A Q&A with Author Raymond Bean Question:
What were your favorite books as a child?
Raymond Bean: I loved everything by Dr. Seuss. My earliest book memory as a reader were the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel. I remember loving that they were short stories I could read on my own. I thought Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume was HYSTERICAL! My fourth grade teacher read it to my class and I remember laughing along with the story. I enjoy reading it to my class to this day. Judy Blume’s Fudge series opened my eyes to books in a series, and I read many Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlotte's Web were books I read over and over. A book about Yogi Berra was the first nonfiction title I remember loving. Being a big baseball and basketball fan, I read about my favorite players and loved learning sports facts and trivia.
Question: Were you a reluctant reader?
Raymond Bean: There were times when I had books I was reading that I loved and couldn't put down. There were also periods I remember when I couldn't find books that I liked and wanted to read. I remember those periods being frustrating because I wanted to read, but had trouble finding something that connected with me. For example, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing spoke to me--I felt like I knew Peter Hatcher. He spoke and thought like my friends and me and felt like one of the guys. There weren’t enough books that made me feel like "one of the guys." I think this is true of most "reluctant readers." It's not that they don't want to read, it's usually that they can't find that book that speaks to them and they want to read.
Question: Did any books or authors influence you in your teaching or writing careers?
Raymond Bean: I think every book I ever loved helped to influence my teaching and writing. Seeing the movie Stand By Me had a huge impact on me when I was young. The characters seemed so real to me and it was that time period when I remember wanting to create stories. I later learned that Stand By Me was written by Stephen King and was part of a collection of four novellas in the book Different Seasons.
Chris Elliot, the comedian, published a book called Daddy's Boy. It was quick reading and ridiculously funny. It made me want to write silly stories of my own.
Question: What would you say to the parents, teachers, or librarians who feel that "bathroom humor”" is a discredit to the general book world?
Raymond Bean: I think the genre plays an important role in bringing the most reluctant readers to the bookshelf. For many reluctant readers, this genre is proof that books can be a good time! Books like Captain Underpants, The Day My Butt Went Psycho, and Sweet Farts appeal to children because they are silly and fun. Kids like silly and fun. If you have ever listened to elementary grade children talk for an extended period of time you know that they are generally very silly. Isn't being silly a big part of the fun in growing up? I believe that many students build their reading confidence in this genre. Perhaps it helps them complete their first chapter book and then they are hungry for more.
Question: Your wife has called Sweet Farts "a smart book with a silly title." Please explain.
Raymond Bean: I think she explains it perfectly. The Sweet Farts series is more than books about flatulence. There are also connections to science and history woven throughout. They are books that are written with the reluctant reader, the parent, the librarian, and the teacher in mind, and I think they will all find something to love about the series.
In Sweet Farts (2008), 10-year-old Keith Emerson invented a much-heralded product that took the smell out of intestinal gas for his school science project. In much of this sequel, though, Keith is discontented. He can’t come up with anything to match his earlier invention; his little sister refuses to eat anything but candy; and he is nervous about an upcoming television interview. As the novel’s title suggests, there is nothing subtle about the humor here, and even the fart jokes get a bit old. Additional comic scenes, though, add needed variety to the gas-centric humor, which will delight its target audience. Grades 3-5. --Todd Morning