Thank you Boyds Mills Press and Fred Koehler for making us a stop on the Garbage Island Blog Tour! Be sure to check out all the other posts! Fred stole our hearts with his lovely illustrations to One Day, The End in collaboration with Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Garbage Island is Fred’s debut middle grade novel!
Garbage Island is a story about hope, friendship, taking chances, making sacrifices and getting yourself into danger along the way! This story follows our creative, selfish, and helpful shrew named Archibald and the Mayor of Garbage Island, Mr. Popli. Both have Garbage Island’s best interest at heart, but with their own definition they seem to get into some pretty crazy encounters and adventures. When their home splits apart, the two of them desperately try to make their way back to the home they built. They come upon many dangerous predators and some not so favorable weather. Will they each survive long enough to find their way home?
This story was jammed packed with so much action. Fred has written in a way that when I got to the cliff-hanger, last lines, of each chapter, I kept saying to myself “ok I’ll read one more chapter”. Fred has also put in his artistic touch, sprinkling through black and white sketches of the story. I think that this book will resonate with students who enjoy reading books about animals, adventure, environment or a it’s also great for a reader who just wants to read something that’s a lot of fun!
Here’s some of the inside scoop about the book, thanks to Fred for answering 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about himself!
3 Questions about Garbage Island
What are three words you’d use to describe your book?
Do they all have to be adjectives? ‘Cause if not, I’d go with “Deadly, Wisecrack, and Recycle.” (And if they do have to be adjectives, I’d have to change it to “deadly, wisecrack-y, and recycle-ish.)
Deadly – On just about every page, one of our intrepid heroes is nearly eaten, exploded, dismembered, drowned, or worse.
Snarky – The characters take it all in stride, often mocking their adversaries and the accompanying impending doom.
Recycle-y – (Which isn’t really a word but I’m hoping you’ll give me a pass since the other two ended in ‘y.’) One of the main themes of the book is how the characters use the floating trash around them to build useful things that help them survive.
What was your inspiration for writing Garbage Island?
As an idea generator, I love to the play the ‘What If’ game. Anytime I see something unusual or out of place, I’ll ask myself ‘what if’ questions and see if it leads to a story idea. When I first learned of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch several years ago, one of my questions was the following: What if there were animals marooned on some of that floating garbage? That question led to more questions. What would they eat and drink? Where would they sleep? How would they get along? When my brain started coming up with satisfying answers for these questions, I knew I had a world that would make for a great story.
What was the process you used to determine which animals would play which roles?
“Mr. Popli looked out from his only porthole into the world, scrunched his whiskers, and gasped.” These were the first words that popped into my head when I sat down to write Garbage Island. I can’t tell you where they came from, only that they never once changed, not through all the rounds of edits. I knew Mr. Popli was a courageous and confident mouse, the kind of mouse who could lead an island of castaway creatures.
I also knew Mr. Popli needed a foil, a character who would make sure his plans never went quite as expected. (Otherwise, what fun would it be?) Along came Archibald Shrew, whose ravenous appetite and twitchy behavior would be perfectly irksome to the polished and proper mouse.
Then of course Edward the Dung (beetle) was too funny a name for him to have any other personality than that of a party pooper. Merri, the blackpoll warbler, is the smallest bird to have a transcontinental migration. She would have to fierce and relentless. And Culebra, the banded sea krait, was one of a very few species of sea serpent that lay eggs–an important fact for the story.
3 Questions about You
If you weren’t a writer/illustrator, what would you want to be and why?
I would choose to be a billionaire, because billionaires travel the world in expensive yachts sipping umbrella drinks from coconut halves… Just kidding.
I wonder if I wouldn’t be some sort of underwater treasure hunter. I’ve always had a love of adventuring, and a knack for finding things. I pick up shiny objects all the time–sometimes they’re gum wrappers but sometimes they’re silver dollars! I love free diving in the ocean and in the the Florida springs. I’ve collected prehistoric shark teeth, ice age tortoise shells, manatee bones, and all sorts of other cool and interesting artifacts. If I had the time and equipment, I’d definitely go looking for sunken pirate gold!
What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?
Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet tells the story of a young man who survives a plane crash and has to make it on his own in the Canadian wilderness. That book awoke something inside of me–a call to nature and adventure. But then I grew up, and I forgot about that call for the longest time. I got a job, wore a tie to work, and watched TV on the weekends. But the call would not give up, and it returned with an opportunity to join the Peace Corps, spending two years in a village in West Africa working with indigenous populations. The spirit of adventure inspired me to backpack through a desert in Mali, learn to dive 70 feet underwater on a single breath in the Gulf of Mexico, and do many other fun and ridiculous things that now show up in my own books. I can only hope to pass that spirit on to others.
What is one item in your refrigerator that tells us about you?
“Dad, there is literally nothing in the fridge.” One of my kids told me that yesterday. While we do in fact grocery shop, I always seem to put it off as long as possible. Why? Because every shopping trip is two hours I can’t spend writing, illustrating, spending time with my family, or going off on a solo adventure. Besides, there’s always takeout. 😉
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Author Bio: Fred Koehler won a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award for his illustrations for One Day, The End. He is the author-illustrator of How To Cheer Up Dad, which received three starred reviews, and he is the illustrator of This Book Is Not About Dragons and Puppy, Puppy, Puppy and Flashlight Night. He lives with his children in Lakeland, Florida.