Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Monday, October 24, 2016

An Inside Look #19 (Featuring Phil Bildner)

An Inside Look - With Phil Bildner
Author of Rip and Red Series

*This was a new feature I added to my blog during summer 2016.  I don't have as much time during the school year to run the feature weekly, but definitely will when I come across a book/author/series that I want to dig into more.

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" with them about their novel, the characters, and their thoughts about the story.

*Here are the links to the first EIGHTEEN interviews…

*I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of the first Rip and Red novel.  I devoured it and actually used it for a "Breakfast with Books" book club selection.  We were also lucky enough to Skype with Phil about the book.

*When the second book came out, I grabbed a copy, read it, and loved it just as much as book number one.  These two books are book talked a lot in my class.

*The first book will be a book club selection in November/December of this school year.  There are some stories that are just so great that they have to be used more than once.

*I recently reached out to Phil to see if he would be interested in sharing his thoughts about Rip and Red via my "Inside Look" blog post.  He is such a great and cool guy that of course he said yes.

*It is my pleasure to share his answers to my questions...

A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner (Released August 18, 2015)
Rookie of the Year by Phil Bildner (Released July 12, 2015)

How did you come to know Rip and Red?  
I'm still getting to know Rip and Red, and the more I do, the more I like them. In terms of their core values and their hearts, I've always known who they were, but I didn't know the specifics until they starting coming to life on the page. With each passing scene and chapter, I'm learning more and more about them.

What do you think is Rip and Reds most admirable quality?
 The most admirable quality? That's a tough one. I like that they're both lots of fun. While they're serious and sensitive kids, they both enjoy life to the fullest. I think that's so important. Always try to be in the moment. Always try to make it fun. 

Is there anything you wish Rip or Red would have changed or done differently in their story?
I'm not sure. At the moment, I don't think so. Of course, when I re-read the books, I'll think about a tweak here or a toggle there, but for the most part, I'm good. I will say this -- if we were able to re-design the cover of A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME, I would make the letter A in the title upper case instead of lower case. Kids often ask me about that. 

What do you think Rip and Red can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what they went through?  
Empathy! That's one of my favorite words in the English language. Rip and Red are both able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. That goes to the heart and essence of empathy. They learned that from their families, from their classroom community, and from reading. Throughout the books in the series, Rip and Red show what it means to be empathetic human beings.

How did you research Rip and Red and the circumstances they found themselves in?
I taught middle school for eleven years, and I've had lots of kids like Rip and Red in my classes. So in that regard, the research came to me. I also interviewed parents and educators who shared their stories and insights. And of course, when I visit schools these days, I always spend as much time with the kids as possible. That's doing research without even realizing you're doing research!

Do you and Rip and Red share any similarities?  
Absolutely! All three of us love basketball, all three of us love reading, and all three of us love dogs (that storyline is coming in the next books). Like Red, I was a stat geek growing up. I knew everything about baseball, especially my New York Mets. Like Rip, I was non-stop motion on the basketball court. I was both quick and fast (there's a difference), and I used to drive my opponents crazy... like a gnat!

What was the hardest scene to write about Rip and Red?
I don't think any one scene was the hardest, but I think the scenes where Red is struggling to adjust to a situation or is on the brink of an "episode" were the most challenging. Those are the scenes  you want to make extra sure you get right. You also want those scenes to be believable and relatable. 

Who do you think was Rip and Red's biggest supporter and why?
That's an easy one. I think they're each others biggest supporters. I love the way they're always looking out for one another.

Why do you think some kids can accept and help other kids that are different from them while others just can’t seem to?
 Rip and Red are two very different kids, but at the same time, they're quite similar. They are both are good listeners, though they listen differently. In his Newbery Medal speech for Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Pena talked about (and I'm paraphrasing here) how we're all constantly reading, reading the world. I've often echoed a similar sentiment -- listening with our eyes. Rip and Red are both very skilled at listening with their eyes.

What do you think Rip and Red are doing as this present time?  
Right now, Rip and Red are enjoying their summer after fifth grade and getting ready for middle school! I just finished writing a draft of the fourth book, and now we're thinking about making a fifth and sixth. If we do, those will take place after Rip and Red have graduated from RJE. 

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