Tiffany Stone is the author of the new children's picture book Tallulah Plays the Tuba. Her other books include Teatime and Tree Song. She lives in Whonnock, British Columbia.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Tallulah Plays the Tuba?
A: Way back in high school, I played the tuba. As a tiny tuba-playing girl, I was an anomaly—and I loved it!
Jump forward many, many years. In an email exchange with the marketing manager about my previous book, I happened to mention my tuba-playing past. She thought a story about a little girl who really wants to play the tuba would make a great picture book.
I sat down almost immediately and wrote Tallulah Plays the Tuba, even though I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be working on something else at the time. Although it’s fiction, Tallulah is the most autobiographical of my books and my first that’s not in rhyme.
Q: Can you say more about your own relationship with musical instruments?
A: Besides the tuba, I also played the clarinet and piano as a kid. However, I hadn’t played anything since.
Writing Tallulah Plays the Tuba inspired me to take up the tuba again. I’ve just started and think it’s so much fun. My dog and cats don’t agree, though. They hide whenever I practise. And my husband says he can hear me outside in his garage!
Q: What do you think Sandy Nichols' illustrations add to the story?
A: I tend to be very sparing with text, probably because of my background as a poet. In Tallulah Plays the Tuba, there isn’t much description of Tallulah herself.
Sandy Nichols’ illustrations really bring her to life. I think Sandy has perfectly captured little Tallulah’s spunk and “bigness” of character. And I’m kind of envious of Tallulah’s wardrobe. There isn’t any physical description of Mr. Greenwood so most of his character is thanks to Sandy.
Sandy and Paul Covello, the art director, came up with idea of the school garden, which gives Tallulah the idea of how to solve her problem. I really love that picture books are a partnership, especially since I’m someone who can’t draw. At. All.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: Sometimes grown-ups underestimate kids, whether on purpose or not. Please don’t let us hold you back from pursuing your dreams. If you really want to do something, find a way. Like Tallulah, you might need to be a little creative.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: After not having written a children’s poetry collection for a while, I’m in the middle of working on one, about tiny things. And I just finished the final (hopefully) draft of a rhyming picture book based on the real-life story of a narwhal who was befriended by a pod of belugas.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Mr. Greenwood, Tallulah’s band teacher, is named after my real high school band teacher. However, the real Mr. Greenwood never told me I was too tiny to play the tuba. In fact, he encouraged me to do so.
Tallulah is tiny but word sleuths will notice that her name has “tall” in it. I didn’t do this on purpose . . . or did I?
I have two new picture books coming out in 2020: Knot Cannot with Dial Books for Young Readers in the spring and Silli’s Sheep with Schwartz & Wade in the fall. I think they are both pretty funny. I hope readers do too!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb