Today, I’m monstrously exited to be talking with Lori Degman about her book, traveling, and her special musical talent! My blog partner Jakki’s two sons also get in on the fun with a few questions of their own!
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Kathy!
Jack would like to know: How did you get the idea for travel guide for monsters?
Hi Jack! I actually got the original idea from another Jack – Colin Jack, the illustrator of my first book, 1 Zany Zoo. About eight years ago, Colin asked me if I could write a picture book about teaching monsters manners when traveling on public transportation. I tried, but I just couldn’t come up with anything I liked. About a year later I tried again and, instead of focusing on the type of transportation, I focused on location. I wrote the first stanza, “When traveling with monsters on a trip across the nation/this guide will give you tips to have a marvelous vacation”, then followed the same rhyme scheme and wrote couplets about different locations around the country.
Steve asks: Did you travel to places in your book?
Hi Steve! I didn’t travel to any of the places to research them, but I’ve been to most of them on vacations in the past. I would love to go to each of them and talk to kids about the book at each place – maybe one of these days!
Steve and Jack were wondering: We really like the monsters. Do you know how Dave Szalay came up with them? Do you have a favorite monster?
I love the monsters too! I don’t know how Dave came up with them, so I went straight to the source and here is Dave’s answer: “I looked at the word history of monsters, mythology, legends, and folktales. I read about the characteristics of monsters throughout history and then invented each monster based on what I learned.”
Me again – It’s really hard to pick a favorite monster because they’re all so great! But, probably the monster in the Everglades is my favorite. I especially love his waders.
Hi Lori! Jack and Steve had some awesome questions, and I love your and Dave’s (thanks, Dave!) answers. I really enjoyed your clever rhymes and the monsters’ experiences. Could you take readers through a little bit of your process of writing this book?
Thanks so much, Kathy! Once I established the rhyme scheme I was going to use and my plan to include different travel locations (as mentioned in question #1), I started listing places I’d been, like Mt. Rushmore, Statue of Liberty, Washington DC, and some places I’ve never been but want to visit in the future, like Niagara Falls and Cape Cod. Then I came up with ideas of some fun and silly things you’d tell your monster to do – or not to do – at these locations. Some of the locations went through several revisions with different tourist attractions. I think my hometown of Chicago had the most changes. First, I wrote about the elevated trains, then about the museums, and finally I wrote about Wrigley field – home of the Chicago Cubs. After writing the thirteen couplets, it was just a matter of getting the meter and rhyme just right.
You grew up and still live in Chicago. If you were going to take a trip, would you head north, south, east, or west? Why?
Within the United States, I’d like to take a road trip to all the states in the northeast. I’ve only spent time in New York City, Boston, and Washington DC, so I’d love to see all the other states up there. I’d probably go in the fall to see the changing leaves!
In your bio, you say that you love to write song parodies. How did you start doing them? Do you get to share these anywhere? Can you give readers a verse or two?
I wrote song parodies now and then, just for fun. But I started doing it a lot when I decided to write a musical for my long-time college friends and me. I wrote The Sound of MacMurray (our college) using the songs from The Sound of Music. Then I wrote a Christmas songbook for us, rewriting popular Christmas carols. When my friends and I turned 50, I wrote a song for each of them – and they wrote one for me. There are a lot of inside jokes in those songs, so I don’t think they’d be very funny to you. I did write a short song when my friend was diagnosed with Hashimoto Thyroiditis. It wasn’t serious or life threatening, otherwise I wouldn’t joke about it. But, when she told me the name of it, I knew I had to write a song about it! The song, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins fit perfectly. Here’s the song: “Hashimoto Thyroiditis, that’s her diagnosis / just a goiter on her neck so it’s a good prognosis / if she takes her medicine, that’s all the risk it poses / Hashimoto Thyroiditis, that’s her diagnosis.”
Just from reading your extensive 2020 event schedule, it looks like you love to meet with your readers. What do you like best about meeting with fans of your books?
As I’m writing this, I’m in my house for the 10th day in a row because of the Coronavirus! Because of that, my bookstore and school visits will most likely be canceled, which makes me really sad. I’m going to try to reschedule them for next school year. I was a teacher for 32 years and I’ve always loved children, so school visits are so much fun for me! I love motivating kids to read and write and use their imaginations.
Did your family take trips when you were a child? Do you remember one that made a special impression? Would you like to share a memory from a trip with your own kids?
Growing up, I had two sisters and one brother and my mom raised us by herself. She had to work a lot and we didn’t have much money, so we didn’t go on many trips. Sometimes we’d drive to our aunt and uncle’s cottage on a lake or to the Wisconsin Dells. The one big trip we took, when I was 9, was a driving trip to Washington DC and then down to Nashville to visit our cousins. That was before they had seat belts, so my three siblings and I squeezed into the back seat of our car the whole way. That was before cars had air-conditioning too, which made it a really long, hot drive.
