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Remember when you were a kid and your parents didn’t have to force you to play outside? You just went, because that was where the fun and friends were waiting! That [fantastic] feeling is captured in Valerie Bolling and Sabrena Khadija’s new picture book:

Cover of Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun. City street scene with buildings in background and kids on street in foreground, one riding bike, one bouncing basketball, one rolling in wheelchair, and two kids running with arms uplifted.

Valerie, everyone who reads this blog loves to hear origination stories. Where did your idea for RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! come from?

The idea for RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! came from a similar place as that of my previous books, LET’S DANCE! and TOGETHER WE RIDE. I notice what children enjoy doing and write about those things. Children love to move, play, and have fun. They enjoy being with other children.

The first version of the story took place on a playground, the next was set at an amusement park; and then—at the suggestion of a friend—I decided to make it about children being able to play right in their neighborhood. They can walk outside—grabbing a ball, jump rope, or chalk—and start to have fun with their friends!

I love that—immediate fun! 

Why is it important to show kids in their own neighborhood?

It’s important to show kids in their own neighborhood because that’s where play often happens and where community is built. It can be fun to travel outside of one’s neighborhood, too, but it’s not necessary to have fun. Children can enjoy themselves right outside their home.

Yes! That’s how we did it back in the day…outside until the sun went down!

scene of basketball court and SWOOSH! A player shooting a free throw, plus kids all over the court cheering, jumping, running, rolling (in a wheelchair) and having a fun time

Besides “play-is-where-you-are,” what other messages do you hope to impart with this story?

I would add “play-is-who-you’re-with,” and “play-is-whatever-your-mind-can-imagine.” I want children to understand from an early age that they can play with anyone in their wonderful community. (Be inclusive.) I also want them to know that there are no limits to what they can play. They can make up games and the rules. (Be imaginative.) Exercising our creative minds is as important as exercising our bodies when we play.

You touched on a little of why play is so important to developing minds; care to delve further? 

I’m sure a doctor could provide a much more in-depth and research-based response, but I’ll share my thoughts. When children play with others, they have to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate. This requires children to exercise their minds and use negotiation and problem-solving skills. When students use their imaginations to play games, they expand their mind muscles.  In addition, physical play develops healthy bodies, which, in turn, leads to healthy minds.

As someone who is disabled, I was interested to see you had a character in a wheelchair on the cover of your book. Is that something you had planned or was that an editorial or illustrator choice? 

It was my goal to have the children in this book represent a variety of backgrounds, but I’m not sure I explicitly mentioned creating a character in a wheelchair. I’m so glad that character is in the book though and am not sure if the credit goes to the illustrator or editor. I can tell you that when I submitted the manuscript, I included a note that said, “The illustrator should utilize her/his/their creativity, but my goal for this book is to convey a sense of community with children from diverse backgrounds,” so perhaps that provided the inspiration. In my book, LET’S DANCE!, I made a specific request that there be a child in a wheelchair because I’d been at a wedding where a young man in a wheelchair was “getting down” on the dance floor. Out of my three currently published books, two have characters who are in wheelchairs, and they are just as active and having as much fun as their peers.

Three children (one black girl in wheelchair) in front of open fire hydrant. Text reads"Splish, splash. Drenched fast. Cold spray. Hooray!"

What’s next for you, Valerie?

In 2023 readers can look forward to the sequel to RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN!, the second book in this “Fun in the City” series, which is about a musical block party, titled BING, BOP, BAM: TIME TO JAM!. In addition, 2023 will welcome TOGETHER WE SWIM (check out 2022’s TOGETHER WE RIDE, if you haven’t done so yet), and my Scholastic Acorn early reader series, RAINBOW DAYS, about a girl and her dog who love to create art. So far, I have one title to share for 2024, I SEE COLOR, which I co-authored with Kailei Pew.

Congratulations, Valerie! Thanks for sharing your newest title with us.

Blog readers, we are giving away a copy of RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN!

Leave one comment below about what you loved to play outside as a kid. (Me? Kick the can, frisbee golf and Chinese jumprope.)

A random winner will be selected at the end of the month.

Good luck!


Valerie Bolling is the author of the 2021 SCBWI Crystal Kite award-winning and CT Book Award finalist LET’S DANCE! Valerie has been an educator for almost 30 years. Immersed in the writing community, Valerie is on the faculty at Westport Writers’ Workshop and a member of SCBWI, the Authors Guild, NCTE, and ILA. She is also a 2020 WNDB Mentee and a 2022 WNDB Mentor as well as a member of Black Creators HeadQuarters, The Brown Bookshelf and Highlights Foundation’s Amplify Black Stories, and 12X12 Picture Book Challenge. In addition, Valerie is a member of three co-marketing groups—Kid Lit in Color, Soaring 20s PBs, and PB Crew 22—and three picture book critique groups. Valerie and her husband live in Connecticut. Get all her links and connect with her here: linktr.ee/ValerieBolling.

by Valerie Bolling

As adults, we sometimes forget what it’s like to be a kid. Being a kid is fun. You can be carefree, silly, and curious. You get to engage in a plethora of experiences for the first time.

