In Freddie Ramos Rules New York, the sixth book in the early reader Zapatos Power series, Freddie tests out his new super-power sneakers while on a trip to the city to visit his uncle.
We were lucky enough to sit down with author Jacqueline Jules to chat about Freddie Ramos Rules New York, her inspiration, and a wish for a zapato power herself.
Q: Where did you get the idea for Freddie’s latest adventure?
A: Whenever I do a school assembly, I always tell my audience how the plot for Zapato Power #4: Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash and Zapato Power #5: Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow came from student ideas. This generates lots of suggestions for other books in the series. I always listen carefully, because I am looking for inspiration. At a school in Atlanta, Georgia, a boy walked up to me and said: “Freddie should visit his Uncle Jorge in New York.” It was a brilliant idea and something that had not occurred to me before. I am indebted to that boy. After that, I considered situations in New York City where Freddie would naturally need to use his special sneakers. Running up the stairs in walk-up apartments came to mind. Also, New York City traffic jams. That’s when I came upon the plan to have Freddie use his special sneakers to deliver an important letter for Uncle Jorge.
Q: Why did you decide to give Freddie new sneakers in Zapato Power #6?
A: I needed to answer a question that students asked me at just about every school visit. What happens when Freddie outgrows his special shoes? It was a question I had not worried about when I first began the series. As an adult, I don’t outgrow my shoes anymore. But young readers reminded me how this is an important consideration for a growing boy like Freddie. It was fun to address it in Freddie Ramos Rules New York because it also gave me a chance to give Freddie an extra power.
Q: What was your inspiration for your title?
A: As a rule, I struggle with titles for my stories. But for this book, I knew I wanted a title with three elements: alliteration, an action verb, and an indication that Freddie was on an adventure outside of his home in Starwood Park. Freddie Ramos Rules New York provided all three items and fortunately came to me right away.
Q: What do you like the most about Freddie Ramos?
A: Freddie reminds me of the students I taught while I worked as an elementary school librarian in Falls Church, Virginia. He is good natured, caring, and fun to be around. While his life includes some economic and personal challenges, he has a positive, often humorous outlook. I admire Freddie. He was originally based on a Latino student of mine named Freddie. When I began the first book, Freddie Ramos Takes Off, I had a picture in my mind of this student’s very winning smile. But as the story grew in the pages of my book, Freddie Ramos became a person in his own right. I hear Freddie’s voice in my head when I write. I know exactly how Freddie would view something or describe it.
Q: If you had Zapato Power, what would you want to do with it?
A: I would do all my errands and housework superfast so I would have more time for writing and my family.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do in New York City?
A: I love the High Line. It is an amazing elevated park, where you can admire plants and artwork while also enjoying a view of the city.
Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?
A: If I don’t have an appointment or a presentation, I am usually at the computer writing. I start around 8:30 in the morning and work till about ten in the evening. Of course, I take breaks. Around 11 a.m., I ride an exercise bicycle. In the afternoon, I like to take a walk or do errands. I eat dinner with my husband but I eat both my breakfast and lunch at the computer. I will admit to being a bit of a workaholic.
Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?
A: As a kid, I was a voracious reader. I remember enjoying The Borrowers, The Jungle Book, Secret Garden, Ben and Me, and that blue biography series, Childhood of Famous Americans. I still read every day for a half hour or more on my exercise bicycle. As an elementary school librarian, I became hooked on children’s books and they are still my favorite type of literature.
At the moment, I am devouring a pile of advanced reading copies (all children’s books) I picked up at the American Library Association conference. I don’t have a strong genre preference. I read fantasy, historical fiction, realistic fiction, verse, nonfiction—anything that has a compelling narrative.