Interview with Carole P. Roman
Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience
Carole P. Roman
Reviewed by Miles Cassells (age 3) and Mom for Reader Views (7/13)
Named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 for her first book, award-winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Using an imaginary game she played with her grandson as a base, Captain No Beard was born. It has followed with four more books to the series.
Motivated by her love of yoga, Roman has written a book that not only teaches four poses, but shows how easy and accessible yoga can be. She has just finished the first of six books in a groundbreaking new nonfiction series about culture around the world. “If You Were Me and Lived in...” combines her teaching past with her love of exploration and interest in the world around us.
Writing for children has opened up a whole second act for her. While she is still working in her family business, this has enabled her to share her sense of humor as well as love for history and culture with the audience she adores. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children.
Tyler: Welcome, Carole. It’s a pleasure to talk to you today. First let me say I love the title with all that alliteration. It’s like a tongue twister. So to begin, tell us a little about the title character and why Pepper has a problem with patience?
Carole: Thank you for inviting me! I think alliteration is a fun way to start a book, it sets the tone for humor and if we can sneak in a small lesson, it’s an added bonus. I always want a discussion to follow after finishing one of my books. Reading is a great gateway to open the doors on what’s going on in a child’s life. Pepper is a parrot that has a challenge she has not shared with anyone. She cannot tell her right from left and is afraid of being teased about it. Prickly and frustrated, she acts out rather than reaches out for help. I think that if we address things like compassion and tolerance at a young age, children will learn to help rather than tease about differences. Bullying is a serious issue today and must be addressed as early as possible. The crew has the capacity to turn the mood one way or the other, and chooses to be solution oriented rather than hurtful. With both teamwork and understanding, they are able to calm Pepper and show her a shortcut to help her. There are actually two important lesson in the story- Pepper must use words to get the help she needs, as well as we learn that we must be considerate of people, and work together to help them. The book is really more about the crew’s resolution of Pepper’s problem, rather than her disability itself.
Tyler: What made you decide to write about a parrot as having a patience issue—was it because parrots can talk?
Carole: All of the characters talk, and oddly enough, Pepper is the one who is having the problem of communication. I decided we needed a parrot on the ship and it just sort of took off on its own. I want to add, that I cannot tell my right from left, but when I started the book, I didn’t know that’s what it was going to be about.
Tyler: Carole, why is it important for Pepper to tell her right from her left? Is it important for life on a pirate ship?
Carole: Most people take life for granted. I just finished reading a book about a quadriplegic and was shocked about how inconsiderate people are in everyday life. Just because something comes easily to some, they don’t realize others have to work and plan for things that appear simple and easy. Knowing your right from your left is a given, except for people like me, who need help. Many people laugh or tease, and while I am confident, I wasn’t born that way. I had strong parents who made me secure and aware of challenges other people may have. It wasn’t so important for Pepper to know her right from left, as much as it was crucial for the ship mates not to tease her and help her compensate. Every problem has a solution, if you look for it.
Tyler: Will you tell us a little about Pepper Parrot and how Pepper ends up on a pirate ship?
Carole: Every pirate needs a parrot. I named her Pepper after a parakeet from my childhood. I didn’t know she would have a problem until the characters spoke to me. Yes, it really is like that, I get an idea, just a little seed of a thought very early in the morning. When I start typing, it’s like they take off all by themselves. I never know where it’s going to go until they let me know!
Tyler: Who are some of the other characters in the book whom readers will meet?
Carole: Captain No Beard is a character based on my grandson Alexander. He was just over two when I wrote the book. I don’t like video games, so we spend a lot of times playing different things. He has a wonderful imagination and will take off with a story and really soar. Hallie was at that time, his newborn cousin. I imagined the type of person she might be on a pirate ship and do you know what—she grew into being such a voice of reason. Now she is almost three and loves the books. Mongo the monkey, Linus the lion, and Fribbet the frog just happened. We needed playmates in the series and their personalities developed as the plots did. I will admit that when family members read the books, they recognize certain characteristics and ask if they are somehow being parodied. When my newest granddaughter Cayla was born I wrote “Strangers on the High Seas” to introduce her.
Tyler: Carole, pirates are usually villains. Is that the case in your book—isn’t the definition of a pirate someone who steals from others on the high seas?
Carole: Pirates have long been romanticized in history. As far back as Elizabethan England, the queen used pirates to harass her enemies. She often rewarded them with titles and knighthoods. Early American pirates used stealth to outwit blockades by the British during the Revolutionary War. They brought in much needed supplies to the colonists. I guess whether a person is a villain or not, depends upon which side is winning. In current films, they are usually swashbuckling heroes. Your grandparents will remember Errol Flynn and your children will know Johnny Depp. I think the association for children is fun rather than criminal.
Tyler: Carole, I know “Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience” is the second of the Captain No Beard series, so for people who missed the first book, will you tell us a little about it?
