As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A dancer, an actress, and a writer. I have been all three!
What traditions from your childhood do you continue? I think of our family’s food traditions. My mother is a wonderful cook and baker, so I love to cook and bake for my loved ones too…I love to make the things she makes at Christmastime, like cranberry bread. I still make her homemade hot cocoa too, and oatmeal pancakes.
What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? Other than landing on the New York Times Bestseller list, you mean? Thanks to this book, many wonderful people from my past have found and bought this book and then tracked me down to tell me so: friends from high school and college, and just the other day, even my third-grade teacher! That really moved me.
Which are your favourite Little Golden Books? ‘The Kitten Who Thought He Was a Mouse’ (1951), by Miriam Norton, illustrated by the amazing Garth Williams, is a witty, poignant story. It’s about a family of mice who decide to adopt a helpless kitten! The cover is priceless: it shows the mama mouse pushing this big happy kitten in a pram! I also love ‘My Little Golden Book About God’ (1956) by Jane Werner Watson, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Jane Werner Watson was one of the original editors of Golden Books, and I think this is one of the most beautiful picture books ever written. I also love ‘Tawny Scrawny Lion’ (1952) by Kathryn Jackson, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren; I love its storytelling style, and Tenggren’s jaunty lion.
What is the most creative interpretation you have seen or heard of Little Golden Books? Lots of artists have recently done faux Little Golden Book covers featuring movies (like The Godfather) and TV shows….like Breaking Bad! The retro style is spot-on.
Do you collect anything? Yes! I collect vintage handbags, coats, and cocktail dresses. I have a wonderful wardrobe of Doris Day-ish and Audrey Hepburn-ish and 1940s-era clothes. . . .real movie-star looks. I love to find occasions to wear them. I lament the fact that people don’t really dress anymore. I like opera well enough, but I think I really go to the Metropolitan Opera for the opportunity to dress up.
What are you working on next? Right now I’m working on ‘Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Disney Little Golden Book’, which is scheduled to be published in September, 2015. In the last 8 months, I wrote ‘Everything I Need To Know About Christmas I Learned From a Little Golden Book’ (which pubs this September); a Little Golden Book titled ‘How Do Giraffes Take Naps?’, which comes out in January 2016; and ‘Everything I Need To Know About Love I Learned From a Little Golden Book (which pubs late in December).
What inspired you to write this book? I got the idea on the subway one morning! The book title just came to me. I was thinking about some of those wonderful Little Golden Book pictures, like Tawny Scrawny Lion walking contentedly under the moonlight. The caption ‘Cultivate contentment’ came to me. I think whenever I see that picture, I sort of envy the lion’s contentment. And it made me think about adults, how most of us don’t feel the joy we naturally felt as children, as often as we should. Suddenly other images just started coming to me, like the one of the baby looking down the bathtub drain (by Eloise Wilkin), wondering where the water has gone. The caption ‘Stay curious’ would always pop into my head when I looked at that picture. Sitting there on the train, I suddenly thought maybe there was a book there, for adults, about recapturing the joy and happiness from childhood, through the books they loved in childhood. I found a piece of scrap paper in my purse, and started writing down strong images that had always resonated with me, and their captions, right there on the train. But I did the book very slowly over a few years. I kept it under my desk at work.
What do you love most about Little Golden Books? I love that the first 12 Little Golden Books were published during the height of the United State’s involvement in WWII, when times were tough and people had very little money to throw around. A Little Golden Book cost a quarter, and most people could afford that. It’s very touching to me that these charming, colorful little books quickly reprinted in the tens of thousands because they’d been designed to be affordable for just about everyone – at a time when families needed them most – when they really needed a sense of normalcy at home. Up until that time, children’s books had been luxury items for the lucky few, costing upwards of 2 to 3 dollars. There was (and still is) a little bookplate to write your name in on the inside front cover, and I think that pride in ownership gave families an extra boost during a hard time.
What traditions from your culture/heritage do you incorporate in your life? I love Irish music, and I play Irish fiddle.
Read my review of ‘Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book’ here.