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