George Robert Minkoff Discusses Tickle Plenty and the Bubblegum Tree
The Children’s Book Review | February 1, 2019
A rare book dealer for fifty-two years, George Robert Minkoff is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Minkoff serves on the Board of Directors of the Poetry Society of America, currently serving as Secretary. George Robert Minkoff Inc. Rare Books is known internationally for the selling of manuscripts and letters of major American and English writers. Minkoff has written the “Bibliography of the Black Sun Press” and the “Bibliography of the Black Manikin Press,” both standard references in the field. Additionally, George Robert Minkoff has authored the trilogy “In the Land of Whispers”, a historical novel concerning the English in the New World. The three volumes are: “The Weight of Smoke,” “The Dragons of the Storm,” and “The Leaves of Fate.”
The Children’s Book Review: Tickle Plenty and the Bubblegum Tree is charming and highly imaginative. From where did you draw your inspiration to write this story and the other two titles in the series?
George Robert Minkoff: I have a granddaughter who lives in San Francisco. I live in Massachusetts. From a very early age we talked on the phone quite frequently. There were times when we talked on the phone every day. I became her phone pal. Of course, as she grew older and went to school, the time we spent on the phone became somewhat less frequent, except when she had vacations. I introduced her to books I thought she would like. Sometimes I read them to her, and then she would buy them and read them to herself.
One vacation she asked me to tell her a story, and that’s how Tickle Plenty happened. Over a period of two weeks, I made up these stories, sometimes as many as four a day. I never thought of publishing them, they were just playtime between my granddaughter and myself. One day her mother heard the stories, as my granddaughter would lie on the couch and listen on the speakerphone. She suggested that I write the stories down, and after some coaxing, I did.
How did you come up with the name Tickle Plenty?
The name Tickle Plenty just came to me. I thought it was a cute name that my granddaughter would find amusing. I love to make her laugh.
There are so many eccentric personalities and characters that Tickle meets throughout her journey through the Rainbow Forest. Are any of these characters modeled on people you know?
Tickle is modeled on my granddaughter. Feather the Bird is modeled on someone I know who is always hysterical, in a funny way. Tickle’s mother is modeled on my mother, who was always making chocolate chip cookies. With Gruff, the Giant Cub, and Benny the Bear, I just wanted to create characters who were different than any other giant or bear. The personalities of the others were created to fit into the plot of the story.
Scrumptious foods feature throughout the pages. Why do you think you chose to have food play a constant role in the story?
I feature so many foods because I thought it would delight children, especially the Ice Cream Volcano. There is a section of the story where Tickle and her mother sit at the kitchen table and think of new kinds of cookies, like cream-filled butternut cream, and creams with sprinkles. And, of course, there is the Lemonade River.
Are you a sweets eater yourself? Or do you prefer savory foods?
For myself, I became a little concerned that there were so many sweets in the story. That’s why Tickle’s mother is famous for her salads.
AudioFile Earphones Award-winning Alison Larkin is an outstanding narrator. How did you come to work with her on your Tickle Plenty series?
I always thought that the Tickle Plenty stories should be read, and a friend of mine vigorously and enthusiastically recommended Alison Larkin. Alison and I spoke and she sent me samples of her readings of children’s stories, and even her Jane Austen audiobook. I thought they were absolutely fabulous, and I knew immediately that she was the one, and the only one, who could read my children’s stories.
What does the collaboration look like when working between an author and a narrator? And who came up with the many accents that we hear?
My collaboration with Alison has been absolutely terrific. My theory is to let creative people be creative. That always allows for the best results. I don’t interfere. Whatever accents she wants are fine with me.
So far there are three stories in the series. Can we expect to see any more escapades of Tickle Plenty and her friends?
I have just finished the first draft of the next Tickle Plenty story. It is entitled, Tickle Plenty in the Museum of Magic. It’s a story about that special land where all words live, with their great library and their musicians, who always play their instruments on the huge park-like fields. The words are in trouble. Some are slowing disappearing. The friends must journey to the Valley of Echoes, that land where unused words are sculpted on stone tablets. There, the friends revive certain words, like “grumpish,” which become alive again and follow them to the Museum of Magic, where they search for the First Jewel, which was the source of power for the earliest magic beings. These invisible creatures don’t like words or music, because they cannot speak. The story ends with a furious battle, where the friends defend music and the words, the Museum of Magic, and themselves.
What has been one of the best reactions from a listener, so far?
The best reaction is always my granddaughter’s. She sat on the couch in her living room, which is three thousand miles away, while I spent two hours reading the entire book to her. She was very quick to point out any mistakes I made in reading. She has now read the book herself, as I sent her the typescript. She was very excited that I dedicated the book to her, but insisted that I dedicate it to her mother and father, as well. One of my favorite moments with my granddaughter was when she said, “Papa George is always silly.” So silly I am, and silly I remain.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with the TCBR readers about the Tickle Plenty series, your writing, or yourself?
I have written other books, including my historical novel trilogy, In the Land of Whispers. It discusses the founding of Jamestown, and is, in truth, a chronical of the little known history of Elizabethan England. As for myself, I grew up in an extended family and raised two children. Being a perpetual kid, I love being a grandfather, since I can also be a child again.
Tickle Plenty and the Bubblegum Tree
Written by George Robert Minkoff
Narrated by Alison Larkin
Cover Art by Laurie Levine
Publisher’s Synopsis: Introducing Tickle Plenty, the brave, smart, curious ten-year-old girl who lives in a house constructed of chocolate chip cookies, surrounded by a forest filled with glowing leaves of all the colors of the rainbow. With her playmates, a very young giant, a talking bird and bear, and a friend called Goodie Two-Shoes, Tickle journeys to the Ice Cream Volcano to find out if the Age of Magic is truly lost.
Read our review of Tickle Plenty and the Bubblegum Tree here.
About the Narrator
Alison Larkin – award-winning audiobook narrator and bestselling author of The English American is now producing top quality audiobooks under her imprint Alison Larkin Presents.
Following the runaway success of recent releases Pride and Prejudice with Songs from Regency England and Persuasion and Poems by Jane Austen, and the AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award-winning recording of Peter Pan and The Inconsiderate Waiter by J.M. Barrie, Alison Larkin Presents adds a mystery with a unique twist, incorporating musical clues in the plot of Devil’s Trill. Several additional titles are soon to be released!
The Author Showcase is a place for authors and illustrators to gain visibility for their works. This interview, Professor Gore Discusses All Is Assuredly Well, was sponsored by Camille Lancaster Literary Children’s Books. Discover more great writing and illustrating artists in our Showcase.