Interview with Nancy Redd— Bedtime Bonnet

If there was ever any doubt why representation matters in picture books, look no further than Nancy Redd’s Bedtime Bonnet. The award-winning on-air host, bestselling author, former Miss Virginia and GLAAD-Award nominee’s debut picture book is a vision. 

Nighttime bonnets have been historically tucked away from mainstream consumption, a shame-inducing reality that Redd shares impacted her childhood. When she witnessed it shaping her daughter’s, she was inspired to write this book. This is what makes a story centered on a multi-generational Black family’s nighttime rituals such a groundbreaking one. Each page is packed with Nneka Meyers‘ richly textured illustrations of locs, curls, du-rags, silk scarves, wave caps, rollers and doobie wraps.

This story also underscores why picture books centered on under-represented groups don’t just benefit the children who finally get to see their lived reality reflected in books. It matters for other children— white children— who now, because of this book, are broadening their awareness and de-centering their own stories.

Thank you for this joy-filled, touching celebration of family, Nancy! I hope everyone reading this will find your favorite local indie bookstore online, snag a copy and share the love! 


What is your favorite line from Bedtime Bonnet?

“When the sun comes down, our hair goes up!”

You described your now 6-year-old daughter as the inspiration for this story. What is it like to finally read your book to her?

Amazing!  Especially since she loves her bonnet now.  Proof that a little representation can make anything possible!

You talk about wanting children to see bonnets as a source of pride, not shame. What role do you think picture books can play in re-shaping this narrative?

Picture books are the cornerstone of childhood, and the more kids see themselves in them, the better self-esteem they’ll have!  

Can you share a meaningful moment in your journey of bringing this book to life?

My daughter started drawing bonnet fan art when Nneka Myers’ beautiful BEDTIME BONNET cover arrived last year!  It was so sweet to see how excited my daughter was!  She wants to be an artist when she grows up, and Nneka is an amazing role model. 🙂

I knew I wanted to be a writer when…

I was in elementary school spending waaay too much time on essay and journal assignments that were supposed to be perfunctory!  I’d take a paragraph assignment and turn it into a multi-page saga, ha!

Do you have a writing habit or quirk that has served you well?

I have the ability to sit in one place for days at a time without getting antsy. I’m not saying it’s healthy but it helps when there is a deadline looming.

Who are your writer heroes?

All of the people, in particular the women, and especially women of color, who are writers at heart, but life dictated a different path for them, making it virtually impossible to put their words down on the printed page for people to enjoy.  I feel that so many folks have books inside of them, but whether by desire or necessity, they prioritized the success of others above their own goals and capacities. These “unwritten” writers are my heroes, because they sacrificed their dreams for mine and countless others.

Do you have words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

WRITE.  JUST WRITE.  Something, anything! What are you waiting for? Get to writing!

How would your story’s multi-generational family spend time together during a shelter in place?

Grandma might take this chance to give up on the sponge rollers and let her natural curls finally peek through. Mom and Sis would spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos on how to box braid and cornrow hair.  Grandpa would keep shaving and telling corny jokes, Bro might convince Dad to try starter locs, and the little girl would probably just enjoy all the attention everyone in her family is paying her and her hair now that they’re all at home together!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Thank you for thinking of me!!  I hope to have inspired someone to write today!


Bedtime Bonnet was published by Random House Books for Young Readers on April 7, 2020


Interview with Merriam Sarcia Saunders— My Wandering Dreaming Mind

It was an honor to interview author and therapist Merriam Saunders about her latest book. Perhaps more powerful than Saunders’ extensive credentials in psychotherapy is her ability to craft a tender story that allows children to feel seen and valued. 

My Wandering Dreaming Mind follows Sadie, a creative spirit who struggles to pay attention at home and school. With the help of strips of paper and a jar, she comes to embrace her wandering, dreaming mind for all that it offers. This is a book I so desperately wish I had when I was in the classroom, and not just for my students with a diagnosed attention disorder. It helps all students cultivate understanding and compassion around what it is like to struggle with focus. The back matter is an especially critical resource for parents and caregivers with information on ADHD, self-esteem and orienting children towards the positives.

If you’re looking for ways to support your local bookstore and celebrate this meaningful story: 

  1. Find your favorite indie bookstore online 
  2. Snag a copy of My Wandering Dreaming Mind
  3. Share the love!

Thank you, Merriam, for sharing your expertise in a way that respects and affirms all kids.

What inspired this story?

My mother! My first picture book, MY WHIRLING, TWIRLING MOTOR, features a hyperactive little boy whose parents share with him all the wonderful things he does all day at bedtime— instead of focusing on all the trouble he gets into. My mother suggested I write a version featuring a little girl and voila! Always listen to your mother.

I believe your book is a must-read book for all children, not just those with attentional issues. As a mom and educator, it gave me a better understanding of the lived experience of children with attention deficit disorders. From that understanding comes compassion. What do you hope children take away from this story?

Oh, so much!! Children who struggle with differences often feel alone, feel they are bad or at least that everyone else thinks they’re bad. My hope is that those children understand that many kids struggle with similar issues and that we all have both challenges and strengths. I hope it helps them to focus on their strengths and to create self-compassion for their areas of challenge. For children who might not share the struggles of my characters, I hope it helps pave the road to empathy and understanding for others.

A meaningful moment in your journey of bringing this book to life?

The first book I wrote about a character with ADHD is actually a middle grade novel that releases next year—TROUBLE WITH A TINY T (Capstone). This book paved the road for my two published picture books, because that manuscript found my awesome agent who right away understood the importance of the message and the need in the market for these stories. Finding her was probably the most meaningful moment in the journey.

I knew I wanted to be a writer when…

I took my first breath? LOL. I was a big reader as a child and at age 10, I developed a regular pen-pal friendship with a middle grade author, Carolyn Sheehan. Her letters were instrumental in cultivating my dream of authoring one day. Then a few years ago, a friend wrote a novel which inspired me to try it. I was hooked!

Valued writing habit or quirk? 

I try to write every day. I will usually read the tail end of what I wrote yesterday to ground myself, and then just plow ahead. I also read a lot, but not just for pleasure–I read to analyze how others craft their prose.

Words of wisdom for aspiring writers? 

I’m sorry to say it, but what you write is probably never as good as your mother thinks it is! Hone your talent, read a lot of craft books, surround yourself with writers, take their feedback, go to workshops and read, read, read in your genre–get better and don’t give up. It may take a lot longer than you want, but use that time to improve while your dream unfolds and keep writing!

Writer hero(es)?

 So many! J.R. Tolkein, Stephen King, Isabelle Allende and Tom Robbins. My favorite kid authors are Rebecca Stead, Rainbow Rowell, Katherine Applegate, Jandy Nelson, Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Creech and Lauren Wolk. 

3 words that speak to your current state of mind? 

Grateful, Optimistic and a wee bit Tired

What is giving you hope today? 

My children. They were a rascally bunch growing up, but they have developed into such caring, funny, thoughtful humans. If there are a few more like them out there, then there is much hope.

Anything else you’d like to share? 

I am one of the luckiest people alive to be able to invent stories that talented folks illustrate and publishers want to print. Sharing my words with the world is a privilege that I appreciate every day. I hope those words bring light, support and joy to others.


My Wandering Dreaming Mind is published by Magination Press and launched on April 14, 2020

Interview with Hena Khan— Like the Moon Loves the Sky

Ramadan Kareem! It is a joy to share my conversation with Hena Khan during this holy month in the Islamic faith. Hena’s words are tender and true. 

LIKE THE MOON LOVES THE SKY, richly illustrated by Saffa Khan, anchors parents’ unconditional love in the Arabic phrase “Inshallah,” meaning, “if G-d wills it.” I connect deeply to the wishes and dreams expressed by the mother in this story, and it has brought me to tears when reading it to my own boys. Hena’s award-winning stories have made countless Best Book lists, including those from Washington Post, NPR, Kirkus Reviews and more.

If you are moved by this gorgeous book and are looking for ways to support your local independent bookstore during the pandemic: 

1) Find your favorite indie online, 

2) Order LIKE THE MOON LOVES THE SKY for yourself or someone you love and 

3) Spread the word!


3 words that speak to your current state of mind? 

Grateful. Anxious. Hopeful.

Your book so beautifully captured my own feelings of love and hope for my children. Your words feel universal, and yet very personal. What inspired this story?

My children inspired this story. Although they are teens now, my wishes for them remain the same as when they were much younger. I loved the idea of introducing the word inshallah and simplifying messages from the Quran to a very basic and accessible level that I hope will appeal to a wide audience.

What do you hope children take away from this story?

I hope children take away a feeling of comfort, like a warm embrace, and the feeling of being cared for, protected, and loved.

Can you share a meaningful moment in your journey of bringing this book to life?

I always give my mother one of the first finished copies I receive of my books, and was grateful to be able to do that again with this one. Many of the gorgeous illustrations in the book of mother and daughter snuggling together make me think of her and my childhood. My mother taught me to read, and the spread that says, “Inshallah you seek knowledge, reflect and read” was inspired by her encouraging me. It’s my very favorite scene in the book. 

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I started to do it in my free time as a child, drafting poems, plays and a family newspaper. But it took me a long time to believe in myself and recognize that I was in fact always a writer.

Do you have a valued writing habit or quirk?

I have an amazing group of writers that I meet with once a month and can’t say enough how much their insight and input helps strengthen my work. Writing is often a solitary act, but getting other people you respect to read your work can help keep you accountable and motivated. 

Who are your writer heroes? 

I have so many! But my biggest are Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Jhumpa Lahiri. 

What are your words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

Anyone can be a good writer. It’s not a gift we are born with. Like any skill, it just takes practice and patience and learning from the greats, which means READING a lot!

What is giving you hope today?

Hugs from my kids, stories of kindness and humanity in the midst of tragedy, and faith that we will come out of this collectively stronger and wiser, inshallah.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m so honored to be a part of people’s lives, and to know they are sharing my stories with their children. I like to imagine all the homes that are turning to books for an escape, for entertainment, and for togetherness. Thank you all—I am sending love and best wishes! 


Likes the Moon Loves the Sky is published by Chronicle Books and launched on March 10, 2020


Interview with Author Carole Lindstrom— We Are Water Protectors

In anticipation of Earth Day tomorrow, I am grateful to celebrate Carole Lindstrom’s words of warning, encouragement, and hope. 

Carole is of Anishinaabe/Métis descent and is tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. Her book We Are Water Protectors, illustrated by the brilliant Michaela Goade, tells of the bravery and activism of one girl and her community as they fight against the “black snake” of oil pipelines built on Native lands. The story was inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, like the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe standing up against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Miigwech, Carole, for your activism and voice! 

If you’re looking for a way to support your local bookstores, authors and illustrators who released books during the pandemic, *and* celebrate Earth Day: 

  1. Find your favorite indie online, 
  2. Buy the book for yourself or someone you love, and 
  3. Spread the word. 

5 words that speak to your current state of mind:

Content, Optimistic, Grateful, Hopeful, Hungry – cuz I haven’t eaten breakfast yet. 🙂

You have shared how your story is inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, like the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe standing up against the Dakota Access Pipeline. What do you hope children take away from this story?

I hope that children will see this story as a call to action. That they can become Water Protectors and effect the well-being of the planet. I also hope that it will draw attention to the fact that we (Native Peoples) are still here and we are still fighting for the planet.

What is your favorite line from the book?

“We fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.”

I am struck by the fierce agency you give your child protagonist. What was your process of developing this justice-seeking character?

I just thought of myself and used me as the model for the character. This was all the things that I was thinking and feeling and through the character, I was able to coax them out onto the page. 

What is a meaningful moment in your journey of bringing this book to life?

Gosh, so many….but I would say one of the best was meeting my wonderful and amazing agent. And the fact that she saw what this story could be. 

I knew I wanted to be a writer when…

I was a kid and spent all of my extra time at the library down the street from my house. 

Who is your writer hero? 

Louise Erdrich

Plot or characters first?


Valued writing habit or quirk?

Having my baby of chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels beside me. 🙂

Do you have words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

Never, ever, ever give up! No matter how many rejections you receive. No matter how many naysayers you encounter on your journey. Always believe in yourself and keep honing and working at your craft. It will happen. 

What is giving you hope today?

Young people give me hope. They get it. They understand how important it is to save our planet and how dire the situation is. They give me hope. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am grateful for this opportunity to share a bit about me. Miigwech for allowing me this time and space. Be safe and well. 



We Are Water Protectors is published by Roaring Books Press and launched on March 17, 2020

Interview with Maya Tatsukawa— The Bear in My Family

It was a privilege to interview author and illustrator Maya Tatsukawa about her debut book The Bear in My Family! This delightful release has received wide praise, including a starred review from Kirkus!

