Author Stacy McAnulty was not a strong reader as a kid. In fact, she would avoid it if she could. It wasn’t until the 12th grade that she read a book that wasn’t assigned. But that didn’t mean she hated the written word.
“I loved when the teacher would read to the class,” Stacy said of her childhood. “It was usually after lunch. My favorite was ‘Max: The Dog That Refused to Die.’ It’s out of print now. I remember being so concerned for Max, even though the title gives away the ending. An-animal-in-peril story always gets me.”
Stacy has always liked writing, but it took a backseat to math while she was in school. She wrote her first book while working as an engineer. Now she’s officially published five books and has a number of other ones in the pipeline.
Her latest book “The Dino Files: A Mysterious Egg” is about a Frank, a 9-year-old dinosaur expert, his paleontologist grandparents, annoying cousin Sam, a cat named Saurus and an egg that turns out to be more than just a fossil.
Dino Files was born out of a wish. Stacy’s son wanted a “real life” dinosaur for his 5th birthday. “Without the aid of a time machine or genetic engineering, I couldn’t deliver his desired present,” Stacy told Cracking the Cover. “So I wrote him this story. From the beginning, I thought it had series potential, and luckily my editor did, too. There may be more than three eventually, if young paleontologists fall in love with Frank, Sam, Saurus, and Peanut.”
That said, she didn’t want her dinosaur, aka Peanut, to be a familiar species. “I needed something of my own creation, and the dino needed a distinguishing feature,” she said. “Initially, it was a red horn, and his name was Rudolph. We changed it because there was a possibility someone might think it was a Christmas book. The illustrator, Mike Boldt, did a fantastic job of filling in the rest of the details. I could just squeeze Peanut. He’s adorable.”
“A Mysterious Egg” has humor laced throughout. It’s something Stacy is very conscious of. “I try to make kids laugh because it’s the best sound in the world,” she said.
It’s one of the reasons she writes for young people, but it’s not the only one. “Even the darkest kids’ book ends at a place of hope,” she said. “There needs to be hope for the future. The characters will be OK after we close the cover. Books for adults can end in despair. That’s not me. Also, I’m rather immature. Please excuse me while I pick my nose. (Kidding! But I’d totally say that at a school assembly.)”
Stacy is currently working on a middle-grade novel about a math savant who ends up in public school for the first time in seventh grade. And she has a number of funny picture books in the works.
Learn more about why Stacy McAnulty writes and how writing chapter books differs from picture books in this complete transcript of her interview with Cracking the Cover.
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