Valerie Bolling is the author of the new children's picture book Together We Ride. Her other books include Let's Dance. She is a longtime classroom teacher and an educational coach in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Q: What inspired you to write Together We Ride?
A: The inspiration for Together We Ride came from seeing children ride bikes while taking my daily “mental health walks” with my husband during the COVID shutdown. In particular, there was a 5-year-old girl, Maeve, who had just learned how to ride a bike.
As you know, Deborah, learning to ride a bike – without training wheels – is such an exciting milestone for children that I decided to write a story about that experience. And Maeve was definitely excited about learning how to ride a bike!
Q: What do you think Kaylani Juanita's illustrations add to the story?
A: Kaylani’s illustrations are beautiful. They enable the story to be told, to unfold.
The art allows the reader to see clearly the joy, agony, and ecstasy of the young girl’s journey – as she starts out, struggles, recovers from a fall, and, eventually, achieves the childhood milestone of riding a bike successfully.
Kaylani perfectly captures the girl’s excitement as well as her father’s at that epic moment.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story, and what do you think it says about parent-child relationships?
A: I want young readers to learn that with perseverance and resilience, they can accomplish what they want. Together We Ride exemplifies what’s at the center of an ideal parent-child relationship: LOVE. I hope parents know how integral their love and encouragement is to a child’s success.
The book also illustrates that children need to be allowed to make some decisions on their own. The father in the story doesn’t force his daughter to continue riding when she falls, he lets her decide. Sometimes children will fail, and parents need to love and support them through the failure.
Q: How did you first get interested in creating children's picture books?
A: I’ve always loved writing. My nieces initially inspired me to write for children. They had been visiting us, and I thought of an idea for a story in which each girl was the protagonist. After their visit, I wrote those stories and decided to write more.
I became invested in writing children’s books not only because of my nieces but also because of my former students – who, by the way, are now having their own children.
When I taught in the elementary classroom, it was difficult to find diverse literature for my students. I want all children to see themselves in books, and I don’t want it to be difficult for teachers and parents to find diverse literature for young readers.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun! will be here in October. It’s another joy book about the different ways children have fun outdoors.
There’s a sequel to Together We Ride titled Together We Swim that will be released in 2023. The mother in the family teaches the younger brother to swim.
Also scheduled for 2023 is a sequel to Ride, Roll, Run and my early reader series with Scholastic, Rainbow Days. Other books are on their way, but they haven’t been announced yet.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I teach picture book classes at Westport Writers Workshop, so if you’re interested, feel free to check out my page.
I’d love to connect with your readers on social media, and they can also peruse my website.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb