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Jean Reidy and Joey Chou have created a new beauty of a book, a new classic, not only in the colorful art, but in the imaginative question. What would YOU do? It’s an existential explosion (whoa, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that phrase) with all the options Jean and Joey present, from space exploration to simply being brave and doing the right thing. A child is presented with how wide and wonderful the world can be, and most importantly, told that they are in charge of their own destiny.

Jean! What a gorgeous book! Can you tell us how it came to be?

This book was truly the collision of two sources of inspiration.

As you know, I do school, library and bookstore visits. And one of my favorite parts of any visit is the “question and answer” part. But I’ve always felt it should be renamed the “question and answer and stories” part. Because kids love telling me their stories. And even though you probably think of me as a story writer, I’m also a really great story listener.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Teachers and librarians are awesome at helping kids understand what questions are and how to ask them. And I love answering. But no matter how much they’ve prepared, kids still have stories to tell.

Some of the stories I hear can be very funny. I once heard a seemingly endless saga about … wait for it … bowling shoes! But whether funny or serious, their stories are honest and earnest and heartfelt.

In some school sessions kids have an opportunity to read me their stories or show me their art. And again, these are some of my favorite sessions. They’re a great way foor kids to give me a peek into their worlds and for me to communicate to kids how much I value them and their perspective.

I feel that as a children’s author, one of the most important parts of my job is not to talk “at” kids, but to talk “with” them and hear them. To listen to their hearts and hopes and dreams. And to honor their perspectives. What a privilege.

Okay, so where am I going with all this?

Well, one day into my inbox comes this amazing piece of art by Joey Chou—complete with a title. As a matter of fact, that original art is very similar to our final book cover.

This happens every so often, where I’m sent a single piece of art—not an entire picture book of art, just a single piece—and asked if I’d like to try to write a story to go along with it.

And usually when that happens, I don’t answer right away. I take a few days or weeks to kind of daydream about the art and listen to the story that it’s telling me. And I don’t always say “yes.” Because for me to say “yes,” that art has to take up residence in both my head and my heart. I mean it has to move right in and stay there.

Well, guess what happened when I saw that particular piece of Joey Chou art?

I just imagined all those awesome kids telling their stories and I said “yes” immediately.

So, there you have it. That’s where it all began.

Jean, you have to tell us: what would you do in a book about YOU?

My little kid self would have given you an answer that would have turned this blog post into a lengthy novel with a separate chapter for each and every dream and aspiration. My grown-up kid self says, “I would just try to be the best ‘me’ I can be.”

Thanks for having me, Tara!

Thank YOU, Jean, for sharing your delightful new book. It’s out TODAY from HarperCollins!

And blog readers, you can win a copy.

Just leave one comment answering the title’s question.

A random winner will be selected later this month.

Good luck!

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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