite quote from a movie?

Perhaps my all-time favorite movie is Casablanca. It’s filled with memorable quotes. But I have to give the nod to the closing quote, when former antagonists Rick Blaine and Vichy captain Louie Renault walk off down the fog-shrouded runway, and Rick (Humphrey Bogart) says, “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” What a magical ending to a sublime film! What makes this quote so powerful is that Rick’s and Louie’s backs are to the camera, so we never see Rick utter these words, as the music begins to swell.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?

Like many, if not most, boys, I was going to play shortstop for the New York Yankees. After all, Tony Kubek couldn’t hog that position forever. He would have to retire someday, hang up his spikes. However, while I was a Little League All-Star and even taught myself to switch-hit from an early age, I wasn’t quite Yankees timber. Not even Mets. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

That I believe in ghosts and even had my own spirited encounter many years ago. I gave a speech, “Friends: A Ghost Story,” about this terrifying episode at my Toastmasters club and videotaped it. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzdqFjnKLS4. But please don’t watch it by yourself. Boo!

Favorite smell?

You could be forgiven for assuming that the favorite smell of the author of Poopendous! would be skunk cabbage. But not so. My favorite smell is the linden flower, which blooms along Ocean Parkway’s bicycle path in June. The flowers, which are tiny and inconspicuous, bloom for only about two weeks, but during this brief spell, they perfume the air with a honey-sweet fragrance. While I pedal past the lindens, I bask in the scent, drawing it in deeply. Ahhhhh! It’s a delicious thing. Because this window is so very short, it makes the linden so dear, especially to Brooklynites used to coarser smells.

What is you favorite way to spend a rainy day?

When I was younger and touched in the head, I used to love to run in the rain. I found it so satisfying and refreshing. The rain would cool me down as I’d wend my merry way along. I’d never overheat and could, seemingly, run forever. I’d vary my routes and explore new neighborhoods. But these days, in my dotage, the sedentary pleasures have greater appeal. I much prefer a good book, a book like . . . Poopendous!   

Poopendous

Rhyming couplets feature Professor Poopdeck and two young friends as he takes them on a type of poop safari. Words for poop (i.e. guano, number two, ca-ca), its forms and styles (cubes, tubular, wet and dry), and myriad of uses (i.e. souvenirs, a means of tracking and marking, housing insulation, food, fertilizer, fuel) are all conveyed with humor and a certain demand for respect. It’s a book that says: Don’t just flush this stuff away! While it may dismay and stink, there’s more to this stuff than you might think!

Giveaway Details
1 copy of Poopendous
Open to US only
Ends 8/30/12

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