Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl is the author of the children's picture book Sleep Well, Siba & Saba. She also has written the picture book Sing to the Moon. She works in the area of international development in East and Southern Africa.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Sleep Well, Siba & Saba?
A: The storyline of the book is loosely based on my own experiences. There was a small window of time in my life when I would dream things, and then they would happen the very next day – some things were insignificant while some were very significant. I thought the magic of that could make a nice story for children.
The broader idea for the book, though, was born from a desire to capture the beauty of Uganda in a way that could be shared with my own children—namely my daughter, Nsaba—as I wrote the book when I was pregnant with her.
Q: Why did you write the story with so many alliterative "s" sounds?
A: Aside from finding the “s” sounds soothing, I wanted to write a book in English that reminded me of my parents’ language, Luganda. It’s such a lyrical and mellifluous language. I think the alliteration came about naturally as I tried to recreate on paper and orally a story that resonated with my memories of listening to Luganda as a child.
Q: What do you think Sandra van Doorn's illustrations add to the book?
A: Sandra added a strong visual element of beauty to the story. Her illustrations were gorgeous and managed to capture my own dreams about how the story should look and feel. I couldn’t have asked for a better visual representation. Having never been to Uganda, it must not have been easy for her to illustrate a story set there, but she did so beautifully.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: I hope kids take away from the story the very simple premise that dreams (as an extension of thoughts) are very powerful things. They deserve to be listened to and nurtured. They deserve room and space to grow in one’s life. And you never know when you will wake up to find a dream come true.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a few picture books in draft form that I’m hoping will find a publishing home this year and I’m also working on a very cool middle grade biography title that is part of a UK-based series.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Well, I guess that writing children’s books set in or related to Africa is part of a much larger conversation for me.
I also work in the areas of contemporary African art and international development and I hope to one day produce a beautiful visual and literary product that combines all these interests (visual art, picture books, and Africa “rising”) as my tribute to the grace and dignity of the continent.
There is so much beauty everywhere in the world. No place, country, or continent should be overshadowed by the limited perceptions people hold of it. Thank you.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Sleep Well, Siba & Saba is a winner of the 2018 Children's Africana Book Awards.