We’re not the only ones who are super-excited by yesterday’s release of THE LUNCH WITCH. Children’s book site Kidsreads.com has a special feature on the book including a must read interview with writer/artist Deb Lucke. Check out their site for everything you ever wanted to know about Grunhilda and her erstwhile creator!
They say a good magician never reveals his secrets. But we guess the same maxim doesn’t apply to witches. Author Deb Lucke answered some questions we had regarding THE LUNCH WITCH and its creation. Have a burning question for Deb? Let us know and we will ask!
Q: How did you decide on Grunhilda becoming a Lunch Lady?
DEB: One of my long-time friends, Cheryl Wilson, got a job as a lunch lady. She told me her new job title with pride and also with humor. I started thinking about what her job was like and then—me being me—I started imagining a lunch lady with secrets. I worked in the school cafeteria myself in college so I knew what went on behind the scenes. Somehow Cheryl who looks more like Olive Oyl than Grunhilda morphed in with my Great Aunt Hulda and several other older female relatives who impressed me with their heavily-gridled bodies and gruff manner when I was young. The book is dedicated to Cheryl.
Q: Did you consult with any lunch ladies while working on the book?
DEB: Cheryl sent me photos of her cafeteria and told me a few stories. Since she isn’t a mean, old witch, they were mostly nice stories. I gathered from her that certain kids hang around and that none of the kids actually eat their lunches. I also spent a day with the lunch ladies at a local school in the Hudson Valley (I didn’t tell them why). I did a lot of drawings of the students eating and photographed the kitchen for reference. I go into schools to do readings so I always try and scope out the cafeteria.
In addition, I had another relative who was the Head Lunch Lady of an entire school district. She used to talk a lot about how to turn a cheese single into a sail on a chili “boat” and how to do that cost effectively for a thousand lunches. It’s a bit frightening the things I have stored in my head.
Q: Did any of them react in a special way to THE LUNCH WITCH?
DEB: Cheryl can’t wait until she gets a copy of the book. I’m a bit fearful how others might react. If anyone shows up at Papercutz in an apron and carrying a meat cleaver, you don’t know me.
Q: How do you feel about the feedback the graphic novel has received?
DEB: I am thrilled with the response so far. It is so nice to see what readers find funny…or poignant. The reviewer that compared me to Roald Dahl is my newest best friend. Don’t take my word that she actually said that read it for yourself. http://jeanlittlelibrary.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-lunch-witch-by-deb-lucke.html?spref=fb
In part 2 of Veronique Culliford’s interview/article, she talks in depth about her father, Peyo.
PEYO – A CREATIVE ARTIST AROUND THE HOUSE
My father, Peyo always shared his ideas with my mother, who was a bit
like his muse, but he never discussed his work with the family. Only my
mother would offer her opinion, which he would use to decide whether
to press on with his ideas or not. She also chose the colours. But when
we were children, my father never discussed his creative work with us.
He had his studio in the house. Father was always close by, from
morning until evening. We were the ones who set off for school, but
he did not set off for work! He had his team with him during his daily
business. François Walthéry, who created Natasha, was 17 when he
arrived at the studio. He was a bit like a big brother to me when I was
only 4. It was a real family affair, even though my father only discussed
his work with his colleagues.
We had to wait until the book was finished and fine-tuned before
we were able to read it. Nowadays, owing to my various responsibilities
I have to get involved in the early stages of a project’s development, but
my real pleasure is to be able to settle down on the sofa with the colour
book in the form in which it will be published. I love to turn the pages,
savouring the details and breathing in the scents of the printing shop.
My father was not in any special frame of mind when working on
Benny Breakiron but he cooperated with various people. When he was
working on the Les Schtroumpfs, he would have certain colleagues to
help with those characters, and when he worked on Benny Breakiron
he had others. There was Will, the cartoonist behind Tif et Tondu (Tif
and Tondu), who did the sets for Benny Breakiron.
My father was also a very emotional person. I think he tried to convey his
feelings and emotions in his series. I do not mean to suggest that Benny
was a projection of my father as a young boy. He actually had a brother
and sister, as well as lots of cousins who he played with a great deal, all
forming a big gang of friends. However, and we never discussed this,
he lost his father when he was eight. So if he never mentioned family, it
may be something he hardly understood and something that was not
part of his experience. This may be one of the keys to Benny.
From my own children’s experience, I can see Peyo’s stories
continuing to delight one generation after another. My children are spoiled
for choice in our house when it comes to comic books. They read whatever
they want! But towards 10 years of age, they all gravitate instinctively
towards Benny Breakiron. I used to find the books under their beds when
they were supposed to be sleeping! As I am a mother who works and
travels a great deal, I do not always have time to talk things over with
them. I do not ask them what they think about their reading matter. They
know their grandfather was the one who wrote and drew these stories
and they are very proud. They became aware of Peyo’s status when they
were about 10. They did not read the Les Schtroumpfs so much. They did
read a lot of Benny Breakiron, then switched to Johan et Pirlouit.
