Title: Curiosity

Author: Gerald Allen Wunsch

Illustrations: Irene Joslin

ISBN: 1-4107-3699-7

Publisher: 1st Books Library

Genre/Market: Childrens Fiction

Publication: May 2003

Paperback 108pp



A familiar element of many children's books involves placing children into a new environment, showing they aren't exactly thrilled to be there, and then watching them find the value of their new surroundings.  In Curiosity, Ginger and Irene are sent to Ginger's grandparents, George and Abby,  for a month in southern Indiana while Ginger's parents are away on an extended vacation.  George and Abby live out in the country along with Laird, their wire fox terrier.  The young girls are looking for adventure in a place where there seems to be nothing much to do, but adventure is exactly what they find during their month in the country. 

George takes the girls to visit the home of his friends, the Browns.  Their house holds many hidden surprises.  Mrs. Brown talks to the girls about the Civil War and the history of the Underground Railroad.   She then shows them the secret hiding places in the house which were used by the slaves on their quest for freedom via the Underground Railroad.  The girls imagine how the slaves must have felt when they were hiding, awaiting their journey to the North and to freedom. 

Several days after this visit, the girls are bored, trying to find something interesting to do.  When Laird disappears, they find that he has fallen into a hole.  After Laird is rescued, it is discovered that the hole leads to an underground storage cellar.  The girls are curious about what they might find in the cellar.  What they find leads to their own adventure, which ties in, once again, to the Underground Railroad.  Their exciting discovery lands the girls on the front page of the local newspaper.

This is a book that teaches children about an important part of our history in an interesting way.  After each chapter are questions which are answered in the Learning More section at the end of the book.  This section provides information, photographs and drawings which expand upon the story.  I felt this was a nice touch since the author provides answers to questions that might be cropping up as inquiring young minds read this book .  The illustrations throughout the book are well done and add to the story.

Having said this, I must mention that there were drawbacks in the mechanics of the book which I feel could have been avoided by a good editing job.  Since I feel this was a nice story, I wish that these editing concerns, particularly the page formatting, could have been addressed before the book was published.

In spite of these reservations, I would still recommend this book.  It is an interesting and informative story about the Underground Railroad.  I like how the author provokes thought about slavery and the desperation that would make slaves risk everything for freedom.  I also appreciate how the author wants the readers to stop and think about what life was like for the slaves, what it must have been like to be in hiding, and what the Underground Railroad physically consisted of.  And I enjoyed the warm relationship between Ginger and her grandparents, emphasizing that grandparents have much to offer their grandchildren.  Curiosity is a children's book and from that vantage point, I feel that it has much to offer young readers.

Reviewed by Nancy Machlis Rechtman


An Interview with Gerald Allen (Jerry) Wunsch



To start this off, why don't you give an idea of what the book is about?


Curiosity is a childrens novel suitable for grades 3 to 6.  Its a contemporary mystery story about the Underground Railroad set in southern Indiana.  In Curiosity, two precocious fifth graders, Ginger Wanamaker and Irene Fong spend the summer at Gingers grandparents house in the Hoosier Hills of southern Indiana.  With the help of a little wire fox terrier Laird, they discover that the old house was once a station on the Underground Railroad.



Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?


I grew up in Anaheim, California.  I took a creative writing class in the ninth grade and have been interested in writing ever since.  I love to read, especially history and historical fiction.



Who were your earliest influences and why?


By the time I was sixteen I had read all John Steinbecks novels and short stories.  He was my earliest literary influence; he always had great compassion for life.  I also loved poetry in high school, especially modern poets such as Robert Frost, T.S. Elliot, and E.E. Cummings.

What would a typical day be like for a writer?


Well, for me a typical day is to get up at around 4 a.m., read the NY Times on line, and work on my current writing project.  I enjoy writing early in the morning after two cups of fairly-traded, shade-grown coffee while it is quiet outside, except for an occasional chorus of crying coyotes.  Then during the day I sometimes get inspirations and jot them down.



How long have you been writing and in what capacities?


