The Children’s Book Review | October 9, 2017
Author Penny Parker Klostermann and illustrator Ben Mantle are the creators of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale is their latest collaboration. It’s a fun fractured fairy tale about an aspiring chef who mistakenly turns story ingredients into delectable dishes. Here’s a virtual chat they had across the pond (USA to the UK and back again!) . . .
Let the Penny Parker Klostermann and Ben Mantle Discussion Begin
Penny Parker Klostermann: Since you’d illustrated my first book, There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight, I was super excited when I learned that you were going to illustrate A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale. I’m curious…what made you decide you’d like to illustrate this story?
Ben Mantle: I knew I had to illustrate the book as soon as I read the text! I loved the first book we did together because it has that classic feel, but with such a great modern twist, told with real wit and perfect comic timing, and this book is exactly the same. Clearly, a trademark of your writing it would seem. When I’m reading a story, I’m also looking for great characters to get my teeth into and you have given me several in this book. The lovable William, who wants to be a successful chef and the pompous Prince. And last, but not least, I LOVE FOOD! So, to get to draw a whole load of delicious treats was just too good to refuse! Although, I spent most of my time working on the book, desperate for a cake. Or two. In fact, I blame you for my growing stomach!
When my first book came out I read an interview where you described your process. When I do author visits I share your process with students and they hang on every word and image. I would love to know your process for A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale so that I can share that with students too. And if you don’t mind sharing some early sketches/thumbnails, I’d love to see those. (And so would kids!)
I always think that the book has a say in how it looks and what approach works best. With this book, I used my new piece of kit – something I’ve been after for ages. A Wacom Cintiq. A HUGE screen which you can draw on, which has been lovely, and I have plenty of brushes in Photoshop that are great at recreating natural brush strokes of acryclic and gouache paint. However, even when working mostly digitally, like on this book, I like to add a bit of natural texture to the pictures. So, for this book I used watercolor to paint shapes of the main characters and scanned them in and overlaid them to add texture.
Do you have a favorite illustration from the book?
Ooh this is a tough one! But it’s probably one of the first pictures I ever drew for the book. With William surrounded by his baked and cooked goodies in his kitchen. I like the light in this picture and it shows William in his element. So I would have to say this spread OR the picture of the Prince on his horse, covered in pumpkin pie…ooohhh its too tricky to pick one!
It may seem like these questions come out of the blue but I noticed the adorable frogs in both books. They pop up here and there and add a fun element to the illustrations. I wondered if you have a thing for frogs? Are frogs your favorite creatures? Do you include frogs in all of your books?
Hahahahahaha! I wish there was a good answer to this question. Frogs just look so comical. I’m now wracking my brains, trying to think how many frogs I have put in my pictures. Maybe I do have a thing for them and it’s only just coming to light. I wonder if there is a Frogs Anonymous…
The Discussion Continues as Ben Mantle Asks Penny Parker Klostermann Questions
Ben Mantle: We have done two books together that are both based on re-imagined classic tales. What is it that draws you to these worlds?
Penny Parker Klostermann: I’ve always been drawn to other authors’ books that put a new spin on a classic tale. One of my favorites is The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by John Scieszka and Lane Smith. The humor in their book is right up my alley. It seems that when a writer takes a classic they have an opportunity to use what is familiar in that world and create humor by turning the world upside down. As I read and enjoyed books that did this, I considered it a challenge to write a re-imagining of my own. It’s interesting that my first two books are re-imaginings because even though I have a few more up my sleeve, the majority of my manuscripts are original stories.
The writing in A Cooked Up Fairy tale is so wonderful. As a fellow Author I was wondering what inspired you to write the story and what is your process?
I was inspired by David Ezra Stein’s book, Interrupting Chicken. He incorporates several fairy tales in his story, but the story is a story within itself. I love what he did and so I listed well known fairy tales and then looked for elements that appeared in several fairy tales. Food quickly grabbed my attention and it struck me that a chef cooking fairy tale food would certainly mess things up. I drafted a story but my process was long as I have 102 “Saved As” files for this story…a slew of revision! I’m definitely a pantster and not a plotter which probably added to the number of times I had to tweak this story. I’m part of a critique group and they were a great help as they pointed out what was working and what wasn’t. Along the way, I researched food puns and pasted them at the bottom of the manuscript for quick reference. I knew there would be opportunity to use quite a few and spiff up the language.
The first book we did together, could be described as having an unhappy ending (For the Knight anyway.) and this book has more of a classic fairy tale happy ending. So, I wonder, do you have a preference?
Oh goodness! I hadn’t even thought about the comparison, but that’s interesting. As I think about my manuscripts that are out on submission and my works-in-progress, it seems I’m about 40-60, with the 40 being “unhappy” for someone. I guess subversive is a good way to put it. I do love dark humor. As far as a preference…my preference is humor whether the book has an unhappy ending or a happy one. If the story has made the reader laugh then I consider that success!
A Cooked Up Fairy Tale has a lot of delicious cooked/baked treats. In fact I spent most of my time working on the book very, very hungry! If I was coming to your house for dinner, what would you make me and do you have a signature dish?
First of all…if you were coming for dinner I would feel so lucky. I think we’d have a lot to talk about and it would be a delight to meet you. Since you’re from the UK I’d want to give you a taste of some good West Texas grub. I’d fix bar-b-que brisket, beans, potato salad, and bread. Of course I’d have tasty bar-b-que sauce for the brisket. If you are a vegetarian, I’d be up a creek! Well, maybe you’d be the one up the creek because I’d be eating well!
I don’t really have a signature dish, but my son was just here for my book signing and he requested Mississippi Mud Cake. I’ll consider that my signature dish for now. It’s moist chocolate cake, topped first with marshmallow creme, and then a rich chocolate icing on top of the marshmallow creme. There are pecans in the cake! It’s pretty yummy. So maybe we could have that for dessert when you come to dinner.
Also, I’d make extra and we could pack it up for you to take home in case you’re illustrating another book about food. Then you’d have snacks.
Written by Penny Parker Klostermann
Illustrated by Ben Mantle
Publisher’s Synopsis: From the creators of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight comes a fun fractured fairy tale about an aspiring chef who mistakenly turns story ingredients into delectable dishes. . . . Uh-oh!
In the magical land of fairy tales, William doesn’t quite fit in. He’d rather poach pears than pursue princesses, and he values gnocchi over knighthood. . . .
When he stumbles on a delivery of food destined for Fairy-Tale Headquarters (a pumpkin, apples, and a few measly beans), he decides to spice things up and whips the paltry ingredients into delectable dishes. But as you might have guessed, Snow White’s wicked stepmother doesn’t exactly want her magic apple baked and drizzled with caramel.
The team that brought you There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight delivers a hilariously fractured, whipped, and souffléed fairy tale that is chock-full of delicious details and jokes to satisfy every appetite.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1101932322
About Penny Parker Klostermann
PENNY PARKER KLOSTERMANN is the author of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. She loves trout fishing, digging for earthworms, and her sisters! Visit her on the Web at pennyklostermann.com.
About Ben Mantle
BEN MANTLE is the illustrator of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. He has most recently been working as a children’s book illustrator from his shared studio in Brighton, England. He also produces screen prints and digital artwork to exhibit. He illustrated Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit, which won the Bishop’s Stortford Picture Book Award. Visit him on the Web at benmantle.co.uk.
This interview—Penny Parker Klostermann and Ben Mantle Discuss A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale—was conducted by Penny Parker Klostermann and Ben Mantle. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Ben Mantle, Fairy Tales, Fractured Fairy Tales, and Penny Parker Klostermann.