The Bear in My Family offers a welcome take on sibling dynamics, at once humorous and heartwarming in a way that feels deeply relatable for families.

If the story resonates with you, I hope you will:

  1. Find your favorite indie bookstore online (mine are Books, Inc. and Keplers)
  2. Order The Bear in My Family for yourself or someone you love
  3. Spread the word! Share this post, write about the book on your own platforms, keep the buzz alive. It is a win : win : win for your community, the author, and for YOU. You will fall in love with this story!

My oldest cannot get over the surprise twist at the end of the story. He demands we read it over and over again— the ultimate sign of a beloved picture book! Where did the idea for The Bear in My Family first spark?

I enjoy books with a surprise or plot twist. And one day, I was walking back to my house when I suddenly thought, wouldn’t it be funny if a kid is living with a bear. But at the very end, we find out it’s an older sibling! I quickly wrote it down on my list of ideas in my phone.

What is your favorite line from the book? 

“The bear sleeps there.”

Our two sons each take turns being like the bear in your story. It has become such a helpful metaphor for when one kid provokes the other, but also for the importance of protecting each other. What do you hope kids take away from this story? 

There are so many take-aways that emerged in this story from when I first started this book. But my original intention was, even when we’re annoyed by family members, we love them and they love and care about us too! 

What is a meaningful moment in your journey of bringing this book to life?

This is my first picture book, so there have been many meaningful moments throughout the whole journey. But the best part was probably when my editor surprised me with an offer for a contract. I used to work as a designer with the awesome Dial team before I moved abroad for a bit. It was almost 2 years since I had been back to the states, so I had to include a visit to the old Penguin offices. Until then, I occasionally shared dummies but never expected anything. I was just grateful that my former colleagues would take the time to read them and offer any feedback. I also became close friends to an editor (who became my editor for the Bear book) after I left Dial.

A couple of weeks before my visit, I sent her an email reminding her of the date but she never responded. I thought it was strange but later realized, it was the only way for her to keep the offer a secret until she could surprise me in person! 

Plot or characters first? 

Hmm… It depends. I feel like both are very intertwined when I get an idea. 

Illustrator hero?

So many and I’m always discovering new ones! But my favorites as a kid were Gomi Taro, Tove Jansson, James Marshall. I still look to them for inspiration. 

Words of wisdom for aspiring illustrators? 

I don’t know if I qualify to give words of wisdom since I’m always questioning myself as an illustrator. But I try to remind myself to not be so hard on my work or my pace. And to not compare myself with all of the talented artists around the world. If I start to feel lost, I remember what I hope to achieve through my art and stories — making the reader/viewer smile or laugh, and hopefully add a small piece of happiness to their day.

What is giving you hope today? 

The acts of compassion and love I hear about, especially with everything that’s going on right now.  

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

It feels strange to be promoting my book with the current global situation. So I’ve been trying to find a way I can do that while also helping out the indie bookstores, libraries, and publishing industry. I’m hoping to draw some Instagram posts to create awareness and remind people of ways they can support the book industry, so all of the people behind the scenes can continue providing great books to readers! And maybe make some coloring pages for the kids (& adults!) cooped up inside.


The Bear in My Family is published by Dial Books and launched on March 10, 2020

Interview with Reza Dalvand— Mrs. Bibi’s Elephant


What a joy to engage in this conversation, especially while sheltering in place over 7,000 miles apart! Iranian author and illustrator Reza Dalvand is internationally recognized for his dynamic artwork and storytelling. He has published over 15 books across Asia, Europe and North America. 

Mrs. Bibi’s Elephant tells the story of how a unique friendship pushes the boundaries of expectations to show a whole village the true meaning of home. 

If the story resonates with you, I hope you will:

  1. Find your favorite indie bookstore online (mine are Books, Inc. and Keplers)
  2. Order Mrs. Bibi’s Elephant for yourself or someone you love
  3. Spread the word! Share this post, write about the book on your own platforms, keep the buzz alive. It is a win : win : win for your community, the author, and for YOU. You will fall in love with this story!

5 words that speak to your current state of mind: 

Quarantine, hope, illustration, life, love

How did you dream up such a vivid, winsome story? 

The basis of the story was from a few years ago when my neighbour had a cat. She was an old woman and she spent most of her time with her cat. It was a little strange to the other neighbors, but I thought the cats were so cute. So, I mixed it with dreams and a drama, and of course a giant elephant!

