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Make Way for Fenway by Victoria J Coe

Updated: Feb 29

Victoria J. Coe shares the Make Way for Fenway books. The little dog with a GIANT personality from Fenway and Hattie is starring in his own chapter book series! AND Fenway and the Loudmouth Bird (Make Way for Fenway #3) is a 2024 Sid Fleischman Honor Award for Humor!


Listen along:




About the book: Fenway and the Bone Thieves by Victoria J. Coe; illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers.



The little dog with a GIANT personality from Fenway and Hattie is starring in his own chapter book series!


There's nothing better than a brand-new bone!


And nothing worse than sneaky squirrels trying to steal it! But Fenway is smarter than those squirrels, and he finds the perfect place to hide his bone.


The only problem is the hiding place might be too hard for Fenway to find, too!


With an easy reading level and lively illustrations, emerging readers will be eager to get their paws on the Make Way for Fenway! chapter books.



Episode Transcript:


INTRO


Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.


I am a teacher, a librarian, a writer, and a fan of kids. 


The world of chapter books has long been a space that has delighted and excited me. These books walk hand-in-hand with their readers as they gain independence and build confidence. The characters are often involved in plots that not only see them solving and resolving situations in their world, but also within themselves as they navigate childhood. The best chapter books are easy to spot because they feel just like the kids for whom they’re written. (And those kids are the best!)


Today I’m excited to welcome Victoria J. Coe to the podcast. Her wisdom and her joy are going to rub right off onto you and I just can’t wait for that!


Before we get started, let me share a few words about the The 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge! 


Picture book authors need to be prolific to get published. That's why members of 12 x 12 aim to write one picture book draft a month. With a private Forum, monthly webinars, a thriving Facebook group and more, members enjoy the support of a welcoming community of authors and illustrators while working toward their publishing goals. Act fast. Registration closes at the end of February. 


Visit 12x12challenge.com/winner for more information.


Victoria J. Coe is the author of the Fenway and Hattie series of middle grade novels, as well as the Make Way for Fenway chapter book series, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff and published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers. The little dog with a GIANT personality from Fenway and Hattie is starring in his own chapter book series!


Let’s step into my conversation with Victoria J. Coe. Ready? Here we go.



INTERVIEW


Victoria: Hi, my name is Victoria J. Coe, and I am the author of Fenway and Hattie, as well as three additional Fenway and Hattie middle grade novels, and the new illustrated chapter book series, Make Way for Fenway. I love being an author. I feel so lucky to have this job. And my number one favorite part of being an author is visiting schools and connecting with readers, which I get to do a lot.


Matthew: I love that. Victoria, what, what, what was your life? Prior to writing or prior to being able to write full time. 


Victoria: Yeah, so, um, I had a whole career before I got my first book deal and, um, I worked in marketing for non profit organizations. Great. 


Matthew: We all, so many different paths. It's great. Uh, so, do you have a Fenway or another furry friend in your life?


Victoria: Um, well, for a very, very long time, my family had a dog named Kipper, who was not a Jack Russell like Fenway, but Kipper was um, the very worst dog ever and I say that with all the love in my heart because he was a very special member of our family. We adored him but that does not change the fact that Kipper never did the right thing.

He always did the wrong thing. He never listened. He always got into trouble and we took him to dog training classes. We went to lots of classes. We even worked individually with a teacher. And I read books. I read all kinds of books about how dogs learn and how dogs understand and how dogs communicate.


And sadly, none of it ever helped, but I became an expert on dogs.


Matthew: Yeah. I mean, it really reading your books, it really feels like, like you understand, like, you know, like, like seeing the whole person. It really feels like you see. Fenway for exactly how he shows up in the world. And so, uh, perhaps, perhaps there's threads of Kipper and, and that experience that helped you with that.

I don't know. Yeah. 


Victoria: Yeah. So yeah, definitely Kipper helped to inform the character, but of course the character is his own dog. 


