Hey Adam! Thanks for stopping by the MG Book Village to chat more about your recent release, The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books!
Thanks for having me!
You’ve been here before to chat about the book, but just in case our readers missed that post (click HERE to check it out!), can you tell us a bit about the book?
Absolutely! The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books takes place about 40 years in the future and stars Oliver Nelson as a young bookworm who loves to spend time in his local library. But he has a secret—he steals books!
One book that he steals is a very rare and special, and sadly, when he discovers this fact and tries to return it, the book gets destroyed. When two rich inventors/book collectors come looking for it, they learn that now the last remaining copy exist inside Oliver’s mind! So they use some futuristic technology to try to steal it from his imagination, chapter by chapter, literally going inside the story.
But Oliver fights back, changing the plot of the book and introducing new and exciting elements characters. Even the narrator gets involved!
The narrative voice of the book is SO fun to read. It reminds me of some 19th century favorites, like Charles Dickens. Did you draw inspiration from other authors or any particular books when developing this style?
Absolutely, and in many ways, this book was me taking lots of inspiration from others and trying to teach myself how to write books. It was very much a learning experience in deconstructing books and learning to put them back together in a unique way.
I was working on this novel when my first novel was out on submission. Sadly, that book didn’t sell, but during the process, one of the suggestions my agent made for that book was to add a narrator that breaks the fourth wall and talks to the reader. I didn’t end up doing that because I couldn’t crack who that narrator would be and why they would be talking to the reader, but it provided the seed of the idea that would become the narrator character in this book.
As a fun fact, the narrator is described as having a sort of a clipped, Transatlantic accent, and is very particular and easily annoyed. He’s prickly, but with a soft side underneath. He’s very much like me actually, but also, a lot of his character and voice was modeled after Niles from the TV show Frasier, so if you want to he “hear” him as I do, that’s what to imagine!
The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books joins a long tradition of books about books. Do you have any favorite books about books? Did any of them come into play while you were creating your own?
I love books about books, but it’s hard to pinpoint a single source of inspiration for this. I loved how much of a bookworm Matilda was. Phantom Tollbooth was a favorite. And there is a lot of inspiration from The Princess Bride (movie and book) in this.
I can’t say I set out to write a book about books, though. The first draft of this was called THE IMAGINATION THIEF and featured a character who could go inside kid’s imaginations and steal the worlds they created. After the first draft of that, I realized there wasn’t much of a driving force through the story, so the book angle was added later to provide that motivation in the real and imagined worlds.
Your novel features some exceptional villains. Can you tell us a bit about them, and share any insight into just how you make a character so deliciously bad?
Villains are so fun to write in middle grade, because they often have so much ability for redemption. It’s hard for me to write a straight-up evil character, because if they are doing truly terrible things to kids, it quickly becomes a very different kind of book. Their evil has to be somewhat oblivious to the kid’s feelings or well being, or not take it into account.
In this book, the Pribbles are inspired directly by a quote from real-life book collector A.S.W. Rosenbach who was known by Sothebys as “The Terror of the Auction Room.” A famous quote of his is:
“Very young children eat their books, literally devouring their contents. This is one reason for the scarcity of first editions of Alice in Wonderland and other favorites of the nursery.”
This book as it is wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t heard this quote. The idea of book collectors who LOVE children’s books but have such a fiery disdain for children was too great to pass up, and that’s what made me decide to add the book angle to this story.
The villains don’t see themselves as bad characters, but collectors who want a book and will stop at nothing to get it. If you can make a villain like that, you can empathize with them even as you are rooting against them. So while they are doing something bad, they can also be funny, and their minds can be changed in the end.
What do you hope your readers — especially the young ones — take away from The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books?
Not to give any spoilers, but the Pribbles can’t steal the story from Oliver. Not really, anyway, because the story he’s imagined is different than how anyone else imagined. When a book is released, the author disappears, and now it’s the reader who appears, shaping the words with their own imagination. To read is to create.
Many of our site’s readers are elementary school librarians, and I know you grew up with one of those in your family! Would you care to share about how that influenced you as a story-lover and storyteller?
Yes! Growing up, my mom was an elementary librarian, and I spent every afternoon tucked into the reading loft, going through stacks and stacks of books. In many ways, I wrote this book as a love letter to libraries and children’s books, and tried to mash everything I would have wanted into one story.
We always had books in my house growing up, always were read to, and she was always introducing me to new books. Now, I get to send her middle grade books to read from my growing collection, so it’s come full circle.
One of my earliest memories was meeting Tomie DePaola when I was four years old at the school where she taught. I think that is what made me want to write children’s books.
This book is dedicated to my mom, so she’s just been a huge influence.
Where can our readers learn more about you and your work?
You can learn more at:
And to any librarians or teachers, I love doing in person or virtual visits, so please reach out!
Adam Perry is the author of The Magicians of Elephant County and The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books. The son of an elementary school librarian, he discovered a love of stories at an early age. He lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with his wife, children, and a growing collection of children’s books. To the best of his knowledge, none of them are stolen. Find out more at adamperrybooks.com.