Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Interview: Candace Fleming

credit: Michael Lionstar

cred­it: Michael Lion­star

Bulldozer’s Big Day is a per­fect read-aloud, with won­der­ful sound and action oppor­tu­ni­ties on most pages. Did those moments affect your deci­sion about what verbs to use?

How love­ly you think it’s a per­fect read aloud. I worked hard at the story’s read­abil­i­ty. Not only did I strive for a pace and cadence, but I want­ed the sto­ry to sound as active as the plot’s set­ting with lots of bump­ing and clang­ing and vroom­ing. Addi­tion­al­ly, I thought long and hard about those work­ing verbs. You know, the shift­ing, mix­ing, chop­ping each truck does. They had to have a dou­ble-mean­ing, apply­ing to both con­struc­tion trucks and bak­ing. And they had to be in groups of three, because… well… three just sounds good, doesn’t it?

While most read­ers and lis­ten­ers will think the “Big Day” is a birth­day, you nev­er use that term. Why?

It was redun­dant.  Read­ers can see that the big trucks made a cake for Bulldozer’s sixth birth­day. They don’t need me to tell them. Inter­est­ing­ly, every time I read the sto­ry aloud to kinder­garten­ers they spon­ta­neous­ly burst into the “Hap­py Birth­day” song. I’m not sure I’d get that response if I’d had the trucks shout the words. It’s one more way for them to find their way into the text – and I did it acci­den­tal­ly.

written by Candace Fleming  illustrated by Eric Rohmann  Atheneum, 2015

writ­ten by Can­dace Flem­ing 
illus­trat­ed by Eric Rohmann 
Atheneum, 2015

There is a per­fect turn-around late in the sto­ry, when we go from “mash­ing, mash­ing, mash­ing” to a qui­eter moment, then the sus­pense­ful “lift­ing, lift­ing, lift­ing.” This sug­gests to me that you are not only skilled at dra­mat­ic nar­ra­tive, but a vet­er­an class­room read­er as you qui­et the stu­dents down from that high-ener­gy mash­ing to get ready for a res­o­lu­tion.  Do you remem­ber your first author vis­it to a class­room? What have you learned over the years about read­ing your books aloud?

I do remem­ber my first author vis­it. I was ter­ri­fied. But the kids and teach­ers were so love­ly, I was imme­di­ate­ly put at ease. And this strange thing hap­pened. I turned into an actor. Seri­ous­ly. Stand­ing in front of that library full of first graders, I sud­den­ly dis­cov­ered a tal­ent for talk­ing in voic­es and act­ing like dif­fer­ent ani­mals. Me?! I became a sto­ry­teller. That’s what I know from years of read­ing my books – and oth­ers’ – aloud. You have to be dra­mat­ic. You have to be sus­pense­ful. You have to lick your chops if you’re read­ing about a hun­gry tiger, or wig­gle your bot­tom if you’re read­ing about a puff-tailed rab­bit. Kids love it. In truth, so do I.

Were you ever dis­ap­point­ed on a child­hood birth­day?

You mean that year I didn’t get a pony?

Do you enjoy birth­day cel­e­bra­tions now?

Absolute­ly! I’m espe­cial­ly enam­ored of the cake. And don’t you dare ask me how old I’ll be on my next one.




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