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Capture the Flag
Kate Messner


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Sweet on Books Interview
with Jennifer Richard Jacobson
author of the Andy Shane and Winnie books and Small as an Elephant

Is your writing process different when you're working on a beginning reader book like Andy Shane versus a middle grade novel like Small as an Elephant?

I find that my process differs with every book, whether it’s a stand-alone novel or one of the books in a series. Small as an Elephant is my first “journey novel” in which the character continually moves from one place to another. This form brought new challenges (how do you keep the simple goal of surviving interesting?), but was also a pleasure to write because Jack had such immediate needs and desires.

Are any of your characters or stories inspired by real people or events?

Yes, the Andy Shane books are filled with events from my own childhood (as are the other stories I’ve written). Like Andy I have mistakenly sold a beloved item at a yard sale (Andy Shane and the Barn Sale Mystery), devised traps to catch bad guys – or in my case younger brothers (Andy Shane and the Pumpkin Trick) and competed in a bike decorating contest in the Memorial Day parade (Andy Shane Hero at Last). And like Andy, I still dream of saving the day.

Small as an Elephant is perhaps my only book that was not inspired by a real person or event.

You've created two very memorable characters with Andy from the Andy Shane series and Jack from Small as an Elephant. Do you find it any harder to create male versus female voices? How is it different??

I didn’t find it harder to create male voices (perhaps having two brothers and a son has helped). With every book, it’s essential to really know your main character and I do feel as if I understand both Andy and Jack well.

Can you tell us about your next book?

The book I’m working on now is a novel for the same readership as Small as an Elephant, and although similar in some ways: eleven-year-old Ari lives a very transient life with her older brother Jonas (always on the move, sleeping in different places), but she actually has a very strong, tight-knit community of supportive friends who are touched by her in delightful and sometimes unexpected ways.

What made you want to be a writer?

Writing has always been a way for me to spin problems (mine or my characters) into a new way of seeing, of understanding, of knowing. And that’s gold.

How do you get your ideas? Do you do research?

My ideas come from all sorts of places, but most often from personal memories. Small as an Elephant is my most researched book. I wrote the first draft with Google satellite pictures – mapping Jack’s route, making sure all of the distances and landmarks were accurate. For the later drafts, I traveled Jack’s route, writing in most of the places he visited. I also had to research bi-polar disorder, the illness that troubles his mother.

Do you have a special place you like to write?

I write in my living room, in one particular chair, with my laptop on my knees.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Write about the things you fear most.

What would you be if you weren't a writer?

I’m also a teacher and from time to time I’ve worked in libraries. I’m very lucky to have had jobs I love. For some reason, I’ve always wanted to work in a post office. Letters feel as powerful as books.

If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would you choose?

E.B. White He was another Maine author and I reread all of his books when I was first deciding to write.


Read or write?    When I read awhile, I feel like writing. When I write awhile I feel like reading. For me they are as inseparable as peanut butter and jelly.

Call or text?    Text

Fly or drive?    If I’m with my family or friends, I want to drive. Alone? I’d rather fly.

Beach or ski?    Cross-country skiing

Time travel back or time travel forward?    Neither. I’m really fascinated with life right now, right where I am

E-book or traditional book?    I just purchased and e-book and must admit, I’m in love.


Children's book:    Charlotte's Web

Song:    Simple gifts

Sports Team:    Red sox

Travel destination:    Acadia National Park

Superhero:    Olive in Little Miss Sunshine (to me she qualifies as a true superhero)

Magic power:    Teleporting (I miss my friends and family when on the road.)

We are Sweet on Books, so we have to ask – what is your favorite sweet treat?

Rhubarb custard pie


Jennifer Jacobson, who received her Master’s Degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education, is a teacher and writer. She writes award-winning fiction for children (from picture books to young adult novels) and nonfiction for adults. She has two grown children and, when not traveling, can be found traipsing the Maine woods with her Jack Russell Terrier, Hattie Mae.