Matthew: Yeah. So you have four books in the Fenway and Hattie. middle grade series, uh, or four for now, but four. And then you had this opportunity. I don't know if it was that, that you had always wanted to write, um, this Make Way for Fenway series, or if it was, uh, suggested to you.


I love the adaptation into this chapter book format. I'd love to hear more about, um, really why, why turn your attention that way? 


Victoria: Yeah. Well, I love that question. Um, so Fenway and Hattie, my first book is a very, very popular, um, all school read. So like a whole school K through five or K through six. will read the same book at the same time over a period of weeks, maybe four or five weeks.


It's a common program called one school, one book, but some schools call it something else. Um, but the reason it's so popular is that it kind of hits that sweet spot, so that kindergartners, first and maybe second graders can listen to it as a read aloud, while the older students can read it on their own.


But I always felt, because I visit a lot of those schools, um, I have always felt that the younger students were sort of left out. Because although they enjoyed listening to Fenway and Hattie as a read aloud, they didn't get to read the character for themselves. So I always kind of wanted to write another Fenway series that anyone could really have access to.


And so that was really, that was really it. And there's three Fenway, uh, three Make Way for Fenway books out now. Um, they're called, um, Fenway and the Bone Thieves, Fenway and the Frisbee Trick, and Fenway and the Loudmouth Bird, and the fourth one is coming really soon on October the 3rd, and it's called Fenway and the Great Escape.


Matthew: Oh, I can't wait. Okay, so you are, you know all I ever want to do is talk about kids, and you brought up about being, well, you brought up two things. One, you brought up about your favorite thing being, uh, visiting schools, but also you were just talking about that, about seeing those readers that could hear you talk, but maybe didn't have direct access to the stories.


Um, I would love to ask you about some of those Fenway readers that you've met, whether they were whoever left an impression on you, Victoria, whether they were new readers, if they were devoted Fenway readers, I would love to know what kinds. of kids you are noticing are reading your books and how they're connecting with Fenway, with Hattie.


I would just love if you don't mind just sharing that reader connection. 


Victoria:  Oh, I would love that. I, I absolutely love this and I've been doing this for so many years now that I've noticed. Um, different things that I hear over and over again, um, particularly from kindergartners, first and second grade readers.


I hear all the time, you know, Hattie, who was the girl in the story. Why is she so mean to Fenway? And why is she mad? And why does Fenway hate squirrels? And they ask me all of these questions that I, I just think. Well, did you read the book? You know, he did all these bad things. Of course she's angry with him, but you know, it's so endearing that they take Fenway's side so literally.


You know, he's always trying his best. You know, Fenway doesn't mean to get in trouble. You know, he always has a good reason for everything that he does. And I just, I, I, I love that the young readers get into Fenway's point of view so deeply that they forget. that they're humans and they're not even thinking of the human side of the story.


They're only thinking of that dog's perspective. And I just feel like, well, my job is done. 


Matthew: To be writing, to be voicing the books in Fenway's voice. I mentioned to you all for recording, but it It really is, is a great empathy kicker. It really makes you feel, well, you're right. Those squirrels are really up to no good.


And well, Fenway really is protecting us. And Oh, that loud mouth bird, that loud mouth bird has those tricks. I can do tricks too. It's funny. You're right. I was saying to you off recording again, but I, it, it has allowed me to have a different sort of empathy for our Portuguese water dog, who is just a little over a year old, but my goodness, she gets into some trouble and then will wag her tail and hang her tongue and look right at me and cock her head to the side.


You are really proud of what you did, aren't you? You little stinker. You were just trying to be, uh, serving me or, or, or helping me out. Uh, no, I, I love that you see that in your, in your readers going, why is Hattie so mean? 


Victoria: That's funny. Exactly, Matthew. See, you aren't looking at it from the dog's perspective.


Matthew: Oh, I am now. I am right there with those first graders. I am, I am now one with those readers. Wow. We share that. I like that a lot. Uh, I, I would love to ask you about what it's like to write from that perspective of a dog. I have to imagine having written so many books in Fenway's voice that it's now a voice that you can sort of click into, but I wonder if it came to you naturally, or if you had to kind of work to find it.


Victoria: Yes, well I definitely did have to work to find it. And you know, um, when I first started writing seriously because I wanted to become an author, I dismissed the idea of writing from an animal's perspective, um, because I thought it would be too hard. And actually it was. It was really, really hard. But as I explained, you know, after I became a dog expert, it became a little more available to me.


Um, having said that, it was still very hard. Um, but I want you to know, Matthew, that I have a very, very powerful imagination. I always have, and I really do use that imagination because I write in the first person. So I write as Fenway. So when I am writing my stories, I become the dog, like I actually That's me. Iam the dog. And I have become so good at it, but um, this actually happened even when I was writing the first draft. I can fool my body into thinking that I really am the dog. Like I, I really become the dog. So I am running. I have fur, you know, my hackles are up or my teeth are bared or I'm chasing that squirrel and I'm telling him to get away.


And you know, I'm really just sitting in my chair tapping away at my computer. But when I'm finished writing, my body really has. It feels like it's been running after those squirrels and even just telling you about it, I'm getting all worked up and I remember talking to my husband while I was, you know, in the process of writing the first book and I, I'd say, Oh, there's the squirrel or, Oh, here comes the UPS truck.


And I started like almost forgetting that I wasn't a dog. 


Matthew: That is so cool that you were able to just inhabit the character. We hear about that before. I know that my students, we've certainly talked about that character voice and what that feels like, but to hear that, that, that you get so engrossed in it, that it.

You're even having that emotional reaction, the same stimuli as the, as a dog might be, um, uh, excited by that you're having. Oh, that's so cool. I would love to have you read something to us if you don't mind. 



Victoria: Okay, um, so without giving any spoilers, I do want to say that every story in the Make Way for Fenway series Fenway has a goal, something that he wants to accomplish, and when it doesn't go right, He always blames the squirrels.


So I'm not going to go into too much detail, but I love the fact that these books are illustrated. Unfortunately, your listeners, Matthew, won't be able to see the illustrations, but Joanne Lew-Vriethoff did an incredible job bringing Fenway and all the characters to life, even the nasty squirrels. Um, so I'm going to go ahead and get started reading Fenway and the Bone Thieves. 


Chapter one, The Treat Place.


Everyone knows that dogs are better than squirrels. Dogs make humans happy. Dogs live in houses. Dogs ride in cars. Squirrels do none of these things. Squirrels go where they don't belong. Squirrels take things that aren't theirs. Squirrels are sneaky. It's a good thing humans have dogs to keep them safe from squirrels.


Right now I'm in the car with my family. Food Lady, Fetch Man, and Hattie. And no squirrels. I snuggle against Hattie in the back seat. She is the best short human ever. She pats my head. Good boy, Fenway! She coos. That's human for you're doing a great job. What can I say? I'm a professional. I can hardly wait to find out where we're going.


The car pauses at the end of our street. I poke my head out the window. A sneaky squirrel is there on the sidewalk glaring up at me. Look at me, rodent! I bark at him. I'm riding in a car! He turns and scampers up a tree. As the car speeds away, I add, You'd better stay up there where you belong. There's nothing like a car ride.


The breeze rushes through my fur. My nose sniffs oaks and pines and grass. My tail thumps against Taddy's leg. This is the life. When the car turns, I smell another scent. It's the parking lot outside the treat place. That's the giant building with lots of dogs and humans. and toys and treats. Yippee! I paw the door handle.


Hooray! Hooray! I bark, let's get in there. Hattie giggles and opens the door. We hurry out of the car. I try to run straight into the treat place. But the leash holds me back. Of course, Hattie wants me to wait for her. She loves going to the Treat Place as much as I do. We lead Food Lady and Fetch Man inside.


