1. A lot of books introduce children to a new experience, but The LAST Day of Kindergarten is about the end of an experience. Why is the last day of kindergarten an important day for kids to read about?
I got the idea for The LAST Day of Kindergarten when my daughter was that age. Her last day of kindergarten was terrible--she cried most of the day! She recognized that kindergarten was special and that she would be saying goodbye to so many things she loved. At the same time, she was proud of herself for learning so much and she wanted to move on to first grade. I wrote Last Day to give voice to some of those mixed feelings kids experience. The book encourages kids (and parents) to take a moment to remember the highlights of the year, as well as to look ahead to all the wonderful things around the corner.
2. How did you first get started writing children's books?
One of my first "real" jobs after college was as an editorial assistant at a very small educational book publisher. The company folded after I'd been there less than a year, but that's how I got into the field. For a few years I worked as an editor, but when my own kids were born, I decided that I would rather write than edit. At that point I'd edited and published a lot of nonfiction children's titles, but it wasn't until I was reading picture books as a parent that everything really started to click. While I started out writing nonfiction, these days I prefer to write fiction or concept books.
3. What was your process like in working with Sachiko Yoshikawa on the book?
Most people don't realize this, but usually the writer and the artist have little, if any, direct communication. The editor and art director are the ones who determine how a book looks. Writers may be given the opportunity to give input at various stages, but overall they need to step back and give the artists the freedom to express their own vision of a book. I was very happy with Sachiko Yoshikawa's bright and buoyant illustrations. She had a daughter in kindergarten when she agreed to take on the project, and so the art reflects some of her daughter's experiences in school, just as the text reflects some of my daughter's experiences. I think that's pretty cool!
4. What are some ways that parents (and other people in kids' lives) can help children with transitions?
Number one: listen to them. Encourage them to talk, and accept what they say without telling them they're right or wrong. Share your own personal stories, but don't take the focus away from what they are going through. And, of course, look for a good book! (Or two or three.) Books can be read over and over and can really help a child develop both empathy and inner fortitude. Ask around--librarians, teachers, other parents, friends, and online groups can point you in the right direction.
5. As a children's author, what inspires you the most about your work?
It's very satisfying to me to see the barest of ideas somehow transform into an actual book that gets into the hands of kids. Writing is an act of faith--you are starting a journey and you really don't know where you'll end up. And along the way, you need to throw out a lot of your work. The creative process isn't--and can't be--efficient! It's trial and error. It's discovery. It's frustrating at times, but when a story or concept starts taking a life of its own, you do sort of feel that a small miracle has taken place. :)