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This Is Not a Taco—It’s an Interview!

Josh Shipley and Andrew Cangolese

Josh Shipley and Andrew Cangolese

“Kids, remember: If you want tacos in your story, then YOU make sure there are tacos in your story!”

That’s the empowering message of This Is a Taco by Josh Shipley and Andrew Cangelose. In the hybrid comic/picture book, a squirrel takes exception to the narration and rewrites his own story so it has more tacos and fewer predators. The book came out earlier this year and will be followed in October by This Is a Whoopsie, a story about a clumsy moose who keeps crashing into parts of the book and destroying it.

This Is a Taco started out as a just-for-fun project by Cangolese, a former principal who is now a dean of curriculum at a Kansas City school, and Shipley, who works for the publisher Andrews McMeel Universal. They got more serious about it when Lion Forge vice president and editor in chief Andrea Colvin encouraged them to pitch the book for Lion Forge’s Cub House line.

This Is a Taco

We talked to Cangolese and Shipley at Book Expo America shortly after This Is a Tacocame out.

What’s the story behind this book?

Josh: Andrew and I met at an internship 11 years ago at Barclay Advertising in Kansas City, Missouri

Andrew: They had the Sonic accounts, with the guys talking in the car, and a couple of other cool accounts. The internship was about Boulevard Brewery, which was a microbrewery in Kansas City, so we got to do some cool stuff with them that summer. I knew I was going to be friends with Josh we were doing a brewery tour and Josh made some pretty quippy jokes, and I was like “Oh, this guy’s fun.” So moving forward, we were pretty quick friends.

Josh: We stayed in touch, and we would collaborate on projects here and there, just to stay connected and also work together. At the time when we were both having kids, we were having a conversation about a children’s book and what books we liked—

Andrew: —and which ones I hide behind the bed.

Josh: At one point we were talking about which humor books we think are funny to read as adults and our kids also enjoy, and we had the idea of a narrator and a character not agreeing with the narrator.

Andrew: Being funny with the format, breaking the fourth wall, what would happen if the hero didn’t like the way the story was going. I did a draft, and the story went from there.

This Is a Taco page

Josh: Andrew has done the lion’s share of the writing. He would do a draft, we would meet for coffee and talk through the jokes, and we kind of drafted the versions until we had something we felt pretty good about. At the time I worked with Andrea Colvin and she was at Andrews McMeel Universal. I said I would love to get your feedback and any kind of notes, and when she ended up leaving and going to Lion Forge, she reached out and said “Were you guys shopping this book around?”

Andrew: We were about to publish it ourselves as a Christmas gift. The project was Josh and I just doing fun stuff together. Luckily, Andrea remembered it and liked it enough to advocate for it.

Is there a new book in the works?

Andrew: The second book is coming out in October, This is a Whoopsie. It’s in a similar vein, owning your own story, but where Taco doesn’t like the direction of the story and edits the book, Whoopsie is clumsy and breaks the book.

This Is a Whoopsie

Josh: We have a couple of ideas …

Andrew: There’s a potential third story about a trout who is too small to swim upstream, so the book outpaces her

Josh: The book narration moves without her.

Andrew: She is forced to tell her own story. And we have a couple of ideas for children’s books. One is about attachment theory for kids, where they learn the importance of relationships with one another: You’re attached to someone with an invisible string, and what happens to that string when it breaks and when you repair it?

Josh: It’s been a huge blessing and so much fun to be able to do stuff we were doing anyways and be in a mix of people who are so excited to not only create books but find books and share books with people they love and enjoy. This is my first time feeling that plugged in to the community.

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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