Today the Mixed-Up Files blog is talking with author Phil Bildner. You may know Phil from his amazing picture books, including Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans and Derek Jeter Presents: Night at the Stadium.
I met Phil Bildner on a three-hour bus ride through rural Missouri last spring when we were both featured authors at Truman State University’s Children’s Literature Festival. (The Mixed-Up Files’ own Tricia Springstubb will be taking that bus ride this April!) On that trip Phil taught me how to capture great photos from slo-mo video (we had a lot of time to fill!). I practiced on him. Want to see?
I also learned that Phil Bildner is a high-energy, deep-thinking, and talented middle-grade author and former middle school teacher. In addition to picture books, Phil writes the Rip and Red series. This series is all about the things that, when it comes to kids, matter most to Phil: school, sports, friendships, community, and empathy. Look for Tournament of Champions, the third book in the series this June.
So, I was going to call this post A WORD WITH PHIL BILDNER and limit his responses to a single word, but then I thought how difficult that might be, so I gave him a little wiggle room. He could answer with TWO words if he needed to.
So, let’s see how he does. Ready?
PB: EvaluateMH: What’s the best thing about being a successful middle-grade author?PB: Kid readers
MH: What food have you tried that you hope you’ll never have to eat again?
MH: So, I guess I won’t serve these to you, then.
She’s smiling, isn’t she?
MH: Who is your favorite character from middle-grade fiction?
PB: Auggie Pullman
MH: If you could meet any famous person, who would you meet?
PB: President Obama
MH: What do the best middle-grade books offer their readers?
MH: If you could talk to your 12-year-old self, what would you say?
PB: You got this.
MH: I agree.MH: So, besides the third Rip and Red book, I know that you have a picture book coming soon about two famous tennis players, titled Martina and Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports. What can you tell us about that book?
PB: The rivalry between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert was (and is) the greatest rivalry in the history of sports. No other rivalry comes close. They faced one another an incredible eighty times, fourteen times in grand slam finals. But what makes their rivalry and story so compelling and important is that it went far beyond the grass courts of the All England Club and the red clay of Roland Garros. What makes their rivalry transcendent is the humanity of the combatants.
Martina and Chrissie were fierce competitors. They played under the brightest lights and on the biggest stages. But they were also the best of friends, and in the world of sports where we often carelessly serve and volley phrases like “going to war” and “doing battle” and “fighting for your life,” Martina and Chrissie never lost sight of their humanity.
MH: Now I’m really glad I gave you more space. I loved watching Martina and Chrissie play tennis when I was young!
Thank you, Phil, for your brief, but heartfelt answers! It’s been fun talking with you on the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors! Folks, find Phil Bildner by clicking here, and find his books in your neigborhorhood bookstores.