Interview with Mom’s Choice Award-Winner Jodie Knox

Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.

Today’s talented guest MCA honoree, Jodie Knox, calls herself a child of the sea. In her 20 years with the U.S. Coast Guard, she responded to maritime emergencies that included search and rescue and law enforcement. Her Mom’s Choice Award-winning first book, Hank and Pearl, the Tale of a Captain and Crew, has been lauded as an outstanding and thoroughly entertaining aid in helping elementary school children learn to read. Kids enjoy the tale of how Pearl, a cat captain, wants to find the perfect crewmate to help her explore the Potomac River aboard her houseboat—and learns important lessons about getting along with others.

MCA: Jodie, we’re so glad you could join us today. First, please tell us about yourself.

Taught to sail by my dad as a teen, I joined the U.S. Coast Guard at age 19 and spent 20 years working on and around the water. I’ve lived aboard six boats and would consider boating one of my greatest passions. I enjoy sharing my love of the water with others as a licensed captain and “nautical enthusiast.” Recently retired from the Coast Guard, I now spend my spare time boating, stand-up paddling, bicycling, and performing music in local restaurants and nursing homes as a singer and piano player.

MCA: What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?

While I attribute any supposed writing skills to my military career, the enchanting story of Hank and Pearl was nothing like the policies and memorandums that sharpened my penmanship abilities and were way more entertaining to write. I also am a creative soul who loves to sing, play the piano, and entertain.

Narrative writing is an extension of that creativity. Because the story so closely mirrors my life experience of living aboard a boat with my dog, Hank, it was incredibly fun and easy to compose. Surprisingly, the words and storyline just flowed and the first draft took only two hours to complete.

The greater experience in becoming a children’s book author was in selecting an illustrator and going through the publishing process, which took about a year. Working with my illustrator and editor made my imaginary story and waterfront characters come to life.

MCA: What was your inspiration for writing Hank and Pearl, the Tale of a Captain and Crew?

There were two inspirations. While everyone was locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do after I retired from the military. My dad encouraged me, specifically, to become a writer and—more specifically—to write children’s books. Thus, the idea for Hank and Pearl was born.

This brings me to inspiration number two… Hank! I adopted him in 2009 and he has lived aboard five boats with me. Washington DC’s SW Wharf waterfront has been our home throughout four Coast Guard assignments in the DC area, and I know it very well. I decided to tell the story of how two friends came to find each other and highlight the importance of friendship in a location that is near and dear to my heart. The waterfront characters were intentionally chosen because I wanted to show how animals got along as friends—even though it is against their nature. This is why my main character, Pearl the cat, has friends that are a bird (Blue the Heron), a rat (Scuttles), and finally a dog (Hank). It felt important to me that this be incorporated, given how unsure and divided things were in our world at the time I crafted my story. Pearl reflects my character as the only woman who lived aboard a boat in my marina at the time and the desire to share the experience with friends.

MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in the book?

The primary lesson found in Hank and Pearl is the importance of friendship, although I feel that the additional lessons I intentionally weaved into my story are equally meaningful. The value of getting along with others, even when it doesn’t feel natural, was conveyed in Pearl, the cat, as she accepted others she wouldn’t logically befriend such as a bird, a rat, and a dog!

Additionally, I fashioned Pearl’s character after myself and the emotions I felt as the only live-aboard woman on my dock. This is why Pearl was “the only cat who lived on her boat.” I also hoped that making Pearl a female character would encourage young girls to see that, someday, they can be captains too. Finally, I wish for the integral lessons of how animal adoption and the fun of boating will encourage families to enjoy the waterways—and maybe even adopt a furry family member.

MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?

After they read this story, I hope the readers walk away understanding the need for each of us to connect with others as friends and see how those friendships make life richer and help us to accomplish more. The funny thing about friendship is that, when separated, these two words (friend and ship) are exactly what my book is about—friends on a ship (boat)!

MCA: Navigating friendships is so important for children’s emotional and social development. What kind of responses has your book received?

The responses to my book have been so affirming for me as an author because the feedback reflects reader appreciation for the lessons that I tried to incorporate and convey. I have received compliments on the choice of characters, the lessons on friendship, and the true-to-life scenery depicted in the book. One of the consistent positives is also the illustrations. My illustrator did an exceptional job and I can’t wait to work with him on the next book, Hank and Pearl, Training for Sea.

MCA: With such an enthusiastic response from Hank and Pearl, I imagine you have a number of other stories in the pipeline. Earlier you mentioned a sequel: Hank and Pearl, Training for Sea…

I plan to make Hank and Pearl a series that further explores the waterways. The second book is about Pearl teaching Hank how to take the boat underway and culminating in a challenging, sea-story-worthy moment! In the third book, Hank and Pearl get a new boat that takes them on a mini circumnavigation of a peninsula on the East Coast called the Delmarva. In each of the stories, readers can expect wholesome and engaging adventures where they can learn life lessons and improve on their nautical knowledge.

MCA: Sounds terrific, Jodie! We wish you the best as you continue to bring intriguing, fun-filled stories to young readers through the Hank and Pearl adventures.

You can learn more about Jodie Knox and her award-winning book, Hank and Pearl, by visiting her MCA Shop pages.

Interview With Yvonne M Morgan

13 Comments on “Interview with Mom’s Choice Award-Winner Jodie Knox”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *