THE BIG CHEESE FAMILY – NOT’CHO CHEESE! BY TONY JERRIS
1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
They are a cheese-loving family of mice that live in a grocery store, giving them free range to the dairy section. There’s only one problem standing in their way- Mr. McGrime, the cranky store owner. Still, that doesn’t stop the playful critters, who somehow always outsmart Mr. McGrime. Written in metered poetry, this series of books will take kids on a fun-filled romp with each new story.
2) What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote a series of book several years ago know as “the littlest” series. So, I thought, why not do another series, only using the word “big,” even though the characters are tiny mice! I was also inspired to write it because I would attend Artisan shows, and couldn’t believe the number of young kids who were Foodies. So, I named members of The Big Cheese Family all after cheeses, like Papa Parmesan, Grandpa Gouda, and Mama Brie. There’s even a glossary at the end of the books that teaches kids about various cheeses.
3) Why did you pick this genre?
I’ve always enjoyed writing for kids, where there is always some sort of moral message and resonance of family values. When my nephew was first born, I wrote a poem for him called “The Littlest Spruce,” about a small blue spruce who gets separated from his parents, only to be reunited with them on Christmas Day inside a family’s home, where they are all decorated. This poem inspired the book, “The Littlest Spruce,” which was featured on “Good Morning America,” and the third book in the series, The Littlest Witch, I turned into a musical.
4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
I was introduced to up-and-coming illustrator, Oliver Batin, who had never illustrated a book before. When I sent him the initial outline for “The Big Cheese Family,” I instantly fell in love with his work, knowing we could have a continuing series with the characters of mice. As an author, I enjoy working with an illustrator who shares my vision, which Oliver does.
5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
Hands down, the Dr. Seuss books are my favorite. I write a lot in metered poetry, which stems from reading Dr. Seuss as a kid. Yet, Dr. Seuss entertains on two levels: for kids and adults. And they still hold up today!
6) What enjoyment do you get out of writing children’s picture books as opposed to screen or playwriting?
You have more freedom writing children’s picture books, meaning, you can truly be creative and let your imagination run wild. That’s not to say you can’t be creative writing screenplays and plays, however, scripts have to follow a certain structure; like a formula, if you will. With children’s picture books, the picture itself is worth a thousand words, so as an author you don’t have to write so many!
7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope children walk away identifying with the characters, so that they will want to know more about the mice in their upcoming ventures. But most of all, I want them to be entertained.
8) Tell us about your Littlest Witch project and did you enjoy working with your sister?
As I mentioned before, “The Littlest Witch” started out as a book before I adapted it into a musical with my sister, Corinne, who is a very talented composer/musical director—And I’m not just saying that because she’s my sister! She’s played Broadway and beyond, and it took us over 10-years to workshop and rewrite “The Littlest Witch” before it was finally published (by Stage Rights Inc). To date, it has played nation-wide, including New York and Los Angeles. Last year it ran at the St. George Theatre in Staten Island (3,000 seats), and at the end of March (2015), will play at The Two Roads Theater (60 seats) in Burbank, CA. So, as you can tell, it’s a diverse little play, or as I like to call it, “the little play that could!”
9) What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on getting the second book in the “The Big Cheese Family” series finished, which is called “The Big Cheese Family – Plus Two!” Yep, that’s right. The mice are having more kids! I also have several scripts in the works, including a heart-warming Christmas script called “Lost Claus,” about a Santa Claus with amnesia, who helps a young couple and their children save their failing diner. And I’m excited about a new play I’ve written for Young Adults, called “Snow White & The Seven Felonies!” It’s a comedy of errors, when Snow White is wrongly accused of some very funny felonies in Fairytale Land. I’m also looking to write the third book in my “Holly Weird – 5th Grade Drama Tween” series. The theme in the series is about anti-bullying, and I have donated some of the proceeds from the first two books to various anti-bullying campaigns.