Friday, April 1, 2011

Quacky Baseball -- Blog Tour Day 5

In conversation with Peter Abrahams
by Hilde Garcia

Peter Abrahams has written 25 novels for adults and children. The first book in his Echo Falls series, Down the Rabbit Hole, won the 2006 Agatha for Best Children’s Young Adult Fiction. His upcoming middle grade suspense novel with a bit of paranormal, Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood Street, will be released next January. Peter’s YA thriller, Reality Check, won the 2010 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Novel. His newest YA thriller, Bullet Point, was released in April of 2010. As Spencer Quinn, he's also the author of the Chet and Bernie Mysteries. Written from the point of view of Chet, a dog, they are fabulous stories from a fresh perspective. Quacky Baseball marks his first hit in the picture book game.

I know you covered this in the piece you wrote on the evolution of Quacky Baseball for Corey Schwartz's blog, but what the heck! Peter, the $64,000 question, why a picture book? And why about baseball? That’s a double of a question!

A double question to which there’s no satisfying answer. The truth is the idea – picture book about baseball, all participants ducks – just popped into my head. I believe at the time I was in the middle of writing Behind the Curtain, second in the Echo Falls series.

What was the most significant difference for you in creating the picture book text vs. one of your YA or MG stories?

Well, as for text, there isn’t much, for the same reason a screenplay adaptation of a novel is shorter than the novel itself: we’ve got pictures to carry the story-telling burden! Bonus: I didn’t have to make the pictures myself! 

Was your picture book text longer when you began the process? 

No. It was about the same, although some bits were edited out and other bits inserted. I’ve always been a minimalist when it comes to prose. I’m a maximumist when it comes to some other things, such as sleep and breakfast.

So, Thumby can’t stop sucking his thumb, but he manages to do so for the game- winning catch and then for the spectacular bottom of the ninth homerun! Isn’t that too much pressure for the rookie?

Lots of pressure, but thumbsucking helps him handle it, kind of like self-medication. Maybe the world would be a better place if adult thumbsucking were in vogue. And, more likely, maybe not. 

And then you give the tip, “Keep your eye on the ball,” but Thumby hits the final smack of the game with his eyes closed! Was it a lucky smack or the skill of a duck from the wrong side of the marsh? 

There’s always the inexplicable and the unforeseen in baseball, part of what makes it great. I got into this in a much darker way in a book I wrote some years ago called The Fan

I coach T-Ball. This book is a wonderful introduction to the game. I can’t wait to read it to my team at our next practice. Did you envision Quacky Baseball becoming a teaching aid for coaches of the littlest ducks in the league?

I wrote it for entertainment purposes, pure and simple, but it’s important that the baseball be accurate. A very nice thing that came my way after publication of The Fan was a letter from Buzzie Bavasi, longtime Dodgers GM, thanking me for getting the baseball right. 

How did the collaboration with an illustrator affect or enhance your writing of this picture book? After your submitted your text, what level of input were your afforded, if any, with the illustrator? I mean, can you have two coaches on the field? 

The collaboration was a three-step process. I wrote the initial text. Frank made accompanying sketches. I made some textual changes to better match the art. Plenty of room for two coaches – plus the editor and art director are also on the field. 

Was it your idea to include the scoreboard throughout the story? Were the tips you include in the book part of your original picture book text? And why start at the bottom of the ninth? Why not at the beginning when Thumby isn’t doing well or maybe how he got on the team? 

Scoreboard: yes
Tips: yes
Bottom of the ninth: that was where the drama was. In a form this short there wasn’t room for anything else.

Ok, I’m now in love with Chet the Dog, (just visited your site). He’s so smart and sassy. I can’t believe he also speaks German. How many of your works are translated in other languages? Do you see Quacky Baseball having the same trek? Baseball is an all-American sport, so how effective can a translation be for a country that might not even play baseball?

I believe the Chet and Bernie novels are in 18 or 19 languages now. One important thing about Chet: he doesn’t talk. He has no non-dog powers. But all dog people know that a dog has some sort of life-narrative going on internally, and that’s what’s on the page in the Chet and Bernie books (Number 4, The Dog Who Knew Too Much, comes out in September). Baseball does well in Japan and in certain parts of the Spanish-speaking world. 

Do you find it easy to write for any voice? You have Chet the Dog and Thumby, the Webbies' secret weapon, but then there’s also Ingrid, a girl. Gasp! And you seamlessly go from one age group to the other from the youngest reader to those of us on the older side. Come on, confess, do you have a super power?

Unsatisfying answer # 2: I never think about this at all.

I noticed the book cover for Quacky Baseball says “ages 3-8.” Why is that there? Was it the editor’s idea? I don’t usually notice the age range listed on the book cover and this book has a timeless quality whether you are 3, 8 or 38. I read it and enjoyed it. Why not put 3 to infinity? 

You’re right. I like 3 to infinity better.

Now that you dove into the pond of picture books and hit one out of the park, do you see yourself continuing this season in the picture book game? If so, will Thumby make it to the World Series and follow the fate of Casey at the Bat? Or will he remember to keep his eye on the ball and swing, swing, swing?! (Unlike mighty Casey who didn’t swing at the first two pitches). 

I actually do have another picture book idea, but right now I’m pretty busy with Chet and Bernie, and also the new Robbie Forester middle-grade series.

I want to thank Peter Abrahams for this fabulous seventh-inning stretch of an interview, giving us a behind the scenes look at a fuzzy player that we are going to love for a long, long time. 

My pleasure!
Check out Peter’s works, from every ballpark you can think of YA, MG, adult, at - and

Please visit the other stops on the Quacky Baseball tour: 
  • Monday, March 28 - Megan Frances Abrahams - On Beyond Words & Pictures - interview with Kristin Daly Rens, Senior Editor, Balzer & Bray
  • Tuesday, March 29 - Julie Musil Julie Musil - interview with Thumby Duckling - the main character - via author Peter Abrahams 
  • Wednesday, March 30 - Corey Schwartz - Thing 1 and Thing 2 - author Peter Abrahams on the genesis of Quacky Baseball 
  • Thursday, March 31 - Diane Browning - Out of the Paintbox - interview with illustrator Frank Morrison
  • Saturday, April 2 - Lori Walker L.H. Walker - book review/synopsis with input from Lori's children
Comment on this blog (see upper right column) -- or on any blog along the tour -- and you could win a signed copy of the book!


  1. Wow! Peter Abrahams, I am a big fan of yours! I’ve read almost everything you’ve ever written. In my wildest dreams I never would have imagined you writing a picture book, and yet here it is, in all its colorful glory. Thank you Mr. Abrahams for all the hours of enjoyment you have given me through your awesome writing. Thank you Hilde and Pen and Ink for the wonderful interview.

    It’s Opening Day here where I live and this week has been a great way to start the baseball season!

  2. Very nice interview. I love the cover art for the story too. Looks like a fun adventure. :)

  3. Me too -- I've also read just about everything Peter has written. Thanks for the great interview, Hilde and Pete.

  4. Quacky Baseball will enable me to get to third base with all the ladies.
    Strike Out King

  5. Peter, baseball lovers (especially boys)will snap this up. Boys love to read about a sport they love. Great cover - and interesting interview, Sue.

    Margot's Magic Carpet - Kid's Books With a WOW Factor

  6. Great interview, Hilde. Can't wait to read the book

  7. Hilde and Peter: This is a wonderful interview. I love reading about authors and their process. Thank you both.


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