Q: You've said that your new book was partly inspired by Read Island in British Columbia. Can you say more about that?
A: My family has been visiting Read Island since 1994; it’s where my husband and I got together, where we were married.
It is also the place that my son and I visualized during meditations during the pandemic lockdown. We would visualize our favorite place in the world, and later when we talked about it, we both were mentally on Read Island.
The symbol of the name suddenly took on much more meaning to me. It became the symbol for the feeling that books can take you anywhere.
Q: What do you think Alice Feagan's illustrations add to the story?
A: So much! There is a tremendous level of detail in every shape, shadow, and texture in the collage. Alice was able to bring a journey and a feeling literally to life with an expressive character and her studious, book-loving friends.
I especially love her inclusion of classic children’s stories like Anne of Green Gables and Jack and the Beanstalk into the collage. This provides a real depth to the book that keeps kids and parents coming back to discover new elements every time they read.
Q: As someone who owned a bookstore for 15 years, what changes did you see in the world of children's book publishing?
A: There is a certain amount of sameness in publishing, and there are also many changes.
I love the growing diversity of voices and characters shown in picture books; it is no longer a challenge to fulfill the bookseller’s role – to find exactly the right book for a unique reader. More kids can find themselves represented in books and written by authors who might have been like them as kids.
The greater challenge now is to keep tabs on all of the books coming out. There is an avalanche of titles available, so it has become harder for debut books like Read Island to stand out.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from Read Island?
A: Books are transporters, and the joy of reading empowers kids to take journeys wherever they want to go. I hope that kids will learn, as I have, that the world of stories is a welcoming place. And that it’s always there, even if you take a break from it for a while. You know, books are an amazing technology!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m focused on sharing Read Island with as many kids as possible – between now and the end of the year I have events booked in schools, libraries, and bookstores. I’m also working hard on a new manuscript which I might be in a good place to talk about in 2022!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’m so appreciative of your interest and space on the blog. Thank you!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb