Apr 21, 2018

Interview with Baptiste Paul, Author of THE FIELD

I've been working hard to resist depression imposed by the seemingly endless, record-breaking April snow in our part of the country. In my prior post, here, I escaped the relentless cold and wind by traveling, virtually, to the tropics with two delightful new picture books, THE FIELD and ISLANDBORN. If you missed that post, I urge you to check out my reviews and get your hands on both books, sooner rather than later.
NorthSouth Books, 2018
In this post, the author of THE FIELD, Baptiste Paul, found time in his jam-packed life to join me for this interview about his debut picture book. Read on to get some peeks at his other books coming soon! 

I've known Baptiste for several years now, and his current success is exciting to experience. Some of his previous interviews can be read here, and here, in which he shares "the story behind the story". That includes a book trailer you won't want to miss.

Congratulations on the success of your debut picture book, Baptiste. You’ve described your excitement about sharing your vibrant memories of daylong play on St. Lucia. I thoroughly enjoyed THE FIELD and I look forward to sharing it directly with kids and as gifts. You're a busy man, so let's get this interview started. (Questions in black, Baptiste's responses in BOLD/blue)
Baptiste Paul, author

Q: One look at the cover of THE FIELD will have kids clamoring for it in libraries, classrooms, and bookstores. Since you’ve been on the road and meeting kids you’ve been able to see their reactions to your book in person. Can you tell us a bit about that experience? What kids have said? What someone said that surprised you?  If it was all that you hoped it would be?

BP: I enjoy sharing this book with kids. I usually start every presentation with the question, “Do you like to play?” Most times, all the kids’ hands shoot up, eager to tell me about their favorite things to do. Early on in this process, I realized my goal is to take kids on a journey. So I decided that at school visits I would meet the kids at their level literally— which usually means the floor. The kids form a circle around me while I read the book, pass a ball, and and make one-on-one connections. In the last few months, I have received more high fives and fist bumps than ever before. In fact, in my most recent tour of school visits, some kids were so well prepared for me by reading the book and bombarding me with questions that I forgot to even read my book during the presentation! (They kindly reminded me.) This is all to say, yes—the experience so far has been all I hoped for and more.

Since you asked, it surprises me sometimes when adults seek me out after the presentation to thank me for taking them to a special place and time in their lives where ‘play’ made them happy, too.

Q: How has “becoming a published author” changed your life- and feel free to be as concrete or as spiritual about it as you’d like! 

BP: The ride, the journey had been super duper fun but busy at the same time. I juggle many schedules. With children, school visits, a full-time job and an author-wife, there are always so many things going on. To be honest, writing books has never been about me — it’s all about the kids, the story, and what I can share or give. I want each child to take my story and make it their own, create memories, and just play.

Q: You have co-authored with your author-wife, Miranda Paul, a nonfiction picture book that will be available soon, ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL.  How did writing non-fiction change your approach to writing?

BP: We both enjoy writing non-fiction. Writing a book like Adventures To School required a lot of assistance from a number of people. Writing non-fiction is not only about the facts but making sure each person and culture is represented with dignity and care. Small details matter. Little parts are not insignificant and we’re grateful for people who helped us look over things, since there were multiple sources and each had different experiences.

Farmer Tantoh Nforba, 2005
Miranda and I also recently finished up the text for a book called I AM FARMER (Millbrook/Lerner, February 2019), which is a nonfiction picture book biography of Tantoh Nforba, an environmentalist from Cameroon. Tantoh is cultivating an organic farming movement in addition to bringing clean, sustainable water to villages in need. The book will shine a spotlight on his good work and tour proceeds will benefit the Save Your Future AssociationThese are both books I feel very proud to have worked on, and they shed light on important global topics.

(Cover image is not yet available for I AM FARMER, but you can learn more about it here.) 

Thank you, Baptiste, for sharing your time with us here, and doing all the work necessary to produce these amazing books and others still to come. Your hard work made me reflect on this:
little bee books, May 1, 2018

Any stubborn season of lingering snow is a bit of an analogy for a writer's life. Even when things take longer than expected, that sense of a never-changing, lifeless landscape will eventually reveal new life. The delay can even result in a more robust and vigorous abundance of colorful sprouts and blossoms than a milder season might produce. At least our eyes and hearts will view it in that way. 
When a debut author has  three picture books coming on the scene in less than a full year it may seem like an overnight success. Instead, like the passage of seasons, Baptiste's inspirations, research, memories, drafts, revisions, and submissions (with inevitable rejections) were all unseen by the public. Now, sprouting before our very eyes, we witness the first blossoms of a long and successful career. 
I'll take encouragement from that analogy to value those daily efforts, knowing they are setting the stage for even better times ahead. And, while working away, we should all remind ourselves of Baptiste's tagline: MAKE PLAY PART OF EVERY DAY!

Apr 18, 2018

Time for a Trip to the TROPICS! (Snow, Snow, Go Away!)

If the view from your window is anything like mine, you're appalled by the incongruity of the date on the calendar and the snow covering your world. Today's forecast here calls for even more snow, possibly five more inches! 
Whew, I'm back in control. Yes, I'm an adult. I know that the snow will disappear fairly soon and when it does, spring will burst forth with a vengeance. I'll welcome that with open arms, as will the rest of the midwest and east coast residents who, like me, want to see the last of this frozen precipitation.

I regained my perspective because of a virtual tropical getaway. Two new picture books provided a perfect antidote to the remnants of winter that are plaguing much of the country. 

NORTHSOUTH Books, 2018

For a satisfying virtual visit to the Caribbean, open the covers of THE FIELD.
Author  Baptiste Paul  grew up in St. Lucia, speaking Creole and playing with his siblings and neighbors at every opportunity. The spontaneous, free-wheeling, all-out "living in the moment" captured in this simple circle story lands the reader smack-dab in the scene: rounding up playmates, shooing the side-eye-ing cattle, and empathizing with every step, slip, slush, and GOOOOOOAAAAL along the way to exhaustion. The immersive experience of image, language (both English and Creole), and action make it clear that the author and illustrator, Jacqueline Alcantara, drew on densely familiar and memorable island life in their own experience.

DIAL Books for Young Readers
Then read and compare that with ISLANDBORN, written by Junot Diaz and Illustrated by Leo Espinosa. Young Lola lives in a dense but diverse urban neighborhood, one teeming with former islanders, people like her who once lived on the unnamed island on which she was born. Lola's intensity and sincerity in trying to complete her assignment, to draw the place she's originally from- a place she was too young to remember. 

Between the covers of both books you'll find such vibrant and energizing island life that you'll want to recommend them to readers via a sunny, island postcard. Both merit the attention of a wide audience, and kids will respond to both with exuberance that matches the stories and images on the pages.

Apr 16, 2018

Happy InternationalHaiku Day!

April 17 is the annual INTERNATIONAL HAIKU DAY. 

Much like the concise, precise, and incisive form of HAIKU, I'll try to keep this post brief and send you on your way to celebrate and explore some amazing haiku collections in picture books. 

If you missed it, you might start with a post here on April 1: H IS FOR HAIKU.  Or spend some reflective moments with the HAIKU books I recommended last year, HERE.

My final suggested link is from a blog you may want to follow, WHAT WE DO ALL DAY. Check out the HAIKU suggested HERE.

As promised, this is a compact little post, but I hope it has the impact to send you in search of these and other HAIKU picture books.

Be inspired. Be brave. 
Be bold.Try to write HAIKU. 
Voice your inner life!

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.