December 30, 2012

Author Q & A: Fun 'n Dames

Whether driving heavy equipment or -- as in her latest children's book -- piloting a lobster boat, Katie Clark's 'Grandma' is adventure personified.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

Katie Clark thinks the key to a good picture book is the telling of the story. And any good story needs a strong central character.

In Clark's case, the central character in three of her books is an adventurous grandmother doing things not expected of the typical grandma.

Her latest book is "Grandma Drove the Lobsterboat" (Down East), illustrated by Amy Huntington. It's the third in a series that includes "Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck" and "Grandma Drove the Snowplow."

Clark, who lives in Brunswick, has a master's degree in literacy education and works as a program coordinator at Tri-County Literacy in Bath. 

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this series?

A: It started with the first book, "Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck." My inspiration was a friend of my mother's, who is now in her 80s. Her family for decades ran (a garbage collection business) in Wells. She is a diminutive woman, and I had this vision of her driving the big, huge garbage truck. But she actually worked in the office.

Once I had the first book out, the editors at Down East wanted to know if there might another grandma's adventure in my plans. So then I did "Grandma Drove the Snowplow." 

Q: What children's books inspired you when you were growing up?

A: I loved all the books by Tasha Tudor, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and anything illustrated by Garth Williams. And the "Frances" books by Russell and Lillian Hoban. 

Q: How does working in a literacy program and writing children books intersect or overlap for you?

A: It all overlaps. It's part of a broader interest that I've had since I was 9 years old. I had a wonderful teacher in fourth-grade (in the 1970s) who would write and hand-bind a book. Mine was "The Little Black Kitten." 

Q: What in your opinion makes a good children's picture book?

A: I find that a lot of picture books written today are very sparse on language. I think we're missing out on the language of storytelling in picture books. If you look at the "Frances" books, they have a very substantial story to them. I think children can pay attention to a longer story than we think they can. My books tend to be on the longer side for a picture book today. 

Q: What sort of reaction do you get from people who've read the "Grandma" series?

A: At book signings, I see a lot of enthusiastic grandparents. A lot of them are grandmothers who live in Maine, who want their grandchildren in other states to have a Maine book about a grandmother. And to entice them to come visit. 

Q: Do you have any other books planned for this series?

A: Three might be the magic number. Though I get suggestions all the time from people about other large pieces of equipment a grandmother might drive.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Clark’s first foray into her ‘Grandma’ storybooks was “Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck.”

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She followed her first book up with No. 2, “Grandma Drove the Snowplow.”


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