SUPER MANNY STANDS UP!: Interview with Kelly DiPucchio (+Giveaway)

A few years ago, I let Kelly DiPucchio know that SUPER MANNY STANDS UP! struck a chord for me. It brought back memories from when I was in elementary school and witnessed bullying. It always bothered me to see bullies target certain students repeatedly and with such meanness.

And while I was kind to students who were bullied (perhaps that was my attempt to stand up), I wish I would have said something directly to those bullies. As I got older, I became more comfortable speaking up when I witnessed bullying. And I definitely speak up now. So I love the idea of a picture book inspiring children to speak up when they see something that’s not right. Kelly is here to talk with us about the creation of SUPER MANNY, which features bright illustrations by Stephanie Graegin.

Opening line: Every day Manny put on a different cape after school.”

The capes: Through imaginary play at home, Manny wears different capes to battle different imaginary creatures, such as sea creatures and zombie bears.

The bully: It’s a good thing Manny wears his top secret undercover cape for school. When a bully arrives on the scene and is mean to Gertie, Manny gets the courage to stand up, and he makes a new friend.

Now, let’s hear from Kelly!

What was your inspiration for creating Manny Stands Up?

My agent, Steven Malk, sent me a character sketch that his client, Stephanie Graegin, created. He asked me if I would be interested in coming up with a story for this adorable racoon dressed like a vampire. After spending a few days waiting for the little guy to speak to me, I was surprised when I began to hear him tell the story a superhero and not a vampire. With Stephanie’s blessing, I gave the character a brand-new identity and Super Manny was born.

Interesting how it started with a picture! You kept him in a cape – just a different kind of cape. How did you approach developing the character and creating a story for him?

As with most of my manuscripts, I try to let the character lead and tell me his or her own story. I always start with a notebook and a pen, and then I try my best to get out of the way. When I’m able to put aside any expectations, I become more of an observer and a scribe. After I’ve completed a first draft, that’s when I put on my writer’s cap and I begin the process of shaping and elevating the story. It became clear to me early on that Manny was a character who spent a great deal of time in his imagination much like my own son had done when he was a little boy so I kept my son in mind while I was developing the character. When you have a clear understanding of who your character is and what they want, the plot falls into place more naturally.  

How did the second Manny book come about? Are there any more Manny books in the works?

When I sold SUPER MANNY STANDS UP, it was part of a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster so my editor and I talked about a second adventure soon after the first book was completed. I knew I wanted to develop the character Gertie more in the second book. After some discussion with my editor, we both felt an environmental theme was the way to go because it was an issue that was important to both of us. As of now, there is not a third story in the works for Manny and Gertie, but I would love to revisit these kind-hearted characters again one day if asked.

In SUPER MANNY CLEANS UP, Manny and Gertie stand up to protect the environment and save the planet. When they see litter in the city park and the negative impact on wildlife, Manny and Gertie decide they have to do something.

You have written many successful picture books. What are your top 3 tips for writing picture books?

1.Choose a few of your favorite published picture books and type out the stories so you can study the text without the illustrations. This exercise can be very illuminating.

2.Don’t try to copy the market because trends are always changing.

3.Follow your heart and only write the stories that you are passionate about. Your unique voice will come through in your work if you lead with joy and authenticity.

What can we look forward to next?

I have three new picture books coming out in 2021! They’re all very different, and I’m excited to share them with the world next year.

OONA is a mermaid story beautifully illustrated by Raissa Figueroa and published by Katherine Tegan Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

FORTY WINKS: A BEDTIME ADVENTURE is a fun rhyming story about a large family of mice. My editor for the Manny books, Emma Ledbetter, acquired the story when she became Editorial Director at Abrams Books. Lita Judge is illustrating and her mouse family is adorable!

I also have a picture book called NOT YETI coming out in 2021 with Viking Children’s Books. The story is being brought to life by one of my favorite illustrators, Claire Keane.

All so exciting! Congratulations!

Connect with Kelly: Website  Twitter  Instagram

Connect with Stephanie:  Website  Twitter  Instagram  

***GIVEAWAY***

For a chance to win a SUPER MANNY book, leave a comment by September 1. I’ll announce the randomly selected winner in my September post.

Congratulations to Michele Helsel for winning THE MOON KEEPER from my last post!

Thanks for reading & see you next time!

-Michelle

Michelle Meadows

Michelle Meadows

Michelle Meadows is the author of 10 books for children -- with more in the works. Michelle loves dreaming up new projects and telling stories with heart. Connection, compassion, and family are common themes in her work. Her latest books are BRAVE BALLERINA: The Story of Janet Collins and FLYING HIGH: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles. Her other books include HIBERNATION STATION, SUPER BUGS, and PIGGIES IN PAJAMAS. Michelle graduated from Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism and literature. She is represented by literary agent Rosemary Stimola of the Stimola Literary Studio. Michelle grew up in Washington, D.C. She now lives near the beach in Delaware with her husband and son. To learn more about Michelle's books, visit her website: www.michellemeadows.com

44 Comments:

  1. Love this author and her body of work! Applause for Super Manny!

  2. In elementary school, I so could have used a Super Manny. Or better yet, wish I were Super Manny.

  3. Michelle, thanks for introducing me to Kelly! Kelly, thanks for the tips! I’m going right up to my desk and start typing out my favorite pb! Congratulations on your many successes – both of you!

