In Interview with Award-Winning Author, Deborah Hopkinson
What inspired you to write about Amelia Simmons?
I was interested in writing about the Revolutionary War period, but after researching possible stories about the war itself, nothing seemed to work. But I love writing about food. I’ve written about Fannie Farmer and also have included recipes in books. So when I stumbled upon Amelia Simmons, author of American Cookery, the first American cookbook, it seemed a great opportunity to have fun with historical fiction.
What was your favorite thing about researching/writing this book?
I was able to locate a text of Amelia Simmons’s book, and one of the best aspects was to discover the introduction to the second edition by the late Karen Hess, a renowned culinary historian. Hess pointed out that the recipe for Independence Cake, which appears in the edition printed in Albany, NY is one of the “great cakes” made for festive occasions, including elections.
One of the things I do in schools is to make sure that students understand the difference between historical fiction and nonfiction. I’ve also discovered that not every reader takes the time to digest the author’s note. In this case, I decided to introduce the notion of a made-up tale right in the subtitle “A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, whose True History is Unfortunately Unknown and in the story’s opening.”
It’s been fun to preview this book with students at author visits. Giselle Potter’s illustrations are delightful, and we’ve had fun trying to count the number of Bean family boys who appear in each spread, to say nothing of proclaiming, along with the rest of the characters eager for the first president to be inaugurated, “Long live George Washington!”
What do you think would surprise students most about your writing/research process?
Well, they might be surprised by how many false starts I make, and how many books I end up reading! I often feel that researching a book is like going on a very long walk in the woods, and often I end up following dead ends.
About Deborah Hopkinson
Deborah Hopkinson is the award-winning author of more than 45 books for young readers including picture books, historical fiction, and nonfiction. She has won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for picture book text twice, for Apples to Oregon and A Band of Angels. Other titles include Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, winner of the IRA Award; and Sky Boys, a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor book.
Deborah’s nonfiction includes Titanic, Voices from the Disaster, which received a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction honor and a Robert F. Sibert Honor and Dive! WWII Stories of Sailors and Submarines in the Pacific. Her nonfiction picture book, Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-Discoverer of the North Pole, won an Oregon Book Award.