Carole: The first book introduces Captain No Beard a fearless pirate roaming the seas with his trusty crew. Mongo the monkey is the lookout, Linus the lion uses his magnificent voice to roar orders and nervous Fribbet the Frog is always ready to sound the alarms. Hallie, First Mate and cousin, is always there to help steer both Captain No Beard and the ship to the correct course. In the first book, the captain laments that being in charge is not easy: “Being a captain is hard work.” Parents enjoy the irony that the captain often complains as he is the one giving out the orders, rather than doing all the labor. However, when danger presents itself, it is the Captain who realizes that by being in charge, he must take the most responsibility. The book has other lessons as well—they use resources like a dictionary to find out information, and when you choose to be a leader, you must also honor the responsibility that comes with it. Lastly, they confront danger together as a team, where we learn that they have never been on a ship, but have had a wonderful adventure without leaving the confines of Alexander’s bedroom. The best games are at our beck and call and only require a good imagination and the willingness to suspend reality for a bit. I come from a huge family—we were seventeen cousins, all different ages. What we lacked in funds to buy fancy toys, we made up with hours of imaginative play that lasted a lifetime of friendship and great fun.
Tyler: How many books in the series do you plan to write?
Carole: I just finished the fifth one. If people want them, I will continue to write them. This has been a terrific year and I love the attention the books have gotten. I really enjoy reading them to the kids.
Tyler: Our reviewers commented about the vibrant illustrations. Do you do your own illustrations and what do you hope to capture about the story in the illustrations? Because the book is for younger readers, do the illustrations have to tell more of the story beyond the text?
Carole: I am self-published and Createspace gives you a choice of their artists. I was lucky enough to choose Bonnie Lamiare, who has brilliantly captured my grandchildren down to their toes. Her illustrations are boldly beautiful as well as filled with the whimsy of a child’s dreams. I own the illustrations and think she has made the book as successful as the stories I have written. Filled with humor, the characters she drew help bring the stories to life.
Tyler: What age groups do you think will most enjoy the Captain No Beard books?
Carole: I wrote them for the 2-5 age group, but have found that kids up to 8 enjoy them. The books don’t talk down to children. Just today, at my nail salon I found a six year old getting a pedicure while reading one of my books. Her smile and occasional giggle told me everything I wanted to know. I am hoping that the parents are enjoying them as well. When you have to read a book night after night, I want them to know they were in my thoughts as well. When I hear that they laughed so hard at the antics of my crew—then I know I did what I set out to do.
Tyler: I know parents will also be happy that there is a lesson to be learned in the book—patience. What made you decide this was a lesson to focus on in the book?
Carole: The lessons were two fold and each time the book is read, another layer can be developed for discussion. While Polly must be patient enough to use words, the crew must also be tolerant of someone who needs help. A parent can choose which they want to focus on. While Polly must learn patience with herself, others have to learn patience for people who are challenged.
Tyler: I know you have an education background and have written nonfiction books for children as well. Do you think it makes a difference to children if books are fiction or nonfiction for teaching them lessons, and do you prefer or appreciate one over the other?
Carole: I love Captain No Beard and his crew. One of my best memories will always be of a young boy in a classroom, sitting on the edge of his seat, listening to me tell the story. He was totally absorbed in the tale, and I had to stop for a minute and really appreciate him—my audience. They really get it, and if they like it, well, that’s the best feeling in the world. If Captain No Beard and his crew help one child help deal or sort out a difficulty, then it was the best thing I have ever done in my life. I do also enjoy my non-fiction series as well. I am a former social studies teacher, so doing the cultural series was a natural for me. It was born from the curiosity of my grandchildren when we were on vacation. I wanted to write a series that would spark an interest in customs and culture, rather than drown them in information. If this series teaches tolerance and understanding, then it’s done the job I set out to do.
Tyler: Tell us a little more about your nonfiction series—I understand in each book a different country is featured?
Carole: If You Were Me and Lived in…A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around the World is just what it says it is—an introduction to customs and culture around the world. I started with Mexico, France, and South Korea. Turkey, India, Australia, Norway, and Kenya are due out shortly. They are as simple or as complicated as the reader wants them to be. Each page can open a discussion about the similarities and differences in the people around the globe. I hope it makes the world a smaller and more interesting place.
Tyler: And what about the other Captain No Beard books in the series? What kinds of other adventures can readers look forward to?
Carole: “Stuck in the Doldrums” is a story about bossiness and cooperation. Captain No Beard learns that he must share or no one will want to be his friend. When they face danger, Hallie teaches the crew that they should band together and work as a team, and then use the energy afterwards to work out their differences.
“Strangers on the High Seas” introduces Cabin Girl Cayla to the crew. Dismissed by her older brother Captain No Beard, he learns not to judge a person’s worth based on size or ability. Help can come from anywhere. I especially love this book, it makes me chuckle every time I read it.
Tyler: Thank you again, Carole, for the opportunity to interview you today. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and any additional information people can learn there about “Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience” and the rest of the Captain No Beard books?
Carole: Thank you for this chance to highlight these books. My website is www.caroleproman.com. I have three Facebook pages you can access though the website. We do features where you can download coloring pages and projects.
Tyler: Thanks again, Carole. I wish you much look with all your books and much joy with the reward of knowing you’re making a difference in children’s lives.