Sunday, January 26, 2020

Q&A with Alison Donald

Alison Donald's picture book for kids include AdoraBULL and The Spacesuit. A pediatric occupational therapist, she lives in Surrey, England.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for AdoraBULL, and why did you decide on a bull for one of the two main characters?

A: Alfred is real! Well sort of. My husband grew up on a farm and he told me about a bull named Alfred. I started wondering what if a boy and a bull were best friends.? What could that be like? 

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

A: Empathy for others.  That’s a tall order, I know, but I hope it gets children thinking…How would I feel if I was Alfred. What would I do if my best friend was lonely?

Q: You also have another recent book out, The Spacesuit. How did you research this book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?

A: With The Spacesuit I switched gears completely and wrote my first narrative non-fiction book. When researching the book, I read books and articles about the fabrication of the A7L spacesuit, and I also got in touch with ILC Dover (the manufacturers of the A7L spacesuit). 

I learned a ton about how spacesuits are made.

I love the true story of how Eleanor Foraker and a group of seamstresses who worked at Playtex (a division of ILC DOVER years ago) won a competition that enabled them to handmake the spacesuits worn for the iconic 1969 moonwalk. I learned about latex, properties of spacesuits, sewing techniques and so much more. 

I was surprised to learn that an x-ray machine was used to detect any pins that may have been accidentally left in the suit. 

Q: What do you think the illustrators--Alex Willmore and Ariel Landy--add to the books?

A: Illustrators breathe life into a picture book. I have been so lucky to work with some excellent illustrators. 

I love the humor that Alex brought to AdoraBULL and I love how Ariel really captured the fashion and style of the mid-1960s in The Spacesuit.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My next book, by me and Rea Zhai, A Super Sticky Mistake, will be out in the spring. It tells the story of how Harry Coover Jr. accidentally invented Superglue.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I’m very excited to say that The Spacesuit has been included in A Mighty Girl’s top book list for 2019.  

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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