Meet the Author:
Adam Wallace

Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.

September 2021

How to Catch A Dinosaur by Adam Wallace is a wonderful, rhyming tale about a little boy and his diverse group of friends as they try to win their science fair by catching a dinosaur.  With bright illustrations, the story comes alive as the children set traps throughout the school.  These traps get more and more elaborate as the story unfolds.  

How to Catch a Dinosaur is a humorous read and also a clever way to teach young children STEM concepts in a way they won’t even know it’s happening.  The author frequently works with children and his connection is evident throughout the story.  We enjoyed our interview with Adam and hope you will too.

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Not only are you a New York Times best selling children’s book author but you also have a clothing line, and teach classes to help other authors and illustrators. How do you manage such a busy schedule?

Haha with naps in between! I love my afternoon naps. What I have found is that, unless I am doing a school visit or talk of some sort, if I wake up at 5:40am, which is my alarm time, and I go to bed at 10pm, that gives me round about 17 hours!!! Take off 20 minutes for my nap and that leaves lots of time to get things done!

I also like to work fast. I have found that is where the inspiration comes. If I am plodding over something, I tend to get bored easily. Working fast helps me go in directions I never would have expected. I love that!

Really, it’s doing something every day. As Stephen King says, writing 6 pages a day leads to a novel very quickly!

How to Catch a Dinosaur is our favorite book in the award-winning “How to Catch a….” series. What originally inspired this series? Was there a real life inspiration for the 1st grader trying to win the science fair?

The series actually began off the back of the publisher, Sourcebooks, coming to me and saying that St Patrick’s Day eve is huge in the States, with kids setting traps to catch Leprechauns. They wondered if I could write a book where that exact thing happens, but the traps get bigger and wilder as we go through the book. I said yes in an instant!

Everything went from there. I have now done 12 books in the series!

Haha, in terms of the science fair, it wasn’t so much direct inspiration for me, as we never had a science fair when I was a kid! I was very competitive though, so anything I played or entered, I always wanted to win!

We felt that this book was really written for children. Its playfulness and rhyming text is exactly the kind of book kids like to read over and over. Was this intentional?

Thank you SO much! That is possibly the best and nicest thing anyone could say to me about one of my books, that it seems to be written for children. When I began, I had literally hundreds of rejections of my work, and I fell into a pattern of thinking I should write what the “expected” type of book was.

But that felt so wrong at the time, as the books publishers wanted, or had space for, were not at all the books I enjoyed writing. I was inspired by Andy Griffiths, Australia’s greatest children’s author, when I heard him talk about how he writes what children will like, and that’s it (and of course he has to like it too haha!). That was the moment for me. Obviously, it’s awesome if parents, teachers, etc like the books as well, but my number one priority is kids loving it. Everything else is a bonus.

The illustrations are bright, fun and very detailed. They really make the story come to life. How much input did you have with the look and feel of the book?

I have pretty much zero input! This is mostly because Andy Elkerton is a genius. I did get to see the roughs of the first couple of books, and made some comments on those, but after that it’s all Andy.

The only other way I might have some input is if, when writing the story, I have a joke where the punchline will be in the picture, and I will make a note of that. Even with those, Andy often takes them to a whole new level of awesomeness!

We really liked the diversity in the pack of children trying to catch the dinosaur. How important is this in your books?

With the How to Catch books, again that is all Andy. I wanted to write the story so it could be any genre or race of kids at all, and then Andy has done such an amazing job of bringing that to life.

I feel diversity of how the kids look is super important in my books, and just as important, if not more to me, is having diversity of characters and personalities. I really like when kids read my books and can relate to how characters behave, or respond, or feel. That’s wonderful … unless the character is the evil villain hahaha! Then it’s a worry!

What is the best part about being a children’s author? Who were your favorite authors as a child?

Haha oh boy, what isn’t the best thing about it? I was asked this at a school visit recently, and I said one thing, and then another, and then another, and five minutes later I said, “Look, it’s everything okay?”

But the main ones, for me, would be when something strikes me, and I sit down and a story flows out of me, without me even really thinking about it. But I also love seeing a finished product after the illustrator has worked their magic, I love the process of working with an editor to bring out the best version of the book, I love when I’m writing rhyme and something comes out of me in a first line that fits so perfectly with the second, I love my afternoon naps, and I love when I get messages from kids about the books and how they felt, and from parents saying their kids never read but read my books over and over. Now THAT is a thrill!

When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges for parents or opportunities to address?

This is a really interesting one, and I know a common answer would be technology, but I believe there are still amazing stories in technology, games, etc. I also believe it’s great to have a balance, and that sometimes books can be thrust aside for the wizz bang flash of games and videos, but in general, I have found that kids still love books, they still love reading, they still love drawing, and they still love meeting authors.

Actually, these days, with so much learning having to happen online, I have found a lot of parents saying their children have gone back to drawing and reading because they need to get OFF the screens after a big day! Isn’t that awesome?

So really, I think the biggest challenge is to create books that thrill kids, excite them, and give them a world to disappear into … and this has and always will be the biggest challenge. There will always be distractions, whether it be riding bikes till dark or playing video games, but if we make the very best books we can, and we make them for the kids, then books and stories will be around for a long time yet.

Are you working on anything at the moment, we can look forward to reading?

Yes! Always haha! I have written a few picture book and chapter book series that are with publishers, so I am waiting on those, but I just had a junior fiction chapter book series picked up called Pugnacious and Scuttlebutt, about a pug who loves a fight and a very anxious greyhound. I have finished the second one and about to start on the third.

I’m also working on some screenplays of my books, and just finished a couple of books for a new series, If Your Best Friend Is a Mermaid, and If Your Best Friend is a Unicorn (I just sent off the first draft of that this morning!)!

I also have a Father’s Day book, but that will now be out next year for Father’s Day.

I think that’s it, until the next idea jumps on my back and starts pulling at my brain!

Thanks to Adam for spending time with us, explaining his work, and sharing some of his thoughts on kids and reading. You can learn more about Adam at his website here.

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