Sunday, November 5, 2023

Q&A with Malik Sickstein



Malik Sickstein is the author of the new children's picture book I Grab the Mic. He also is the co-author of the young adult novel Let Me Hear a Rhyme, and is a hip-hop historian and recording artist.


Q: What inspired you to write I Grab the Mic?


A: I wrote this book after recognizing during the pandemic that many of us are still expected to show up, look the part or "perform," even when we aren't in person (thanks to Zoom and other virtual platforms).


It got me thinking about how kids are subjected to this probably more often than adults through things like school projects, plays, events, and extracurricular activities, and how daunting that can be for young people.


I wanted to speak to that experience, but in a colorful, over-the-top imaginative way to embody how kids see challenges before and after overcoming them.


Q: What do you think Paige A. Mason's illustrations add to the story?


A: Paige's illustrations are everything! I didn't even want to pitch this book without having her art. I totally broke the conventional rule for new children's book authors that tell you not to pitch a finished product.


I personally sought Paige out because I followed her awesome work using her own family as inspiration on social media. I love how expressive the faces she creates are and her ability to capture realistic scenarios with fictional elements. I knew I wanted that level of silly but relatable visuals for this book.


It was also important to me to work with a Black woman artist, once I knew that I wanted my characters to represent a diverse spectrum and have features like afro-puffs, similar to the characters she was regularly featuring on her instagram profile.

Q: You've written for kids and adults--do you have a preference?


A: They are equal to me, but I think being a children's book author has more visible reward to it.


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


A: As outlandish as some of the scenarios in the book may be, what I hope is that children are able to connect to the feelings that are depicted in the images - both anxiety and triumph, and see the benefit of taking a step towards facing fear.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am currently working on my next children's book, dealing with themes of procrastination and self-actualization. I am also working on a nonfiction music book.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Support is priceless. If you like any of the work you come across from myself or Paige, please spread the word. It's worth gold. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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