Friday, October 28, 2022

Q&A with Tracey Kyle




Tracey Kyle is the author of the new children's picture book The Lucky Grapes: A New Year's Eve Story. Her other books include Gazpacho for Nacho. Also a middle school Spanish teacher, she lives in Northern Virginia.


Q: What inspired you to write The Lucky Grapes, and how did you create your character Rafa?


A: Well, I've studied in Madrid twice and have travelled to other parts of Spain, and the culture fascinates me. I'm also a Spanish teacher and we study holidays and festivals in Spanish-speaking countries, so most of my ideas come from lessons I end up teaching.  There's a fair amount of preparation for my students and sometimes it turns into a book!  


I based Rafa on a New Year's Eve experience I had when I was 8. My parents let my sisters and me stay up for the first time and it was a major struggle to make it to midnight. But we did it and were so excited. No grapes were involved, though. I'm from New Jersey! We had pigs in a blanket that night. 


Q: What do you think Marina Astudillo's illustrations add to the story?


A: Marina's illustrations are unbelievably authentic because she's from Madrid and had experienced the celebration in her childhood. Aren't the colors fabulous? The illustrations glow. My two favorite spreads are the page with all the "tapas" (the small plates of food), and the celebration at the plaza. 


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


A: Since I hadn't actually celebrated New Year's Eve in Spain, I did a ton of research. I watched a lot of YouTube videos of the could get a feel for the crowd, the noise, and the overall ambiance at Puerta del Sol. I read articles in newspapers, too and dug out all my travel books. All of that helped me write the story and find the words and feelings I needed.  


I was most surprised to find out that there are special grapes sold just for New Year's Eve!! I also learned that there are a lot of New Year's Day traditions, too (like eating lentil soup). I tried working these into the story, but it was too much for a picture book. 


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


A: It's my hope with all my books that kids learn a little Spanish and a little culture and have fun with it. They may even want to learn more about New Year's Eve in other countries. But with The Lucky Grapes, I would have them talk about their wishes for the New Year.  

Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now I've been working on a story about a cat park in Perú. I've done all the research but I've got three different versions started and I'm not sure of the voice just yet. I need winter break so I can really work on it. Teaching is SUPER BUSY.  


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Most people don't know that I went to high school with my fabulous agent, Jennifer Unter. We were in AP Spanish together senior year! It's been awesome to connect as adults and work together. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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