Thursday, August 6, 2020

Q&A with Leah Henderson

Leah Henderson is the author of The Magic in Changing Your Stars, a new middle grade novel for kids. Her other books include One Shadow on the Wall and Mamie on the Mound. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Magic in Changing Your Stars, and for your character Ailey?

A: The Magic in Changing Your Stars came about because of a walk with my dog. He led me to a special statue in Richmond, Virginia. When I looked up, I was staring at the tap shoes of the famous tap dancer, movie star, and Richmond native Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Suddenly I had the thought that these shoes had so much more to say.

I would have loved for the story to come fully formed back then, but that was definitely not what happened. It took many years, and far more drafts to find, Ailey, the protagonist, and The Magic in Changing Your Stars.

Q: Why did you decide to focus on dancing in this novel?

A: At his core, Bojangles Robinson was a tap dancer, so it felt only natural that the young protagonist in the story, Ailey, would love some form of dance too. He’s all about hip hop.

Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything especially surprising?

A: As far as research goes, I feel like so many parts of my own life have been research for this book. From learning about figures in Black history since I was very young, to taking dance, to having a strong familial bond—it’s all in this book. I’m not sure I learned anything truly surprising, but I did learn more about the generous and feisty spirit of Mr. Robinson, which made me even more of a fan!

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

A: That life is all about taking chances and trying and searching out our stars, because when we do, the outcomes can be magical on so many levels!

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My mind goes in 50 different directions at once, so I am working on a number of different things.

But I’m excited about two upcoming picture books of mine, Together We March: 25 Protest Movements that Marched into History and A Day for Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day. Both projects are on the horizon for 2021.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Hmmm, I don’t think so. But I do hope everyone is trying their best to stay safe during these uncertain times. Be well, everyone, and happy reading!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Leah Henderson.

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