The most exciting trip we took with my own kids was to London, England. Luckily for me, I won a trip for two there, including airfare and hotel, so we only had to buy the airplane tickets for our kids! Speaking of winning trips – I’ve also won trips to San Francisco and Hawaii! I’m pretty lucky I guess.
Traveling is always fun, but staycations are fun too. What’s one of your favorite tourist attractions in Chicago? What’s a favorite not-so-well-known spot?
I love the Art Institute of Chicago! It’s so huge, there’s always something new to see when you go there. Plus, they have special exhibits all the time. All of the Chicago museums are really cool!
A fun not-so-well-known thing to do in Chicago is take an architectural boat tour. There are a couple of companies that will take you down the Chicago River and a guide will tell the history of the different buildings and their architects. It’s fun – but make sure to do it on a warm day!
What’s up next for you?
I don’t have any picture books under contract right now but I have several manuscripts out on submission, so hopefully that will change soon. In the meantime, I’m enjoying writing, doing school visits (once they’re open again) and spending time with family and friends!
Thanks, Lori! It’s been so fun chatting with you! Kids will have a blast traveling vicariously with your and Dave’s monsters!
Reading is Funny Day Review
About the Holiday
Nothing’s better than hearing the giggles of a child reading a funny book! And thanks to today’s holiday, that sound can echo through your home all day long. It’s easy to celebrate too. Just grab your favorite funny books or find read alouds by your favorite authors and illustrators and settle in for a day of laughs. Or do a bit of both! And if you’re looking for a new book to add to your shelf, check into ordering today’s book for a fun trip around the country!
Travel Guide for Monsters
Written by Lori Degman | Illustrated by Dave Szalay
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to travel with monsters from coast to coast across America, then pack your bags and let’s get started! First stop is San Fransisco, California, where we hop a trolley for sightseeing. But maybe before we go on you should know: “While riding on a cable car, / Your monster should be cautious. / The ups and downs of Frisco hills / can make a monster nauseuous!” After taking in all the grandeur of the Bay Area, head down to Hollywood, where you and your monster can do some stargazing.
Traveling east, you can visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona and take a tour of Wyoming. While there… “You’re likely to get thirsty when you / hike up in the mountains. / Make sure to warn your monster / that those geysers are not fountains.” South Dakota and Mount Rushmore are next on the itinerary then it’s on to Chicago for some “face time” at the ballpark. In Nashville, Tennessee, your monster will love to kick up his (cowboy booted) heels to some down-home fiddle music.
A swing through the south just isn’t complete without enjoying Florida’s amusement parks or a wild adventure: “Down south among the everglades, / your monster should wear waders / when playing ‘Marco Polo’ / with the crocodiles and gators.” If your monster likes swimming, he’ll love the beaches in Massachusetts—just watch his choice of snacks!
While on the East Coast, don’t forget to visit our nation’s capital in Washington DC and New York State, where your monster can get a bird’s eye view from the crown of Lady Liberty and make a splash at Niagara Falls. And when you finally get back home, you may have just one lingering question about your trip: “How will you explain your monster’s crazy souvenirs?”
Clever and funny, Lori Degman’s rhymed verses follow a high-interest itinerary across the country and will delight kids, who will very much wish they could join in the ultra-fun, little-bit-risky, and larger-than-life activities in each of the landmarks visited. These snapshots of America take in transportation, celebrity, grandeur, sports, music, and history and will spark an interest in learning more about each city and attraction.
Accompanying Degman’s story are Dave Szalay’s vivid depictions of each landmark, where some of the cutest—I mean most fearsome—monsters sightsee their way to hilarious result. Each image is framed with site-appropriate wallpaper, sporting a shield with the state’s name, a compass showing the state’s direction, and a little mode of transportation—from retro cars to trains to buses to airplanes. Szalay’s realistic portraits of each landmark will entice kids to look up the actual destination, and they’ll love picking out their favorite from among their whimsical travel buddies.
A laugh-out-loud and captivating travelogue for monster fans and monster fans of travel alike, Travel Guide for Monsters would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.
Ages 5 – 8
Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110373
Discover more about Lori Degman on her website.
To learn more about Dave Szalay, his books, and his art, visit his website.
Reading is Funny Day Activity
Pack Your Bags for Fun! Board Game
If you love to travel, you know the first thing you have to do is pack your suitcase. With this printable game you can stuff your bag full of everything you’ll need for an awesome trip!
- Printable Suitcase Playing Board
- Printable Playing Cards
- Printable Playing Die
- Crayons or colored pencils
- Print one game board and set of playing cards for each player
- Print one playing die
- Players can color their suitcase game board if they’d like
- Cut out individual game cards and give a set to each player
- Cut out and assemble playing die, taping edges together
- Choose a player to go first. Play continues to the right.
- Players roll the die to place items on their backpack
- The first player to get all six items is the winner
You can find Travel Guide for Monsters at these booksellers
Picture Book Review