My tail swishes wildly. The Treat Place has rows and rows of awesome things to check out, and it smells great, like loads of other dogs. And have I mentioned the yummy treats? I'm going to show Hattie where to find them. I stick my head into the first row. Wowee! Toys! My tail wags faster. I could use a few more balls and squeakers and plushies!

I bark to Hattie, but she doesn't give in. We follow Fetch Man and Food Lady to the next row. I sniff there too. Whoopee! Treats! I smack my chops. Get some snacks, I whine. I'm so hungry. Fenway, Patty says. She leads me away. No. My ears sag. Why aren't we getting any treats? What could be more important? Food Lady steers a cart down another row, where Fetch Man grabs two big bags of kibble.



And after that, we turn toward the back of the building. We are heading farther from the treats. I begin to get a bad feeling. This cannot be good. 


Matthew: Yay! Bravo! Love it! And my goodness, the, the illustrations that Joanne Lew-Vriethoff adds to this, which are almost every, at least every other page, sometimes full spread, sometimes little spot illustrations, but always just thoughtful.


Just, I find even, even when I am reading it, They catch my eye. I stop. I'm reminded that I'm in this world. I am in Fenway's body, Fenway's perspective. She's done such a really thoughtful job. With also, uh, illustrating the emotion of look at that squirrel outside that car on, on, on the chapter that you read.


There's some great moments that she captured really throughout all of the books, but there's some really great moments she captures just in the chapter you read. 


Victoria: Yes, I am so thrilled and I'm in awe of her talent, the way she can eat, not even show Fenway's whole body sometimes, he's hidden behind a couch or whatever and you can still see his body language even though you can't see all of it.

I mean, she really captures it. Oh, it's 


Matthew: so good. Um, okay. So Victoria, as we are reaching the end of our conversation, is there anything else? I don't know if you had any notes or anything, is there anything else we didn't talk about that you want to make sure we do say? 


Victoria: Yeah, I mean, I want to share, um, that I really have been obsessed with point of view and perspective ever since I was in elementary school.


It really is my lifelong passion. obsession. And that passion, that obsession really started with books. And specifically, it started with animal books. I really did love reading an animal's perspective when I was a kid, and I still do. And it taught me, it spoke to me, kind of blew me away when I realized that my own perspective wasn't the only one, you know.


And it, it made me become curious about other perspectives. And I have carried that through my whole life. I always want to know the other side of the story. I always want to know every side of the story. Um, and that's something that, um, really started with books.


Matthew: Well, then the only thing we have left to do is to land this plane and I get to ask you that Victoria, I will see a library full of children tomorrow morning. Is there a message that I can bring to them from you? 


Victoria: Yeah, you know, if two of you listening to this podcast were to tell someone about it, no two stories would be exactly the same.


And that's because every one of us has our own unique story. perspective. And the more we realize that our own perspective isn't the only one out there, we can become more curious about each other. We can become better listeners. We can become better friends and yes, better community members. And really, We can change the world.


Matthew: Amen to that. Hey, Victoria, where can people find you online?


Victoria:  So my website is victoriajcoe.com. I am very active on Twitter and Instagram at victoriajcoe, where I post lots of content about reading and books and resources. 



OUTRO


Matthew: Thank you to Victoria J. Coe for joining me on The Children’s Book Podcast. 


You can pick up your own copy of any of the Fenway and Hattie or Make Way for Fenway books wherever books are found. Consider supporting independent bookstores by shopping through Bookshop.org. You can also use my affiliate link by clicking on the book’s name in our show notes.


Our podcast logo was created by Duke Stebbins (https://stebs.design/). 


Our music is by Podington Bear. 


Podcast hosting by Libsyn. 


You can support the show and buy me a coffee at www.matthewcwinner.com.


Don’t forget to check out the Reading Culture Podcast with Jordan Bookey, from Beanstack, if you are a fellow teacher or librarian. It’s the perfect podcast to explore building a stronger culture of reading in our communities. It’s available wherever podcasts are found.


And on that note…


Be well. And read on.



End Of Episode

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