Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Q&A with Valerie Bolling




Valerie Bolling is the author of the new children's picture books Together We Swim and Bing, Bop, Bam: Time to Jam!. She is a longtime educator in Greenwich, Connecticut.


Q: What inspired you to write your two newest books, Together We Swim and Bing, Bop, Bam: Time to Jam!?


A: Both Together We Swim and Bing, Bop, Bam: Time to Jam! are companion books for my last year’s titles, Together We Ride and Ride, Roll, Run: Time For Fun!. Since I wrote a book about learning how to ride a bike, I wrote about another activity – swimming – a child would learn with an adult’s guiding love and support.


For Bing Bop Bam, I was thinking about activities children love to do outside, besides playing games (as they do in Ride, Roll, Run). Sometimes the books I write inspire other books, so I figured that since I wrote a book about dance, I could write about music. After all, children (and adults) enjoy music!


Bing, Bop, Bam is about an intergenerational musical block party, featuring instruments from around the world similar to how Let’s Dance! showcases dances from around the world.


Q: What do you think the illustrations, by Kaylani Juanita and Sabrena Khadija respectively, add to the books?


A: First of all, shout-out to Sabrena Khadija and Kaylani Juanita for their amazing illustrations! The illustrations in both of these books truly bring the stories to life. 

Sab’s unique style and geometric shapes convey the energy and rhythm associated with music and fun at a block party, and Kaylani’s heart-warming, detailed illustrations exemplify a strong connection between child and parent as well as the child's joy and pride when he succeeds at learning how to swim. I’m so grateful to have been able to collaborate with these talented artists.

Q: The Kirkus Review of Together We Swim says, in part, “Black family pride and joy abound—this is a family that allows its little ones the space to make forays into independence while supporting them every step of the way.” What do you think of that description?


A: Thanks, Deborah, for sharing a quote from the starred Kirkus review. I think what’s written is an accurate, affirmative description of what Together We Swim seeks to convey.


In its precursor, Together We Ride, the father gave his daughter permission to decide if she still wanted to continue to ride after she’d taken a tumble. In Together We Swim, the mother uses encouraging words to support her son on his journey to swimming independently.


In both books, the parents are side by side with their children, striking a balance between knowing when to lend a guiding hand and when to pull away, all the while watching and cheering them on.


Q: Did you need to do any research to write Bing, Bop, Bam, and if so, did you learn anything surprising?


A: I did do research for Bing, Bop, Bam. I looked for different types of instruments from around the world, and it was fun to discover instruments I hadn’t heard of before, like deageum and erhu. I listened to recordings of the instruments, so that I could describe their sounds with rhyming words. I even shared the text with a musician friend to make sure I was describing the sounds accurately.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently working on two new picture books, Deborah. One is a style I haven’t written before (dramatic irony), and the other is a story from my “archives” that I haven’t worked on in about three years; I’m seeing if it’s worth resurrecting with a fresh set of eyes. I don’t know if either of these books will end up being published, but I’m having fun.


I’ve also been working on edits for two books I’ve sold within the past year. One, Hope Makes a Better Future, was announced in July.


Next up is the release of Rainbow Days: The Gold Bowl on Sept. 5, 2023 and Rainbow Days: The Orange Wall on March 5, 2024 (both illustrated by Kai Robinson). I See Color (co-authored with Kailei Pew, illustrated by Laylie Frazier) is slated for May 2024.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I teach picture book classes, independently and for the Highlights Foundation. If you’re interested in taking a class with me, please contact me, and I’ll add your name to my email list.


Also, if you want to show your support, please request my books at your local library and bookstore. If you read and enjoy my books, please review them on Goodreads and Amazon. I’d appreciate that very much.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Valerie Bolling.

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