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How lucky we all are to be in the midst of the most colorful time in picture books. Cultures from around the world feature prominently, like never before. You can truly visit the globe from the comfort of your living room couch.

Author Joana Pastro grew up in Brazil and she brings the joyous festival of Carnaval alive in her newest book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, due from Orchard Books/Scholastic on December 7th.

Joana, this book is so lively and colorful! Did seeing the illustrations by Carolina Coroa bring you back to the Carnaval of your childhood? 

Certainly! Carolina did such an amazing job capturing the energy, the excitement, the joy of Carnaval, and also the fact that in those five days, Brazil means Carnaval! Everything else in the country stops. It’s all a big celebration. I also want to add that because Brazil is a big country, each region has its own slightly different way to celebrate. The one featured in the book is the one that happens in the city of Olinda. Carolina portrayed Carnaval, and everything that’s unique to Olinda’s celebration, like the giant dolls, the geography and the buildings (by the way, a UNESCO World Heritage site), in the most beautiful way. I truly feel transported every time I read the book. I love it!

Sometimes the best stories are inspired from our own childhoods. The magic is that we can refine them to our liking! What from your childhood remains in the story and what did you change?

Joy, excitement, energy, craft-making, and especially love and family are the big elements that remained from my childhood.

As for changes, the first change is the location. Carnaval in my city was joyful, exciting and fun, but it pales in comparison to the festivity in other cities. I changed to Olinda, because of its unique cultural aspects, especially the giant dolls parading along the street side-by-side with the revelers. I was always fascinated by those. They’re very poetic to me. Another change was that, in my childhood, it was my mom, not my great-grandmother, whom I watched zig-zagging at the sewing machine. She made and fixed our clothes, and she’d do all sorts of crafts with us. That taught us to be mindful of our resources, recycle, and not discard things so easily, and also a great way to spend time together as a family.

How does your family celebrate Carnaval now that you’re in America? 

Unfortunately, I can’t say we celebrate it. We always know it’s happening, we follow it online and on TV, but that’s it. My children have always heard us talking about it, but it was only after I started writing BISA’S CARNAVAL that they became curious about it. In my interviews I always say that one of the reasons I wrote this book was because I wanted Brazilian-American children to feel proud of their heritage. I just realized that this is already happening with my own children. Who knew your interview would be so therapeutic?

What traditions do you follow and have you created any new ones?

Festa Junina is a religious festivity with dance, music, games, and lots of delicious food. We have our own version of that every year. It’s fun and there’s a lot of eating going on!

I love Christmas. It’s always been my favorite holiday. I decorate my whole house, we always have a baking and craft making session as a family, before actual decorating starts.

As Brazilian-Americans we’ve incorporated Halloween and Thanksgiving as a tradition. Halloween is about dressing up and candy. What’s not to like? When I first moved here, I loved the idea of Thanksgiving, a holiday that celebrates being being thankful. It took me a few years to realize its historical inaccuracies. Today I’m careful not to perpetuate them, and I focus on being grateful for our blessings.

Joana, thank you for sharing your beautiful version of Carnaval with us!

Blog readers, you can win a signed copy of BISA’S CARNAVAL. Just leave one comment below to enter. A random winner will be chosen at the end of the month.

Good luck!


Joana Pastro always wanted to be an artist of some sort. So, she became an architect. But once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana start dreaming of becoming a children’s book author. After a lot of reading, writing and revising, her dream came true. Her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, was published by Boyds Mills Press in 2020. Her second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa will be published by Scholastic  on December 7, 2021. Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her husband, her three extremely creative children, a rambunctious Morkie, and a needy Maltipoo. Visit her on Twitter @jopastro, Instagram @jopastro, or at joanapastro.com.

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