HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8My Writing and Reading Life: Anica Mrose Rissi, Author of The Teacher’s Pet
My Writing and Reading Life Anica Mrose Rissi Author of The Teacher’s Pet

My Writing and Reading Life: Anica Mrose Rissi, Author of The Teacher’s Pet

The Children’s Book Review | June 20 2017

ANICA MROSE RISSI grew up on an island off the coast of Maine, where she read a lot of books and loved a lot of pets. She now tells and collects stories, makes up songs on her violin, and eats lots of cheese with her friends in Princeton, New Jersey. She is also the author of the Anna, Banana chapter-book series.

I write because …

I have always loved making things up: games, rules, dance moves, songs, words, recipes, adventures. My favorite thing of all to make up is stories, and one of the best things about stories is sharing them with other people. So I tell stories out loud (onstage and to friends) and I write stories down, to entertain myself and (I hope) others.

I read because …

When I was a kid growing up on a small island off the coast of Maine, books were my window into the world beyond my own isolated community. Reading made me feel like I was part of something much larger than me. Even once I grew up and moved to New York City, books continued to be not an escape from the world but a way of living more fully in it. I still can’t resist the invitation to peek inside other people’s hearts, minds, worlds, and experiences.

My latest published book is …

My first picture book, The Teacher’s Pet, goes out into the world on June 20th. It’s about a teacher who is so enamored of the new class pet, he can’t see all the trouble it’s causing. Mr. Stricter is perhaps my most autobiographical character yet—I too am benighted by love for my adorable but not always entirely well-behaved pet (my long-legged hound dog, Arugula).

I wrote this book because …

I wanted to play with the pun suggested by the title and write a story about a teacher whose obvious favorite is the class pet. Like most things I write—from chapter books for kids to essays for adults—this story explores themes of animals, friendship, and love. (Those themes are all key in my non-writing life too.) I was drawn to the fun and challenge of crafting the tale as a picture book—a medium with so much room for humor, yet room for so few words. I’m hooked! I want to write a gazillion more of them.

Best moment …

When I saw the early sketches for the story Zachariah OHora tells through the art, my heart exploded with happiness. I also laughed with surprise—I never would have guessed what Bruno, the class pet, who first appears as a tadpole, later turns out to be.

My special place to write is …

I do most of my writing at home on the couch with my dog curled up by my side (sometimes sticking her snout onto the keyboard to “help”). Ideally I write in the mornings, with a cup of tea nearby. On an especially good writing day, when I’m wrapped up in the words, I’ll reach for the tea and discover it’s gone cold. On a normal, slower writing day, the tea goes down hot and I get up to refill it several times. I don’t aim for a daily word count or a set amount of writing time, but I do try to write something most days of the week. Routine and habit can be as important to creativity as talent.

Necessary writing/creativity tool …

Walks are one of the most important parts of my creative process. It’s amazing how a walk can shake loose ideas that were previously stuck in my brain gunk, and allow those pieces to fall into place. This is especially guaranteed to happen if I neglect to bring something on which to write the ideas down.

The person who has been my greatest writing teacher or inspiration is …

I worked for more than thirteen years as an editor in children’s book publishing, mostly specializing in YA fiction, and I learned so much from the amazing authors whose books I had the honor of editing. Those years of thinking hard about plot, story, characters, pacing, and all other aspects of building and revising a novel were invaluable to my own writing process.

Currently reading …

I am currently reading, as usual, several books at once. I’m about halfway through Han Kang’s novel The Vegetarian and Margo Jefferson’s memoir, Negroland. I’ve been savoring Stuart Kestenbaum’s Only Now one poem at a time. For secret project purposes I am reading a few translations of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales. And I’m eager to start Corey Ann Haydu’s new middle-grade novel, The Someday Suitcase.

All-time favorite children’s book I didn’t write…

Choosing a favorite book is impossible, but I do own multiple copies of Natalie Babbitt’s The Search for Delicious, which I read over and over as a kid and have devoured more than once as a grownup, too.

Favorite bookshop …

Choosing a favorite bookstore is almost as difficult as choosing a favorite book. I’ll have to cheat and name a few. I love Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia, which has wonderful booksellers and a copper-penny floor. McNally Jackson is one of the most inspiring spots in Manhattan, and Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, was my community bookstore for years. I’m lucky to live a short walk from Labyrinth Books in my new hometown of Princeton, New Jersey. I seek out local bookstores wherever I travel—they’re my favorite places to visit and explore.

Favorite illustrator …

You mean besides Zachariah OHora, who illustrated The Teacher’s Pet, and Meg Park, who illustrates my Anna, Banana chapter-book series? I’m quite taken with the art in Tove Jansson’s The Book about Moomin, Mymble, and Little My. I’ve spent hours poring over it, so absorbed by the illustrations that I’ve yet to get around to reading the text.

A literary character I would like to vacation with …

I’d love to take off on a lily pad with the frogs in David Wiesner’s Tuesday. Think of the adventures we’d have! (I love frogs—and that book. Plus, with a magic lily pad to fly on, I could avoid the hassle of airports.)

When I am not reading or writing I am …

You’ll find me fiddling in the electro-country band Owen Lake and the Tragic Loves, playing fetch with my dog, testing unusual flavors of ice cream, flossing, winning a round of Bananagrams, or eating cheese with my friends.

You can connect with me here …

I tweet about bookish things and my dog, Arugula, @anicarissi. Find out more at anicarissi.com.

The Teachers Pet by Anica Mrose RissiThe Teacher’s Pet

Written by Anica Mrose Rissi

Illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

Publisher’s Synopsis: When their class tadpoles are big enough, Mr. Stricter tells his students they can keep just one. The class chooses Bruno, the smallest of the bunch. But Bruno doesn’t stay that way for long. Soon, he’s grown into a giant, classroom-wrecking creature: he eats desks, he farts for show-and-tell, and he sneezes slime all over everything! With Mr. Stricter blinded by love for the pet, the students must step up and take matters into their own heroic hands.

Ages 4-7 | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | June 20, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1484743645

Available Here: 

IndieBound-Iconamazon-smile_color_btnBarnes&Noble-Icon

Discover more books like The Teacher’s Pet, written by Anica Mrose Rissi and illustrated by Zachariah Ohora, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with , , , and ; plus, be sure to follow along with our Writing and Reading Life series.

Rate This Article

Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

No Comments

Leave A Comment