Elizabeth Brown is the author of the new children's picture book Like a Diamond in the Sky: Jane Taylor's Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars. it focuses on the poet Jane Taylor (1783-1824). Brown also is the author of Dancing Through Fields of Color. She teaches music and writing, and she lives outside of Chicago.
Q: How did you learn about Jane Taylor, and at what point did you decide to write this book about her?
A: I had always wondered about the origins of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” the lullaby most children sing, especially after teaching music to young children as a violin teacher.
When I discovered it comes from a poem titled “The Star” by Romantic-era writer Jane Taylor, I decided to write the book. It was a fascinating journey into not only the poem but the culture and mindset of the times. I believed Jane’s struggle to become a published poet would interest young readers everywhere.
Q: What do you think Becca Stadtlander's illustrations add to the book?
A: Becca’s stunning illustrations highlight the time period so well. Her use of color captures not only the beauty of nature surrounding Jane’s upbringing in the country, but also Jane’s strong spirit. Becca’s lovely hues of lilac, golden yellows, and luscious blues illuminate the magic inherent in the world which Jane aspired to show with her words.
At the time Jane wrote her poems for children, the natural world was valued greatly by the Romantic-era poets as the Industrial Revolution took hold, often depriving childhoods to the young laboring in factories and industry for pennies a day.
Jane longed to give all children the beauty of the stars, the fresh country air, and the wonder of nature, even if they could only experience these though her words in books.
Q: What do Jane Taylor's experiences say about professional life for women poets and writers of her era in England?
A: It was definitely very difficult for women writers in Jane’s time. Taylor’s publishing and ability to earn a profitable living from her writing was a rarity as most women battled societal constraints that hampered their ability to follow their dreams or dealt with the constant expectations to marry and raise families.
Jane possessed the personality and perseverance to make it as a writer when many others struggled.
Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, “Brown’s luminous portrait of a literary life will inspire budding writers and encourage an appreciation of the beauty of the night sky.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I love Kirkus’ description! I feel the book speaks to young writers as well as helps children appreciate the beauty of the stars and sky. I hope they take away the importance of fighting for their dreams and never giving up. I feel this is so crucial for today’s young people, and I hope Jane’s story will inspire children everywhere.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Currently, I am working on five other books and outlining a couple new projects as well. My next book, The World Entire, is forthcoming from Chronicle Books in Fall 2023.
It’s always fun to start new books, but the art of writing is all in the revision process for me; therefore, I revise for long periods of time before I feel a book is ready. Like a Diamond in the Sky was no exception!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Jane Taylor was such a luminary in poetry, writing for children at a time when books taught morals and manners and were more educational than anything else. Not only did she pen the words to the one of most famous lullabies, but Jane sparked a revolution in children’s literature, writing books that children loved to read.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb