Calling all explorers! We’re excited to share a peek inside one of our illustrated children’s books, Dive In!: A Topsy-Turvy-Say-It-Out-Loud Underwater Adventure. Written by the acclaimed family music band and Grammy Award–nominated Recess Monkey, and illustrated by Rob McClurkan, this book offers hilarious, interactive fun for the whole family.
Dive In! follows famous explorer Sir Sebastian Stockingbottomham on an underwater adventure, alongside a blobfish named Burt and his sidekick Crab ready to make readers laugh like they’ve never laughed before. Each page invites the whole family to share in the fun by following interactive read-aloud prompts, talk like they’re underwater, and take part in some very silly shenanigans as they move the book (and themselves!) up, down, and all around!
We recently had the opportunity to talk with the authors, Recess Monkey’s Jack Forman and Drew Holloway, about their inspiration for the book, and what it’s like being a part of a high-energy, highly acclaimed family rock band. Let’s dive in and see what they had to say!
Q&A with Jack Forman and Drew Holloway of Recess Monkey
Where did your inspiration for Dive In! come from?
Jack: We met 17 years ago teaching at the same school here in Seattle and really have learned a lot about how to follow a kid’s lead. That’s translated to our albums and shows at Recess Monkey, where we’re constantly translating the things that make kids laugh into our creations. The book was a natural extension of listening to what gets kids excited!
Drew: Play and humor are important parts of our work as both teachers and musicians. Whether it’s a classroom of kids or an audience, there’s always an opportunity for a spirited back and forth. Dive In! is like that. It’s an invitation to play, laugh and participate. And there’s also a blobfish, we knew it needed a blobfish!
Tell us about the main character in this story. How did Sir Sebastian Stockingbottomham come about?
Jack: We were laughing about how Jacques Cousteau was the smoothest explorer who ever explored… and wanted to see nature through the eyes of a distant, much less qualified, relative. His name to us just screams pomp and circumstance, but maybe without ever having actually read a book about underwater life.
Drew: He definitely has never read a book about underwater life.
Is this your first book? What made you decide to write a children’s book?
Jack: It is our first book! We’ve written hundreds of narratively based songs and it’s always a challenge to squeeze an entire story into the confines of a three-minute song. We’ve long loved the process of telling stories visually in music video form, but have always wanted to explore written fiction.
Drew: Writing and performing music are Recess Monkey’s main charges but what truly drives us is being creative and trying new things. Creativity is essential, a basic need for us. The book was an opportunity to stretch ourselves.
Is there anything that surprised you during the process of creating this book?
Jack: We were excited about playing with the form of the book itself, imagining how kid readers would play with it as the book was read aloud to them.
Drew: Spoiler alert: I couldn’t believe it when the tables turned on Sir Sebastian! I didn’t see that coming.
What do you think kids and adults will enjoy most about this book?
Jack: Our biggest goal was to give the reader enough cues to become a read-aloud superstar: funny voices, silly rhythms, and a game-like quality to the story. We’ve been teaching for a long time and read-aloud is one of our favorite parts of the school day: such a fun and important way to connect with a story on the inside.
Drew: It’s hard to pick just one thing! A great cartoon has different levels for different viewers. We feel like there’s a lot going on in the story both in the words and the visuals to delight everyone who picks the book up.
How did the band get its name: Recess Monkey?
Jack: It’s a joke, a play on the rhesus monkey.
Drew: We love the whole school day, but there’s something about recess!
Tell us about a day in the life of Recess Monkey.
Jack: We work really hard, but balance what we do between creative time and live shows. Summertime tends to be our busiest live season, when we play the bulk of our live performances. Through the rest of the year, as the school calendar picks up, we write and record songs, make music videos, and play shows on weekends. We’re really lucky to always have exciting things on the horizon.
Drew: A Recess Monkey day can be pretty action-packed. When we’re together we try to get a lot accomplished. Playing live and interacting with families is the bulk of our work and super rewarding. It’s nice that most days we’re home for dinner with our family units.
Drew Holloway and Jack Forman
You’ve released over a dozen albums since 2005—wow! What are your favorites out of the bunch?
Jack: Altogether, it’s been 13 albums, and just over 200 songs! I’m always most excited about whatever we’re working on right now, but after an album “rests” for three years or so, I’m able to listen to it with very little memory of what the recording process was actually like. It suddenly becomes like I’m listening to another band’s album.
Drew: It’s hard to pick a favorite! They’re like our children. While they all sound like us, each record is different in a way. If pressed, I might pick Desert Island Disc, the companion to Deep Sea Diver. It has some amazing musical moments, swirling strings, and ukuleles.
What’s next for Recess Monkey?
Jack: Now that we’ve taken our most recent album Novelties to the Grammys, we’re suddenly thinking ahead to our next collection of songs.
Drew: That’s the question we’re always asking ourselves. It just keeps getting more fun to ponder!
For more details on Dive In!,* visit our website.
*Disclaimer: not suitable for quiet bedtime. Check pockets for sand after reading. May cause reader to change name to Jacques.