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Fall 2017 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Shelley Johannes

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2017 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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For Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker, physical inversion (as shown in copious illustrations) can stimulate the most innovative, most positive ideas. Unfortunately, not everyone around Beatrice sees the upside of upside-down thinking.

1. Do you have any outside-the-box thinkers in your life?

Luckily for me, yes! My eleven-year-old son, Matthew, has been blissfully unaware of creative boundaries since the day he was born. He inspires me every day, and (for a professional fee!) he offers hilarious editorial notes on my work.

2. Beatrice thinks “upside down” both metaphorically and literally. How did you come up with so many variations?

Some of the ways came to me serendipitously. Other shenanigans came from sketching and brainstorming answers to the questions: “How could being upside down go awry?” and “How many upside-down ways could she fix this situation?” Discovering what Beatrice would say and do next was ridiculous amounts of fun.

3. Why do you think childhood friendships change so much so fast?

I’m amazed by how much kids change, in general, in those early years. Even their teeth fall out and are replaced on a regular basis! New teachers, new classmates, new interests, and new shoe sizes — everything is in flux. It makes sense that friendship is, too.

4. Beatrice launches Operation Upside to acknowledge underappreciated talents and perspectives in others. To whom would you give an Operation Upside award and why?

I would give an award to every teacher who recognizes the value that upside-down thinkers bring to the classroom and celebrates all they have to offer the world. The impact of a teacher’s love and validation is beyond measure.

5. Where do you do your best thinking?

The shower works wonders — it’s a magical box where everything disappears but the story. Hot water only lasts so long, though (and makes paper soggy), so I do most of my thinking and writing at Starbucks, surrounded by people, with my headphones blaring.

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