  4. Great writing advice about typing out a favorite book. I have done that and found it to be extremely illuminating. Congrats on your new books!

  5. Avatar
    Debra Kempf Shumaker

    I love Kelly’s books! Great tips in this post. Thanks!

  6. Book looks great, hope to read it to my twins!

  7. Adorable creatures creating positive role models. A win/win!

  8. Manny is adorable! Love the theme of this book. Congrats on all of the new ones coming up. Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

  9. Super Manny looks super! Congrats on a fun and adorable book!

  10. I love these caped crusaders! I also kinda like zombie bears.

  11. Michelle, your first paragraph spoke to me as I had the exact same experience, I felt helpless to stop the bullying, yet was “nice” to those who were targets. It bothers me to this day. When I had my own son, also a target for bullies, I ended up getting involved, working with kids and school districts in a musical Bullying Prevention program. It was one way I felt I could correct my lack of action. This is where my utter relief in seeing Super Manny Stands Up.

    There were no books or songs about bullying prevention when i was growing up, and almost none for my son when he was younger. This book is overdue and so welcome. I love how Kelly changed Manny from a Vampire to Human. Sometimes a radical change is what you need to let the magic happen,

    I hope young kids will take this story and lesson to heart, and know what to do when they see bullying,,,,,say something! I am also excited to see Kelly working on an Environmental picture book, again, because the modeling she will show (best practices) will be used by kids to guide their decisions. Get to them while they are young! It will stick most times.

    Please enter me for consideration for this book prize. Happy Book Birthday Kelly and everyone having a book birthday this year.✌🏼💙🎨📚🎶

  12. I live this interview with Kelly to get the story behind Manny! These two books belong on every bookshelf!

  13. I can’t wait to meet these characters. I love Manny and empowering kids to speak up.

  14. “Follow your heart and only write the stories that you are passionate about. Your unique voice will come through in your work if you lead with joy and authenticity.” Thank you!

  15. 2020 needs Super Manny!!! Can’t wait to read this book, Kelly.

  16. Congratulations Kelly! I enjoy all creative concepts you come up with. We have a copy of Zombie in Love and reread it often.

  17. I loved learning that Manny grew from an illustration intended as a vampire! Wow!
    Manny’ s heart is right where we wish everyone’s could be! This PB pair belongs everywhere!
    Please enter me into the drawing for my chance to win a copy😄

  18. This book looks adorable. My son is fully into capes. He made is own cape called: Friendship Nation Man that he wears around the house. Can’t wait to read your story.

  19. I love the beautiful colors and technique in that classroom scene!

  20. I like that you are addressing “bullying”. The charming illustrations enhance your story. Your second book’s theme of the environment will be a topic kids can relate to. Congratulations!

  21. Hooray for Super Manny, and I can’t wait to read Kelly’s new books! 🙂

  22. Love your books, Kelly! Thanks for bringing us this great interview, Michelle!

  23. I can’t wait to see it. I love how simple the inspiration was, and how the character completely changed to be what it needed to be.

  24. Adorable book! I love Kelly DiPucchio’s books (especially Zombie in Love.) I’m looking forward to reading Oona and Super Manny Cleans Up!

  25. Thank you, Lynne! You are super kind!

  26. Hooray for Super Manny & friends. Congratulations on more wonderful books, Kelly!

  27. We LOVE kelly Dipucchio books in our house. She is a favorite. Thank you for this great interview.

  28. How fun! Thanks for sharing!

  29. Oh! I love this book already. The fact that you allowed the creative process to flow and flipped from vampire to superhero is inspiring. Thanks for the peek into your process and congratulations!

  30. I love knowing how a book got its start and how fun that it all started with a picture. I think for many of us, even if we’re not artists, it all begins with a mental image. I was one of the kids who was bullied yet never had the courage to stand up when I saw another being bullied. Thanks so much for encouraging kiddos to stand up, Kelly. And huge Congratulations for all your new books!!!

  31. Avatar
    Janet Frenck Sheets

    What fascinates me is that you created Super Manny because your agent showed you a drawing and basically asked you to be inspired. Instead of being terrified, you welcomed the challenge! It reminds me of the story behind “Me and Bobby McGee” — a producer came up with the title, then asked Kris Kristofferson to write a song to go with it. It’s the opposite of how I’d expect inspiration to grow…but it worked!

  32. Avatar
    Krista Harrington

    I just rented Super Manny from our library and fell in love. The idea for him and his various capes is so creative, and how he stands up to Tall One shows such a great role model to readers.
    The illustrations were bright and crisp and so enjoyable.
    Great read!

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