Interview with Marla Frazee, author of A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever

James and Eamon are best buddies who spend a whole week at Nature Camp. For these boys, the best parts of Nature Camp are eating banana waffles, playing lots of video games, and making penguins out of mussel shells. In A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, Marla Frazee gives us a hilarious—and true—story of childhood friendship, and the great outdoors.

Question: A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever is based on the week your son and one of his best buddies spent together at Nature Camp. Can you tell us how James and Eamon met and became such great friends?

Marla Frazee: James and Eamon are great friends because they have a lot in common. They both wear these really cool glasses that make them look like hip young architects. They both drink Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider from long-stemmed goblets. They bicycle around together, play endless games on the computer, and eat at the Hawaiian restaurant in Eamon’s neighborhood.

They met many years ago because Eamon’s mom is Allyn Johnston, editor in chief of Harcourt Children’s Books. She’s my longtime editor—and a great friend, too.

Q: There are simple instructions in the book that readers can follow to make penguins of their own—all that’s needed are mussel shells and white rocks. Is this something you did as a child or did you create this activity specifically for this book?

MF: No, I didn’t ever make mussel-shell penguins as a child. I just thought of it when I was working on A Couple of Boys. But it works! You should try it.

Q: Once you have an idea for a story, how long does it take you to turn that concept into a picture book?

MF: Sometimes it takes many years. The idea for this book came out of a thank-you note I wrote to Eamon’s grandparents after the Nature Camp week. The note was written in the form of a book. James and Eamon drew some of the pictures in it. Many months later, armed with editorial encouragement from Eamon’s mom, I began to develop the idea and see if it could actually be a book.

Q: You also teach children’s book illustration at your alma mater, the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. As an experienced commercial and picture-book artist, is there any particular lesson you hope students will take away from one of your classes?

MF: I want my students to dig deep inside themselves and find their own voice. When it happens, it is often a surprise—for me, certainly, but especially for them. It’s such a gratifying thing to witness. I hope to create a classroom environment that is rigorous and playful in equal measure—and not judgmental, because everyone hates that.

Q: Your art can be seen in the Clementine series written by Sara Pennypacker, and on the cover of The Aurora County All-Stars, a middle grade novel by Deborah Wiles. Do you ever find it difficult to bring the ideas of other authors to life?

MF: I find everything difficult. Really, I do. Illustrating books, washing dishes, cleaning out a closet, getting a teenager to take out the trash or feed the dog . . . there are things that I think should be the easiest in the world to do but they are actually the hardest to do at that moment.

Q: You have a studio located behind your house where you create art. When you’re not illustrating or teaching, what do you do to unwind?

MF: What do I do to unwind? I spend most mornings hiking in the hills above Pasadena with my dog, Rocket, which gives me a good dose of fresh air and sunshine. But does it help me unwind? Am I supposed to unwind?

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever

Marla Frazee

Hardcover $16.00

40 pages

9780152060206

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