Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Q&A with D.J. Steinberg




D.J. Steinberg is the author of the new children's picture book Christmas, Here I Come!, the latest in his Here I Come! series, which also includes the forthcoming Passover, Here I Come!. He also is an animation executive, producer, and artist, and he lives in Los Angeles.


Q: Why did you decide to focus on Christmas and Passover in your new Here I Come! poetry books for kids?


A: The Here I Come! series of books is all about the big moments in young people’s lives.


When I was growing up, holidays were a very big deal. I loved decorating and getting ready for the holidays and then I have so many great memories of our big family celebrations. The holidays mark different seasons of the year and have such rich traditions that sometimes go back thousands of years.


Aside from my memories of the holidays that my family celebrated, it’s also fun to learn and share traditions with people from different places and religions. I have always thought that Christmas is such a magical holiday, filled with lights and music and celebration—and Santa Claus! 


And in the Jewish tradition, Passover is a very big moment of the year, when people clean their houses for spring and celebrate freedom and family with symbolic foods at giant dinners called seders. I couldn’t imagine the Here I Come! series being complete without these two giant holidays!


Q: What do you think the illustrations (by Laurie Stansfield and Emanuel Wiemans, respectively) add to the stories?


A: I am lucky to have such talented artists working on my books. I love when words and pictures work together to tell stories and create characters and settings that pull you into the book. 


Laurie Stansfield did a wonderful job evoking the Christmas holiday color and spirit, and Emanuel Wiemans’ work reminds me of the old Golden books I loved growing up—the pages are so fun to look at and have such a classic feel. 


I should mention that Laurie is also the illustrator of Halloween, Here I Come! and Emanuel is illustrating a book coming out in 2022 called Hanukkah, Here I Come!


Q: What first got you interested in writing poems for kids?


A: My parents read poems to me and my sisters as long as I can remember, and I loved the work of A. A. Milne and Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. So I always had a thing for poetry. 


And then, presto—one day I woke up and had kids of my own and those kids came with piles of children’s books—and that inspired me to try writing my own. 


Because it was in my blood, I naturally started writing in meter and rhyme and I was lucky to find amazing editors like Bonnie Bader and Jane O’Conner who also liked humorous poetry and helped me turn my scribbles into real books! 


I have published 24 books to date and a lot of them are in poetic form.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from these books?


A: I hope these books help them get in the mood for the holidays and I hope these poems relate to their own experiences celebrating with their families!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m cooking up some more Here I Come! books. I mentioned Hanukkah, Here I Come!, and I will share with my friends here at Deborah Kalb Books that there are some really fun books we are working on right now for Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, too. 


And stay tuned for a different line of poetry books, too, about the special people in our lives, like teachers and grandmothers and grandfathers.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: You should know that my Here I Come! books now come with stickers! I admit I was a sticker monster as a kid. I put them all over everything, so my theory is, “Everything is better with stickers!”


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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