INTERVIEW: Ken Spillman and Jake

With foreign rights sales to Hachette in France and Scholastic in India, the popular Jake series is on the cusp of going global.

We meet Jake for a second time in Jake’s Monster Mess and ask his creator how much Jake has changed.

Jake had a birthday at the end of Jake’s Gigantic List, so yes, he’s older! – and of course that makes him feel much more capable of accomplishing big tasks like tidying his room. But Jake’s sense of ambition will never change – just like he wants to fly, and wants a pet crocodile, he will always think BIG.

Is the story of the Jake’s Monster Mess based on real experience?
Hmm … my desk is always a mess in spite of 3,489,541 resolutions that I must keep it in order. And my clothes do seem attracted to the floor – no matter how hard it is to convince them to behave.

Which aspects of the story do you think will appeal most to kids?
Is there a kid who hasn’t made a mess? And yet, most kids do not set out to make a mess – the mess just happens while they are doing something else. Kids will identify with this, and there will be an “Oh no!” factor as things start to go wrong and Dad and the visitors arrive.
Why might parents enjoy the story?

As with all the Jake books I’ve planned, there’s a message buried somewhere in all the fun. In the first Jake book, it was the wonder of books. In Jake’s Monster Mess, it’s the value of good intentions. Jake is not a bad kid – in fact, he’s quite innocently aiming to do something good. Like everybody, however, he finds that good intentions don’t necessarily result in a good outcome, and that’s an important lesson. I’ve dedicated the book to kids with good intentions, and to parents who can appreciate that – even when it’s difficult. After all, we all stuff up sometimes!

How different was it to work with illustrator Chris Nixon a second time?
Both Chris and I knew our main characters, so there was less development – it was straight into the action! Chris understands Jake really well – he totally ‘gets’ that Jake is a good kid with a very active mind and a great sense of fun.

Can you give us a hint about ideas for future Jake stories?
Well … in Jake’s Gigantic List we learned that Jake would love to be able to fly … is that a big enough hint?

Books discussed
Jake's Balloon Blast
Jake's Concert Horror
Jake's Great Game
Jake's Cooking Craze
Jake's Monster Mess

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