Speaking of the first time, think of your first-time experiences.  Like learning how to ride a bike. This is such an important milestone for children and the topic of my next book, TOGETHER WE RIDE, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (Chronicle, April 2022), which features a girl learning how to ride a bike with the support of her father. When was the first time you rode a bike? What about the time you learned how to read, played with a new friend, traveled to a new place, or tried a new food?

The first time I tried chitterlings (pronounced chitlins by most), considered a delicacy by some, my grandmother and aunts eagerly watched for my reaction. I still remember the awful taste as I declared, “It tastes like what it smells like, and you know what it smells like.” I wonder if there might be a story hiding in this memory?

I didn’t enjoy those chitlins, but there were many things I did enjoy. What about you? What did you enjoy as a child? Did you enjoy dancing, birthday parties, holiday celebrations, building snowmen, or spending a day at the beach?

My best times were spent playing with my cousins and neighborhood friends. We did everything together – rode bikes, played school and house, and all sorts of games with a ball (catch, dodgeball, and kickball). We loved playing our games. We would play in the middle of my narrow one-way street, and I made up a chant to signal an oncoming car: “A car, a car, a C-A-R (spelled out).” That was our clue to move to the sidewalk until the car passed. My book, RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN, illustrated by Sabrena Khadija (Abrams, September 2022), was inspired by games I loved to play outdoors as a child. What were your favorite childhood games? Who did you play them with? What songs did you sing or create?

Creating things is so much fun as a child. Whether it’s making cakes in a sandbox, finger painting on a big piece of paper, or constructing a make-believe animal out of papier mâché (I made an elephant). Art is always fun for kids. That’s why the main character in my early reader series, ZOYA GLITTERS!, illustrated by Kai Robinson (Scholastic, May/July/November 2023), is a girl who loves to create art.

Letting one’s imagination run wild is the best. My favorite fantasy as a child was turning our large vegetable garden into a pool for the summertime and then having it magically transform into an ice skating rink in the winter, since swimming and skating were two of my favorite activities. What did you dream of or fantasize about as a child? I bet there’s a story somewhere.

Other story ideas:

  • What’s something you learned as a child or wished you could’ve learned? Were there certain lessons you wanted to take, but your parents said no? What else did your parents say no to that you did anyway? A naughty story is always fun!
  • What was funny to you as a kid? What’s funny to your kids? What gets them to belly-laugh? Chances are if it makes a kid laugh, it’ll be a winning story!
  • What are questions you wanted answers to as a kid? What’s a funny question a kid has asked you? What if you provided a made-up answer to the question? That could make a funny story.

Channel your inner kid. All sorts of story ideas will emerge. You may even stumble on some memories that you’d forgotten. Memories that can become fodder for wonderful stories—stories that kids will want to read. What’s buried in your memories that could become a wonderful story for a young reader?

May you write stories that children, as well as the inner child in each of us, will enjoy. And, like a child, may you have fun doing it!

For further inspiration, read this post by Tara.

Valerie Bolling is the author of the 2021 SCBWI Crystal Kite award-winning and CT Book Award finalist LET’S DANCE! Valerie has been an educator for almost 30 years. Since her book was released a week before the pandemic shutdown, she has been engaged in numerous virtual storytimes and author panels. Immersed in the writing community, Valerie is on the faculty at Westport Writers’ Workshop and a member of SCBWI, the Authors Guild, NCTE, and ILA. She is also a 2020 WNDB Mentee and a 2022 WNDB Mentor as well as a member of Black Creators HeadQuarters, The Brown Bookshelf and Highlights Foundation’s Amplify Black Stories, and 12X12 Picture Book Challenge. In addition, Valerie is a member of three co-marketing groups—Kid Lit in Color, Soaring 20s PBs, and PB Crew 22—and three picture book critique groups. Valerie has two books scheduled for release in 2022 (TOGETHER WE RIDE and RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN), five more slated for 2023 (TOGETHER WE SWIM, NEIGHBORHOOD JAM, and ZOYA GLITTERS!, a Scholastic early reader series), and one for 2024. Valerie and her husband live in Connecticut. Get all her links: linktr.ee/ValerieBolling.

Valerie is giving away a query critique, goal-setting meeting, or 20-minute phone chat—winner’s choice!

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Prizes will be distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.

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Coming soon:


TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 26, 2022

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