Who’s up for some BIG Owlkids Books news? Everybody? Okay! Spring books hit bookstore shelves yesterday, and among them are Max Finder Mystery Collected Casebook Vol. 5 (by Ramon Perez, Liam O’Donnell, and yours truly) and a really cool non-fiction book for the OWL age group entitled You Just Can’t Help It. It was written by Jeff Szpirglas, an author, teacher, former OWL staffer, and all-around great guy.*
I caught up with Jeff to ask him about his new book, his future plans, and even his favourite subject while he was in school. Cool, huh?
On with the questions!
Q: Your new book, You Just Can’t Help It, is all about wacky human behaviour. What inspired you to write it?
Jeff: One of my favorite books is called The Naked Ape, which was written by a zoologist named Desmond Morris. It’s a fascinating look at human beings from his perspective as a scientist who studies animals. I wish I’d found a version of it when I was younger. That really was the seed of the book, to find interesting examples of human behavior along the lines that Desmond Morris explored. I ended up unearthing a lot of other research and experiments as well, which all ended up in the book.
Jeff: I’m very excited about my first novel for middle readers, which should come out this fall. It’s a tale about a boy with a disembodied — and very evil — eyeball. It’s called Evil Eye and everyone who reads this should read it. There will be plenty of jokes and scary, gross things. So yes, I’m still obsessed with fear and disgusting stuff. Big surprise.
(I’m also busy researching for a new book about colds, which are admittedly also disgusting.)
Q: What’s one thing you just can’t help doing?
Jeff: When I get nervous, I sometimes get tics — not the parasitic creatures that feed on your blood, but small little bodily reactions like sniffling or clicking my throat. Also, whenever I play the piano, I feel compelled to always end off playing the same chord. A “G” chord. I think I’ll go play one right now.
Q: In between writing and teaching, do you have any spare time? If so, what do you like to do with it?
Jeff: I think I just used up my spare time answering this question. With luck, I might get some more next week!
When I do encounter precious nuggets of time that aren’t spent teaching or writing, I try to use them wisely. Currently I am training our kitten not to jump on the kitchen counter. It’s not been very successful. I also like to play soccer, listen to heavy metal music, and jump around — often when listening to heavy metal or playing soccer. It’s quite possible that I’m modeling several undesirable behaviors to our kitten.
Q: Last question, and it’s a tough one: would you rather wear tap-dancing shoes OR ballet shoes every day for the rest of your life?
Jeff: Tap dancing shoes — no question! That’s mostly because my feet are pretty big. I’d make a terrible ballet dancer. Come to think of it, I’d make a terrible tap dancer as well, but it’s February while I’m writing this, and I don’t think ballet slippers would be wise in the snow.
Bonus question: Because you’re a teacher, I have to ask: what was your favourite subject when you were in school?
Jeff: Recess! But in terms of academic subjects, without a doubt, science. It’s also my favorite subject to teach. Right now the Grade 4’s are learning about rocks, Grade 5’s are building structures, and the Grade 6 students I teach are creating various vehicles for flight. I wish the Ontario curriculum had more about the science of farts, but you can’t win them all.
Okay, so I lied. That was actually six questions, but Jeff was very kind and answered them all. Many thanks to Jeff for that.
Talk to you soon.