“Phrebble the Phrongol’s Vacation Pictures” is a new children’s book with an innovative, interactive twist. As children read the story, they are presented with a number of photos that a friendly alien named Phrebbel (who hails from a planet called Phrongolia) took whilst on vacation on Earth. As children look at the snapshots and read the rhyming descriptions, they are asked to name everything from dimes to mimes, eagles to beagles, moose to goose, and much more (in the back of the book there is an answer key).
The book is the second published work by Joe Spraga, a Michigan native who dabbled in both art and music before turning to writing. Joe recently discussed his experiences writing this very creative and engaging book and his plans for the future via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in writing children’s books and how did the idea for Phrebbel come to you?
Joe Spraga (JS): I have always been the artsy type. I have a very “sing-songy” and visual type mind I suppose. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Michigan University in Creative Writing with an emphasis in children’s literature. I really like to materialize ideas and it comes naturally to me.
MM: How long did it take to write this story and get the art together?
JS: “Phrebbel The Phrongol’s Vacation Pictures” took me about five months to complete.
MM: Have you staged any readings with this book yet? If so, how did children react?
JS: I haven’t had any staged readings yet, but I have seen videos of kid’s reading it online from happy families that have bought it! I have live events coming up soon, I hope to be able to read to the children.
MM: This is such an interactive and unique idea, so how did you think up the format?
JS: I thought about a few things. I am a HUGE supporter of encouraging critical thinking in children, so I wanted to write a book that did so. I wanted kids to be able to identify things while giving them hints so that their minds could naturally figure out the answers to the pictures in the book. I did this by making the answers rhyme, so even if the child doesn’t know what the picture is of, the adjacent picture is a hint for them. I had to get on the child’s level to present the book for someone who has never seen these things before, just like a child, so I came up with Phrebbel The Phrongol from Planet Phrogolia. An alien visiting our planet for the first time would have a child-like naivety about what they are observing, so the child is thrown right into the scenario with Phrebbel, and helps him understand the pictures that he has in his photo album.
MM: Was it tough to write the whole book in rhymes?
JS: I like to write in verse. I wanted to make this a “book within a book.” So Phrebbel describes what he is seeing in rhymes, so it gets the child’s mind into “predictive mode.” Then the child figures out that the answers rhyme, and allows them to be interactive and empowered right alongside of Phrebbel The Phrongol.
MM: What’s your favorite thing about being a published author?
JS: I like to put nice things out into the world, and help teach children morals, life lessons, and critical thinking.
MM: Can you give us any spoilers about the plots of future stories?
JS: Nope. I’m waiting for the ideas to come to me, sorry!
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
JS: I would love to get more online sales. I do well at live venues, but the cost is high. You can get all of my books from my website- https://joespraga.com/ You can also get “Phrebbel The Phrongol’s Vacation Pictures” through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
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