Favorite line from Mrs Bibi’s Elephant?

“Everyone learned that home is more than. just a place for fancy objects and economics. It’s a place for living.”

What do you hope kids take away from this story? 

Love, friendship, and accepting different thoughts and lifestyles.

A meaningful moment in your journey of bringing this book to life? 

When I finished the first page, my sister asked me: is she our granny!? When I took a look, I thought: OMG! Yes she is! I had drawn her, even her dress and her hair style! From then on, I created with even more love.

I knew I wanted to be a writer when… 

At first, I wanted to be an illustrator. I studied Graphic Design in BA and MA in Illustration. But I had a lot of ideas— I had a notebook full of the storylines. So I started to write them when I was in college. I told myself: why not! It was so wonderful that I could illustrate my stories and the result was so nice 🙂  

Valued writing habit or quirk? 

I usually have a plot in my mind or a key sentence in my notebook. Then I work on the frames and the final text comes after the illustrations are finished! Sometimes I have a reverse process, too. Of course, a cup of tea and a quiet place are two important things to write!

Words of wisdom for aspiring writers and/or illustrators? 

Don’t despair and keep going. even if you have just an audience of one. 

What is giving you hope today? 

The good messages that I get from my readers. Sometimes I don’t know their location, language or culture! This tells me to keep going because you really can be effective in the world. It’s so valuable for me!


Mrs. Bibi’s Elephant is published by Flying Eye Books and launched on April 7, 2020

Interview with Raúl the Third— ¡VAMOS! Let’s Go Eat


I’m honored to kick off this interview series with the brilliant, Pura-Belpre Award-winning Raúl the Third! His recently released, widely-starred ¡VAMOS! LET’S GO EAT tells the bilingual story of Little Lobo as he bikes through his border town gathering delicious food truck treats to feed seven luchadores before their big match in el Coliseo. The talented Elaine Bay colored the images. 

If the story resonates with you, I hope you will:

  1. Find your favorite indie bookstore online (mine are Books, Inc. and Keplers)
  2. Order ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat for yourself or someone you love
  3. Spread the word! Share this post, write about the book on your own platforms, keep the buzz alive. It is a win:win:win for your community, the author, and for YOU… this book is a treasure!

Without further ado… enjoy the following conversation with Raúl the Third!

Your favorite food from the book? Mine is el elote!

It’s hard for me to choose! I love so much of the food I drew. You can’t go wrong with tacos. There are so many varieties. For sure a breakfast burrito. Simple like huevos con frijoles or papas con rajas algo asi.

How would Little Lobo pass time during a shelter in place?

Little Lobo has been very helpful during this time. He is physically distancing himself, washing his hand, making sure he is keeping a clean ship but he is also making deliveries. Many people in his neighborhood are older so he is picking up groceries for them

I am so taken by the bustling streets, non-stop action, and vibrant community in your story. What I wouldn’t give to be exploring those food trucks with my friends and family right now! What do you hope kids take away from this story?

That life is about so much more than just ourselves and our closest loved ones. That we are a part of something much larger and everyone everywhere is important in making things work. That even a simple walk can be filled with stories and excitement.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I read my first comic book. I was probably 11 or 12 and the combination of art and story blew my young mind.

Do you write plot or characters first?

Usually situations pop into my head or maybe a visual for a spread. It’s pretty random but if ideas keep resurfacing  I pursue them and start taking notes. I always ask “What if?” This takes me in multiple directions. Once I’m working on final art I leave backgrounds open to opportunity for characters to interact. Their actions provide more story and on and on we go!

Do you have a valued writing habit or quirk?

I like to get things done and when it comes to drawing my ability to lose myself in the image. It seems very alive to me while I work on it.

Can you share a meaningful moment in your journey of bringing this book to life (drafting, querying, publishing, marketing, etc)?

Being asked by Kwame Alexander and Arielle Ekstut to be a part of Versify Books. I had been only an illustrator up until that point but they believed I should be writing and illustrating my own stories. I am now working on my fifth book with them and we have so many other interesting projects we are creating for the near future. My success as an artist has been successful because of the people who have supported me over the years. I couldn’t have done it without them.

What are your words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

Join a group of amazing people and make art together.

Who is your writer hero(es)?

A lot of my friends are my heroes in the way they approach their stories, their work ethic their life missions. Cathy Camper, Kwame Alexander, Phil Bildner, Isabel Quintero, Jerry Craft, Jarret Krosoczka. I’ve learned a lot from them.

