Monday, November 21, 2022

Q&A with Andrea Zimmerman




Andrea Zimmerman is the author of the new children's picture book Firefighter Flo!. Her many other books include All Dressed Up. She lives in Southern California.


Q: What inspired you to write Firefighter Flo!?


A: Many kids are fascinated with firefighters and their work so I knew that the topic would have lots of appeal. I wanted my story to have a main character who was strong and good-natured as well as brave.


After writing an early version of the story I had an “Aha!” moment when I realized that my firefighter hero should be female. That gave my story a whole other dimension of empowerment and opportunity, especially for girls.


Researching to learn more about female firefighters made me especially proud of Flo and all of the real women who choose this career. I was delighted to be able to dedicate the book to a young woman firefighter I know.


I love trying to come up with stories that will really engage young children, take them into a new world, and keep them there until the last page. Picture books can introduce preschoolers to the joy of reading and words, to the beauty of art and design, and to new worlds of knowledge and experience. So it’s a lovely challenge no matter what the story is about.


Q: What do you think Dan Yaccarino’s illustrations add to the story?


A: I love how Dan’s vibrant illustrations capture the drama and excitement of the firefighting situation while still being playful and child-friendly. The designs are stylish and contemporary with a little retro feeling that makes for a fun blend.


Q: The Kirkus review of the book said, in part, “Its an exciting story, and one thats chock-full of descriptive words that will help build young readers’ vocabularies.” What do you think of that assessment, and how do you choose your words when writing picture books?


A: Most picture books are read aloud to children. Obviously words are every writer’s primary tool, but with picture books it’s especially important to use those words to create a satisfying oral experience. I try to write stories using language that can help the adult make the story come alive. I love rhyming and I love using lively words that keep children listening.


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


A: I hope that all kids see a brave firefighter who just happens to be a woman. I hope that children have a fun, satisfying reading experience and say, “Read that book again!”


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m writing more stories for our Big Jobs, Bold Women series. Dan and I are hoping to keep on going with more books that will have great kid appeal, action, accomplishment, and some friendly animals.


Next year Crane Jane arrives. She’s another dynamic woman succeeding at non-traditional job—this character is working at the harbor loading and unloading ships. And she’s got some clever seagulls to help her!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: For me, creating picture books is a challenging but joyful work. It’s a “Big Job”…and I always try to be a “Bold Woman” when doing it!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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