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Five questions for Mordicai Gerstein

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Photo: Jerome Renault

Ancient Greece wasn’t always so ancient, and sometimes gods just wanna have fun. Using cartoon panels, child-friendly dialogue, and copious humor, Mordicai Gerstein’s I Am Pan! (Roaring Brook, 4–8 years) gives us a first-person, picture-book Pan whose big personality can’t be contained: “Arcadia, here I come!”

1. Your appended bibliography is pretty dense stuff! How did you distill all that information into such a child-friendly text? (“Long ago, when the world was just a baby” is a brilliant way to start.)

MG: Thank you! I must admit I love that opening too. We’ve always called it “Ancient Greece,” but it was really relatively new back then. We should call it “Baby Greece.” While the bibliography looks a bit daunting, the stories are so much fun that everyone can get a kick out of them. That’s why they’re still around.

2. The illustrations help zip the story right along. Were panels always the plan?

MG: They were. As a kid I loved comic books of all kinds and I’ve long wanted to do one. This material was obviously a perfect opportunity: full of action and slapstick, and very colorful characters.

gerstein_i am pan3. Pan’s voice is so fresh and lively. Did you hear him in your head as you were writing?

MG: Yes! It was the voice of Bugs Bunny. I think the two have a lot in common.

4. Were you inspired by any real-life Pans?

MG: Though he doesn’t like to hear it because today he is a very responsible grown-up parent, I always think of my son Aram when he was six to ten years old. He had the ability to turn anything into a game or a laugh. That’s sometimes still how I think of him, and sometimes he still does it.

5. Do you have any other gods’ or goddesses’ stories in mind to tell?

MG: Funny you should ask; as soon as I get a little time I’ll be working on I Am Hermes!

From the May 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

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