Q: What inspired you to create Peanut the Penguin?
A: I have always loved telling stories to my children. They are now 12 and 7 and they still love when I make one up at bedtime, if we are not reading a book.
Sometimes, I’d read to them books that I grew up with that were published in the '60s, before computer graphic illustrations. They were the old fairytales and other classics and I love them because of their expressive and vivid grammar and their hand-painted illustrations.
I’ve always found that there are no longer enough of this type of story on the bookshelves, that introduce kids to the more traditional story-telling with a feel-good theme and sympathetic characters -- the type I would make up at bedtime. Hence, Peanut the Penguin and his story.
And as I mentioned the illustrations – we barely find hand-painted pictures in children’s books anymore. So I felt compelled to bring out my brush and acrylics to really capture how I imagined the characters.
Q: Did you work on the text or the illustrations first, or both simultaneously?
A: Text first, but with an image of the main character, Peanut, in my mind, and in rough sketches with his family. Once the manuscript was approved by my publisher (Bold Story Press), then the images had to follow the page set-up to correspond to the text on each page. That’s when the illustrations were created.
Q: Did you need to do any research to write the book, and if so, did you learn anything surprising?
A: Actually, these penguins are not the typical Arctic, scarf-wearing, dive-off-an-iceberg type that we see in many books about penguins.
We lived for a while in South Africa and experienced the amazing Cape Town penguins that live on Boulder Beach on a sandy shore. I had some photos of us there so I did look back to remind myself of their surroundings.
Apart from that, yes I did have to research how they typically sound/call out, for my manuscript, and how they move, for the illustrations.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: Always, as with my own kids, I want kids to feel a sense of empathy and sympathy toward others. To cheer for the underdog.
Kids have plenty of opportunity between books and TV to laugh with and at characters, but at some point they also need to connect with their sensitivities and I try to do that with my stories.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am currently shaping a new book in mind and have a rough draft. It passed the kid-test when I told my kids the story at bedtime without telling them it might be for my second book.
But getting the word out for my first book, Peanut the Penguin, is taking precedence for the next few weeks before I invest time in the next. Hopefully, I should have something to submit by early 2022.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: This book was definitely a labor of love. My kids were with me every step of the way, encouraging me when I was exhausted from late nights of book editing, long hours of painting, and still being a stay-at-home mom with all that that entails during a pandemic year when they were at home all day every day.
They were my fans, my constructive critics, my sounding board and my focus group all voluntarily during it all. Couldn’t have done it without them.
Readers can go to my website www.arunamlepore.com to get updates on my work, and anyone living in the vicinity can check to see when and where my book launch will be (in Garrett Park, MD).
Peanut the Penguin ebooks are available on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple, and the print books are available on Amazon and most everywhere books are sold.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb