Dave Barry is a Pulitzer prize-winning writer whose Miami Herald newspaper column explores family and the fun and wacky world we live in. Dave also writes books for adults and has teamed with fellow author Ridley Pearson, to co-write books for young adults and children. Ridley Pearson is a best-selling author of suspense and crime novels for adults and mystery books for children. Together Dave and Ridley have collaborated on seven books for young readers.
Dave is the father of 28-year-old son Robert, and eight-year-old daughter, Sophie. Ridley is the dad of two daughters: 11-year-old Paige, and 10-year-old Storey. We had a ball talking to these fun, wacky and hands-on Dads about their books, their kids and even their own childhoods.
Q: What made you guys collaborate on Young Adult books?
Dave Barry: We love kids as readers, they’re the best readers you can have because they either love it or they hate it.
Ridley Pearson: I had been reading Peter Pan to my daughter and she asked me how Captain Hook had met Peter Pan in the first place. I thought, "there’s gotta be a prequel there." I mentioned the idea to Dave and he got excited.
Q: What do your kids think of your books for children? Have they read them?
Dave: My eight-year-old daughter has read our books for younger children and she’s pretty proud of herself for reading them. And of course she likes them, her Dad wrote them!
Ridley: My daughters have read them all. And sometimes they have comments for me.
Q: How important is reading in your families?
Dave: It’s huge. My wife and I have read to our daughter since the beginning. It’s so great when they’re reading and not playing video games; and it helps them in life.
Ridley: Paige has this great connection now to reading, because from the age of five, she realizes it was her idea that started us on the Peter and the Star-Catchers series. So she now has kind of an ownership and reading means a lot to her. And now the story might become a play on Broadway, so she knows this little idea of hers might be on Broadway and that’s so cool to her. Now my younger daughter, Storey, comes to me and tells me, "I have an idea for a book." She wants to have the same affect.
Q: When writing your characters do you take any specific attributes from your children or your childhoods and incorporate them into the character?
Ridley: Yes. We both have daughters, so we see pieces of them in it. Our daughters informed some of our characters, especially the smart, capable female ones.
Q: What’s one of your favorite daily rituals with your children?
Dave: My daughter, Sophie, sleeps with about 300 stuffed animals in bed with her. In the morning, when I wake her up for school, I make them stand on her head and talk to each other. They have conversations about her day and school, but I don’t have them say the right things, I make them get it completely wrong because children love when you are wrong and correct you. Sophie thinks it’s funny, so even if she wants to sleep, she can’t resist talking and getting up to correct the conversation. Then I make her breakfast, which is always in the shape of a face.
Ridley: The fun part for me is when they get home from school and I end up doing their homework with them. We always try to eat dinner early so we can get to homework. I love that daily time with them. And the bedtime ritual is one of my favorites. Even though they’re 11 and 10, they still ask for a story and I make one up for them every night — I’ve told them thousands of stories.
Q: There will always something that leaves you challenged as a parent. What is it for you right now?
Dave: I’m an older parent and I have an adult son in addition to my younger daughter, and I see how it slips away so fast. The other night when Sophie was getting ready to go to bed, we were laying in her bed in the dark and we started playing some game and it was really fun and she was laughing so hard and I realized I hadn’t done something like that in weeks and I tried to think what I did all the other nights and realized I hadn’t done anything important or significant, so it’s remembering to give priority to spending time to my family.
Ridley: There’s a fine line between being your kids friend and their parent. It’s easy to want to be their friend and my daughter is at that age (11) where she’s becoming a young woman. I want to keep the friend part of the parenting open so she’ll let me in and tell me about what’s upsetting her, what’s making her happy. I don’t want her always going to her friends for that stuff, I want it to still be me sometimes and allow her to open up to me as a parent-friend. The hard part is finding that balance.
Q: Any tips for parents out there who are struggling with reluctant readers?
Dave: Lots of parents ask us this and yes, buy our books for your kids! But seriously, kids assume that all the books out there are like the ones they have to read in school, but that’s just not true. It’s finding the right book for them.
Ridley: My older daughter wasn’t such a big reader. So we learned if you take them to the bookstore or library, let them look through everything and don’t leave until they find something they like. Let them explore every section. They will wonder around and eventually find something that interests them. For my daughter it was a high adventure boy’s book, which they probably weren’t giving a girl to read in school. Now, she reads more books than her parents do, all because it came down to finding the right books for her.
Your Favorites Growing Up:
Q: Growing up, what was your favourite book?
Ridley: I loved Rudyard Kipling.
Dave: I read Mad Magazine and comics.
Q: … your favourite Halloween costume?
Dave: A vampire. It was all about the cape.
Q: What did you most want to be when you grew up??
Dave: I didn’t know. Growing up, my teachers always told me, "You can’t joke your way through life." Which, of course, turned out to be wrong.
Ridley: A Marine Biologist/Oceanographer.
Q: Who was your influential person (or people) in your life?
Dave: My parents. They were pretty funny.
Ridley: My brother and my Uncle. My Dad was kind of absent without leave, so I really modeled off my brother, and my Uncle, who lived next door.
Q: What advise would you give your 8-10 year old self now?
Dave: Nothing that’s bothering you now is going to be important in a year.
Ridley: Don’t take anything too seriously. Go outside and have fun!