A friend of mine was reading my brand-new picture book, Mitchell Goes Bowling,yesterday. She looked up halfway through and asked me what my average was. “80,” I said. I could kind of tell she was horrified, even though she tried to be diplomatic. It turns out that she’s a serious bowler. She and her husband go on Sunday mornings in the winter, when there’s a discount. They have their own bowling shoes and balls. My family and I aren’t serious bowlers, but we are bowlers, nevertheless. We go on rainy weekend days just for fun, for the satisfaction of throwing the ball down the lane, watching it ricochet from bumper guard to bumper guard, and the once-in-a-great-while STRIKE. We go for the mozzarella sticks and the pizza too. Sometimes we even go on sunny days.
I guess we just like the lanes. Typing names in the scoreboards, watching the pins go down (or not), the thrill of a strike, stomping around when no pins go down. That’s why I wanted to make this book, because we love the lanes, even though I stink at the game.
I loved learning about the mechanics, too. It was Larry at Hanover Lanes in NJ who gave me my tour. He showed me the machine that “dresses” the lanes—the dressing is that shiny oil coat that makes the balls move fast. (The same dressing Mitchell wipes out on in the book.) Larry showed me the “ball elevator,” which is the coolest elevator I’ve ever seen, and the “pinwheel” that dumps the balls into the elevator. I even got to see how the “driller” works—that’s the machine that drills the holes in the balls. Larry told me how often the grown-up bowlers next to the kid bowlers ask for a new lane (I had to use that!). Those guys at Hanover Lanes on Route 10 are swell.
My collaborator, Tony Fucile, also loves to bowl. It was his daughter Eleanor who inspired the scene where Mitchell prays for a strike. And the hand-drier gag came straight from Tony too. I can’t imagine any artist drawing a cooler Dad and son and their steamin’ hot potato dance more perfectly than Tony—his art makes me laugh every single time I read the book. I love working with him.
And Mitchell’s not the only one who likes to knock things down. There are seventy million bowlers in America of all shapes and sizes—I sure hope Mitchell Goes Bowling inspires bowlers everywhere to bust a move . . . Battle on!
And PS: If you aren’t yet a bowler, have no fear: October is National Learn to Bowl Month!
And PPS: here’s an interview I did on the Go Bowling show recently: lots of fun! http://www.gobowlingshow.com/listen/100213_lgb.mp3