36 Finalists Blog: David LaRochelle

David LaRochelle, author of How to Apologize, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

Children’s Literature Category, sponsored by Books for Africa

Each week leading up to the 34th annual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony, we are featuring exclusive interviews with our 36 finalists. You can also watch the authors in conversation with their fellow category finalists here.

Would you tell us one or two things about your finalist book that you are particularly proud of, and why?

Although How to Apologize is labeled as a children’s book, my favorite reviews have cited how it is needed for both kids AND adults. I’ve been told by adults that the book has prompted them to apologize for mistakes that they made years ago. I’m proud that our book can spur readers to reconcile with others and to mend relationships. 

What do you hope that your audience learns or takes away from your book?

I hope that readers will laugh! Our book is meant to be funny. Besides that, I hope our audience will take away some simple, practical tips that they can use to make meaningful apologies, and to perhaps act a little kinder in the future. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer with an interest in your category? 

Just because a book is written for children doesn’t make it a lesser form of literature. Writing for kids requires the same commitment to quality as any type of writing. Practice your craft. Read as many good quality, current children’s books as you can. And never talk down to your audience, even if they are only three feet tall! 

Tell us something about yourself that is not widely known.

I’m an expert pumpkin carver. Check out my website, davidlarochelle.com, for a gallery of pumpkins that I have carved over the past twenty years. 

Minnesota enjoys a reputation as a place that values literature and reading. If this sentiment rings true for you, what about our home state makes it such a welcoming and conducive place for writers? 

Minnesota has an incredible community of talented children’s book writers. In a profession that can be isolating, it’s wonderful to live where there are so many other dedicated authors and illustrators. We encourage each other and celebrate each other’s successes. We also have amazing independent children’s bookstores that promote our books and host our book launches. Schools throughout the state find the resources to invite authors into their classrooms to make books and reading a vibrant experience for their students. It’s easy to take these things for granted, but they don’t hold true everywhere. 

Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, virtually everything about our lives has changed in some way. Has COVID-19 (and its fallout) impacted your writing habits and preferences? Has the unique zeitgeist of the past two years influenced your writing output in any other ways that you can pinpoint? 

After more than a year of virtual visits with schools and libraries, the pandemic has taught me to appreciate the joy of sharing my books in person with real live children. The feedback I get from working with kids face to face helps motivate me to keep writing, and I’ve missed that. 

David LaRochelle is a former elementary school teacher who has been creating books for young people for over twenty-five years. He is the recipient of the Side Fleischman Humor Award and the Minnesota Book Award.