Highslide for Wordpress Plugin
Skip to content
 

From the Writer’s Desk

THE MAKING OF FRANKIE WORKS THE NIGHT SHIFT
BY LISA WESTBERG PETERS

Frankie started out cute and small, but eventually grew to be a 15-pound bad boy (his vet called him Grumpy Gus).

The year after Frank Viola, Kirby Puckett, and the Minnesota Twins won the World Series, we got a new kitten. Should we name him after the star pitcher or the star outfielder? Tough choice. Our neighbor had named her cat Kirby, so that sealed it.

Frankie was talented in his own right. He could trot into the kitchen when he heard me open the tuna can. He could jump up on the ironing board and tip it over, dig in the garbage can for meat scraps, escape outside to kill baby birds, and wake us up at 4 a.m. Still, of course, we loved him.

School kids would ask me, why don’t you write about your cat? I was definitely willing, but the right angle hadn’t occurred to me.

Then, on a visit to New York, I met Susan Hirschman. She said to me, with a gentle editor lilt in her voice, “Counting books are nice.” A big fat hint from a great editor.

My daughter craved Frankie’s attention. Here she is, sick in bed, but happy with a Cynthia Voigt novel and a purring cat. She set a stopwatch to record how long he stayed.

Frankie would star in his own counting book. In my first drafts of Frankie Works the Night Shift, Frankie had his misadventures at home, but that eventually seemed too ordinary. My writing group suggested I set the story in a diner but that didn’t feel fresh enough to me. I finally set it in a hardware store because I love hardware stores, and they’re packed with visual possibilities.

I hoped the book could convey mischief on another level as well, with dissonance between words and art. In the book, the words tell the story of a hard-working janitor, and Jennifer Taylor’s fabulous art tells the story of nighttime havoc.

 Sure, this is a simple counting book, but hey, I did research. I walked over to the neighborhood hardware store and asked, “What do you call these containers for nails?” The clerk said, “Nail bins.” I said, “Thanks,” and turned around and walked home.

The fictional Frankie follows a mouse up and down seven ladders. The real Frankie had actual ladder-climbing experience.

Lisa Westberg Peters is the author of Frankie Works the Night Shift, which went on sale last week! She is also the author of Cold Little Duck, Duck, Duck; Sleepyhead Bear; Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up; and several other books for children. She lives with her family in St. Paul, MN.

3 Comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Susan Marie Swanson. Susan Marie Swanson said: Hey, Frankie the cat is working the night shift on the Greenwillow Books blog! http://bit.ly/cvZOdj (Fact: named for a World Series MVP.) […]

  2. Great book!

    And my cat, Vince, liked it enough to review it on my blog. I think he could relate to Frankie. Vince’s review is at:

    http://patzietlowmiller.com/tag/vince/

  3. Karen Hoover says:

    Love this book! Frankie’s just doing his job…..he doesn’t MEAN to be naughty! Reminds me so much of my kitty, Bo.

    By the way, this book has been nominated for the 2011-12 South Carolina Picture Book Award. Thousands of primary students across the state will love Frankie, I’m sure! Especially those who have beloved cats as part of their family.

Leave a Reply