Elizabeth Shreeve is the author of Captain Freddy Counts Down to School, illustrated by Joey Chou; Oliver at the Window, illustrated by Candice Hartsough McDonald: and the chapter book series The Adventures of Hector Fuller, illustrated by Pamela Levy. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Graduate School of Design, Elizabeth lives in northern California where she works as an urban planner, writes stories, grows hummingbird gardens, and shares her home with her husband, sons, and assorted reptiles and amphibians. Her favorite part of our solar system is the sparkling, striped planet of Saturn.
CLICK HERE for information on Elizabeth’s author visits.
Here are some answers to questions that kids ask me in letters or when I visit their schools or bookstores. CLICK HERE to send me a question or an idea, and I’ll get back to you!
Did you always want to be a writer?
Some writers start out knowing what they want to do. Not me! As a kid, my two favorite things were reading and being outdoors.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town on the south shore of Long Island, 65 miles east of New York City.
I went to Kreamer Street Elementary School.
My dad is a medical scientist. My mom was a scientist and an artist, too. I had three older brothers who I adored (still do). We all played piano and guitar (and baseball!). I played the flute and sang in the chorus, too. I liked to climb trees, draw pictures, eat apples, and read…read…read!
Do you have a favorite book?
I have lots of favorite books. Usually I am crazy about the book I am reading at that moment.
I love to read about imaginary worlds, myths and adventures, and anything related to birds. (I’m crazy about birds!). Recently I’ve read a few terrific fantasy stories including My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson and The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox.
Other top favorites are The BFG by Roald Dahl, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman, and…oh! I could go on and on. The bookshelves in our house work hard!
What was the first book you wrote?
In high school, my friend and I wrote and illustrated a book about the animals, plants, and history of local river. We called it The Carmans River Story. That little book is still in print! Here we are at age 17. (Carista and I have known each other since we were born. We are oldest friends!)
But I didn’t think I would be a writer. I traveled to India with my parents. I built trails and slept under the stars in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. I was stung by a scorpion!
At college I studied geology and art.
I learned to SCUBA dive and worked for a marine biologist. One big problem—I was seasick all the time! So I decided to study landscape architecture, which is a profession that designs outdoor spaces like parks, gardens, and city plazas. Here I am at a temple in Turkey, where I worked with my friend Kathy (she is an expert on ancient gardens…imagine!).
Where do you live now? Do you have any kids?
After college I moved to northern California and began a job. California is a good place for people who like to be outdoors. On the bay, people were sailing and rowing in long skinny boats. I learned to row, and that is where I met my sweet, goofy and wonderful husband, Ken. We had two cakes at our wedding—cream puff and chocolate—because my stepson, David couldn’t decide. Both cakes were delicious!
David is grown up now and just got married! Here he is with his beautiful bride, Fernanda, and our other two sons, Sam and James.
James did not like being a baby at all. But he got happier, as you can see!
Now he’s grown up and works as a computer programmer in San Francisco. He still likes to eat noodles, though.
Sam was such a quiet baby that sometimes we forgot we were holding him in our arms! He loved to smush spaghetti with his little fists.
(What is it with noodles in our house, anyway?)
Sam became an excellent writer.
All our sons loved to read, and we spent a lot of time reading when they were growing up. (Even our cat, Lucy!)
What made you start to write?
Maybe because of all this reading—and my amazing, inspiring sons—I finally started writing stories.
These days I carry a notebook and pen wherever I go. I scribble down anything interesting that I see or smell or dream. I read and read and read.
I guess I’m a writer now!
What made you write Captain Freddy Counts Down to School?
My son Sam was a dreamy boy who often imagined himself on a magical adventure—especially when we were supposed to get ready for school! He also loves space and science of all kinds. One morning the story idea popped into my head as I was trying to speed him along, and I revised it many times over the years. I love Joey Chou’s artwork, don’t you?
Why did you write Oliver at the Window?
Oliver was inspired by my stepson, David, whose parents divorced when he was only three years old. Even though he’s all grown up now (and a lot taller than I am!) I still remember how he sometimes didn’t know which house he was going to or who was going to pick him up at nursery school. That memory sparked the story.
What about the Hector books? Why did you make Hector a bug?
All I know is that the story of Hector Fuller popped into my head one morning while I was reading to my kids, and I HAD to write it down. Things went from there.
I pictured Hector as something small but tough – a bug hero! And I think insects and spiders and other small creatures are fascinating.
Are wumblebugs real?
No. I tried to make Hector be a real bug. I looked through gigantic books on insects, but nothing fit. Finally I realized that Hector is my invention, and I need to be able to change him however I want. But every other character in the books is based on a real animal.
Why are Hector’s shoes on backwards?
A-hah! Good question! Hector’s excellent illustrator, Pamela Levy, knows that insects (like all arthropods, including spiders and crabs) have jointed legs, and the last joint (what we would call our ankles) bends backwards—sending Hector’s feet to the back!
Why did you let your son put spaghetti on his head? Why didn’t he put sauce on his head too?
We had a bunch of kids at our house, and we all started goofing around. James put a suction cup on his forehead and then plopped his noodles on his head. It was really funny…but sauce would be a mess! Plus James doesn’t like tomato sauce.
What’s your favorite food?
Blueberries, of course!
What does it feel like to be an author?
It’s great! I love thinking about stories and characters and plots. I love talking to kids. You have great ideas and questions.