Emmy-award winning journalist, consultant and author Markette Sheppard recently released her second highly-acclaimed picture book MY RAINY DAY ROCKET SHIP, a beautifully crafted and timely story that buoys children’s hopeful spirit. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to connect with Sheppard and share her perspective here.
Whether from a rainstorm or pandemic, every child can connect with the feelings of both isolation and possibility when stuck inside. Sheppard gives her protagonist boundless agency to transform a rocking chair, cardboard box and dish rag into a rocketship that transforms an imagined world into a heart-stopping reality. And Charly Palmer’s illustrations?! Out of this world (… couldn’t help myself).
Consider purchasing MY RAINY DAY ROCKET SHIP from your favorite local indie— what a way to support small business and this incredible creator at the same time!
What is your favorite line from My Rainy Day Rocket Ship?
My favorite part of My Rainy Day Rocket Ship is when the parents get involved and start helping their son with his creative endeavor. His imagination is supported when mom and dad get involved, which ultimately launches him into… “a whole new world in a different place–a galaxy off in outer space!”
Can you imagine what that world would look like, feel like, be like in that new place? I want to challenge my little and big readers alike to imagine the glorious possibilities!
You give your protagonist significant agency to transform the mundane into the unstoppable. Can you share more about this idea and how it came to you?
I believe children have an innate sense of creativity to transform the mundane into the spectacular! All I did was document this through creative storytelling. So, I kind of believe I was just capturing the spirit of childhood in my story.
The idea for My Rainy Day Rocket Ship came to me in the middle of the night. I remember waking up with the idea of a little boy pretending to be an astronaut in his living room. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper and started writing right there in my PJs as I lay in bed. I believe in inspired thought, so whenever I feel as if I have a good idea, I usually take a moment to jot it down.
Your book feels especially resonant given the urgent discussion around centering Black joy and excellence in kids literature. Did this play a role in your storytelling?
I’m so thrilled to be able to add a spark of joy to the national narrative at a time of so much sadness. I wrote the stories a few years ago and it takes a while to go to print, but the timing of the release date couldn’t have been more relevant as kids have been stuck at home for months now and they are having figure out creative ways to thrive.
I’m happy to have contributed this positive message featuring an African-American boy to media and literature at this moment in time.
Overall, I just want to write good stories that celebrate the joy and beauty in all children’s lives, and humankind for that matter. The characters in my books, My Rainy Day Rocket Ship and What Is Light? just happen to be Black children, but the stories have universal themes.
What do you hope children take away from this story?
I hope children read My Rainy Day Rocket Ship and What Is Light?, and my future books and feel a boat of confidence by seeing themselves represented in my stories in an authentic way. I want all kids to know that they have a light in them and they should let their lights shine through creativity, kindness and however they best express themselves.
My Rainy Day Rocket Ship was released less than two years after your highly-acclaimed debut. Can you share a meaningful moment in your journey of bringing this book to life?
Yes! I received the book deal for My Rainy Day Rocket Ship on the release date of my first book, What Is Light?, which had reached No. 1 on Amazon’s bestsellers list prior to its debut in the children’s “Sense & Sensation” category.
My publisher sent me a very kind e-mail that read something along the lines of, “Happy book birthday! I’d like to offer you the opportunity to publish another book!” I could not have been more thrilled!
When did you know you wanted to write for children?
I remember being in labor with my son 6 years ago and being very nervous. The labor & delivery nurse started making small talk to calm me down. She asked me what I did for a living and I told her I was a broadcast journalist. She casually replied, “Well, maybe you can write children’s books now.” I didn’t think anymore of it for months. But, as I started reading more and more books to my newborn baby, the thought came back to me that maybe I could write stories just as good and maybe even better! “Wouldn’t that be cool?,” I thought. I started writing stories in my journal and it took off from there.
Do you have a writing habit or quirk that has served you well?
I like to write with a pen and paper! I know it sounds old school, but even though I’m tech savvy and very comfortable tablet and laptop writing– I think there’s something magical about the exercise of putting a pen to paper and hand writing your thoughts out. After I have handwritten a story, I type it up and do edits on my laptop, but the first draft is always handwritten.
My Rainy Day Rocket Ship was published by Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 5, 2020.