‘Planet Stan,’ by Elaine Wickson, illustrated by Chris Judge plus exclusive Q&A.

I am delighted to welcome ‘Planet Stan’ to my blog today to round off its blog tour.  I am even more delighted that I had the opportunity to ask author, Elaine, some quizzing questions.

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The story revolves around the tricky sibling relationship between space-loving Stan and his disgusting younger brother Fred. Stan is struggling to see what he and his dinosaur-mad brother have in common so uses his love of pie charts and Venn diagrams to help them find some common ground.

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Stan finds his brotherly love put to the test when he’s forced to choose between saving Fred’s beloved dinosaur (skeleton), Rory, when it’s threatened with eviction from the local museum. Or, taking part in the science fair and possibly winning himself a much longed for telescope.  Will he manage to save the day and discover some things in common with his little brother on the way?

Book Boy and I both enjoyed this book.  He laughed out loud at the grosser incidents in the story and loved the clever use of various charts and diagrams to explain situations in the story. For me, the book accurately portrayed the bickering, competing and farts which are all part and parcel of being the mother of sons. But most importantly, it showed that beneath all the snot and 3am wake-up calls, there is a fierce core of brotherly love which will override all that in the face of adversity. An added bonus is that as well as providing plenty of belly laughs, this book is also packed full of facts about dinosaurs and Space.

I was lucky enough to be able to ask Elaine some questions which came to me after reading the book.  Here’s what she said:

1. What inspired the very realistic sibling bickering between Stan and Fred?

I remember a friend who had a younger brother, and every time I went to her house I witnessed them scrapping like they do in The Beano: a massive dust cloud with fists coming out of it, sound effects, and the odd banana peel. Then there was the friend who never had a sibling, and wanted one just to play horses in the garden. And then there was the friend in the middle of two, who felt invisible like The Seven Sisters – a constellation that resembles a fuzzy blob until you look through binoculars and realise there’s more than meets the eye.

And my sons have been through all the things I went through – how to deal with a sibling tagging along to everything, or the spread of brother/sister if you share a room, or the times they’ve woken you at 3 in the morning to tell you a great white shark is under the bed.

So I drew on all these things, quite literally, as Stan draws his charts trying to find out if we really should know better, whilst giving tips on what to share and what definitely not, and exploring the Concept of Borrowing. But also with the bickering comes the tender moments, and often you don’t realise they’ve happened until afterwards. Like when Fred tucks his feet inside Stan’s slippers as they read a bedtime story together.

Planet Stan is about the dynamics of a younger and older brother, but Stan’s friends help tell all these different points of view too.

2. What gave you the idea of exploring the complexity of their relationship, and Stan’s life, with a series of pie charts and graphs?

Originally I had the idea for a Bruv Manual. I remember drawing my very first pie chart, and getting a bit excited, because I could show something in a chart that might take a number of paragraphs to tell.

The charts are great to do when I’m stuck on a bit of plot too, because they’re a bit like procrastinating even though I’m still working on the story, and quite often they take me along a different path.

I wanted each chapter heading to reference that very first idea of a sibling manual.

3. Stan’s mum lives for ‘Mum o’clock.’ What does this look like in your house?

‘Mum o’clock’ is getting later and later these days due to taxiing teenagers about. As much as I’d like to say it involves high-brow culture and herbal tea, it usually consists of a grape-based drink, First Dates, and Malteasers.

4. How many of Fred’s disgusting escapades have you experienced first-hand?

The birthday party. It’s a huge relief I no longer have to entertain a houseful of small-year-olds for two hours on a bi-annual basis. It didn’t help that birthdays always fell in the colder months, so I couldn’t just fling them all in the garden.

And because parents had to stay, I always felt they were judging the calibre of my party games; or the way I dealt with young Barney who wants to win everything; or how much effort I’ve put into sculpting the food into the theme of my party, and by golly it better be nutritious too because ‘we don’t believe in additives’. That’s not even mentioning the evil party bags.

In the 70s you’d be happy with a bowl of Angel Delight and an indoor firework. That was about as nutritious and exciting as it got.

So I would heartily recommend ALL of Stan’s Party Dos and Don’ts, especially the bit about finding a time-travelling wormhole to avoid the whole thing.

5. What advice would you give to any young writers out there who are finding it difficult to find a quiet space to write – possible due to an annoying little brother?

Always carry a notebook so you can cash in on those quiet moments. Don’t tell your parents, but probably write under the duvet when you’re supposed to be asleep (I still do that now). Other than that, take a leaf out of Stan’s book and get yourself a Do-Not-Interrupt-Kit, which is basically a DVD and a bag of toffees – helps keep your younger sibling’s brain and gob busy at the same time.

Excellent advice. I’m going to put together a Do-Not-Interrupt-Kit which will work on children and husbands when I’m trying to read!

Library Girl.

Many thanks to Oxford University Press for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.  For other stops, take a look below:

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