Favorite Books, Rotten Cats, and Writing Advice

March 08, 2017

Jack Gantos

A chat with Jack Gantos, our Allen Smith Visiting Scholar

SLIS welcomes our current Allen Smith Visiting Scholar, author Jack Gantos, to campus the week of March 21 for a public lecture and other student-focused events. Gantos is the acclaimed author of young adult and middle grade novels, and picturebooks. A vibrant and engaging speaker, Gantos has taught courses in children’s book writing and children’s literature. He is also a regular patron and supporter of the Boston Athenæum. 

Where do you write?

I generally write in the library—mostly The Boston Athenaeum. It is quiet, provides all the supportive texts I could ever need, plus they have brilliant librarians that allow me to appear smarter than I am. Before writing at the Boston Athenaeum I wrote twenty books in Bates Hall, in the McKim building of the Boston Public Library. And then cell phones were invented.

What is your favorite children's book?

That is a difficult question. There are so many favorites to choose from. Is it the book that makes me jealous that I had not written it? Or is it the book which fills me with humanity because it captured me entirely? Who could not wish that they had written Charlotte’s Web (by E. B. White) or Frog and Toad Are Friends (by Arnold Lobel).

What is the best question a kid ever asked you?

“If your cat was so rotten why didn’t you just give him to an enemy—like my teacher.” Then he pointed at her. She pointed back at him, and then stood up. By then, I didn’t have to answer.

What was your best school visit?

As in Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, all the ‘Joey’ boys had little safety scissors that they dangerously clip-clip-clipped all day long, and all the girls had fake blood bandages on their noses as if they were the sad Maria Dombrowski [Joey accidentally snips off the tip of her nose in the book].

When I left that school I felt as if I should be taking the meds. I guess you could say it was a ‘creepy good’ visit.

What was it like to hear about your Newbury award?

It was early in the morning. I was feeding the cat. The phone rang. I picked it up and a roomful of librarians shouted at me! And this time it wasn’t because my checked out book was overdue.

Share one piece of advice you would give to a writer. 

Read more.

What do you wish we would ask you?

To tell the truth—just once!


Want to hear more from Jack Gantos? RSVP to attend a welcome lunch on Monday, March 20, 12-2 p.m. in the Kotzen Room; his public lecture (reception following) on Tuesday, March 21, 6 p.m. in the Paresky Conference Center, or his talk the "Nuts and Bolts of Publishing" on Thursday, March 23, 6-8 p.m. in SOM 223. All events are free of charge.