I am pleased to introduce my friend, Laurel Snyder. Laurel is the author of three novels for children, Penny Dreadful, Any Which Wall and Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains OR The Search for a Suitable Princess (Random House) and two picture books, Inside the Slidy Diner and most recently, Baxter the Kosher Pig. (Tricycle). When she isn't scribbling madly, Laurel chases after her two small boys (Mose and Lewis) in Atlanta, GA. I couldn’t wait to talk to Laurel and learn more about her creation of Baxter the Pig who Wanted to be Kosher.
Tell me about Baxter the Pig who Wanted to be Kosher. What was your inspiration for Baxter?
Well, I hate to make it sound totally random and ridiculous, but I was standing at the preschool, waiting to pick up my kids, and the title "Baxter the Kosher Pig" just popped into my head for no good reason I can remember. I laughed out loud, and a friend asked why I was laughing. When I told her what had made me giggle, she said, "Oohhh, you should write that book!" My immediate response was, "No way! I can't write that!" But it stuck with me. Of course it took me a long time to wrangle out a story to match the title, and the title evolved too, but that was how it started...
Did you have a specific audience in mind for this story?
I didn't when I began. At first Baxter was just a goofy pig book. But as the story took shape, I realized that I was writing a book for families that might sometimes feel disconnected from the more traditional Jewish world. In my own life, those sorts of feelings have had to do with intermarriage, and living in non-Jewish neighborhoods. But I hope Baxter might speak to anyone that feels left out. Doesn't everyone sometimes feel left out? Baxter is all about Big Tent Judaism! He's an inclusivity pig.
The wonderful artwork for Baxter is featured at the Skirball Museum. What was your response when you first saw the illustrations for the book?
I nearly fell over. The art is nothing like what I'd imagined for the book, but it resonated immediately and totally wowed me. There's so much humor, and the art is so unusual. It's like-- R Crumb and Dr Seuss went to a deli with Henry Darger. Or something like that. I love the collage elements.
What do you love about being a writer of children's book?
What don't I love about it? I love that I get to use the creative parts of my brain so freely, every day! I love that I get to fail and redo and fail and redo, and yet it all feels productive. I love that I can travel around the country and meets families and kids. I love that I can work from home, as much or as little as makes sense for my family. I love being part of a community of writers. Lately (and this part is new) I love that it allows me a really expressive individual way to be part of Jewish life and Jewish education. Truly, I don't know how I got so lucky!
What is your favorite holiday?
Well, as a kid I always loved Passover, because the whole family got together, and there was so much formality and ritual. It really felt set apart from the rest of the year.
Laurel,thanks for stopping by. It's always great to chat with you.
The illustrations from Baxter the Pig who Wanted to be Kosher are currently on display at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles as part of the exhibit, Monsters and Miracles: A Journey through Jewish Picture Books. To learn more about Laurel, please visit her at http://laurelsnyder.com.