Monday, October 3, 2022

Q&A with Sara C. Arnold



Sara C. Arnold is the author of the children's picture book The Big Buna Bash. She lives in Israel.


Q: What inspired you to write The Big Buna Bash?


A: This story was close to my heart because it connected two things that I know and love: children and Ethiopian culture. As a teacher in Israeli schools for over 30 years, I have experienced the dynamics of peer pressure in the classroom. 


The story also came from a personal place… my role as an adopted aunt in an extended Ethiopian/Israeli family. I was there as the kids grew up and watched as they struggled with the intersection of two identities.


Usually, their cultural family world was kept separate from their social school world out of fear that others wouldn’t accept them and understand. In The Big Buna Bash, these two worlds collide, and Almaz finds a satisfying way to connect them!


Q: Did you need to do any research to write the book, and if so, did you learn anything surprising?


A: I spoke with lots of Ethiopian children about how they felt sharing their family customs with their school friends. Their reaction was always, “Why would I want to do that???” That didn't surprise me. That's why I wrote the story!


Q: What do you think Roberta Malasomma's illustrations add to the story?


A: Roberta's illustrations make the emotions of the story come alive! I love the facial expressions that she created for my main character, Almaz. Roberta's attention to cultural details in the clothes and home decorations make the story more authentic.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?


A: I want them to feel that it's fun to learn about other traditions. As parents and teachers, we need to open up new worlds for children to discover.  Children notice differences, so let’s show them that it feels good to embrace and value the things that make each person or group of people different.


For kids from diverse backgrounds, I hope they get the message that it's okay to be different. Be proud of your culture because it's part of who you are!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: This book is enough, thank you! I don't like to say never, but I don't see myself writing another book. I didn't write The Big Buna Bash for the purpose of getting it published - it just kind of happened. I'm glad it did, but I'm 67 years old, still teaching and a bit tired!


I purchased the rights from Brandylane Publishers to publish The Big Buna Bash in Hebrew and Amharic. The Hebrew edition came out in December, and the Amharic is still in the works.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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