By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: January 22, 2013
Known throughout southern New England as Dave the Animal Man for his business called Animal Experiences, Dave Marchetti has three books geared to young children: Steve the Stickleback, Nestle’s Big Adventure, and The Frog with Slippery Fingers. Using his wealth of knowledge, Marchetti’s books all showcase his childhood love for fish, reptiles and amphibians. His goal is to provide stories that entertain and encourage young children to read. Read on to find out more about Marchetti’s three books and his writing inspiration and experience.
Bianca Schulze: Welcome to TCBR. Let’s get started by getting to know a little bit about whom you are and how you came to write books that star animals and their interesting escapades.
Dave Marchetti: I am a lifelong resident of Rhode Island and became involved in the pet industry as a high school kid. After college I spent about twenty years managing a very large pet store before starting two businesses, one is called Living Systems and the other is Animal Experiences. I’ve enjoyed writing since my school days and had periodically thought about writing children’s stories over the years. I know it can be tough enticing young kids to read and seeing the connection that most kids have to my assortment of animals made me think that stories based loosely on some of my animals might strike a chord with them, so, that really was the genesis for this endeavor.
BS: We first connected with you in 2011 when you shared information with us about your first book Steve the Stickleback. Since then, you have had two more books release: Nestle’s Big Adventure and The Frog with Slippery Fingers, and you have more tales to come. Are all of your books inspired by surprising moments that happen while you are working as “Dave the Animal Man” presenting shows to children that feature live animals? If so, how do you know when a “moment” is worthy of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)?
DM: Besides my interest in animals I have a love for keeping fish and the first book came about because of an experience a few years ago. I actually live about a quarter mile from a little stream that my friends and I used to catch fish in as kids. These were little fish we would catch with nets and bring home and place in aquariums. The fish at first are very nondescript little silver guys but the males become a bright red color to entice the females and then the males build a nest and take care of the eggs and babies. A few years ago I went down to the stream to see if these fish still came into the stream to breed. I caught a few, put them in an aquarium and ten days later had babies in the aquarium. A few months later, while on a plane flying down to Florida, I wrote Steve the Stickleback.
Nestle’s Big Adventure came from one of my most popular snakes getting loose and managing to find his way outside. I was fortunate to realize he was loose pretty quickly and found him in a fairly short amount of time. He would not have lasted too long in the cold weather. The story makes his escape something kids can relate to, from his effort to lift the cover to the different surfaces he crawls on as he travels through the house.
The Frog with Slippery Fingers came from one of my shows when a young girl watching my treefrog hang from my hand asked what would happen if he didn’t have sticky pads on his toes. That story was outlined in my mind as I drove home from the show.
BS: From the conception of the idea to published work, how long did it take you to complete The Frog with Slippery Fingers?
DM: The Frog with Slippery Fingers was imagined and written in a matter of days but it was probably eight or nine months before I had a copy of the book in hand.
BS: Nestle’s Big Adventure is the story of one of your most popular snakes, a brightly colored milk snake named Nestle. What is it about Nestle that makes him so popular? Was it easy to recreate Nestle’s natural character into written word?
DM: Nestle is popular because his colors are extremely bright and he has a really mellow disposition. I use a lot of snakes in my shows because, without question, they are the animals that kids like to handle the most. I’ve been very fortunate that I seem to have incredibly docile snakes who truly seem to enjoy being handled—Nestle is very content to sit still in the hands of young children with only slow movements, which is the key for the children to feel at ease.
BS: Did you create the artwork for each of the books yourself? Which creative techniques did you use? Do your illustrations of the animals match their true appearance?
DM: I have not done the artwork for any of the three books with the illustrations being done by illustrators working for the publisher. Because I have other stories written I would love to find one person to provide a consistency to the future illustrations I use. While the illustrations in the three books so far have some resemblance to the actual animals they are certainly not what I would call lifelike reproductions.
BS: Your books are available in many formats: Paperback, Hardcover, e-Books. How does the publishing process vary for the different formats? Do you ever have to make changes to your word count or design layout?
DM: For these books, there really hasn’t been much difference in what I had to do with respect to format. I did have to approve proofs for each format but any differences or changes were exceeding minor.
BS: When should we expect to see more books starring your earthly creatures having uncanny moments?
DM: At this point I’m not sure how soon we will see book number four. The next story is written with another partially done as well as ideas for a couple more. I would love to hear from a publisher where I would be able to have a consistent look to my stories.
BS: Where do you think your love of writing came from? Do you have a favorite author—one that inspired your own writing, perhaps?
DM: I have enjoyed writing since a creative writing course in high school. My writing over the years was geared to short stories with the children’s stories being an idea and interest just in recent years. And while I love to read, my interest in that regard is primarily with historically based stories.
BS: What were your favorite children’s books when you were a child?
DM: To be honest, I don’t recall a favorite author as a child, but, by the time I was ten, I was an avid Hardy Boys fan.
BS: As a parting note, is there anything you would like to share with your readers?
DM: My goal when I write these stories is to create something that will interest a child enough that they like the character and want to know the outcome of their story or adventure. For children who have seen my shows, there is the added fun that the character they’re reading about may be an animal they have actually held in their hands. How often do you actually know the character in the story you’re reading?
These books are available in soft or hardcover editions as well as in e-book form and can be ordered through the publisher (Xlibris.com) or through the major online book retailers. Signed copies are available through www.facebook.com/theslipperyfrog.
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My grandson and I have had the pleasure in reading all three of David’s books. We especially enjoyed “The frog with the slippery fingers.” The stories are very entertaining and hold a toddlers attention quite well. With the bright illustrations and enticing story lines I’d recommend any one of his books for the little animal lover in your life.
Nestle’s Big Adventure is a delightful read aloud. I read this book to my kindergarten class the day before Dave came with his Animal Experiences show. Reptile information is nicely integrated with an adorable story.The book also lends itself to discussions of: beginning, middle, and ending story parts. Reading and making predictions. Also, discussions about good choices, and of course, snakes. An additional bonus was when Dave came to our class. The children squealed with excitement when they met the two main characters, Nestle and Bubblegum! They were holding real celebrities! A very nice book for young children.
All three books are great. My 4-year-old, animal-loving, son especially loves the story of Steve the Stickleback and The Frog with the Slippery Fingers. Are you planning to write any more books, Dave?