Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Q&A with Karen Gray Ruelle




Karen Gray Ruelle is the author of the new children's picture book Jump for Joy. Her many other books include Bark Park. She lives in New York City.


Q: What inspired you to write Jump for Joy?


A: I’ve been crazy about dogs my whole life. My mom says when I was a toddler, I squealed with glee every time I saw a dog. I really wanted a dog of my own. When I was a kid, we moved to London, and I continued asking for a dog. No dice.


Then one day, there was a rare English snowfall and I made a snow dog. I loved Snowy and spent lots of time out there talking to him—until he melted. But my folks were worried about me talking to an imaginary dog and they finally caved and we got Angus, a stubborn but adorable Cairn Terrier.


I kept thinking about how little-kid-me made that dog out of snow because I thought it was the only way I would ever have a dog. The innocence and sweetness of it, and the determination to take care of myself and my needs.


Then I thought about how wonderful it would be if a dog felt the same way about wanting a kid. And then, one day, this whole story just poured out of me.


Q: What do you think Hadley Hooper’s illustrations add to the story?


A: As soon as my editor suggested Hadley as the illustrator, I knew it was the perfect choice. I was familiar with Hadley’s work both from her books and from her fine art.


In fact, we both had art in the same exhibition some years ago, and I’ve always remembered her gorgeous piece from “The Dog Show” at Mascot Studio/Pratzon Art Gallery.


I love what she did with the backgrounds in Jump for Joy, and the way the book bursts into color as soon as Jump and Joy find each other. And the way the two mirror each other visually (their poses, expressions, etc.)  


What’s amazing is that Hadley depicted Joy and Jump EXACTLY the way I had envisioned them. We never talked about it. It’s almost as though she peered into my mind and pulled them out with her paintbrush!


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book calls it a “wistful meditation on patience and discovery.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love that description. Both Jump and Joy have patience because they believe in themselves and know that they will find their way to fulfilling their desires and meeting their needs.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?


A: I hope my book will inspire young readers to believe in themselves and the beauty of the world, to trust their journey and their vision. And know that they can create their own happiness, that the joy is there, if you look for it! (pun intended!)


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on the second draft of a funny middle-grade novel about a wacky family. It features lots of animals, of course.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Although I didn’t illustrate Jump for Joy, I am an artist and illustrator as well as being a writer. I tend to switch back and forth. When I’m stuck in my writing, I do some art. And when I’m blocked in my art, I go back to writing.


Lately, I’ve been working on some small oil paintings of odd cats, and a series of whimsical collages on paper.


Another thing you should know is that I don’t just write picture books. I’ve written several works of nonfiction for older readers on the Holocaust, World War II spies, and hidden children. I’m also working on a collaborative novel for adults.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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