I have written some poetry over the years, three articles for law review journals (since Im a lawyer), a history of our church when it celebrated its sesquicentennial, three non-technical articles for a sports car magazine, and most recently my first childrens novel Curiosity.



Which is more difficult to write - Fiction or nonfiction and why?


This is tough for me to answer.  Each is difficult in its own way.  Non-fiction can be difficult because you constantly must check your facts, and there is always the fear that you have missed something.  Fiction, also, can be difficult if youre not sure where your story is heading.  Im not the sort of writer who can sit down and begin with Chapter One and simply have the story flow seamlessly.  I carefully outline chapters in advance and know before I ever start writing what the action in each chapter will be and how it will advance the overall story.



Has there ever been a time when you wanted to throw in the towel and give up? And if so, how did you defeat those instincts?


Not really.  I always seem to come up with new ideas.



What is the hardest part about being a writer?


Having the discipline to finish a project, whether its a novel, short story, or magazine article.



Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?


I enjoy owning and driving a classic MG sports car almost 50 years old.  It has inspired quite a bit of my writing in recent years.  Im also a lifelong numismatist and this dovetails with my interest in history, especially British and US history.  Finally, Im an avid swimmer but so far this has not entered into my writing, but who knows, maybe Ill do something someday titled The Loneliness of the Long Distance Swimmer.



Articles and media alike make it sound as though the only way to rise to the top is to sacrifice. What do you find to be good sacrifices?


The only sacrifice so far has been the lack of financial return on my book, but we hope that this will be rectified in time.  Actually, the time I have put into Curiosity has been rewarding and very enjoyable.



What question do you get asked more than any other?


What inspired you to write about the Underground Railroad?



Whats the coolest thing a reader has said to you?


. . .I could just picture myself going down in the little room and exploring the tunnel and the crawl space behind the Browns fireplace. . .  He [Jerry] should continue the adventures of Ginger and Irene and Laird on a new adventure each summer!  I would much rather read his books than that Harry Potter junk.  Ive had no desire to read anything based on witchcraft and I cant believe so many people let their children get into that.



What has been your feedback from readers? What do they say to you about their interpretations of your book?


See the quote above from a reader.  Also, children who have read the book say they really liked the suspense--not knowing exactly what Ginger and Irene would find as they explored the grandparents old house.




Do you think that as a writer you are more prone to watching what goes on around you and observing behaviors than most people are?


This is probably true of most writers.  My own skills were probably honed by practicing law over twenty years and observing clients behavior closely.  But, in addition, a childrens writer needs to have good long-term memory.  That is, he needs to remember what it was like to be a child.



Who are some of the authors you consider to be "don't miss"?


Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, John Le Carre, Ambrose Bierce, Barbara Tuchman, Gordon Prange



If one were looking to start his/her own career as a writer, what would you suggest his/her first step to be?


Learn to use the English language correctly.  This includes syntax, spelling, and grammar.  Ive found that too many aspiring writers dont know these basics.  Writers need to edit their own work or be able to recognize their need for an editor.



What kind of movies do you enjoy?


Recently, Seabiscuit.  Generally, films with good acting and a minimum of special effects; therefore, I like classic Hollywood and foreign films.  A good example would be Adams Rib or any of the Tracy/Hepburn pairings.  Bringing up Baby is a beautifully acted, madcap comedy starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant.  It also stars Asta, a wire fox terrier like our dog Laird (who loves watching dogs or animals on TV).



What is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldnt want to live in?


New York City, where our son and his family live.



Whats the strangest question youve ever been asked in an interview?


Maybe this will happen in the next two days when Im interviewed both on radio for half an hour and live on television for two and a half minutes.



Whats the best part of being a writer?


Going into a library and seeing your book on the shelf, or even better, checking the catalogue and seeing that all copies of your book are checked out.



What's next?


Another childrens book is in the works, but Id rather not discuss the details.



Betsie's Literary Page would like to thank Gerald Wunsch for allowing us to do this interview and wish him every bit of success with his present novel, as well as with all future works.



Contact info: Gerald Allen (Jerry) Wunsch, 10019 N. State Road #135, Freetown, IN 47235-8517

(812) 497-0067; mgwunsch@compuage.com