Five questions for Mordicai Gerstein

mordicai-gerstein-credit-Jerome-Renault_170x134 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

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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