Thursday, May 19, 2022

Q&A with Kate McMullan




Kate McMullan is the author of the children's picture book Happy Springtime!. Her many other books include As Warm as the Sun. She lives in New York City. 


Q: What inspired you to write Happy Springtime!?


A: At Christmastime several years ago, a good friend of mine sent me a 1952 recording of a poem by E.B. White wishing everyone a Merry Christmas from The New Yorker Radio Hour. The poem was very specific – and very funny – about who was getting these Merry Christmas wishes:


“To tellers who’ve made a mistake in addition,

to grounded airline passengers,

and to all those who can’t eat clams….”


It had a wonderful rhythm that got caught in my brain, and I’d find myself repeating the lines when I walked along the icy sidewalks of New York City. Winter was very slow to end on this particular year, and I found myself longing for springtime.


One gray, cold morning I sat down at my desk and instead of working on what I’d been working on the day before, I found myself writing a message of hope that spring was coming:


“To all those whose snowsuits have stuck zippers

and those with their boots on the wrong feet.”


The words pretty much flowed out of me. It was a great joy to write this book.


Q: What do you think Sujean Rim’s illustrations add to the book?

A: I love Sujean’s art for this book. She took what I’d written and lifted it up with unexpected images, like the beautiful, textured umbrellas in the puddle-jumpers scene. I particularly loved what she did in the “smock-wearing painters of flowers and bugs,” turning the little kid artist into a Parisian painter, complete with beret. She has a wonderful sense of fashion and style.


Q: What's your favorite season and why?


A: I love springtime for the renewal. Trees that look totally dead all winter long begin to sprout leaves; plants poke up from the ground. It’s a celebration of coming back to life.


But I love all the seasons, really, because without winter, spring wouldn’t be so sweet. Fall is a gorgeous time of year even if the brilliant red and yellow leaves eventually wither and drop. And then there are the long days of summer and cookouts and mosquitoes. Every season has its plusses and minuses.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, “Though not written in verse, the gently rhythmic text is almost poetic and reads beautifully thanks to its liberal use throughout of well-chosen alliterative and assonant words and phrases, demanding that this book be read aloud.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love this description, of course! I do hope parents and teachers and librarians read this book aloud to kids over and over and that those kids will be inspired to write their own Happy Springtime poem or Happy Winter, or whatever season. I’m always so grateful to teachers and librarians who think up wonderful ways for kids to add their own takes to my books.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: One project I’m working on I call Hawkeyes. When the pandemic started, I’d go out to Central Park almost every day because it was safe to be outside. When I’m in the park, I always have my binoculars and I look at the many Central Park birds.


At that time, the schools were closed, so were museums. The playgrounds were padlocked. It was very hard for city parents to find interesting things to do with their kids, and some of them – actually, many of them -- took their kids to the park to look at birds.


They’d see my binoculars and call me over to see if I knew what bird they were looking at. Once you see a bird, you try to identify it. And once you identify it, you can learn amazing things about that bird. Lots of these parents and kids became very interested in birds and birding. They’re my inspiration for Hawkeyes.  


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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