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The world is a complicated place, even on this blog where I’m struggling to find the right words to introduce debut author Ty Chapman and his groundbreaking new book, SARAH RISING. Thankfully, Ty explains his thought process behind the book and its focus on social justice, told in a way a young person can appreciate and comprehend.

Ty, this blog talks a lot about story ideas. How did this one arise?

The idea for SARAH RISING came about in the midst of the racial uprising here in Minneapolis. At the time, there was so much misinformation around what was going on, and what the protests actually looked like. As I saw inaccuracy after inaccuracy being shared widely by “reputable” news sources, I began thinking a lot about access to information and who gets to write history. I also thought a lot about what historical events I had experienced as a child, and what my relationship to them was.

Arguably, the biggest historical event of my childhood was 9/11. I was in kindergarten at the time, and my primary memories from that day were my teacher inexplicably crying, and all of the children gathering in a circle to watch the news shortly thereafter. I knew I wanted to write a book about the uprising because I didn’t want it to be some foggy memory in the minds of our young people with very little context as to what actually happened and why. I also knew that if I was going to speak to such a heavy topic, I needed to do so with care and in a way that inspired hope and future activism. I threw a few ideas at the wall before finally stumbling upon the concept for SARAH RISING.

It’s wonderful that you seek to give children the context and understanding you did not have. How did you distill such a heavy topic in a way that’s accessible to a child?

My approach truly begins with the belief that children are capable of understanding much more than we give them credit for. While I certainly don’t show the full details of police brutality in this picture book, the language in the book is pretty direct throughout. I think it’s impossible to speak on these issues in a meaningful way without being very honest and direct. That said, the use of metaphor is very helpful in striking that balance. Using Sarah’s monarch butterfly as the climax of the story allowed me to show the nature of police brutality without traumatizing the youth. It’s also helpful with these heavier topics to ultimately end on themes of hope—to remind the young reader that they can be a big part of making a better future by standing up for what they believe in.

What kind of edits did you make after the book was acquired?

Once the work was acquired, much of the edits were focused on illustrator notes. We focused in particular on representing the wide array of racial/ethnic groups present in the Twin Cities. We wanted to be sure that the Twin Cities’ diversity was represented in the pages. There was also some nitty gritty editing of word choice, but honestly not very much. Because my agent, Savannah Brooks, and I had already gone through a couple rounds of edits, there wasn’t too much that needed to be tweaked once the work was acquired.

Did anything about the process of bringing the story to print surprise you?

The biggest surprise for me was probably the illustrations. I knew the illustrator, DeAnn Wiley, was incredibly talented, but nothing could have prepared me for some of the gorgeous spreads in the book. She did a terrific job capturing the essence of the Twin Cities, and crafting stunning spreads that took my breath away. It’s one thing to loosely imagine a couple of visuals—it’s another thing entirely to have a talented illustrator take your concepts and breathe greater life into them.

Ty, thank you for sharing SARAH RISING with us and congratulations on its publication. 

Blog readers, you can win a copy of SARAH RISING just by leaving a comment below.

A winner will be randomly selected later this month.

Good luck!

Ty Chapman is the author of SARAH RISING (Beaming 2022); LOOKING FOR HAPPY (Beaming 2023); A DOOR MADE FOR ME, written with Tyler Merritt (WorthyKids 2022); TARTARUS (Button Poetry 2024); as well as multiple forthcoming children’s books through various publishers. Ty was a finalist for Tin House’s 2022 Fall Residency, Button Poetry’s 2020 Chapbook Contest, and Frontier Magazine’s New Voices Contest. He is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts and was recently named a Loft Literary Center Mirrors & Windows fellow and Mentor Series fellow. Visit him at

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