Six year later came Rosie Revere, Engineer. And after another three came Ada Twist, Scientist. Over the next few years, books featuring the same characters came in quick succession. Activity books, a new picture book (Sofia Valdex, Future Prez), and an early chapter series quickly garnered fans across the globe.
How could they not? The books feature curious kids who ask lots of questions and find the answers through trial and error. Delightful illustrations and kids making a difference were the perfect recipe for success. The world embraced The Questioneers.
And it all started with Iggy.
Iggy is the brainchild of author Andrea Beaty. He was born out of real-world experience — Andrea’s own son building towers from pots and pans and cans of soup.
“Iggy was a stand-alone book and I never imagined it would evolve into a whole universe of characters and adventures,” Andrea told Cracking the Cover. “It has been such fun exploring Blue River Creek and the kids in Miss Lila Greer’s class. The fun part about the chapter books is getting to meet even more people in the town. All of them are funny and smart and also very quirky and passionate about things that interest them.”
In May, Iggy once again took center stage in Iggy Peck and the Mysterious Mansion, the third book in The Questioneers early chapter series. It follows Iggy and his friends as they help Ada Twist’s Aunt Bernice find missing antiques and save an architectural marvel.
Andrea has always loved old houses, so she knew that Iggy would, too. “I wanted to write a mysterious adventure that involved one of the crazy old houses where people added on in new styles over time,” she said. “David’s art really captured the Scooby-Do kind of feel I was aiming for. It was a hoot to write and I am delighted that kids are enjoying it!”
History also plays a big role in this book. “History is always a big part of these stories because I think we can learn so much about our current world and how to move forward by looking back,” Andrea said.
“When I wrote this book a year ago, I was reading and thinking a lot about the Spanish Flu pandemic which struck a century ago and the role of science and vaccines in our world today,” the author said. “As is often the case, things I am thinking about find their way into whatever I’m writing at the time. As a result, the 1918 flu plays a bit of a role in the backdrop of this story.
“Fast forward to now. We are in a pandemic which was unimaginable even a few months ago. It’s a very scary time, but I have taken great heart from hearing from parents who have used this story in a small way to help their kids understand a bit about what’s going on now. It is reassuring to know that we have gone through terrible things in history and come through them.”
Kids connect with The Questioneers because the books and characters explore something true, Andrea says.
“While Iggy Peck, Architect talks about architecture, it’s Iggy’s love of architecture that is at the heart of the story,” she said. “It’s about passion. Rosie is about perseverance. Ada is curiosity. And Sofia is about bravery and kindness. Those are all things that kids experience. Every kid loves doing something, fails at it sometimes, is curious, and has to be brave. Those traits also map to being an architect, scientist, engineer, or activist. So, kids who understand the feeling of persevering or being curious can identify with the characters and imagine themselves being engineers or scientists.”
Like the inspiration for Iggy, Andrea says she gets story ideas or characters or bits of conversation stuck in her head that she needs to explore. Writing helps her do that. “It’s a lot like getting a song stuck in your head. You have to sing it and pass it on to someone else!”
And though you may think she’s writing for young readers, Andrea says the opposite is closer to reality. “The truth is that I write for myself and what I happen to find funny or interesting also seems to appeal to kids! That’s the case for many people who write kids’ books. We have never forgotten how to see the world in the same way kids do. I love that because I think that kids are so smart and funny and creative.”
A lot happens over the course of a career. For Andrea, that means becoming braver in her writing. That comes, she says, from age and this “strange, complicated, difficult times in which we live. They are times which, I believe, demand us all to assess what’s important and how we can help others and to stand up and speak out when needed. We each have a role to play in our communities and that requires a little bravery. Just like Sofia Valdez shows when she wants to help her community.”
Questions from a 6-year-old:
My first book came out in 2005 but I began writing long before that. I’d say that I’ve been at it for about 25 years. Ish.
Where did your ideas for Ada, Rosie, Iggy and Sofia come from?
Iggy was inspired by my son who loved to build things when he was very young. The other books are all inspired by David Roberts’ illustrations! He puts clues in the art about each kid’s personality and I try to figure out who they are and write about them.
Are you creating new characters, like an artist or geologist?
I am writing more books, but I don’t know who the characters will be or what they will love doing. I have to live with David’s illustrations a long time and figure out who the characters are from the art. It’s a very slow process.
*Learn more about Andrea Beaty, including what it’s like to write picture and chapter books by reading the complete transcript of her interview with Cracking the Cover.