Tara Lazar and S.britt | The Children’s Book Review | March 10, 2016
Picture book extraordinaire Tara Lazar and the frightfully creative S.britt interview each other about Normal Norman (Sterling Children’s Books, 2016), a laugh-out-loud book that explores the meaning of normal through the study of an exceptionally strange orangutan.
Part 1: S.britt Interviews Tara Lazar
S.britt: Growing up as a small Tara, did you ever imagine that one day you’d grow up and meet a large purple orangutan and if so, what’s so NORMAL about that?!?
Tara Lazar: I honestly had no idea. I knew I’d grow up to meet characters, but I thought that meant meeting my husband. He would give Norman a run for his money. Although I don’t know if Norman has any money because orangutans don’t come with pockets.
I’m sure you’ve answered countless questions during this whirlwind Normal Norman Blog Tour, but what’s the one question you haven’t been asked but wish you had?
“Would you like a slice of cake?” Yes, I would very much, thank you. Make that two, please.
Why an anteater? Why not bananas? Discuss.
I was trying to think of a stuffed animal I had never seen before. I am an expert on stuffed animals since we have 2,479 in my home and I have won all of them myself from the claw machines on the Jersey Shore.
When I was young, I didn’t understand bananas. Why were they green, then yellow, then brown? They were sweet, so why did you put them in bread? What kind of herbaceous chameleon was this? Why couldn’t you just eat them, peel and all? I had philosophical internal arguments worthy of Sartre. Since then, bananas have become one of my favorite fruits, especially when you sauté them with butter, brown sugar and rum and serve them over vanilla ice cream.
With the recent success of NORMAL NORMAN (congratulations, by the way), are you currently working on a sequel? An animated series? A major motion picture? Stuffed animals? Video games? Halloween costumes? His own line of designer fragrances? Spill!
A sequel? Only if we get Ryan Gosling to star. I hear Donkey Kong is retiring and looking for a replacement. Eau de Bunk Bed will be spritzed in your face as you walk by the fragrance counter at Macy’s.
Lastly, if you had to write a YELP review for the illustrator of NORMAL NORMAN, what would you say and how much would you charge me per star?
I have actually never written (or read) a YELP review. I suspect this is generational. But, if I had to write a review, I’d say that the expansive range of flavors and unexpected nuances demonstrate flashes of brilliance and a deft hand with the spices. Five stars, of course. You can pay me in Bananas Foster.
Part 2: Tara Lazar Interviews S.britt
Tara Lazar: Do you like Bananas Foster?
S.britt: Don’t get me wrong, I think their first two albums were brilliant. However, when they released their third LP “Butter, Brown Sugar & Rum” in the autumn of 1974, I had already lost interest and moved onto my dessert. Although they had achieved both critical and commercial success with their smash hit “Green, Then Yellow, Then Brown,” a part of me felt they had sold out and another part of me felt gassy.
I never specified what kind of animal Norman was in the text. Why did you make him a purple orangutan?
I’d like to say that it came to me during a particularly enlightening vision quest in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, but truth be told I’m just as baffled as you are. It could have something to do with accidentally knocking my beloved childhood stuffed orangutan into a large vat of purple ink, but that would require owning a beloved childhood stuffed orangutan AND a large vat of purple ink – two things I am sorely lacking. Three if you count a proper answer to your question.
The head scientist has a beard. Beards are very popular right now. Why is that?|
Having never raised a beard myself (or at least one that survived the all-important first six weeks which determines it’s own unique personality), I can only speculate that it’s merely a current fad and it’s time will come to pass; much like the Hula Hoop, Sea Monkeys and soap.
Can you divulge some of your illustration techniques? All the animal characters are multi-colored but strangely, also monochromatic. How did you DO THAT?
Any magician worth his weight in brightly-colored scarves will tell you that one should never divulge his or her trade secrets. However I CAN tell you that I’ve been colorblind since the beginning of this interview and I’m surprised to learn that the characters aren’t 50 shades of puce, as I had initially intended.
What are you working on next? (Besides your motorcycle!)
I’m so glad you asked! I do have a slew of enormous projects in the pipeline, but Liquid-Plumr® should make quick work of that. One thing that I’m rather excited about is my latest invention, Orangutan Pockets™. I’ve been working closely with Jane Goodall who says that her entire life’s work with primates has boiled down to this – the ONLY thing keeping apes from evolving and taking over the planet is a place to store their wallets! That’s where Orangutan Pockets™ comes in. Now NORMAN can give your husband a run for his money AND take you out for a Bananas Foster too!
About S. Britt
S.britt (AKA Stephan Britt) first developed his zeal for drawing in childhood, when he drew on anything and everything that wasn’t dripping wet. His first picture book, Over In the Hollow (Chronicle), was a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best. Stephan lives in Portland, OR. Visit him online at sbritt.com
About Tara Lazar
Tara Lazar lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and 2,749 stuffed animals (including a four-foot NORMAN). She’s the author of The Monstore, I Thought This Was a Bear Book (both Simon & Schuster), and Little Red Gliding Hood (Random House). Tara founded Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), a popular annual writing event held on her award-winning blog at taralazar.com.
Written by Tara Lazar
Illustrated by S.britt
Publisher’s Synopsis: What is “normal?” That’s the question an eager young scientist, narrating her very first book, hopes to answer. Unfortunately, her exceedingly “normal” subject—an orangutan named Norman—turns out to be exceptionally strange. He speaks English, sleeps in a bed, loves his stuffed toy, goes bananas over pizza, and even deep-sea dives! Oh, no: what’s a “normal” scientist to do? A humorous look at the wackiness that makes us all special— and a gentle reminder that “normal” can’t ever be defined!
Ages 4+ | Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1454913214