Author Interview: Jan Peck on Way Up High In A Tall Green Tree

Way Up High in a Tall Green Tree by Jan Peck, illustrated by Valeria Petrone (Simon & Schuster, 2005). Ages 3-up. See an excerpt.

What was your inspiration for creating this book?

In Girl Scout camp, I always loved the ballads and chants we sang. I noticed they all had the same elements of a good story: They start with a goal; there are at least three obstacles to overcome; you reach your goal, then the story comes full circle when you return home. In Way Up High in a Tall Green Tree, I start with the goal of climbing to the very top of the tree. The child interacts with nine animals, we reach our goal, and return home with a surprise twist at the end. This primal plot is very effective in storytelling, especially with young children.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

One major event was writing and selling Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea (Simon & Schuster, 2004). I rewrote this 200-word story for two years before Simon & Schuster bought it. This book is about the ocean, which takes place in a boy’s mind while he’s taking a bath. This concept of imagination is used in all of my Way Out series. Way Up High in a Tall Green Tree takes place in the rainforest and in the imagination of this girl while climbing in her bunk bed. I have another one due out Spring 2006, Way Far Away on a Wild Safari (Simon & Schuster). And I have other ideas for the series, which I’m busy writing now.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

These are true-to-life science books for the youngest scientists, ages 2 and up. These real animals and their actions are factual. Way Up High in a Tall Green Tree is on the PBS Teacher Resource Recommended Science Book List.

Keeping the rhythm, rhyme, and above all, keeping the facts fun are my biggest challenges. The rhythm and rhyme creates words that are both predictable and easy to read. I ask parents and grandparents to point at the words while they read them. I’ve had many people tell me their grandchild or child has learned to read these books. Very exciting! Also, I keep in mind what will sell in other countries. These books are simultaneously published by S&S in Japan, Australia, and England. Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea sold in 2005 to another publisher in Korea. So the books have to have universal appeal.

Cynsational News & Links

Congratulations to Texas author Debbie Leland whose picture book, The Little Prairie Hen (Wildflower Run), was chosen as an honorable mention in the children’s/YA category of the Writer’s Digest Self-Published book competition. This same book was the Texas Reading Association Golden Spur Winner last year. Debbie is a model for successfully self-publishing books that can hold their own against the best of those from the big NYC publishers.

Interview with Jan Peck on Writing by Richelle Putnam.

Tasha Tudor from “Tasha Tudor, one of the most beloved illustrators of children’s books ever, and an author in her own right, is now 90 years old, living at her comfy Corgi Cottage in Vermont, surrounded by her family, her garden, her crafts and her books…”