The values my father’s stories convey are both positive and
universal. Parents have nothing to fear about their children reading
comic books by Peyo. They are kind of unblemished while reflecting a
meaning and morality that is not much in evidence nowadays. They are
a bit like contemporary fables. This is something mothers and fathers
are delighted to share with their children.
Peyo was more of a storyteller than a cartoonist. He had
a lot to tell because he must have done a lot of dreaming as well. He
was someone who used to look at the world in an imaginative way. He
had a knack of approaching the most serious subjects with a light and
humorous touch. Benny draws us into a real world, with real thieves
and real baddies. It is a real world, and I think he was anxious to express
something on this score as well. My father was very fond of Benny and
had a particular affection for the character.
As part of the press promotion for the new BENNY BREAKIRON film in France, Peyo’s daughter, Veronique Culliford, wrote a terrific article on her father, his creative process and why Benny holds a special place in her heart. It’s a must read for any Peyo fan!
GROWING UP WITH BENNY
1960 was the year my father decided to create a new comic strip
series. He wanted it to appear in the leading Belgian daily Le Soir, which
was already running his story about a little cat called Pussycat, which
the publisher, Dupuis, wanted for its list. My father agreed to withdraw
Pussycat from the newspaper and hand it over to Dupuis but he was loath
to abandon the newspaper because it had offered him a chance when
was just starting his career. This is why he developed Benny Breakiron.
However, when Dupuis found out about the new work, they actually
preferred it to Pussycat !
My father always created likeable, very thematically structured
characters. After dwelling in the Middle Ages with Johan et Pirlouit
(Johan and Peewit) and the Schtroumpfs (the Smurfs), Benny Breakiron
offered him an opportunity to write stories set in the modern world.
Benny’s visual setting is very 1960s, the era when he was created.
I was only two when the character was unveiled to the public. He really
formed the background to my formative years.
BENNY BREAKIRON – A DIFFERENT KIND OF HERO
My father’s idea in creating Benny Breakiron was to take a stance opposite
that depicted in the case of the American superheroes of the time, so he
invented a character who was not an all-powerful adult but a child who
nonetheless had the ability to react to anything that stirred his anger.
My father always liked to play around with the adult child concept and,
in the case of Benny Breakiron, the hero expresses himself like a child.
His way of thinking is not as articulate as that of an adult, and that
contributes to the light and refreshing feel of his adventures. He has
no qualms about saying what is on his mind. Benny has reached the
age when things can fill him with a real sense of indignation. He cannot
I was about eight when I first read the adventures of Benny
Breakiron. I started from the beginning, with The Red Taxis. Like all
children I just looked at the pictures to start with. Then, when I was
about 10 or 11, I really started to understand the meaning of the texts.
As with all my father’s books, the adventures of Benny are multilayered,
thus featuring surprises for children of every age. My feeling as a girl
was that Benny needed protecting because he was alone! At times you
long to share his adventures, to put yourself in his shoes, at other times
you want to help him. We can all also relate to him often being rejected
by children of his own age because he is different from all the others.
We are on his side. He evokes strong feelings, even though we know it is
only a comic book. He is also very endearing because his parents are not
around. But he does not seem to be unhappy being alone. He is looked
after at home by his guardian, but we are never told if he might have
parents who have to work far away. I think my father’s approach was
intended to focus on his character, tell Benny’s story rather than getting
involved in the story of a family. Children think about themselves but
not always about their surroundings. This gives his perspective a kind
of authenticity that reminds us all of something.
As he does not always manage to get close to people of his own
age, Benny has very close relationships with adults. Mr Dussiflard is
a man on his own, and Ms Adolphine is a woman on her own. Benny Breakiron
seeks the company of those who have time for him. He would like to
tell them about his amazing powers but he is always thwarted from
doing so by circumstances! He is not keeping a secret, he just never
manages to share the secret. These are the kinds of things children may
experience and express later on when they reach adulthood. Parents
do not always realise either… I believe it is something quite powerful, a
childhood theme that is particularly relevant nowadays.
Unlike superheroes who are able to do anything they want and
can save the world every day of the week, Benny Breakiron is just like anybody else.
He is incapable of solving a problem if he has a cold. His vulnerability
makes him someone special. He possesses powers that all children
dream of having but he continues to be normal. However, this does not
prevent him from creating one or two disasters to add a bit of spice to