What is giving you hope today?

November and the opportunity to begin healing all of the negativity that has overcome our country over the last four years.


¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat is published by Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and launched on March 24, 2020.

The Problem with Writing Picture Books

There is a fundamental problem with grown ups writing books for children: we are, well, grown up. Life experience has shaved down the edges of our reactions, beliefs and imaginations. I hear a sound coming from the closet at night? It’s probably nothing. A friend doesn’t want to share? Eh, I bet it’s not personal. The ice cream shop just ran out of my favorite flavor? Probably for the best. I forgot my Lactaid pills, anyway.

But how might our kids, the very people we are writing for, experience those moments? A sound in the closet is far from nothing… what if it’s a monster? No, an alien! NO… a monster alien! What is more personal than a friend not sharing? And excuse me as I duck for cover while you tell a 3-year-old to see the bright side of no more cotton candy ice cream with rainbow sprinkles… these aren’t silly experiences to be dismissed. They are big and real and worthy of concern!

So, back to that unavoidable issue of being all grown up. The obvious risk is writing stories that fall flat. But the far bigger one is that our readers will not feel seen, not feel understood and, ultimately, not feel connected.

For me, the path forward is doing all I can to reconnect with my child-like self. Though I may genuinely enjoy vegetables and throw out my back like a proper adult, I know that 5-year-old Caroline is still very much alive inside of me. To that end, here are a few favorite ways to embody my inner child in all her giggly, tantruming, uncoordinated glory:

  1. Spend time with real, live kiddos: Nothing beats going straight to the source. I’m lucky enough to have two children under three who offer endless perspective. Spend ten minutes in our house and you’ll witness the simple joy of pulling tissues from the box and see why shouting “poo” always gets a belly laugh. If you don’t have kids of your own, offer to hang out with your friends’ or family members’ kiddos. Ask them questions, play, imagine, and, most importantly… listen! The dialogue for your next story may just write itself.
  1. Think like a kid: My VCFA advisor, Mary Quattlebaum the Wise, kicks off each workshop with a mindfulness exercise. She encourages her students to remember the smells, sounds, flavors, textures and scenes from our childhoods. What games did you play? What made you laugh? What objects did you love to hold? Where did you feel safe? When did you feel unsafe? Sit with those memories and then pour that experience into your writing. Even if the words don’t come out in picture book form, they are likely to spark a tickle of an idea for stories down the road.
  1. Act like a kid: We know that our physical actions are deeply connected with both our memory and creativity… so start embodying that child-like, playful energy! Skip outside, roll in the grass, eat gummy bears, squeeze play-dough, finger paint, pick your nose, climb a tree, write a poem, stomp your feet, snatch a toy from a friend, scream “NO!!!”, scream “YESSS!!!”, belt out “Wheels on the Bus”… get weird! Get loose! Most importantly, let your feelings flow through you without judgment in whatever way feels organic in that exact moment.
  1. Read like a kid: There are few greater joys than sprawling out in a library and exploring stacks of picture books cover to cover. My favorite places to start are recommendations from your librarian or independent bookseller, Caldecott winners and honorees, and following suggestions from accounts and hashtags I admire (e.g. @theconsciouskid, #ownvoices, #weneeddiversebooks, etc). When I find a book I can’t shake, I type out the full manuscript so I can better understand what makes the story tick and compels me to turn the page.
  1. Soak up artifacts from childhood: My parents made the brilliant move of collecting my siblings’ and my paper trails throughout our childhoods. Ink prints of baby feet, crayon drawings, journal entries, and reams of angst-fueled letters about one injustice or another. Exploring these primary sources brings to life the authentic voice and emotion of that age. A slipped note under my mom’s door takes me right back to how responsible I felt for calming our family’s chaos, even in elementary school. A skeptical letter to the tooth-fairy at age 7 reminds me of how badly I wanted to believe. A Rosh Hashanah service program covered in pencil-scrawled games with my dad simplifies my affection for my Jewish identity.

These strategies usher in a helpful mindset to write, but also infuse life with such joy. And they allow me a bit more compassion when my sons splash all the bubbles onto the ground just to see if they’ll pop. Ultimately, they help me remember to seek out the monster aliens in my closet and ask them to kindly share their stories.

I’d love to hear your approach to writing for children! How do you find your voice?