|Photo by Shane Macomber|
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Sarah's Solo?
A: Sarah’s Solo was loosely based on a true story about my friend’s daughter missing her dance recital to attend a family event. It is also based a bit on my own children missing many games, meets, and sleepovers for family and religious events.
Q: What do you think Paula Wegman's illustrations add to the story?
A: I absolutely love Paula’s illustrations. The colors are so vibrant and the expressions on Sarah’s face are just as I envisioned! As this is my debut picture book, I was thrilled to see it come to life at Paula’s hand.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: In writing this book, I wanted children to see the value of celebrating cultural and religious events. While Sarah is understandably let down when she can’t perform the solo at her dance recital, she does the right thing by showing up for her cousin.
Judaism puts a high value on joyously celebrating life-cycle events like weddings and bar mitzvahs, Shabbat, and holidays, and that is what Sarah ultimately does.
Every Jewish child has been told the story of the Dodgers baseball player Sandy Koufax who famously chose not to play in Game 1 of the World Series in 1965 when it fell on Yom Kippur. If Koufax could miss a World Series game, we tell our children, surely you can miss your t-ball game.
My own kids have missed countless soccer and softball games, cheer meets, and the like to attend synagogue for the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, to celebrate a friend’s bar or bat mitzvah, and to observe the Jewish Shabbat—it was tradition in our home to stay in on Friday nights to light candles, eat challah, and have family dinner.
Q: How did you first get interested in writing children's picture books?
A: I have always loved writing. I graduated from Brown University in 1986 with a degree in English and planned to be a writer (that didn’t happen until much later--I went to law school instead!).
I have always had a great love of children’s picture books. When my own children were growing up, I collected books with their names in the title or as characters in the book.
I was lucky my kids had common names—Sammy, Annie, and Katie—and hit the jackpot with The Diggingest Dog which featured a main character with my son’s full name, Sammy Brown.
About 15 years ago, I started teaching preschool and just for fun wrote books to share with my students. I didn’t take this hobby seriously, however, until I became an empty nester and went back to school and received a Fellowship in Children’s Literature from Stony Brook University.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have several books in the works. My two favorites are one about a child who goes on a nature walk with his Grandpa and one about a squirrel family that becomes homeless after a big storm.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I am now represented by William Morris Endeavor and there are plans in the works to bring many more of my stories to children everywhere soon!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb